Several Teams On the Outside Looking In

Inevitably each and every Major League Baseball season a handful of teams fail to live up to expectations placed on them at the start of the year. Whether a team simply doesn’t play to the best of their ability, or if it’s injuries that keeps them from performing well, a few teams always end up short of where they were projected to finish the year.

The Diamondback’s, Rangers, Red Sox and Rays are all examples of that from the 2014 season. People from all over the baseball world selected theRangers majority of those teams to make solid pushes at the postseason, but all of them but the Rays are going to finish dead last in their division (the Rays will finish fourth in the American League east). Truly disappointing endings for what were supposed to be promising teams.

On the flip side, a few teams that no one saw coming always go on a major run in any given year, passing big time teams, and leaving many people scratching their heads as to how they’re doing it.

But while the winning streaks of underdog teams are always exciting, a lot of those type of teams can’t keep up their torrid runs for an extended period of time, subsequently falling back down to their normal levels, and missing the playoffs.

For the Marlins, Brewers and Yankees, they were those type of teams this season. No one saw them doing much of anything with the rosters they had going into the season, but they each went on runs at one point or another this season, proving a bunch of people wrong. None more so than the Brewers, who ended up being one of the biggest rise and fall team in years.

After leading the National League central division for 150 days of the season, the Brewers went into a major, major slump. A slump that caused them to plummet through the standings, currently sitting five games back of the second Wild Card spot. With under a one percent chance of making the postseason according to MLB.com, the Brewers’ year is all but over, despite their great efforts.

The Indians and Mariners are a couple of teams that are still in the race for the second Wild Card but are likely going to miss out, even after great runs this year gave their fans something to get excited about. Given under an eight percent chance of the postseason, it’s going to take an unprecedented string of events for either of them to make it in. But as has been proven time and time again with baseball, anything can happen.

Recapping My 2014 MiLB Baseball Season

Last year I did a post at the end of the 16 games I spent out at a baseball park, recapping my 2013 MiLB and MLB season. Unfortunately, this time around, I wasn’t able to make it to any MLB games, however, with the 2014 MiLB season now over, I wanted to post an overview of the games and of the autographs I received this year, nonetheless. In all, I managed to make it to 20 baseball games this season. It was a great year, full of fun, and I thought I’d take the time to recap it all:

April 5th – Durham Bulls Vs. Gwinnett Braves

This was my first professional baseball game of 2014 (I attended a college baseball game, with Carlos Rodon on the mound, earlier in the year), and the first since the DBAP underwent a multimillion dollar offseason overhaul. For this particular game, I was looking to get autographs from as many of the visiting Gwinnett Braves as I could, with my hopes being highest that I could get one from their top prospect at the time, Christian Bethancourt.

Not only did I succeed in getting an auto from Bethancourt, but I also got one from Jose Constanza, Tommy La Stella and Joey Terdoslavich as well:

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April 9th — Durham Bulls Vs. Charlotte Knights

This particular game was absolutely terrible in terms of autographs. While there were several players I was hoping to get, I was only successful in getting one auto, coming from the White Sox’ top prospect, Matt Davidson, as the remainder of the players were all “in a hurry” and didn’t sign:

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(If I could only get one, Davidson is the one I wanted the most.)

April 19th — Myrtle Beach Pelicans Vs. Wilmington Blue Rocks

While the visiting Blue Rocks had several top prospects, the Pelicans had even more at the time I visited Myrtle Beach, and thus, I tried to get autos from their side. I was able to get two autographs from Joey Gallo (he hit 40 home runs last season, and followed that up with an encore of 42 homers this year) and Nick Williams, as well as one auto from Chris Bostick, Hanser Alberto and Cody Buckel:

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I also received a game used bat from Nick Williams, which he shattered in half (the break is on the back) during the game:

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April 27th — Durham Bulls Vs. Scranton Wilkes-Barre Red Barons

I attended this game with the sole purpose of getting autographs from the Durham Bulls, since Scranton wasn’t that great of a team at the time, except for a few players. I wound up getting seven total autographs, coming from Kevin Kiermaier (the blank auto card), Mikie Mahtook, Jerry Sands, Wilson Betemit, Hak-Ju Lee, Enny Romero and C.J. Riefenhauser:

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May 4th — Durham Bulls Vs. Columbus Clippers

It was Star Wars night, but despite the awesome looking jerseys the Bulls were wearing, I couldn’t have cared less (I’m, obviously, not a fan of Star Wars). Unfortunately, autographing wasn’t too successful, as I only managed to get a single autograph, coming from Jerry Sands:

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(An interesting side note: Trevor Bauer — an Indians’ top pitching prospect — was in the stands charting the game, but although I spotted him and was prepared, he didn’t sign for anyone.)

