Tag Archives: Red Sox

MLB Weekly: Marte suspension, more injuries

Looking Back

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

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

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

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

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

Marte tweeted on Wednesday this statement regarding his suspension

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

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

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

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

The Week Ahead

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

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

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MLB Weekly: Struggling Blue Jays lose Donaldson to the DL

Looking Back

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Week Ahead

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

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

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

Looking Back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Week Ahead

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

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

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

Now that we’ve previewed the 2017 season of all 30 MLB teams, let’s take a look at how the season is going to play out. In this post, I’ll be analyzing Vegas over/under totals for each team and pick the teams that will make the playoffs.

NL East

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

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

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

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

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

AL East

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

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

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

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

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

NL Central

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

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

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

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

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

AL Central

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

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

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

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

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

NL West

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

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

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

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

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

AL West

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

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

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

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

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

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Playoff Picks

National League

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

American League

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

World Series: Indians over Nationals in 6 games

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3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Arizona Diamondbacks

Up next in our preview of all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2017 season is the NL West, with the Arizona Diamondbacks, who came in fourth place last season, up first for the division

After a disappointing season in 2016 when they failed to win 70 games, the Diamondbacks hope to live up to the expectations people had for them last year in 2017. To achieve that, they made one major move this winter, a trade with the Mariners. In the deal, the Diamondbacks acquired SS Ketel Marte and SP Taijuan Walker in exchange for a package highlighted by SS Jean Segura, who the Diamondbacks traded for last offseason. Marte is in a competition with Nick Ahmed and Chris Owings for the starting shortstop job and Walker will slot in near the top of the rotation, behind ace Zack Greinke. The team also signed C Jeff Mathis and RP Fernando Rodney and claimed OF Jeremy Hazelbaker off waivers from the Cardinals, though he likely will just provide depth in the outfield rather than be an everyday starter, at least to begin the season.

The Diamondbacks finished tied for seventh in Major League Baseball with a .261 batting average last season but their 190 home runs put them around the middle of the pack, as did their .752 OPS. Among their best hitters was perennial all-star 1B Paul Goldschmidt, who hit .297 with 24 home runs and a .899 OPS (10th best in the National League); his WAR was 4.8. While those are good numbers, they were down significantly from his 2015 performance that earned him a second-place finish in NL MVP voting that season. OF Yasmany Tomas led the team with 31 home runs while hitting .272 for a .820 OPS. 3B Jake Lamb showed power, hitting 29 home runs to go along with a .249 average. Ahmed played in 90 games, hitting just .218 with 4 home runs. As for his competition for the starting job at the position, Owings went .277 with 5 home runs in 119 games and Marte hit .259 with 1 home run in 119 games with the Mariners.

The pitching staff posted a MLB-worst 5.09 ERA, but their 1,518 strikeouts finished in the top half of the majors. The bullpen recorded the fourth-fewest saves in MLB with 31. Greinke did not perform to the level people expected him to after signing a nine-figure contract with the Diamondbacks in free agency last winter. He put up a 4.37 ERA — his worst since posting a 5.80 mark back in 2005, his second season in the league — and struck out 134 batters in 158.2 innings over 26 starts. And it pretty much goes down from there for the rest of the rotation, with the possible exception of SP Robbie Ray, who had 218 strikeouts — tied for the ninth-most in the majors — in 174.1 innings, but that went with a poor 4.90 ERA. SP Shelby Miller, who the D-backs traded top prospect Dansby Swanson for last season, started just 20 games because he was sent down to the minors during the season as a result of putting up a 6.15 ERA with just 70 strikeouts in 101 innings. Walker made 25 starts with Seattle, compiling a 4.22 ERA with 119 strikeouts in 134.1 innings. Things weren’t much better in the bullpen. RP Brad Ziegler led the team with 18 saves. He posted a 2.82 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 38.1 innings before being traded to the Red Sox in July. Other than him, the relievers didn’t pitch well, with many of them posting ERAs above 4.00 and 5.00. Splitting time between the Padres and Marlins last season, Rodney went 25-for-28 in save opportunities while posting a 3.44 ERA with 74 strikeouts in 65.1 innings.

