Sunday will mark the 16th and final game I will attend of the 2015 MiLB season.
It’s certainly been a fun year, and it seemed to fly by. But with neither the Mudcats or the Bulls (my two local teams) set to make the playoffs this season, Sunday’s game between the Durham Bulls and Charlotte Knights will be the last one for me this year.
The previous fifteen games I’ve gone to so far this year were all exciting, and saw me heading to ballparks in Hickory, Greensboro, Durham, Zebulon and Myrtle Beach. Throughout the year, and my travels, I managed to get around 100 autographs again this year, and I’ll be detailing them all in full within the next week or two.
With the Bulls schedule for next year already released, I’ve already been looking ahead to the 2016 season, trying to project which players will be coming to town. From the way I’m viewing things, next year could be even more eventful than 2015, but that’s a long time down the road, and anything can happen.
Ever since he blasted 43 homers in the minor leagues back in 2014, nearly everyone around the baseball world has heard of Kris Bryant. Viewed by many as the player that would send the Cubs back to the playoffs — so far, so good — there was no doubt that Bryant was going to be a great player.
But him becoming a great player as quickly as he has become one is somewhat shocking for many people. At only 23 years old, the former first round draft pick from 2013 has already been through some ups and downs in the majors, but Bryant has been swinging a hot bat as of late. Over his last 15 games, Bryant is batting .339 with 6 homers and 14 RBI’s — including a walk off homer on Monday afternoon (already the second of his career).
Collectively so far this season, Bryant is hitting .262 with 20 home runs, 75 RBI’s and 12 stolen bases, leading all rookies in RBI’s by a wide margin. With stats like that, it’s no wonder that the majority of fans around baseball are projecting him to walk away with the National League Rookie of the Year award. But many see even greater things for Bryant and the Cubs in 2015.
It’s far too long into the season for anyone to write off the Cubs’ record as a fluke or a hot streak. The Cubs are good — it’s as simple as that. While young stars Kyle Schwarber, Addison Russell and Anthony Rizzo are helping lead the charge, it’s Bryant who is truly powering the postseason push. Currently holding the second Wild Card spot, the Cubs look to be in good position heading into the final month of the season.
No matter if the Cubs make the postseason or not, Kris Bryant is having an unbelievable season. The amazing thing is, he will get better and better in the years to come. That should be enough to make Cubs fans see visions of playoff runs for the next several seasons, with Bryant leading the way.
Things are going to be picking up fairly soon, both around baseball and subsequently with this blog.
Although we’re a couple of weeks away from September, I wanted to go over a rough outline of what I’m planning to write about next month.
On the first day of the month, I’ll be publishing an update of the latest MLB leaders like I have all season long. Following that, I’ll be posting a recap of the baseball games I attended in 2015, and the autographs I got at them. I have enjoyed writing about that the past two seasons, and it’s always interesting to look back at. It’s that post that signifies the end of my 2015 minor league baseball season.
But the MLB season will just be heating up. Towards the end of the month, when the playoff picture has become clear (assuming there are no tiebreaker scenarios), I’ll post my predictions for how teams will fare in the postseason. Usually, I’m extremely far off, but I’ll give it my best shot once again.
Other than that, I’ll just be writing about random news around baseball like always. It should make for an exciting month of writing.
In a season that has so far turned out to be a major disappointment for the Padres after so many offseason moves that lead many people to predict a playoff run from them, Matt Kemp provided a little bit of positivety to their year by hitting for the cycle on Friday night against the Rockies.
A cycle is a noteworthy performance under any circumstances, but Kemp’s cycle was extra special. Not only was it his first ever career cycle, but it was also the first cycle in the nearly fifty-year history of the Padres — truly hard to believe with all of the good players they’ve had over the years.
For the majority of this season, Kemp has been struggling, but he has shown signs of breaking out and returning to a version closer to that of the MVP caliber player he can be. With Jedd Gyorko also turning his game around, it looks as if the Padres will be able to salvage what they can from this season, despite the fact that the playoffs are basically a lost cause.
