Tag Archives: World Series

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: Houston Astros

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continuing with the NL West, the next team in our continuing series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2018 season is the Los Angeles Dodgers, who won the division last season

The Dodgers came within a game of winning the World Series last season but ultimately lost the Astros in seven games. They’re trying for a sixth straight division title this season, and to help them achieve that they re-acquired a former Dodger, trading a package that included SS Charlie Culberson and pitchers Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir to the Braves in exchange for OF Matt Kemp. They also signed P Tom Koehler to pitch out of the bullpen to replace departed RPs Brandon Morrow and Tony Watson. They also have to fill a hole in the rotation caused by SP Yu Darvish heading to the Cubs in free agency. So the majority of last year’s National League championship team returns, but there are a couple of important pieces who are no longer on the team entering 2018.

The Dodgers’ .249 average was in the bottom half of Major League Baseball last season, but their 221  home runs were the 11th most in the league. They finished in the top 10 with a .771 OPS. 1B Cody Bellinger had a strong rookie year, hitting .267 with 39 home runs and 97 RBI. He had a .933 OPS and a 4.2 WAR. SS Corey Seager hit .295 with 22 home runs, and 3B Justin Turner hit a team-high .322 and added 21 to the Dodgers’ total. OF Yasiel Puig hit a career-high 28 homers, which was more than double his total from the previous two seasons combined. OF Chris Taylor hit .288 with 21 home runs. C Austin Barnes hit .289 with 8 home runs in 102 games. Kemp hit .276 with 19 home runs in 115 games with the Braves.

Pitching was where the Dodgers shined in 2017. Their 3.38 ERA led the National League and was behind only the Indians in the majors. They struck out 1,549 batters — which ranked fifth in MLB — and their 51 saves were the third-most in the majors. Not surprisingly, SP Clayton Kershaw led the starters with a 2.31 ERA in 27 starts, and he struck out 202 batters in 175 innings. Kershaw’s 18 wins was tied for the most  in the majors. SP Alex Wood posted a strong 2.72 ERA with 151 strikeouts in 152.1 innings over 27 games, including 25 starts. SP Rich Hill made 25 starts — his most since 2007 — and put up a 3.32 ERA, recording 166 strikeouts in 135.2 innings. Closer Kenley Jansen pitched in 65 games, saving 41 of them. He posted a 1.32 ERA and struck out 109 in 68.1 innings. Koehler struggled with the Marlins and Blue Jays last year, putting up a 6.69 ERA with 62 strikeouts in 72.2 innings over 27 games, including 13 starts.

Anything short of a return trip to the World Series will probably be a disappointment for Dodger fans. Much of the team is back this season, you have to wonder if a guy like Bellinger will be able to have another season like he had his rookie year, or did he set a bar so high that he won’t be able to get there again this year? Getting Kemp back should help provide a boost to the lineup. I don’t think the pitching will be as good this season. Obviously Kershaw is one of the best in the game, but the rest of the rotation is made up of guys who have been largely inconsistent in their careers. The Dodgers lost a key piece of the bullpen with Morrow gone and Koehler, who was expected to fill his role as an inning-eater, is dealing with a shoulder injury that is sidelining him indefinitely. The Dodgers were dealt another setback this week when Turner broke his left wrist when he was hit by a pitch. The injury will sideline him indefinitely, for what is expected to be a period of a few weeks.

The Dodgers are still probably the best team in the division, but the gap is closing. The Giants and Padres both improved their teams this winter, and the Diamondbacks and Rockies were both playoff teams last year. It should be a tight race to win the division, but I think the Dodgers will finish the season atop the NL West again.

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

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

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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: Cleveland Indians

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 Cleveland Indians, who won the division last season.

The Indians won an American League-best 102 games last season, including a 22-game winning streak, but fell to the Yankees in the ALDS and couldn’t return to the World Series for a second straight year. Having won that many games, the Indians didn’t feel the need to add to the team and they enter 2018 with largely the same roster intact. They did sign 1B Yonder Alonso and lost OF Jay Bruce and RP Joe Smith, among others, in free agency. OF Michael Brantley, who has played just 101 games total over the last two seasons, is not expected to be ready for Opening Day. 2B Jason Kipnis, who also dealt with injuries last season, could be on-track to start the season on time. Reigning American League Cy Young winner SP Corey Kluber returns to lead the rotation with another strong season.

The team’s .263 average was the fifth-highest in Major League Baseball last season, but their 212 home runs were near the middle-of-the-pack. They had a .788 OPS, which was second in the majors. DH Edwin Encarnacion led the team with 38 home runs and 107 RBI to go along with his .258 average and .881 OPS. 3B Jose Ramirez hit .318 with 29 home runs and a .957 OPS, and SS Francisco Lindor added another 33 home runs on a .273 average. Kipnis and Brantley each played 90 games, with the former hitting .232 and 12 home runs and the latter putting up a .299 average with 9 homers. C Yan Gomes hit 14 home runs in 105 games. With the A’s and Mariners, Alonso hit .266 with 28 home runs in 142 games.

The Indians led the majors with a 3.30 ERA and 1,614 strikeouts, but their 37 saves were in the bottom half of the league. Kluber was 18-4 with a 2.25 ERA and 265 strikeouts in 203.2 innings over 29 starts. He led the majors in wins and ERA, as well as with a 0.869 WHIP and an 8 WAR, which was best among all pitchers. SP Carlos Carrasco also won 18 games en route to posting a 3.29 ERA in 32 starts; he struck out  226 batters in 200 innings. SP MIke Clevinger posted a 3.11 ERA with 137 strikeouts in 121.2 innings, and SP Trevor Bauer put up a 4.19 ERA with 196 strikeouts in 176.1 innings. SP Danny Salazar appeared in 23 games — 19 starts — and had a 4.28 ERA, striking out 145 in 103 innings. RP Cody Allen recorded 30 of the team’s saves while posting a 2.94 ERA and striking out 92 guys in 67.1 innings over 69 games.

The Indians largely stayed pat this winter and their biggest concern in 2018 should be injuries. If they can get close to a full season out of guys like Kipnis and Brantley, that will help them on their path to a repeat 100-win season. Alonso should be a bit of an upgrade over Carlos Santana, who played first for the Indians last season. Beyond Kluber and Carrasco, there are question marks in the team’s rotation with Bauer and Tomlin showing inconsistency through their careers and Salazar dealing with shoulder inflammation that will keep him sidelined at the start of the regular season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Indians trade for another starter during the season because I don’t think the rotation as it stands is good enough if the Indians have hopes of making a deeper playoff run than last season.

The Indians are still the best team in the Central, but the Twins got better this offseason and will pose a bigger threat to the Indians this season. The Indians are still the better team so, while I don’t think they’ll win 100 games again, they should still get the division title again this season, then who they face will determine how far they get into the postseason. They’re still among the top teams in the AL, but some of their competition got better so the road to the World Series won’t be easy.

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

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