Tag Archives: Chicago

2016 MLB Predictions

Admittedly, this article is coming out a day late, so these predictions are obviously all moot and completely worthless, as the three total games that have been played so far have determined everything that will happen in the regular season for the next six months.

Anyways, here are the Sushi on Sports 2016 MLB predictions.

AL East

Toronto Blue Jays

Boston Red Sox

Baltimore Orioles

Tampa Bay Rays

New York Yankees

AL Central

Kansas City Royals

Chicago White Sox

Detroit Tigers

Cleveland Indians

Minnesota Twins

AL West

Houston Astros

Texas Rangers

Seattle Mariners

Oakland Athletics

Los Angeles Angels

NL East

New York Mets

Washington Nationals

Miami Marlins

Atlanta Braves

Philadelphia Phillies

NL Central

Chicago Cubs

St. Louis Cardinals

Pittsburgh Pirates

Cincinnati Reds

Milwaukee Brewers

NL West

Los Angeles Dodgers

San Francisco Giants

Arizona Diamondbacks

Colorado Rockies

San Diego Padres

AL Wild Card

Chicago White Sox over Texas Rangers

NL Wild Card

Pittsburgh Pirates over St. Louis Cardinals

ALDS

Houston Astros over Chicago White Sox

Toronto Blue Jays over Kansas City Royals

NLDS

Chicago Cubs over Pittsburgh Pirates

New York Mets over Los Angeles Dodgers

ALCS

Houston Astros over Toronto Blue Jays

NLCS

New York Mets over Chicago Cubs

World Series

New York Mets over Houston Astros

AL MVP

Carlos Correa

NL MVP

Anthony Rizzo

AL Cy Young

Chris Sale

NL Cy Young

Clayton Kershaw

AL ROY

A.J. Reed

NL ROY

Steven Matz

AL MOY

A.J. Hinch

NL MOY

Joe Maddon

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MLB Over/Unders

After a lengthy winter, baseball is finally nearly back!

Spring training has been awful for me, only whetting my appetite for baseball without truly satisfying it. However, it does serve a purpose. Spring training gives us a first glimpse at the configurations of each team. It provides us with tentative answers as to where each player will bat in the order, or who’ll close, or any number of things.

Today we’ll use some of that information in making our Over/Under predictions for the 2016 MLB season. First, let’s discuss a few best bets for the upcoming season. After that, we’ll zip through the rest of the picks.

Let’s get started!

Best Bets

Chicago Cubs: 92.5: OVER

They can’t make this number high enough for me. If it were raised to 95.5, I’d have to take it off my “Best Bets” list, but it would have to be over 100 for me to even consider taking the under.

Unlike other teams, who may have depth but no superstars, or superstars but no depth, the Cubs are in the enviable position of having both. In fact, although having superstars like Anthony Rizzo, Jake Arrieta, and Kris Bryant is important, what might be more impressive is that their worst regular is Dexter Fowler, a center fielder who, last season, smacked seventeen homers, swiped twenty bases, with a .346 OBP. On any other team, that’s a way above average player. Wow.

Chicago’s immense depth will allow to work its way through whatever obstacles it might face during the lengthy season, and its superstars will allow it to excel throughout the campaign. It’s tough to envision a scenario in which the Cubs don’t manage to win ninety games, making this an easy choice for the “Best Bets” list.

Houston Astros: 87.5: OVER

The Astros are eerily similar to the Cubs. They’re both young, up-and-coming teams coming off painful defeats in last year’s playoffs. They’re both led by a pair of young, stud infielders (Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve, and Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, respectively) and each’s ace was absolutely awful before having a very good season in 2014 and winning the Cy Young in 2015 (Dallas Keuchel, and Jake Arrieta, respectively). And, just like the Cubs, the Astros are set to improve spectacularly on last season’s 86-76 record.

Houston definitely shouldn’t have any trouble gaining an extra two wins over last season. George Springer played only two-thirds of the season; a full season from him could get them over the hump by itself. When Correa’s inevitable improvement as he gains MLB experience is factored in, the Astros should be able to surpass the total that Bovada has set for them with ease.

