Tag Archives: NL East

MLB Weekly: Marte suspension, more injuries

Looking Back

The big story of the week in Major League Baseball was the surprising 80-game PED suspension to a Pirates star and an ace pitcher hitting the disabled list for the first time in his career.

The Pirates announced on Tuesday that OF Starling Marte received an 80-game suspension for violating MLB’s performance-enhancing drugs policy. Marte, who was named to the National League All-Star team in 2016, reportedly failed the drug test for the use of anabolic steroid nandrolone. He is currently eligible to return to the team on July 18, although that date could be pushed back if the Pirates have any postponed games before then.

Although Marte should be back sometime in July, the suspension could hurt the Pirates in October if they make it to the postseason because players who are suspended during the season for a PED violation are ineligible to play in that year’s postseason. That means one of the Pirates’ best offensive players — Marte hit .311 and stole 47 bases last season — would have to sit on the bench if the team makes it to the playoffs.

Losing Marte for half the year will make Pittsburgh’s path to the postseason even tougher. Joining OFs Andrew McCutchen and Gregory Polanco in the outfield during Marte’s absence are expected to be the likes of OFs John Jaso, Adam Frazier and Josh Harrison — who can’t match the offensive production of Marte. The team already sits in last place in the NL Central, giving them a big hill to climb to make it to the playoffs.

Under MLB’s PED policy, a second positive test would result in a 162-game suspension while a third violation leads to a lifetime ban.

Marte tweeted on Wednesday this statement regarding his suspension

Elsewhere in MLB, the injuries keep piling up for teams around the majors. We told you during the week about SP Madison Bumgarner’s dirt-bike accident that could keep him out of action for a couple of months, though more recent news reports say he is not expected to need shoulder surgery, which is good news for the Giants, who currently sit in last place in the NL West.

The hits keep on coming for the Blue Jays, who hold the worst record in the majors. With 3B Josh Donaldson and SPs J.A. Happ and Aaron Sanchez already on the DL, the team can add SS Troy Tulowitzki to the list of injured starters. The five-time all-star went on the 10-day DL on Saturday, a day after leaving Friday’s game early with a right hamstring strain. He shouldn’t miss much more than the minimum time, given that Blue Jays manager John Gibbons acknowledged that the new 10-day DL was “definitely a factor” in making the move.

Also hitting the DL this week were Angels closer Cam Bedrosian (right groin strain), Tigers 1B Miguel Cabrera (right groin strain), Mets 1B Lucas Duda (hyperextended left elbow) and IF Wilmer Flores (right knee infection), Red Sox OF Brock Holt (vertigo) and Dodgers 2B Logan Forsythe (fractured toe).

Taking a look at the standings, the Twins’ hot start didn’t last long, as they’re already below .500 with a 8-10 record and just 3-7 in their last 10 games. The Diamondbacks, on the other hand, are continuing their quick start to the season, competing with the Rockies for the top spot in the NL West. After struggling somewhat out of the gate, the Cubs have risen to first place in the NL Central with a 10-8 record. Will they hold that spot for the rest of the season? The Nationals remain in first place in the NL East. Division leaders in the American League include the Orioles in the AL East, Indians and Tigers tied for first in the AL Central, and the Astros in the AL West — the first team in the majors to 13 wins this season.

The Week Ahead

maxresdefault

In series to look for, the Yankees and Red Sox face each other for the first time in 2017 this week, when the teams start a three-game series Tuesday at Fenway Park. American League playoff contenders have a three-game set when the Astros visit the Indians starting Tuesday. It’ll be a battle of division leaders in Denver when the Rockies host the Nationals Monday through Thursday. And a West Coast rivalry gets underway Monday with the Dodgers and Giants playing four games in San Francisco. The Red Sox get a highly anticipated interleague series starting Friday when the defending World Series champion Cubs come to town for three. The two teams that currently sit atop the NL West begin a series on Friday when the Diamondbacks host the Rockies, while NL East rivals do battle in the nation’s capital when the Mets take on the Nationals.

