Results tagged ‘ Giants ’
It’s been nearly a year since we last saw Tim Lincecum pitch in a Major League Baseball game, but that will soon change. After being rumored to have made Lincecum an offer earlier this week, the Angels finally made a deal with him official on Friday, signing Lincecum to a one-year contract for the 2016 season worth around two million dollars (plus incentives).
As a Lincecum fan, I’m certainly happy to see him on his way back to pitching in the majors (it’s believed that he will need a few starts in the minors to get ready), but I also find myself questioning just which Tim Lincecum the Angels are getting. After all, he’s been extremely inconsistent over the past several years.
Following a stellar start to his career, in which Lincecum recorded back-to-back Cy Young award seasons in 2008 and 2009, the former first-round pick has gone down hill ever since around the 2012 season.
After posting his final sub-three ERA year in 2011, Lincecum proceeded to see that number rocket up to 5.18 over the course of 33 starts made in 2012 (given, the Giants still went on to win the second of Lincecum’s three career World Series rings that season).
Over the past four seasons, the soon-to-be 32-year-old Lincecum has notched a collective 4.68 ERA over 106 games started, all before being shut down mid-season in 2015 due to a degenerative condition in both hips. It took Lincecum all of the offseason as well as Spring Training and the first two months of this season to get healthy, but he appears to be fully recovered from his injury, impressing many with a pitching showcase two weeks ago in Arizona.
The Angels certainly could use a fully healthy starter in their injury-plagued rotation. After the loss of Garrett Richards for the remainder of the 2016 season, who had a 2.34 ERA so far on the year, as well as Andrew Heaney (and C.J. Wilson until June), the Angels needed someone to replace some of those lost innings. They appear to have found their guy in the form of Tim Lincecum.
Sitting 4.5 games back in the American League West, the Angels have a bit of work to do but aren’t completely out of things, with it still being very early in the season. The Mariners are performing better than most people believed they would, and the Astros have been a major disappointment so far, so anything can truly happen in that division.
Although Lincecum’s old team, the Giants, are riding an eight-game winning streak, the Angels are more than capable of going on a big run and getting back into the mix. Signing Tim Lincecum goes a long way in making that a possibility.
With decent production coming from Nick Tropeano and Hector Santiago to this point, Lincecum will likely slide into the middle to back end of the Angels rotation, but that’s a step in the right direction for a guy who was predicted to inevitably have to begin his journey back into being a big leaguer as a bullpen piece. The Angels have given Lincecum a big opportunity to begin as a starter right out of the gate.
With that in mind, however, I don’t think Lincecum will let them down. In fact, I think he may turn out to be a bit better than anticipated.
Throughout his poor outings over the last several seasons, Lincecum has thrown sporadic quality games, recording a no-hitter in both the 2013 and the 2014 seasons. He’s still a major league caliber pitcher, especially now that he’s reportedly fully healthy and ready to go.
Perhaps Lincecum won’t ever be an All-Star again — as he was in four straight seasons from 2008-2011 — but the Angels don’t need him to be. They’re getting a fan-favorite, and, more importantly, a guy who knows how to win, and has proven his value over and over again throughout his career.
In the end, no matter what happens, the Angels lose nothing (besides a couple million dollars) by signing Tim Lincecum. On one hand, if Lincecum flops, they’re no worse off than if they had passed on signing him in the first place. But on the other hand, if Lincecum returns to even a portion of his former self, the Angels may have just helped their team out in a big way. It’s the definition of a low-risk, high-reward type of deal.
When it comes to a guy like Tim Lincecum, I’d take that deal every time.
When the Boston Red Sox signed Pablo Sandoval to a five-year, 95 million dollar contract heading into the 2015 season, all signs pointed towards him continuing to add to his historically good career statistics that he had posted over the previous six seasons in San Francisco.
With the Giants, Sandoval hit twelve or more homers, recorded at least 63 RBI’s and notched a batting average in the mid to upper .200’s from 2009 to 2014, before signing with the Red Sox in November of 2014. With that kind of track record, things were looking bright at third base in Boston.
But it all completely fell apart for ‘The Panda’ last season, when he really struggled offensively, hitting just .245 on the year, with career lows of just ten homers and 47 RBI’s. However, it was his poor defense at third, leading to fifteen errors, that really stood out; and that is ultimately going to keep him on the bench to begin 2016.
After two All-Star game selections and three World Series rings with the Giants, Sandoval will be on the outside looking in to begin his eighth full season in the bigs. Instead, it’s standout 2015 rookie, Travis Shaw, who received the nod from manager John Farrell to start Opening Day at the hot corner.
Following a debut season of thirteen home runs over the course of just 65 games, Shaw hit the ground running in Florida’s Grapefruit League this year, recording an average well above .300, and playing a great defense at third — much better than that of Sandoval.
However, Sandoval seems at peace with the decision for him to not start game one of the year, and fully believes he can turn things around, saying, “It was the right decision to help the team win. I’m going to be ready during the season to do my job out there.”
Nonetheless, there are many people around the baseball world who don’t hold the same level of hope for Sandoval. Showing up at Spring Training around a month ago extremely out of shape, and with rumors flying that Sandoval may wind up being traded in the near future, there is no guarantee that things will ever be the same for Sandoval, at least with the Red Sox.
Now that Shaw has been given the opportunity to play everyday at third base, I see him thriving there and keeping Sandoval from regaining his role there much at all. It will certainly be interesting to see how it all pans out.
Opening Day for the Red Sox is now less than 100 hours away, set for Monday, April 4th, up in Cleveland against the Indians. But for Pablo Sandoval, the season will begin with him serving a role similar to the 38,000 fans expected to pack the ballpark: a mere spectator.
For the fifth season in a row, I’m making predictions (you should too) as to how I feel each Major League Baseball team will fare throughout the coming season. Although I haven’t come close yet to predicting the exact finishing order of each division (I picked the Mets to finish fourth in 2015 and they made it to the World Series), it’s a new year, and with it comes a new chance to luck out and get everything right.
