Could We See Multiple 50-Homer Players in 2016?

Ever since Babe Ruth burst onto the scene in 1919 with his single-season record breaking year of 29 home runs (more than some entire teams back then) — subsequently leading to his many superstar seasons that included 60 home runs in 1927 — baseball has been in love with the long ball. In fact, ever since 1983 there has been at least one player each and every season to hit 40 or more home runs, showing just how much baseball has come to depend on the big fly.Ruth

With 40 home runs no longer being quite the extraordinary feat that it was back when Ruth was in the middle of his Hall of Fame career — nine total players hit 40+ in 2015 — the new number of astonishment has risen to 50 or more homers in a season, which hasn’t been done in the past two seasons.

The most recent player with 50 or more homers in a season was Chris Davis in 2013, when he hit 53 with the Orioles. But I feel that there is a good chance of at least one player basting 50 homers in 2016, with the slightest of chances that multiple players accomplish the feat.

While more than one player hitting 50+ home runs would seem somewhat unlikely, it’s not as rare as you might think. Sure it’s tough to do, but it was done as recently as 2007 when Alex Rodriguez (54 homers) and Prince Fielder (50 homers) did just that. It was also done in 2006, 2002, 2001, 1999-1996, 1961, 1947 and 1938, with four players hitting 50 or more in both 1998 and 2001.

I don’t see another 1998 or 2001 on our hands, but I do feel that 2016 could become the 12th season in MLB history with two or more players hitting over 50 home runs in a single season.

Of all of the player in baseball, there are three who I feel stand the best shot at 50 this season: Giancarlo Stanton, Chris Davis and Bryce Harper.

Giancarlo Stanton was injured for most of the 2015 season, but as history has shown, he has just as much power as anyone in baseball right now, and is right up there with the all time great power hitters. In the 74 games he did play in 2015, Stanton blasted 27 home runs. If you were simply to double those numbers, Stanton would’ve theoretically hit 54 home runs in 148 games played. While those numbers can’t be taken literally, due to them being mere projections, Stanton undoubtedly has 50+ home run potential, and with the Marlins moving in the fences, I think 2016 will finally be his year if he can stay healthy.

50HomersBut even though Stanton has the best shot at 50, I think Chris Davis, who is no stranger to big production numbers, has a good chance as well. In 2015, Davis hit 47 home runs, but had 4-5 additional homers robbed by fantastic plays in the outfield over the season. Even so, Davis actually has a 50-homer season under his belt, as previously stated, hitting 53 in 2013. Returning to the Orioles for the next seven seasons, Davis is likely to hit well over 200 home runs over the course of that contract, and I could easily see him popping 50 of them in 2016 alone.

The last of the players on my top three 50 homer candidates list is Bryce Harper. He’s still extremely young, at just 23 years old, but having hit 42 home runs last season, I could envision 50 from him in 2016. His power is undeniable, and with him taking a fantastic approach at the plate last year — either drawing a walk or waiting for his pitch and crushing it — I think Harper will continue to produce MVP caliber numbers for the next several seasons. Whether or not he surpasses 50 homers in 2016 is yet to be seen, but it is certainly not out of the question.

Despite the fact that Spring Training hasn’t even begun, it’s never too early to glance towards the regular season, and I have the feeling that 2016 is going to be an unbelievable year around Major League Baseball. Although there’s the chance that my prediction is way off and no players at all hit 50 or more home runs this coming season, the potential for it to occur is there. That’s more than enough reason to get people around the baseball world excited for the regular season to get underway in less than two months.

My Vote for 2015 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 it’s important that an MVP winner had a great statistical year, the best offensive player doesn’t automatically become the most valuable.Donaldson

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 Josh Donaldson, Mike Trout, and even Chris Davis, 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.

Chris Davis posted some unbelievable stats in 2015, of 47 home runs and 117 RBI’s all while hitting a solid .262. Whenever a player does that, they have to at the very least be acknowledged as a valuable member of their given team. Even so, while Davis was arguably the most valuable Orioles player, he was by no means the most valuable player in all of the American League.

That honor came down to Mike Trout (once again) and Josh Donaldson. But while Trout had another incredible statistical season, in which he brought a tremendous amount of value, he won’t be picking up his second straight MVP. Despite an elite on base percentage of .402, along with 41 homers, Trout didn’t quite put up the numbers needed to win the award.

In my opinion, and the opinion of many others around the baseball world, Josh Donaldson is the best choice for the 2015 American League Most Valuable Player award. All season long, Donaldson came up big for the Blue Jays time and time again. Although the likes of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion did their fare share of carrying the team, it was Donaldson leading the charge. With his 41 homers, league-leading 123 RBI’s and batting average of .301, Donaldson truly earned the MVP.

