Tag Archives: baseball

Trade Grade: Castro for Warren and Ryan

Earlier this week, the Cubs traded Starlin Castro for Adam Warren and Brendan Ryan.

New York Yankees

Castro is a solid player. He can play both shortstop and second base, and flexibility at a pair of hard-to-fill positions is a valuable commodity in today’s MLB.

To get Castro, the Yankees gave up Warren and Ryan. Warren was expected to compete for a spot in the Yankees’ rotation this spring after pitching well last season, but now that he’s gone, New York will likely turn to CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova to compete for the fifth slot, behind Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, Michael Pineda, and Nathan Eovaldi. Ryan was nothing more than an occasional starter at second base, the position that Castro will now occupy, so his absence won’t be missed.

Castro is an interesting asset. Although this will be his seventh season in the big leagues, he’s still only 26 and is signed through 2019, his age-29 season, with a club option for 2020. His contract isn’t onerous, as over the next four seasons, Castro is owed 37 million dollars, plus the club option, which will cost sixteen million dollars (or a one million dollar buyout).

On the other hand, since a spectacular first couple of seasons in the majors, Castro has regressed badly, with a .296 OBP last season. However, there may be reason for optimism. After moving from shortstop to second base last season, across 44 games, Castro played better defense while hitting .353/.374/.594. Obviously, Castro won’t put up those stats over a full campaign, but if he can approach his production from his first couple of seasons, then this trade will be a coup for the Yankees.

Grade: B

Chicago Cubs

I’m not sure why the Cubs made this trade. Yes, Castro was expendable because Addison Russell and Javier Baez will be occupying the middle-infield positions for the foreseeable future, but couldn’t Chicago have gotten something a little more useful for a young, relatively cheap player?

Ryan has a reputation for being a spectacular defensive shortstop, with his four year peak producing 12.4 WAR (as per Baseball-Reference). However, that peak was from 2009 to 2012, at which point his defensive production fell off a cliff, going from 3.6 dWAR (defensive WAR) in 2012 to .7 dWAR in 2013. Last season, he reached his nadir, producing negative value as a defender. He can’t hit for his life, which was acceptable when he was a world-class defender, but now that he can’t play defense any more, simply put, he’s an awful player.

The Cubs don’t need him whatsoever, with shortstop reserved for Russell for years to come, so I imagine he was just a throw-in and that Warren was their main target.

Warren pitched well last season, with a 3.29 ERA across 131.1 innings, including seventeen starts. This isn’t a fluke as his combined ERA across his three full seasons is 3.23. The problem is that there’s no space in the rotation for him, with Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jason Hammel, and Kyle Hendricks occupying every spot in the strangely J-heavy Chicago rotation.

Warren has also pitched in the bullpen, so he’ll likely begin next season as a reliever. He’ll be perfectly fine in relief, but is a solid reliever really worth Castro? Apparently, the Cubs think so, but I’m dubious.

Grade: C+

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Trade Grade: Walker for Niese

Earlier today, news broke that the Mets were trading Jonathon Niese to the Pirates for Neil Walker.

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates were rumored to be going after pitching, and they got a decent starter on a great contract. To get this valuable asset, they gave up a good offensive second baseman.

By moving Walker, Pittsburgh frees up a starting spot. Last season, for six positions (CF, LF, RF, 3B, 2B, SS) they had seven players who needed to start. Now that Walker is gone, Josh Harrison, a flexible defender and a decent hitter, can move to second, and the players who deserve to start will start.

Niese is a great acquisition for Pittsburgh. The Pirate rotation is shaky behind aces Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano, and Niese is as dependable as they come. The lefty has an ERA of 3.65 over the last four seasons combined, which is a #3 starter nearly any team would be happy to have.

Additionally, Niese is even more valuable because of his contract. Niese is owed nine million dollars this season, with two club options for the two seasons after for ten and eleven million dollars, respectively, along with a five-hundred thousand dollar buyout if the option is declined. While thirty million dollars seems like a sizable amount of money to spend on a solid pitcher, in today’s league, where half-decent pitchers are seeking eighty-million dollars over five years in free agency, that’s a very good contract.

The Pirates didn’t get a coup with this deal. They didn’t rip the Mets off. Instead, they got exactly what they needed without giving up anything they couldn’t live without.

Grade: A

New York Mets

The Mets needed a second baseman after Ben Zobrist signed with Chicago and other than perhaps Daniel Murphy, Walker was the best available.

Niese was expendable due to the Mets’ wealth of pitching. New York currently has four of its five rotation slots occupied, between Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, and Steven Matz. With Zack Wheeler returning from Tommy John surgery in the middle of the season, there wasn’t going to be anywhere for Niese to pitch as a starter.

