Results tagged ‘ Cardinals ’
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.
When you think of a magic number for a pitcher in a season the first number that will likely will pop into your head is twenty wins. For a hitter, when you think of a solid season, it likely involves around a .300 average, 20-30 home runs and/or around 100 RBI’s. And when you think of a so called magic number for a team as a whole, the number 100 probably stands as the number that everyone pictures each team shooting for but very few teams hitting.
While a twenty win pitcher occurs seemingly every year, and a player (or several) always reaches the aforementioned magic numbers for a hitter, it is becoming more and more rare for a team to pick up 100 wins in a season. In fact, there hasn’t been a single 100-game winner in all of baseball since the 2011 Phillies. Taking things even deeper, two or more teams haven’t reached the 100-win mark in a single season since 2004, after a streak of multiple 100-game winner from 1998 through 2004 (with the exception of 2000).
It would appear, however, that both droughts could be broken in 2015.
With that in mind, I decided to take a look at the division winners from 2014 — the teams with the best shot at making a strong run in 2015 — and attempt to project how many, if any, of the teams could potentially obtain 100 wins in 2015:
2014 American League Division Winners
East – Orioles (96-66): The Baltimore Orioles completely blew away all of the competition in the American League East last season, winning by a total of twelve games over the second place Yankees. But while they were a terrific ball club last season, things are likely going to take a bit of a downfall in the coming season.
The biggest reason for the fall being that they O’s lost a good chunk of their offense via trades and free agency throughout the past few months. No longer possessing slugger Nelson Cruz, veteran outfielder Nick Markakis or reliever Andrew Miller, things are sort of up in the air for how the Orioles will perform in 2015.
Therefore, even if they surprise some people, I don’t think they’ll be able to pull off the stunning feat of winning 100+ games.
Central – Tigers (90-72): For the Detroit Tigers, they are a particularly intruiging team. For the past couple of years, there’s no reason they shouldn’t have been able to pull off a 100-win season, playing in somewhat of a weaker division, however, the Tigers have disappointed to a degree.
Having a great lineup and pitching staff, the Tigers have recently been in the preseason World Series predictions by a number of people throughout the baseball world. But things just haven’t panned out.
Having lost Max Scherzer — their undeniable ace of the pitching staff — to the Nationals, and with certain players not performing up to their potential, I’d say it’s going to be tough for the Tigers to even hold off the Royals from taking the division crown. A 100-win season was doable over the past few seasons, but the opportunity for them has come and gone.
West – Angels (98-64): The Angels fall into a category much like the Tigers. The slightly more successful version of Detroit, many people saw the Angels winning it all in 2012 after the acquisition of Albert Pujols, but injuries and underperformance in general have caused the Angels to come up short.
Their lineup is there — with the exception of Josh Hamilton, who is a huge question mark — and their pitching is good as well.
The only thing standing in their way are the other teams in the West. The Athletics — despite an offseason deconstruction — always seem to be in the mix, and the Mariners are very good as well. It will be exciting to see what happens.
2014 National League Division Winners
East – Nationals (96-66): Without question, the number one team to watch throughout the 2015 season is the Washington Nationals. After putting together a 96-win season last year — winning the National League East division by a major league best 17 games over the Braves — the Nationals could likely make a run at 100 wins if they put out the exact same roster from 2014. But their roster is better than last season — much better.
Picking up Max Scherzer who has gone 39-8 with a 3.02 ERA over the past two seasons, their pitching staff is the top one or two in all of baseball. If Scherzer can continue to pitch as he has over the recent history of his career, and if supposed phenoms Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg can finally put up super star caliber numbers, the sky is truly the limit for what appears to be an extremely dominant Nationals team.
Central – Cardinals (90-72): I am a strong believer that the National League Central Cubs will make a run at the postseason as soon as 2015, but they by no means will win 100 games. The Cardinals, though, stand a chance, however slight it may be. Given, it would have to be a ten win jump from their record in 2014, the Cardinals are one of those teams that could surprise some people.