Orioles Losing Pieces As the Offseason Rolls Along

After around a dozen Baltimore Orioles players from the 2014 season declared free agency, you knew it was only a matter of time before the O’s began to lose at least a few of those players to other teams. Nelson+Cruz+Texas+Rangers+v+Baltimore+Orioles+sPqX6mLlElhl

However, that doesn’t make things any easier for the Orioles or their fans, as after losing breakout slugger Nelson Cruz to the Mariners they are now losing long time Oriole Nick Markakis to the Braves.

Cruz officially departed the team a few days ago, when he signed a four-year contract with the Mariners worth 58 million dollars, choosing to head to Seattle after a mega-breakout season with the Orioles in 2014.

Coming off a performance enhancing drug scandal in 2013, Cruz proceeded to dominate last season, blasting a major league leading 40 home runs while driving in 108 runs and hitting a solid .271.

While those numbers came at Camden Yards, Cruz should still have a good deal of power at Safeco Field — a place known to not be a very hitter friendly ballpark. Combined with a lineup of Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager, who just recently signed a seven-year extension worth 100 million dollars, the Mariners look to be in good shape for 2015.

Another team that would appear to be improving and shaping up for a good 2015 season is the Atlanta Braves. Picking up Nick Markakis — the second big free agent loss for the Orioles thus far — to fill the right field spot left vacant by the trade of Jason Heyward, the Braves found themselves a nice replacement in the outfield.

MarkakisMarkakis continued a string of solid statistical seasons last year, hitting .276 while blasting 14 homers and recording 50 RBI’s. Getting a four-year, 44 million dollar deal from the Braves, Markakis should provide them with a good leadoff option beginning in 2015.

By also adding former Orioles pitcher Jim Johnson to their bullpen for a mere 1.6 million dollars, the Braves should see some improvement in 2015 if all goes as planned.

But while the loss of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis are sure to have an affect on the Orioles moving forward, things seemingly aren’t over yet.

Dominant free agent reliever Andrew Miller is also going to be on the move following a 62.1 inning season in which he posted a 2.02 ERA while striking out 103 and limiting opponents to a .153 batting average, after coming over from the Red Sox midseason. He will undoubtedly be a valuable pickup for whichever team signs him.

With the key losses that have already occurred for the Orioles, and with there soon to be even more triming to their overall roster, many people are wondering where it all will cause the Orioles to fall in 2015. In my opinion, that’s a very good question.

The Orioles still have a solid depth of starting pitching, including Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, and Kevin Gausman, as well as a decent bullpen, consisting of pitchers such as Zach Britton, Tommy Hunter and Darren O’Day. However, while they could get by with the pitchers they have, you can never have too much pitching.Miller

In my mind, the Orioles need to add a bit more depth to their bullpen. With the looming loss of Andrew Miller, the Orioles have a hole or two to fill in the back end of games. But they still have plenty of time to do so and plenty of options to choose from.

What the Orioles currently have none of, however, is outfield depth, after the loss of Markakis. With Adam Jones performing at an All-Star level being a given, the rest of their outfield options, including Steve Pearce, who had a career high 21 homers in 2014, remain a question mark. (Reportedly, there have been talks of a trade to bring Matt Kemp over from the Dodgers, but that’s yet to take off.)

Coming off a 96-win season, the Orioles very well could play to that level if the season began tomorrow, especially with the return of Matt Wieters and Manny Machado, who both experienced some health issues last season. However, in the more likely scenario, they would take a bit of a fall in the standings, which is why some changes need to be made.

Reaching the playoffs in 2014, only to be swept by the Royals in the American League Championship Series, the Orioles certainly have to make some moves to help counteract the missing production of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis. Lucklily for them, we’re just 36 days removed from the World Series, leaving around four months until the start of the 2015 season for the Orioles to throw together another championship-caliber team.

Trip to the National Baseball Hall of Fame

A little over eight years ago, back in June of 2006, I took a trip with my family to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, as part of a two week journey around the Northeast. I wasn’t extremely into baseball back then, but I enjoyed it just enough that I would’ve gotten a decent experience out of the visit. However, it wasn’t meant to be. Due to major flooding in the surrounding area, the Hall of Fame was closed, and we had to settle for a visit to a nearby baseball wax museum — an interesting place, but one that obviously paled in comparison to the main attraction in town.

In the years since, I’ve become one of the biggest baseball fans you’ll ever meet, constantly following the game and studying up on the stars of today and years past. Therefore, it had slowly become a must for me to make it back to Cooperstown at some point during my life. Although I imagined a return trip would take place a couple of decades or more from the time I last made the long trek up to New York from North Carolina, a plan for my dad, grandpa and I to take another trip to the Hall of Fame was quickly orchestrated over the past few months. And thus, on the Friday after Thanksgiving, the three of us made our way to New York.