The Mets needed a second baseman to replace the departed Murphy, and Walker certainly fits the bill. Walker gains value due to his flexibility as a switch-hitter and, similarly to the player he was traded for, is remarkably consistent. Every season, Walker hits about .270 with a home run total in the mid-teens and an above-average OPS+. Anthony DiComo also noted Walker’s consistent production:

Walker is only under contract for this season, which means that the Mets can feel free to move on from him after the season and hand the reins to Dilson Herrera or Wilmer Flores. Until then, though, it’ll be nice to have yet another solid player to add to a roster full of them.

It’s tough to give up Niese because of his great contract and the fact that he was effective as both a starter and reliever, but Walker is a good player. I bet the Mets could have found a better offer, especially if they waited until the end of free agency for the teams who missed out on their starting pitching targets, but, again, Walker will help the team this season without bogging them down for years to come.

Grade: B+

It’s Official: The Mets are Back

I can’t stay quiet about this.

On Sunday Night Baseball, on national TV, I just watched the Mets finish off a sweep of the Nationals team that was picked by everyone in the world to run away with the NL East this season.

Everyone in the world was wrong.

Washington may end up winning the division, but, as of now, the Mets are tied with them atop it, and they’re not going away without a fight.

I was eight years old the last time the Mets were relevant, way back in 2008. Since then, all I’ve gotten to see has been season after season of win totals in the 70s and empty seats in Citi Field.

But that’s over now.

Sure, more fans are coming to the games, but you can figure that out from ticket sales. More important is that, for the first time in years, us fans are emotionally invested in this team.

For instance, last Wednesday night, as has been discussed countless times since then, Wilmer Flores cried on the field after hearing that he had been traded from the team he’s been part of for a third of his life.

Of course, he heard incorrectly and remained with the team, but nonetheless, Mets fans have been making it up to him. Chants and cheers have greeted him each time he’s stepped up to the plate, and on Friday night, he reciprocated.

On a 1-1 count, in the bottom of the twelfth inning, Flores slammed a walk-off home run, and the stadium erupted.

The next day, Flores went 0-4, so Lucas Duda was the hero, driving in all three Met runs with a double and a couple of solo homers.

And then Sunday night. Two outs and a man on first. Curtis Granderson hits a homer. The next pitch, Daniel Murphy does the same. And after a hit from the newly acquired Yoenis Cespedes, Duda hits yet another home run. That makes it nine home runs in his last eight games, an feat unprecedented in Mets history.

Now we have to talk about Cespedes. He’s a rental and a very good player, not a great one, but honestly, who cares? Sandy Alderson finally made the big splash that us Mets faithful have been dreaming about, proving that our pleas are not in vain, and that he’s been listening all along.

Even better, what did the Mets give up? A couple of minor league pitchers, who, even if they’re good, won’t make it onto the team because of the wealth of starting pitching the Mets currently enjoy.

Here’s a fun fact that illustrates the amazing combination of youth and talent the Mets’ starters possess. The three Mets starters over the weekend pitched 21 2/3 innings, gave up 5 earned runs, and struck out 25. Their combined age? 75.

No wonder no one wants to face the Mets in the playoffs.

In addition to Cespedes, Alderson made a couple of under-the-radar moves that improved the team, acquiring Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson from the Braves and Tyler Clippard from the Athletics. In both trades, Alderson gave up little of value, but added a couple of useful hitters and an elite reliever. In fact, because Jeurys Familia had pitched the last three games, Clippard earned the save in Sunday’s game.

The hitting is passable, especially now that Cespedes has been added, but at this point, they only need to score three runs to win.

With an improved lineup and dominant pitching the Mets are on the road to October baseball. And after sweeping the Nationals I think it’s now official: the Mets are back.

Breaking Down the Rays Rotation

The Tampa Bay Rays have overcome a slew of injuries to important parts of their team to remain in the running for the AL East crown, a single game out of first place. Now, though, some of those players are coming back.

Today we’re going to focus on the pitching side of the ledger, where the Rays’ entire starting rotation is fantasy-relevant.

We’ll begin with one of the early contenders for the AL Cy Young, Chris Archer, who has been absolutely phenomenal. There have been five starts out of seventeen total in which Archer has given up more than two earned runs. His 133 strikeouts rank fifth-best in all of baseball. In any way you spin it, Archer has been a top starter this season. His FIP supports his ERA and his success is likely to continue. Invest with confidence.

Next up is Jake Odorizzi, who was nearly as good as Archer before going down with an oblique injury last month. Odorizzi made his first rehab start on Wednesday, and it went as hoped, with a run, two hits, and a walk over four innings. The Rays are still deciding whether or not to have Odorizzi make another rehab start before activating him, but either way, time is running out to buy low. Odorizzi will come cheap comparatively, but expect him to pitch on par with top-20 starters such as Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha.

