Red Sox Turn Slow Start Into Electric Finish

13577221-mmmain

After nearly getting no-hit, and striking out 17 times, in Game 1 of the American League Championship series on Saturday night, the Red Sox went into Sunday’s game looking to redeem themselves in a pivotal Game 2. Though the Red Sox have done some amazing things in the past — coming back from a 3 game deficit to the Yankees in 2004, to go onto win the World Series — you had to figure that this game was a must win for them the way they’ve been playing lately.

But it wasn’t looking too promising for the Sox early on.

The Tigers came out swinging, putting up a quick five runs. In addition, Max Scherzer was dominant to start the game, as he has been all season long, going 5.2 innings before allowing a hit; a single to Shane Victorino. Dustin Pedroia promptly drove him in, however, for the Sox’ first run of the series, taking their early deficit from five to four runs.

From there, the Red Sox strung together multiple hits in the eighth to load the bases for David Ortiz. As he has done time and time again throughout his career, Ortiz came through, blasting a game tying grand slam into the bullpen.

The Red Sox would go onto win the game in the ninth inning, on a walk-off RBI single from Jarrod Saltalamacchia — truly making this one of the best games in recent postseason history.

Although the Red Sox face a difficult road, going up against Justin Verlander in game three on Tuesday, if Sunday night’s game taught us anything it’s that the Red Sox have the ability to come through no matter how bad the odds seem to be against them.

It looks to be an exciting remainder of the ALCS.

My Vote for National League Cy Young

As I stated in my American League Cy Young post, each season there are usually several pitchers from each league that have incredible seasons, making it difficult to choose between them for who most deserves the Cy Young award. This year, however, it really wasn’t all that close. Matt Harvey, Madison Bumgarner, Zack Greinke, Jose Fernandez and Clayton Kershaw all had great years, but only one of them truly stood above the rest. Regardless, I’ll take the time to go over all of the top candidates anyway.clayton-kershaw

Matt Harvey was a having a Cy Young year until he was shut down in August, due to an arm injuy — an injury that’s resulting in Harvey having to undergo Tommy John surgery this offseason. Regardless of him getting inured, and therefore not receiving the stats necessary to win the award, going 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA, along with getting the start for the NL in the All-Star game, Harvey had a great year.

Madison Bumgarner went 13-9 on the year, with a 2.77 ERA and an opponent batting average of just .203. Still fairly young, Bumgarner is sure to be near the front of the Giants’ rotation for many years to come. Although he didn’t post good enough stats for the Cy Young this season, Bumgarner will likely win one or two at some point during his career.

Zack Greinke had a dominant year for the Dodgers this season — a big part of their successful year. Posting a record of 15-4 with a 2.63 ERA, Greinke is easily one of the top candidates for NL Cy Young. But a mid-season injury that cost him a few starts worth of stats will be enough to keep him from receiving the award, in my opinion.

Jose Fernandez had one of the best rookie seasons for a pitcher in MLB history, going 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA — 9-0 with a 1.19 ERA in home starts — and a .182 batting average against. At just 21 years old, Fernandez is going to be a great player for an extremely long time, and will undoubtedly start an All-Star game or two, in addition to picking up a few Cy Young awards along the way in his career. It just won’t be this season.

The only pitcher that remains is Clayton Kershaw, who is my vote for the National League Cy Young award.

Clayton Kershaw’s 16-9 and MLB-leading 1.83 ERA doesn’t do justice to the season he had. Everytime Kershaw was on the mound the Dodgers liked their chances, and the majority of the time their confidence held true, as Kershaw dominated all year long. Kershaw may not pick up a World Series ring this season — the Dodgers are currently down 2-0 to the Cardinals in the NLCS — but he’s likely to pick up the National League Cy Young award.

My Vote for American League Cy Young

Each season there are usually several pitchers from each league that have incredible seasons, making it difficult to choose between them for who most deserves the Cy Young award. This year, however, it really wasn’t all that close. Bartolo Colon, Hisashi Iwakuma, Anibal Sanchez, Yu Darvish and Max Scherzer all had great years, but only one of them truly stood above the rest. Regardless, I’ll take the time to go over all of the top candidates anyway.

