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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: 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: 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: Arizona Diamondbacks

Up next in our preview of all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2018 season is the NL West, with the Arizona Diamondbacks, who came in second place last season, up first for the division

With a 93-69 record, the Diamondbacks made their first playoff appearance since 2011 last season but got swept by the Dodgers in the NLDS. There is still room for improvement on the team, so they made some acquisitions this winter. Their biggest addition was acquiring OF Steven Souza in a three-team trade in which they sent 3B Brandon Drury to the Yankees. They also signed OF Jarrod Dyson and C Alex Avila, adding them to an offense that includes 1B Paul Goldschmidt, OF A.J. Pollock and 3B Jake Lamb. The starting pitchers remain the same as last season, with Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray leading the rotation. A big loss this winter is OF J.D. Martinez, who they had for the second half of last season after trading for him in July.

The Diamondbacks hit .254 last season, which was just below the MLB average. They hit 220 home runs, which put them in the top half of the majors, and their .774 OPS was the seventh-highest in the league. Goidschmidt hit .297 with 36 home runs and 120 RBI with a .966 OPS. Lamb hit 30 home runs and 105 RBI with a .248 average. OFs David Peralta and Pollock each hit 14 homers, with Peralta hitting .293 and Pollock .266. Souza hit .239 with a career-best 30 homers with the Rays last season and Dyson stole 28 bases with the Mariners while hitting .251.

The pitchers posted a 3.66 ERA, which was the third-best in the majors, with 1,482 strikeouts, which ranked sixth in the league. The bullpen recorded 43 saves, which was tied for ninth in the majors. Ray made 28 starts, posting a 2.89 ERA with 218 strikeouts in 162 innings. Greinke put up a 3.20 ERA with 215 strikeouts in 202.1 innings over 32 starts on the way to a 17-7 record. SP Zack Godley posted a 3.37 ERA and struck out 165 batters in 155 innings, and SP Taijuan Walker posted a 3.49 ERA with 146 strikeouts in 157.1 innings over 28 starts. In his first season as a reliever, Archie Bradley put up an impressive 1.73 ERA and struck lout 79 batters in 73 innings over 63 appearances.

Martinez signing with the Red Sox hurts the Diamondbacks’ offense because he hit 29 home runs in just 62 games with the team. Souza could make up for some of that production, but I’m not convinced he’ll get to 30 home runs again — prior to last season, his career high was 17, so I think the low 20s is a reasonable estimate for him. Goldschmidt and Lamb should provide good offensive numbers once again at the corner infield positions. Greinke had a nice bounceback season in 2017 after a disappointing 2016. He’ll provide a solid option at the top of the rotation if he can repeat that this year. The bigger question is whether Ray’s 2.89 ERA is repeatable. That was more than a run lower than his career average. With Fernando Rodney having left the team in free agency, Bradley appears to be the front-runner to land the closer job. He’s never closed before, so it remains to be seen if he can repeat last season’s performance pitching in the ninth inning.

The Diamondbacks finished in second place to the Dodgers last season and, although their team is comparable to last year’s squad, the Giants should be better this season, which will provide more competition in the division. ‘That means the Diamondbacks’ 93 win-total from last year may drop a few into the 80s, which should still be enough to compete for a Wild Card in the National League.

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

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

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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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4th Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Toronto Blue Jays

Our AL East team previews, part of previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2018 season, conclude with a look at the Toronto Blue Jays, who came in fourth place in the division last season.

At 76-86, the Blue Jays finished under .500 for the first time since 2013 last season. They made some significant moves this offseason to improve the team. Among them, they traded for SS Aledmys Diaz and 2B Yangervis Solarte and OF Randal Grichuk. In free agency, they signed SP Jaime Garcia, RP Seung-hwan Oh and OF Curtis Granderson. That gives them a strong veteran core when they’re added to returning players like 3B Josh Donaldson, SS Troy Tulowitzki, C Russell Martin and SPs Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez. Stroman, however, is currently sidelined with shoulder inflammation and may not be ready for the start of the regular season. Gone is OF Jose Bautista, who hit free agency after playing for the Blue Jays since 2008.

In 2017, the Blue Jays’ .240 average was worst in the American League and next-to-last in Major League Baseball. They were in the top 10 with 222 home runs, and their .724 OPS was sixth-worst in the majors. Leading the pack was 1B Justin Smoak, who had a career year with a .270 average, 38 home runs and an .883 OPS. Donaldson also hit .270 with 33 home runs and a .944 OPS in 113 games. DH Kendrys Morales hit .250 with 28 homers, and OF Kevin Pillar added 16 home runs with a .256 average. As for the newcomers, Diaz hit .259 with with 7 home runs and Grichuk .238 and 22 homers with the Cardinals, while Solarte hit .255 with 18 home runs with the Padres.

The team’s 4.42 ERA was slightly worse than the league average last season, while the staff’s 1,372 strikeouts were in the top half of the league. The relievers’ 45 saves were tied for the sixth most in the majors. Stroman made 33 starts last season, posting a 3.09 ERA with 164 strikeouts in 201 innings. SP J.A. Happ posted a 3.53 ERA with 142 strikeouts in 145.1 innings over 25 starts. SP Marco Estrada made 33 starts but had a disappointing 4.98 ERA and a decent 176 strikeouts in 186 innings. Sanchez only made eight starts last year and posted a 4.25 ERA. Garcia posted a 4.41 ERA with 129 strikeouts in 27 starts with the Braves, Twins and Yankees. RP Roberto Osuna recorded 39 saves, with a 3.38 ERA and 83 strikeouts in 64 innings over 66 appearances. The Cardinals used Oh in a closing rule for some of last season, allowing him to record 20 saves in 62 appearances. He put up a 4.10 ERA with 54 strikeouts in 59.1 innings.

The offense will be better this season with the additions the team made, with Diaz, Solarte and Grichuk replacing light-hitting guys like Darwin Barney and Ryan Goins. If Donaldson can stay healthy and play 150 games or so, that would provide an additional boost as well. Bautista’s departure will hurt the offense but bringing in the other guys should make up for it. If Stroman’s shoulder injury isn’t too serious and he’s ready for action soon after the season starts, he should have another good season. If Sanchez can get back to his 2016 performance after missing most of last season, he would make a solid top of the rotation with Stroman.

Overall, the Blue Jays have a better team this season than last year. The biggest concern should be Stroman’s health. Even though they should be better this season, the Blue Jays won’t finish better than third in the East because the Red Sox and Yankees are significantly better than the other teams in the division and it would take big injuries for them to not finish in the top two spot in the division. The Blue Jays, however, are probably the best of the other three teams in the East, but they probably won’t win enough games to qualify for one of the Wild Card spots in the AL.

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

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