I posted my predictions for the 2016 American League Season on Monday, and today I’m going to give my predictions for the National League (along with my reasoning), starting with the National League East:
The Mets proved to the baseball world last season that they are a team that is finally ready to win. In the past, there had been a lot of talk surrounding the Mets that each season would finally be their year, but things inevitably fell through for them in the end. In 2015, however, they finally emerged, with Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom leading the charge and setting the tone each and every night. I expect them to have even better seasons individually this year, and with it will come more success as a whole. But although their pitching rivals that of any other squad in baseball, it’s their combination of good pitching and good offense that will seal the division title for them. Resigning Yoenis Cespedes was their biggest retention of the offseason, as he, along with veterans Curtis Granderson and David Wright, will assuredly be more than enough to push them past their rival Natinoals.
If the Nationals had signed Yoenis Cespedes as was reportedly attempted this offseason, I would have them in much better shape. Even so, I still feel a second place finish and possible Wild Card spot isn’t out of the question. Although their offense is likely going to be better this season, with a fully healthy Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman looking to slug along side of 2015 National League MVP Bryce Harper, I don’t see it as being good enough to hold off a good Mets’ pitching staff for first place. After all, the Nats seemingly had everything in place in 2015, as the signings of big time pitcher Max Scherzer made them immediate favorites. But a lot went wrong for Washington last season, making it hard to predict for sure how they will fare this time around. To me, Stephen Strasburg needs to finally have his superstar breakout season in order for the Nationals to have any shot at overthrowing the division favorite Mets.
A healthy Marlins team has proven in the past that they can compete with any team in baseball. However, I don’t feel confident that they have all the pieces it takes to place any higher than third in a division that has the Mets and Nationals fighting for the first place slot. What makes it so difficult is the fact that beyond Jose Fernandez, who looks ready to return back from missing most of 2015 due to Tommy John surgery, the Marlins don’t have any other pitchers who can absolutely dominate an opposing teams lineup. Furthermore, beyond Giancarlo Stanton, who really needs to have a fully healthy season in order to contribute monster numbers to his club, Miami isn’t all that loaded in the offensive side of things. Justin Bour had a nice breakout year for them in 2015, and Dee Gordon has emerged as one of the game’s best hitting second basemen, but I don’t see this Miami club as being capable of any sort of special year.
With sights set on 2017, when they will officially move from Turner Field to a brand new ballpark across town, the Braves are likely headed for another disappointing year. Getting rid of Shelby Miller (even though it brought back number one overall pick Dansby Swanson) was a huge mistake in my opinion, as it drastically weakens what was already a poor rotation. Beyond Julio Teheran at the top, and Matt Wisler, who is poised for a breakout year, the Braves don’t really have all that much to throw at opposing teams. Additionally, their lineup has a few key pieces to it, such as Freddie Freeman, Michael Bourn and Nick Markakis, but those guys likely won’t be able to carry the team on their own. In my mind, for a Braves team that hasn’t been the same offensively since losing Justin Upton to the Padres (he’s now with the Tigers), the best thing they can do is hope for better things when they relocate in 2017.
When you look at the talent the Phillies have coming fast in their minor league system, it would appear that this will be the final year of what has turned into a drastic rebuilding process for the Phillies. After winning division title after division title, Philadelphia has been a shell of its former power house club in recent years. Ryan Howard is entering the last year of his contract with the Phillies, but I’m not expect a tremendous amount from him, as he hasn’t been able to perform on the superstar level he once did. Beyond Howard, the only other player in the Phillies lineup who I could see having an above average year is Maikel Franco, who was great last season. Their rotation isn’t much better, as they have a few nice pieces, but nothing overly dominant. Even so, their farm system is loaded with impact players knocking on the door to Philadelphia. Therefore, as I’m viewing it, this could be the last disappointing year for quite awhile.
The National League Central division appears to have all the makings of a classic division rivalry between the top three finishers, but I have the Cubs really breaking through in 2016. They were able to make it into the playoffs last season, but were eliminated before they could make any major run towards breaking their World Series drought. But the offseason addition of John Lackey to go along with Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester in a relatively strong rotation put them as frontrunners. Their lineup was good last season, but I think they’ll break through even further in the coming year. Adding Jason Heyward to their outfield will inevitably improve their club, and rookies from a year ago, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell should build upon their 2015 years to form what looks to be a division title club. If all goes as planned, this could be the year the Cubs make it deep into the postseason, and maybe even the World Series.
While I have the Cubs finishing in first place, the Cardinals are certainly not going to go down without a fight, and will give Chicago a true run for their money. With Yadier Molina returning from a season in which he missed most of due to injury, he should help both their offense and pitching staffs improve. Beyond him, Jhonny Peralta and Matt Holiday are looking to post solid numbers once again, with Stephen Piscotty, Kolten Wong and Matt Carpenter figuring to have large contributions as well. Moreover, the Cardinals pitching staff should be tremendous, if Adam Wainwright can pitch the way he’s capable of, along with Michael Wacha and Lance Lynn. Also having a lock down closer in Trevor Rosenthal to come in for the ninth inning, if St. Louis can see their starters having good outings night after night, they could rack up a lot of wins when all is said and done this season.
The Pirates are going to finish in a close third place in my mind. While they have an All-Star closer in Mark Melancon, much as the Carinals do in Rosenthal, Pittsburgh simply doesn’t have the top notch pitching staff I feel they need to find themselves forcing the Carinals and Cubs to sweat. Beyond Gerrit Cole, who is sure to have another star season, the Pirates top options of Jeff Lock and Francisco Liriano are too inconsistent for me to feel they will have that big of an impact. Their lineup is fairly solid, with Jung Ho Kang and Josh Harrison, as well as an outfield of Andrew McCutchen, Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte, but the rest of their lineup isn’t all that dominant. But athough they likely won’t be able to hold off the powerful Cubs and Cardinals, the Pirates have a ton of talent in the high minors who should be helping very soon. With that in mind, they could see a big jump in wins starting as soon as 2017, if not late this year.