How about pitching performances of note coming up in the coming week? Reds SP Amir Garrett tries to continue his surprisingly strong start to the season on Monday when he opposes the Brewers and veteran SP Matt Garza. Nationals SP Joe Ross gets his second start of the year Monday in the high elevation of Denver against Rockies SP Tyler Anderson. Astros SP Dallas Keuchel takes the mound in Cleveland Tuesday when he hopes to continue his bounceback season, as he is 3-0 with a 0.96 ERA entering the game. Dodgers SP Clayton Kershaw gets the ball in San Francisco Tuesday night, opposing Giants SP Ty Blach, who takes Bumgarner’s spot in the rotation. White Sox SP Jose Quintana, who was expected to take over as the team’s ace following the offseason trade of Chris Sale, looks for a good performance against the Royals on Wednesday as he tries to get on track after starting the season 0-4 with a 6.17 ERA; SP Nathan Karns goes for Kansas City. Cubs SP Jon Lester looks to nail down his first win of the season Wednesday against Pirates SP Tyler Glasnow, while Orioles SP Dylan Bundy goes for his fourth win of the 2017 campaign at home against Rays SP Alex Cobb. Coming off his best start of the year, Yankees SP Masahiro Tanaka duels with Sale on Wednesday as well. Braves SP Bartolo Colon is slated to face his former team on Thursday when he goes against the Mets and SP Matt Harvey.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

MLB Weekly: Struggling Blue Jays lose Donaldson to the DL

Looking Back

As the second week of the 2017 Major League Baseball season wraps up, this edition of our MLB Weekly column takes a look at a former MVP hitting the DL and teams that continue to surprise — positively or negatively.

The Blue Jays, who are coming off of two straight ALCS appearances, are already struggling this season with a 2-10 record after losing to the Orioles 11-4 on Sunday. Things got worse for the team this week when 3B Josh Donaldson, who won the 2015 American League MVP, was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a sore right calf. There is no timetable for his return, but the team is hoping he won’t miss much more than the minimum time. While he’s out, light-hitting infielders Darwin Barney and Ryan Goins are expected to get the bulk of the time at third base, and OF Chris Coghlan was brought up from Triple-A Buffalo to take Donaldson’s roster spot.

In other injury news north of the border, the team placed SP Aaron Sanchez, who led the AL in ERA last season, on the 10-day DL with a blister, and SP J.A. Happ left Sunday’s start with left elbow soreness. Anytime a pitcher’s injury involves an elbow, you can be sure it’s likely to result in a DL stint.

Other notable players who were placed on the DL across the majors this week include Orioles closer Zach Britton, A’s SS Marcus Semien, Reds SP Brandon Finnegan, Rockies SP Jon Gray, Nationals SS Trea Turner (who could return to the team this week), Mariners SS Jean Segura and Red Sox OF Jackie Bradley Jr.

Taking a look at how teams are doing early in the season, the Rockies lead the majors with nine wins on the season. Four teams currently have eight wins, including the Reds, who finished in last place in the NL Central last season with a 68-94 record. The Astros and Tigers both lead their divisions with 8-4 records, while the Orioles are atop the AL East at 8-3. There’s a tight race going on in the NL East early in the season, with the Marlins and Nationals tied at 7-5 and the Mets right behind them at 7-6.

The Cubs are among the teams who are so far not doing as well as people expected them to do; they are 6-6 and tied with the Pirates for third place in the NL Central. The team they beat in the World Series last year, the Indians, currently sit in the basement of the AL Central with a 5-7 record. The Rangers and Mariners — who finished first and second, respectively, in the AL West last season — each have just four wins so far and sit in fourth and fifth place, respectively. And the Blue Jays’ aforementioned 2-10 record is the worst in the majors, putting them in an early hole as they try to make the playoffs for a third straight season.

The Week Ahead

sox-patriots

The week gets off to an early start on Monday when the Red Sox host the Rays in the final game of their series for Boston’s annual 11am start on Patriots Day. The Indians look to get into the thick of the AL Central race when they start a four-game series at the Twins on Monday. The second-place Brewers get a chance to increase their lead on the Cubs when they start a three-game set at Wrigley that same day. The Dodgers host the Rockies for a quick two-game series Tuesday and Wednesday that could decide the early leader in the NL West. The Rangers visit the Royals for four games starting Thursday in a series involving teams struggling to meet the expectations people had for them in the preseason. The Indians have another divisional battle on the schedule next weekend when they visit the White Sox, while the Tigers and Twins start a series at Target Field on Friday. In other series involving divisional rivals that get underway Friday, the Reds host the Cubs, the Rockies host the Giants, the Diamondbacks host the Dodgers, and the Mets host the Nationals.

