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

Looking Back

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Week Ahead

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

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

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4th Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Over/under and playoff picks

Now that we’ve previewed the 2018 season for all 30 MLB teams, let’s take a look at how the season is going to play out. In this post, I’ll be analyzing Vegas over/under totals for each team and make my playoff picks.

NL East

Atlanta Braves: 74.5
The Braves have some young prospects with potential — including OF Ronald Acuna, who is starting the season in the minors. If they can play well this season, the Braves should be able to get to 75 wins, which is only three more than last season. I’ll go Over.

Miami Marlins: 64.5
The Marlins had a fire sale this winter, getting rid of all of their stars save for C J.T. Realmuto, and I think he’ll be dealt at the trade deadline. They should be the worst team in the majors this season. Under.

New York Mets: 81
Last year, I said the health of the starting pitchers is key to how successful the Mets will be this season. The same applies for this year. They have to be healthier than they were last season, so I think the Mets can barely go Over the 81.

Philadelphia Phillies: 75.5
The Phillies won 66 games last season and I think they’ll be better this year after adding guys like 1B Carlos Santana and SP Jake Arrieta to a roster with young guys like 2B Scott Kingery and SS J.P. Crawford, but I don’t think they’ll see 10 games worth of improvement. It’ll be close, but I’ll go Under.

Washington Nationals: 92.5
The Nationals are the best team in the division with SPs Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg on the mound and OF Bryce Harper providing power in the middle of the lineup. They won 97 games last season so I think they could be around 95 this season. Over.

AL East

Baltimore Orioles: 73
It won’t be an easy road for the Orioles, who have to face the Yankees and Red Sox nearly 40 times this season. I expect them to win around 70 games, so I’ll go Under.

Boston Red Sox: 91.5
Adding J.D. Martinez this weekend will provide the Red Sox with much-needed power, which should help them stay above 90 wins this season after winning 93 in 2017. I’ll go Over.

New York Yankees: 94.5
Adding OF Giancarlo Stanton to a team that already includes OF Aaron Judge gives the Yankees a duo that could hit 100 home runs between them. Stanton’s health is a concern, though, as last season was us the second time in his career he’s played at least 150 games. I don’t think he’ll get there this year, so I’m going to go slightly Under.

Tampa Bay Rays: 77.5
The Rays won 80 games last year and I think they’ll do worse than that this season. I think who they trade — or don’t — at the deadline could be key to how well they do this season, but I think SP Chris Archer will be dealt. If he is, I think they end up Under 77.5 wins.

Toronto Blue Jays: 81
The Blue Jays aren’t the worst team in the division, but I also don’t think they’re a .500 team. They won 76 games in 2017 and I don’t think they’re five games better this season, so this is a relatively easy Under for me.

NL Central

Chicago Cubs: 94.5
NInety-five wins is a lot for a Cubs team that lost Arrieta and replaced him with SP Yu Darvish, who I think is past his prime and will ultimately be a disappointment with his new team. Overall, I think the starting rotation is worse than last year, so I don’t think the Cubs get to 95 wins. They could get to 90, but that would still be Under.

Cincinnati Reds: 73.5
I think the Reds will be hard-pressed to get to 70 wins after winning 68 a year ago. Other than 1B Joey Votto, they don’t have many stars on the team. It’s going to be Under for them.

Milwaukee Brewers: 84.5
The Brewers were one of the most-improved teams this offseason, trading for or signing OFs Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain. They won 86 games last season and I don’t think they’ll win fewer than that this year, so this is Over.

Pittsburgh Pirates: 73
The Pirates traded SP Gerrit Cole and OF Andrew McCutchen this winter and got mainly prospects back in return, which doesn’t bode well for their results this season. I’m not sure they get to 70 wins this season, let alone 73 so I’m going Under.

St. Louis Cardinals: 85.5
Like the Brewers, the Cardinals improved their team this offseason, adding OF Marcell Ozuna, who should hit more than 30 home runs again this season to provide more pop for an offense that already includes SS Paul DeJong, who had 25 home runs last year. I’m going Over for the Cardinals.

