Tag Archives: Major League Baseball

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

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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.

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.

 

Improving the All Star Starting Lineup

Sorry for the lack of content lately. I’ve been on vacation. I was in Los Angeles for a few days and I’m in New Zealand now, and for the next month or so. There may not be as many articles as there may normally be, but I’ll do my best to keep up.

On Sunday, the All Star rosters for each league were announced, outside of the final spot. As always, there were some notable omissions and some questionable inclusions. I figured that something fun for us to do would be to go through each starting lineup and single out the unworthy starters, explaining why they’re undeserving and who should replace them.

Let’s start with the AL.

C: Matt Wieters. Wieters has had only about 150 at bats this year and is out for the season due to injury. I can’t imagine how he’s considered an All Star. Filling in for him as a starter is Salvador Perez. Although he’s been good, how is he better than Derek Norris? Perez has 120 more at bats than Norris, but only has eight more runs (35-27) and two more homers (10-8). Norris leads 37-32 in RBIs and has big leads in average (.312-.282) and OBP (.416-.328). It’s really no contest on who’s been a better player per at bat, and Norris has huge leads in rate-based stats and isn’t behind in much in the cumulative stats. This, to me, is an egregious error.

1B: Miguel Cabrera. A solid choice as he’s clearly superior than Brandon Moss and Albert Pujols, two of the main contenders in the AL. The third best 1B in the AL is Jose Abreu, he of the 27 homers. Cabrera’s main competitor is Edwin Encarnacion. Encarnacion is equal to Cabrera in a few categories but has a huge advantage in home runs, 26 to 14. Cabrera makes up some of the difference with a big lead in average (.312-.277). Despite this, it’s pretty clear that Cabrera, at least this year, has not been as good as Encarnacion. He starts in place of him for three reasons:

1. Encarnacion is injured and, even if he was named the starter, he wouldn’t be able to play anyways.

2. Cabrera plays in a bigger baseball market than Encarnacion.

3. The biggest reason that Cabrera gets pushed above Encarnacion is because of his history of elite play. When in doubt, people always go with the established superstar over the newcomer.

2B: Robinson Cano. Cano is starting for the same big reason as Cabrera, because he’s been an All Star for the past few years, but he doesn’t have the same statistical dominance this year. Cabrera, while you could make a case that Encarnacion should be starting over him, at least has comparable stats to his. Cano hasn’t been anywhere close to as good as Jose Altuve, let alone Ian Kinsler and Brian Dozier.

SS: Derek Jeter. It’s the final year of his career, he’s the most popular player in the league, he plays in New York, and he’s one of the best players ever. That’s why he’s starting. Logically, though, he’s completely undeserving. He’s horrible defensively at shortstop, and the only reason why he stays there is to keep his streak alive of playing his entire career at one position. He’s okay offensively, but is nowhere near as good as Alexei Ramirez, Erick Aybar, or even Jose Reyes. The Captain deserves to start in the last All Star Game of his career, but it doesn’t mean that he got there by stats alone.

3B: Josh Donaldson. This is a pretty good pick. Donaldson was elite last year and is still above average this year. He hits for power, with 18 homers and 63 RBIs on the year. His average has slipped a bit to .247, but a lot of that is due to bad luck, as shown by his low BABIP. Another factor helping him out is the overall weakness of third baseman in the AL. There’s only Kyle Seager and Adrian Beltre that compare to him, but Donaldson is easily better all around than Seager and is better than Beltre, although by a slimmer margin than one might think.

OF: Jose Bautista, Mike Trout, Adam Jones. All are good choices. They’re all clearly a cut above the reserves, Michael Brantley, Yoenis Cespedes, and Alex Gordon, along with the rest of the outfield candidates in the AL. There’s not much to say about these picks.

DH: Nelson Cruz. Another good pick, although I’d have chosen Victor Martinez over him, due to his higher average and OBP with comparable numbers in cumulative stats.

Let’s move on to the NL.

C: Yadier Molina. He’s a perennial All Star, but there’s no world in which you could tell me that Molina has been better than Jonathan Lucroy this year, or at least actually be correct about it. Lucroy has been better than Molina in every single category this season. The real question is whether Lucroy or Devin Mesoraco starts. Mesoraco, with 130 less at bats than Lucroy, has outperformed Lucroy in most counting stats, especially in home runs, where Mesoraco has a 16-9 lead. However, Lucroy’s large lead in AVG and OBP along with his status as an established veteran gives him the edge over Mesoraco. Both should be starting over Molina, though.

1B: Paul Goldschmidt. This is a slam dunk pick. No one in the NL can compare to Goldschmidt’s all around superiority. Anthony Rizzo, Freddie Freeman, and Justin Morneau all have good stats, but, outside of Rizzo’s 20-16 advantage in homers, all are outclassed in every stat by Goldschmidt.

2B: Chase Utley. Second base is reasonably weak in the National League this year; that’s the only reason Utley’s starting. Assuming that Anthony Rendon is considered more of a third baseman, it all comes down to how much you value stolen bases. If you think that they’re an integral part of the game, you go with Dee Gordon. Otherwise, due to a lack of better candidates, Utley’s the starter.

SS: Troy Tulowitzki. There’s no other choice. He outshines every other NL shortstop considerably at every statistic.

3B: Aramis Ramirez. Neither Ramirez nor David Wright have been on par with their usual standards this year, but Ramirez somehow managed to get the job. Wright has probably been slightly better than Ramirez this year, but both have certainly not been deserving of an All Star spot, let alone being a starter. Both Todd Frazier and Anthony Rendon have been far better than Ramirez so the real question is whether Frazier or Rendon should be starting. They’re almost identical players, each with stats much alike to the other’s. In the end, I’d have to choose Rendon as the more valuable player between the two because of the additional value he creates by being able to play second base. However, one could easily make the case that positional flexibility has no place in All Star voting for a specific position, but I have to find an edge for one of the players somewhere, and that’s the best option I’ve got.

OF: Carlos Gomez, Andrew McCutchen, Yasiel Puig. One of these three players has to make room for Giancarlo Stanton, the question is: Which one? McCutchen is easily in, with his impressive stats filling up the box score. That leaves Gomez and Puig. Overall, Puig has been better than Gomez, with a far better AVG and OPS, giving us the final member of our outfielder trio. No matter what, Stanton has easily been the best outfielder in the NL this year and it’s a bad choice, no matter how you paint it.

Well, that about sums it up. All in all, the roster decisions weren’t all too bad, although some were blatantly wrong.

Unfortunately, oftentimes making fun of the roster selections is a lot more entertaining than actually watching the All Star Game. It’s too bad, especially as there could be some really good baseball played if all the best players in the league were motivated to do their best.

In World Cup news, Germany and Argentina are set to face each other in the World Cup Final. I actually may have built up some credibility with my predictions:

1. I correctly predicted 12 of the 14 knockout round matches to date (only missing Netherlands-Argentina and USA-Belgium)

2. I correctly predicted at the start of the tournament that Brazil would crack under the pressure in the semifinals and lose to Germany (although I didn’t expect the 7-1 smackdown that actually occurred)

3. I correctly predicted that Spain would not be part of the Final Four (although I didn’t predict that they’d lose in the Group Stage)

Of course, I also predicted that Uruguay would make it to the championship game, but let’s try and gloss over that a little, shall we?

I also predicted at the start of the tournament that Germany would win it all. Go me!

Anyways, it should be a great matchup between the team (Germany) and the player (Messi) and I can’t wait to watch it at 8AM on Monday morning during New Zealand time.

Go Germany!