Even so, Matt Kemp’s cycle provided the Padres fans a little something worth cheering about. It should be interesting to see if the Padres can continue to play well and leave their fans with a solid end to the year, or if they revert to their surprisingly subpar selves.
From one year to the next, you never truly know what to expect in any given division race around baseball. Sometimes one team will completely blow away the rest of the teams in their division and run away with the first place spot, while other cases see multiple teams within a few games of each other down to the last game of the season. This year is more of the latter.
Of the six divisions, four of them have the second place team within three games of the first place squad (the Royals and Cardinals lead their divisions by a good margin). Furthermore, some of the teams closing in on first — or in some cases leading the division — haven’t been doing so well in quite a long time.
The biggest example of that being the Astros and Mets. Each are leading their given divisions at the current moment, and each are making their push towards the playoffs years earlier than many people thought they would.
With the Angels a mere one game back of the Astros and the Nationals a game and a half removed from the Mets, the remaining games of the season should be exciting as we find out which teams can hold on to their hot seasons.
Although not in first place (at least not yet), the Blue Jays are another team that is making things very interesting in the race for first place. The Yankees, somewhat surprisingly, lead the American League East at the moment, but the surging Jays are right on their tail, at just one and a half games back. With the lineup they have, Toronto has the ability to overthrow the Yankees as the season progresses.
The Dodgers are also in the mix as far as exciting division races are concerned, despite still holding a two and a half game lead over the Giants for first. Even so, the Dodgers have been in somewhat of a slump lately (as have the Giants) and things could quickly switch around in the NL West.
No matter what happens over the coming several weeks as teams push towards October, the fact that so many teams that weren’t expected to make the playoffs in 2015 are currently on their way to doing just that is exciting. If the season ended today, the Yankees, Royals, Astros, Blue Jays, Angels, Mets, Cardinals, Dodgers, Pirates and Cubs would all be headed to the postseason.
With the Astros not having made the playoffs since 2005, the Mets since 2006, Cubs since 2008 and the Blue Jays since way back in 1993, this could turn out to be the season a lot of droughts could be broken for a lot of teams. That’s worth looking forward to.
At the beginning of the season, I didn’t see the Blue Jays doing much of anything in 2015. In fact, I had the Yankees, Red Sox and Orioles all finishing ahead of them in the standings. But it seems that I will turn out to be very wrong when all is said and done.
The Jays currently sit second in the American League East, just behind the surprisingly dominant Yankees by four and a half games. As recently as a week ago, Toronto was six games back of first, and two out of the American League wild card. Now, after a terrific recent stretch of games that includes a four game winning streak to date, the Jays are in line to make the playoffs for the first time since 1993 when they won the World Series.
When the season kicked off in April, the Blue Jays were given a 27 percent chance of making the playoffs, but now they sit at a respectable 65 percent. The remaining schedule the Jays have left isn’t a cakewalk by any means, but if the Jays can continue their hot streak things could get very interesting down the road.
Although the Jays were already having a decent year before the trade deadline, a big reason for their recent run can somewhat be attributed to their acquisition of Troy Tulowitzki and David Price.
With Tulo in the lineup, the Jays take a dangerous middle of the order and turn it into a dangerous entire lineup from the very first pitch. Likewise, Price adds depth to their rotation, and should be able to help power their team forward as the year progresses.
No matter whether or not the Blue Jays end up making the playoffs — after all, there is close to two months still remaining — just the idea of it is enough to excite the fans around Toronto and around the baseball world in general. But if things continue to roll for the Jays and they make it into October, they could turn out to be a very formidable team to take on in a playoff series where anything can happen.
With the first four months of the 2015 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. I’ve done lists like these for the past several years, and they have been well received, so I decided to do it again.