On Saturday, November 29th, we got up early and made the drive from our hotel in Binghamton, NY, over to Cooperstown, arriving at a little bit after 9:00 in the morning:

DSCN7426As you may have noticed, there was snow on both of the trees to each side of the doors, as well as icicles hanging at various lengths from the roof. The cause of the snow and ice is one element of the trip that wasn’t present in June of 2006: cold weather. Far from the warm summer temperatures of our last visit, it was fairly cold (as is to be expected in late November), with the day starting off at around 10 degrees. But, thankfully, the Hall of Fame doesn’t close for cold temperatures, and we were actually able to make it past the front door this time around.

Upon entering the Hall and purchasing our tickets, we walked up the stairs to the second floor, where we caught a brief introduction movie, before beginning the tour of the museum.

One of the first pieces of memorabilia that we saw, and one of the most interesting of the day, was an old baseball that was used to “prove” that Abner Doubleday was the inventor of baseball, back in 1839:

DSCN7427However, contrary to popular belief, Doubleday didn’t invent baseball. As the display discussed, Doubleday was given credit for the sport’s origin, but a version of baseball had been being played for numerous years prior to 1839. Although the exact inventor of baseball isn’t fully known, credit for the rules of today’s version of the game — 90 feet between bases; 9 innings; 9 players per team — was awarded to Alexander Cartwright, the “Father of Modern Baseball”.

But while the invention of baseball wasn’t Abner Doubleday’s, there was an interesting non-baseball item that was in fact his own:

DSCN7436As a lover of history, including the Civil War era, these shoulder epaulets belonging to Doubleday during the war were very cool to see. Though not directly related to baseball, I came to find that the off the wall items such as these — not just baseballs, bats, jerseys, etc. — were some of the most interesting things to see.

But the baseball memorabilia was amazing as well; especially that of baseball’s well known all-time greats, such as Honus Wagner. Playing from 1897 through 1917, mainly for the Pittsburgh Pirates, there was a locker filled with Wagner stuff, such as one of Wagner’s full uniforms (used while he was a manager):

DSCN7442Wagner’s 1909 T206 baseball card holds the record for the most valuable sports card in existence, having sold for a whopping 2.8 million dollars back in 2007. So seeing the rare items tied directly to Wagner was amazing.

But things kept getting better and better as the journey through the museum continued. Next up was an entire section dedicated to the most well known player in baseball history: Babe Ruth. Among the items on display were a baseball estimated to have been hit by Ruth over 500 feet (picture 1); Ruth’s glove from the 1926 World Series (picture 2); a display of various things, such as one of Ruth’s bats (picture 3); and an autographed Babe Ruth baseball (picture 4):

RuthFollowing the Ruth exhibit, there was an exhibit dedicated the Negro Leagues, titled “Pride and Passion: The African-American Baseball Experience”. The most well known Negro League player has to be Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball’s color barrier back in 1947, going on to be inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. However, the exhibit focused on more than just Robinson. Also included in the exhibit, that helped tell the story of the Negro Leagues, were uniforms worn by Satchel Paige (left) and James “Cool Papa” Bell (right):

Negro LeaguesPaige is likely the most widely known Negro League pitcher, having pitched three shutout innings against the Boston Red Sox in 1965 at the age of 59, becoming the oldest player ever to play in the majors. Bell, while not as much of a household name as Paige, was just as amazing in his own way. Possessing blazing speed, it was said that Bell could “turn off the light and be under the covers before the room got dark” and that Bell once “hit a ball up the middle of the field and was struck by the ball as he slid into second base”. Though merely stories people liked to tell, it goes to show just how much Bell’s speed stood out to people.

Next in line on the path through the museum was “Diamond Dreams”, which showcased the many roles that women have played throughout the history of baseball, including playing the game themselves. The 1992 movie ‘A League of Their Own’, staring Tom Hanks, Geena David and Madonna, among others, covered this very topic of women playing the baseball. And therefore, the exhibit included costumes from the movie itself:

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After spending some time reading about the history of women in baseball, the three of us then made our way through a collection of items from 1930-1970, including things used by all-time greats, Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle, before finding ourselves in a portion of the museum dedicated to Latin American baseball players, entitled ‘Viva Baseball’:

DSCN7483Although everything in the exhibit was interesting and fun to learn about, there were some items that interested me more than others. Two of the key items for me were David Ortiz’s 2004 World Series jersey (left), from the year the Red Sox broke their 86-year Championship drought, as well as a jersey worn by Albert Pujols (right) during his 2001 Rookie of the Year winning season:

LatinBoth players are likely on their way to the Hall of Fame for their careers once they retire.