May 23rd — Carolina Mudcats Vs. Myrtle Beach Pelicans

Though I’d already seen Myrtle Beach once this season, I attended this game to get another autograph from Joey Gallo, who had 18 home runs on the season heading into the game. I succeeded in getting Gallo three times, as well as a couple of autos from Jorge Alfaro, Nick Williams, Chris Bostick, Cody Buckel, and one from Zach Cone:

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In addition, I got a 4×6 photo signed by the Rangers’ 2013 number one draft pick, Alex Gonzalez:

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May 28th — Carolina Mudcats Vs. Wilmington Blue Rocks

The Royals’ prospects on this given team weren’t the best, but they were good enough to warrant a trip out to the ballpark. I ended up getting two autographs from Hunter Dozier, Raul Mondesi, Bubba Starling and Zane Evans (the blank auto cards), as well as an autographed 4×6 of Sean Manaea and Christian Binford:

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June 2nd — Durham Bulls Vs. Leigh High Valley Ironpigs

I ultimately went to this game because it happened to be a day game, and I love day games, but I also attended it because one of the top prospects in baseball, Maikel Franco, was playing for the visiting Ironpigs. When all was said and done, I succeeded in getting Franco’s autograph, as well as an autographed 4×6 from Durham Bulls’ pitcher Mike Montgomery:

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June 4th — Carolina Mudcats Vs. Winston Salem Dash

This was the second game in three days that I had gone to, but with the talented Dash team visiting, it was worth it. I got two autographs from White Sox’ top prospect Courtney Hawkins, as well as a single auto from Keenyn Walker, Tyler Danish, Jacob May, Tim Anderson and Francellis Montas (on a 4×6):

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June 6th — Durham Bulls Vs. Pawtucket Red Sox

The third game in a five day time frame — I headed out to this game simply because of the great team the Red Sox had, with six of their top ten prospects as part of the roster, four of which were part of the top 100. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned. Not too many players signed, and I only got one autograph from Garin Cecchini and Mookie Betts, as well as two from Travis Shaw:

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June 22nd — Tennessee Smokies Vs. Chattanooga Lookouts

The original plan was to visit the Smokies for a game as part of a family vacation, regardless of whether or not Cubs’ uber prospect Kris Bryant was a part of the team or not. However, when I heard the news mere days before that Bryant had been called up to Triple-A, it was still disappointing. Even so, I had a great time, and got an autograph from both Dustin Geiger (on my ticket) and Corey Black:

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July 14th — Triple-A Home Run Derby

For just the second time in my life, and the first time since the MLB home run derby back in 2012, I found myself out at a home run derby. This time the derby saw some of Triple-A baseball’s top sluggers, instead of major leaguers, but it was still an impressive event. I didn’t do too great in terms of autographs, but I hadn’t expected to, really — getting just two autos from Nick Franklin and Andrew Susac, along with three from Elih Villanueva:

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July 15th — Triple-A PCL & IL Autograph Session

There was no game played, being that it was merely an autograph session, so I’m not including it in the number of games played statistic in the numbers section down below; but what an enjoyable time it was. I was able to get an auto from pretty much everyone I wanted on both teams, going home with 31 total autographs.

I received a couple of cards signed by Jonathan Galvez, Ben Paulsen and Josh Phegley, along with a single card signed by Kyle Hendricks, Joc Pederson, Stephen Piscotty, Chris Taylor, Wilson Betemit, Matt Hague, Tommy Layne and Steven Souza Jr:

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I also got a home run derby program signed by Francisco Pena, Allan Dykstra and Mike Jacobs . . . . :

DSCN7392. . . . in addition to individually autographed 4×6’s from Max Stassi and Jesus Aguilar (top two below); along with three All-Star logos collectively signed by Spencer Patton, Paulo Orlando, A.J. Atcher, Phil Gosselin, Andy Oliver, Aaron Laffey, Bobby Korecky, Ivan De Jesus, Ezequiel Carrera, Jose Pirela, Felix Perez and Jhonatan Solano:

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July 16th — Triple-A All-Star Game

Due to the numerous autographs I had gotten at the previous day’s autograph session, there weren’t a lot of players I cared to get an autograph from at the All-Star game itself. So, I didn’t really try all that hard to get any. The only player I attempted to get an auto from was Joc Pederson, but apparently he remembered me from the autograph session the day before, because he signed for everyone but me, skipping over me twice.