With a decent rotation that includes the always reliable Adam Wainwright, and a lineup that possesses All-Star catcher Yadier Molina, who can make any pitcher look like a former Cy Young winner, the Red Birds will win a lot of games moving forward. The division isn’t extremely strong, and their track record has proven that the Cardinals can go on a run with the best of them. Still, it won’t likely add up to a 100-win year for them.
West – Dodgers (94-68): A pitching rotation that includes Clayton Kershaw is always sure to be a terrific one. But the Dodgers’ staff doesn’t begin and end with Kershaw. He’s their best pitcher, no doubt, but the addition of Brandon McCarthy to go along with Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu will go a long way in a 2015 quest for 100+ wins.
But the Dodgers will be without on and off superstar Matt Kemp in the outfield — the hope is that Joc Pederson will fill the role there — and the loss of Dee Gordon and Dan Haren will certainly have an impact. The lack of those players could be enough to keep them from winning the division like they were able to do in 2014.
Nonetheless, despite all of the losses, the pickup of veteran infielder Jimmy Rollins in addition to promising backstop Yasmani Grandal should lead to a decent enough lineup. If I had to guess, though, the Giants will be riding them too closely for the Dodgers to break 100 wins.
In conclusion, while every season is unpredictable, this year could see a 100-game winner (or two) for the first time in four seasons. But even if that doesn’t happen, there are teams such as the Cubs, White Sox and Padres who will make legitimate playoff runs after failing to do so in quite some time. That alone is enough to cause any baseball fan to continue counting down the days until Opening Day.
Monday was certainly a big day in the baseball world.
Not only did one of the game’s biggest stars sign a contract unprecedented in the history of the sport — or any sport anywhere for that matter — but a catcher from the Steel City was locked up by the Blue Jays long term, and the Cardinals and Braves swapped players to help fill each others needs.
It was all very interesting to follow.
Giancarlo Stanton kicked off the news filled day, finally signing the mammoth contract that everyone knew would eventually come. While many people predicted it would come from a team other than the Marlins, the Marlins were in fact the team that got a deal with Stanton done.
A team that was at the bottom, in terms of team combined payroll, this past season, the Marlins locked up Stanton to a 13-year, 325 million dollar deal (the largest in the history of North American sports).
In addition to being so large, Stanton’s deal comes with a full no-trade clause — previously unheard of for the Marlins’ franchise — as well as an opt-out clause after the 2020 season. Having just turned 25 year old, the Marlins logic behind this major contract to such an impact player, who has legitimate 40+ home run a season potential, can easily be understood.
Despite a season ending injury in September, Stanton posted career numbers this year, batting .288 with 37 home runs and 105 RBI’s, and finishing second in National League Most Valuable Player voting.
Tied with Dan Uggla for the most home runs in Marlins’ franchise history, with 154, Stanton will undoubtedly pass that mark early on in 2015, having hit over 20 home runs every single year of his five career seasons. A two-time All-Star, Stanton will surely go on to set numerous records while in a Marlins uniform now that this contract is officially in place, and could go down as one of the best sluggers in baseball history once all is said and done.
Also getting signed on the day was veteran catcher, Russell Martin, who agreed to an 82 million dollar contract over the course of the next five years from the Blue Jays.
Playing his last two seasons with the Pirates, after time spent between the Yankees and the Dodgers since his debut in 2006, Martin has been an up and down player over the course of his career, but should be an impact player for the Jays.
A three-time All-Star, Martin had a break out season in 2014, hitting .290 with 11 home runs and 67 RBI’s over 111 games played.
Previously a combined .234 hitter over his past five seasons, including a career low .211 in 2012, Martin truly made a name for himself this past year, and should make the Blue Jays glad they snagged him.