The next section we came upon covered baseball up through the year 2000. Some of the top things around the exhibit were a Tom Seaver display (Seaver holds the record for highest Hall of Fame induction voting percentage, with 98.8 %) that included the red cleats from his 300th career win (picture 1); George Brett’s pine tar bat from 1983 (picture 2); Robin Yount’s batting helmet from his 3,000th hit (picture 3); and Derek Jeter’s 1998 World Series cleats (picture 4):

Today's GameAlthough I enjoyed every portion of the museum, seeing this type of stuff from players that I’ve seen countless hours of video on truly made it all the more impressive.

That’s one of the reasons I most enjoyed the last room of the second floor that had items from the last decade or so of the game. One of the great things about these items was that I could remembered seeing a lot of the unique events they were tied to take place on TV, either live or in a recap of the game. The room was organized into thirty different lockers (one for each team) positioned around the walls, with several items for each team in each locker.

Remember back in 2012 when Orioles’ slugger Chris Davis came on to finish out the marathon 16 inning game on the mound against the Red Sox after beginning the game as the designated hitter? Well, the cap Davis was wearing was there:

DSCN7516Do you recall the unbelievable home-run-robbing catch made by DeWayne Wise in 2009 to preserve Mark Buehrle’s perfect game? They had the glove he used to snag the ball:

DSCN7520In fact, pretty much anything of significance that has happened within the past number of years was included in this exhibit. The cleats Miguel Cabrera was wearing the night he secured baseball’s first Triple Crown since 1967 (picture 1); the cleats Mike Trout wore when he recorded his first career cycle (picture 2); Jim Thome’s 600th career home run (picture 3); and the cap Mariano Rivera wore during his final All-Star outing of his career in 2013 (picture 4):

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It was all there.

Also in the room — in a display case in the very center — was an arrangement of items specifically from the 2014 Major League Baseball season. Although a bat from Jose Abreu’s rookie year was awesome to see, as were the cleats Albert Pujols was wearing when he blasted his 500th career home run, the thing that stood out to me the most was the jersey worn by Mo’ne David during the Little League World Series:

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Having watched Davis pitch on T.V. throughout the series, as well as seeing her on the cover of Sports Illustrated and basically anywhere you looked, it was awesome to see the jersey used by the first girl to earn a win in Little League World Series history.

After taking in all the things from this season, and doing my best to photograph it all, we all made our way up to the third floor of the museum. There, in a Hank Aaron exhibit, we saw another unique item not directly related to baseball, like the Abner Doubleday epaulets talked about earlier — bricks from Aaron’s childhood home in Alabama:

DSCN7557But while that was awesome to see, the Hall of Fame also had the full uniform Aaron was wearing the night he passed Babe Ruth for most home runs on the all-time home run list:

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That was pretty remarkable to see after watching him hit that historic blast over and over on T.V.

However, as we all know, Aaron’s career mark of 755 home runs didn’t stand. Barry Bonds went on to pass Aaron, with his 756th home run coming on August 7, 2007. The helmet Bonds was wearing when he hit the homer was on display, as was the ball itself:

DSCN7573You may have noticed that the ball has an asterisk cut out of the cover. The story behind that lies with Marc Ecko — the person who bought the ball online for $752,467. After purchasing the baseball, Ecko held an online contest to determine its fate. Voters had three choices: put an asterisk on the ball; leave it alone; or shoot it to the moon. Around half of the ten million votes said an asterisk should be added before the balls donation. And thus became the ball you see above.

Also in this room, focusing on records and such, were some pretty incredible things. Among them was Derek Jeter’s batting gloves from his 3,000th hit game (picture 1); a cap from each of Nolan Ryan’s record seven career no-hitters (picture 2); first base from Armando Galarraga’s infamous near-perfect game (picture 3); a ball from the 2007 game in which the Rangers defeated the Orioles 30-3 (picture 4); the jersey from Roy Halladay’s postseason no-hitter in 2010 (picture 5); and, my personal favorite item, possibly of the entire museum, the glove Willie Mays used to make “The Catch” in the 1954 World Series (picture 6):

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In all, I took more pictures in this one section of the museum than any other section. It was truly amazing stuff.

Towards the end of items on the third floor was a display with memorabilia solely from the 2014 World Series between the Giants and the Royals. Watching every single inning on T.V. as it happened, is was awesome to see some items from the series in person. But the one thing that stood out the most was rookie pitcher Yordano Ventura’s cap that he wore for his game six start:

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In addition to being a standout item because of the great outing Ventura had, it’s the inscription on the cap that makes it stand out the most. After the tragic death of 22-year-old Cardinals’ prospect, Oscar Taveras, Ventura took to the mound with “RIP O.T # 18” written on his hat as a tribute to his native Dominican Republic friend. It was touching on T.V., and even more so in person.

Once we had viewed all there was to see on the third floor, my grandpa, dad and I headed down the street to grab a bite of lunch at a nearby restaurant before returning to continue walking around the Hall of Fame. Believe it or not, after over three hours spent at the Hall (and after 35 pictures and 2,000 words in this blog post), there was still more to see and do.

