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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 Diego Padres

Continuing with the NL West, the next team in our continuing series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2018 season is the San Diego Padres, who finished in fourth place in the division last season

The Padres haven’t had a winning record since 2010, but they had one of the busiest offseasons in Major League Baseball between trades and free agency in an attempt to turn that stat around. They almost completely remade their infield by trading for SS Freddy Galvis and 3B Chase Headley, as well as signing 1B Eric Hosmer to an eight-year contract. Among the players the Padres traded away were 2B Yangervis Solarte, OF Jabari Blash and 3B Ryan Schimpf. The Hosmer signing moves Wil Myers — who was the team’s big offseason acquisition last year — to the outfield, where he’ll be playing alongside Manuel Margot, who is coming off of a good rookie season. On the mound, the Padres lack a true No. 1 starter, with Clayton Richard currently penciled into that spot.

The Padres’ .234 average was the worst in Major League Baseball last season, and their 189 home runs were in the bottom 10 while their .692 OPS was the second-worst in that category. Myers hit .243 with a team-high 30 home runs and a .792 OPS. OF Hunter Renfroe had 26 home runs to go along with a .231 average, and Margot hit .263 with 13 home runs. C Austin Hedges added 18 homers to the team’s total. In 83 games, OF Jose Pirela hit .288 with 10 home runs. As for the acquisitions, Hosmer hit .318 with 25 home runs with the Royals, Headley hit .273 with 12 homers for the Yankees and Galvis had a .255 average while hitting 12 long balls for the Phillies.

The Padres’ 4.67 ERA ranked in the bottom 10 of the majors, 1,325 strikeouts being just below the league average. The bullpen’s 45 saves were in the top 10 in the majors. Richard made 32 starts, posting a 4.79 ERA with 151 strikeouts in 197.1 innings. SP Luis Perdomo posted a 4.67 ERA in 29 starts; he struck out 118 batters in 163.2 innings. SP Dinelson Lamet posted a 4.57 ERA with 139 strikeouts in 114.1 innings over 21 starts. RP Brad Hand recorded 21 games last season, with a 2.16 ERA and 104 strikeouts in 79.1 innings over 72 appearances.

The Padres were among the worst offenses in the majors last season, but they made some moves this winter that should help them at the plate, most notably signing Hosmer. He should form a solid middle of the lineup with Myers, but forcing Myers to shift to the outfield could hurt his defense, at least early in the season, as he plays a new position on the field. Headley is another veteran who should help the Padres score more runs this season. Renfroe and Margot are young guys with potential. Renfroe realized his power potential with 26 homers last season, but he can still improve if he can get his average up this season. An increase in power, on the other hand, would boost Margot’s production. He can steal bases and being able to hit more home runs would make him a more complete player. The pitching is another story. It was bad last year, and with the team not adding any significant pieces to the staff it will likely be just as bad again this year, with Hand one of the few bright spots for the team’s pitching. One other pitcher to look out for is Tyson Ross, who the Padres signed this offseason coming two seasons in which he has been limited to a total of 13 games due to injury. He has pitched well this spring and should be in line to open the season in the rotation. If he can stay healthy, he has the potential to put up good numbers.

The Padres are in one of the more competitive divisions in the National League, but they’re at the bottom of it. The Giants may have finished in last place in the NL West last season, but the players they signed and traded for this offseason should help them easily pass by the Padres. And with the other three teams in the division all coming off a postseason appearance last year, that almost assures the Padres of finishing in last place in the West in 2018. They need better pitching if they want to get to the point where they can compete with the other teams 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.

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

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4th Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Los Angeles Dodgers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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4th Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: 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: Toronto Blue Jays

Our AL East team previews, part of previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2018 season, conclude with a look at the Toronto Blue Jays, who came in fourth place in the division last season.

At 76-86, the Blue Jays finished under .500 for the first time since 2013 last season. They made some significant moves this offseason to improve the team. Among them, they traded for SS Aledmys Diaz and 2B Yangervis Solarte and OF Randal Grichuk. In free agency, they signed SP Jaime Garcia, RP Seung-hwan Oh and OF Curtis Granderson. That gives them a strong veteran core when they’re added to returning players like 3B Josh Donaldson, SS Troy Tulowitzki, C Russell Martin and SPs Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez. Stroman, however, is currently sidelined with shoulder inflammation and may not be ready for the start of the regular season. Gone is OF Jose Bautista, who hit free agency after playing for the Blue Jays since 2008.

In 2017, the Blue Jays’ .240 average was worst in the American League and next-to-last in Major League Baseball. They were in the top 10 with 222 home runs, and their .724 OPS was sixth-worst in the majors. Leading the pack was 1B Justin Smoak, who had a career year with a .270 average, 38 home runs and an .883 OPS. Donaldson also hit .270 with 33 home runs and a .944 OPS in 113 games. DH Kendrys Morales hit .250 with 28 homers, and OF Kevin Pillar added 16 home runs with a .256 average. As for the newcomers, Diaz hit .259 with with 7 home runs and Grichuk .238 and 22 homers with the Cardinals, while Solarte hit .255 with 18 home runs with the Padres.

The team’s 4.42 ERA was slightly worse than the league average last season, while the staff’s 1,372 strikeouts were in the top half of the league. The relievers’ 45 saves were tied for the sixth most in the majors. Stroman made 33 starts last season, posting a 3.09 ERA with 164 strikeouts in 201 innings. SP J.A. Happ posted a 3.53 ERA with 142 strikeouts in 145.1 innings over 25 starts. SP Marco Estrada made 33 starts but had a disappointing 4.98 ERA and a decent 176 strikeouts in 186 innings. Sanchez only made eight starts last year and posted a 4.25 ERA. Garcia posted a 4.41 ERA with 129 strikeouts in 27 starts with the Braves, Twins and Yankees. RP Roberto Osuna recorded 39 saves, with a 3.38 ERA and 83 strikeouts in 64 innings over 66 appearances. The Cardinals used Oh in a closing rule for some of last season, allowing him to record 20 saves in 62 appearances. He put up a 4.10 ERA with 54 strikeouts in 59.1 innings.

The offense will be better this season with the additions the team made, with Diaz, Solarte and Grichuk replacing light-hitting guys like Darwin Barney and Ryan Goins. If Donaldson can stay healthy and play 150 games or so, that would provide an additional boost as well. Bautista’s departure will hurt the offense but bringing in the other guys should make up for it. If Stroman’s shoulder injury isn’t too serious and he’s ready for action soon after the season starts, he should have another good season. If Sanchez can get back to his 2016 performance after missing most of last season, he would make a solid top of the rotation with Stroman.

Overall, the Blue Jays have a better team this season than last year. The biggest concern should be Stroman’s health. Even though they should be better this season, the Blue Jays won’t finish better than third in the East because the Red Sox and Yankees are significantly better than the other teams in the division and it would take big injuries for them to not finish in the top two spot in the division. The Blue Jays, however, are probably the best of the other three teams in the East, but they probably won’t win enough games to qualify for one of the Wild Card spots in the AL.

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.bluejays.comhttp://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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