Tag Archives: postseason

MLB All-Star Teams: Altuve leads the pack, Markakis gets his first nod

All the votes have been counted and the 2018 MLB All-Star starters have been announced. Reigning American League MVP Jose Altuve led all players with 4.84 million votes. It is his sixth All-Star selection, including five in a row. The top votegetter in the National League was Braves 1B Freddie Freeman, with more than four million votes cast for him, his third selection. Freeman’s teammate, OF Nick Markakis, is among the notable players selected to start. The veteran will be appearing in his first All-Star Game in his 13th season in the majors.

Here are the full rosters for both leagues, with some analysis:

STARTERS

C Wilson Ramos, Rays: He had a late push to get past the Yankees’ Gary Sanchez, which was the right call by the fans. Ramos was my vote.
1B Jose Abreu, White Sox: He’s one of the few bright spots on one of the worst teams in the majors. I voted for Mitch Moreland of the Red Sox, but you can’t argue with Abreu.
2B Jose Altuve, Astros: He’s the best second baseman in baseball and plays for one of the best teams in the league. No-brainer.
SS Manny Machado, Orioles: He may not be on the Orioles by the end of July, but he’s having a season worthy of being on the All-Star team.
3B Jose Ramirez, Indians: He’s putting up good offensive numbers for a team that is likely going to be a division winner.
DH J.D. Martinez, Red Sox: He is one of the keys to the Red Sox success this season. The only real choice at DH.
OF Mookie Betts, Red Sox; Aaron Judge, Yankees; Mike Trout, Angels: No surprises or arguments to be made with these three selections.

RESERVES

C Salvador Perez, Royals
1B Mitch Moreland, Red Sox
2B Gleyber Torres, Yankees
SS Francisco Lindor, Indians
3B Alex Bregman, Astros
OF Michael Brantley, Indians; Shin-Soo Choo, Rangers; Mitch Haniger, Mariners; George Springer, Astros; Nelson Cruz, Mariners

The American League reserves are outfield-heavy. One of the biggest snubs here in my opinion is Astros DH Evan Gattis, who has been crushing the ball since the end of May. Torres is on the DL and isn’t expected back until after the All-Star Game so will likely be replaced on the roster.

PITCHERS

SP Trevor Bauer, Indians; Jose Berrios, Twins; Gerrit Cole, Astros; J.A. Happ, Blue Jays; Corey Kluber, Indians; Chris Sale, Red Sox; Luis Severino, Yankees; Justin Verlander, Astros
RP Aroldis Chapman, Yankees; Edwin Diaz, Mariners; Joe Jimenez, Tigers; Craig Kimbrel, Red Sox; Blake Treinen, A’s

Bauer was chosen as a replacement for Verlander, who is scheduled to pitch Sunday and will be unavailable for the game. Availability may require other pitching replacements to be made as well. Hopefully that includes Rays SP Blake Snell making the team. He’s having a breakout year and is probably the biggest snub in either league. He’s probably more deserving than Berrios or Happ, but those players are both on the team because their teams each needed a representative. There are a few good candidates to start the game. I would lean toward Cole, but it could also be Kluber or Severino.

STARTERS

C Willson Contreras, Cubs: He surpassed the Giants’ Buster Posey in voting and is having a good year, but I voted for the Marlins’ J.T. Realmuto, who I still think should have gotten the nod here. He’s having a better season than Contreras, but playing for a team with a pretty small fan base obviously hurt Realmuto in the voting.
1B Freddie Freeman, Braves: He got the most votes in the National League, and he is deserving of being selected for the team.
2B Javier Baez, Cubs: Like his teammate, Contreras, he made a late push, overtaking the Braves’ Ozzie Albies in the voting. I voted for the Reds’ Scooter Gennett.
SS Brandon Crawford, Giants: He got my vote, and is the right call at the position.
3B Nolan Arenado, Rockies: He’s having the type of season people have come to expect from him. Another no-brainer pick.
DH Fans don’t vote for a DH in the National League
OF Bryce Harper, Nationals; Matt Kemp, Dodgers; Nick Markakis, Braves: At the start of the season, only Harper would have been expected to be on the team. Kemp and Markakis are surprises, but are both deserving of the honors. All three (eventually) got my vote.