AL Central

Chicago White Sox: 68
The White Sox don’t have much upside this season. I don’t think they’ll lose 100 games, but I think their loss total will be in the 90s, so their win total could be close to 68 but I’m going to go with what I think is the safer pick and go Under.

Cleveland Indians: 94.5
The Indians won 102 games last season, but I don’t think they break 100 again in 2018., They won more than 20 straight games last year, which I think helped inflate their win total. But they’re in a division with four teams that aren’t very good, so I think they can get up to 95 victories. Over.

Detroit Tigers: 68.5
The Tigers won 64 games last year, when they had SP Justin Verlander for most of the season. Without him on the roster in 2018, I don’t see how they beat that total. They could lose 100 games this year, so it’s Under.

Kansas City Royals: 71.5
The Royals lost 1B Eric Hosmer and OF Lorenzo Cain in free agency this winter, which will hurt them at the plate and cause them to fall from their 80-win total a year ago, but 71 wins may be dropping them a little too far. I think they’ll finish with about 75 or so wins, so I’m going Over 71.5.

Minnesota Twins: 82.5
I think the Twins won more games last year than they should have given their talent. They’ll be starting this season with SP Ervin Santana on the DL and SS Jorge Polanco serving an 80-game PED suspension, so they won’t match last year’s 85 wins. But I think they can get 83 or 84 so it doesn’t give me much margin for error, but I’m taking the Over.

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks: 85.5
The Diamondbacks have a good offense led by 1B Paul Goldschmidt and their pitching can be good if SP Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray continue to pitch well, like they did in 2017. I think the Diamondbacks go Over 85.5.

Colorado Rockies: 82
The Rockies won 87 games last season, but I think they’ll be worse than that this year. They’ll still be better than .500 and I think they could win 84 or 85 games, so I’ll go Over.

Los Angeles Dodgers: 96.5
The Dodgers will be without injured 3B Justin Turner to start the season, which will hurt them early on. They did trade for OF Matt Kemp, who could make up for some of Turner’s lost production. Other teams in the division got better this winter, so the Dodgers probably won’t lead the majors in wins like they did last season, with 104. They should stay above 90, though, and it’ll be close but I’m going Over 96.5. They could hit the 97-win mark.

San Diego Padres: 69.5
For the second straight winter, the Padres spent money to sign a free-agent bat, this time with Hosmer. He’ll help the offense put runs on the board, along with OF Wil Myers, who moves off of first base to make room for Hosmer defensively. The Padres had 71 wins last season, and I think they’ll have at least that many this year so I’m going Over 69.5.

San Francisco Giants: 81.5
The Giants improved their offense this season, trading for McCutchen and 3B Evan Longoria. Their starting rotation took a hit in spring training, though, with SPs Jeff Samardzija and Madison Bumgarner both suffering injuries that will keep them sidelined for a significant length of time. Those injuries will tamper expectations, but I still think they can surpass .500 this year, so I’ll go Over.

AL West

Houston Astros: 96.5
The Astros won 101 games last season and this year have Verlander or the entire season, in addition to Cole, who they acquired from the Pirates. With the offense they have — headlined by 2B Jose Altuve, SS Carlos Correa, 3B Alex Bregman and OF George Springer — and their pitching, the Astros should surpass 100 wins again this season. I’m going Over.

Los Angeles Angels: 84.5
The Angels made one of the biggest signings of the offseason with SP/DH Shohei Ohtani, but he has struggled this spring so he may not do as well as the Angels had hoped he would. I still think they can get to 85 wins behind the bat of OF Mike Trout,so I’ll go Over.

Oakland Athletics: 74.5
The A’s won 75 games last year and I think they may be a little better this season after acquiring OF Stephen PIscotty. I think they can barely get Over 74.5 wins.

Seattle Mariners: 81.5
I think the Mariners are around a .500 team. They won 78 games last year and I think they’ll end up within a couple games of that total this season, so I’m going to go Under 81.5, but it could be close.

Texas Rangers: 77.5
The Rangers are clearly the worst team in the division and I don’t think they’ll come close to the 78 wins they earned last season. I think this is an easy Under pick.