The following lists are categorized into hitting and pitching, but not AL or NL:
MLB LEADERS (AL and NL) – HITTING
Most Games Played – Four players tied for most (103).
Most At-Bats – Ian Kinsler (410)
Most Hits – Jason Kipnis (132)
Highest Average – Miguel Cabrera (.350)
Highest OBP – Paul Goldschmidt (.465)
Highest SLG – Bryce Harper (.679)
Most Runs – Mike Trout (76)
Most Doubles – Jason Kipnis (31)
Most Triples – Kevin Kiermaier (10)
Most Home Runs – Mike Trout (32)
Most RBI’s – Nolan Arenado (78)
Most Base On Balls – Paul Goldschmidt (83)
Most Strikeouts – Chris Davis (128)
Most Stolen Bases – Billy Hamilton (49)
Most Caught Stealing – Dee Gordon (13)
Most Intentional Base On Balls – Paul Goldschmidt (23)
Most Hit By Pitch – Anthony Rizzo (21)
Most Sacrifice Flies – Jose Bautista, Miguel Cabrera and Stephen Vogt (7).
Most Total Bases – Mike Trout (235)
Most Extra Base Hits – Todd Frazier (58)
Most Grounded Into Double Plays – Trevor Plouffe (20)
Most Ground Outs – Andrelton Simmons (163)
Most Number Of Pitches Faced – Joey Votto (1,885)
Most Plate Appearances – Jason Kipnis (464)
MLB LEADERS (AL and NL) – PITCHING
Most Wins – Gerrit Cole (14)
Most Losses – Kyle Kendrick and Kyle Lohse (12).
Best ERA – Zack Greinke (1.41)
Most Games Started – Five players tied for most (22).
Most Games Pitched – Kevin Siegrist (53)
Most Saves – Mark Melancon (33)
Most Innings Pitched – Corey Kluber (157)
Most Hits Allowed – Phil Hughes (158)
Most Runs Allowed – Kyle Kendrick and Kyle Lohse (83).
Most Earned Runs Allowed – Kyle Lohse (83)
Most Home Runs Allowed – Kyle Kendrick (26)
Most Strikeouts – Clayton Kershaw (185)
Most Walks – Tyson Ross (61)
Most Complete Games – Mark Buehrle (4)
Most Shutouts – Seven players tied for most (7).
Best Opponent Avg. – Zack Greinke (.186)
Most Games Finished – Mark Melancon (41)
Most Double Plays Achieved – Kyle Gibson, Chris Heston and Mike Pelfrey (22).
Most Wild Pitches – Nathan Karns (12)
Most Balks – Johnny Cueto (4)
Most Stolen Bases Allowed – Jon Lester (30)
Most Pickoffs – Brett Anderson (6)
Most Batters Faced – Corey Kluber (628)
Most Pitches Thrown – Corey Kluber (2,328)
Over the past week or so, trades and rumors of trades have been taking place right and left. Although things are still bound to happen, with the trade deadline not until Friday afternoon, here’s an overall recap (most of the trades, but not every one) of what has happened so far, with my thoughts on each:
Back on the 23rd, two of the first impactful moves were made. The Brewers’ Aramis Ramirez was sent to the Pirates in return for minor leaguer, Yhonathan Barrios, and the Astros acquired Scott Kazmir from the Athletics in exchange for Daniel Mengden and Jacob Nottingham. The following day, the Marlins moved Steve Cishek to the Cardinals for the addition of Kyle Barraclough.
For the most part, I felt all of those trades were productive ones. The Brewers are out of it this season, and sending Ramirez to the Pirates will likely benefit them moving forward as they push towards the hope of a postseason spot. The Marlins sending Cishek to another team makes a lot of sense to me as well, as Cishek used to be dominant for Miami, but has struggled somewhat this year. Hopefully a change of scenery will help him out.
