World Series Tied Heading to Chicago

One of the things that makes the World Series great each and every year is a quality matchup between two great seriesteams in which it’s a true toss-up as to which team will come out on top. This season has that playing out once again.

Although the Cubs are a better team on paper, the Indians have repeatedly proven people wrong all season long, making it truly impossible to predict the winner when all is said and done.

But there’s an added element to the 2016 Fall Classic that makes this one far more exciting and interesting, and it’s the fact that the Cubs and Indians — the two teams in the World Series — haven’t won a World Title in a combined 176 years (the last titles coming in 1948 for the Indians and 1908 for the Cubs). To say the fans of these squads have been waiting for the feeling of having won it all for quite some time would be a vast understatement.

The first game in a race to four wins and an end to a generational drought for both teams began on Tuesday night in Cleveland, with Corey Kluber and his 0.98 postseason ERA going up against Jon Lester and his October mark of an 0.86 ERA. For many, a pitchers dual was all but guaranteed to happen, but it quickly became evident that things wouldn’t turn out that way.

Kluber began the game strong, striking out two of the first three batters he retired and looked like the Kluber of old who has become known as one of the game’s best pitchers, despite some rust at times this season. However, on the kluberother side, Lester was a bit shaky out of the gate, allowing a hit to Francisco Lindor (his first of what would be three on the night) as well as a subsequent stolen base in the very first inning — a steal which earned everyone in America a free taco from Taco Bell on November 2nd.

Lester proceeded to walk the next two batters and load the bases for Jose Ramirez, who would hit a weak tapper that was unable to be fielded, allowing the first run of the series to score. Soon after, Lester hurt his cause even further, hitting Brandon Guyer to force in a run and make the score 2-0.

Although Lester was able to work out of further trouble, thanks to David Ross making a great play behind home plate, the Cubs didn’t do anything to capitalize on it. To make matters worse for the Cubs, Kluber was absolutely on top of his game, striking out eight batters through the first three innings, setting the all-time record in the 1,503-game history of the postseason for the most batters struck out by a pitcher in the first three innings.

The Indians would rally once again in the next inning, as Roberto Perez launched a line-drive homer to give the Indians a 3-0 lead. Having previously won 60 straight games when leading by three or more runs, things were getting late early for the Cubs.

One of the first bright spots for the Cubs came in the seventh inning, when Corey Kluber was removed from the game after allowing a hit to the first batter of the inning. Normally his replacement Andrew Miller would strike fear into the hearts of the opposing team, but things didn’t begin that way upon his arrival. The bases quickly became loaded against Miller with no outs, giving the Cubs their best scoring opportunity of the night. But once again they failed to record a run-scoring hit, letting Miller off the hook without a single runner crossing the plate.APTOPIX World Series Cubs Indians Baseball

The Cubs would continue to give things a valiant effort into the late-innings, but in going 1-11 with runners in scoring position, they simply couldn’t get the job done. The death-blow came in the eighth inning, when Roberto Perez blasted his second home run, giving the Indians a 6-0 lead, and making Perez just the third player in Indians postseason history to hit multiple homers in a single game, joining him with Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez.

That 6-0 lead would turn out to be the final score, and marked the first game one shutout in a World Series since the A’s failed to tally a run in the 1990 series.

With such a commanding win by the Indians, you began to wonder whether or not the Cubs simply weren’t able to do much of anything against a masterful pitching performance or if their bats were once again falling cold, as they had earlier in the postseason. After all, this is the time of year when every single out counts, and low production absolutely can’t be afforded.

Citing that the team to win game one has won 12 of the last 13 World Series, the Cubs needed to make a statement in game two to get the momentum back on their side, and you had to figure they would come out trying to make something happen very early the next night.

Heading into game two, which had its start time moved up an hour due to the threat of rain, Trevor Bauer was set to face off against Jake Arrieta, both of whom had been back and forth all season long in terms of their quality of pitching. You didn’t really know what you were going to get out of them on Wednesday night, but you got the feeling each would be on top of their game.

rizzoAs it would turn out, however, it wasn’t Bauer’s night at all, as the Cubs got off to the aforementioned hot start they needed, scoring a run via an Anthony Rizzo RBI-double in the first inning.

The Cubs would score again in the third off a couple of singles that advanced Rizzo all the way home, giving the Cubs an early 2-0 lead. Due to the runs allowed, Bauer wouldn’t last even four innings, getting pulled in the third for a reliever — vastly different than Kluber’s outing some 24 hours prior.