Like Odorizzi, Drew Smyly is injured, but Smyly isn’t expected to return from his shoulder injury until some time in August. Since coming over to Tampa Bay in the David Price trade last year, Smyly, in ten starts, has an ERA of 1.96 while striking out over a batter an inning. There’s no way he’ll keep it up over a full season, of course, but even once regression hits, Smyly will be a valuable asset for any team. He’s unowned in 68% of Yahoo leagues, and while there’s no need to pick him up now, as his return creeps closer, it would make sense to take a low-risk flier on him.

Matt Moore made his season debut yesterday against the Indians, giving up four runs over 4.2 innings in his first start in over a year after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He’s young, talented, and has nearly a strikeouts an inning over his career. There’s a lot of upside here. Until he shakes off the rust, it’s wise to monitor him closely from the sidelines, but once he does, Moore could be one of the best free agent pickups of the second half.

The fifth starter in the Rays’ fully healthy rotation is Nate Karns. Karns hasn’t lasted more than six innings in any of his last nine starts, capping his upside, but he’s safe and consistent, with only four starts all year in which he’s given up more than two runs. He’s helpful in strikeouts, and can help add counting stats while improving your ratios. Karns isn’t good enough to be owned in most leagues, but he’s an elite streamer and should be targeted each time he pitches.

There are three more pitchers who have made starts for the Rays this year: Matt Andriese, Erasmo Ramirez, and Alex Colome. Andriese has already been sent to the minors to free up his rotation spot for Moore, and Ramirez and Colome are likely to follow once Odorizzi and Smyly return. Colome is irrelevant for fantasy, but whenever either Andriese or Ramirez makes a spot start, they could be useful as streamers when they’re pitching at home, in the spacious Tropicana Park, or whenever either has an advantageous matchup.

Have a happy 4th of July weekend, everybody!

Six Rules Good Commissioners Follow

There are two things that can destroy fantasy baseball leagues: negligent owners and bad commissioners.

With owners who don’t pay attention, there’s nothing you can do until the end of the season, when you can kick them out, but the problem of having a Roger Goodell as the commissioner of your fantasy league can be easily addressed.

Keeping that in mind, here are six rules that all commissioners should follow, and if yours doesn’t, well, it might be time to find a new one.

1. It’s everyone’s league: You may run it, but your league belongs to everyone in it. Making decisions by yourself and ignoring the input of others is the fastest way you can get everyone in your league to despise you.

2. Remember that your league is a democracy: This is a corollary of the last rule. You volunteered to run your league, but only because everyone else agreed to let you do it. If you ever feel like you’re getting too haughty, remind yourself that just as they gave you power, they can take it away.

3. Use your veto sparingly: There is only one reason that you should ever exercise your right to veto a trade: if one owner is purposely making his team worse. There’s no other acceptable reason. If some idiot decides to trade Max Scherzer for Jose Quintana and thinks he’s making his team better, then that’s fine. You can try to talk him out of it, you can tell him he’s an idiot, and you can kick him out after the season, but unless he’s purposely trying to make his team worse to make the other team better then there’s nothing you can do.

4. Make sure everyone knows the rules of the league: This is simple. The best thing for you to do to address this problem is to write down all the rules onto a so-called “League Constitution”, print it out to give copies to everyone, and have each owner sign it. This was a problem for me last year when I joined a league midway through the season. The league actually had a written constitution, which I read and signed, but what the commissioner didn’t tell me was that co-managing wasn’t allowed. During the summer, one of the regular owners was away, and when I inquired about a potential trade, he directed me to someone who was running his team for him at the time. I ended up completing a trade with that co-owner, but when the commissioner realized that I had negotiated with him, the trade was retroactively vetoed and somehow, I was blamed for the whole mess. Always make sure that everyone knows the rules because if you don’t, then you lose the right to punish people for transgressing them.

5. Be transparent: If you make a rule then always have a reason. More importantly, have a good reason. Yeah, if you want to eliminate saves as a category, not having any closers is a reason, but obviously it’s not one that anyone else will accept. Before you do anything, make sure you’re able to explain it to your league.

6. Put the league before yourself: This is the big rule of thumb that every rule in this post falls under. Everything you do should be to improve the league, not to help your own team. It’s not complicated or hard to do, but it’s the most important rule of all.

Also, one quick NBA note: last Wednesday, the Nets held a Mason Plumlee meet-and-greet at the Barclays Center. On Thursday, the Nets traded hm. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2015 Brooklyn Nets!