Looking ahead to some scheduled pitching performances of note, Blue Jays SP Marcus Stroman looks to continue his strong start to the season when he opposes Red Sox SP Eduardo Rodriguez on Tuesday. Also that day, Mets SP Zack Wheeler looks to right the ship of what hasn’t been a good season so far when he takes on the Phillies for the second straight start, this time at Citi Field. Nationals SP Max Scherzer heads to Atlanta Tuesday to take on the Braves and SP Mike Foltynewicz. On Wednesday, Cubs SP Kyle Hendricks, who had a 2.13 ERA in 2016, gets a chance to improve upon his 5.73 ERA from his first two starts when he takes on the Brewers at Wrigley. Two struggling starters do battle in Toronto on Wednesday with Red Sox SP Rick Porcello, coming off his AL Cy Young-winning season, and Blue Jays SP Francisco Liriano taking the mound. Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw is scheduled to get his next start Wednesday, opposing Rockies SP Tyler Anderson, while Red Sox SP Chris Sale and Blue Jays SP Marco Estrada, who are both coming off strong starts, are slated to face each other on Thursday.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

MLB Weekly: Twins strong start, injuries highlight first week of season

Looking Back

This is the start of the second season of our MLB Weekly column, taking a look at Major League Baseball, recapping what went on in the previous week and previewing the week ahead. As we are just one week into the six-month season, a lot of what has happened so far this season in terms of surprising teams and players could easily change in the coming weeks and months.

Probably the most surprising team so far is the Twins, who are off to a 5-1 record out of the gate after winning a MLB-worst 59 games last season. That puts them in first place in the AL Central. In the AL East, the Rays are a better-than-expected 5-1 when many people, including me, thought they would finish in last place in the division again this season. They’re not leading the division, though, as the Orioles hold that position with a 4-1 mark; the Orioles were the last undefeated team in the majors before losing to the Yankees on Sunday. The biggest surprises are out west in the National League, with the Diamondbacks leading the NL West with a MLB-best 6-1 record and the Rockies right behind them at 5-2. I noted in my season previews for the teams that they were on the verge of competing in the division, but I didn’t think it would be this year. We’ll see if they can stick around throughout the long season.

On the negative side of things, the Giants have gotten out of the gate slowly and are in last place in the NL West. The Cardinals are in fourth place in the NL Central with a 2-4 record after losing in a 8-0 shutout to the Reds on Sunday. In the American League, the top two teams in the AL West from last season — the Rangers and Mariners — are currently occupying the final two spots in the division. In the AL East, the Yankees are in fourth place in the division after picking up just their second win of the season on Sunday and the defending division champion Red Sox are in the middle of the division with a 3-2 mark after a week of action. The Blue Jays are at the bottom of the division with a 1-5 record that is among the worst in the majors. Again, it’s still early and these teams have plenty of time to get back into the thick of things if they can get past their early-season struggles and perform at the level people expected of them heading into the season.

As far as player performances in the first week, Astros OF George Springer has had a good week — the lone bright spot on offense for the team. The Astros have played in seven games so far, and Springer has hit leadoff home runs in three of them — the first player in MLB history to accomplish the feat. He also hit a 13th-inning, three-run walk-off homer to beat the Mariners on Wednesday.

On the pitching side, Springer’s Astros teammate SP Dallas Keuchel has made two strong starts, posting a 0.64 ERA in 14 innings. It looks like he may be back to how he pitched in 2015, when he won the AL Cy Young Award, and is having a strong comeback season after last year’s disappointing season in which he had a 4.55 ERA.

Speaking of comebacks, Rockies RP Greg Holland is a perfect 4-for-4 in save opportunities after missing all of the 2016 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He has yet to allow a run and has 6 strikeouts while allowing 1 walk and no hits through four innings of work over four appearances. It appears as though he is now fully recovered from the surgery and should be a leading candidate for the NL’s Comeback Player of the Year Award if he can stay healthy and perform well all season.

