Tag Archives: Royals

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: Texas Rangers

We finish previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2018 season with the Texas Rangers, who finished in fourth place in the AL West; the monthlong series concludes tomorrow with over/under picks and playoff predictions

The Rangers’ 78-64 record last season was 17 games worse than in 2016. They didn’t make any major moves this winter, signing SPs Doug Fister and Mike Minor and trading for SP Matt Moore. They also signed RP Tim Lincecum, but he is going to start the season on the disabled list. SP Cole Hamels remains at the top of the rotation, with 1B Joey Gallo and 2B Rougned Odor leading the charge offensively.

The Rangers had a feast-or-famine offense last season, with their .244 average tied for the fourth-lowest in Major League Baseball, but their 237 home runs were the third most in the league. They had a .750 OPS, which equaled the MLB average. Gallo’s batting average was just .209, but he hit 41 home runs with an .869 OPS. Odor put up similar numbers, with a .204 average and 30 home runs. SS Elvis Andrus hit .297 with 20 homers and 25 steals, and OF Nomar Mazara added 20 home runs and a team-high 101 RBI with a .253 average. Veteran 3B Adrian Beltre hit .312 with 17 home runs in 94 games. DH Shin-Soo Choo hit 22 homers and OF Delino DeShields stole 29 bases.

The pitchers posted a 4.66 ERA, which was in the bottom half of the majors, and they struck out 1,107 batters, which was the fewest among the 30 pitching staffs. The team recorded 29 saves, which was the second-worst in the league, behind only the White Sox. Hamels posted a 4.20 ERA in 24 starts with 105 strikeouts in 148 innings. SP Martin Perez posted a 4.82 ERA with 115 strikeouts in 185 innings over 32 starts. Fister posted a 4.88 ERA with 83 strikeouts in 90.1 innings for the Red Sox. Minor pitched out of the bullpen for the Royals last season, making 65 appearances with 88 strikeouts in 77.2 innings, and Moore put up a career-worst 5.52 ERA in 32 games — 31 starts — with the Giants; he struck out 148 in 174.1 innings. In the bullpen, RP Alex Claudio recorded 11 saves late in the season. He appeared in 70 games, posting a 2.50 ERA with just 56 strikeouts in 82.2 innings.

The Rangers’ power isn’t in question, but their ability to hit for contact is. They had one of the worst batting averages in the majors last season, and it doesn’t look to be much improved this season with the team not signing any major hitters. Guys like Odor and Gallo need to get their averages up to try to increase the chances of their teammates driving them in if they want to be competitive this season. The starting rotation is full of guys who are on the downsides of their careers, including SP Bartolo Colon, who is starting the season at Triple-A Round Rock. The closer’s role is in flux. Claudio ended 2017 with in that role, but the team is hinting he could be used in high-leverage situations earlier in games. That would leave the closer position up for grabs with LIncecum — who didn’t pitch in the majors last season and doesn’t have a timetable for his return from the DL — and RP Keone Kela among the candidates who could earn the ninth-inning job.

After finishing in fourth place in the division last season, that’s probably the best the Rangers can hope for in 2018. The A’s may have a better team this year, leaving open the possibility that the Rangers could finish the season in last place. They need to get better starting pitchers if they want to be competitive again, especially being in the same division as the Astros, who are coming off their World Series title, and the Angels, who improved their team this offseason.

That’ll do it for all 30 of our team previews — you can see them all here — but there’s one final post in this year’s 30 in 30ish series coming tomorrow; follow me on Twitter or subscribe to the blog to know when it’s posted.

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

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4th Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: San Diego Padres

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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4th Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Kansas City Royals

The next AL Central team in our monthlong series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2018 season is the Kansas City Royals, who came in third place in the division last season.

Since winning the World Series in 2015, the Royals have won 80 and 81 games, respectively, the last two seasons. They’re looking to get back to where they were in that championship year, and perhaps the move they made this winter that will best help them achieve that goal was re-signing 3B Mike Moustakas, who didn’t have the free-agent market that he expected. They also signed OF Jon Jay and 1B Lucas Duda. They traded for SP Jesse Hahn but subsequently placed him on the 60-day DL with a UCL strain, which could lead to Tommy John surgery. Also unavailable for a while will be OF Jorge Bonifacio, who has been suspended 80 games for testing positive for a PED. They lost longtime 1B Eric Hosmer and OF Lorenzo Cain in free agency.

