Tag Archives: NL Central

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: 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: Pittsburgh Pirates

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 Pittsburgh Pirates, who finished in fourth place in the division last season.

The Pirates’ notable transactions this offseason involved trades, two of which sent a couple of the team’s best players to other teams. They sent SP Gerrit Cole to the Astros in exchange for four players, including 3B Colin Moran and Ps Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz. Two days later, the Pirates sent OF Andrew McCutchen to the Giants for a couple of minor leaguers. Last month, the Pirates traded for OF Corey Dickerson after the Rays designated him for assignment. With McCutchen and Cole gone, it’ll put more pressure on players like OFs Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco and SPs Ivan Nova and Jameson Taillon to perform to keep the team afloat.

Last year’s team hit .244, which was tied for the fourth lowest in Major League Baseball. The Pirates hit 151 home runs, which was next-to-last in the majors, and their .704 OPS was third-worst. 1B Josh Bell hit .255 with 26 home runs and an .800 OPS. Polanco hit .251 with 11 home runs 108 games, and Marte hit .275 with 7 home runs and 21 steals in 77 games as he missed 80 games while serving a suspension for PEDs. 2B Josh Harrison hit 16 homers in 128 games with a .272 average, and SS Jordy Mercer added 14 long balls. Dickerson hit .282 with the Rays last season and hit a career-best 27 home runs, while Moran hit .364 in just 7 games with Houston.

The pitching was better, but not by much, with the staff posting a 4.22 ERA, which was slightly better than the league average. The pitchers’ 1,262 strikeouts landed in the bottom half of the majors, as did the 36 saves out of the bullpen. Nova posted a 4.14 ERA last season with 131 strikeouts in 187 innings over 31 starts. Taillon started 25 games, putting up a 4.44 ERA with 125 strikeouts in 133.2 innings. SP Chad Kuhl posted a 4.35 ERA with 142 innings over 157.1 innings, and SP Trevor Williams posted a 4.07 ERA with 117 strikeouts in 150.1 innings. With the Astros, Musgrove split his time between the rotation and bullpen, posting a 4.77 ERA with 98 strikeouts in 109.1 innings over 38 games, including 15 starts. RP Felipe Rivero recorded 21 of the team’s saves last season, with a 1.67 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 75.1 innings in 73 games.

With the moves the Pirates made this winter, they are overall a worse team entering 2018 than they were in 2017. They should get some much-needed power from Dickerson and, presumably, a full season out of Marte, but trading McCutchen takes away nearly 30 home runs from last season. Moran is a promising prospect but has just 34 major-league at-bats on his resume, so it may take some time for him to reach his potential against big-league pitching. The pitching staff has some intriguing young pitchers, especially Taillon, who could have good careers ahead of them but may not reach their prime this season. And Nova has been inconsistent throughout his career and can’t be counted on to fill a role near the top of the rotation, as he will be doing for the Pirates.

The Pirates were a 75-win team last year, and I think they’ll do worse than that this season. Not only did they get worse, but the Brewers and Cardinals got better, and the Cubs are still the best team in the division. The PIrates will finish in fourth place in the division — at best — and could end up in last place, depending on how the Reds do. The Pirates are likely at least a couple years away from being serious contenders for the postseason.

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.pirates.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: Cincinnati Reds

The next NL Central team up in our continuing series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2018 season is the Cincinnati Reds, who finished in last place in the division last season.

The Reds are looking to stop their streak of three-straight last place finishes in the division. They were fairly quiet this offseason and didn’t make many significant additions to the team, basically signing RPs David Hernandez and Jared Hughes. Veteran 1B Joey Votto remains the team’s cornerstone, with OFs Adam Duvall and Billy Hamilton providing the team with power and speed, respectively. There’s not a big-name starter in the rotation, but SP Luis Castillo could be prepared for a breakout season after having a pretty good rookie year in 2017.

The Reds’ .253 average was in the bottom half of Major League Baseball last season and their 219 home runs were in the top half of the league, as was their .761 OPS. Votto played all 162 games, hitting .320 with 36 home runs and 100 RBI. He set career highs with 134 walks and a 1.032 OPS. Duvall hit 31 homers with 99 RBI and a .247 average. Hamilton stole a career-best 59 bases, one shy of MLB leader Dee Gordon, in 139 games with a .247 average. 2B Scooter Gennett hit .295 with 27 home runs in 141 games, and OF Scott Schebler and 3B Eugenio Suarez added 30 and 26 homers, respectively. Utilityman Jose Peraza stole 23 bases with a .259 average.

The pitching staff posted a National League-worst 5.17 ERA, which was the second-worst in the majors. The pitchers had 1,300 strikeouts, which wasn’t far off the league average but still in the second half of the MLB ranks. And the bullpen’s 33 saves were tied for the fifth-fewest in the majors. Castillo made 15 starts last season, with a 3.12 ERA and 98 strikeouts in 89.1 innings. Fellow rookie SP Sal Romano didn’t fare as well in his 16 starts; he posted a 4.45 ERA with 73 strikeouts in 87 innings. SP Homer Bailey had his healthiest season since 2014, making 18 starts, but he had a poor 6.43 ERA and struck out 67 batters in 91 innings. Closer Raisel Iglesias recorded 28 saves in 63 appearances during which he struck out 92 over 76 innings. Hughes had a 3.02 ERA with the Brewers last season, and Hernandez  had a 3.11 ERA with the Angels and Diamondbacks.

The Reds lost 94 games last year and didn’t really do anything to improve the team this year so it’ll be another bad year for them. The offense should be all right if they get as many home runs as they did last year, but the pitching is questionable. If Bailey is able to avoid injury and pitch most of the season, he almost has to pitch better than he did last year. The team gets back SP Anthony DeSclafani, missed all of the 2017 season with a sprained UCL. He had a 3.28 ERA when he last pitched in 2016, so he could have a good year if he is able to return to form coming off of the injury. By the end of the season, however, it wouldn’t be surprising if Castillo ends up as the best pitcher in the rotation.

The Reds didn’t improve this offseason, while other teams in the division got better. That’s obviously not a good combination for them. The division is going to be a three-team race this year, with the Cubs, Cardinals and Brewers competing for the title. The Reds and Pirates will be fighting to avoid ending up in last place this year

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

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