RESERVES

C Buster Posey, Giants; J.T. Realmuto, Marlins
1B Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks; Joey Votto, Reds
2B Ozzie Albies, Braves; Scooter Gennett, Reds
SS Trevor Story, Rockies
3B Eugenio Suarez, Reds
OF Charlie Blackmon, Rockies; Lorenzo Cain, Brewers; Christian Yelich, Brewers

Despite being a last place team, the Reds have three reserves on the team. It’s good to see that Realmuto and Gennett made the team after being snubbed in the voting. Dodgers OF Max Muncy has hit 20 home runs, coming out of nowhere this season, and should be on the team. He is a final vote candidate so still has a chance to make it.

PITCHERS

SP Patrick Corbin, Diamondbacks; Jacob deGrom, Mets; Mike Foltynewicz, Braves; Jon Lester, Cubs; Miles Mikolas, Cardinals; Aaron Nola, Phillies; Max Scherzer, Nationals
RP Sean Doolittle, Nationals; Josh Hader, Brewers; Brad Hand, Padres; Kenley Jansen, Dodgers; Felipe Vazquez, Pirates

Scherzer should get the start for the National League, based on the numbers he’s putting up this season and the fact that the game is in his home park this season. DeGrom is among the best pitchers in the majors this season and gets the Mets’ obligatory spot on the roster.

Tomorrow, I’ll discuss the five final vote candidates in each league and make my selections.

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What does the MLB playoff picture look like on July 4th?

July 4th is typically considered to be the unofficial midway point of the Major League Baseball season, so it’s a good time to take a look at what teams are in a good position to make the playoffs and which teams are likely just playing out the rest of the season before they can begin their offseasons on October 1st.

American League

We’ll begin with the American League, in which five teams may already have the playoff spots clinched. The junior circuit has four teams that are currently on pace to have 100-win seasons and, barring a major second-half collapse, those teams will make it to the playoffs, securing the two AL wild cards in the process. The Red Sox and Yankees hold the top two spots in the AL East, with the Red Sox a game ahead of the Yankees, and the Rays in third place, 15 games out of first. There’s a similarly close race in the AL West, with the Astros holding a half-game lead over the Mariners, with the third-place A’s eight games back of the division lead. With the wild cards likely coming out of the East and West, that means there will only be one playoff team coming out of the Central, and that appears to be the Indians, who are 11 games ahead of the Tigers; the Indians are also the only team in the division with a winning record.

While the five playoff teams seem to already be determined, seeding will be important heading into the postseason. The three division winners will secure themselves spots in the two ALDS, while the wild cards will have to play each other in the one-game playoff for the opportunity to play the No. 1 seed in an ALDS.

al-picks

Looking back at my preseason picks, it looks like I’ll have an 80% success rate on the five AL teams I projected to make it to the postseason, with my only miss being picking the Angels over the Mariners for the second wild card. I had the Red Sox and Astros winning their respective divisions, and I’ll stick with that despite the fact that the Yankees and Mariners could easily end up as division winners.

National League

The playoff picture in the National League is much murkier than in the American League, with seven teams currently within a half-dozen games of the league’s two wild cards. Not only are more teams in the race, but there are more surprising teams that weren’t expected to compete for playoff spots this season.

The biggest surprise is probably in the NL East, where the Nationals were the preseason favorites to win the division for the third straight season but find themselves a game under .500 after losing to the Red Sox on Wednesday, their fifth straight loss and giving them a 2-8 record in their last 10 games. Their subpar season has opened the door for the Phillies and Braves, and those teams are taking advantage of the opportunity for a different team to win the East. Despite losing their last series to the Yankees, the Braves remain atop the division, holding a 1.5-game lead over the Phillies. Most people expected both of those teams to start being competitive in a season or two, but they are ahead of schedule in their rebuilding processes and both look like they could be playing meaningful games in October for the first time in several years. The Nationals are seven games behind Atlanta.