I originally had the Reds coming in last in the National League Central division, but upon closer inspection of their roster, I moved them up to fourth. Even so, it is looking like it will turn out to be another rough season in Cincinnati. Although their lineup isn’t exactly terrible, possessing guys such as Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, it isn’t great, either. The Reds will go on solid runs at time, as virtually every club winds up doing, but I have a hard time picturing them sustaining anything. On the pitching side of their club, the loss of Aroldis Chapman to the Yankees will no doubt hurt their bullpen, where they don’t have too much depth. Surprisingly, however, their strongest suit may turn out to be their rotation. If given a chance, I think Robert Stephenson could be a big impact pitcher for them, along with Homer Bailey, Brandon Finnegan and Michael Lorenzen giving a little spark to the Reds coming poor year.
Both the lineup and pitching staff of the Brewers can be summed up in four words: good, but not great. Their entire team is made up of guys who have been good (or even really good) at one point or another, but have also been very inconsistent. Ryan Braun in hands down their best and most impactful player, and with the exception of Scooter Gennett, Chris Carter and Jonathan Lucroy, Braun is really the only above average player on the squad. Wily Peralta, Matt Garza and Jimmy Nelson have each had great outings as part of the Brewers’ rotation, but they all also hold a lot of uncertainty heading into this season as to how they will actually fare. While there may be a few bright spots throughout the year in which certain players go on a hot streak that subsequently help propel Milwaukee forward, I don’t see anyway they make any major postseason push. There doesn’t appear to be much to be excited about for 2016.
My predictions for the National League West nearly saw me placing the Diamondbacks in this slot, with the Giants finishing in second place. But I can’t ignore the fact that San Francisco’s lineup is better overall than that in Phoenix. Lead by the offense of Buster Posey, the Giants also have several more very impact bats such as that of Hunter Pence, Brandon Belt, Matt Duffy and Brandon Crawford. But what really gives the Giants the slightest of edges over the D-backs is their pitching staff, which is truly solid. The pickups of Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija should help them to perform well, as they already had star hurler Madinson Bumgarner, Matt Cain and Chris Heston. Though you never can fully predict where a team will fall at the end of any given season, I feel fairly confident that the Giants will be able to hold off the Diamondbacks and come out on top if they can perform the way that they are capable of.
I’m fully on board the Diamondbacks’ bandwagon, but it’s not just because a lot of people around the baseball world are believing in them heading into 2016. Picking up both Zack Greinke, who had a historic season last year, as well as Shelby Miller, will go along way in helping the D-back’s rotation that already included star Patrick Corbin, among others. Their bullpen is good as well, with guys such as Brad Ziegler and newcomer Tyler Clippard set to shut things down in the late innings. Offensively, the D-backs aren’t going to score tons of runs every night, but they still possess quite a bit of pop. Guys like Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, David Peralta and Yasmani Tomas should be able to lead this club to a lot of victories if everything holds up on the pitching side. All things considered, it should wind up being a far more successful year in the desert than what they saw just a year ago.
While the Dodgers still have the best pitcher in baseball in Clayton Keshaw, who you can more than count on to post Cy Young caliber numbers once again, the remainder of their rotation is somewhat questionable. Losing Zack Greinke to the Diamondbacks this past off season will likely turn out to be a big blow to an already subpar Dodgers pitching staff, as Greinke was absolutely amazing in 2015. Los Angeles’s lineup is fairly decent, with sluggers Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson and Adrian Gonzalez still ready to impact ballgames, as well as Rookie of the Year favorite Corey Seager also set to make his talents more widely known. However, I’m just not fully convinced that the Dodgers will be good enough to fare any better than the middle of the pack in the West. They have too many holes in their overall team for me to think that they have any shot of reaching the postseason in the coming year.
The Padres were the story of the 2014 offseason, as their general manager, A.J. Preller, made some amazing moves that brought a ton of talent to San Diego and made a lot of people believe in the Padres for 2015. But things simply didn’t go as planned. This season, expectations aren’t nearly as high, with a fourth place finish predicted from me. They lost dominant closer, Craig Kimbrel, to the Red Sox this offseason, and that will inevitably hurt in the long run. In their actual rotation, they still have a solid three of James Shields, Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner, but they won’t be enough to maintain a season long winning streak. Other than Matt Kemp and an injury-plagued Wil Myers, the Padres don’t really have a lot of thump in their lineup that will be able to offset their lack of pitching, either. For that reason, the ultimate highlight of the year in San Diego will likely be them hosting the All-Star game in July.
Finishing under .500 every season since 2011, the Rockies aren’t looking to fare much better in the coming year. Although they play 81 games in a ballpark where offense is given a definitive edge, as the ball really flies in the mile high city of Denver, the Rockies truly don’t have a lot of big power bats to tap into the thin air. Beyond Carlos Gonzalez and Nolan Arenado, who should both put up monster numbers yet again, Denver merely has some solid players in the form of guys like DJ LeMahieu, Ben Paulsen and Charlie Blackmon. Although they are each good players, I don’t see it doing a whole lot of good, especially without a dominant pitching staff. Other than recently high-ranked prospects Jon Gray and Eddie Butler, who have been hit and miss to this point in their careers, the Rockies don’t have any true power hurlers who they can count on to post big outings each night. Thus, I don’t see Denver going much of anywhere in 2016.
Ray Black was drafted by the Giants in the 7th round of the 2011 draft, but the journey to draft day wasn’t exactly a smooth one. Black underwent Tommy John surgery his senior year of high school after suffering an arm injury — the first of what would turn out to be many bad luck injuries. Thankfully, although the Tommy John surgery meant Black would have to be redshirted his freshman season, the University of Pittsburgh still honored their baseball scholarship offer to him, allowing Black to head there to play ball in 2009.