San Diego Padres: 73.5: UNDER

Before last season, Padres GM A.J. Preller went on an offseason trading spree, nabbing Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, Derek Norris, and Craig Kimbrel in an effort to win big. That effort failed miserably, and the team is now a wreck, with no hope in the present or in the future.

After Preller failed to turn the Padres into a contender, he sloughed off his two biggest acquisitions, with Upton leaving in free agency and Kimbrel being traded to the Red Sox. The team is now left with a desolate wasteland of a roster with no hope of contention.

In a challenging division with three teams expected to contend for the playoffs, it will be hard for San Diego to make it to seventy wins.

The Best of the Rest

Philadelphia Phillies: 65.5: UNDER

The Phillies won 63 games last year and now have even less talent. The scale of their rebuild is on par with that of the Astros a few of years ago, and those Houston teams won 56, 55, and 51 games from 2011-2013.

St. Louis Cardinals: 87.5: OVER and Pittsburgh Pirates: 86.5: OVER

I group these two teams together because they’re both NL Central teams who had the two highest win totals in MLB last season, didn’t get appreciably worse over the offseason, and are not getting much love from Bovada. These two teams are about the same as they were last year, and last year they won 100 and 98 games, respectively. How is each’s win total expected to decline by double digits?

Over/Under Picks for Entire MLB

Houston Astros: 87.5: OVER

Texas Rangers: 84.5: UNDER

Seattle Mariners: 82.5: UNDER

Los Angeles Angels: 81.5: UNDER

Oakland Athletics: 75.5: UNDER

Kansas City Royals: 85.5: OVER

Cleveland Indians: 84.5: UNDER

Detroit Tigers: 81.5: OVER

Chicago White Sox: 80.5: OVER

Minnesota Twins: 78.5: OVER

Toronto Blue Jays: 87.5: OVER

Boston Red Sox: 86.5: OVER

New York Yankees: 85.5: UNDER

Tampa Bay Rays: 81.5: UNDER

Baltimore Orioles: 79.5: OVER

San Francisco Giants: 89.5: UNDER

Los Angeles Dodgers: 88.5: OVER

Arizona Diamondbacks: 82.5: OVER

San Diego Padres: 73.5: UNDER

Colorado Rockies: 70.5: UNDER

Chicago Cubs: 92.5: OVER

St. Louis Cardinals: 87.5: OVER

Pittsburgh Pirates: 86.5: OVER

Cincinnati Reds: 70.5: UNDER

Milwaukee Brewers: 69.5: UNDER

New York Mets: 89.5: OVER

Washington Nationals: 89.5: UNDER

Miami Marlins: 79.5: UNDER

Atlanta Braves: 66.5: UNDER

Philadelphia Phillies: 65.5: UNDER

Eastern Conference Playoff Bubble: Who’s In and Who’s Out?

As the NBA heads into the final stretch of its season, playoff seeds are beginning to crystallize. By my count, eleven teams have already essentially clinched a spot in the playoffs, leaving five positions available for the other nineteen teams.

In the Eastern Conference, there are two playoff berths available for four teams and Washington, Indiana, Detroit, and Chicago are set to duke it out over the next month to make it into the postseason.

Which teams on the Eastern Conference playoff bubble will make it in? Which ones won’t? Let’s take a look.

In the East, the seventh and eighth seeds are up for grabs. Currently, the Pacers and Pistons hold those two spots, but the Bulls are tied with the Pistons for the eighth seed. The Wizards are lurking one-and-a-half games behind the Bulls and Pistons after recently pulling out of a tailspin; after making it back to .500, they lost five straight games before a dominant forty-three point blowout against the Pistons earlier this week on national TV and a twenty-one point victory against the Bulls last night.

Washington is the furthest from a playoff spot, but there remains hope in D.C. thanks to a fairly easy schedule to close out the season. Of its fifteen remaining games, only two are near-certain losses (@GSW and @LAC). In addition, the Wizards play three times against the Hawks, although two of those games are at home, and once against the surging Hornets in Washington.

Though Washington is one-and-a-half games out of a playoff spot, there still remains a head-to-head opportunity to make up ground on its direct competitors. The Wizards will play in Detroit on April 8th, a game that will be vital to their playoff aspirations.