After returning to the Hall of Fame, we headed over to an art exhibit, which normally isn’t my thing but really intrigued me this time around. Following that, we headed through a room dedicated to this year’s Hall of Fame inductees — Joe Torre, Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa, Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux — before arriving to the Hall of Fame’s main point of interest: The Hall of Fame Gallery:

DSCN7618With the current number of Hall of Famers standing at 306 total people — 211 players, 35 negro leaguers, 28 executives, 22 managers and 10 umpires — there were a lot of plaques to cover, but we made our way around to every single one.

As with every part of the museum, there were a few portions (in this case, people) that stood out the most.

The first of such was the inaugural class of five plaques (located at the far end of the picture above), being of Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson, all of which were inducted in 1936 — three years before the Hall of Fame’s opening in 1939:

DSCN7636Standing out as a member of the Hall of Fame that isn’t necessarily as known as the everyday players such as Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Cy Young, etc., was Wesley Branch Rickey (left), accompanied by Jackie Robinson (right):

Robinson

Rickey was the person who brought Jackie Robinson to the Dodgers in 1945, making him the first African American player to break baseball’s color barrier when he made his debut two years later.

Another lesser known member is Effa Manley — the only woman in the baseball Hall of Fame:

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Manley was greatly involved in the Negro Leagues as the only woman owner among an industry of male owners. Her induction came in 2006 as a “reflection of her commitment to baseball and civil rights”.

One last person who is more known for what he did than who he was is Bill Veeck:

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Mostly known for his stunt of bringing the shortest player in MLB history to the plate in 1951 — 3 foot 7 inch tall Eddie Gaedel — Veeck made a major impact on the game, stating, “I try not to break the rules but merely to test their elasticity”.

Upon completion of viewing all of the plaques, we made a brief stop by the gift shop, where I picked up a T-shirt and a magnet to commemorate my second trip and first successful visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Following that, after half a dozen hours or so spent at the Hall of Fame, my dad, grandpa and I swung by historic Doubleday Field, which was covered in snow . . . :

DSCN7686. . . before making our way out of town and back to our hotel.

I didn’t fully know what to expect from the Baseball Hall of Fame. Sometimes you can get your hopes up so high that the actual experience fails to meet those lofty expectations. But I can honestly say that the Hall of Fame completely blew away all my expectations. It was so well set up and so greatly stocked with some incredible pieces of baseball history that there was no way I could document it all — both with my camera or in this blog post.

So, if you haven’t, go see the Hall of Fame for yourself. It’s truly something that every single baseball fan should do at least once in their lifetime. You’ll never forget it.

Home Run Derby Participants Seeing A Hitting Slump

It’s been the topic of discussion for numerous years.

According to the statistics and the players themselves, a good percentage of the sluggers who take part in the annual home run derby tend to see a major plunge in their numbers to begin the second half, with the majority of those poor stats holding at that subpar level for the remainder of the season.JoshHamiltonHomeRunDerby08b_thumb

It’s happened in the past to power hitters David Ortiz, Ryan Howard, Josh Hamilton, Chris Davis and many, many other sluggers who have taken part in the derby only to see their pre All-Star break numbers vastly overshadow the statistics they posted in the second half of the year. And once again, it’s happening this season.

How much of this apparent trend is actually a pattern and how much is due to a player’s career law of average just showing up (for example, a 30 home run player who hits 20 home runs before the All-star break only to fall into a “slump” and hit 10 after the break is still holding to their average) is vastly debated.

Some people claim that there is a major impact to a player’s swing after they do nothing but aim for the fences when crushing balls in the home run derby. For that very reason, Ortiz and Hamilton have declined any derby invitations they’ve received since their initial derby appearances, with the most recent example being Jose Abreu, who didn’t want to show off his power up at Target Field this year for fear that it would mess up his swing.

But that’s just one side of the coin.

On the other side, people seem to believe that the second half numbers a player produces after a derby are just a player returning to the previously mentioned law of averages — after all, every player goes through a slump at some point every season. However, now that two weeks have passed since the derby, with multiple players who were in the 2014 home run derby currently struggling, I’d have to go with the theory that a player’s swing is affected by the derby, at least in the short term.

Justin Morneau was a participant in this year’s derby, but he’s yet to play in any games since that point, so there are no numbers to go by, though he was batting .312 with 13 home runs and 60 runs driven in before the derby. Fellow derby and Rockies teammate, Troy Tulowitzki, is also currently injured, however he took part in two games before hitting the disabled list, recording no hits in 5 at-bats, after batting .345 with 21 homers and 52 RBI’s over the first half.

While there are no true numbers to look at for either Morneau or Tulowitzki, and thus no way to know how each player would be performing, a couple of injuries after the derby isn’t exactly a positive thing.