The Royals were in the top half of Major League Baseball with a .259 average last season while their 193 home runs were below the league average; their .731 OPS placed them in the bottom 10 in the league. Moustakas hit a career-high 38 home runs and 85 RBI last season with a .272 average and .835 OPS. 2B Whit Merrifield had an unexpectedly productive year, hitting 19 home runs and stealing 34 bases with a .288 average. OF Alex Gordon had one of the worst seasons of his career, hitting .208 with 9 home runs, and C Salvador Perez added 27 homers with a .268 average in 129 games. Bonifacio hit .255 with 17 home runs in 113 games. Jay hit .296 with the Cubs and Duda hit 30 home runs with the Mets and Rays but hit just .217.

The pitchers posted a 4.61 ERA,which was in the bottom half of the league, as were their 1,216 strikeouts. The bullpen’s 39 saves matched the league average. SP Danny Duffy was the best in the rotation with a 3.81 ERA and 130 strikeouts over 146.1 innings over 24 starts. SP Ian Kennedy posted a 5.38 ERA with 131 strikeouts in 154 innings, and SP Jason Hammel had a 5.29 ERA in 32 starts with 145 strikeouts in 180.1 innings. Hahn posted a 5.30 ERA with 55 strikeouts in 69.2 innings with the A’s. RP Kelvin Herrera recorded 26 saves in 64 appearances, posting a 4.25 ERA with 56 saves in 59.1 innings.

Re-signing Moustakas is a big move for the Royals because losing him would have put a big hole in the middle of their lineup, especially with Hosmer also gone. The 38 home runs that he hit last season, however, were 16 more than he ever had in a season before so you would expect a drop in his power numbers. Gordon, on the other hand, had such a bad season by his standards that he should be able to bounce back this year. With Bonifacio now out for half of the year, OF Jorge Soler, who hit .144 last year, needs to step up and make up for some of that lost offense. The pitching staff lacks a true No. 1 starter, with Duffy currently pegged for that role, and will have a hard time keeping the team in games. Hahn will miss the first two months of the season, but it could be significantly longer than that. But SP Nathan Karns, who had an injury-shortened season last year could be healthy for the start of the season, or close to it, as he has been pitching in spring training.

In a tough division with two teams that made the playoffs last season, including the 102-win Indians, it’ll be tough for the Royals to find much traction in the AL Central this season. I think they may actually fall back to fourth place this year after the White Sox got better this winter. It’s looking like another season without a postseason appearance for the Royals.

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

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4th 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 2018 season, with the Chicago White Sox, who came in fourth place in the division last season, up first.

The White Sox are going to rely on young players to get them out of the rut they’re in — they’re coming off of five straight losing seasons and haven’t made the playoffs since 2008. Despite such a streak, they just made a couple of minor moves this offseason, adding RP Joakim Soria in a three-team trade and signing C Welington Castillo to help guide a young rotation. They also signed free-agent P Miguel Gonzalez, who played for the Sox in 2016 and 2017 before they traded him to the Rangers late last season. 1B Jose Abreu is the centerpiece of their offense, and young SPs Lucas Giolito and Carson Fulmer are looking to prove themselves in what could be, depending on their performance, their first full seasons in Major League Baseball.

The White Sox finished in the top half of the majors last season with a .256 average, but they were near the bottom of the league with 186 home runs and a .731 OPS. Abreu hit .304 with 33 home runs, 102 RBI and a .906 OPS last season. OF Avisail Garcia had a career year, hitting .330 with 18 home runs and an .885 OPS in 136 games, while 3B Matt Davidson hit 26 homers in 118 games in his rookie season, but his average was just .220. OF Nick Delmonico hit .262 with 9 home runs in 43 games, and much-hyped Cuban prospect 2B Yoan Moncada disappointed with a .231 average and 8 home runs in 54 games. With the Orioles, Castillo hit .282 with 20 home runs in 96 games.

The pitchers posted a 4.78 ERA, which was the sixth-worst in the majors, with their 1,193 ranking as the third-fewest in the majors. The bullpen ranked last in MLB with just 25 saves. SP James Shields, who is the projected No. 1 starter for the White Sox this year, pitched 21 games last season with a 5.23 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 117 innings. In 22 starts with the White Sox, Gonzalez posted a 4.31 ERA with 85 strikeouts in 133.2 innings. Giolito showed some promising signs, posting a 2.38 ERA with 34 strikeouts in 45.1 innings over seven starts. Things weren’t so bright for Fulmer, who appeared in seven games — five starts — and put up a 3.86 ERA while striking out 17 batters in 23.1 innings. SP Reynaldo Lopez posted a 4.72 ERA in eight games. Soria posted a 3.70 ERA in 59 appearances with the Royals last season; he struck out 64 batters in 56 innings.

