Tag Archives: Nationals

MLB Weekly-ish: Pujols and the Dodgers make history, Harvey DFAed

Looking Back

Milestone games for Angels DH Albert Pujols and Dodgers pitchers, and the Mets designating a former ace for assignment highlight this week’s MLB Weekly.

Pujols began this season with 2,968 career hits and on Friday, in his 31st game of 2018, he recorded his 32nd hit of the season, making him the 32nd player in major league history to reach the 3,000-hit milestone. The 40-year-old singled to right field off Mariners SP Mike Leake in the fifth inning of an Angels victory for hit No. 3,000. With 620 home runs on his ledger, he joins Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Alex Rodriguez as the only four members of the 3,000/600 club.

Pujols put up monster numbers in his 11 seasons with the Cardinals, totaling 2,073 hits and 445 home runs with a .328 average. But since signing with the Angels prior to the 2012 season, Pujols’ offensive output has slowed and he has transitioned from a two-time National League Gold Glove-winning first baseman to a designated hitter as age and injuries have caught up to him. Entering Sunday, his batting average with the Angels is .262, more than 60 points below what he hit with St. Louis. Despite the offensive downturn, Pujols still has some power, having hit 60 homers since the start of the 2016 season. The three-time NL MVP is signed with the Angels through the 2021 season.

Pujols is one of the longest-tenured active players in the majors, but it was a rookie Dodgers pitcher who had the spotlight on him Friday when the defending NL champs began a three-game series with the Padres in Monterrey, Mexico. SP Walker Buehler — making his third career MLB start — pitched the first six innings of what would be a six-pitcher combined no-hitter in a 4-0 Dodgers victory. Buehler struck out eight batters and issued three walks in his six innings of work before manager Dave Roberts took him out of the game after throwing 93 pitches. RPs Tony Cingrani, Yimi Garcia and Adam Liberatore followed up Buehler’s performance by each throwing an inning, combining for five strikeouts and two walks in the final three innings of the game. Buehler has been impressive in the first three starts of his big-league career, recording a 1.13 ERA with 19 strikeouts in 16 innings, making him one of the few positives in what has been a disappointing start to the season for the Dodgers, who are 15-17 after finishing 2017 with a MLB-best 104 wins and falling a game short of winning the World Series.

It was the 23rd no-hitter in Dodgers history — 13th since moving to Los Angeles — but the first combined no-hitter for the team. It was the 12th combined no-hitter in MLB history and the first since six Mariners pitchers no-hit the Dodgers in June 2012. And it’s the second no-hitter of 2018 after A’s SP Sean Manaea threw a no-no against the Red Sox on April 22.

The news wasn’t so good for Matt Harvey on Friday. The Mets asked him to accept a demotion to the minors, which he refused. That led the team to designate him for assignment, giving the Mets 10 days to trade the pitcher, who was recently moved from the starting rotation to the bullpen, or release him. That ends Harvey’s time with the Mets after a tenure that began promising but had taken a downward turn in recent years, with injuries limiting his time on the field — including missing the entire 2014 season — and inconsistent performances when he did play.

Harvey’s ERA has steadily risen over the last three years, going from 2.71 in 2015 to 4.86 in 2016 and 6.70 last year. In eight appearances this season, including four starts, Harvey is 0-2 with a 7.00 ERA in 27 innings. That compares to ERAs of 2.73 and 2.27 in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

The big injury news this week was Dodgers SS Corey Seager suffering a season-ending UCL strain that will require him to undergo Tommy John surgery. Other notable players hitting the DL in the past week include: Padres OF Wil Myers (oblique), Dodgers OF Yasiel Puig (hip) and SP Hyun-Jin Ryu (groin), Phillies SS J.P. Crawford (forearm), Blue Jays OFs Randal Grichuk (knee) and Steve Pearce (oblique), Diamondbacks SP Robbie Ray (oblique), Rockies 2B DJ LeMahieu (hamstring), Twins 3B Miguel Sano (hamstring) and C Jason Castro (knee), Angels RP Keynan Middleton (elbow) and SP Nick Tropeano (shoulder), Giants SP Johnny Cueto (elbow), Yankees SP Jordan Montgomery (elbow), Brewers SP Zach Davies (rotator cuff), Tigers 1B Miguel Cabrera (hamstring), Braves SS Dansby Swanson (wrist) and White Sox 2B Yoan Moncada (hamstring).