Of the players who aren’t on the disabled list at the moment, Brian Dozier has seen the biggest fall in numbers of them all. After getting off to a career season to get the year started, with 18 homers and 45 RBI’s, the lone hometown player to take part in the derby is now batting a mere .125 with two RBI’s on a single home run since the second half began. Also joining him with a .100’s batting average since the derby is Todd Frazier (batting .154), who has hit just one home run after slugging 19 throughout the first half.

Adam Jones and Giancarlo Stanton 53c4b41cbd0b5_preview-300are also sharing in the same fate, with both batting in the .200’s since the All-Star break.

Jones posted a .301 batting average with 16 home runs and 54 RBI’s to begin the year, and despite having fallen a bit in batting average since, he’s launched 3 homers and amassed 10 RBI’s since the break — not jaw dropping, but also not terrible.

Stanton on the other hand is doing much worse, having slugged just two home runs since the derby — a derby he lost, even though he was the heavy favorite to win — despite hitting 21 before the All-Star break.

But as has held true throughout derby history, not all players are seeing a slump.

Although he hasn’t found his power swing since the derby, Yasiel Puig is still hitting for average, having batted .333 in the past couple of weeks. However, with no home runs and just two runs batted in, after blasting 12 before the break and driving in 52 runs, he’s still not the Puig everyone has come to know.

Jose Bautista has fared fairly well since the derby, batting .333 with 3 home runs and 7 RBI’s, after batting .292 with 17 homers and 54 RBI’s in the first half, which holds fairly steady with his average pace over his career. Hitting .324 since the derby, Josh Donaldson is also holding his own, having hit a couple of homers in the second half after batting .238 with 20 homers over the first portion of the season.

The player who seems to have experienced the least amount of problems with his swing is the winner of the derby, Yoenis Cespedes, who actually looks to have improved. After batting just .254 to begin the year, Cespedes is batting .324 over the course of nearly 40 at-bats since the derby (admittedly, a small sample size). In addition, Cespedes has slugged 3 homers and driven in 10 runs in this second half, however, seeing an increase in stats after winning the home run derby in 2013, it would seem that Yoenis Cespedes is the exception to the overall derby rule.

Cabrera & Fielder Bound for Opposite Years from 2013

Prince Fielder is one of the most underrated players in all of Major League Baseball. Sure, he receives a lot of praise, and is respected in terms of how much he can affect any team he’s on, but as far as the overall value he brings, he isn’t viewed as the absurdly impactful player that he should be seen as — and that includes the impact he has on his teammates.Miguel+Cabrera+Prince+Fielder+New+York+Yankees+aX_ZhggquWAl

Going back to 2011 when Ryan Braun won the National League Most Valuable Player award — bringing controversy, as many felt Matt Kemp’s 39 home runs and 126 RBI’s deserved the honor more than Braun’s 33 homers and 111 RBI’s — Prince Fielder acted as protection for Braun in the Brewers’ lineup, batting behind him in the cleanup spot. And even so, Fielder was able to put together 38 home runs and 120 RBI’s of his own — truly amazing.

Then, in the 2012 season, after going to the Tigers, Fielder aided to Miguel Cabrera’s stats, taking him from a 30 homer, 105 RBI star the season before, to a 44 home run, 139 RBI mega superstar in 2012 — good enough to earn Cabrera the first Triple Crown award in 45 years. And once again, Fielder posted solid numbers, tallying 30 home runs and 108 RBI’s — remarkable.

Although Fielder had a somewhat down year by his standards last season, posting 25 home runs and 106 RBI’s, he still gave Cabrera added help by making pitchers pitch to him, given Fielder’s well known track record. That led to another fantastic year for Cabrera, where — if not for Chris Davis’ breakout 53 home run season — he nearly won a second straight Triple Crown award, knocking 44 home runs for the second straight year and driving in 137 runs.

That’s the incredible personal, and team, impact that Prince Fielder brings on a daily basis.

But with Fielder moving to the Rangers in the offseason, as part of a trade between the Tigers and Rangers, Cabrera could very well see his stats tumble a bit, with Fielder having a bounce back year to become more like his normal self. While Cabrera isn’t going to 3308797_Glose his stardom, and will post an amazing stat line this season, it likely won’t be the 40+ homers, 130+ RBI’s that he’s been able to amass over the past two season, as Victor Martinez will be his protection in the lineup. Not quite as threatening as Fielder.

While Ryan Braun in 2012, after Fielder’s departure, was able to post even better stats without him than he did the previous season in which he won the MVP, I don’t see Cabrera keeping up the same numbers, as Miller Park is more of a hitter friendly ballpark than Comerica Park.

Realistically, I see Cabrera having more of a 30 homer, 110 RBI season. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Many players aim for that year after year. But Cabrera has simply set the bar so high in recent years that without Fielder, I don’t see him keeping up his monster stats for three years in a row. Hopefully he’ll prove me wrong.