While Giancarlo Stanton and Russell Martin both signed contracts with their given teams, there was a big trade between the Cardinals and Braves that everyone was talking about as well.
The Cardinals received Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden in exchange for Shelby Miller and minor league prospect Tyrell Jenkins, who got sent back to the Braves. Though none of these players can be categorized as major stars, at least as of yet, they all have the ability to be key pieces of each team moving forward, and the trade truly made sense for both sides.
With their starting rotation being one of their many issues from the 2014 season, the additions of Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins (both former first round draft picks) will likely do wonders for the Braves in the coming years.
Miller, who hasn’t yet been the consistent starter many envision him becoming, was decent in 2014, posting a 3.74 ERA on the season. As was Jenkins, who notched an ERA just above three over 13 minor league starts this year. Each of them have the capability to be standout players.
In the same way that the Braves needed starting pitching, the Cardinals found themselves in need of a good everyday right fielder, after the unexpected loss of their future superstar right fielder, Oscar Taveras. Jason Heyward certainly fills that role, though he hasn’t yet lived up to his superstar potential.
While Heyward has won a couple of Gold Gloves in his career with the Braves, making a lone All-Star appearance in his rookie season, he’s only a career .262 hitter. In addition, since a breakout year in 2012 when Heyward blasted 27 home runs and drove in 82 runs, he hasn’t notched more than 14 homers or upwards of 58 RBI’s in any single season.
Even so, Heyward is the type of player that can instantly improve any club he’s on. Gaining him (along with Jordan Walden, who posted a 2.88 ERA in 2014) can only help the Cardinals as they look to make another playoff run in 2015.
After a fantastic outing by their starting pitcher, Jordan Zimmermann, the Washington Nationals appeared to be on their way to tying up the National League Division Series at a game apiece with the San Francisco Giants when they held a 1-0 lead heading into the top of the ninth inning on Saturday night. But a Pablo Sandoval RBI double, which extended his postseason hitting streak to thirteen straight games, quickly let the air out of an ecstatic Nationals team.
And things only got worse from there.
With the Nationals failing to win the game in the bottom of the ninth, the game proceeded to remain scoreless for the following eight innings. Upon reaching the 18th inning, the game subsequently tied the record for number of innings in postseason game history, set back in 2005.
Following the extended run drought, the Giants finally changed things in the top of the 18th inning with a solo shot off the bat of Brandon Belt, who was previously 0-6, giving the Giants a 2-1 lead.
The Nationals would send Danny Espinosa, Denard Span, Anthony Rendon — whose four hits on the night set a new franchise playoff record — and Jayson Werth to the plate in the bottom half, but they did little of anything against the Giants’ flamethrower, Hunter Strickland.
With the final out recorded, the game officially broke the playoff record for game length of 5 hours and 50 minutes set in 2005, lasting a staggering 6 hours and 23 minutes. The series now heads to San Francisco, with the Giants one win away from advancing to the National League Championship Series.
Although it’s not decided yet who the Giants will play if they wind up overtaking the Nationals, either the Dodgers or the Cardinals will be in for a battle. I have to admit I didn’t give the Giants, who have now won ten straight postseason games, nearly enough credit with my postseason predictions. They really have impressed me so far.
Having won the World Series in 2010 and 2012, they’re somewhat jokingly (and somewhat seriously) in line to possibly win the World Series again, in this yet another even calendar year. Although the Fall Classic is another couple of weeks away, and the Giants have several key games to get through first before they have any shot at World Series glory, you have to be happy with how things are looking if you’re a fan of the Giants.
For the third straight season I made preseason predictions as to how I felt each division would play out, and for the third 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. However, with that said, last year when I did playoff predictions for the very first time I correctly predicted the World Series matchup of the Cardinals taking on the Red Sox. Unfortunately, I picked the Cardinals to come out victorious, which ultimately didn’t happen, but I was still thrilled that I successfully picked the final two teams.