But the poor luck continued for Black in college when he tore his right meniscus during a workout before his sophomore season. Following a broken hand later on, Black then suffered a torn labrum after being officially drafted in 2011, which postponed him making his professional debut until all the way to April of 2014, despite being drafted almost three years prior. However, even after all the setbacks, when Black finally made his debut two years ago, he showed off every bit of the talent he possesses.
After posting a terrible 11.05 ERA over just 36.2 innings pitched in college, Black took off in 2014, and has done nothing but impress in his professional career, striking out 122 batters over his 60.1 career innings and holding opposing batters to a .146 average. In 2015 season alone, Black recorded a 2.88 ERA and struck out 51 over just 25 innings pitched.
Black spent all of 2015 at High-A, which isn’t where you’d necessarily expect to see a 25-year-old pitcher — one with a shot at making it all the way to the big leagues, that is. But Ray Black isn’t your average prospect, and there’s certainly nothing average about his fastball. Black can crank it up to triple digits consistently, and has been up around 103-104 at times. It’s that fastball that’s keeping Black as a standout in the Giants’ farm system despite numerous setbacks, and that will ultimately be the key to taking him all the way to the major leagues.
Ray Black — top prospect in the Giants’ organization — took the time recently to answer some of my questions:
1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Who was your biggest baseball influence growing up?
I started playing when I was around 4-5 with my father in the backyard. He was probably my biggest influence. He always told me, and still does to today, “Whatever you decided to do, do with 100 percent conviction”. I joke with him that he’s the most knowledgable farmer on the topic of pitching mechanics.
2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?
My favorite player was Nomar Garciaparra. I was a shortstop growing up, and Derek jeter was the most popular choice amongst kids my age. To be honest, he [Garciaparra] was really good. Boston was my team growing up, and he played with hustle.
3.) You were drafted by the Giants in the 7th round of the 2011 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?
The draft is a crazy time for a lot of guys. Most people will tell you the draft process didn’t go as expected for them. A lot of scouts had told me they didn’t see me going after the 5th round. So on draft day, I got a call in the 4th round and 6th round by the Phillies and White Sox. After brief negotiations, it was likely we wouldn’t come to an agreement, so they passed on me. I was frustrated at this time, so I started to walk out the door to meet with some friends, and my dad yelled out to me, “You just got drafted by the Giants”. I was excited. They had won the World Series in 2010, and I knew they were a good pitching organization. Shortly after, I was relieved the process was over.
4.) With you going through several surgeries before you ever even began your baseball career, what kind of effect did that have on your overall mentality? Did you ever have doubts about being able to pitch while staying healthy?
Injuries have taught me not to take the game for granted. My career could have — and probably should have — ended with my shoulder surgery. The process was difficult; I would ask “why me?”. But I kept my faith and worked through the process, knowing that light was at the end of the tunnel. There are times I overreact even to this day when I have arm tenderness, because I always assume the worst. But mentally and physically, I feel healthy and believe those injuries are in the past now.
5.) Once you were finally 100 percent healthy following the first month of the 2014 season, you were lighting up the radar gun in a way that you never had before. Hitting 100 consistently with your fastball, what do you attribute to you being able to throw faster than ever after being given a low chance of ever reaching high velocity again?
I think a lot of it had to do with the rehab process. My trainers put a program together to strengthen my arm. I’ve continued doing those exercises daily, and I take pride in my work ethic. There are always places to improve an individual’s game. For me, I strengthened my lower half, increased core exercises and continued shoulder rehab.
6.) You were selected to participate in the Arizona Fall League this past year. What did you work on most over your time spent out there? What did you take away from pitching against some of baseball’s best hitting prospects?
I really worked on my secondary pitches out there. When a good hitter is sitting fastball they’ll be able to hit it regardless of velocity. So with throwing my slider more often and showing it for strikes it takes people off my heater. I was humbled out there giving up some hits, and I held my own as well. But playing against some of the games best prospects is a privilege.
7.) Talk a little bit about life on the road: What’s the most difficult aspect of it? What do you do to pass the time?
Life on the road is difficult at times. I enjoy hunting, so it’s hard missing archery, but being around guys your own age with similar interests is enjoyable. We’ll play cards, usually watch almost every sporting event when it’s on TV, and play video games. Sometimes I feel like I’m still a kid, blessed to be able to continue playing the same game I’ve been since I was a kid.
8.) What do you feel went well in 2015? What are your goals for 2016?
This past season was a tough year for me. I got hurt early, tried my hand as a starting pitcher (which didn’t go well) and by the time I was back in the pen and throwing again I questioned my own abilities. I got to the point of being afraid of contact. I tried throwing my best pitch, every pitch, and it would make my mechanics difficult to repeat. I ended the year with a better ERA than 2014, but my WHIP was higher. So I was able to improve on stranding runners in situations I had to, and I was able to get strikeouts in key situations, like runners in scoring position with less than two outs.
9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?
I like ‘Gotham’ right now. My favorite TV series was ‘Sons of Anarchy’, and I enjoyed ‘Band of Brothers’. I have a very deep appreciation for our military. It amazes me what they can do. And there’s nothing like deer back straps. I think everyone should experience venison.
10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?
I think the best advice I can give is what my father told me: Work for what you want. You can’t just wish for something to happen. If you want to be successful in anything, it starts with a strong work ethic; commit to something and do it with 100 percent conviction. Also, believe in yourself. I wasn’t always a starter; I sat at times in little league; I didn’t make every team I tried out for; I didn’t always throw the hardest. Just keep your goals in mind and work towards them daily.
Big thanks to Ray Black for taking the time to answer my questions.
