Tag Archives: Pirates

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: Houston Astros

The AL West is the final division left in our previews all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2018 season, beginning with the Houston Astros, who won the division — and the World Series — last season

After more than 50 years in Major League Baseball, the Astros finally won the first World Series title in franchise history last season. While they lost some players from the championship team this winter — OF Carlos Beltran retired and they traded 3B Colin Moran and pitchers Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz — the core of the team remains, including 2017 American League MVP Jose Altuve and World Series MVP George Springer. The team’s biggest addition this offseason was trading for SP Gerrit Cole, who joins a rotation that includes former Cy Young winners Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel. The Astros also signed RPs Joe Smith and Hector Rondon to get a better performance out of the bullpen, which was the weak spot on last year’s squad, as they look to become the first team since the 1998-2000 Yankees to repeat as World Series champions.

The Astros led MLB last season with a .282 average and an .823 OPS, and their 238 home runs were second to only the Yankees. Altuve led the way with a MLB-best .346 average, 24 home runs and a .957 OPS. He also led the majors with an 8.3 WAR on his way to earning MVP honors. Springer led the team with 34 home runs with a .283 average, and SS Carlos Correa hit .315 with 24 home runs in 109 games. Utilityman Marwin Gonzalez had a career year, hitting .303 with 23 homers and a team-high 90 RBI in 134 games. 3B Alex Bregman had a strong rookie campaign, hitting .284 with 19 home runs. OF Josh Reddick set a new career high with a .314 average to go along with 13 home runs.

The pitching wasn’t as good, but their 4.12 ERA was in the top half of the league, and the Astros’ 1,593 strikeouts were the second most in the majors. Their 45 saves were tied for sixth in MLB. After coming over the team in an August 31 trade, Verlander was 5-0 in five starts in the regular season for the Astros. He posted a 1.06 ERA and struck out 43 in 34 innings. Keuchel was limited to 23 starts but put up a respectable 2.90 ERA with 125 strikeouts in 145.2 innings, and SP Lance McCullers posted a 4.25 ERA in 22 starts, recording 132 strikeouts in 118.2 innings. Veteran P Brad Peacock had a strong season, putting up a 3.00 ERA with 161 strikeouts in 132 innings over 34 games, including 21 starts. RP Ken Giles put up a 2.30 ERA with 34 saves in 63 appearances; he recorded 83 strikeouts in 62.2. innings. With the Pirates, Cole posted a 4.26 ERA and struck out 196 batters in 203 innings over 33 starts.

The Astros were among the best offenses in the majors last season, and there’s no reason to think that won’t continue in 2018 with the bulk of the lineup returning. They will be without 1B Yuli Gurriel for the first couple weeks of the season as he recovers from a minor injury suffered during spring training, then serves a five-game suspension that was issued during the World Series. That’ll open up some extra playing times for a guy like OF Derek Fisher, who has the potential to be a good hitter. Another young outfielder with potential is top prospect Kyle Tucker, who has hit the ball well in spring training but won’t start the season in the majors but should get called up in the second half of  the season — if not sooner if the Astros deal with injuries. The pitching staff should be better this season now that the Astros will have Verlander for the whole season and with Cole added to the rotation. While he’s not a top-of-the-rotation pitcher, which was how the Pirates were using him, he’s a decent No. 3 or No. 4 starter, as he will be in the Astros’ rotation with McCullers and Charlie Morton expected  to fill the remaining spots in the rotation. That means guys like Collin McHugh and Brad Peacock, who would be starters on most teams, will work out of the bullpen to start the season. That should help the rest of the relievers as those guys can give the Astros length out of the bullpen and save the arms of guys like Giles and Chris Devenski, who are key pieces of the bullpen late in games.

There’s no reason to think the Astros aren’t among the favorites to make it to the World Series again in 2018 after winning their first championship last season. The division may have more competition with some of the moves the Angels made to improve their team, but the Astros are still the best team in the AL West and among the best teams in the American League. A second straight World Series appearance is a distinct possibility.

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

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4th Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: San Francisco Giants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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4th Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: 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: 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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MLB Hot Stove: Giants acquire McCutchen as Pirates rebuild continues

Earlier in the offseason, the Marlins were in fire-sale mode when they traded the likes of OFs Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna. Now, the Pirates seem to be dismantling their team to build for the future. Just two days after trading SP Gerrit Cole to the Astros, they are getting rid of another centerpiece of the team, sending OF Andrew McCutchen to the Giants.

The Giants were one of the teams who were reportedly interested in acquiring Stanton before he went to the Yankees, they and later turned their attention to McCutchen. Although he hasn’t hit higher than .300 since 2014, McCutchen is still a good hitter and had a bounceback year last season after a down year in 2016, hitting .279 last season with 28 home runs, the second-most of his career. He joins 3B Evan Longoria, who the Giants acquired earlier in the winter, to provide a power boost for a team that hit the fewest home runs in the majors last season. With the additions, the Giants seem to be heading in the right direction to compete in the NL West.

Although what players the Pirates are getting in return has not yet been announced, it is not expected to be much since McCutchen is entering the final year of his contract and will be a free agent next winter. Along those lines, two of the Giants’ top prospects — OF Chris Shaw and P Tyler Beede — are reportedly not part of the trade.

Also since our last update, the Twins signed RP Addison Reed to a two-year deal to further solidify their bullpen after already adding RPs Fernando Rodney and Zach Duke earlier in the offseason. And the Nationals have agreed to a two-year deal with OF Howie Kendrick, who they acquired from the Phillies in a July trade.

There’s still a month until pitchers and catchers report to spring training, with many players still out there in free agency and on the trade block — including potentially Pirates 3B Josh Harrison if they continue to move veterans — so there are still many moves to be made on the hot stove.

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