The Week Ahead

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The featured series this week is the return of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry. They’re meeting for three games in the Bronx starting Tuesday, at a time when they have the two best records in the American League. The Indians visit the Brewers for two games starting Tuesday, and the Rockies and Angels have a two-game set in Denver in a couple of series involving playoff hopefuls. Later in the week, the White Sox head to Wrigley Field to take on the Cubs starting Friday for this season’s first installment of the annual Windy City Series. The NL West-leading Diamondbacks host the disappointing Nationals for four games starting Thursday, and the Rockies host the Brewers for a four-game start beginning Thursday.

Some pitching performances to look for this week include Twins SP Fernando Romero looking to follow up his MLB debut with another good start Monday when he takes on the Cardinals and SP John Gant. The next day, SP Carlos Martinez takes the ball for St. Louis as he looks to improve upon his 3-1 start with a strong 1.40 ERA when he opposes Twins SP Jake Odorizzi. Mariners SP James Paxton recorded a career-high 16 strikeouts last time out, and he’s hoping for a repeat performance Tuesday against the Blue Jays and SP Marcus Stroman. Indians ace Corey Kluber also starts Tuesday, against Brewers SP Wade Miley, while Cubs SP Yu Darvish continues to look for his first win as a Cub; his next shot comes Tuesday against the Marlins, led by SP Jose Urena. Like Paxton, Astros SP Gerrit Cole is coming off a 16-strikeout performance; he’s set to get the ball again on Wednesday at the A’s. Buehler is scheduled to make his next start for the Dodgers at home Thursday, taking on the Reds.

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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: San Francisco Giants

Finishing up the NL West, the next team in our continuing series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2018 season is the San Francisco Giants, who finished in last place in the division last season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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4th Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Philadelphia Phillies

Continuing with our previews of all 30 MLB teams, leading up to the start of the 2018 season, it is the Philadelphia Phillies, who finished in last place in the NL East last season.

The Phillies won just 66 last season, five fewer than the year before, but they have a young core with their team that has upside, including 3B Maikel Franco and OF Rhys Hoskins. They traded SS Freddy Galvis to the Padres in December to open up a spot for prospect J.P. Crawford. The Phillies also signed some veterans this winter, including 1B Carlos Santana and RP Pat Neshek, who they traded to the Rockies at last year’s trade deadline. They have some good young starting pitchers, including Vince Velasquez, who has 200-strikeout potential if he can make it through a season without an extended stay on the disabled list.

The offense hit .250 last season, which put the Phillies below the MLB average in the category, and their 174 home runs were the fifth-fewest in the majors. They were similarly low in most of the offensive categories. Franco was the team’s top power hitter with 24 home runs and 76 RBI, but he hit just .230 with a .690 OPS. 2B Cesar Hernandez hit .294 with 9 home runs and OF Aaron Altherr launched 19 homers and 65 RBI with a .272 average and .856 OPS. Hoskins played in just 50 games in the majors last season, but he hit 18 home runs and had 48 RBI in that limited time in the big leagues, showing he has power. With the Indians, Santana hit .259 with 23 home runs and 79 RBI.

The pitching staff was in the bottom half of the majors with a 4.55 ERA and 1,309 strikeouts. They recorded 33 saves, which was tied for the fifth-fewest in MLB. SP Aaron Nola led the starters with a 3.54 ERA and he struck out 184 batters in 168 innings over 27 starts. Velasquez was limited to 72 innings over 15 starts, but racked up 68 strikeouts in those games. He posted a 5.13 ERA, which was better than SP Nick Pivetta, who recorded a 6.02 ERA in 26 starts. Pivetta had 140 strikeouts in 133 innings. Young SPs Jerad Eickhoff and Ben Lively showed some promising signs but with room for improvement, as both posted ERAs above 4.25. RP Hector Neris handled the bulk of the closing duties, nailing down 26 saves with a 3.01 ERA and 86 strikeouts in 74 appearances, totaling 74.2 innings. In the 43 games he played for the Phillies, Neshek threw 40.1 innings with a 1.12 ERA and 45 strikeouts.

Looking ahead, the young core should improve this season as they get more experience against big-league pitching and guys like Hoskins get their first full season in the majors. Crawford could be a key to the Phillies scoring more runs if he can live up to expectations that have been set for him playing in the middle of the infield. Santana adds power to the lineup. The Phillies should also get some decent offensive production out of the catcher position, with Jorge Alfaro and Cameron Rupp expected to split the time behind the plate. If Velasquez can stay healthy this season — he’s never made more than 24 starts in a season — he would form a formidable top of the rotation with Nola, and Eickhoff has the potential to be a strong No. 2 or No. 3 in the rotation if he can return to his 2016 form, when his ERA was more than a run lower than it was last season. If things all come together for the pitchers, the Phillies could approach a .500 record, which they haven’t done since 2012.