This year, though, I hope to take it one step further and get the World Series winner correct as well. 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 play out. You never can tell what may happen in October.
WILD CARD GAMES (AL September 30th & NL October 1st)
American League: Royals Vs. Athletics
Both the Royals and Athletics have had their share of ups and downs throughout the 2014 season. Neither one has a group of players that makes them definitively better than the other, and that makes it hard to predict the winner of the one game, win or go home matchup. Even so, I’m picking the Royals to pull out the win over the visiting A’s. While their offense has struggled at times, their bullpen is one of the best in baseball. If the Royals can go into the late innings with a lead, it’s as close to a sure thing as you can get.
National League: Pirates Vs. Giants
The Pirates made it to the postseason in 2013 for the fist time since 1992, winning the Wild Card game against the Reds and moving on to the division series only to be beaten out by the Cardinals. This time around, however, I don’t even have them making it that far. The Giants are looking to come into town and pick up the win that will ensure a five game series against the Nationals, and I feel that their pitching, as well as their overall offense, outranks the Pirates’ team in a one game situation.
AMERICAN LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES (Begins October 2nd)
Angels Vs. Royals
Although I have the Royals winning the Wild Card game against the Athletics, I don’t see their first playoff run since 1985 lasting past the division series. Going up against a really good offensive Angels team, the Royals will certainly be in for a challenge if they want to prove me wrong. The only question mark for the Angels that would give the Royals a true chance is their starting pitching. With no true ace that you can count on, you never know how the Angels will fare. But I think they will hit just enough to win the series.
Orioles Vs. Tigers
This is going to be a very good series matchup, and I can’t really say for sure who will win. But I’m going with my gut that the Tigers will find a way to get the job done, despite their flaws. While the Orioles have one of the best hitting clubs in baseball, with major threats up and down the lineup, their pitching isn’t nearly as deep as the Tigers. If they want to make things hard on the Tigers, they’ll have to post some great pitching performances. But although that could happen, I see the Tigers moving on to the championship series.
NATIONAL LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES (Begins October 3rd)
Nationals Vs. Giants
The Nationals taking on the Giants would be a good series, but I don’t think it will be too difficult for the Nationals to move on. Taking nothing away from the Giants, who are certainly a good team of players, I don’t feel they stack up against the Nationals very well at all. The Nationals have very few holes from top to bottom in both their offense and pitching. With five good starters that can go out and win big games when you need them to, it would take nothing short of a disaster for the Nats to get beaten out by the Giants.
Dodgers Vs. Cardinals
Pairing two of the best teams in the National League against one another, this is by far the best guaranteed-to-happen matchup of the postseason, in my mind. While the other games are sure to be exciting, this series could easily come down to a game five, with either team taking the division series title. With the Cardinals and Dodgers both having amazing teams, it’s basically a coin flip for which one will move on. But I have to give a slight edge to the Dodgers — however slight an edge it may be.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES (Begins October 10th)
Angels Vs. Tigers
As good as the Tigers pitching staff can be, and as bad as the Angels staff can be, it was difficult for me to select the Angels as the winners of the series. But I feel the Angels have a good enough team to beat out the Tigers, should they have any sort of issues scoring runs or pitching well, which I envision them having. Though many people are picking the Tigers to make it to the World Series, with some going as bold with their predictions as to giving them the World Series title, I have that spot reserved for the Angels.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES (Begins October 11th)
Nationals Vs. Dodgers
Another sure to be great series against two great teams, this is yet again a nearly impossible matchup to predict (as many of them are). If the Nationals end up taking on the Dodgers in the National League Championship series as I’m predicting, the baseball world could be in for some extremely thrilling games. Both teams have good pitching staffs and offenses that can seemingly score at will at times. What it will come down to is which of the teams is hot at the right time. For me, I’m putting my money on the Dodgers.