However, the switch didn’t cool down the bats of the Cubs by any means. If anything, it energized them even further, as they proceeded to score three more runs in the fifth inning, off of a Ben Zobrist RBI-triple (helped in large part to Lonnie Chisenhall falling down while in pursuit of the ball), yet another RBI from Kyle Schwarber and a bases-loaded-walk of Addison Russell that forced in a run.

Up 5-0 with still half the game to play, things were virtually flipped from the game before in terms of the team who had control of the game.

Equally swapped was the teams’ pitching dominance, as following the Indians’ Corey Kluber dominating in game one, the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta was even better, failing to allow a hit through 5.1 innings pitched, setting the longest such streak in World Series play since back in 1969.

arrietaThe double that broke up the no-hitter was notched by Jason Kipnis who proceeded to advance down to third before a wild pitch by Arrieta allowed him to jog home for Cleveland’s first run of the game.

Mike Montgomery would come on in relief to settle things down, and he was absolutely terrific, giving the Cubs two strong innings, before being replaced by the flame-throwing Aroldis Chapman. As per usual, Chapman slammed the door on the Indians, hitting 104 on the gun and evening up the series at a game apiece.

The World Series now heads to Wrigley Field where the next three games will be played. Although a three-game sweep would win either of the teams the World Series, such an occurrence isn’t all that likely. Given, this is the postseason, and anything can and usually does happen. But from the back and forth dominance we’ve seen to this point, this series has all the makings of a six or seven game affair.

My Vote for 2016 A.L. Most Valuable Player Award

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 usually look solely at which player had the best overall stats, but Most Valuable Player sometimes involves a bit more than just stats. While ortizit’s important that an MVP winner had a great statistical year, the best offensive player doesn’t automatically become the most valuable.

With that said, it was an even more difficult vote for me this season than it has been in seasons past. There are several players, including Jose Altuve, Mookie Betts, Mike Trout, David Ortiz and Mark Trumbo, who were all extremely valuable members of their given team in the American League. However, in the end, only one player can win the Most Valuable Player award.

The first player I’m forced to knock from this group is Mark Trumbo, who lead all of baseball in home runs this season but won’t lead them all in MVP voting. Despite smacking 47 big flies for the O’s and driving in 108 runs, helping to keep the Orioles in contention, Trumbo didn’t quite do enough to earn the honor.

Next off the list for me is Jose Altuve. For such a small player, Altuve has huge impacts each and every season, and this year saw more of the same. Playing in all but one game this season, Altuve hit a career high 24 homers and came up just shy of 100 RBI’s, all while batting .338. Even so, he didn’t do enough to make him the most valuable.

Also not the most valuable in my mind is Mookie Betts, but it’s not because the stats weren’t there. Betts hit .318 for the Red Sox and slugged 31 homers in addition to scoring 122 runs. If not for a couple of other players who had superstar-level seasons, Betts would be the easy pick for MVP. But he’s not this season.

Finishing second in MVP voting for the fourth time in his five year career is Mike Trout, as I’m seeing things now. He had the highest WAR — if that’s a stat you like — yet again of any player around baseball, coming from his great defense and .315/.441/.550 slash line. He was the most valuable Angels player by far, but not quite the most valuable American Leaguer.

That distinction goes to Boston’s David Ortiz. In this his final season in Major League Baseball, Ortiz posted stats never before seen by any player age forty or older. Hitting .315 while slugging a superb .660, Ortiz was able to record a 38 home run and 127 RBI season, pushing the Red Sox to another division title. With this being David Ortiz’s final campaign, it would be fitting to see him go out in style with the Most Valuable Player award.

My Vote for 2016 A.L. Cy Young Award

Each year there are usually several pitchers from each league who have incredible seasons, making it difficult to choose between them for who most deserves the Cy Young award. This year is no different. The American League saw Rick Porcello, Zach Britton, Corey Kluber, Masahiro Tanaka, Aaron Sanchez and Justin Verlander all having great seasons.verlander However, in the end, only one player can take home the Cy Young award.

Although Rick Porcello had a great season that helped carry the Red Sox into the postseason, I don’t feel he’s one of the top few candidates for the Cy Young award. His 3.15 ERA on the year is really good, and his 22 wins — given, wins aren’t as big of a deal as they used to be — stand out, but Porcello didn’t quite do enough all around to earn my vote.