It was still a fun time, which you can read about HERE.

July 26th — Durham Bulls Vs. Toledo Mud Hens

After Mike Hessman broke the all-time International League home run record back in late June, hitting his 259th IL homer, and 404th career minor league home run, I really wanted to get his auto. Thankfully, I was successful in getting Hessman’s autograph on a 4×6, in addition to getting a single auto from Danny Worth and Leon Durham, along with three autographs from former big league slugger Larry Parrish:

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August 10th — Durham Bulls Vs. Buffalo Bisons

With Wil Myers rehabbing in Durham, I was looking to get an autograph from him, and ended up getting him on a card and a 4×6 photo:

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Then, after game one of the double header — which was being played due to rain the night before — I got Daniel Norris on a card (Norris pitched a 10 strikeout game in his Triple-A debut that day), as well as Kevin Pillar (on two cards), Brett Wallace and A.J. Jimenez:

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August 12th — Winston-Salem Dash Vs. Lynchburg Hillcats

I went to this game with one purpose in mind — getting Carlos Rodon’s autograph. After being unsuccessful twice earlier in the year while he was still a member of N.C. State, I wanted to get the 2014 draft’s third overall pick to sign a card for me. Despite a threat of rain, I was able to get Rodon like I had hoped, in addition to a couple of autographs from former big leaguers Luis Salazar and Gary Ward; along with a 4×6 photo signed by Keon Barnum:

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August 13th — Greensboro Grasshoppers Vs. Lakewood Blue Claws

There wasn’t nearly as much talent at this game as there was the night before, but with it being a day game, I headed out to a ballgame (this time in Greensboro) for the second time in around 17 hours. Though I wasn’t really targeting anyone in particular, I was able to get three decent players to sign for me, being Domingo German, J.T. Riddle and Sean Townsley:

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August 17th — Durham Bulls Vs. Charlotte Knights

This was the second time this season that I had seen the Knights play, but after doing so poorly with them back in April (only getting one autograph) I was looking to redeem myself. Although I didn’t get White Sox’ top prospect Micah Johnson like I wanted, I managed to get seven total autographs, including two from Michael Taylor and one from Andre Rienzo, Richard Dotson, Chris Beck, Carlos Sanchez and Marcus Semien:

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August 20th — Carolina Mudcats Vs. Frederick Keys

Around a week before this game, I was looking forward to seeing highly ranked pitching prospect Dylan Bundy. However, Bundy unfortunately injured himself shortly before the Frederick Keys came to town, and therefore didn’t make the trip. To make matters worse, most of the few players I wanted an autograph from were not there either, for whatever reason. Thankfully, though, one of the biggest reasons I attended the game was to pick up a previously promised bat from Orioles’ prospect Adrian Marin, which I was able to get after the game had concluded:

DSCN7406(It’s hard to see, since there happens to be a baseball mark in the location, but Marin signed the bat in silver sharpie.)

September 5th — Durham Bulls Vs. Columbus Clippers

This was the second time I had seen the Clippers play this season, but after doing so poorly the last time, I wanted to try for a few players again. In addition to trying to get some players that I had missed before, both Francisco Lindor and James Ramsey were newcomers to the team since the last time I saw them, so I was looking to get an autograph from them as well. Unfortunately, Lindor only signed autographs for a few people, myself not included. Even so, I got an autographed card from James Ramsey and Nick Maronde, as well as an autographed 4×6 photo of Giovanny Urshela:

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September 11th — Durham Bulls Vs. Pawtucket Red Sox

In what was going to be my final game of the season, I was really looking to make this game a memorable one. With six of the Red Sox’ top ten prospects on the team, and with Cuban phenom Rusney Castillo also a part of the roster, it was sure to be a great chance to grab some great players’ autographs. Mere minutes after entering the stadium I was able to get Castillo to sign a photo for me, and before the game began I got Blake Swihart, Garin Cecchini and Deven Marrero to autograph a card for me as well.