You can follow him on Twitter: @rayblack37
Heading into Friday, the Cubs were a mere one game from clinching a playoff berth. Either a win by the Cubs or a Giants loss would mean October baseball for the Cubs for the first time since back in 2008. However, it appeared that things may have to wait for another day after the Cubs lost to the Pirates 3-2 in the afternoon’s game.
With the loss, attention swung to Oakland, where the Giants were playing that night. If the A’s could pick up the win, the Giants would be eliminated from Wild Card contention, and the Cubs would become the fifth team to clinch a playoff spot. The Giants would end up come through for the Cubs, losing to Oakland, and being knocked out of the running.
Now that the Cubs have officially made the playoffs, it allows baseball fans from all over to set their sights on perhaps bigger things in Chicago. It’s common knowledge for any follower of the game that the Cubs haven’t won the World Series since 1908, having not even reached the Fall Classic since all the way back in 1945. To say fans in Chicago have been waiting for a World Series appearance for awhile would be a vast understatement.
But with the Cubs making the postseason, there officially begins to arise a bit of hope. Perhaps — maybe, just maybe — this is finally the year the Cubs break the longest World Series drought in baseball history and finally go the distance. However, they face a tough road to even reach the final seven game series.
Friday’s game against the Pirates was likely a preview of the Wild Card game set to take place on October 7th, assuming the Cardinals can hold onto their three game lead over the Pirates. But if Friday’s game was any indication, the Cubs will have to be on top of their game to advance to the Divisional Series.
One of the upsides for the Cubs is that they will likely have Jake Arrieta on the mound against Gerrit Cole, instead of Jon Lester as they had on Friday. While Lester is a terrific pitcher, Arrieta has had an unbelievable season and will likely give the Cubs their best shot at advancing.
The Cubs certainly have a good enough lineup to compete with any team they may encounter. With Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Anthony Rizzo, among many other young stars and veteran players, run scoring shouldn’t be a problem for the most part. On the flip side, while their pitching isn’t terrible by any means, it’s also not that dominant either.
Past Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta, their rotation falls off a little bit, but they are each more than capable of picking up a win, especially with the lineup they have to score runs. In the long run, the Cubs may find they can’t compete with other teams’ pitching staffs, but I feel they will at least make it past the win or go home Wild Card game.
As history has shown, once a team reaches the first five game playoff series, pretty much anything can happen. While on paper the other teams around baseball would appear to have an advantage, October baseball has a way of throwing stats out the window. After all, the Cubs were supposed to still be “a few years away” from contention. They’ve already proved a lot of people wrong by breaking those odds.
This may turn out to be a historical year when all is said and done.
When the dust settles a couple months from now, and spring training begins to kick off, the Padres could turn out to be the winners of the entire offseason. While the Red Sox are arguably the most improved team, with their pickups of both offensive presence and starting pitching, it’s the Padres that have done the most to improve their club in a very short amount of time.
Finishing with a record under .500 for the fourth straight season in 2014, not a lot of people likely had the Padres doing much of anything impactful this offseason that would give them any chance against the division dominant Dodgers and Giants moving forward. However, the Padres are seemingly putting together a competitive ball club, and are losing very little in the process, all thanks to their new general manager, A.J. Preller, who was given the daunting task of turning around one of the worst offenses from the previous year.
News of the Padres’ team revamp first arose during the Winter Meetings, when a trade for Matt Kemp was first reported. Although it took them over a week to finalize the deal due to a concerning physical of Kemp that showed arthritis in his hips, the Padres landed their man, getting Matt Kemp (along with 32 million dollars) and Tim Federowicz from the Dodgers, in exchange for Yasmani Grandal, Joe Wieland and Zach Eflin.
Following that initial announcement of the Kemp deal, the Padres proceeded to further improve their outfield for next season, acquiring Wil Myers as part of a three team, 11-player deal with the Rays and Nationals.
In the large swap, the Padres received Myers, Ryan Hanigan, Jose Castillo and Gerardo Reyes from the Rays, and sent Rene Rivera, Joe Ross, Burch Smith, Trea Turner, and Jake Bauers back to Tampa. The Rays then flipped Turner and Ross to the Nationals for Steven Souza and Travis Ott. (Follow all that?) In short, the Padres acquired promising young outfielder Wil Myers without giving up too much in return — just as they did with the Matt Kemp trade.
But the little loss, big return trade pattern didn’t stop there for the Padres. Shortly after announcing the Wil Myers acquisition, the Padres made yet another trade, once again for an impactful outfielder, bringing over Justin Upton and a low level prospect to be named later from the Braves. In return for Upton, San Diego didn’t have to part with too much, sending away just Max Fried, Jace Peterson, Dustin Peterson and Mallex Smith. Although three of those four players were in the Padres top twenty prospects list, the Padres were still able to maintain their top two prospects in Austin Hedges and Matt Wisler, which is truly remarkable when you think about it.
Not all of the moves the Padres have made have been large, though. Some of the smaller changes the Padres have completed that could turn out to have major impacts have also taken place over the past day or so.
As replacement for the slot lost when they traded away Yasmani Grandal, the Padres traded Jesse Hahn and R.J. Alvarez to acquire former All-Star catcher, Derek Norris, along with Seth Streich and an international signing slot from the Athletics. In addition, the Padres made a smart small move on Friday, flipping Ryan Hanigan, who they just acquired in the Wil Myers trade, to the Red Sox in return for Will Middlebrooks, who will now man the hot corner in 2015.
All of these moves for a brand new outfield, as well as an improved infield, will go a long way in improving the Padres next season. Their lineup is undeniably better, and one that will be a force to reckon with for sure. But what about their pitching? As has been proven time and time again, you don’t win games with just hitting, you have to have pitching as well. But surprisingly, despite the Padres’ dismal win-loss record from 2014, they did in fact have a good, under the radar pitching staff made up of solid players.