Of the three deals, the Scott Kazmir one will undoubtedly be the one that has the most impact this season. With the Astros in first place, Kazmir could really be crucial in helping them hold on to make the playoffs for the first time since 2005.
But while those few trades were somewhat beneficial, a major move took place Sunday, with Johnny Cueto being shipped to the Royals in exchange for cash and minor league pitchers Cody Reed, Brandon Finnegan and John Lamb. After reaching the World Series last year, only to fall short in game seven, there are a lot of people who feel that Cueto can help them win it all this year. While that remains to be seen, Cueto will assuredly be a big impact for them the remainder of the regular season into October.
As far as what the Royals gave up from their farm system, Finnegan is the type of guy who is immediately ready to make an impact, even though he was sent to Triple-A. Finnegan came up big in the postseason for the Royals last year, and he, along with future impact pitchers Cody Reed and John Lamb, should be able to help the Reds turn things around in the years to come.
Tuesday turned out to be a big day as well in the trade market, as several impact trades took place.
On the lesser impactful side of things, Ben Zobrist was sent to the Royals for Aaron Brooks and future star Sean Manaea, with Jonathan Papelbon finally getting moved, sent to the Nationals for Nick Pivetta. The Zobrist move should help the Royals, as will the Cueto move, leading to another deep playoff run this season. In the same way, the acquisition of Papelbon as the Nat’s closer should help them be able to lock down games at the end, despite already having a good closer in Drew Storen, who now becomes their setup man.
However, while those were good moves, the one that had everyone talking on Tuesday was the swap of Troy Tulowitzki and LaTroy Hawkins to the Blue Jays in return for Jose Reyes, Miguel Castro, Jeff Hoffman and Jesus Tinoco. Of all of the trades thus far, I feel this is the one that makes the most sense for both sides.
Although the Jays supposedly needed a pitcher at the time, you can never complain when you pick up an impact bat like Tulowitzki and a veteran reliever in Hawkins. Likewise, the Rockies look to be headed in a good direction, as Reyes is a fine replacement for Tulowitzki, and all three prospects, especially the highly hyped Jeff Hoffman, will help them down the road.
But while most trades go through without a hitch, one deal went down on Wednesday that ended up falling through. The Brewers planned to sent Carlos Gomez to the Mets for Zack Wheeler and Wilmer Flores, but concern with Gomez’s hip (now reported as a financial issue, too) caused the deal to be called off. Obviously an unfortunate set of circumstances, as both teams would have benefited from the deal.
Nonetheless, trades continued to happen. Thursday saw a blockbuster, three-team swap that involved numerous players. The Dodgers picked up Mat Latos and Michael Morse from the Marlins as well as Alex Wood, Bronson Arroyo, Jim Johnson, Luis Avilan and Jose Peraza from the Braves. In exchange, the Marlins received Jeff Bringham, Victor Araujo and Kevin Guzman from the Dodgers, with the Braves getting Cuban star Hector Olivera, Zack Bird and Paco Rodriguez. The Braves also received a competitive-balance round draft pick from Miami.
To me, the trade doesn’t make a lot of sense to anyone but the Dodgers. For them, they made out with a ton of talent. But Miami merely picked up a few decent players, with the Braves receiving the same. Although time is the only thing that can tell whether a trade turns out to be a good or bad one, this trade seems to be one sided.
Another big deal went down on Thursday as well, with Cole Hamels (along with Jake Diekman) finally getting moved after months and months of trade rumors surrounding him. Hamels was sent to the Rangers in exchange for Matt Harrison and prospects Jorge Alfaro, Nick Williams, Jake Thompson, Alec Asher and Jerad Eickhoff.
In the short term, the Rangers should see an instant boost in their rotation, as Hamels has been one of the top pitchers around baseball for the past numerous years. In the long term, however, the Phillies could see the prospect they picked up helping to turn their current subpar squad into a postseason potential team once again. All five prospect are expected to be big time impact players in the majors, and they should all be able to help within the next few years.