Holding the same fate, Masahiro Tanaka also had a fantastic year, posting a 3.07 ERA over the course of nearly 200 innings pitched for the Yankees. However, his all around stats don’t really hold up when compared to the others in the running. Even so, Tanaka looks to be the ace of the staff moving forward.

Aaron Sanchez’s season was also something special, recording an American League best 3.00 ERA, and virtually taking the Blue Jays to the postseason. With that said, he still didn’t do enough to win the award, as he made a handful of starts fewer than the frontrunners, leading to his strikeouts being lower.

Finishing third on my list is Corey Kluber, who had an amazing year despite it not being on the level we have seen before from Kluber in the year he won the Cy Young. Kluber struck out 227 batters over 215 innings pitched, and held opponents to a .216 average on the year, but likely won’t win the award when all is said and done.

Happening only a handful of times in baseball history, I’m not completely against a reliever winning the Cy Young award, but they have to have posted an unbelievably historic year. Zach Britton certainly fits that category, recording a 0.54 ERA on the season while notching 47 saves, but I don’t see him as more worthy than a certain Tigers’ ace.

The deserving winner of the American League Cy Young — even if he doesn’t wind up being the one to win it — is undoubtedly Justin Verlander. Having a bounce back season, Verlander lead all of the American League in strikeouts, with 254 on the season, and recorded a mere 3.04 ERA while holding opponents to a .207 average. All combined, Verlander is the rightful winner of the top honor for pitcher in the American League.

My Vote for 2016 A.L. Rookie of the Year Award

Watching young players succeed upon their first year in the majors is always fun. Though it never guarantees that any given player will carry that early success throughout their career, it’s always a good indication of which players are going to be stars for years to come. We certainly had a fair share of those type of players in the American League this season, with players such as Edwin Diaz, Nomar Mazara, Tyler Naquin, Gary Sanchez, Max Kepler and Michael Fulmersanchez all having seasons worthy of recognition. However, in the end, only one player can win the coveted Rookie of the Year award.

This season for the Mariners, Edwin Diaz had an unbelievable rookie campaign, recording 18 saves and posting a 2.79 ERA over 51.2 innings in which he struck out 88 batters. But while he looks to have a bright career moving forward, there were several other better candidates for Rookie of the Year than Diaz.

Likewise, this season saw Max Kepler having a fantastic year, knocking 17 homers and recording 63 RBI’s. However, what’s keeping him from being a true contender for the award in my mind is his dismal .235 batting average. But while that’s disappointing, look for Kepler to raise that number as he gets more experience moving forward.

Tyler Naquin was another one of the standout rookies from the 2016 American League crop. Hitting .296 on the year with 14 homers, Naquin helped play a big role in carrying the Indians into the postseason. He should remain one of their big-time pieces in the future, but he didn’t do enough this season to earn the award.

As with Naquin, the Rangers’ Nomar Mazara is a player deserving of vast recognition, but not the award for Rookie of the Year. Getting off to an unbelievable start, but cooling off drastically as the season went on, Mazara’s 20 homers and 64 RBI’s are very impressive, but not impressive enough for any better than third on my list.

The same holds true for the stats of Michael Fulmer, who was the favorite for the award until the last bit of the season. Still, despite not having the strong finish to the year to cement an award win, Fulmer broke out in 2016 as one of the best pitchers on the Tigers’ staff, with his 3.06 ERA over 159 innings pitched.

That leaves just Gary Sanchez as the player who I feel is most deserving of the Rookie of the Year award for the American League. It is a bit of a controversial pick, as Sanchez’s 20 home runs and 42 RBI’s on the season came over the course of just 53 games played — not even a third of a full season. But despite that, Sanchez had an absolutely historical season that leaves little doubt in my mind that he should win the top honor for American League rookies.

2016 MLB Postseason Predictions

For the fifth straight season, I made preseason predictions as to how I felt each division would play out, and for the fifth straight season I was extremely far off. For one reason or another, I’m not very good at making division predictions before a given season begins.

This year, though, I hope to finally correctly predict how the postseason will play out. While I’ll likely be off, either by a little or a lot, it’s always fun to make predictions. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get lucky and have a perfect prediction of how the postseason will unfold. You never can tell what may happen in October.