The first week of the season has also had its share of injuries to big-name players, with the most recent example being young Yankees C Gary Sanchez, who strained his right biceps in Saturday’s game against the Orioles and was subsequently placed on the 10-day disabled list. A timetable for his return won’t be known until after he meets with team doctors on Monday upon returning to New York after the weekend series in Baltimore. Angels SP Garrett Richards is also dealing with a biceps strain, but he is hopeful he will be able to return to action once he is eligible to come off the DL on Easter Sunday.

Other notable players placed on the disabled list this week include Blue Jays RP Roberto Osuna and Dodgers SP Rich Hill. Both are expected to miss minimal time.

The Week Ahead

dsc08221-0

There are more home openers happening in the coming week. The most notable will come on Monday when the Cubs host the Dodgers in the season’s first game at Wrigley Field, which will include a pregame ceremony honoring the first World Series title the team won in 108 years. The other noteworthy home opener comes at the end of the week, when the Braves open up their new stadium, SunTrust Park, with the facility’s first regular-season game following an exhibition game that was played there on March 31, a 8-5 win over the Yankees.

Pitching matchups to look forward to include the second game of the week, a day game on Monday when Red Sox SP Chris Sale faces off against Tigers SP Justin Verlander in Detroit. There aren’t many other matchups of aces scheduled in the first half of the week, but some performances to watch for include Mets SP Zack Wheeler looking to bounce back from a rough first outing when he takes on the Phillies and SP Vince Velasquez, who struck out 10 in four innings in his first start of the season.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Over/under and playoff picks

Now that we’ve previewed the 2017 season of 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 pick the teams that will make the playoffs.

NL East

Atlanta Braves: 71.5
The Braves are coming off a 68-win season and should be improved this year, particularly with SS Dansby Swanson finally making it to the majors. I think they can go Over.

Miami Marlins: 77.5
The Marlins may have won 79 games last season, but I don’t think they’re that good. Other than OF Giancarlo Stanton, the Marlins don’t have much going for them. Their pitching isn’t good and I have to go Under for them.

New York Mets: 89.5
The health of the starting pitchers is key to how successful the Mets will be this season. It’ll be tough to win 90 games, which they would have to do to beat this number. I think it’ll be close, but I’m going Under.

Philadelphia Phillies: 72.5
In my preview, I said the Phillies are probably about a 70-win team — at best — and I don’t see them winning many more games than that so I’m going Under.

Washington Nationals: 90.5
The Nationals are still the best team in the division. I expect OF Bryce Harper to bounce back from a subpar season last year and put up good numbers in 2017. They won 95 games last year and I don’t think they’re significantly worse heading into this season so even if they finish a few games worse than last year, they have a bit of a cushion to get to 91 wins so I’ll take the Over.

AL East

Baltimore Orioles: 84.5
I expect a regression for the Orioles after winning 89 games a year ago. I think they’re about a .500 team, which leads me to go Under.

Boston Red Sox: 90.5
We’re I was more confident in the Red Sox having a big season before the injury to SP David Price that I fear could linger well into the season. Combine that with the absence of DH David Ortiz and an expected improvement from the Yankees and now I have to go Under 90.5. I think it might be a bit of a struggle for the Red Sox to reach 90 wins.

New York Yankees: 83.5
The Yankees are going to be an improved team this year if their young players — such as C Gary Sanchez and 1B Greg Bird — can do well at the plate. Their biggest questions lie with their starting rotation, which may not be very good save for SP Masahiro Tanaka. Regardless, they won 84 games last year and since I think they’ll be better this year, so I think they’ll win at least that many again, so it’ll be Over.

Tampa Bay Rays: 75.5
SP This number is 7.5 more wins than the Rays had last season and I don’t know where that’s coming from. The Rays are clearly the worst team in the AL East and could be one of the worst in Major League Baseball. This is an easy Under for me.

Toronto Blue Jays: 86.5
The Blue Jays should have a fine offense this season, but the pitching may not be so good. I think they’ll be competitive in the AL playoff race, though, and should be able to go Over the 86.5.