After the game, I did something I’d never done before, and — after it took a tremendous amount of time — will likely never do again: I stuck around outside the ballpark to try for a few more autographs as the players left. Despite the frustration from the extremely long wait, I ended up getting Brian Johnson to sign a couple cards, as well as Bryce Brentz to sign one, before leaving the ballpark for the last time until next season:

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By the Numbers

Though you could take the time for yourself to add it all up, I figured I’d make things a bit easier. Here’s a numbers recap of my 2014 MiLB season:

Games attended: 20

Win-loss record for the home team: 14-6

Total runs scored (Home Team-Visitor): 99-77

Top 100 prospects seen in person: 20

Autographs from top 100 prospects: 16

Total autographs: 136

Game used gear: Nick Williams broken bat & Adrian Marin unbroken bat

Total miles traveled to & from games: 3,170

Jacob deGrom Dominates, Adds to His R.O.Y. Case

Although it didn’t result in a victory for the Mets, Jacob deGrom — given a no decision in a 6-5 Mets loss — was as good Monday night as he’s been all season long. Striking out the first eight batters he faced to start the game, deGrom was not only dominant, but he also made some history, setting the Mets’ franchise record for most consecutive batters struck out to begin a game.

Jacob+deGrom+New+York+Yankees+v+New+York+Mets+MZuwVH-4LtHlUnfortunately, deGrom didn’t surpass the MLB modern day record of eight straight batters retired to kick off an outing, set back in 1986, merely tying it. But even so, deGrom showed why he’s regarded by many as one of the top young up-and-coming pitching stars in the game today.

Now with a season ERA of 2.68 over the course of 21 starts — 7 of which were scoreless outings — and 134 strikeouts on the year, the 26-year-old deGrom is quickly becoming a household name.

Once the Mets get their ace, Matt Harvey, back in 2015 — who reportedly topped out at 95 on his fastball with great movement on his curveball in a simulated game at Citi Field on Monday — they should have a very formidable rotation, with deGrom as their strong number two starter behind Harvey.

But before all of that happens, people are focusing their attention on the present, placing Jacob deGrom as a top candidate for 2014 National League Rookie of the Year. However, while deGrom has been good and should be good for years to come, I’m not fully convinced the award will be his by a landslide as some are suggesting.

The stats deGrom has posted this season have been impressive, racking up a 28 inning scoreless streak before allowing three earned runs in the seventh inning on Monday, but an outfielder for the Reds by the name of Billy Hamilton is sure to give deGrom a run (no pun intended) for his money.

hamiltonThough Hamilton is batting in the mid .200’s — not something you want out of your leadoff hitter — he’s really been a big part of an otherwise struggling Reds team.

While Hamilton has cooled off drastically as of late after hitting at a fairly high clip for a portion of the season, his 56 stolen bases and fantastic defense in center are sure to earn him a number of votes for the Rookie of the Year in the National League.

Citing the fact that Hamilton wouldn’t be a candidate if not for his stolen bases, it’s certainly understandable to find yourself thinking deGrom has the edge in the race for the award. Neither side is truly the right or wrong answer, as both Hamilton and deGrom have good arguments both for and against.

In the end, however, the final handful of games of the season will tell the tale. Whichever player has the stronger finish will likely gain the edge when it comes to the voting for who deserves the title of Rookie of the Year.

Yankees Blow Win & Chances of Making the Playoffs

Any shot the New York Yankees had of making the playoffs this season — however small a shot it may have been — was all but officially eliminated on Sunday night at Camden Yards. A blown save by their recently “overused” closer, David Robertson, resulted in a walk off hit by former Yankee, Kelly Johnson, trimming the Orioles’ magic number to win the division down to three, and the Yankees’ elimination number down to a mere two.

usatsi7944843While the Yankees are technically still in the race, with their Wild Card elimination number standing at ten games, it’s going to take an unprecedented run like baseball has never seen before for the Yankees to pull off the near miracle of making the postseason.

Just 2.5 games back of the second Wild Card as recently as August 27th, things have simply gone downhill for them ever since.

Now five games back of the second Wild Card, which the Royals currently hold, the Yankees surely aren’t going to have an easy finish to the season that would allow for a possible push at the Wild Card, especially with the struggling team they possess.

Playing all American League east teams for their remaining fourteen games — Rays for three, Blue Jays for four, Orioles for four, and Red Sox for three — it’s still going to be fun to watch how they finish out 2014.