Due to the bad offensive production, which saw the Padres finish the season last in batting average, last in RBI’s and 28th in home runs, it was overlooked that the Padres had the fourth best team ERA in all of baseball on the season, coming out to a mere 3.27. With their big name pitchers from 2014 — Tyson Ross (2.81 ERA), Andrew Cashner (2.55 ERA), and Ian Kennedy (3.63 ERA) — still on the roster, to go along with newly acquired Brandon Morrow and Josh Johnson, who is reportedly close to returning, the Padres truly have a solid team for 2015.
After obtaining Matt Kemp, Wil Myers and Justin Upton via trades, San Diego now has a surplus of outfielders — Seth Smith, Will Venable, Carlos Quentin, Cameron Maybin — whose spots have been filled. That assuredly means that at least one of them will be on the move, and that could end up bringing the Padres yet another piece of the puzzle.
But while the Padres are no doubt headed in the right direction and will show drastic improvement as soon as next season, I don’t think it will be enough to win the National League West division. The Dodgers and Giants are still too good, and will likely make moves of their own to get a little better before April. After finishing 17 games back of the division winning Dodgers last season, that’s too far of a jump for the Padres to make in a single season, in my mind.
However, despite that, I applaud the San Diego Padres. Following a season in which they were at the bottom of the pack in nearly every offensive category, the Padres look to have solved that in a matter of a couple weeks. If the new additions of Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Justin Upton, etc., can play to their full potential, and if the down seasons by former standouts Jedd Gyorko and Yonder Alonso can be turned around, things look to be bright for the Friars.
Even if they don’t make a run at the division title, the Padres are in line to compete for at least the second Wild Card spot in 2015. Having not made the postseason since 2006, fans in San Diego have been waiting for quite awhile to see a team with this talent level be presented on the field, long wishing that some major changes would be made.
It would appear Padres fans have finally received their wish.
26 days after winning it all with the Giants, Pablo Sandoval is heading to Boston.
Receiving a five-year deal from the Red Sox, reportedly worth around 100 million dollars, Sandoval is set to don a uniform other than that of San Francisco for the first time in his career, going to the Red Sox after three World Championships won with the Giants.
Reportedly offered around the same deal, both in years and dollar amount, by the Giants as was given to Sandoval by the Red Sox, a lot of people question why Sandoval, coming off a World Series title, would leave and join a team that was one of the worst in baseball in 2014. But despite the Sox’ down 2014 season, there are many predicting a bounce back year for them in 2015.
A two-time All-Star, Sandoval will certainly help the Red Sox moving forward. Though Sandoval hasn’t hit 20 or more home runs since 2011 — his best all around year came back in 2009, when he blasted 25 homers (career high) and recorded 95 RBI’s (career high) to go along with a .330 average (career high) — that’s not to be expected from Sandoval each and every year. He’s still a respectable .294 career hitter, and a great defender at third base.
Staying healthy this past season, playing in a career best 157 games, Sandoval was able to record 16 home runs and drive in 73 runs, all while batting .279. While that’s certainly solid numbers for a third baseman, and around what you should expect Sandoval to produce from season to season, his most value comes in the postseason, where Sandoval has proven to be one of the most clutch hitters in baseball history.
If the Red Sox can find a way back to the playoffs in 2015, they should see a level of Pablo Sandoval that far exceeds his regular season statistics.
But Sandoval isn’t the only player that could help the Red Sox return to the postseason. Another player who should help the Red Sox’ playoff hopes is Hanley Ramirez, who the Sox also picked up on Monday.
Coming over from the Dodgers, where he hit .283 with 13 homers and 71 RBI’s while manning the shortstop position this past season, Ramirez is receiving a four-year deal from the Red Sox, coming out to 88 million dollars. However, for Ramirez, who has played the infield for all of his career, there’s a slight catch in the contract.
Due to an already set infield, with newly signed Pablo Sandoval at third and Xander Bogaerts holding at shortstop, the Red Sox’ current plan involves moving Ramirez to left field — a postion he’s never played before. Getting placed in front of the Green Monster at Fenway Park, it will surely be interesting to see how Ramirez fares in the outfield, especially with the 37-foot wall looming behind him.
More importantly, however, sending the three-time All-Star, Ramirez, out to left field takes away the spot of Yoenis Cespedes, who the Sox acquired via trade for Jon Lester in the second half of the 2014 season.
With Cespedes an odd man out, and numerous other outfield options, including Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo, Shane Victorino, etc., Boston will definitely have to move at least a couple of their players. Desperately in need of pitching, many feel it would best serve the Sox to trade away a non crucial outfielder (possibly Cespedes?) in return for some good pitching. And they’re rumored to be looking into doing just that.
But although Boston still needs to do some more work on their pitching situation, the signing of Ramirez would appear to be a good deal. The 2006 Rookie of the Year with the Marlins and Most Valuable Player runner up in 2009, when he hit a staggering .342 with 24 home runs and 106 RBI’s, Ramirez will likely be a nice fit for the Red Sox, regardless of the fact that he won’t be playing his favored position.
A .300 career hitter, Ramirez hasn’t been a superstar level player in a few years, but the potential to be one still remains. Ramirez in set to be 31 years old when the 2015 season begins, but he still can be a big impact on any team he’s on, and that’s more than you can say about a lot of players in baseball.
A Red Sox team that finished last in 2012, only to come back and win the World Series in 2013, and then wind up near the bottom of the pack in 2014, it will be intriguing to see what happens with them in 2015. Signing Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez will definitely go a long way in improving their record, but it will take a few more changes to get the Red Sox where they want to be.
However, if the signings of Sandoval and Ramirez are any sign of things to come this offseason, the Red Sox could be setting themselves up to make another playoff push in 2015 and beyond.
Heading into game six of the 2014 World Series, I was fairly confident that my prediction of the Giants winning it all in six games was nearly a sure bet. Coming off of a strong, shutout start by Madison Bumgarner in game five to take a 3-2 series lead, I figured the Giants would have the momentum to take the championship in the first game back in Kansas City. But I was wrong — very wrong.