Bartolo Colon had a great season, going 18-6 with a 2.65 ERA, however, he didn’t have nearly good enough of a year to win the Cy Young. His opponent batting average was .264 — fairly bad — and that, combined with a few other stats that just weren’t the best, leave him shimg23755956ort of the credentials needed to win. But having the year he had at the age of 40 is impressive in itself.

Hasashi Iwakuma recorded a mere 14 wins throughout the season, but that’s not the only reason I didn’t pick him. Iwakuma’s 2.66 ERA and .220 batting average against was pretty good, but he didn’t do enough to come close to winning the award. If, however, he can pitch the same, or better, next season as he did this year, Iwakuma stands a chance of receiving the Cy Young down the road.

Anibal Sanchez is one of two Tigers pitchers on my list, and had Verlander pitched throughout the season the way he’s been pitching in the postseason, there would probably be three. Regardless, Sanchez had a career-best season, where he went 14-8 with a 2.57 ERA. As with Iwakuma, a few more wins would’ve made the Cy Young race a bit more interesting.

Yu Darvish was the second best American League pitcher this season, in my opinion. If he could’ve performed the entire season the way he began the year, he would’ve had a good shot at winning. By going 13-9 with a 2.83 ERA, MLB-leading 277 strikeout’s, and .194 opponent batting average, Darvish put together a very good season. But not quite good enough.

That just leaves Max Scherzer, who is the favorite to win the American League Cy Young award.

Scherzer led all pitchers in wins this season with 21 — the only pitcher in baseball to record 20 or more wins — ,going 21-3 on the year. Posting an ERA of 2.90 and a mere .198 batting average against, Scherzer had a Cy Young worthy year. A year that helped lead his team to the postseason, and will likely lead him to his first career Cy Young award.

My Vote for National League Most Valuable Player

As I stated in my American League MVP blog post, choosing the Most Valuable Player from each league is the most difficult decision of all the major baseball awards handed out at the conclusion of each season. With Rookie of the Year and Cy Young you can look solely at which player had the better stats, however, Most Valuable Player involves a bit more than just stats. While it’s important that a MVP winner had a great statistical year, the best offensive player doesn’t automatically become the most valuable, in my opinion.

The way I view things, MVP has to come from a team that had a decent year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean their team had to make the playoffs. Contrary to what many believe, I feel the Most Valuable Player award needs to go to a player on a team that helped their ny_g_goldschmidt1x_sq_600team win the most, regardless of a postseason appearance. Remove them from the lineup and the team would be nowhere near the same.

Therefore, after considering the stats and going over a few other of my “requirements”, I narrowed down my top candidates for National League MVP to Freddie Freeman, Paul Goldschmidt, Andrew McCutchen and Yasiel Puig.

Every single one of those players had a great season, however, I feel McCutchen can quickly be knocked off the list. While he had a good year, McCutchen wasn’t the only reason the Pirates made the postseason for the first time in over twenty years. Other players on the team made a big impact as well. Last season McCutchen batted 10 points higher, blasted 10 more home runs and drove in 12 more runs than he did this year, yet the Pirates finished fourth in their division — further proving my point.

Of the three remaining candidates, in Goldschmidt, Freeman and Puig, as much as I feel Puig made an incredible impact, and initially had him as my vote up until a few days ago, I thought the better of picking him. But that’s not to knock what he did this season. Batting .319 with 19 homers and 42 RBI’s in 104 games, Puig came up in June and helped completely turn around a struggling Dodgers team, taking them from 7.5 games back of first upon his arrival, to winning their division by eleven games. The impact he made is vastly evident, but it wasn’t quite enough, when you take the time to really think about it.

In the end, I went with Paul Goldschmidt for National League Most Valuable Player, despite the fact that the Diamondback’s missed the playoffs.