It certainly would have been nice for Derek Jeter to be able to play in one final playoff run, having won five career World Championships, but it’s unfortunately not the way his career will end. With the Yankees losing three of four games in their recent series against the Orioles, the Bronx Bombers currently hold just over a one percent chance of making the playoffs, according to MLB.com; further securing the fact that Jeter’s amazing career will come to an end September 28th at Fenway Park, and not sometime in October as was once hoped.

But while the Yankees aren’t seemingly playoff bound, and although they’re somewhat of an overall disaster, and overlooking the subpar numbers that Derek Jeter has been posting this season, make sure you take the time to watch a Yankees game or two before the end of the season rolls around. The Yankees will be back in 2015, likely stronger than ever, with some offseason additions that will once again make them competitive in the division. But the one thing they’re guaranteed not to have is Derek Jeter.

That’s one element of the Yankees that you need to enjoy right now.

There’s not much more time left to do so.

Jose Altuve Records His 200th Hit of 2014

With a sharply hit ground ball that bounced its way into left field, Jose Altuve notched his name into the record books on Wednesday night, recording his 200th hit of the 2014 season. Just the second Astros player to ever reach that mark, and the first player in Major League Baseball to do so since 2009, Altuve is undeniably having a career season that many players only dream about.

Altuve leads all of the majors in hits (27 more hits than the next closest player), batting average (.336) and multi hit games. In addition, with his 52nd stolen base on Wednesday, Altuve also leads the American League in steals, and joins a rather elite group of players to have recorded 200 or more hits to go along with 50 or more stolen bases in a season, with Jose Reyes being the last to accomplish that feat back in 2008.

Although the Astros’ playoff drought continues, having not made the playoffs since 2005, Altuve has been one of the many bright spots on the team, with several players having standout years. While Altuve is having the best all around season of them all, players such as Chris Carter and George Springer are also having great years for the Astros, despite holding low batting averages.

However, low batting average is a major issue with the entire Astros team, with only two other players besides Altuve batting over .250 on the season. That’s something that will need to be addressed for next year, but with this being the first year since 2010 that the Astros are going to finish with a record of fewer than 100 losses, things are definitely moving in the right direction.

Jose Altuve reflected that in his comments on Wednesday, stating, “We win this game and get 200 hits and the momentum we’re having right now, it’s pretty special for me. The team is playing great. I couldn’t ask for more. We’re going outside, playing hard, we’re winning, and I think that makes me feel really good.”

While I don’t see a playoff push anytime soon for the Astros — playing in the difficult American League west division that includes a good Mariners, Angels, Athletics, and Rangers team (once they return to full health) — they could definitely make things interesting next season. With their offense clicking fairly efficiently, and their pitching doing terrific (Astros starters are now 6-0 with a 1.95 ERA in the team’s past 10 games), the Astros are certainly a team to watch.

Having won eight of their last ten games, over which Altuve has recorded 16 hits to make for a .390 average, the Astros are giving their fans something to get excited about for the first time in quite awhile. With Jose Altuve approaching the Astros’ all-time hit leader for a season, Craig Biggio, who recorded 210 hits in 1998, Astros fans should be excited about where this team is headed.

Though they may not be raising a World Series trophy anytime soon, they’re slowly but surely finding a way to win games against good teams. That’s something to look forward to seeing more and more as the seasons go on, with Jose Altuve leading the way.

My Final Baseball Game of 2014

On Thursday, for the 20th and final time of 2014, I’m heading out to a baseball game.

More specifically, a minor league playoff game, which just so happens to be a rematch of last year’s International League finals, with the hometown Durham Bulls set to take on the visiting Pawtucket Red Sox. Both teams are very evenly matched in numerous ways, however, while I’ll surely be rooting for the Bulls to win the game, and subsequently take three of the five games against Pawtucket to head to the Triple-A National Championship like they did last season, I’m going to be attempting to snag a few autographs from the Red Sox.

Although I saw the Red Sox earlier in the year, back in June, they’re an even better team than they were then, which is truly saying something. While they’re now without Mookie Betts, Allen Webster and Matt Barnes, who were with the team back when I previously saw them, the Red Sox now have six of their organization’s top ten prospects on the team, with Garin Cecchini being the only one who was with the team in June.

The biggest addition to the team since I last saw them is their top pitching prospect, Henry Owens. Going 17-5 with a 2.94 ERA in the regular season, Owens looks to be a big part of the Red Sox’ future down the road, and is at the top of my list for players I want an autograph of.