Game six turned out to be a blowout by the Royals, as by the second inning the game was basically over. Jake Peavy, the starting pitcher for the Giants, allowed five hits in the inning, including an RBI-double to Mike Moustakas and an RBI-single to Nori Aoki before he was removed from the game for the recently unhittable Yusmeiro Petit.
But even Petit isn’t perfect, as he allowed a two-run single to the first batter he faced, Lorenzo Cain, followed by a two-run double to Eric Hosmer and a Billy Butler RBI-double. When the dust finally settled, the Royals had scored seven runs in the inning, and every Royals’ starter, with the exception of Omar Infante (he would get a single in the next inning), had at least one hit.
Royals’ starter, Yordano Ventura, fared much better than the pitchers on the Giants’ side of the game. Going seven innings and giving up only three hits while allowing zero runs to a good Giants’ lineup, Ventura was simply remarkable. Leaving the game with a 9-0 lead over the Royals, it’s evident that the Royals have a potential superstar on their hands for years to come.
Up nine runs going into the bottom of the seventh inning, Mike Moustakas took the score to an even 10-0, blasting a solo shot to right field. Coming off of Giants’ reliever, Hunter Strickland — the sixth home run allowed by Strickland in the postseason, a playoff record — Moustakas provided the first home run of the series since game two of the Fall Classic, and would be the final run scored of the game, which became the fifth game out of the series decided by five or more runs.
Taking game six with ease, the Royals forced a World Series game seven for the first time since 2011 — just the 37th World Series game seven in history. With the home team having won the Fall Classic in the past nine game sevens dating back to 1982, including the Royals’ last World Series win in 1985, you had to wonder if history would come through for the Royals or if the Giants terrific elimination game record would prevail.
With game seven of the World Series being a win or go home game for both teams, both starting pitchers — Tim Hudson for the Giants and Jeremy Guthrie for the Royals, who was fantastic in his last outing — were subsequently on very short leashes. (Meaning, should they struggle early they wouldn’t be allowed to continue for very long.) However, both looked fairly sharp to begin the game, posting a scoreless first inning.
But the second inning brought problems for both pitchers. Guthrie gave up a couple of runs via two sacrifice flies that scored the given runner from third, but, surprisingly, he was allowed to continue. Hudson, though, after allowing a couple runs of his own, was replaced after just 1.2 innings pitched — the shortest game seven outing of a World Series game since 1960.
Guthrie pitched a good third inning but allowed a leadoff single to Pablo Sandoval in the fourth (Sandoval went 3-3 on the night, bringing his hit total for this World Series up to a staggering 12), followed by a Hunter Pence single and a flyout that allowed Sandoval to advance to third. Showing signs of struggle, Guthrie was quickly replaced by Kelvin Herrera who immediately gave up a single to Michael Morse, scoring Sandoval from third, and giving the Giants a 3-2 lead. Neither team would find a way to put anything together after that.
On just two days rest, Madison Bumgarner, who threw a complete game shutout in game five, came on in the bottom of the fifth — his first relief appearance since the 2010 National League Championship Series. It was originally thought that if Bumgarner was brought on in relief, it would be for a couple of innings. But Bumgarner was so dominant that he remained in through the final out of the game, surpassing the old MLB postseason record of 48.2 innings pitched and lowering his World Series career ERA down to a measly 0.25.
While the Royals threw out their heart of the order in the bottom of the ninth, with Alex Gordon technically singling but winding up at third on a couple of outfield bobbling errors, they didn’t have a comeback in them. Salvador Perez, although he put up a battle against Bumgarner, stranded Gordon at third, popping out to third baseman Pablo Sandoval, and securing the Giants the 2014 World Series Championship.
The third World Series title for the San Francisco Giants in the past five year, and their eighth overall in franchise history, the Giants were fairly impressive over the course of the seven games it took to decide a winner, despite outscoring the Royals overall just 30-27. But they would be nowhere without their dominant lefty, Madison Bumgarner, who received the Most Valuable Player award for his dominant pitching during the Fall Classic.
With game seven now decided, thus concludes another exciting Major League Baseball season. But hang in there. There are only 158 days until Opening Day 2015.
As I wrote in my last blog post, there was a chance coming into San Francisco that either the Giants or the Royals could win the World Series, should they be able to sweep the other team in the three games. But thanks to a sole win by the Royals, the series is forced back to Kansas City with the Giants up three games to two.
But a lot took place to get to this point.
After a couple of blowout games in game one and game two of the World Series, game three was a lot more competitive. Jeremy Guthrie received the start for the Royals, and despite the fact that he hasn’t been overly dominant this season, he was terrific in this game. His opposition, Tim Hudson, was fantastic as well, as although he allowed a run in the very first inning via a Lorenzo Cain RBI-groundout, Hudson settled down and posted zeroes for the following four innings.
When the sixth inning arrived, both teams found their strokes, with the Royals and Giants each scoring a couple of runs off of a few timely hits in their respective half inning to take the score up to 3-2 in favor of the Royals. With their bullpen set to go for the rest of the game, the Royals were able to hang onto that one run lead, with Greg Holland closing out the game.
Up two games to one heading into game four, the Giants would now have to win at least one of the two games remaining in San Francisco to keep their chances alive and send the Fall Classic back to Kauffman Stadium.
Game four began the way the Giants envisioned, with them scoring a run in the bottom of the first off of the Royals’ starter, Jason Vargas. But the Royals would answer back in a huge way in the top of the third, when a 30-minute inning saw four runs posted by Kansas City. Although the Giants scored a run of their own in the bottom half of the inning, the overall momentum of the game seemed to be on the Royals’ side.