WORLD SERIES (Begins October 21st)
Angels Vs. Dodgers
A World Series matchup between the Angels and Dodgers would be incredible for baseball fans everywhere around the country. Not only are the two ballparks a mere thirty miles apart, but this would also be a Fall Classic matchup of two of the best teams in their given divisions. With both the Dodgers and Angels having good lineups, this could be a back and forth series. But regardless of their pitching being an issue, I feel the Angels will find a way to go the distance, coming out on top over the Dodgers.
Leave a comment with who you have winning the World Series. I’d love to hear your picks.
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 for 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 most 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.
Sunday marked the last day of MLB games until after the All-Star break, and although the baseball world is looking forward to seeing Giancarlo Stanton put on a show in tonight’s home run derby (he’s the favorite to win), I wanted to focus my attention on the players who have posted amazing performances throughout the first half of the season.
For this post, I’m covering the players who I feel stand the best chance right now (given, it’s still early) of winning the three major awards of Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year and Cy Young. All three awards have multiple players who can be argued as being deserving, but I have my own opinion as to who deserves each award the most at this point in the season.
Most Valuable Player Award
American League: This is finally the year that Mike Trout wins the American League Most Valuable Player award. At least, that’s what many people are hoping. After posting amazing stats each of the past two seasons (25+ HR’s, 30+ SB’s) many felt Trout deserves to have already won an MVP or two in his career (each year the MVP went to Miguel Cabrera).
Even so, while there are a few other players being Nelson Cruz, Edwin Encarnacion and the always consistent Miguel Cabrera in the conversation, the Angels are nearing the top of the division thanks to another great season from Trout, who’s at the top of his game.
National League: Troy Tulowitzki is having an amazing year. Andrew McCutchen is having an even better season than the MVP one he put together last year. But Giancarlo Stanton is doing something extremely special.
No, he doesn’t have the astronomical batting average that Tulo possesses (mid .300’s), but Stanton’s power bat is keeping a counted out Marlins team in the running, despite some rough patches as of late.
Whether or not the Marlins turn things around is yet to be seen, but even if they don’t, Stanton is doing enough for him to pick up the NL MVP, in my mind.
Rookie of the Year Award
American League: It’s very likely that the running for the 2014 AL Rookie of the Year award is going to come down to two players once all is said and done — Jose Abreu and Masahiro Tanaka. On the offensive side, Abreu’s closest rival is George Springer, who’s been one of the few bright spots for the Astros, but is batting in the low .200’s.
Abreu leads all rookies in hits, homers, slugging percentage and RBI’s, and while Masahiro Tanaka has been the pitching equivalent of Abreu — leading rookies in wins — a recent UCL injury to Tanaka will likely push Abreu over the top.
National League: Despite getting off to a slow start to his rookie campaign, speedster Billy Hamilton has made adjustments that have enabled him to succeed on the major league level.
Although thought of as mainly a speed threat — having stolen 38 bases so far this year — Hamilton has also proven to many that he can handle the bat.
Showing a little power, blasting six home runs, and coming through big, leading all National League rookies in RBI’s, with 38, Hamilton is truly the only current above average NL candidate for the Rookie of the Year award.
Cy Young Award
American League: Scott Kazmir and Masahiro Tanaka (and even Garrett Richards) are arguably in the running for American League Cy Young, but as of right now, Felix Hernandez is the front runner. Finally receiving some run support, Hernandez holds an 11-2 record to go along with a dismal 2.12 ERA over twenty games started this year.
Striking out nearly ten batters per nine innings pitched, the Mariners’ ace has proven why he’s been coined “The King” in Seattle. Hernandez could very well be crowned with the Cy Young award when the end of the season arrives.
National League: In my opinion, the NL Cy Young is Adam Wainwright’s to lose at this point. Though the runner up to Wainwright in ERA, Johnny Cueto (Kershaw doesn’t yet qualify due to innings pitched), has a legitimate case for the Cy Young, Wainwright has been unbelievable this season.