Mailbag: Jason Heyward and Joey Gallo

Mailbags are a useful tool for identifying the most pressing topics on the minds of fantasy owners. Receiving questions along the lines of which players to pick up, whose streak will continue, and who to sell high on all contribute to a more reader-oriented blog, where the topics I write about are more relevant to what you, the reader, are interested in.

Questions are always appreciated, and you can feel free to email me any queries you might have at sushi.krox@gmail.com with the subject “SushiOnSports” or simply to comment on one of my posts.

Now that we have the introduction out of the way, let’s discuss a question I recently received from a reader:

is Jason Heyward’s resurgence for real? What’s up with Joey Gallo?
–Noah

To address the first part of Noah’s question, let’s first provide some background. Heyward was drafted in the top 100 picks in most leagues and was expected to provide stolen bases with some power. Through the first third of the season, it looked like his owners had no shot at recouping their original investment, culminating in an article from a couple of weeks ago where I questioned why he was still owned.

I guess Heyward reads this blog because just a couple of days after I wrote that post, he went on an absolute tear. In the two weeks since that article, Heyward has raised his average twenty points, his OBP thirty points, stolen two bases, and racked up four home runs, nine runs, and ten RBIs.

Despite this recent surge, Heyward doesn’t seem to be improving substantially. His BABIP over this time period is a fluky .370 and his walk rate is below his career average (although still higher than this season before this streak). The one positive is his strikeout rate, which is much better during the last two weeks than it’s been during this season and throughout his whole career.

Here’s the problem with reading into this streak at all: it’s been only fifteen games, an extremely small sample size. The only thing that the streak has done is bring his seasonal numbers up to acceptable totals. My advice is to sell, and to sell fast while his stats look good. He’ll continue to steal bases and perhaps knock in a few runs, but Heyward is not going to end up with stats even somewhat similar to what he’s put up over the past couple of weeks.

Next, we’re on to Joey Gallo, whose lightower power is his claim to fame. When he was surprisingly called up to the majors after Adrian Beltre was injured, Gallo was supposed to be a three true outcomes type of hitter, and he’s lived up to that billing. His per-162 games stats are 74 walks, 34 home runs, and a record-shattering 263 strikeouts, beating out Mark Reynolds 2009 season by 40 punchouts.

In regular 5×5 leagues, Gallo is a significant asset, helping in four categories. In OBP leagues, he’s even more valuable. However, in any league that counts strikeouts or any kind of hit other than home runs, then he’ll be less valuable. In 5×5 and OBP leagues, I’d hold onto Gallo, but in any other league, I’d rush to trade him.

Honestly, I would have traded him the second he was called up. People always love rookies because they’ve never failed before, and that’s a tendency that discerning owners can take advantage of. For instance, Kyle Schwarber came up for a week and dominated. If anyone in your league thinks he’s going to be Miguel Cabrera this season with catcher eligibility, then take advantage of that. Another opportunity to use this principle is with Jose Fernandez. Although he’s not a rookie, he hasn’t pitched so far this year so he’s still got a 0.00 ERA. In fact, I own Jose Fernandez in my home league and ever since it came out a couple of weeks ago that he would be making his season debut on July 2nd, I’ve been trying to see if anyone would overpay for him.

Speaking of selling high, remember my Buy-Low, Sell-High article from a few weeks ago about the right way to buy low and sell high? If you haven’t read it yet, it’s useful to read, but there are a couple of young third basemen right now who match the definition I gave of players to sell high on to the letter: Todd Frazier and Nolan Arenado.

Both have been scorching hot recently, particularly Arenado. Frazier’s hit seven home runs in his last eleven games while Arenado’s mashed eight in his last seven. I had the misfortune of playing against Arenado this week when he had more games with multiple homers than games without any. Both players were good before their streaks and seem to have vaulted into the upper echelon of fantasy baseball. Both players are almost certainly not going to continue to be as amazing as they’ve been, even though they’ll still be very good players. If you’re lucky enough to have one of these players, then you have a magnificent sell-high opportunity. Don’t let it pass you by.

MLB Midseason Awards and Predictions

The All Star Break is generally considered to be midway point of the MLB season. It’s weird because teams have already played anywhere from 91 games (Detroit) to 97 (Tampa Bay and the Dodgers). For those of you out there who aren’t exactly mathematicians, that’s more than halfway through the season. The mathematical midpoint of the season was a couple of weeks ago making it weird that people consider the season to be halfway over now, but if you think about how little sense this makes too long, you’ll get a headache, so let’s just move on.

The All Star Break is a good time to make predictions about the rest of the season. With the four day absence of baseball (the All Star Game doesn’t count), people are pretty desperate for anything related to actual baseball. Also, the sample size of nearly 100 games is large enough to extrapolate semi-meaningful information, making it easier to make logical and smart picks for the rest of the season.