However, the momentum shifted in the fifth inning, when the Giants scored a couple of runs to tie the game at four runs apiece on a Hunter Pence RBI-single. From there, they would never look back. Scoring three runs in the bottom of the sixth and another four runs in the bottom of the seventh — nine total runs over the course of three innings — the Giants quickly put the game out of reach for the Royals. Both the Giants and Royals would post zeroes for the remainder of the game, ending with a decisive 11-4 win for the Giants.
Now that the series was tied at two games per team, there was guaranteed to be at least one game back in Kansas City. But with the winner of game five moving to within just one win of a World Series title, with two chances to secure that win, you knew Sunday’s game was going to be a close, extremely important matchup.
A rematch of game one’s starters — James Shields for the Royals and Madison Bumgarner for the Giants — everyone expected Shields to rebound from the poor outing he had in game one, and looked to Bumgarner to see if he could continue his postseason masterfulness. Both turned out to be great.
Allowing just two runs in his outing, Shields put the Royals in a good position to win the game. However, Bumgarner had other plans. Giving the Giants nine solid innings, Bumgarner threw a complete game shutout against the Royals, lowering his career World Series ERA down to 0.29 — the lowest in MLB history. Although the two runs the Giants posted early in the game (one in the second and one in the fourth) would’ve been enough for the victory, they were able to put another three runs on the board in the eighth inning for good measure, securing the 5-0 victory.
With not a single home run being hit over the course of the trio of games in San Francisco, this becomes the first world series since 1948 to have three straight games without a dinger. With 25 total runs being scored over the three game set at AT&T park, that’s truly hard to believe.
The Giants and Royals travel back to Kansas City following game five, where they will pick up with game six on Tuesday night. With the Giants just one win away from their third World Title in five seasons, it will be interesting to see how each team plays, knowing game six could be it.
The way this World Series has been going, almost anything can happen. Returning to their electric home ballpark, I wouldn’t be too surprised if the Royals pulled out a game six win to send the World Series to a seventh game. But with the Giants firing on all cylinders as of late, things look promising for my prediction of the Giants winning the World Series in six games coming true.
On a brief, unrelated side note, tragedy struck baseball on Sunday evening.
Cardinals’ up-and-coming mega prospect, Oscar Taveras, was killed, along with his girlfriend, in a car accident down in the Dominican Republic on Sunday. Although his passing has nothing to do with the World Series, I wanted to take a minute to talk about Taveras.
I first heard of Oscar Taveras back in 2011, when he hit .386 over the course of 308 minor league at-bats. As I began to follow his career more closely, I quickly realized why he was held in such high regard, as he had a career season the following year, hitting .321 with 23 home runs and 94 RBI’s in 2012. Battling injuries in 2013, Taveras finally got things going again in 2014, making his Major League debut in May of this season. Living up to the hype, Teveras hit a home run in his very first game in the majors. But unfortunately, that was one of three home runs Taveras will ever have for his career.
Along with millions of others, I was filled with excitement back in May when Oscar Taveras made his MLB debut. I was filled with amazement when he hit a pinch hit home run in the National League Championship Series. And now, following the tragic death of the 22-year-old star, I’m filled with sadness. Gone too soon — Oscar Taveras will be missed. Talent like his doesn’t come along very often.
Going against preseason predictions and beating all the odds just to make it into the postseason, the Royals and Giants seemingly breezed their way through their given division series and championship series rounds on their way to the World Series. So evenly matched, as teams with a great pitching staff, lineup and bullpen, you had to figure that this year’s Fall Classic was going to be a great one. And, as I predicted, it surely has been exciting so far.
In game one on Tuesday night in Kansas City, Madison Bumgarner of the Giants took on the Royals and their best pitcher James Shields. For the Royals’ fan base, this game was something that they haven’t been able to experience in a long time, with the Royals last having made the postseason in 1985. But unfortunately for them, things didn’t start off too well, with three runs being scored in the very first inning by the Giants, off a Pablo Sandoval RBI-double and a Hunter Pence two-run home run.
From there, things simply got worse for the Royals. The Giants scored yet again in the fourth and the seventh, plating a couple of runs each inning, to take the score up to 7-0. With Madison Bumgarner on the mound, the Royals faced an impossible climb to reclaim the game, as despite a solo home run from Salvador Perez in the seventh, that would be the only run Bumgarner allowed, giving up just a total of three hits.
With the Giants taking the decisive 7-1 game one victory, you began to wonder whether or not this was going to be as competitive of a World Series as it had been advertised to be. But all thoughts of that were erased in game two, as things were much more thrilling for the better part of the game.
However, things didn’t start off looking too good for the Royals once again. The first batter of the game, Gregor Blanco, blasted a solo home run off the Royals’ flamethrowing Yordano Ventura, who became the first rookie to start a World Series game for the Royals in their history. From there, though, the Royals answered back, scoring a run in both the first and second innings off of the Giants’ Jake Peavy.
The Giants would tie the game in the top of the fourth inning, before the wheels came off in the sixth. Jake Peavy, who had been fairly good through this point in the game, was lifted after allowing the first two batters of the inning to reach base. His replacement, Jean Machi, allowed an RBI-single before being lifted for Javier Lopez, who recorded one out before he was replaced by Hunter Strickland. That would turn out to be a big mistake.
Strickland, who hasn’t done much of anything in the postseason for the Giants, gave up a two-run double to Salvador Perez, followed by a two-run homer by Omar Infante — the fifth home run Strickland has allowed this postseason, tying the postseason record.
Jeremy Affeldt would come on following Strickland’s removal, finishing out the inning without any more runs, but over the course of the 32 minute inning, the damage had been done. The Royals’ unbelievable bullpen subsequently shut down the game, securing them the 7-2 win.
The Royals and Giants now head to San Francisco tied at a game apiece. If either team can sweep the three games, which begin on Friday, the 2014 World Series Champion can potentially be crowned at AT&T park. But although baseball is unpredictable, it’s likely that the series will head back to Kansas City for game six and (possibly) seven in the final days of October.