Goldschmidt had an incredible year, leading all of the National League in home runs (36) and RBI’s (125), to go along with a batting average of .302. The D-back’s didn’t make the postseason, but Goldschmidt came up big in key spots all throughout the entire season to give his team a great chance to win. Therefore, when choosing between Freddie Freeman — even though the Braves made it past the regular season — and Paul Goldschmidt, I had to go with the D-back’s first baseman — the difficult but logical choice.

My Vote for American League Most Valuable Player

Choosing the Most Valuable Player from each league is the most difficult decision of all the major baseball awards handed out at the conclusion of each season. With Rookie of the Year and Cy Young, you can look solely at which player had the better stats, however, Most Valuable Player involves a bit more than just stats. While it’s important that a MVP winner had a great statistical year, the best offensive player doesn’t automatically become the most valuable, in my opinion.

As far as I view things, MVP has to come from a team that had a decent year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean their team had to make the playoffs. Contrary to what many believe, I feel the Most Valuable Player award needs to go to a player on a team that chrisdavis0504helped their team win the most, regardless of a postseason appearance. Remove them from the lineup and the team would be nowhere near the same.

Therefore, after considering the stats and going over a few other of my “requirements”, I narrowed down my top candidates for American League MVP to Mike Trout, Adrian Beltre, Chris Davis and Miguel Cabrera.

The shockers of those names are probably Beltre and Trout, but I feel they should at the very least be in the conversation. I acknowledge that they didn’t have seasons anywhere near that of Davis or Cabrera, but they had an impact on their respective teams nonetheless. However, although I wrote them in as considerations for the award, I didn’t go with either of them in the end.

After taking several days to think about who most deserves the award for Most Valuable Player, I had to go with Chris Davis.

Though not the popular choice, especially over Miguel Cabrera, Davis had an incredible year. And although the Orioles didn’t make the postseason, he was the Most Valuable Player from the American League as far as I’m concerned — providing the greatest impact of any American League player for their team on any given night.

Chris Davis set the Orioles’ single-season home run record, as well as extra base hits record, this past season, blasting 53 homers and recording 96 extra base knocks. In addition, Davis drove in 138 runs to go along with a .286 batting average, and ultimately gave the Orioles a chance to win every single game, no matter who they were facing. He was an extremely valuable piece to their puzzle.

His competition, Miguel Cabrera, had another incredible year, batting .348 with 44 homers and 137 RBI’s. Had Cabrera been able to stay healthy throughout the entire season, subsequently giving him slightly better stats, he would probably be my choice for MVP. But while he had another Triple Crown worthy year — just getting beat out by Davis in HR’s and RBI’s — and played for a team that made the playoffs, he wasn’t the most valuable player from the American League.

That accolade goes to Chris Davis.

Arizona Fall League TTM Autograph Requests

The 2013 MLB postseason is well underway, and it sure has been exciting so far. A lot of unexpected things are sure to happen in the coming weeks, but for now I’m not going to discuss any of it. For this blog post I’m focusing solely on the Arizona Fall League. More specifically, through the mail (TTM) autograph requests that I’m sending out to various participating players.

Taking place every October/November — this year it’s October 8th through November 16th — the Arizona Fall League (AFL) gives top Minor League players who didn’t get a full season of playing time, for one reason or another, a chance to show their organization what they can do, as well as provide them with a little more baseball experience.mlb_a_bux_cr_400

I usually only send off autograph requests in March, for Spring Training, and October, for the Arizona Fall League. Some people send requests to players throughout the season, however, I’ve never really wanted to do that — they’re too busy going around from ballpark to ballpark. In Spring Training and the Arizona Fall League players stay in the same relative area for over a month; giving, in my mind, a better chance of success.

There is a ton of great talent in this year’s Fall League, but I’m not sending to all of them. If a player has a chance of coming to play the Bulls or Mudcats — my local MiLB teams — I don’t want to send to them. A good example of that being Byron Buxton. He’s participating in the AFL and was the 2013 MiLB Player of the Year, however, in addition to the unlikelihood that he would sign TTM, he could come to Durham with Rochester in the next year or two. So there’s really no point in wasting a card.