The young players are going to have to step up their game if the White Sox want to improve upon their 67-win season of last year. Moncada, in particular, needs to take his game to the next level. He was part of the package the White Sox got when they traded ace Chris Sale to the Red Sox in December 2016, and hitting .231 like he did last year won’t give the White Sox the production they expected when they acquired him. Castillo gives the offense a boost, but it won’t be enough if enough of his teammates struggle at the plate. P Michael Kopech, who was also part of the haul the team got for Sale, will start the season at Triple-A but may see time in the majors at some point in 2018 if his performance warrants the call-up. SP Carlos Rodon, who underwent shoulder surgery in September, may be able to rejoin the team as soon as June.

With their roster, it’s going to be another bad season for the White Sox. They haven’t finished higher than fourth place in the division since 2012, and that streak should continue this season. They’ll probably be competing with the Tigers to avoid finishing in last place because they should be significantly worse than the other three teams in the division.

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

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

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4th Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Milwaukee Brewers

Our look at the NL Central teams, part of our continuing series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2018 season, continues with the Milwaukee Brewers, who finished in second place in the division last season.

The Brewers’ 86-76 record last season was their best mark since 2011, but it wasn’t enough to make the playoffs. So they added a couple bats to their lineup this winter to try to get over the hump and into the postseason. In addition to signing free-agent OF Lorenzo Cain, they traded for OF Christian Yelich, sending four minor leaguers to the Marlins, including OF Lewis Brinson. They also signed a pair of starting pitchers, Jhoulys Chacin and former Brewer Yovani Gallardo. They join a rotation led by SP Chase Anderson, who had a breakout season in 2017, as did closer Cory Kenebel and 1B Eric Thames.

The Brewers’ .249 average last season placed them in the bottom half of the ranks of Major League Baseball, but they were in the top 10 with 224 home runs and their .751 OPS was just about the league average. Thames, playing his first season in the majors since 2012, hit 31 home runs with a .247 average and a .877 OPS in 138 games, but he struck out 163 times and had a low 63 RBI total considering how many home runs he hit. 3B Travis Shaw matched that 31 home runs but with a higher .273 average and 101 RBI in 144 games. OF Domingo Santana added 30 homers to the team’s total, with a .278 average. OF Keon Broxton hit 20 home runs with 23 steals, and veteran OF Ryan Braun hit .268 with 17 bombs in 104 games. With the Marlins last season, Yelich hit .282 with 18 homers and 81 RBI, and Cain hit .300 with 15 home runs and 26 steals for the Royals.

The pitchers’ 4.00 ERA was in the top half of the majors, as were their 1,346 strikeouts. The bullpen led MLB with 54 saves. Anderson went 12-4 in 25 starts last season, setting careers highs with a 2.74 ERA and 133 strikeouts in 141.1 innings. SP Zach Davies posted a 3.90 ERA in 33 starts with 124 strikeouts over 191.1 innings. SP Brent Suter posted a 3.42 ERA with 64 strikeouts in 81.2 innings over 22 games, including 14 starts. With the Padres, Chacin posted a 3.89 ERA with 153 strikeouts over 180.1 innings in 32 starts, and Gallardo put up a 5.72 ERA with the Mariners; he struck out 94 batters in 130.2 innings. Knebel saved 39 games in his first full season as a closer, posting a 1.78 ERA with 126 strikeouts over 76 innings in 76 appearances.

The Brewers made some good additions to the team with Yelich and Cain. Adding them, however, presents a problem with a surplus of outfielders, cutting into playing time for guys like Broxton and Brett Phillips. It also seems to make Braun a part-time player and could get him some playing time at first base, where he has been getting some reps this spring. Having that outfield depth is also a positive in case the Brewers deal with injuries in the outfield. There could be some concern that the production from guys like Thames and Anderson could drop coming off of their career years, and Knebel had a good season, but it was the only full season on record for him and leaves open a question about whether it was a one-time thing or if it’s repeatable. His minor-league statistics seem to indicate that the season wasn’t a fluke for him, but that remains to be seen at the major-league level. There are also performance concerns for Gallardo, who has posted 5.42 and 5.72 ERAs in the last two seasons. If he doesn’t do better than that early in 2018, he might not last long in the rotation. He could just be holding down a spot until SP Jimmy Nelson is recovered from September shoulder surgery; he is on schedule to be ready for game action by the all-star break.

The Brewers got better this winter, but so did the Cardinals and they’re both chasing a Cubs team that has won at least 92 games in three straight seasons. It should be a tight race atop the NL Central and the Brewers have a good chance to make the playoffs — they missed a spot by just one game last season — but increased competition in their division could make it hard to surpass last season’s total of 86 wins. I think the Brewers are still behind the Cubs, but they’re right with the Cardinals in terms of talent and should be in the fight for a Wild Card all season long.

Let me know your thoughts by commenting below. And be sure to subscribe, check back every day around 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

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

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