The NL East has teams that are clearly better or worse than the rest of the division, with the Nationals the likely division winner and the Marlins expected to finish in the basement. The Phillies will probably finish third in the division this year, which would be an improvement over last year’s last-place finish, but if the Mets deal with injuries again this season, the Phillies could end up being the second-best team in the division.

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.phillies.com, http://www.baseball-reference.com

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

Up next in our preview of all 30 MLB teams, leading up to the start of the 2018 season, are the New York Metswho finished in fourth place in the NL East last season

Injuries prevented the Mets from living up to expectations last season and led to a 70-92 season, tying their worst record since 2009 and marking a 17-win drop from 2016. If the players can stay healthy — especially the pitchers — they should be competitive in the NL East again this season. The Mets’ biggest addition this offseason was 3B Todd Frazier, signing the free agent to a two-year contract to take over at the position with uncertainty about the future of longtime Met David Wright. The Mets also signed 1B Adrian Gonzalez and OF Jay Bruce — who they traded to the Indians at last year’s trade deadline — on offense along with pitchers Anthony Swarzak and Jason Vargas. Swarzak should end up in the bullpen, with Vargas likely sliding into the rotation, which already includes SPs Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and — when healthy — Matt Harvey. Gone this year are 1B Lucas Duda, 2B Neil Walker and RP Addison Reed.

The Mets were slightly below the MLB average last season with a .250 team batting average, but their 224 home runs put them in the top 10. Their .755 OPS was in the top half of the majors. Individually, OF Yoenis Cespedes led the team with a .292 average and .892 OPS to go along with 17 home runs and 42 RBI in just 81 games. Bruce led the team with 29 home runs and 75 RBI in 103 games before the Mets sent him to Cleveland around the trade deadline. In 145 games, SS Jose Reyes hit .246 with 15 home runs and 24 steals. 3B Wilmer Flores added 18 home runs in 110 games. In Frazier, the Mets are getting a player who hit just .213 with the White Sox and Yankees last season but totaled 27 homers and 76 RBI. Gonzalez played 71 games for the Dodgers, hitting .242 with 3 home runs and 30 RBI.

The pitching staff posted a 5.01 ERA, which was the third-worst in the majors, but 1,374 strikeouts placed the staff in the top 10. The Mets were in the bottom third of the league with 34 saves. In the rotation, deGrom made 31 starts — the only Met to surpass 30 starts last season– with a 3.53 ERA and 239 strikeouts in 201.1 record on the way to a 15-10 record, solidifying him as the team’s ace. SP Robert Gsellman had the next most starts on the squad with 22, and 25 total appearances, but pitched to a disappointing 5.19 ERA with 82 strikeouts in 119.2 innings. In 19 games, 18 starts, Harvey had a 6.70 ERA and struck out 67 batters in 92.2 innings. Matz was limited to 13 games last season that amounted to a 6.08 ERA, and Syndergaard started just seven times, with a 2.97 ERA. With the Royals last year, Vargas made 32 starts and had a 4.16 ERA with 134 strikeouts in 179.2 innings. Reed led the team with 19 saves last season and RP Jeurys Familia had 6 saves. He had just 26 appearances, limited by a suspension and shoulder injury, 4.38 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 24.2 innings.

The Mets need more out of their starting staff, and a repeat performance from deGrom, this season. Health will, of course, be important for that. Harvey and Syndergaard are expected to be healthy entering the season. Harvey needs to pitch much better than last season, as an ERA north of 6 won’t cut it, but if Syndergaard can continue to pitch the way he did in limited action in 2016, he will form a formidable 1-2 at the top of the rotation along with deGrom. Having guys like Gsellman and P Seth Lugo give the Mets pitching depth in case some of their anticipated starters continue to deal with injuries and/or poor performance in 2018. On offense, adding Frazier won’t help the Mets’ batting average, but should add more pop to the lineup behind Cespedes. Other than Frazier, the Mets aren’t likely to get much production from the infield that includes Gonzalez, 2B Asdrubal Cabrera and SS Amed Rosario, with Reyes expected to serve as backup utility role.

The Mets probably would have been around the .500 mark if they didn’t have as many injuries as they did, and I’m targeting them to be around there again this season. The offense leaves something to be desired, but if the starting rotation can stay healthy and perform close to what they can do, they should pitch well enough to keep the Mets in games. I think the Mets could be in a competition with the improved Phillies for second place in the East, behind the Nationals, who are still the best of the bunch in the division.

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.mets.com, http://www.baseball-reference.com

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