Both the Phillies and Braves are getting production out of young guys, with young SPs Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin both recording sub-3.00 ERAs through the first half of the season for Philadelphia. For the Braves, 2B Ozzie Albies leads the teams in home runs and OF Ronald Acuna looks like he is on his way to earning NL Rookie of the Year honors. But it’s not just the rookies helping the Braves get to first place in the East. 1B Freddie Freeman is putting up good numbers and OF Nick Markakis could have a career year at the age of 34. While those teams are overperforming, its a subpar performance from OF Bryce Harper that is hurting the Nationals. The power is still there, with more than 20 home runs, but he’s hitting just .216 on the season.

The top two teams in the NL Central aren’t surprising, but the order may be. The Brewers hold a one-game lead over the Cubs, with the Cardinals seven games back, in third place. And there are four teams with a realistic chance of winning the NL West. The Diamondbacks currently lead the pack, followed by the Dodgers at 1.5 games back. The Giants are in third, 3.5 games out of first, and the Rockies are five games behind the D-backs.

The Cubs and Phillies currently hold the two wild cards in the NL, with the Dodgers, Giants, Cardinals and Rockies all within five games of the second wild card; the Nationals are 5.5 games back, while the Pirates still have a shot as they sit 7.5 games behind the Phillies.

nl-picks

Taking a look at the mess that is the NL playoff picture, I’m going to say that four of the five teams that currently hold playoff spots will stay there, with the Cardinals overtaking the Phillies for the second wild card. I think the Phillies will struggle a little in the second half and fall out of the wild card. I think the Cardinals have a run in them and will make the postseason. So my five playoff teams as of today are the Braves, Brewers, Diamondbacks, Cubs and Cardinals. So that is two changes from my preseason picks, above, with the Nationals and Dodgers falling out of my postseason projections.

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

Looking Back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Week Ahead

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

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

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MLB Weekly-ish: Surprising teams, injuries mark the start of the season

Looking Back

We’re a couple weeks into the 2018 MLB season with most teams having played about 15 games thus far and there are a number of teams that are surprising people by their performances — both good and bad — and some star players are dealing with injuries in this season’s first edition of MLB Weekly.

Taking a look at the standings entering Sunday, the Mets — who are coming off a 70-92 season — are coming out of the gate strong with the best record in the National League and leading the NL East at 11-2. The Nationals, who were the favorites to win the division, sit in fourth place with a 7-8 mark. The Mets’ struggles last season were caused by injuries, with the starting rotation hit particularly hard, so they were expected to have a better season this year assuming health. Through two weeks, their pitchers haven’t dealt with injuries, but C Travis d’Arnaud will undergo Tommy John surgery, which will end his season, and backup C Kevin Plawecki is also on the DL with a broken hand that is expected to keep him out of action for a few weeks. Apart from SP Zack Wheeler, who has a 1.29 ERA in his only start, none of the Mets’ starters have a sub-3.00 ERA but only SP Matt Harvey, who has the worst injury history of the group, has posted an ERA above 4.00 with a 3.60 ERA in his first two starts, but that should get better if he can stay healthy for the first time since 2015.

There’s also an unexpected team at the top of the standings in the NL Central, with the 10-4 Pirates 2.5 games ahead of the second-place Cardinals and the improved Brewers. The Cubs — who have won the division each of the last two seasons — are in fourth place at 7-7. After trading their best pitcher (SP Gerrit Cole) and hitter (OF Andrew McCutchen), the Pirates were thought to be in rebuilding mode and not expected to be competitive in the division in 2018. They are getting production, though, from two of the hitters they added this winter: OF Corey Dickerson, who they acquired in a trade with the Rays, is hitting .347 with 10 RBI and a couple of steals while 3B Colin Moran, who came over from the Astros in the Cole trade, is hitting .316 with 8 RBI in his first 11 games with the team. A couple of young pitchers have had terrific starts to their seasons, with SP Jameson Taillon posting a 0.890ERA with 18 strikeouts in his first three starts and SP Trevor Williams with a 1.56 ERA and 10 strikeouts in three starts.