One reason to be optimistic about the Diamondbacks’ 2017 season is injuries were one reason why they underperformed last season, with OFs A.J. Pollock and David Peralta limited to 12 and 48 games, respectively. While they both could be ready to play on Opening Day, or shortly after, Tomas strained his oblique earlier this month and doesn’t have a timetable for a return, which means his status for Opening Day is in question. If the outfielders can stay healthy and on the field for the bulk of the season, it would provide a boost to the offense and take some of the pressure off of Goldschmidt to carry the team.

Walker should help improve the team’s pitching, but Greinke and Miller need to pitch better to keep the Diamondbacks in the games that they start. If Ray can lower his ERA, he could become a top pitcher with his ability to strike out hitters. Although his ERA was higher than you’d like to see from a closer, Rodney’s other numbers were pretty good so he will improve the bullpen if he can have another season like that, but he recently turned 40 so that could be asking a lot out of the veteran.

The Diamondbacks are better than they were last year, but how much better their record ends up being largely lies with the starting pitching. Greinke returning to form will be key to their success and ability to compete with the likes of the Dodgers and Giants in the division. I’m not convinced they’re as good as those teams, but it should at least be closer than it was last season.

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

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

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3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Chicago White Sox

The AL Central teams are up next in our monthlong series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2017 season, with the Chicago White Sox, who came in fourth place in the division last season, up first.

The White Sox are clearly looking toward the future, having traded one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball and one of the team’s best hitters this offseason. The team traded SP Chris Sale to the Red Sox for a package of four players highlighted by 3B Yoan Moncada, then a day later traded OF Adam Eaton to the Nationals in exchange for SP Lucas Giolito and two other players. Moncada and Giolito are the players acquired in those deals who are closest to being in the majors, but neither is guaranteed to end up with a roster spot when the season starts. The team signed SP Derek Holland, who will likely slot into the bottom of the rotation while SP Jose Quintana is the definitive No. 1 starter with Sale in Boston. 1B Jose Abreu and 3B Todd Frazier will lead the offensive attack for the White Sox. The offense will be without 2B Brett Lawrie, who the White Sox released in March after one season with the team.

The White Sox finished in the top half of MLB last season with a .257 average, but their 168 home runs were the ninth fewest in the majors. The team’s .727 OPS also finished in the bottom 10 of the league. Abreu was the team’s best hitter overall, hitting .293 with 25 home runs and a .820 OPS. Frazier led the team in home runs with a career-high 40  — eighth-most in the majors — but that went with a career-low .225 average, 30 points lower than what he hit in 2015. Frazier finished the season with a .767 OPS. OF Melky Cabrera hit. 296 with 14 home runs.

The pitchers posted a 4.10 ERA, which placed them near the middle of the league. They finished the season with a below-average 1,270 strikeouts, and the bullpen ended up with 43 saves, which was right on the MLB average. Quintana led the starting rotation with a 3.20 ERA. He also struck out 181 batters in 208 innings in 32 starts. Young SP Carlos Rodon started 28 games and put up decent numbers, a 4.04 ERA and 168 strikeouts in 165 innings. SP Miguel Gonzalez put up a 3.73 ERA. With the Rangers last year, Holland pitched in 22 games — 20 starts — with a 4.95 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 107.1 innings. RP David Robertson saved 37 games in 44 opportunities, to go along with a 3.47 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 62. 1 innings. RP Nate Jones had a good season in a setup role, throwing 70.2 innings with a 2.29 ERA and 80 strikeouts.

There’s a lot of youth in the White Sox lineup this season, with the likes of SS Tim Anderson and C Omar Narvaez expected to get the starting jobs at their positions coming out of spring training. OF Charlie Tilson was also on track to land a starting job, but a recent foot injury will likely prevent that from happening. Abreu and Frazier are likely going to have to carry the team offensively as the young players adapt to major-league pitching. Quintana is a viable ace, but without Sale there’s not a strong No. 2 to slot in behind him. Rodon could eventually be that guy, but he has been pretty inconsistent in his first two seasons in the league. He’ll have to step up if he wants to be that guy to put up good numbers behind Quintana in the rotation. Robertson and Jones should be able to keep a lead when they get one handed to them, if they continue to pitch like they did last year.