NL Central

Chicago Cubs: 95.5
The Cubs have the majority of their players coming back from last year’s 103-game winner, including NL MVP Kris Bryant. Barring any major injuries to their stars, they should easily go Over this number.

Cincinnati Reds: 73.5
The Reds are coming off a last-place finish, and that’s probably what they’re looking at again for this season. I think that’s a high number, so I’m going Under.

Milwaukee Brewers: 72.5
OF Ryan Braun had a good season last year, but not having C Jonathan Lucroy hurts the offense. Without any good pitchers on the roster, they’re not going to be good this year. It could be close, but I’m going Under.

Pittsburgh Pirates: 85.5
I said in the Pirates preview that they’re probably about a .500 team, which is slightly better than they did last season. Based on that prediction, I’m going Under.

St. Louis Cardinals: 87.5
This is a tough one. The Cardinals won 86 games last season and playing the Cubs 19 times doesn’t help their cause, but the Cardinals are a good team. I think SP Carlos Martinez could become an ace this season. If he does, I think they can go Over.

AL Central

Chicago White Sox: 73.5
The White Sox are in rebuilding mode. I expect them to be worse than the 78-win team from 2016. I think it’ll be close, but I’m going to take the Under for them.

Cleveland Indians: 92.5
The Indians should reach 90 wins for the second straight season and because they’re in a division with a couple of bad teams in the White Sox and Twins, I think they can make it to 93 so I’m going Over.

Detroit Tigers: 85.5
The Tigers won 86 games last year, which is basically right on the number. If SP Justin Verlander can repeat the performance he had last year, I think he can help the team at least match their win total from a year ago, so I’ll go Over, but just barely.

Kansas City Royals: 80.5
This is another number that I think is right on. The Royals won 81 games last season, and I think they’ll be right there again this year. It’ll be close, but I’m going to take the Under. I think they’ll be around 79 or 80 wins.

Minnesota Twins: 70.5
The Twins could be the worst team in baseball again this year. They won 59 games last year and I don’t see any way that they’ve improved enough to get up to 71 wins, so this is an easy Under for me.

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks: 78.5
SP Zack Greinke could be a key to how well the Diamondbacks do this year, as well as the health of OFs A.J. Pollock and David Peralta. They’re better than the 69-win team from last year, but probably just improved enough to get up to the 75-win range, so I’ll go Under 78.5.

Colorado Rockies: 79.5
The Rockies could easily go over this number if they get some decent performances out of their pitchers. Otherwise, I think they’ll be right around the 75 wins they tallied last year. So I’ll go Under, but it’s another close one.

Los Angeles Dodgers: 91.5
I expect the Dodgers to be the best team in the division, but they won 91 games last season which will be tough to beat. SP Clayton Kershaw missed time with an injury in 2016 so having him healthy for the full season could get them an extra win over last year, so I’ll take the Over — but just barely.

San Diego Padres: 64.5
The Padres are going to be a bad team this year, but I don’t think they’ll be 64-wins bad. I think they can come close to matching last year’s record of 68 wins, so I’ll take the Over for them.

San Francisco Giants: 87.5
The Giants are right behind the Dodgers in talent, in my opinion. They’re coming off an 87-win season and I don’t think they got much worse this winter, so I’ll take the Over. They could get close to 90 wins.

AL West

Houston Astros: 87.5
With the offense the Astros have, I think they can reach 90 wins if their starting pitching holds up, particularly with better numbers out of SP Dallas Keuchel and if SP Lance McCullers can stay healthy. They’re a good team, I’ll take the Over.

Los Angeles Angels: 76.5
CI don’t think OF Mike Trout is enough for the Angels to be competitive this year. He won the MVP last year, but the team only won 74 games. I don’t think they’re much improved this year, so I’ll take the Under.

Oakland Athletics: 66.5
The A’s are one of the worst teams in baseball, but this is a low number. I’m going to go Over just because they won 69 last year and could finish right around there again in 2017.

Seattle Mariners: 85.5
The Mariners are going to be competitive in the division, especially if SP Felix Hernandez improves upon his disappointing season from a year ago. I think they can get around 86-88 wins, so I’ll take the Over.