Holding opponents to a mere 1.83 ERA, Wainwright has played a big part in keeping the Cardinals near the top of the division, sitting just one game back of the first place Brewers. If Wainwright can keep up the amazing pitching, he could receive his first career Cy Young award for his 2014 campaign.
Whether or not you agree or disagree with my picks for who deserves each award at this point in the season, one thing is for sure: there is still a lot of season left where any player can have anything happen. With 17 of the 30 teams at .500 or better, in terms of win-losses go, regardless of the award races, the games following the mid-summer classic are sure to make for one of the most exciting second halves in years.
It was a rather intriguing story line when the Brewers were leading the National League central division after the first full month of the season. It was somewhat of an impressive feat when they were still leading the division after the first two months had passed. But now that we’re just a couple of weeks away from the All-Star break and the Brewers are still on top, it’s beginning to become one of the most discussed topics in all of baseball.
Predicted by many to do poorly this season (I had them finishing fourth), with the seemingly average team the Brewers have and the difficult division in which they play, the fact that the Brewers currently sit 5.5 games ahead of the second place Cardinals is incredible — especially after the Cardinals won the division fairly easily last year, with the Brewers ending up 23 games back.
But while most of the baseball world counted out the Brewers for 2014, their players felt they had just as good of a shot as anyone, which is proving to be true. “We felt good about our situation,” said Brewers’ second baseman, Rickie Weeks, on Thursday. “Obviously, a lot of the media didn’t. That’s one of the things that keeps us together in this clubhouse.”
Having achieved the most wins in all of baseball (only the Athletics have a better winning percentage), and holding the largest division lead of any other team over the second place opponent, the Brewers making the playoffs is no longer a long shot as it appeared to be at the beginning of the year. It has now become a really good possibility.
Off to the best start halfway through the season (81 games) in their franchise’s history, the Brewers not only have momentum on their side, they also have statistics. Since the Wild Card was introduced in 1995, 69 percent of teams (82 out of 118) in first place at the halfway point have made the playoffs, with 61 percent (72 out of 118) holding on to win their division.
One of the biggest reasons for the surprising performance by the Brewers as a whole has been their consistent game play by their individual players. Jonathan Lucroy, one of the game’s most underrated catchers, has done a fantastic job both defensively behind the plate as well as offensively. And despite a slightly down season for Ryan Braun (he’s still making a good contribution), Carlos Gomez, Aramis Ramirez, and Scooter Gennett are all doing their share, with Khris Davis and Mark Reynolds providing a good deal of power, regardless of their low batting averages.
On the pitching side of things, Kyle Lohse has really stepped up his game this year, doing a great job of giving the Brewers opportunities to win ballgames, and with the exception of a couple of rough starts, Yovani Gallardo has been a valuable asset as well. With a closer like Francisco Rodriguez, who currently leads baseball in saves, coming on in the ninth inning to shut down games, the Brewers have a really solid team no matter how you look at it.
With just 14 games remaining until the All-Star break, the Brewers find themselves on the verge of making some more history by surpassing the old franchise record of 54 wins at the break. That would certainly be an amazing feat. But I’m sure the majority of the Brewers would tell you, having made the World Series just once back in 1982 (they lost), their main focus is on making it deep into October.
For the past several years, the Houston Astros have been somewhat of a laughingstock among Major League Baseball, with some people going as far as calling them a Triple-A caliber team at best. Losing over 100 games each of the past two seasons, things weren’t looking any more promising for this season, as many people predicted that the Astros could lose another 100 games in 2014.
However, while the Astros are likely to still finish last in their division, and still might reach 100 losses, they appear to be slowly turning the corner.
The biggest reason for that turn has been two of their many top prospects getting the call up to the big leagues.
First it was George Springer, who blasted 10 homers in his first month, and now it’s Jonathan Singleton, who was signed to a controversial five year, ten million dollar deal, worth a potential thirty-five million, before he ever had an at-bat on the major league level.