Just the opposite of Cabrera, I could easily see Fielder having a breakout season in 2014.

For the first time in Fielder’s career, he won’t be providing protection to someone else. Instead, he’ll be provided protection by Adrian Beltre, who is reportedly going to be batting in the cleanup spot behind Fielder, after he had so much success there in 2013. With that ballpark being a left-handed-hitting-paradise, combined with the protection of Beltre, I feel that Fielder will have a 40+ homer, 130+ RBI year, especially with newly acquired Shin-Soo Choo getting on base in front of him. Though that’s not a career year for him — Fielder hit 50 homers in 2007 and had 141 RBI’s in 2009 — it’s a major improvement from his past few seasons.

Everything combined together, the Rangers could once again have enough to beat out the Athletics in 2014, who have won the division the past two seasons. If every player plays to the best of their ability and are able to stay healthy — that shouldn’t be an issue with Fielder, who has played in 157 or more games every full season of his career — it’s very possible, although their starting pitching is a bit of a question heading into the season. It comes down to which team has the most go right.

Prince Fielder heading to the Rangers does two things: It helps the Rangers and himself, and it hurts the Tigers and Miguel Cabrera. While the Tigers and Rangers will both be competitive teams in their divisions this season, it will clearly be seen how big of an impact player Fielder is to any team he’s on.

That’s truly something to look forward to — unless you’re Miguel Cabrera.

2013 GIBBY Awards

The 2013 Greatness In Baseball Yearly (GIBBY) award winners were announced Tuesday afternoon. The GIBBY awards — which began in 2002, but were referred to as the ‘This Year In Baseball Awards’ until 2010 — are awarded annually for 23 different categories, including Rookie of the Year, Play of the Year, MVP of the Year, etc.

These awards are given to the players voted on by the fans at MLB.com, media, and front-office personnel, as the best for each category. I, as always, have my own opinions, and have included them below, along with the winners:

MVP OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Chris Davis

Winner: Miguel Cabrera

I originally picked Chris Davis for this award, however, I have no problem with Miguel Cabrera getting it instead. He was very deserving, batting .348 with 44 home runs and 137 RBI’s this season, coming up just short of a second straight Triple Crown award.

HITTER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Miguel Cabrera

Winner: Miguel Cabrera

Though I didn’t necessarily deem him as the Most Valuable (the category above), I easily picked Miguel Cabrera as the best hitter of the 2013 season. Anytime you hit in the mid 300’s, launch over 40 home runs and drive in way over 100 runs, you have my vote.

STARTING PITCHER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Clayton Kershaw

Winner: Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw had a career season; one of the best in MLB history for a pitcher. Kershaw is very deserving of this award, and there really wasn’t any competition, as no one could compete with his 1.83 ERA.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Wil Myers

Winner: Jose Fernandez

With three players having incredible rookie seasons — Wil Myers, Jose Fernandez and Yasiel Puig — it was difficult to pick just one. Therefore, while my original pick was Wil Myers, I feel Jose Fernandez is just as worthy. Fernandez’s 2.19 ERA over 28 starts is truly remarkable for a rookie.

CLOSER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Craig Kimbrel

Winner: Craig Kimbrel

While Mariano Rivera was the most followed closer of the 2013 season, after announcing his retirement this year back in March, Craig Kimbrel continued to be the most dominant. Though there were a few other closers who had great seasons, Kimbrel stood above the rest, recording 50 saves with a 1.21 ERA.

SETUP MAN OF THE YEAR

My original pick: David Robertson

Winner: Mark Melancon

This was another difficult category to pick, but I feel the right player received the award. I didn’t originally pick him, however, Mark Melancon was truly remarkable this season as the setup man for the Pirates, with an ERA of 1.39. He should continue to help out the team moving forward.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Brandon Phillips

Winner: Yadier Molina

Though I don’t really agree with Yadier Molina winning this award, I do have to acknowledge his great defensive skills behind the plate, blocking pitches better than nearly any other catcher in the game. While I still think Brandon Phillips, or a few other players, should’ve received this award, Molina is still worthy of the honor.

BREAKOUT HITTER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Matt Carpenter

Winner: Chris Davis

I really felt Matt Carpenter had a shot at this award, as he was a big part of the Cardinals’ success this season. But I suppose hitting 2o more home runs and 53 more RBI’s than 2012 stands out for Chris Davis deserving this award.

BREAKOUT PITCHER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Koji Uehara

Winner: Matt Harvey

My original pick, Koji Uehara, had a great finish to the season, and a great postseason. I thought that would be enough, however, Matt Harvey ended up taking home the award. Harvey truly had a breakout year, lowering his ERA by nearly 50 points the year before, and I’m happy he received this award.