WILD CARD GAMES (AL October 4th & NL October 5th)

American League: Blue Jays Vs. Orioles

Winner: Orioles

This is sure to be a great game between two great teams, and although it will be played up in Toronto, with the Blue Jays having home-field advantage, I think the Orioles will be able to prevail. The key reason behind that logic lies with Zach Britton, who can almost guarantee a win, should the Orioles be holding the lead heading into the ninth. With the Orioles having hit the most homers in all of baseball this season, they should be able to put together enough runs to pull out the victory, despite having to face Toronto’s Marcus Stroman.

National League: Mets Vs. Giants

Winner: Mets

I realize it’s an even number year, and therefore the Giants should be all but guaranteed to win the entire World Series — they won in 2010, 2012 and 2014 — but I don’t even see them making it past the Wild Card game. Yes, the Giants’ starter, Madison Bumgarner, had a stupendously great year, but the Mets have a Cy Young candidate of their own on the bump, in the form of Noah Syndergaard. With this sure to be a pitcher’s duel, one run very well could be the difference, with the Mets’ lineup simply having more thump than that of the Giants.

AMERICAN LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES (Begins October 6th)

Indians Vs. Red Sox

Winner: Red Sox

I’ve been betting against the Indians all season long, so I’m a bit hesitant to go against them after they had the season they did. But although I don’t think this will be an easy task by any means for the Red Sox, I see them overtaking the Indians, especially with the injuries Cleveland began experiencing towards the end of the regular season. Without the full health of their rotation, I don’t see the Indians overtaking Boston. For that reason, when all is said and done, the Red Sox should be the team moving on to the ALCS.

Rangers Vs. Orioles

Winner: Orioles

This is by far the most difficult decision I had to make to this point in the post, as both teams have very even rosters from top to bottom, and each have had rotations that have struggled at times. But despite all of that, the Orioles seem to be a bit better set up for a postseason push than the Rangers do. Having likely just won the Wild Card game in my mind against the Blue Jays, I feel that Texas won’t be able to withstand the momentum of the hard-hitting and hard-throwing Orioles for the full length of the series.

NATIONAL LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES (Begins October 7th)

Nationals Vs. Dodgers

Winner: Nationals

After several disappointing seasons in which many people envisioned great things for the Nationals only to watch them fall apart during or even before the playoffs, this is the year for the Nationals to finally win a few playoff games, in my opinion. Although they have a great deal of injuries, including those to several All-Star players, I don’t think the Dodgers will be able to compete with Washington when all is said and done, even with the best starting pitcher in baseball, Clayton Kershaw, leading their staff.

Cubs Vs. Mets

Winner: Cubs

2016 is finally the year of the Cubs — or at least that’s what ninety-nine percent of the baseball world is happily telling themselves. Following a century-long drought of a World Series title, the Cubs seemingly have no holes whatsoever in their entire roster. Even though there’s a long way to go before the end of the postseason (they need to win eleven games to take home the Championship), there are still a lot of reasons to like the Cubs. I really don’t think this will be that competitive of a series, with the Mets lacking the all-around talent that the Cubs have.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES (Begins October 14th)

Orioles Vs. Red Sox

Winner: Red Sox

This will wind up being the end of the line for the Orioles as far as I’m seeing things now. If in fact they are taking on the Red Sox in the ALCS, I don’t think the Orioles will be able to beat them in the end. Even so, this series could wind up going to a sixth or possibly even seventh deciding game. It would truly be one of the best postseason series we’ve seen in quite a while, especially with it being the final season for David Ortiz. What each team lacks in pitching dominance, they more than make up for in power hitting, which could make this a back-and-forth series.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES (Begins October 15th)

Nationals Vs. Cubs

Winner: Cubs

If the Nationals manage to make it this far into the playoffs, it will include a small amount of luck, and I simply don’t think they will be able to defeat the powerhouse Cubs. As I’ve already stated, the Cubbies are one of the best all-around teams we’ve seen in quite some time, and the Nationals don’t seem to have what it takes to take down a team such as Chicago. With that said, I still think it would end up being an exciting matchup, just not quite as good as the ALCS would be. But then again, it’s October baseball, where the impossible happens on a regular basis.

WORLD SERIES (Begins October 25th)

Red Sox Vs. Cubs

Winner: Cubs

What a World Series matchup this would be, between two great teams and taking place at two 100-year-old ballparks. With the Cubs looking to end their historical 108-year losing streak, and the Red Sox looking to send David Ortiz off into the sunset with style, neither team would want to give an inch in this series. I could easily see this matchup taking six or seven games to decide, with the Cubs ultimately just beating out the Red Sox. Thus, after nearly eleven decades without a World Title, I’m predicting this to finally be the year the Cubs win the World Series.