The Pacers are elevated above the fray, sitting two-and-a-half games above the Bulls and Pistons and four above the Wizards. With a strong finish, Indiana could even push its way into the fifth or sixth seed, and with a creampuff schedule down the stretch, there’s a very real possibility that it could happen.

The Bulls have the easiest schedule of all, but they currently face severe problems with injuries. Jimmy Butler returned only a couple of days ago from a knee injury, Derrick Rose is dealing with a groin injury, and Pau Gasol has an injured knee. If Chicago is down its best three players, it won’t matter how easy their schedule is.

The Pistons begin a nine-game homestand against the Hawks, but their schedule is the most challenging of the teams they’re competing against. Eight of Detroit’s fifteen remaining games come against playoff teams, and that doesn’t include the games against its direct competitors. It plays in Chicago on April 2nd and against Washington at home on April 8th.

The question remains: Which of these teams will make the playoffs?

It seems to be a forgone conclusion that the Bulls will miss the playoffs since the 2007-08 season. They have too many injuries to adequately compete, and if they lose to the Pistons on April 2nd, they won’t have the tiebreaker against either the Pistons or the Wizards. Chicago will compete to the end, and it’s certainly within its capabilities to scratch out just enough victories to make it to the playoffs, but the postseason seems out of reach at the moment.

The Pacers have a stranglehold on a playoff berth. They’re as close to the #4 seed as the Pistons and Bulls are to them. It’s far more likely that Indiana moves up the ladder to nab a higher seed than they collapse and miss out on the playoffs.

The most intrigue comes with the battle for the eighth seed between the Wizards and Pistons.

I’m torn on this prediction, and although it’s safer to bet on the Pistons maintaining their lead, the Wizards have the tiebreaker and the ineffable, possibly nonexistent “mental edge” after the blowout earlier this week. Instead, I think that whoever wins that April 8th game in Detroit will take home the eighth seed. Washington should be the underdog in that game, so I guess my prediction is Detroit, but if it can defy expectations and win that game on its way to the playoffs, I bet there’ll be a big…

(at least until they get blown out by the Cavs in the first round)

Notes From Bulls-Warriors

Last night, in addition to the Knicks-Jazz game, I watched the Warriors and Bulls square off in Chicago. Here are a few observations from the game.

Derrick Rose looked spectacular. His performance hearkened back to his MVP season in 2011, not only in what he did, but in how he did it. His first four baskets came on a twisting layup, a wild bank shot, a floater, and another banker.

Rose finished with twenty-nine points, many coming on those same sorts of ridiculous shots that barely anyone else in the NBA would even bother attempting.

The Warriors have become a spectacle. Throngs of fans show up early to games when the Warriors come to town, hoping to see magic happen. Stephen Curry is at the center of it all, but even so, it was surprising when the Bulls fans filling the United Center let out a mildly disappointed “Oh” when he missed his first three-point attempt.

The Bulls did one particularly strange thing early in the game. Many teams like to trap Curry on pick-and-rolls, knowing that to let him free is an invitation for a swished three-pointer. That trapping leads to four-on-threes for Golden State, but those are preferable to giving up an open shot to Curry.

While it makes sense to trap Curry, the Bulls strangely decided to trap Klay Thompson off a pick-and-roll, leading to a four-on-three led by Curry. Why in the world would they choose to do that? One has to assume that it was a gaffe of some sort, perhaps a miscommunication between the two defenders.

Shaun Livingston had a very nice game. He shot six-for-eight, scoring twelve points with five assists over sixteen minutes. Livingston, despite being a point guard, is 6’7″, and he used that size to his advantage last night, posting up smaller guards with ease.

Adding to his value, unlike most 6’7″ players, Livingston can defend point guards. Even better, he fits in well with Golden State’s whirring machine of defensive perfection as he’s able to switch seamlessly with all the other similarly sized players the warriors have (click here for a breakdown of Golden State’s switching capabilities on defense).

Midway through the second quarter, Rose dove at Curry’s knees on a closeout, leading to three free throws. I don’t know about you, but I never realized that Steph Curry was actually Rob Gronkowski.