In the American League, the Angels and Red Sox were both expected to be in the playoff picture this season but not many people expected them to get off to the kinds of starts they they have. The 12-2 Red Sox have been getting it done on the mound, with the second-lowest ERA in the American League. They’ve also been getting offensive production out of SS Xander Bogaerts — who is currently on the DL — and OFs Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez, who are all hitting .353 or better. For the Angels, the much-hyped Shohei Ohtani has shown his subpar spring training performance was a fluke and has gotten off to a hot start both at the plate and on the mound. He’s hitting .367 with 3 home runs and 11 games in eight games as a DH and has posted a 2.08 ERA with 18 strikeouts over 13 innings in his first two starts of the season. OF Mike Trout, a perennial MVP candidate, is having the type of season people have come to expect from him with 6 home runs in his first 16 games.

It’s not good news for every team, though. The Cubs are one of the bigger disappointments early in the season at .500. That is due in large part to their pitching. Of their five starters, only SP Kyle Hendricks has a sub-4.00 ERA, and it’s not overly impressive at 3.71. SP Yu Darvish, who the Cubs signed to a big contract this winter despite his struggles in the postseason, has a 6.00 ERA in three starts. The Yankees, who were a game away from making the World Series in 2017, are also 7-7 as they sit in third place in the AL East, but the biggest disappointment early in 2018 is the Dodgers. Coming off their first World Series appearance since 1988, the Dodgers are just 4-9 and 6.5 games out of first in the NL West. Part of that is because 3B Justin Turner started the season on the DL and has yet to play in a game, but they’re not getting much out of SS Corey Seager, who hit .293 last season but is at .196 entering Sunday. The starting pitching is a mixed bag, with Clayton Kershaw sitting at a 1.89 ERA but SP Alex Wood posting a 5.09 ERA and SP Rich Hill at a 6.00 ERA. Closer Kenley Jansen is 0-1 with a 6.35 ERA and a couple of saves in his first six appearances of the season.

The first couple weeks of the season haven’t been kind to teams in terms of injuries, with the list of players currently on the DL including: Angels SP Matt Shoemaker; Rangers OF Delino Deshields, SS Elvis Andrus and 2B Rougned Odor; Phillies SP Jerad Eickhoff; Blue Jays SS Troy Tulowitzki and 3B Josh Donaldson; Giants SPs Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija and RP Mark Melancon; Indians SP Danny Salazar; Royals C Salvador Perez; Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia; Marlins C J.T. Realmuto; Yankees 1B Greg Bird, SP CC Sabathia and 3B Brandon Drury; White Sox SP Carlos Rodon; Nationals 2B Daniel Murphy and OF Adam Eaton; Pirates SP Joe Musgrove; Mariners DH Nelson Cruz; Diamondbacks 3B Jake Lamb; Padres OFs Wil Myers and Manuel Margot; Brewers SP Jimmy Nelson, RP Corey Knebel and OF Christian Yelich; and Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo.

The Week Ahead

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The Angels and Red Sox are the best teams in the American League right now, and they begin a three-game series in Anaheim on Tuesday after the Red Sox host the Orioles Monday in their traditional 11am start on Patriots’ Day. The Astros begin a weeklong road trip on Monday with the first of four at the division-rival Mariners in Seattle. The classic Cubs-Cardinals rivalry gets going for three games at Wrigley starting Monday, and longtime Yankee SS Derek Jeter brings the team he now co-owns, the Marlins, to Yankee Stadium for a two-game interleague series Monday and Tuesday. Over in Queens, the Mets look to keep their hot start going with a three-game series against the Nationals starting Monday. Later in the week, the Cubs visit the Rockies starting Friday in a series between two teams that made the playoffs last season but haven’t begun 2018 the way they would have liked. And the Dodgers look to get things going when they host the Nationals over the weekend.