2016 MLB Leaders (April 3rd – October 2nd)

With the 2016 MLB regular season in the books, I thought I’d take today to recap the entire year. It was all very exciting as well as disappointing, depending on how you look at it and who you were rooting for.

But instead of talking about the events that took place this year, I decided to make a list of different categories and beside them name the player(s) that lead 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 – Alcides Escobar, Jonathan Schoop and George Springer (162).

Most At-Bats – Mookie Betts (672)

Most Hits – Jose Altuve (216)

Highest Average – DJ LeMahieu (.348)

Highest OBP – Mike Trout (.441)

Highest SLG – David Ortiz (.620)

Most Runs – Mike Trout (123)

Most Doubles – David Ortiz (48)

Most Triples – Brandon Crawford, Cesar Hernandez and Chris Owings (11).

Most Home Runs – Mark Trumbo (47)

Most RBI’s – Nolan Arenado (133)

Most Base On Balls – Mike Trout (116)

Most Strikeouts – Chris Davis (219)

Most Stolen Bases – Jonathan Villar (62)

Most Caught Stealing – Jonathan Villar (18)

Most Intentional Base On Balls – Bryce Harper (20)

Most Hit By Pitch – Brandon Guyer (31)

Most Sacrifice Flies – Francisco Lindor (15)

Most Total Bases – Mookie Betts (359)

Most Extra Base Hits – David Ortiz (87)

Most Grounded Into Double Plays – Miguel Cabrera (26)

Most Ground Outs – Alcides Escobar (234)

Most Number Of Pitches Faced – Mike Trout (3,014)

Most Plate Appearances – George Springer (744)

MLB LEADERS (AL and NL) – PITCHING

Most Wins – Rick Porcello (22)

Most Losses – Chris Archer (19)

Best ERA – Kyle Hendricks (2.13)

Most Games Started – David Price (35)

Most Games Pitched – Brad Hand (82)

Most Saves – Jeurys Familia (51)

Most Innings Pitched – David Price (230)

Most Hits Allowed – David Price (227)

Most Runs Allowed – Edinson Volquez (124)

Most Earned Runs Allowed – James Shields (118)

Most Home Runs Allowed – James Shields (40)

Most Strikeouts – Max Scherzer (284)

Most Walks – Jimmy Nelson (86)

Most Complete Games – Chris Sale (6)

Most Shutouts – Clayton Kershaw (3)

Best Opponent Avg. – Jake Arrieta (.194)

Most Games Finished – Jeurys Familia and Mark Melancon (67).

Most Double Plays Achieved – Martin Perez (36)

Most Wild Pitches – Mike Fiers (17)

Most Balks – Matt Andriese and Antonio Bastardo (4).

Most Stolen Bases Allowed – Noah Syndergaard (48)

Most Pickoffs – Julio Urias (6)

Most Batters Faced – David Price (951)

Most Pitches Thrown – Justin Verlander (3,668)

Red Sox Claim Last Remaining Division Title Spot

Despite losing to the Yankees on Wednesday night via a Mark Teixeira walk-off grand slam, the Red Sox still managed to pick up a major victory. With the Orioles defeating the Blue Jays, Boston has now officially snatched up the final division title slot remaining in baseball, leaving just the Wild Card spots to be decided.MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox

Joining the Indians, Rangers, Nationals, Cubs and Dodgers as the other divisional winners from around baseball, the Red Sox have had a somewhat unpredicted fantastic season. Following a last-place finish in the American League East just a year ago, the Red Sox stormed back to take the division crown once again in 2016, picking up a whopping 14 more wins thus far than last year.

One of the most remarkable things about Boston’s ability to take the division title is their doing so within a division that has once again emerged as one of the best in all of baseball — every team except the Rays have been in the postseason race all season long — in addition to having a multitude of injuries and underperformances (namely, David Price) throughout the year.

With all of the top spots in all six divisions out of reach for the other twenty-four teams in baseball, there now remains just six teams still mathematically in contention for one of the two Wild Card spots in the American League, with three doing the same in the National League. Having four games remaining in the season (the days until the postseason can now be counted on one hand), it should be fun to watch how things unfold.

As great as the regular season has been, the best is inevitably yet to come.