Before you think that I’m just some idiot who doesn’t know how to make these predictions, I’d like to direct you to the two columns that I’ve written on here so far that deal with making picks. Here’s The World Cup Preview: https://sushionsports.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/the-world-cup-preview/. In it, before the tournament started, I pick three of the final four teams correctly, I pick the winner correctly, I do reasonably well picking the order of finishers in each group, and I predict that Brazil will collapse against Germany in the semifinals. Here’s The Knockout Rounds Preview, in which I get 13 out of the 16 games correct in addition to doubling up on what I predicted before the tournament started: https://sushionsports.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/the-knockout-rounds-preview/. Read through the articles; you might be entertained, but you’ll also see that I wasn’t too bad.

Now I’ll admit that the last 130 words were pretty much just an excuse for me to brag about my successes, but still, can’t I be proud? If I made a 200 dollar bet on Germany to win it all before the tournament started (if gambling were legal), that 200 dollar bet would have returned 1100 dollars (according to Bovada). Not a bad profit.

All this aside, I like to think that I’m capable of foreseeing a few things, especially something as (relatively) predictable as MLB.

We’ll swing through the division winners and wild cards and move on to the major award winners before finishing up with the playoff picks.

Something you might want to know before we get started: this column is really, really, really long. Don’t worry: I won’t be offended if you read part of it and come back later to read some more. Anyways, after that 430 word preamble, let’s get started!

AL East: Baltimore Orioles

This is easily the most wide open division in baseball. All five teams are still in it, and no one would be particularly surprised if one team pulled off an incredible second half to win the division. I’m going with the safest pick in the Orioles.

For one thing, they’re already in first place, giving them a cushion over the rest of the teams.

They’ve also got some great hitting. Adam Jones has been spectacular as always, Nelson Cruz is having a breakout season at 34 (PEDs, anyone?) and they’ve had a surprise contributor in Steve Pearce, who’s been very good since he was brought up. Even Chris Davis isn’t too bad, although he’s certainly not at the heights that he reached last season.

The biggest reason is that they’ve got the least noticeable flaws of anyone in their division. Their only problem is a slightly leaky rotation, stemming mostly from the struggles of their prized free agent, 50 million dollar man, Ubaldo Jimenez.

The Blue Jays have been struggling since their hot start to the season and have no consistency at almost any part of their roster. Edwin Encarnacion got injured and will be out for a few weeks. All they have to do is find another guy who has 26 homers and 70 RBIs through the All Star Break because, you know, those types of players grow on trees.

Boston’s been completely unable to hit.

The Rays are shaking off a slow start but are still in last place. It’s impossible to pick them because of the risk that Andrew Friedman decides to rebuild their farm system by trading away David Price (who’s had an incredible two months worth of starts) and Ben Zobrist.

New York’s been dealing with injuries everywhere, (no surprise as the average age of their 25 man roster is probably around 48) they have no infield, their prized free agents haven’t worked out, and the only one that did, Masashiro Tanaka, is on the DL for at least six weeks.

If Toronto adds a big name player through the trade market as they’ve been rumored to be trying to do, it could change the whole outlook of the race. Outside of that, there’s nothing else that could make the division change much. The Yankees have too many holes to fix and Boston can’t find seven quality hitters to replace everyone in their lineup other than Brock Holt and David Ortiz. Tampa Bay never adds payroll and, if they made a splash, it would be more likely that they trade away David Price rather than trading for reinforcements.

The decision to choose the Orioles to win the AL East doesn’t stem from confidence in them as much as the lack of any serious competition.

For the sake of completeness, at the end of each division, I’ll put down my picks for the rest of the division. For the AL East, I’ve got Tampa Bay, Toronto, Boston, then New York.

AL Central: Detroit Tigers

Again, who’s going to compete with them? The Twins and White Sox are still rebuilding, they definitely can’t. Cleveland’s pitching has fallen apart outside of Corey Kluber. Kansas City can’t hit because of the hugely disappointing seasons from Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, Norichika Aoki, and more. There are really no serious contenders other than the Tigers for the AL Central crown.

Detroit isn’t winning it almost by default like the Orioles are; rather, they have a very good team on their own.

Despite trading Doug Fister over the winter for 40 cents on the dollar (Fister has a sub-3.00 ERA this year for the Nationals) they have a deep pitching staff. Justin Verlander’s been a disappointment this year, but there’s potential for a comeback. Remember, Verlander won the MVP only three years ago, in 2011. They’ve got Rick Porcello, who had one of the strangest box scores in recent memory, with a complete game shutout with no walks and no strikeouts. Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer are both high strikeout pitchers with good ERAs. Even Drew Smyly, the guy who they gave Fister’s rotation spot to has been pretty good. That’s a pretty intimidating playoff rotation.