Texas Rangers: 86.5
The Rangers are coming off a 95-win season, so I have a hard time thinking they’ll be nine games worse this year so I’ll go Over, but I think they’ll be closer to 90 wins than 95 this year.

the-world-series-trophy-tour-is-coming-to-fort-myers

Playoff Picks

National League

NL East Champs: Washington Nationals
NL Central Champs: Chicago Cubs
NL West Champs: Los Angeles Dodgers
NL Wild Cards: St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants

American League

AL East Champs: Boston Red Sox
AL Central Champs: Cleveland Indians
AL West Champs: Houston Astros
AL Wild Cards: Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays

World Series: Indians over Nationals in 6 games

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

3rd 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.

 

The Nationals had a busy offseason, trying to improve a team coming off a division title — its third in the last five seasons — but couldn’t get out of the NLDS. With C Wilson Ramos moving to the Rays in free agency, the Nationals looked to acquire a veteran presence with a proven offensive track record behind the plate rather than relying on light-hitting C Jose Lobaton as the starter. Early in the winter, they acquired C Derek Norris in a trade with the Padres. He will likely serve as a backup, though, because just days before spring training the Nats signed C Matt Wieters, who has spent his entire career in the region as a member of the Orioles. Wieters should get the starting job at catcher. The Nationals also made a trade with the White Sox, getting OF Adam Eaton in exchange for a trio of prospects, led by Lucas Giolito, who saw some time in the majors last season. The Nationals also traded away 2B Danny Espinosa, who didn’t have a starting role in a crowded infield that includes 2B Daniel Murphy and young SS Trea Turner up the middle. And early in spring training, they signed veteran P Joe Blanton, who may compete for a spot at the bottom of the rotation but will likely provide bullpen depth if he doesn’t get a starting role.

While not excelling on offense in 2016, the Nationals finished in the top half of MLB in most offensive categories, including batting average, home runs and OPS. Leading the offensive attack was Murphy, who had a career year in his first season with the team. He hit .347 with 25 home runs, and he led the National League with 47 doubles, .595 slugging percentage and .985 OPS. Murphy’s offensive WAR of 5.7 was good for third best in the NL. Those numbers helped him finish second in NL MVP voting, behind Cubs 3B Kris Bryant. Murphy’s performance helped pick up the slack for the disappointing year from OF Bryce Harper, the 2015 MVP, who hit .243 with 24 home runs and a .814 OPS — all career lows for a year in which he played in more than 100 games. HIs 1.6 WAR was also the lowest of his career, save for injury-shortened 2014, and a big drop-off from the 9.9 WAR he had in 2015. 3B Anthony Rendon and OF Jayson Werth each hit at least 20 home runs while hitting .270 and .244, respectively. In 73 games after being called up from the minors, Turner hit .342 with 13 home runs and 33 steals in 307 at-bats. With the Orioles last season, Wieters hit .243 with 17 home runs.

On the mound, SP Max Scherzer led a pitching staff that posted a 3.51 ERA, which ranked as the second-best in the majors behind the eventual World Series champion Cubs. The Nationals’ 1,476 strikeouts was also second, and their 155 home runs allowed were the third fewest in the majors. Where the pitching wasn’t as good was in the bullpen, with the Nationals’ 46 saves slotting in near the middle of the pack. In his 34 starts, Scherzer struck out a career-best and NL-leading 284 batters en route to posting a 2.96 ERA over 228.1 innings, earning him the NL Cy Young Award. Scherzer also led the NL with 20 wins, a 0.968 WHIP and a 6.2 WAR for pitchers. Pitching behind Scherzer in the rotation, SP Tanner Roark went 16-10 with a 2.83 ERA and 172 strikeouts and SP Stephen Strasburg won 15 of his 24 starts, posting a 3.60 ERA with 183 strikeouts. RP Jonathan Papelbon — currently a free agent — led the team in saves. RP Shawn Kelley had 7 saves last season to go along with his 2.64 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 67 appearances.

The Nationals should be improved with the additions they made to their roster, but there are some question marks that could hamper expectations for the team that won 95 games last year. One is injury-related, with Scherzer dealing with a hand injury that could cause him to miss the beginning of the regular season. A bigger worry is the bullpen and the Nationals’ lack of a bonafide closer. Kelley looks like he’ll get the first shot at the role, but his limited experience closing games could limit his success at the end of games.