Finally, one of the biggest trades of the day on Thursday saw David Price getting moved once again. This time, Price was sent to the Blue Jays in exchange for prospects Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd and Jairo Labourt. With Price being one of the best pitchers in baseball over the past several years, he will inevitably help out the Blue Jays, who are currently sitting at .500, seven games back of first place.
With around 24 hours remaining until the trade deadline arrives, things should continue to stay exciting, with a big deal having the chance of taking place at any given time.
Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds’ ace starting pitcher, was traded to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for cash and Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb and Cody Reed. Although the move of Cueto was inevitable, it still came as somewhat of a shock to a lot of people.
Cueto has gone 7-6 with a 2.62 ERA in 19 starts this season so far, and holds a career mark of a 3.21 ERA. With a line such as that, a lot of people feel that Cueto can give the Royals a legitimate shot at a World Series title.
Without Cueto, the Royals have gone 58-38, holding a 6.5 game lead over the second place Twins in the division. Now that Cueto has joined the Royals rotation, he very well could be what’s needed to push them over the top.
But while Cueto stirred up what has so far been an uneventful time leading up to the trade deadline, there was also the aforementioned Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
Craig Biggio, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and John Smoltz all received induction as part of the 2015 class, joining the 306 other members inducted before them. All gave memorable speeches, and will now be forever remembered for their amazing careers.
Only time will tell who the class of 2016 will turn out to be.
In game one of a doubleheader against the Red Sox on Monday afternoon, Albert Pujols blasted a homer to left for his 547th career home run. But as stunning as that is, it would turn out to be the second game on the day that would have people talking.
Facing Red Sox knuckleballer, Steven Wright, Pujols smacked a hanging knuckler into the left field seats in his first at-bat, tying him with Mike Schmidt on the all-time home run list. Later in the game, Pujols hit yet another dinger, giving him two for the game, three on the day, and moving him into 15th place on the all-time chart.
Pujols hasn’t been playing this way for quite some time. Since signing a 10-year, 240 million dollar contract with the Angels in 2012, the Angels have been expecting this kind of production from Pujols — the kind he recorded in his days in St. Louis. But Pujols has been just a shell of his former self; until recently, that is.
Since May 28th, Pujols has been on a tear, hitting 21 of his 29 homers on the season. Becoming the first Angels player since 1995 to homer in both games of a doubleheader, it would appear that Pujols is back in full force. But it’s not just Pujols who is putting on a show. Mike Trout also smacked a homer of his own on Monday, giving him 28 on the year in what has become a back and forth home run battle between him and Pujols.
Currently, Pujols is on pace to smack 51 home runs — that would be a career high — with Mike Trout on pace for 49. If that happens, they would become just the sixth pair of teammates to finish with 45+ home runs. If they can both reach 50, they would match a mark set by only one other pair of teammates in baseball history: Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris in 1961.
But while on pace numbers are never a number to be set in stone, Trout and Pujols are well on their way to becoming the first teammates to finish in the top two spots for home runs on the season since Manny Ramirez (43 homers) and David Ortiz (41) did so back in 2004. That would still be an amazing feat.
With the Angels playing great baseball, thanks in large part to the hot bat of Albert Pujols, many people are foreseeing them making an even deeper run into the playoffs than the one they were swept out of in 2014. However, with Pujols just seven homers away from passing Manny Ramirez on the home run list, and just 15 away from jumping over Reggie Jackson, a lot of eyes will also be focused solely on Pujols.
Having stated that he plans to fully play out his contract, which runs through 2021, Pujols has a chance at making things really interesting down the road. 600 home runs is a lock for sure, but 700 isn’t out of the question. Assuming Pujols is sitting around 565-570 homers at the end of the season, with six full seasons left to go on his contract, that comes out to right around 22 home runs per season. Very doable, if you ask me.
It all just depends on how long Albert Pujols can keep the fountain of youth flowing.