Last year I sent out fifteen auto requests and received back nine of them. That’s a fairly decent return as far as TTM’s go. This time around, I’m sending out seventeen, to players such as Addison Russell, Andrew Heaney, C.J. Cron, Delino DeShields and Colin Moran — all of which are on the top 100 prospects list — among multiple others.

The plan is to post an update every time I receive back a few autographs, as I did this year during Spring Training; assuming I get any autographs back at all. So look out for that over the course of the next few months.

2013 MLB Leaders (March 31st-September 30th)

The 2013 MLB regular season is in the books. It took an extra 163rd game to decide between the Rangers and Rays, with the Rays coming out on top. It sure was an exciting year.

Now begin the playoffs to determine who will be crowned World Series Champions. But before I begin to blog about all of that in the weeks to come — be sure to check out my predictions HERE — I wanted to do one more ‘Latest Leaders’ post to finalize the winners of each category, from both hitting and pitching. I’ve been doing a post like this on the first day of each month this season, with the exception of August, but now that the season is over, this is, obviously, the final one until next year.

The following lists are categorized into hitting and pitching, but NOT AL or NL:

MLB LEADERS (AL and NL) – HITTING

Most Games Played-Four tied for most. (162)

Most At-Bats-Manny Machado (667)

Most Hits-Matt Carpenter and Adrian Beltre. (199)

Highest Average-Miguel Cabrera (.348)

Highest OBP-Miguel Cabrera (.442)

Highest SLG-Miguel Cabrera (.636)

Most Runs-Matt Carpenter (126)

Most Doubles-Matt Carpenter (55)

Most Triples-Denard Span (11)

Most Home Runs-Chris Davis (53)

Most RBI’s-Chris Davis (138)

Most Base On Balls-Joey Votto (135)

Most Strikeouts-Chris Carter (212)

Most Stolen Bases-Jacoby Ellsbury (52)

Most Caught Stealing-Starling Marte (15)

Most Intentional Base On Balls-David Ortiz (27)

Most Hit By Pitch-Shin-Soo Choo (26)

Most Sacrifice Flies-Matt Wieters (12)

Most Total Bases-Chris Davis (370)

Most Extra Base Hits-Chris Davis (96)

Most Grounded Into Double Plays-Matt Holliday (31)

Most Ground Outs-Norichika Aoki (272)

Most Number Of Pitches Faced-Joey Votto (3,033)

Most Plate Appearances-Joey Votto (726)

MLB LEADERS (AL and NL) – PITCHING

Most Wins-Max Scherzer (21)

Most Losses-Edwin Jackson (18)

Best ERA-Clayton Kershaw (1.83)

Most Games Started-Four tied for most. (34)

Most Games Pitched-Joel Peralta (80)

Most Saves-Jim Johnson and Craig Kimbrel. (50)

Most Innings Pitched-Adam Wainwright (241.2)

Most Hits Allowed-Jeremy Guthrie (236)

Most Runs Allowed-C.C. Sabathia (122)

Most Earned Runs Allowed-C.C. Sabathia (112)

Most Home Runs Allowed-A.J. Griffin (36)

Most Strikeouts-Yu Darvish (277)

Most Walks-Lucas Harrell (88)

Most Complete Games-Adam Wainwright (5)

Most Shutouts-Bartolo Colon and Justin Masterson. (3)

Best Opponent Avg.-Jose Fernandez (.182)

Most Games Finished-Jim Johnson (63)

Most Double Plays Achieved-Adam Wainwright (32)

Most Wild Pitches-Trevor Cahill and Matt Moore. (17)

Most Balks-Four tied for most. (3)

Most Stolen Bases Allowed-John Lackey (36)

Most Pickoffs-Julio Teheran (8)

Most Batters Faced-Adam Wainwright (956)

Most Pitches Thrown-Justin Verlander (3,692)