Other additions to the team that I’m looking to get an auto from include Eduardo Rodriguez and Edwin Escobar, both of which came over as part of a trade from another team; Cuban phenom Rusney Castillo, who signed a record breaking contract with the Red Sox earlier this year; and Blake Swihart, Brian Johnson and Deven Marrero, who are also a few top prospects who look to be headed for bright big league futures.

As I did last season, I’m planning to post a recap of my year out at the ballpark sometime in the week following Thursday’s game, so be sure to check back for that. With all of the talent that’s going to be there on Thursday, it’s sure to make for an exciting conclusion to an amazing minor league season.

Brewers’ Downhill Fall Continues Into September

After 150 days spent this season with at least a share of the first place spot in the National League central division, the Milwaukee Brewers are experiencing their first big struggle of the year. In fact, having lost a National League best nine straight games — the most for them since 2010 — the Brewers not only find themselves fighting for the division title, but more importantly they’re struggling to keep their playoff hopes alive.

With Thursday night’s 3-2 loss to the Cardinals — a team that is a must beat for the Brewers — Milwaukee is currently tied with the Braves for090414_cardinals_600 the second Wild Card spot, but they could quickly lose it to the Braves if they don’t begin to play any better than they have lately.

The Brewers kicked off 2014 with one of the best starts in franchise history, posting a five game lead in the division after the first month of the season. Things looked to be headed in the right direction in Milwaukee, however, although the Brewers were able to play decent baseball through the All-Star break as well as much of August, the Brewers finally collapsed to the surging Cardinals on September 1st, when the Cards took a one game lead in the division and haven’t looked back since.

With a four game lead over the now second place Brewers, the Cardinals have gone from 1 and 1/2 games back of first to four games up on the Brewers in the span of a week, having won six games in a row.

To put into perspective how quickly things have gone south for the Brewers, back on August 19th they held their best chance of making the playoffs according to MLB.com of a great 94 percent chance, with a 63 percent chance of holding on to win the division. Now, after struggling for so long, the Brewers hold around a 50 percent chance of making it to the playoffs, with a mere 16 percent chance of coming back to take the division title. A near 50 percent drop in their chances of winning the division in the matter of a few weeks is pretty remarkable.

With the start of the 2014 postseason quickly approaching on September 30th, this four game series against the Cardinals is absolutely crucial for the Brewers. With three games remaining in the series, the Brewers could either finish things out against the Cardinals seven games back of first place — taking away 04ec5432c8f60918580f6a7067003e57most of the remaining hope of them making the playoffs — or they could find themselves back in contention just a single game out of first. It all depends on how well they can play.

Being one of the worst teams in the National League since the All-Star break, sitting in 11th place for runs scored, and near the middle of the pack in runs allowed by their pitchers, the Brewers are facing a major battle if they want to keep their postseason dreams alive.

What they need is a player or two to step up and begin to transform this team back into the group it was before the All-Star break.

The only problem being that Ryan Braun, who has been out for a bit of time but is respected to return soon, and Carlos Gomez, who is out with an injury, haven’t been doing too well as of late even when they were in the lineup. In addition, Jonathan Lucroy, who at one point in time was on people’s radar for a possible National League MVP, has been performing poorly over the past couple of weeks. Without those player carrying the team, it can be very difficult to get an offense going, not to mention a sinking pitching staff. But, as history has shown, nothing is impossible.

With 22 games left in the Brewers’ regular season, they still have time to turn things around. However, they have to start the turnaround now. After they finish out this series against their division rival Cardinals, the Brewers go on to play the Marlins and Reds, both of which can always make things difficult to pick up a win.

Following that, the Brewers head on the road to face the Cardinals, in what could once again be pivotal games, as well as the Pirates and Reds, before returning home to finish out the year with a three-game series against the Cubs.

Depending on how the Brewers fare between now and their final home series, the fans in Milwaukee could either be cheering on a playoff bound team in the final days of September, or they could be watching on television from afar, with aspirations of postseason glory in 2015.

Latest MLB Leaders (March 22nd – August 31st)

With the first five months of the 2014 MLB season in the books, I thought I’d take the first day of the new month to recap the season thus far. It’s been exciting, as well as disappointing — depending on how you look at it, and who you’re rooting for.

But instead of talking about the events that have taken place so far this year, I decided to make a list of different categories and beside them name the player(s) that leads that particular category.