In some pitching performances to look out for this week, Astros SP Dallas Keuchel looks to lock down his first win of the season Monday when he faces SP James Paxton and the Mariners. Sabathia is scheduled to come off the DL to get the start Tuesday in the Yankees’ second game against the Marlins. Wednesday sees Cole take the mound for his fourth start for the Astros as he looks to continue his streak of double-digit strikeout performances against Mariners SP Mike Leake. And there are aces scheduled to be dueling in Southern California Saturday night with Ohtani scheduled to start for the Angels and a pitching matchup of Stephen Strasburg and Kershaw on the docket for the Nationals-Dodgers game Saturday.

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

The next AL West team in our continuing previews all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2018 season, is the Los Angeles Angels, who finished in second place in the division last season

The Angels signed one of the most-hyped players on the market this offseason, inking Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani — who is known as the “Japanese Babe Ruth” because he can pitch and hit — to a six-year contract. They also signed 3B Zack Cozart and OF Chris Young, and they traded for 2B Ian Kinsler and RP Jim Johnson. And they still have one of the best players in Major League Baseball in OF Mike Trout and veteran DH Albert Pujols as staples of the middle of the lineup. They’re looking to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2014,

The Angels’ .243 average last season was the third-lowest in MLB, and they had the sixth-fewest home runs with 186; their .712 OPS was in the bottom five in the majors. Despite those numbers, Trout put up the type of numbers we’ve come to expect of him. He hit .306 with 33 home runs and a 1.071 OPS; he also stole 22 bases and had a 6.7 WAR. Pujols hit .241 with 23 home runs and a team-high 101 RBI. OF Kole Calhoun hit .244 with 19 homers, and SS Andrelton Simmons added 14 home runs and 19 steals with a .278 average. Kinsler had 22 homers with the Tigers, while Cozart hit .297 with 24 home runs with the Reds. With the Nippon Ham Fighters, Ohtani hit .332 with 8 home runs and a .942 OPS in 65 games.

The pitching staff posted a 4.20 ERA, which ranked in the top half of the league, and was below the league average with 1,312 strikeouts. In the bullpen, the Angels were in the top half of the majors with 43 saves. SP Garrett Richards missed most of last season with an arm injury, but pitched well the few times he took the mound. In six starts,he posted a 2.28 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 27.2 innings. SP Parker Bridwell posted a 3.64 ERA with 73 strikeouts in 121 innings, and SP Matt Shoemaker put up a 4.52 ERA and struck out 69 batters in 77.2 innings over 14 starts. SP Tyler Skaggs made 16 starts, with a 4.55 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 85 innings. RP Blake Parker recorded 8 saves while putting up a 2.54 ERA with 86 strikeouts in 67.1 innings over 71 appearances. With the Braves, Johnson recorded 22 saves but had a disappointing 5.56 ERA with 61 strikeouts in 56.2 innings in 61 games. On the mound, Ohtani recorded a 3.20 ERA with 29 strikeouts in 25.1 innings, and he has a 2.69 career ERA in five seasons in the Japan Pacific League.

The Angels beefed up their offense this winter to give Trout some help. Cozart, in particular, should provide him some support in the middle of the lineup, and if Pujols can stay healthy the veteran can still provide some pop, with around 20 home runs. How the pitching does will largely depend on how healthy the starters are, as many of them dealt with injuries at some point last season that limited the number of starts they made. And the biggest X factor on the team is, of course, Ohtani. He was expected to be a big part of the team from Opening Day, but he has a 27.00 ERA in two spring training starts and is 3-for-28 (.107) with 1 RBI, 3 walks and 9 strikeouts at the plate. With those numbers, there has been speculation that he could open the season in the minors, but it appears he will start 2018 in the majors. If he continues to struggle early in the season, though, he could get sent down. That would put a damper on the team’s expectations for the season and potentially push back by a season the plan they had when they signed the Japanese star.

The Angels finished as runners-up to the Astros in the division last season, and that’s probably the best they can hope for this year. In a competitive American League, I’m not sure they have enough talent — especially with their pitching staff — to land a Wild Card. If they don’t get the type of performance they’re expecting from Ohtani, the Mariners could even pass them in the West. The Angels are on the right track, but they’re likely not yet to the point where they’re a playoff team.

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.angels.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: 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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