World Series - Houston Astros v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Seven

Playoff Picks

National League

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

American League

AL East Champs: Boston Red Sox
AL Central Champs: Cleveland Indians
AL West Champs: Houston Astros
AL Wild Cards: New York Yankees, Los Angeles Angels

World Series: Astros over Brewers in 6 games

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4th Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: 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: 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: Longoria goes west, Phils nab Santana

It’s been less than two weeks since our last hot stove update and there haven’t been many big names that have changed teams in that time, but the biggest name of the bunch was the centerpiece of a five-player trade, with the Rays, who appear to be in rebuilding mode, trading all-star 3B Evan Longoria to the Giants.

In that trade, the Rays sent Longoria and cash to San Francisco in exchange for veteran OF Denard Span and a trio of young players, led by SS Christian Arroyo, who didn’t do much of note in 125 MLB at-bats last season. Trading Longoria opens up a spot at the hot corner for Ryan Schimpf, who the Rays acquired in a trade with the Padres earlier in December. Schimpf has some power — with 34 home runs in 142 games over the last two seasons — but has hit just .195 in the majors during that span. For the Giants, adding Longoria provides power in the middle of the lineup for a hit that hit the fewest home runs in the majors in 2017.

Other moves in a slow period since our last post include the Phillies signing 1B Carlos Santana to a three-year contract and his former team, the Indians, signing 1B Yonder Alonso as his replacement on a two-year deal. The Dodgers signed P Tom Koehler to help in the bullpen, the Brewers signed Ps Jhoulys Chacin and Yovani Gallardo, the Nationals inked 1B Matt Adams, the Reds signed RP Jared Hughes, the Twins picked up P Zach Duke, and the Yankees finalized the previously reported one-year contract with SP CC Sabathia.

Activity should pick up early in the new year when the notable players who remain free agents start signing, including Ps Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Greg Holland, Wade Davis and Alex Cobb, along with hitters like J.D. Martinez, Mike Moustakas and Jay Bruce. There should also be some more trades made in the coming weeks, with one that seems to be percolating being the Pirates making a deal to send SP Gerrit Cole to the Yankees. There’s still the possibility of the Orioles pulling the trigger on the oft-rumored Manny Machado trade as well. Other players who could be available in trades are Marlins OF Christian Yelich and C J.T. Realmuto as the new owners continue to try to trim the team’s payroll, and the Rays could move a pitcher like Chris Archer.

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MLB Weekly: One more week

Teams are making a final playoff push as the last week of the regular season begins in this week’s MLB Weekly.

Next Sunday, October 1, is the final day of the MLB regular season, which means teams in the playoff picture have just a week left to either qualify for the postseason or improve their playoff seeding.

All but one of the playoff spots have been clinched in the American League, with just one Wild Card spot up for grabs. But playoff seeding is still left to be decided among the Indians, Astros, Red Sox and Yankees, who are the four teams who have guaranteed their spots in October baseball. The Indians and Astros have clinched the Central and West, respectively, but they are fighting for the top seed in the American League, which would guarantee home-field advantage in the ALDS, ALCS and possibly World Series. The Indians currently lead the Astros by 1.5 games for the best record in the AL.

The Red Sox currently lead the AL East, but the Yankees still mathematically have a slight chance to pass them in the division, sitting four games back entering Sunday. The Twins are in possession of the league’s second Wild Card and are 4.5 games ahead of the Rangers, Royals and Angels, who have slipped in the standings after losing six in a row. In both cases, that kind of lead is hard to make up with fewer than 10 games remaining on the schedule. The Rays and Mariners are also technically still alive but need a lot to go right for them to make it to the postseason.

AL standings

In the National League, there is more uncertainty. The Nationals and Dodgers have locked up the East and West, respectively, but the Central and the two Wild Cards still haven’t been clinched. The Cubs, who have won eight of their last 10 games, lead the Brewers by 4.5 games and appear to be headed to their second straight division title on the way to defending their World Series championship. The Brewers are more likely to make the postseason as a Wild Card rather than a division winner. They are one game out of landing one of the NL’s two Wild Card spots that are currently held by the Diamondbacks and Rockies. The Cardinals are also part of the four-team race for the NL Wild Cards, just 1.5 games behind the Rockies. Every other team in the National League has been mathematically eliminated from contention.