The Warriors ended up destroying the Bulls 125-94. This win is a big boost for Golden State; after smashing the Cavs apart in Cleveland on Monday by thirty-four points, beating another top contender in the East by thirty-one is a something to be proud of. Even better, it comes on the heels of a poor three-game stretch consisting of a pair of road losses to the Nuggets and Pistons sandwiching a home win against the Lakers.

This victory sends the Warriors home for a three-game stay at the Oracle Arena against three playoff teams, including Monday night’s matchup against the Spurs, which promises to be one of the best games in the NBA this season.

Which Games Should You Watch on Christmas?

On Christmas Day, us fans of the NBA have a serious conundrum. There’s basketball for thirteen hours straight, which is great, but we also have familial obligations and the like. For those of you who can only escape your family for a game or two, here’s a guide to determining which games you should watch and which ones you shouldn’t.

Miami Heat vs. New Orleans Pelicans

Watch if you like: Freakishly long arms, all-lefty lineups, aging stars,  unibrows, imagining what Young Kristaps will be like in three years, having a quick snooze before the good games start.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Chicago Bulls

Watch if you like: Teams still finding their identities, power struggles, Enes Kanter’s bushy eyebrows, discontented players, Steven Adam’s fake-looking mustache, ex-college coaches in their first season in the NBA, Bobby Portis sitting on the bench, Dion Waiters hoisting up awful shots that miss by a mile.

Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

Watch if you like: Games with history behind them, unstoppable pick-and-rolls, superduperstars, injured players returning, going small, raucous home crowds, great basketball, ridiculous displays of shooting from Steph Curry, ridiculous displays of athleticism from LeBron James, Iman Shumpert’s hair, JR Smith hoisting up awful shots that somehow go in.

Houston Rockets vs. San Antonio Spurs

Watch if you like: Spectacular wing defense, Hack-a-Howard, intra-state rivalries, Spursgasms, foreign players, beards, dazzling sequences of passing, free throws, lefty shooting guards with Eurosteps.

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Los Angeles Clippers

Watch if you like: Kobe Bryant missing shots, thunderous dunks, Chris Paul to DeAndre Jordan alley-oops, young studs against in-their-prime superstars, brutal blowouts, watching the last quarter and a half played by scrubs.

Trade Grade: Frazier to the White Sox

Last week, news broke that Todd Frazier was being traded to the White Sox in a three-team trade. Frankie Montas, Trayce Thompson, and Micah Johnson headed from the White Sox  to the Dodgers, and the Reds received Jose Peraza, Brandon Dixon, and Scott Schebler from the Dodgers.

Los Angeles Dodgers

There’s little to say about the Dodgers, who acted as facilitators in this trade. They exchanged three prospects for three better ones, who are closer to the majors.

Johnson and Peraza are similar players, so that part of the trade is a wash. Both are second basemen, both don’t hit well, and both are speedy. The only important difference is that Johnson is two years older than Peraza, so he has a lower ceiling.

Every time I see Trayce Thompson’s name mentioned, immediately afterwards, the writer notes that he’s the brother of Klay Thompson. Out of respect to the former, we won’t mention the latter in this article (hey, wait a second…). Anyways, Thompson, a righty outfielder, was a pleasant surprise for the White Sox last season, hitting .295/.363/.533 across the 44 games he spent in the majors. He’ll be a useful bench player in Los Angeles.

Montas is another solid pick-up. Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ GM, said that the team plans on trying him out as a starter, but he views the twenty-two year-old as a potential  “impact bullpen arm”. Los Angeles’ bullpen was shaky last season behind Kenley Jansen so Montas could help shore up the relief corps.

Although the trade overall was a blockbuster, the Dodgers were not directly involved in the Frazier aspect of it. However, the deal helps Los Angeles improve without incurring a significant cost, making it a solid, if unspectacular trade.

Grade: B+

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds were expected to trade away Frazier. It’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do, as the team is currently rebuilding and Frazier will be a free agent after the 2017 season. However, one would expect the team to receive a tad more for their star third baseman.

Looking at their return, it’s easy to wonder what they were thinking. It was the right move to trade Frazier, but the combo of Peraza, Dixon, and Schebler isn’t particularly special.