Their lineup is even better than their rotation. They’ve got Miguel Cabrera, looking to capture a third straight AL MVP, Victor Martinez, and Ian Kinsler. They’ve got a surprise star in JD Martinez who has absolutely mashed this year.

Overall, Detroit has such a deep team (outside of its shaky bullpen) that it’s impossible to go against them.

I think the rest of the division will go Kansas City, Cleveland, Chicago, Minnesota.

AL West: Oakland Athletics

The best team in the majors got even better after trading for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel of the Cubs. Oakland’s rotation is so deep that despite having multiple injuries to starting pitchers, they had to send down a guy with a 3.55 ERA (Tommy Milone) because they didn’t have a spot for him in the rotation. That’s some serious depth.

Their lineup is loaded as well, with Josh Donaldson following last year’s breakout season with 20 homers and 65 RBIs so far this year and Brandon Moss having already hit 21 homers and knocked in 66 guys. They’ve got the best catching platoon in the game with Derek Norris (who should have started the All Star Game over both Matt Wieters and Salvador Perez) and John Jaso. Yoenis Cespedes, who just won his second consecutive Home Run Derby, bats third. Quite simply, the Athletics are loaded.

The best thing about Oakland is how deep they are. They’ve got good players up and down the roster, from 1 through 25. This depth makes them less susceptible to injuries.

The Angels and Mariners are both good teams, but none have the depth of the A’s. We’ll delve a little deeper into those two teams in about three or four paragraphs.

Texas and Houston are both garbage and inflate the win totals of the three teams lucky enough to be in the same division as them.

Anyways, Oakland’s easily the best team in the majors and should win their division.

After Oakland, I think it’ll be Los Angeles, Seattle, Houston, then Texas.

AL Wild Cards: 1. Los Angeles Angels (if you want to be picky) of Anaheim 2. Seattle Mariners

Most important question: why do the Angels feel the need to tack on “of Anaheim” to the end of the name? It sounds a little stuck up if you ask me (which you didn’t, but whatever).

In actual baseball, the Angels are a team built for the regular season with a loaded lineup, a passable rotation, and a train wreck of a bullpen. Luckily for them, the market is saturated with relief pitchers and it shouldn’t be too hard. In fact, they’ve already gotten started, grabbing Joe Thatcher from Arizona and swapping their failed closer, Ernesto Frieri, for Pittsburgh’s failed closer, Jason Grilli. I think they’ll comfortably end up with the first wild card spot in the AL and breath down Oakland’s neck for the division crown near the end of the season.

The choice for the second wild card spot is tricky. I don’t particularly like any of the AL East teams, skill-wise, and Cleveland and Kansas City are all young teams with flaws (pitching outside of Kluber and having a passable offense respectively). That leaves only the Mariners. I’m okay with that. They’ve got Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, Fernando Rodney and Robinson Cano. Their biggest hole is the lack of production from right field and first base. Their DH spot has also been shaky. If they can solve a chunk of that problem by acquiring Marlon Byrd, Josh Willlingham, or someone like them, they’ll be in good position to make a run.

Now, if you were paying any attention at all, you may have noticed that I picked three AL playoff teams to come out of the AL West. This is because of they play in a division with the Astros and the Rangers. The two Texas teams are among the worst in baseball. Their crappiness gives the rest of the teams in their division a boost up.

NL East: Washington Nationals

I’m a Mets fan but even I can say that this division is really really bad. I mean, you’ve got the retirement home Phillies, the lots-of-young-guys-but-not-quite-there-yet Marlins and Mets, the perpetually underachieving Nationals, and the never-quite-puts-it-together Braves.

The Phillies certainly won’t be winning anything this year, outside of shot at a top 5 draft pick (they currently have the seventh-worst record in the MLB). The Marlins started off hot but are finally coming down from that high. They’ve got no shot. The Mets are 45-50 but have been unlucky; they should be 50-45 with just league average luck. Still, they’re a young team and are more likely than not to do worse in the second half. They’ll be good in 2015 and beyond, just not this year (I’m gonna keep telling myself that, hoping that it’s true). The Braves are overachieving, leaving just Washington. I’ve always thought for the past three years that Washington has a really good team. They simply have no holes. Every position is manned by a capable player. I think that this is the year that they finally put it together and that they’ll easily win the NL East.

I think the rest of the division goes Atlanta, New York, Miami, and Philadelphia.

NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals

Here’s another division (along with the NL and AL Easts) that no one seems to want to win. Four out of the five teams are within 3.5 games of the division lead so this division is completely up-for-grabs. We can easily rule out the Cubs because they’re continuing to build for the future, but outside of Chicago, the four other teams are more or less even.