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

MLB LEADERS (AL and NL) – HITTING

Most Games Played – Freddie Freeman, Evan Longoria and Hunter Pence (137).

Most At-Bats – Ian Kinsler (572)

Most Hits – Jose Altuve (189)

Highest Average – Jose Altuve (.336)

Highest OBP – Andrew McCutchen (.402)

Highest SLG – Jose Abreu (.602)

Most Runs – Brian Dozier and Anthony Rendon (97)

Most Doubles – Jonathan Lucroy (46)

Most Triples – Dee Gordon (12)

Most Home Runs – Nelson Cruz (35)

Most RBI’s – Jose Abreu (99)

Most Base On Balls – Carlos Santana (94)

Most Strikeouts – Marlon Byrd (161)

Most Stolen Bases – Dee Gordon (58)

Most Caught Stealing – Billy Hamilton (20)

Most Intentional Base On Balls – Victor Martinez and Giancarlo Stanton (23).

Most Hit By Pitch – Jon Jay (16)

Most Sacrifice Flies – Adrian Gonzalez (11)

Most Total Bases – Mike Trout (290)

Most Extra Base Hits – Mike Trout (72)

Most Grounded Into Double Plays – Casey McGehee (25)

Most Ground Outs – Ben Revere (231)

Most Number Of Pitches Faced – Mike Trout (2,664)

Most Plate Appearances – Nick Markakis (621)

MLB LEADERS (AL and NL) – PITCHING

Most Wins – Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Clayton Kershaw (16).

Most Losses – A.J. Burnett, Kevin Correia and Eric Stults (15).

Best ERA – Clayton Kershaw (1.73)

Most Games Started – Seven players tied for most (29).

Most Games Pitched – Bryan Shaw (68)

Most Saves – Craig Kimbrel (41)

Most Innings Pitched – Johnny Cueto (207)

Most Hits Allowed – James Shields (198)

Most Runs Allowed – A.J. Burnett (102)

Most Earned Runs Allowed – Edwin Jackson (94)

Most Home Runs Allowed – Marco Estrada (29)

Most Strikeouts – David Price (224)

Most Walks – A.J. Burnett (78)

Most Complete Games – Clayton Kershaw (6)

Most Shutouts – Henderson Alvarez and Rick Porcello (3).

Best Opponent Avg. – Johnny Cueto and Clayton Kershaw (.195)

Most Games Finished – Francisco Rodriguez (58)

Most Double Plays Achieved – Dallas Keuchel (30)

Most Wild Pitches – Garrett Richards (22)

Most Balks – Roenis Elias (4)

Most Stolen Bases Allowed – A.J. Burnett and Scott Feldman (29).

Most Pickoffs – Drew Smyly (7)

Most Batters Faced – David Price (822)

Most Pitches Thrown – Johnny Cueto (3,122)

Heading into the Final Month of the 2014 MLB Season

It’s hard to believe, but the 2014 Major League Baseball regular season is almost over. Today marks exactly one month until the final games of the season, on September 28th, and teams are making their final push towards the postseason, with every player doing their best to finish out the season strong. With all of this going on, I thought I’d post an entry on the five main storylines I plan to watch throughout the final stretch.

200 Hits for Jose Altuve

7848827Leading all of baseball in batting average (.332) and with 14 more hits on the season than the player with the second most hits, Jose Altuve is well on his way to recording his first 200 hit season of his career. With 181 hits this year, Altuve should easily make it to what has become a somewhat rare achievement.

The last time any player recorded 200 or more hits in a season was back in 2009, when Derek Jeter, Ichiro Suzuki, Ryan Braun and Robinson Cano all did it. For Altuve, he’s set to become only the second Astros player to ever record 200 hits in a season, with Craig Biggio, doing so in 1998, being the other.

Though Altuve is too far back to break Ichiro Suzuki’s all-time hit record for a season of 262 hits, it should be interesting to see how many hits he can amass in this final month.

Race for Stolen Base Lead

After Billy Hamilton set the all-time single season stolen base record for the minor leagues back in 2012, stealing 155 bases that year, many people began to proclaim Hamilton as the next Rickey Henderson. Those are some lofty expectations that Hamilton hasn’t quite been able to live up to, with Hamilton sitting on 50 stolen bases (the youngest Reds player to ever reach 50 stolen bases in a season) for the season and Rickey Henderson having stolen 100 bags in his first full year.