Being in the same division as the Twins could be the only thing that saves the White Sox from being a last-place team this year. After trading away Sale and Eaton, the White Sox are clearly going to take a step backwards this season and are probably looking at 70-75 wins after winning 78 games in 2016. It’s a period of rebuilding for the White Sox that is probably going to take at least another couple of years, so White Sox fans should expect sub-.500 teams for the foreseeable future.

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

 

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3rd 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 2017 season, continues with the Milwaukee Brewers, who finished in fourth place in the division last season.

The Brewers are coming off of two straight fourth-place finishes in which they finished more than 30 games back of the division champs. They had a fairly quiet offseason, with the most impactful move possibly being adding RP Neftali Feliz to serve as their closer. The team also made a trade that sent RP Tyler Thornburg to the Red Sox in exchange for a package highlighted by 3B Travis Shaw. The team also traded for C Jett Bandy, who is essentially replacing C Jonathan Lucroy, who the Brewers traded to the Rangers at the trade deadline last season. OF Ryan Braun continues to be a veteran presence on a largely inexperienced team.

The Brewers struggled offensively in 2016, with their .244 team average ending up as the fourth-worst in Major League Baseball. They were better with their power, hitting 194 home runs, which was higher than the MLB average of 187, which helped them finish around the middle of the league with a .729 OPS; 41 of those home runs were hit by 1B Chris Carter, who is now with the Yankees. Braun had his best season since 2012 at the plate, hitting .305 — 10th in the National League — with 30 home runs and a .903 OPS, which was ninth-best in the NL. SS Jonathan Villar, who is sliding over to second base this season, hit .285 with 19 home runs, but his biggest value came on the bases, collecting a MLB-best 62 steals, which helped him earn a 3.9 WAR. With the Red Sox last season, Shaw hit .242 with 16 home runs.

The pitching staff finished a bit better than league average with a 4.08 ERA, but the pitchers had the third-fewest strikeouts in the majors with 1,175, and the bullpen recorded an above-average 46 saves. SP Junior Guerra led the staff with a 2.81 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 121.2 innings. SP Jimmy Nelson led the team in strikeouts with 140 in 179.1 innings while posting a 4.62 ERA. SP Zach Davies had a 3.97 ERA and 135 strikeouts in 163.1 innings. RP Jeremy Jeffress recorded 27 saves with a 2.22 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 44.2 innings over 47 games. With the Pirates, Feliz struck out 61 batters in 53.2 innings to go along with a 3.52 ERA.

Going from Lucroy to Bandy, who hit .234 in limited playing time with the Angels last year, is a significant offensive downgrade at the catcher position, but putting Shaw in at third in place of Aaron Hill should provide the team with more power at the hot corner, but probably not enough to make up for Lucroy’s lost production. Braun is likely a key to how successful the offense will be in 2017. He had somewhat of a rebirth at the plate last season and the team needs him to repeat his performance this season to have any chance of a good offense in 2017, but it would hurt the team if Braun regresses toward the numbers he had been putting up in the 2013-2015 time frame because the team counts on him to be its leader at the plate.

The pitching staff lacks a true ace, with Guerra slotted into the No. 1 spot. He pitched well last year in his rookie season, so if he can pitch to a sub-3.00 ERA again in 2017 he could earn that “ace” label, but I need to see him do it again before believing it. Davies is going to have to see a significant improvement this season to solidify the No. 2 position in the rotation because posting a nearly-4.00 ERA doesn’t cut it in the NL. Veteran SP Matt Garza sits at the backend of the rotation, but don’t expect him to last there all season. He is coming off of two mediocre seasons and will likely wind up in the bullpen at some point, giving way to a another pitcher to get a chance to start — probably Chase Anderson, who made 30 starts last season but currently is listed sixth on the starting-pitching depth chart. Feliz is coming off of the two worst seasons of his career so he may not last the full season as the closer, but there’s no young prospect behind him in the bullpen waiting for the opportunity to replace him.

While the Cubs and Cardinals are at the top of the division, the Brewers will again be battling with the Reds to avoid finishing in the basement in the NL Central. They just don’t have enough talent to win enough games to be competitive. If they’re lucky, they may win 70-75 games, but that may even be a little on the high side of expectations.

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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