In the end, I’ve got to pick St. Louis. They’ve got great pitching and their hitting should bounce back eventually. They’ve got a ton of injuries to key contributors such as Yadier Molina, Michael Wacha, and Jaime Garcia. Still, all of them (except for possibly Garcia) will be back by September, in time for the stretch run.
Cincinnati is dealing with injuries of its own. Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and Sean Marshall are all banged up. However, the Reds should find it harder to compensate for their injuries. Milwaukee wasn’t supposed to be a particularly good team this year, but after a surprisingly good start, they’ve cooled off considerably. Pittsburgh is doing the same thing it’s always done: having a far better record than their stats would suggest. It’s not unreasonable to expect them to drop off a cliff in the second half.

The best reason for the Cards is that they’ve done it before. They know what it takes to win the division. In a division with five lackluster teams, that’s the best reason to pick one of them.

I think the Reds will come in second, the Brew Crew will be third, the Buccos will take home fourth, and the Cubs will be comfortably in last.

NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers

It’s tough to go against a team that’s spending 238 million dollars. It’s also tough to go against a team that’s so loaded that elite, major-league ready prospects are stuck in the minors because the players in the big leagues are all too good to be sent down.

Three of the six worst teams in MLB reside in their division, pushing them up a few games. The only competition comes from the Giants, who, after a scorching start, have stunk for a month or two.

I think that the rest of the division will be, in order of finish, San Francisco, Colorado, Arizona, and San Diego.

NL Wild Cards: 1. San Francisco Giants 2. Atlanta Braves

The NL Wild Card race should be relatively uncompetitive this year. There are five teams that (according to my predictions) won’t win their division but are still competitive: San Fran, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and Pittsburgh. The three NL Central teams should all beat up on one another, leaving the Giants and Braves standing. Additionally, the Giants and Braves have easy divisions and should be able to capitalize on that by taking advantage of the weaker teams they’ll face.

AL MVP: Mike Trout

Honestly, who else could it be? Miguel Cabrera has won the past two AL MVPs over Trout, largely due to old-school thinkers who don’t value advanced stats at all compared to the old stalwarts of RBIs and home runs. This year, however, in addition to thrashing Cabrera in advanced stats (as always), Trout is beating him in the regular stats as well, other than RBIs where he’s losing by two, 75-73. That difference is offset by his dominance in other categories. That combination, along with finally being on a playoff team, is why Trout should take home his first MVP.

NL MVP: Giancarlo Stanton

Stanton is, quite simply, a beast. He boasts enormous power; with 21 home runs, he’s tied with Troy Tulowitzki for the NL lead in the statistic. He leads the league in RBIs, with 63. He hits for average and gets on base a ton. He’s getting better production now that he’s playing with some good hitters, like Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, Casey McGehee, and Garrett Jones.

Still, the NL MVP is wide open. You could make a convincing case for Tulowitzki, Paul Goldschmidt, and Andrew McCutchen. Picking this race is pretty much a crapshoot but Stanton’s my best bet based on his immense power and his capability of turning in a monstrous second half.

AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez

King Felix is the obvious choice here. Chris Sale hasn’t pitched as many innings and David Price is still overcoming his poor start to the season, and he might get traded to an NL team. There are worries with Scott Kazmir and Garrett Richards that their seasons are outliers. Masashiro Tanaka got hurt. Justin Verlander stopped being Justin Verlander. There’s just not a huge amount of competition in the AL this year. That shouldn’t take away from Hernandez’s achievements, though. Through 144.1 innings, he’s got 154 strikeouts, a 2.12 ERA, and a 0.90 WHIP. If you care about wins, he’s got 11. He’s been the best pitcher on a playoff contender, and as long as neither he nor the Mariners suffer a prolonged second half swoon, he should win his second Cy Young in a landslide.

NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw

Just like with the MVP races, the real intrigue comes with the NL. Does the award go to someone with a breakout season (Julio Teheran)? Does it go to an extreme outlier season that probably won’t happen again (Johnny Cueto)? Does it go to someone who missed a month of the season but is undeniably the best pitcher in the game (Kershaw)? Or, does it go to someone who’s been consistently spectacular all year (Adam Wainwright)?

I choose Kershaw, and here’s why:

  1. Best pitcher in the game
  2. Plays for a guaranteed playoff team
  3. The innings gap between him and the rest of the starters will be far less noticeable by the end of the season
  4. He’s been unbelievably good so far this year

That’s more than enough for me. In case that wasn’t enough, Kershaw is more likely to win because he plays for a guaranteed playoff team while Wainwright (the probable runner-up) plays for Saint Louis, a contender for a playoff spot, but by no means a slam-dunk.