The latter two players are largely insignificant. Dixon, a second baseman, turns 24 in January. He’s a non-prospect; despite hitting nineteen homers over the past season, one that he split between High-A and Double-A, his OBP was a dismal .303. The 25-year-old Schebler is better than Dixon, but only slightly. He made it to the majors earlier this season for nineteen games, and didn’t acquit himself too poorly, but he struggled in Triple-A and, due to his age, he’s not as likely to improve as a younger player.

Peraza, the apparent headliner of the deal was a top prospect only a year ago, but has since been traded twice, going from Atlanta to Los Angeles and now to Cincinnati. He’s a second baseman and offers a nice amount of speed. However, that speed is mainly appealing to fantasy owners, and a slash line of .293/.316/.378 over 118 games last season in Triple-A isn’t anything to write home about.

In case this wasn’t bad enough for the Reds, they’re not going to have second base available for Peraza and Dixon because their Brandon Phillips trade with the Nationals fell through after Phillips refused to waive his no-trade clause. Phillips is owed $27 million over the next two seasons, so either the Reds will have to eat his contract or find somewhere else for Peraza and Dixon to play.

Not only was the return for Frazier awful, but there’s not even an open spot to play the players received, making this trade an utter catastrophe.

Grade: F

Chicago White Sox

The White Sox are the big winners in this trade. The three players they gave up are all solid, as we discussed above, but Frazier is a genuine star. In 2014, he hit 29 home runs before following that up with another 35 this past season. That kind of power is increasingly rare and Chicago did well to snatch Frazier up once he became available.

Frazier will pair with Jose Abreu to form a fearsome duo of right-handed power hitters. That one-two punch should wreak havoc in the cozy confines of US Cellular Field. Chicago’s lineup is solid from top to bottom, with Adam Eaton, Brett Lawrie, Avisail Garcia, Melky Cabrera, and others flanking the pair of sluggers.

In addition to Frazier being very good, this trade is beneficial for the White Sox because they will no longer have to start Gordon Beckham at third base. Beckham, put simply, is not good, and Frazier is a massive upgrade over him. In an American League ridden with parity, one big addition can result in a massive improvement in playoff odds, and, as we all know, once you get into October, anything can happen.

Grade: A

Signing Grade: Heyward to the Cubs

Last week, news broke that Jason Heyward was signed to an eight year, 184 million dollar contract by the Cubs. The contract includes a pair of opt-out clauses, after year three and year four. Those clauses are contingent on Heyward reaching a certain number of plate appearances.

The big winner here is obviously Heyward. 184 million dollars is a massive amount of money, and, thanks to the opt-out clauses, he’ll be able to re-enter free agency at age 29 or 30, where he’ll be able to land another big contract.

Heyward has to thank Atlanta for its help. The Braves brought him up to the majors at age 20, allowing him to reach free agency at 26, unlike most others, who reach free agency in their late twenties.

This is a great deal for Chicago as well. Due to his relative youth, a lengthy contract isn’t much of a burden. The deal keeps Heyward (barring any opt-outs) in Chicago until he’s 34, when, while he’ll have left his prime, he’ll still be a solid player.

The best thing about this contract from Chicago’s point of view is that Heyward, despite being a free agent, is roughly the same age as the rest of their young studs. Heyward is 26, a day younger than Anthony Rizzo, while the rest of the young core consists of the 23-year olds Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, and Javier Baez, the 22-year old Kyle Schwarber, and the 21-year old Addison Russell. That lineup is loaded, and it’ll be loaded for the rest of the decade.

There’s only one potential problem. Heyward derives much of his value from his spectacular defense in right field. However, that’s where Soler plays, so Heyward, as of now, is expected to play in center field. He’s played there before, although not extensively; throughout his career he’s spent a total of 233 innings in center field.

The Cubs are fine with Heyward playing center field, but another option open to them is trading Soler, putting Heyward in right field, and then signing one of the free agent center fielders including Denard Span, Gerardo Parra, and Dexter Fowler, who played for the Cubs this past season.

Either way, when the only quibble with this contract is the mild problem of whether Heyward will be a good or great center fielder if he ends up playing there, it’s a pretty good deal.

Grade: A