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Mariano Rivera

Winner: Francisco Liriano

I don’t think Francisco Liriano should’ve won this award, and I’m shocked that he did. Liriano had a come back year, no doubt, but Mariano Rivera had a better one, in my opinion. With the combination of coming of an injury in 2012, pitching another great season, and retiring after the year, I would’ve thought Rivera would’ve won easily.

MANAGER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: John Farrell

Winner: John Farrell

John Farrell took a Red Sox team that finished in last place the season before and led them to winning the World Series. This was an easy category to predict, and Farrell deserves it, no question about it.

EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Billy Beane

Winner: Ben Cherington

I’m a big fan of Billy Beane and the great work he does every year, but Ben Cherington, being the general manager of the Red Sox, had a few more accolades for the award than Beane. As with John Farrell, the Red Sox winning the World Series put Cherington over the top in this category.

POSTSEASON MVP

My original pick: David Ortiz

Winner: David Ortiz

David Ortiz stood alone for this category as no other player came close to posting the stats he did. All throughout the postseason, Ortiz came up big, posting a batting average of .353 throughout October, and he truly earned this award.

PLAY OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Ben Revere’s diving catch in Cincinnati

Winner: Manny Machado’s offbalance throw in New York

The play with the biggest “wow” factor for me all season long was the catch Ben Revere made up in Cincinnati. Running back on the ball and diving at the last second to make an unbelievable catch that ended in doubling off the runner at first, Revere’s catch was one of the most amazing I’ve ever seen. But Manny Machado’s throw from foul territory to first base to nail the runner, after bobbling the ball, was remarkable as well.

MOMENT OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Mariano Rivera pitching in his final All-Star Game

Winner: David Ortiz’s speech in first Red So game after bombing

I guess I’m such a big fan of Mariano Rivera that I felt he should’ve won every award he was nominated for. But instead, the award winner was David Ortiz, for his speech he made before the first game played at Fenway Park after the Boston marathon bombings.

STORYLINE OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Mariano Rivera’s final season

Winner: Pirates making the postseason

Again, as I stated in the last category, I thought Mariano Rivera should’ve won this award as well. But the Pirates were voted the storyline of the year, finishing above .500, and making the postseason, for the first time since 1992.

HITTING PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Alfonso Soriano’s 2-homer game with 7 RBI’s

Winner: Mike Trout’s cycle

Alfonso Soriano’s two home run game in which he notched seven RBI’s was impressive, and was the one I voted for, but I really didn’t have a favorite from this category. Mike Trout’s cycle at the age of 21 won the award, and I cant really argue with that.

PITCHING PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Tim Lincecum’s no-hitter

Winner: Tim Lincecum’s no-hitter

This was a fairly simple choice, as while there were several no-hitters, Tim Lincecum’s stood out the most, with his 13 strikeouts. While Lincecum has had some ups and down over the past couple seasons, I feel he’ll have a bounce back season in 2014.

ODDITY OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Ball goes through padding for ground-rule double

Winner: ‘Hidden Ball Trick’ by Evan Longoria & Todd Helton

My original pick was a ground rule double in St. Louis that bounced between two pieces of padding in the outfield wall — I mean, what are the odds of that? But, instead, Evan Longoria and Todd Helton received the award for the “hidden ball trick” performed flawlessly by both during the season.

WALK-OFF OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Giancarlo Stanton scores on wild pitch to clinch no-hitter

Winner: Giancarlo Stanton scores on wild pitch to clinch no-hitter

Giancarlo Stanton scoring on a wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth to secure Henderson Alvarez a no-hitter, who hadn’t allowed a hit but didn’t have any run support, was hands down the best walk-off of the year. That’s something you may never see again.

CUT4 TOPIC OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Carly Rae Jepsen’s bad first pitch

Winner: Munenori Kawasaki’s Speech

Carly Rae Jepsen throwing one of the worst first pitches in baseball history down at Tropicana Field was the one I originally selected, but Munenori Kawasaki’s speech up in Toronto was the winner. I’m actually glad Kawasaki won, despite not picking him, as he is one of the funniest guys in baseball, and I still get a laugh by watching footage of his speech.

POSTSEASON MOMENT

My original pick: Allen Craig scores on obstruction

Winner: Allen Craig scores on obstruction

This was one of the most unusual endings to a postseason game in baseball history. Allen Craig scored, tripping over third baseman, Will Middlebrooks, on an obstruction call to end game three of the 2013 World Series, and it was truly an incredible, and memorable, moment.

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT

My original pick: Mariano Rivera

Winner: Mariano Rivera

Mariano Rivera is on his way to the Hall of Fame, after having one of the best careers for a pitcher in MLB history. The greatest closer in MLB history, with 652 career saves, Rivera won this award fairly easily, with the respect he has earned over the years and the stats he’s been able to put together for the Yankees.