A stat that shows the huge gap between Kershaw and Wainwright: Kershaw has pitched 41.2 innings less than Wainwright but has 11 more strikeouts. That’s called dominance.

AL Rookie of the Year: Jose Abreu

This doesn’t have much intrigue either. It was shaping up to be a great race between Abreu and Masashiro Tanaka, but Tanaka got hurt, putting an end to that discussion.

Something reasonably important that I’d like to point out is that Tanaka is 25 and Abreu is 27. Wait, so why are these guys considered rookies again?

NL Rookie of the Year: Billy Hamilton

I racked my brains for ten minutes and couldn’t think of a single rookie in the NL worth noting, outside of Hamilton. There’s not much competition in this race either. Regardless, Hamilton is a well-deserving candidate. In addition to his well-documented speed (he’s got 38 stolen bases so far this year), he’s hitting .285, albeit with a pedestrian OPB of .319, quelling concerns that he wouldn’t be able to get on base to get steals in the big leagues. He’s even got 38 RBIs, a lot for a leadoff hitter. Hamilton is a solid choice for the NL ROY, despite there not being anyone else worth noting to compete with him.

AL Playoffs:

  1. Oakland
  2. Detroit
  3. Baltimore
  4. Los Angeles/Seattle

AL Wild Card Game: Seattle

The Angels are probably a better team overall than the Mariners, but they don’t have the shutdown ace that Seattle has in Felix Hernandez. King Felix should shut down Los Angeles in the wild card game, giving Seattle the victory.

ALDS: Oakland, Detroit

Oakland should easily put away Seattle with its superior pitching and hitting, along with its depth throughout the roster. The only position that Seattle is better than Oakland at is second base, where Seattle has Robinson Cano, compared to Oakland’s four-way platoon of Alberto Callaspo, Jed Lowrie, Nick Punto, and Eric Sogard. Outside of that position, the Athletics are better in every way.

Detroit should do the same to Baltimore, beating them with their combination of elite hitting and above average pitching. Baltimore doesn’t have great starting pitching which should doom them in a playoff series.
ALCS: Oakland

This sets up a rematch of Oakland-Detroit. Detroit has won the past two years, but neither team is the same. Justin Verlander’s not as good as he used to be and Doug Fister was traded to Washington, so the Tigers are at a slight disadvantage in pitching.

The two teams are just about neck and neck in hitting. Detroit has more star power, but Oakland has solid players up and down the order.

The place where the Athletics have a huge advantage is in the bullpen. Joe Nathan hasn’t been good at all closing for the Tigers, while the A’s have good setup men in Dan Otero and Luke Gregerson, along with an All Star closer in Sean Doolittle.

Oakland’s clearly a better team than Detroit, and that’s why I think they’ll exorcise their past demons to finally move on to the World Series.

NL Wild Card Game: Atlanta

As in the AL matchup, the team with the best starting pitcher will nearly always win. Julio Teheran is better than all of the Giants’ pitchers, like Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Hudson, Madison Bumgarner, and Tim Lincecum. Because of that advantage, I think Atlanta will beat San Francisco.

NLDS: Los Angeles, Washington

Los Angeles should thrash Atlanta with its incredibly deep rotation and its elite lineup, especially as Julio Teheran, Atlanta’s ace, won’t be able to pitch the first game of the series if he pitches in the Wild Card game.
I think Washington will avenge its loss to the Cardinals from two seasons ago. Although St. Louis has the best pitcher in the series, Adam Wainwright, Washington hasn’t been wracked by pitching injuries, with Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister, Jordan Zimmermann, and Gio Gonzalez, the likely members of their playoff rotation, all healthy. Even if one of them does get hurt, the Nats still have Tanner Roark as a solid backup plan.

NLCS: Los Angeles

Although Washington has great pitching, they can’t compare to the playoff rotation that the Dodgers can roll out: Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Josh Beckett, and Hyun-jin Ryu. The strength of the Nationals is pitching; take away that advantage and they’re suddenly not so intimidating anymore.

This sets up a California World Series between Oakland and Los Angeles, a matchup which should be a treat for all.

The World Series: Oakland

I went back and forth between the two teams about a thousand times before finally deciding.

Despite having less than a third of Los Angeles’ payroll, I think the Athletics will win the World Series.

The Dodgers have a ton of star power and are very top-heavy, while the Athletics have some stars, but have a ton more depth. Los Angeles is an incredible regular season team, and an incredible postseason team, but what happens if an important player gets injured. Then what happens? We’ve already seen that worst-case scenario with Oakland’s pitching staff and they rose to the occasion.

Also, I feel like, in every World Series, there’s one random player who makes a huge difference. Oakland has a ton of those guys. The Dodgers? Not so much. That’s a big reason why I’m picking the Oakland Athletics to win the 2014 World Series.