The team also shouldn’t expect to get a repeat performance from Murphy, who played well above the level people have come to expect from him. In his 32-year-old season, he should regress back toward his career averages of .296 batting average and 13 home runs. On the other hand, Harper should bounce back from his down year in 2016. The 24 home runs he hit last year is around what he typically does — 2015’s 42 homers are definitely an outlier in his career stats — but he should be able to raise his .243 average significantly. Turner is a wild card with his limited experience in the majors, but if he can keep up the strong pace he got off to in his rookie season, he could be a 20-homer, 40-steal guy if he can keep up the power and speed he showcased in the second half of last season.

The Nationals look like they have a good chance of winning back-to-back division titles for the first time in franchise history, including the Montreal days. The Mets are still a good team, but the Nationals remain the class of the NL East. It may be hard to win 95 games again but the Nationals appear to be on track for another season of 90-plus victories, which should be enough for another division title. If that happens, the question becomes whether the Nationals can advance out of the NLDS for the first time since moving to D.C.

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

 

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Philadelphia Phillies

Continuing with our previews of all 30 MLB teams, leading up to the start of the 2017 season, it is the Philadelphia Phillies, who finished in fourth place in the NL East last season.

 

The Phillies won 71 games last season, which — despite being 20 games under .500 — was an eight-game improvement over 2015. The Phillies weren’t active signing big names on the free-agent market this offseason but did trade for a couple of pitchers and a veteran hitter who could have an impact on the team this season. The Phillies traded a couple of players to the Dodgers in exchange for OF Howie Kendrick. The more notable name of the two pitchers is SP Clay Buchholz, who the Phillies acquired from the Red Sox for a minor leaguer. Early in the winter, they added an arm to the bullpen by trading for veteran RP Pat Neshek from the Astros. They also signed another veteran reliever, Joaquin Benoit, in free agency to help bolster the bullpen in addition to signing OF Michael Saunders to add another veteran to the offense. Outside of the veterans acquired this winter, much of the core of the Phillies’ roster consists of young players as part of the team’s continued rebuilding efforts.

The Phillies’ offense ranked near the bottom of MLB last season, with their .240 batting average finishing next-to-last in the majors while their 161 home runs were better than just six other teams. Their hitters weren’t patient at the plate, either, finishing with the seventh-most strikeouts and second-fewest walks last season. If you’re looking for a bright spot on the roster, the team’s 96 steals were better than the league average of 85. 2B Cesar Hernandez led the team’s regular starters with a .294 average while 3B Maikel Franco’s 25 home runs tied 1B Ryan Howard — who is currently a free agent — for the most on the team. Franco hit just .255, though. It was a similar story with SS Freddy Galvis, whose 20 home runs came with a .241 average in his second full major-league season. The pitching wasn’t great, either, with the staff’s 4.63 ERA ending up as the fifth-worst in the majors. Their 1,299 strikeouts matched up exactly with the league average, as did the 43 saves recorded by the bullpen. No regular starting pitcher had a better ERA than 3.65, which was posted by SP Jerad Eickhoff. SP Jeremy Hellickson wasn’t far behind him at 3.71. SP Vince Velasquez, who was limited by injuries to 24 starts, had a strong start to the season but regressed in the second half to finish with a 4.12 ERA. He managed to strike out 152 batters in 131 innings while Eickhoff’s 167 strikeouts and 197 innings led the team. RP Jeanmar Gomez recorded 37 saves but didn’t do well in other categories, posting a 4.85 ERA and just 47 strikeouts in 68.2 innings.

The Phillies don’t look to be a much-improved team from last season and most of their young players will have to improve considerably if they want to have a chance of contending for anything. Hellickson and Buchholz will have to anchor the rotation that apart from them consists of young pitchers in Velasquez, Eickhoff and Aaron Nola if they want to give the team a chance to win games because the offense can’t be counted on to score a lot of runs. But even if the starters can give a lead to the bullpen, it’s not certain that Gomez would be able to successfully close out the games because the numbers he put up last season aren’t indicative of what you would expect to see from a closer. I wouldn’t be surprised if he loses the closer’s role at some point during the season — possibly to Benoit, who has some closing experience in his career. Or RP Hector Neris, who struck out 102 batters last season, could get a chance to close out games.