Hitting .267 with 14 home runs and 43 RBI’s at Triple-A before his call up, Singleton didn’t disappoint in his debut on Tuesday night against the Angels. Going 1-3 for the game, Singleton drew a bases loaded walk and blasted his first career home run — just the fourth Astros player to ever hit a home run in their first game — providing a couple of runs in the Astros’ 7-2 win over the Angels.
Overall, Singleton looked really comfortable at the plate, and along with Springer and the rest of the players currently on the Astros, they’re already becoming a good team. But even with these talented prospects now beginning to produce for the big league team — the only true power hitters for the Astros besides Chris Carter and Matt Dominguez — it’s still going to be awhile before the Astros are making any sort of playoff run. But, thankfully, the Astros have a ton of help on the way that should transform them into a competitive team.
Making their way to Houston include prospects Carlos Correa, the first overall draft pick in 2012, Mark Appel, the first overall pick in 2013, along with Delino De Shields, Lance McCullers and Mike Foltynewicz. Each of them are part of the top 100 prospects list, and with the majority of them being future game changers, it should be interesting to see how good the Astros can become within the next few years.
With the Astros set to add yet another potential star player to their organization on Thursday night, when they receive their third straight first overall pick in the 2014 MLB draft, their prospect list continues to grow and grow. And thus, it should all spell success at some point down the road, once their key prospects reach the major leagues and begin to contribute to the recently struggling club.
On Friday, the ballot for the 2014 Major League Baseball All-Star game, set to take place up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at Target Field on July, 15th, was released, giving baseball fans all across the country the ability to pick which players they’d like to see in the starting lineups of the midsummer classic.
With more and more attention being given to the All-Star game as years pass (a record 40.2 million ballots were cast in 2012), and with there being so many top quality candidates to choose from, the voting has become extremely intriguing.
To cast your vote, you can head down to your local ballpark and pick up a ballot, or, the easiest of ways, just head to MLB.com and fill out an online ballot with the player you feel most deserves the honor for each position. You have up to 25 votes (35 if you’re a registered member with MLB.com) that you can use.
Voting doesn’t end until July 3rd, but I’m not waiting (at least not completely).
I went ahead and cast half of my eligible 35 votes today for the players who I feel would deserve to make the All-Star team if it were being played tomorrow, with a plan for my remaining picks to be cast much closer to time. A lot of things can change, and therefore, my picks will subsequently change as well. However, for the sole purpose of this blog post, I figured I’d reveal the players I voted for, with the reasoning behind my picks:
FIRST BASE: Albert Pujols (AL), Paul Goldschmidt (NL)
With the great start he’s had so far this season, picking Albert Pujols was an easy choice. Though there are several other great candidates, including Miguel Cabrera, who just recently moved back over to first, and rookie phenom, Jose Abreu, who’s off to a fast start to his major league career, it was Pujols who had the overall package, posting a solid campaign for comeback player of the year.
For the National League side of the vote, it was a bit more difficult, with even more great candidates. From Brandon Belt’s fantastic, breakout start, to the always consistent Freddie Freeman, it was hard to settle with the decision I came to of picking Paul Goldschmidt. However, after the breakout season he had in 2013, and the fact that he isn’t letting up, he’s done enough to earn him my vote.
SECOND BASE: Robinson Cano (AL), Neil Walker (NL)
Though his power numbers have yet to show up so far this season, as many predicted with his move to the Mariners, I voted for Robinson Cano to start at second for the All-Star game. He’s still been fairly consistent at the plate this season, and his defensive skills are always fun to watch. While both Jason Kipnis and Dustin Pedroia were considered, Cano, in my mind, is the best choice at the moment.
I never thought I’d cast a vote for Neil Walker over the walking web gem that is Brandon Phillips, but that’s exactly what I did. Walker is off to a fantastic start to the year, and while Phillips hasn’t slowed down with his glove handiwork, he’s been a bit slow at the plate thus far. If he can pick it up offensively, he’ll likely earn the fan’s vote, but for now, I’m sticking with the Pirates’ Walker.