As far as the seeding goes, the Dodgers still hold the best record in the NL despite being just 7-16 in the month of September. They are 4.5 games better than the Nationals and, barring another extended losing streak like they had earlier this month, should be able to hold on to the No. 1 seed in the National League playoffs.

NL standings

The coming week is critical to teams like the Brewers and Cardinals still hoping to make it to October. In the National League, the Cardinals host the Cubs for a four-game series starting Monday that could give St. Louis a chance at closing the gap in the division race if they can win at least three games, and that would also help them stay alive in the Wild Card race. The Brewers have Monday off before playing three games at home against the Reds from Tuesday to Thursday. The Diamondbacks and Rockies begin the week hosting the Giants and Marlins, respectively, Monday through Wednesday before getting their final off-day on Thursday. Then for the final weekend of the season, the Brewers and Cardinals play each other in St. Louis, while the Rockies host the Dodgers — who likely will have the top seed wrapped up and may be resting some of their stars — and the Diamondbacks visit the Royals.

Probable pitchers are more in flux during the last week of the season than usual, depending on how all the playoff positioning works out as the week progresses, but here’s how it currently looks. The Diamondbacks have their three best starters slated to go against the Giants, with SPs Zack Godley, Robbie Ray and Zack Greinke set to take the mound on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. They likely could have the first Wild Card wrapped up by the time the series with Kansas City gets underway. The Rockies are set to have SPs Tyler Chatwood, Tyler Anderson and Jon Gray go against the Marlins, with SPs Chad Bettis and German Marquez currently scheduled to face the Dodgers. For the Brewers, SPs Zack Davies, Brandon Woodruff and Brent Suter are scheduled to start in the Reds series, with SPs Chase Anderson and Aaron Wilkerson penciled in for the Cardinals series. The Cardinals have SP Luke Weaver scheduled to begin the all-important Cubs series on Monday, followed by SPs Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha and Lance Lynn. SP John Gant is currently slated to begin the Brewers series, with Weaver then set for a second start in the seven-game week for the team.

The schedule for the American League contenders sees the Red Sox hosting the Blue Jays Monday through Wednesday, then the Astros come to Boston for the final four games of the regular season. Interestingly, those two teams could also play each other in one of the two American League Division Series. Before the Red Sox series, the Astros are on the road against the Rangers for three games starting Monday. After an off-day Monday, the Indians have six home games — three against the Twins and another three against the White Sox. After visiting the Indians, the Twins host the Tigers for their final series of the regular season. And the Yankees have a makeup game against the Royals in the Bronx on Monday, followed by three-game series against the Rays and Blue Jays at home as they look to overtake the Red Sox in the division.

The Red Sox have a mixed bag of starters set to go this week, starting the week with SPs Drew Pomeranz, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello scheduled to face the Blue Jays and SPs Eduardo Rodriguez, Doug Fister and Pomeranz again set to go against the Astros. Indians SPs Mike Clevinger, Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer are on tap to face the Twins with SPs Carlos Carrasco and Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber penciled in for the White Sox series, but if the Indians have the top seed locked up by then don’t be surprised to see that change. The Astros have set up their rotation to avoid having aces Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander pitch at Fenway Park, so they’ll take the mound against the Rangers, along with SP Collin McHugh, who’s slated to get a second start in Boston along with SPs Charlie Morton and Brad Peacock. The Twins have SPs Bartolo Colon, Adalberto Mejia and Kyle Gibson facing the Indians, with SPs Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios set to go against the Tigers. As the Yankees look to catch the Red Sox, they’ll send SPs CC Sabathia, Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka and Sonny Gray to the mound against the Rays, with SPs Jaime Garcia and, potentially, Sabathia facing the Blue Jays.

With all of that in mind, I don’t think the Brewers or Cardinals will be able to sneak into the playoffs and all of the teams that would make the playoffs if the season ended today will actually make the postseason when the season does end in a week.

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