Hamilton currently sits eight stolen bases back of the leader, Dee Gordon, so he definitely has some work to do if he wants to finish out the year on top. But despite not running away in the stolen bases category like many people initially believed he would, Hamilton has done a phenomenal job of making adjustments this year. After a horrid start to the season, Hamilton has really turned things around, and if he can continue to get on base, he has the potential to rack up a ton of stolen bases in a short period of time.

How Jose Abreu Finishes the Year

Chicago White Sox v Kansas City RoyalsProving to have been one of the most valuable offseason pickups, Jose Abreu is posting one of the best rookie seasons we’ve seen in years.

Currently sitting on 33 home runs (he has a good shot at winning the home run crown, tied with Chris Carter and Giancarlo Stanton, and one back of only Nelson Cruz), 96 RBI’s and a .312 batting average, Abreu has done nothing but produce all season long, leading many to believe that he has the American League Rookie of the Year award completely locked up.

At one point in time, there was a good chance that Abreu would break the all-time home run record for a rookie, set by Mark McGwire back in 1987, when he blasted 49 home runs. But Abreu will inevitably come up just short of that mark, due in part to a brief stint on the disabled list earlier in the year.

Even so, Abeu will likely wind up with around 40 home runs for the season, and will be a major asset for the White Sox for years to come.

American League West Division

It can’t much tighter than it currently is in the American League West, as the Angels lead the Athletics by a mere game in the standings. With just a few more weeks of games, this is undoubtedly the division to watch most closely throughout the rest of the season. However, the wild card spots are looking to be just as intriguing, in both leagues.

On the American League side of things, whichever team doesn’t win the AL west between the Angels and A’s will end up taking the first wild card spot, but the Mariners, Tigers and even the Yankees are going to be fighting hard for that second wild card spot. In the National League, the Cardinals hold a slight lead for the first wild card, but the second one is anyone’s for the taking between the Giants, Braves, Pirates and Marlins, if they can keep pace through the month of September. It should be interesting to see which teams get the job done.

Derek Jeter’s Final Month of His Career

Derek JeterAfter having a disastrous 2013 season, in which he was injured and posted measly stats, Derek Jeter announced at the beginning of the year that 2014 would be his last. Therefore, all eyes are on Jeter to see how he performs in the final month of his farewell season. So far, Jeter isn’t doing terrible, but he’s not doing all that great either, batting just .267 with 3 home runs and 36 RBI’s.

But although Jeter isn’t producing all that much, he will still go down as one of baseball’s all-time greats, with over 3,400 career hits.

The one thing on everyone’s mind, however, is whether or not the Yankees can make the playoffs to give Jeter the chance at a sixth career World Series title.

Sitting 2.5 games back of the second wild card, there’s still a shot that the Yankees make it in, but it’s going to take a good amount of terrific play for them to reach the postseason.

Blogging Plans for Remainder of 2014 Regular Season

We’re quickly approaching the final month of the 2014 Major League Baseball regular season, and that means that the playoffs are just around the corner. With only a few dozen more days until the end of the season on September 28th, I figured I’d do a blog post — as I do from time to time — covering what I’m planning to write about over the course of the next month or so.

First up, on August 28th, I’m going to be publishing an entry on the top five story lines worth keeping an eye on in the final month. There are several dozen potential points of interest that people around the baseball world will be keeping an eye on throughout September, but I’ll do my best to narrow it down to a mere five topics.

Once that’s up, I’ll, obviously, post an entry on the first day of September with the latest statistical leaders (something I’ve done every first day of the month throughout this season) from around baseball, and will likely do the same toward the end of September, or, perhaps, on the first day of October. I haven’t decided yet.

Either way, around a week or two into the month, after the Minor League Baseball season has ended, I’m going to be publishing a recap of sorts from my time spent this past season out at local minor league ballparks. I did the same things last year, going over each game briefly and displaying the autographs/game used items I picked up, but I did remarkably better this time around, so I’m looking forward to publishing that.

When the playoff teams have been finalized at the end of the season, I’ll be giving my postseason predictions, starting with the Wild Card games and working my way all the way down to the World Series. Though I was extremely far off yet again this year with my preseason predictions, I was able to successfully pick the World Series matchup in 2013 — unfortunately, I had the Cardinals winning instead of the Red Sox — so hopefully I’ll be able to do it again.

Other than that, it’s all up in the air.

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