SHORTSTOP: Derek Jeter (AL), Troy Tulowitzki (NL)
Statistically, Alexei Ramirez probably deserves the starting shortstop role more than Derek Jeter, having one of the fastest starts of anyone in baseball, and the best kickoff to his career. However, with this being his final season (and Jeter being my favorite player), I had to vote for Jeter. The model of consistency, Jeter in all likelihood will be making his final All-Star start come July.
Troy Tulowitzki has always had the potential to be one of the top players in all of baseball, however, health has played a big role in hindering that caliber player from showing up. But with Tulo fully healthy, he’s begun to show signs of his full potential, and has been doing fantastic so far for the Rockies. While Andrelton Simmons and Hanley Ramirez would be great picks, mine goes to Tulowitzki.
THIRD BASE: Evan Longoria (AL), David Wright (NL)
In voting for the American League third baseman, though Josh Donaldson has, arguably, gotten off to the best start of any third baseman in baseball, I went with Evan Longoria. While Donaldson could definitely earn the All-Star spot should he continue his great play, Longoria has always been able to be consistent for the Rays. He should be able to do enough to earn the honor yet again.
Pedro Alvarez and Nolan Arenado have both begun the 2014 season on a high note, however, with David Wright having a good year as well so far, and factoring in his track record, my ballot saw Wright as the pick for third base. Wright always seems to have the numbers to warrant an All-Star selection, and I feel he’ll likely make the cut this time around as well.
CATCHER: Matt Wieters (AL), Yadier Molina (NL)
With Brian McCann heading from the NL to the AL this offseason, many felt he would be an immense impact as he has been over the years. But while he certainly has been great, he hasn’t had the fastest start to the season among catchers. Matt Wieters has had a career season so far, really producing well for the Orioles, and if he can keep it up, he very well could overtake McCann in the voting.
When it comes to picking the National League catcher, it truly is a tough choice. There are several great ones to pick from, many of which have been All-Stars before, and the great seasons so far by those players makes it nearly impossible to say which one player stands above the rest. With that said, however, I went with Yadier Molina, who does nearly everything well on the field, and deserves another selection.
DESIGNATED HITTER: Nelson Cruz
Being just an American League category, there weren’t too many players to pick from, so it came down to David Ortiz and Nelson Cruz for me. While David Ortiz is usually the obvious choice, Cruz is having a career season so far, and he might receive the All-Star votes needed if he can keep up his hot start. However, don’t count out Ortiz, as he could heat up as July continues to approach.
It’s never easy to narrow down 90 players to just six (three for each league), especially when you could make a strong case for a dozen of the outfield choices for each league, but it’s a requirement when casting a ballot. So, while I voted for the players who I felt were All-Star caliber players at the moment, there are a few more I would’ve liked to vote for, but couldn’t. Keep that in mind when reading the outfielders I selected for the American League and National League:
Mike Trout, Carlos Beltran, Jose Bautista (AL)
All three of these players are off to tremendous starts to the season, with all three standing a good shot at making the All-Star team this year. Mike Trout is, arguably, the best player in the game today, constantly making great plays and showing off his power at the plate, with Carlos Beltran and Jose Bautista possessing some of the best power baseball has to offer. Everything together, they all deserve consideration.
Ryan Braun, Giancarlo Stanton, Andrew McCutchen (NL)
As with most categories, the National League has more players overall that have an argument each season to be an All-Star. For this season, I voted for Ryan Braun (unfortunately), Giancarlo Stanton and Andrew McCutchen, as while I’m against Braun for his PED use, he’s still a good player. But with that said, I felt a lot better about choosing Stanton and McCutchen than I did Braun.
Do you agree or disagree with my picks? Leave a comment below.