The Phillies finished in fourth place in the division last season and that is likely the best they can hope for this year, as it’ll likely be them and the Braves at the bottom of the East. There are too many question marks on the team — including a lack of a true ace and closer — to expect them to improve much from 2016. They’ll probably be around the 70-win mark again this year as their young players aren’t quite ready to take the next step yet and the players they added during the offseason probably won’t do much to help the team approach .500.

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

 

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

3rd 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 2017 season, are the New York Metswho finished in second place in the NL East last season

 

A season after losing to the Royals in the World Series the Mets had an 87-win season in 2016, finishing behind the Nationals in the division, and losing to the Giants in the National League Wild Card game in the playoffs. The Mets didn’t make any notable moves in the offseason. They lost SP Bartolo Colon in free agency, opening up a spot in their starting rotation, which has high upside with the likes of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey, who is coming off an injury that limited him to 17 starts last season and ending his season in early July. Barring an injury SP Steven Matz should be able to get 30-plus starts for the first time in his major league career, which could provide a boost to the pitching staff if he can pitch well out of the No. 4 spot in the rotation. OF Yoenis Cespedes will likely be relied upo to lead the offense with injury questions surrounding veteran 3B David Wright, who had to leave spring training early to head back to New York to have doctors look at a shoulder injury, which could prevent him from being ready for Opening Day.

The Mets ranked near the bottom of the majors with a .246 average last season but their 218 home runs were fifth-best among the 30 teams. Cespedes and OF Curtis Granderson led the team with 31 and 30 home runs, respectively, while 2B Neil Walker‘s .282 average was tops among the team’s starting position players. Cespedes’ 31 home runs put him in a tie for the ninth most in the National League and his .530 slugging percentage was also ninth in the NL. 3B Jose Reyes, who played 60 games with the team as a midseason free-agent signing, had one of his best seasons in recent years, hitting .267 with 8 home runs. Young OF Michael Conforto showed some power last season, hitting 12 home runs in 304 at-bats, but hit just .220 and struck out 89 times. On the mound, Syndergaard had one of the best seasons among all major league pitchers, posting a 2.60 ERA with 218 strikeouts in 183.2 innings while compiling a 14-9 record. His 6.0 WAR ranked sixth among all players in the NL. The Mets also saw a good year out of deGrom, who had a 3.04 ERA in an injury-shortened season during which he threw 148 innings in 24 starts, striking out 143. Harvey, who was limited to just 92.2 innings put up a disappointing 4.86 ERA and struck out just 76 batters. Closer Jeurys Familia recorded 51 saves in 56 opportunities. He notched 84 strikeouts and a 2.55 ERA over 77.2 innings.

Heading into this season, the Mets need to get more consistent at getting on base, they can’t rely on the long ball as much as they did last year. A key piece to the offense will be OF Jay Bruce, who struggled at the plate after being traded by the Reds to the Mets at the trade deadline. Bruce is the projected starter in right field, but he may not hold that job long if he doesn’t improve upon the .219 he hit in his 50 games with the team last season. Conforto is lurking behind Bruce on the depth chart, waiting to take over for the veteran if he can’t perform to the Mets’ expectations. It might be hard for Syndergaard to repeat his performance from last season, but if he can even come close to that he’ll be a strong ace of a young rotation. The questions come with the rest of the starters, including whether Harvey is fully recovered from his injury and can make it through the full season and if Matz can handle a full-season workload after throwing 132 innings in the majors last season. The Mets shouldn’t have much concern about their bullpen, with Familia coming off two seasons with 43 and 51 saves. The caveat with that is a possible suspension looming for Familia, who was arrested for domestic violence last year. If he misses time for that, RPs Addison Reed or Hansel Robles would likely to get the bulk of the save opportunities in his absence.

The Mets and Nationals should continue to fight for the top spot in the East this season, though the Mets are likely going to be on the worse end of that battle if the offense doesn’t pick things up. The team will likely have to rely on the starting rotation to keep them in games and help them get victories if they want to make it to the playoffs for a third straight season.

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

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine