Results tagged ‘ Major League Baseball ’
After losing their first seven games of the 2016 season and going on to tie for the worst record in all of the National League (losing 93 games in all), no one honestly expected things to be much better in 2017 for the Braves, citing 2018 or later as the arrival of their top prospects and subsequent resurgence. But over the first few weeks of the offseason to this point, Atlanta has been building a decent rotation somewhat under-the-radar.
With a strong starting five going a long way in influencing the outcome of any given team’s season, the Braves began to stockpile their rotation with the signings of R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon in the middle of November. Although Dickey hasn’t been the same since winning the Cy Young award in 2012, with a 4.05 ERA over the course of 130 starts since, and despite the fact that Colon is set to turn 44 in May — making neither the dominant type of pitcher who will lead to an immediate turnaround — they are both proven pitchers who will provide the Braves with solid innings all season.
However, it was a pickup the Braves completed on Thursday that made people begin to talk about the legitimacy of their rotation. Acquiring Jaime Garcia from the Cardinals in exchange for a few mid-range prospects, Atlanta added yet another solid piece to their pitching staff. While Garcia fell off towards the end of 2016 after beginning the year in brilliant fashion, Garcia has been a great pitcher over the course of his career to this point, and should fit in nicely with the likes of Julio Teheran and Mike Foltynewicz, as well as the aforementioned free agent pickups.
But while the Braves have greatly improved the rotation aspect of their team, and should subsequently improve upon their 4.51 team ERA from last season (especially with there still being rumors that they are pursuing a true ace of the staff), their bullpen remains a bit shaky. Jim Johnson was decent for them last season, and they have a few other pieces such as Mauricio Cabrera and Shae Simmons who will help out, but things haven’t been truly lights out since the loss of Craig Kimbrel to the Padres in 2015.
Even so, the Braves should be able to compete on a decent level if their lineup can produce. In 2016, Atlanta was 19th in team batting average and dead last in terms of collective home runs. But Freddie Freeman and Matt Kemp (who saw a bounce back season in 2016) will likely be their All-Star selves again in 2017 and greatly contribute, with the Braves possessing a handful of other standout players.
From Dansby Swanson, who is looking to make good upon his stellar late-season campaign in 2016, to Nick Markakis, who has always been a good MLB player over his career, the Braves certainly have the pieces to make 2017 a year to remember.
Now they just have to put them all together.
In the end, the Braves still face a tough path in 2017. With the Nationals and Mets set to battle for who will win the division, leaving the Marlins to likely come in third, all signs point to it being between the Phillies and Braves for who will finish fourth and fifth.
But whether or not the Braves can stun the baseball world and finish any better than fourth in the National League East in 2017, the point is still clear: The Braves aren’t merely sitting around and waiting for their top, game-changing prospects to arrive over the course of the next few seasons.
For the Atlanta Braves, the time to win is right now.
The Major League Baseball season has officially been over for almost a full month, but that doesn’t mean that things going on in the baseball world have come to a halt as well.
While there isn’t as much to talk about in terms of actual baseball action, the offseason trades and signings that take place each and every season are just now beginning to take place, with a major uptick sure to occur during the Winter Meetings next week. With that in mind, I wanted to go over the things I plan to blog about in the coming month.
First off, I’ll obviously be writing about the biggest trades and signings as they occur. While I can’t write about every single one, I will likely take the time to give my thoughts on the bigger names that get moved, as well as the Winter Meetings as a whole, should they turn out to be jam-packed.
Following that, the greatness in baseball yearly (GIBBY) awards are set to be handed out in December, with a number of players being awarded hardware for a number of categories in recognition of the season they had.
At some point during the month, I’ll be posting a couple of interviews, with one likely coming in the first week of the month, with the second coming sometimes in the latter part of December. The current lineup sees Alex Kirilloff (the Twins’ first round draft pick from 2016) and Daniel Norris up next, but that’s always subject to change.
Other than that, I’ll continue to simply blog about things as they happen. As stated, this isn’t the busiest time of the year due to there being no more baseball games to watch, but it’s times like these where some of my more creative writing takes place. So, who knows what I’ll decide to write about? Stay tuned.
As we all know, Thanksgiving is the time of year where we reflect on what has happened throughout the previous year and take the time to appreciate the things we are most thankful for. That can be applied to Major League Baseball as well.
Although not as important in the grand scheme of things as being thankful for family, health, etc., there are many things each and every baseball team can be thankful for.
Whether they’re thankful for what has already happened in 2016 or of the things likely to come in 2017, every team has a lot to be thankful for.
With that in mind, I figured I’d come up with a list of one thing each of the 30 MLB teams should be thankful for this holiday (not necessarily the thing each is MOST thankful for, just something to be thankful for in general):
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Red Sox: As one superstar departs, another arrives
The career David Ortiz had for the Red Sox was truly remarkable, but Boston appears to have someone ready to fill his shoes following his retirement. Mookie Betts was good in 2015, but he was astounding in 2016, hitting 31 homers and finishing second to Mike Trout in American League MVP voting. As such, David Ortiz will certainly be missed at Fenway, but Boston fans should be thankful that they have a player like Mookie Betts set to keep the Red Sox in contention in the years to come.
Orioles: Zach Britton is the real deal
While there are a number of people who feel the Orioles would be best suited to trade away Zach Britton while his stock is high following the historically great season he had as a reliever in 2016 — recording the lowest ERA (0.54) ever for a relief pitcher — retaining him for 2017 is extremely important in my mind. The Orioles should be thankful that they have a closer like Britton who they can count on to slam the door in the ninth. Pitchers like him are very rare, and teams with a strong closer tend to fare better than those who don’t.
Blue Jays: Adding Kendrys Morales to their already powerful lineup
It remains to be seen whether the Blue Jays can keep Edwin Encarnacion or Jose Bautista as part of their lineup heading into next season (it’s looking less and less likely as of late), but regardless, they did a lot for their club recently by signing veteran DH Kendrys Morales. Blasting 30 home runs for the Royals last season, Morales joins a roster that’s guaranteed to contain power bats Troy Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson. If nothing else, Toronto should be very thankful they don’t have to pitch to their own ball club.
Yankees: Gary Sanchez’s historic season a sign of things to come
Gary Sanchez was virtually an unknown heading into the 2016 season, but by the end of the year he was a household name. Bursting onto the scene in August, Sanchez proceeded to set a number of rookie records, winding up with 20 home runs for the season. Although Sanchez didn’t win Rookie of the Year, the Yankees should be thankful that there’s more where he came from. With top prospects such as Aaron Judge and Clint Frazier looking to make impacts in 2017, Sanchez appears to be the tip of the iceberg for the Yankees’ resurgence.
Rays: Having multiple power threats
The Rays may have finished dead last in the American League East in 2016, but they still had some fantastic performances. Their pitching wasn’t that great throughout the year, but offensively they were actually fairly decent. Evan Longoria managed to hit 36 bombs, with Brad Miller and Corey Dickerson breaking out to have career highs in homers, at 30 and 24 (tying a career high), respectively. If the Rays happen to climb up the standings next season, the Rays fans will have players such as Longoria, Miller and Dickerson to be thankful to.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Nationals: Daniel Murphy’s and Tanner Roark’s breakout seasons
With Bryce Harper seeing a drastic drop off from his 2015 MVP-winning numbers, and Stephen Strasburg suffering through a series of injuries, the Nationals could have very easily fallen apart this year. But just the opposite, they won the division with ease. Although it was undoubtedly a collective effort, the breakout seasons of Daniel Murphy and Tanner Roark helped tremendously. With Murphy hitting .347 with 25 homers and Roark leading the team with a 2.83 ERA, the Nats have them to thank in large part for making the postseason in 2016.
Mets: Health should return to rotation in 2017
The Mets were expected to keep pace with the Nationals all season long, having things come right down until the very end for who would win the division. But that’s not close to what happen. Due to Jacob de Grom, Steven Matz and Matt Harvey all struggling in 2016, only Noah Syndergaard lived up to the billing, and that wasn’t nearly enough to overtake the Nationals. But the Mets should be very thankful that all of those pitchers should be back to form in 2017. If all goes as planned, the Mets should be very good again next season.
Marlins: Marcell Ozuna looks to be headed for stardom
We have known about the stupendous power of Giancarlo Stanton for some time, but after the 2016 season Marcell Ozuna put together, people are beginning to take notice of his big bat as well. Though no one hits them quite like Stanton, Ozuna hit 23 homers for the second time in his career this past year and made his first All-Star team. Stanton will continue to be the top talent on the team as long as he continues to stay healthy, but the Marlins should be thankful they have a great co-power threat such as Ozuna in their lineup on an everyday basis.
Phillies: Tommy Joseph eases Phillies’ minds of losing Ryan Howard
There hasn’t been a lot for the fans of the Phillies to be thankful for over the past few seasons, especially after being so dominant for so many years not too long ago. But Tommy Joseph just might change that for them in the years to come. Losing long time Phillies star Ryan Howard is certainly a big blow to their offense, but Joseph proved in 2016 that he is talented enough to fill the big shoes left at first by the departing Howard. Hitting 21 homers this past season, Joseph should fit right in and continue to post solid numbers for Philadelphia.
Braves: Signing of R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon to help rotation
One of the worst teams in all of baseball in 2016, the Braves are all set to move across town to their new ballpark in 2017. But while that’s exciting for both the team and their fans, one of the things they should be thankful for is the additions of veteran pitchers R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon so far this offseason. Though they aren’t the type of pitchers who can turn a team around, they are still impactful pitchers who will give the Braves solid innings and give their rotation a bit of a boost as soon as the season begins in early April.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Indians: Made it to World Series without biggest pieces
The fans of the Indians have every right to be disappointed that they made it all the way to game seven of the World Series only to lose in extras, but there is a very big silver lining that should cause the Indians to feel thankful for what may come in 2017. The fact that Cleveland was able to make the World Series without Michael Brantley or other key figures from 2015 should give their fans hope for 2017. While the Indians didn’t break their 68-year Fall Classic Championship drought this year, they very well could attempt to secure a title yet again in 2017.
Tigers: Justin Verlander had another Cy-Young-caliber year
After making six straight All-Star teams from 2009 to 2013, Justin Verlander simply hadn’t been the same pitcher over the last two seasons. With a combined ERA of 4.08 over 52 starts made in the aforementioned seasons, Verlander was no longer a feared pitcher in the Tigers’ rotation, at least not on the same level he had once been. But 2016 saw Verlander breaking out again, which is something Tigers’ fans should be thankful for. Though 2016 saw the Tigers failing to make the postseason, 2017 looks promising if Verlander continues to thrive.
Royals: Danny Duffy showed signs of being an Ace
There aren’t many true Aces around baseball, merely a lot of really good pitchers. But Danny Duffy, who had shown signs of greatness over the last few seasons, showed even more such signs in 2016. With the best team ERA of the entire Royals’ rotation, Duffy truly made his presence known in August in one start against the Rays. In that game, Duffy struck out a whopping sixteen batters in his one-hit masterpiece. Even if the Royals fail to make the postseason again in 2017, they should be thankful to have a guy like Duffy ready to lead the staff.
White Sox: Todd Frazier held down the hot corner
Not too much went right for the White Sox this year, but one of the bright spots for them was undoubtedly Todd Frazier. Although Frazier has always been a great player, his career-high 40 home runs in 2016 truly cemented him as one of the best offensive third basemen in baseball as well as a player the White Sox should give thanks for possessing. His defense was also very solid, making him a valuable part of Chicago’s lineup heading into next season. If Frazier can continue to smack the ball, he should be a big contributor for the foreseeable future.
Twins: Brian Dozier keeps getting better and better
The Twins should be very thankful to have Brian Dozier as the best offensive second baseman in baseball. Following an amazing 2015 campaign, very few thought Dozier could possibly get any better. But he proved them all wrong this season, hitting an MLB-record 42 homers at second. With that kind of pop, Dozier easily led the Twins, who had a good amount of struggles offensively throughout their poor season. Nothing is guaranteed from one season to the next, but Dozier being great again in 2017 is pretty much a given.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Cubs: 108-Year World Series drought was ended
It’s a safe bet to assume that every Cubs fan will list their team finally winning a World Series title as something they’re thankful for from 2016, and understandably so. After over a century of disappointment, the Cubs were able to break through and win their first championship against the Indians early this month. Although getting to the World Series is very difficult, regardless of if the Cubs ever make it back again the fans of their club will assuredly remember how they felt upon the final out of game seven for the rest of their lives.
Cardinals: One-two punch of Carlos Martinez, Alex Reyes setting up
Adam Wainwright proved in 2016 that he can still compete at the major league level, but when it comes to absolutely dominating the opposing squad, it falls to Carlos Martinez and the youngster Alex Reyes for the Cardinals next year. They each have a blazing fastball in their arsenal, and the Cardinals should be thankful that they have each of them ready to man the top of St. Louis’s rotation moving forward. Their lineup will likely be good again in 2017, but what will ultimately help the Cards succeed next season falls on their rotation.
Pirates: Pitching should improve from within in 2017
Gerrit Cole was good in 2016, and Ivan Nova surprised many with his performance, but what will truly enable the Pirates to become contenders once again is their young pitching stars set to make big impacts. While both Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow got some big league experience last year, they should each be watched very closely for their potential to have breakout seasons in 2017. Though the Pirates didn’t make the postseason this year, they have a great potential to return next season, as well as the many seasons to come after that.
Brewers: Chris Carter’s 2014 season wasn’t a fluke
It isn’t all that rare to see a player have a breakout season and excite people with their future potential, only to fall apart and never have a year close to their pinnacle year ever again. There were some thoughts to that being the case with Chris Carter, who hit 37 homers in 2014, only to launch a mere 24 the very next year. Thus, heading into this season, how he would perform in 2016 was very much up in the air, but he came through and blasted 41 big flies. Despite 2017 not looking too good for the Brewers, they should be thankful to have a proven slugger like Carter.
Reds: Adam Duval breaks out, with reinforcements not too far away
Finishing dead last in your division is never fun for any team, but the Reds have too good of a fan base and too rich of a history to land at the bottom of the pack. Their bright spot from 2016 was truly Adam Duvall going on a tear to hit 33 home runs, being one of their biggest power threats besides Jay Bruce, who went to the Mets midseason. But in addition to being thankful to have Duvall on their team, Reds fans should be thankful to have a deep farm system. With players such as Amir Garrett and Jesse Winker nearly ready, things should look up fairly soon in Cincy.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Rangers: 95 wins was simply the start of greatness
For a team that had multiple injuries throughout the season, many of which were with their pitching staff, the Rangers obviously fared very well in 2016. With 95 wins, the Rangers won their division and should be setup nicely to do so again in 2017. Their division isn’t a powerhouse by any means, but with the Mariners nearly making the postseason in 2016 and the Astros looking to bounce back next season, things could get interesting in the AL Central. For that reason, the Rangers should be thankful to have the great team they do, assuming they all stay healthy.
Mariners: Made first strong run at playoffs since 2001
A couple of 20+ season postseason droughts have been broken over the past few seasons, including the Pirates and Blue Jays, but to say Mariners fans have been waiting awhile for a playoff appearance would be an understatement. To put things in perspective, Ichiro Suzuki had just 242 career MLB hits the last time Seattle was playing deep into October. However, Mariners fans should be thankful to finally see a playoff-caliber team put on display in 2016, with the likes of Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager ready to lead the charge next year.
Astros: Signings of Brian McCann and Josh Reddick should energize young Astros
Trades or signings can always bring great talent to a given team, and the pickups of Brian McCann via trade and Josh Reddick by way of a large contract should help give the Astros an extra boost in 2017. After making the playoffs in 2015, many things kept Houston on the outside looking in for 2016. But even so, the Astros should be thankful to have picked up two solid veterans who, when combined with the talent already on the Astros’ roster, should put Houston back in a nice spot.
Angels: Albert Pujols is still a power threat
Most Angels fans would likely say they are most thankful to have two-time MVP Mike Trout — and generally agreed upon best player in baseball — on their team, but they shouldn’t overlook Albert Pujols. Though he gets his share of the spotlight, Pujols somewhat silently hit a team-best 31 blasts last season while recording his most RBI’s since 2009, and is now just nine homers away from 600 for his career. With those kind of numbers, the Angels should be thrilled to have Pujols producing big time at the plate alongside superstar Mike Trout.
Athletics: Khris Davis improved tremendously
On a team that was 21st in baseball in terms of home runs hit, Kris Davis was one of the few bright spots for the Athletics last year. Hitting a career-high 42 home runs — good enough for third most in baseball — Davis exceeded the expectations many placed on him by a huge margin, and Oakland should be thankful to have a player of his caliber on their team. Though things aren’t looking up by anyone’s calculations for the A’s to be in contention much at all next season, Davis will likely be a huger power threat for yet another year.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
Dodgers: Julio Urias and Jose de Leon ready to join Clayton Kershaw
Let me get this out of the way: There is currently no pitcher in all of baseball on the same level as Clayton Kershaw. Though there are a few pitchers who dominate just as much as he does, there’s something special about Kershaw that makes him a once-in-a-generation talent. With that said, the Dodgers, as well as Kershaw himself, should be thankful to have top-notch pitching talent ready to go for 2017. Julio Urias and Jose de Leon have been the Dodgers’ top prospects for several years, but they should become among their top pitching options for years to come.
Giants: They made the postseason, despite having a horrific second half
After the Giants won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014, people joked (to a serious extent) that they would once again win a title in 2016. They got off to such a great start, that by the time the All-Star game rolled around, more and more people began to get on board with the idea. But San Francisco proceeded to have one of the worst collapses in MLB history, barely making the postseason. But the Giants should be thankful that they make the postseason, especially given the fact that if they can improve even the slightest in 2017, they should easily be back again.
Rockies: Jeff Hoffman and Jon Gray giving Rockies talent on pitching side
The hitting is already in place for the Rockies. While playing at Coors Field in Denver helps pad their numbers a bit, they currently have several impact hitters such as Nolan Arenado, Carlos Gonzalez, D.J. LeMahieu and Trevor Story. But while their pitching has been somewhat subpar recently, former first rounders Jeff Hoffman and Jon Gray showed signs of major improvement, for which the Rockies should be thankful. If they can get any sort of momentum going in their rotation, anything is truly possible for Colorado.
Diamondbacks: Their pitching staff can’t be any worse in 2017
While anything is always possible, a scenario where the Diamondbacks have a worse rotation in 2017 than the one they produced in 2016 is hard to imagine. For that alone, the D-back’s and their fan base should be very, very thankful. From top to bottom, their starting rotation was atrocious, seeing them finish dead last in terms of team ERA with a collective 5.09 earned run average. With even their bright spots Zack Greinke (4.37 ERA) and Shelby Miller (6.15 ERA) doing poorly in 2016, look for a major turnaround from them in 2017.
Padres: Wil Myers had a breakout season, with Hunter Renfroe to follow
The Padres haven’t had all that much success in the recent history of their ball club. That was true once again in 2016. But they should be thankful to have players such as Wil Myers and Hunter Renfroe ready to lead their team in the coming years. After winning the Rookie of the Year in 2013 with the Rays, Wil Myers finally had the star year people have been waiting for, blasting 28 homers this season. Soon to join Myers in stardom appears to be Renfroe, who hit .371 with 4 homers and 14 RBI’s in just eleven games played last season.
*Keep in mind, this list was (obviously) made far before the 2017 season was even close to commencing. Any listed player could sign with a team other than their current club, or get traded away, completely throwing off everything I said for that particular team.
After falling down three games to one heading into game five of the World Series, the Cubs battled back to win the pivotal game and send the series back to Cleveland down 3-2. Despite having struggled at times this postseason, Chicago looked really good in their final game at Wrigley Field on Sunday night, and would be looking to keep their hot-hitting going into Tuesday.
The starter for the Indians, Josh Tomlin, had been great in his last outing, and he began the night without any struggle, retiring the first two batters without trouble.
However, Kris Bryant ended up taking an 0-2 curveball and promptly depositing it deep into the left field stands. Quickly following was a pair of singles by Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist, setting runners up at first and third with still two outs.
Addison Russell then lifted a simple fly ball to the outfield, which looked to be an easy third out to the inning. But due to miscommunication by Tyler Naquin and Lonnie Chisenhall, the ball dropped in, giving the Cubs another pair of runs, making the score 3-0 Cubs in the first inning.
Jake Arrieta was tabbed with the start for Chicago, but he was far more successful in his first inning than Tomlin had been, getting through the inning without a single hit. With a three-run cushion, and citing the way Arrieta had pitched his last time out, you got the feeling that the Indians had their work cut out for them.
Their struggles would continue in the third inning, when a Kyle Schwarber leadoff walk and a series of hits would result in the bases loaded with just one out, leading to the departure of Josh Tomlin after just 2.1 inning pitched. But things would simply go downhill from there, as Dan Otero, who came on in relief, allowed a grand slam to Addison Russell — just the 19th World Series grand slam in history, and first since Paul Konerko in 2005 –that pushed the score up to 7-0. (In addition, Russell’s slam put him at six RBI’s on the night, tying the all-time record.)
The Indians would finally get to Arrieta in the fourth, when Jason Kipnis led off the inning with a double, later scoring on an RBI-single from Mike Napoli. But despite recording the second out of the inning, Arrieta would struggle for a bit, allowing the bases to become loaded for Tyler Naquin. However, Naquin couldn’t come through, leaving the Indians still trailing by half a dozen runs.
But their quest for a comeback continued in the next inning, with Jason Kipnis launching an opposite-field solo home run to make the score 7-2. Although still trailing by five runs, the Indians appeared to be heating up just a bit in the middle innings, chasing Arrieta from the game just one out shy of six inning pitched in which he struck out nine.
Following a scoreless sixth and seventh by both squads, the eighth inning saw Aroldis Chapman on in relief, who had come in and successfully gotten the final out in the seventh. His appearance in a 7-2 game was greatly questioned around the baseball world, as overuse or an injury on Tuesday night would limit his participation in the all-important game seven. But nonetheless, he did his job and was as dominant as ever.
A two-run homer from Anthony Rizzo in the top of the ninth would give the Cubs an even bigger lead heading into the bottom half, ultimately securing them the win to force things to a seventh game, despite the Indians scoring a run in the ninth and making it a final score of 9-3.
Having picked up the win, the Cubs became the first team to force a game seven after trailing 3-1 since the Royals in 1985.
With Chicago’s 3-4-5-6 hitters going a combined 8-9 to begin the game, the Cubs certainly saw their bats heat up in a big way in game six. Only time would reveal if the Cubs would share in the same fate as the ’85 Royals, who went on to win the World Series, but if their bats continued to stay hot, their chances seemed fairly good.
The decisive game seven of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians saw Kyle Hendricks going up against Corey Kluber, who had both had their share of ups and downs throughout the season. However, with this guaranteed to be the final game of the 2016 baseball season, you knew going into it that they were each going to give it all they had, with neither side wanting to give an inch.
But even with that being the case, Kluber didn’t get off to the start he had been hoping for. The very first batter of the game, Dexter Fowler, cranked a home run over the center field wall, making history as the first leadoff homerun in a game seven of the World Series ever. Following that round-tripper, Kluber would settle down to not allow any more damage in the inning, but the tone was already set.
Taking the mound in the bottom half was Hendricks, who navigated through the inning without any runs being scored upon him. That would change, however, in the third inning, when after a Coco Crisp leadoff double, the Indians tied the game on an RBI-single from Carlos Santana, following a sacrifice bunt that had advanced Crisp to third.
The Cubs would score again in the fourth on a shallow sacrifice fly from who else but Addison Russell, allowing Kris Bryant to score on a terrific slide under the glove of catcher Roberto Perez. Willson Contreras would then double off the top of the outfield wall, giving the Cubs another run and a 3-1 lead over the Indians.
A lot of people made the assumption that with Kluber having started two games of the World Series already, it had a huge impact on him and his effectiveness in this game. That theory received more evidence in the fifth inning when Javier Baez hit a solo-homer to lead off the inning and increase the Cubs’ score yet again, causing the departure of Kluber for reliever Andrew Miller. But not even Miller could keep the Cubs quiet, as Chicago once again scored a run on an Anthony Rizzo RBI-double and appeared to be putting the game away.
But the Indians wouldn’t go away quietly. Jon Lester would come on in relief in the fifth inning for the first time in his postseason career since 2007, but quickly give up two runs on a wild pitch. With the score back to just a two-run lead, this was anyone’s game yet again.
The sixth inning saw the Cubs adding on another run, with a David Ross homer giving them a 6-3 lead. That homer made Ross the oldest player ever to hit a home run in game seven of the Fall Classic, dating back to its inaugural season in 1903.
After Ross’s home run made it 6-3, Aroldis Chapman would come on in the eighth, but would allow an RBI-double to Brandon Guyer, putting the Indians back just two runs. The lead then completely dissolved, as a Rajai Davis home run tied the game at six apiece. Game seven was certainly living up to the hype.
The ninth inning would quickly get interesting, as a stolen base attempt by Jason Heyward resulted in him winding up at third with just one out following an errant throw down to second. But a questionable decision to bunt by Javier Baez with two strikes that was unsuccessful, and a terrific play by Francisco Lindor, kept the Cubs from doing anything in the inning.
The skies would then open up after regulation play, leading to a rain delay that would last around twenty minutes before the game resumed. Upon the restart, the Cubs wasted no time in retaking the lead, with Ben Zobrist notching an RBI-double, putting runners at second and third with just one out. The next batter would be intentionally walked to get to Miguel Montero, who would come through, allowing another run to score and make the Cubs lead two runs heading into the bottom half.
Carl Edwards Jr. was given the task of closing out the game, but he couldn’t complete the task. Despite getting the first two outs, Edwards would allow an RBI-single to Rajai Davis, making it just a one run game. Mike Montgomery would subsequently come into the game, looking to do what Edwards couldn’t. Montgomery would get the final out, winning the Cubs its first championship in over a century.
The World Series Most Valuable Player award went to Ben Zobrist, who came up big with what would be the game winning hit in the tenth inning. Though this team had their highs and lows, Zobrist was tremendous throughout the World Series, and truly deserved to take home the MVP honors.
This win by the Chicago Cubs means the world to countless people around the baseball world. For Cubs fans who have been hopeful for a century that each season was finally the one, only to have disappointment arise time and time again, they finally have their title. For a fan of any team around baseball, though, this is still a very special and historic moment.
Although the Cleveland Indians now take over as the MLB team with the longest World Series Championship drought, their time will inevitably come, as it finally did for the Cubs. Whether that comes next season or in another 40 years like the Cubs, the only thing that mattered to baseball fans on Wednesday night was this: The Chicago Cubs are officially your World Series Champions of 2016.
Next stop, 2017 . . .
After witnessing the Indians dominating game one of the World Series and the Cubs coming back to take control of game two, you knew game three was bound to be exciting.
With the series tied at a game apiece, each team would come out wanting to take control of the series and give them the advantage of heading into game four of the first World Series games to be played at Wrigley Field since 1945.
That was certainly the case from the first pitch on Friday night, as the two starters — Josh Tomlin for the Indians and Kyle Hendricks for the Cubs — were absolutely terrific the first time through the opposing team’s order, despite neither being power-pitchers and the disadvantage of having the wind blowing out.
While games one and two failed to live up to the billing of a pitcher’s dual, game three turned out to be the game everyone had been waiting for, as neither starting pitcher allowed a single run over the first four innings and essentially were breezing through every batter they faced.
The first struggles of the game for Hendricks came in the fifth inning, when the bases became loaded with just one out. Due to the situation, Hendricks was removed from the game, and was replaced by Justin Grimm, who promptly got Francisco Lindor to ground into a double play; despite having gone 5-9 previously in the postseason, and being the first player age 22 or younger to start a World Series 5-9 since Mickey Mantle.
Tomlin was replaced in the sixth inning by Andrew Miller, who once again was untouchable, doing his part in keeping the game scoreless through the seventh inning, and punching the new record for scoreless innings by a reliever in the postseason, with 15 straight. It was also in that inning when the Indians would finally put something together.
A pinch-hit single from Coco Crisp, who had previously gone 3-18 in the playoffs, scored pinch-runner Michael Martinez from third, giving the Indians a 1-0 lead in the late innings. With the way this game was going, you quickly got the feeling that it was going to be difficult for the Cubs to rally back.
Although Bill Murray attempted to get the Cubs motivated before their at-bats in the seventh with his Daffy-Duck-edition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, it wouldn’t do much good in the end, despite getting the crowd in a lightened mood late in the ballgame.
The Cubs would set themselves up nicely in that very inning, as well as several more times in the game — including the ninth inning, where they had runner on second and third with two outs — but they weren’t able to come through and ended up losing the close game and falling behind the Indians two games to one in the series.
With the win, the Indians marked their fifth shutout pitching performance of their postseason thus far (a new MLB record), and also secured just the 25th time in the 649-game history of the World Series that a game ended with a final score of 1-0. In addition, the last time the Cubs were shutout in the World Series 1-0 came way back in 1918, seeing Babe Ruth throw a shutout against Chicago, leaving little doubt that this series is something historic.
Although the game was thrilling for baseball fans, it was obviously a disappointing loss for the Cubs and their fan base, as it guaranteed they could no longer win the series at Wrigley Field in front of their home crowd. Furthermore, falling one game further away from finally breaking their 108-year World Series championship drought, the Cubs would have to come back the next night and even up the score if they wanted to avoid sitting just one loss away from elimination altogether. You began to get the feeling that game four was going to be another absolute battle.
Game four began just that way, with John Lackey going up against Corey Kluber, who had been terrific in game one. But this time around, it was Lackey who began strong, with Kluber giving up a run in the first, after allowing a drop-in double to Dexter Fowler, and a single up the middle from Anthony Rizzo, making the score 1-0 Cubs.
But before the Cubs fans were able to settle back into their seats, Lackey gave up a run of his own via a solo home run to Carlos Santana in the second, marking the first home run by a first baseman in the World Series at Wrigley Field since Lou Gehrig in 1932. Then, following an error by Bryant which allowed Lonnie Chisenhall to reach first — he was moved to second by Perez with two outs — the next batter, Tyler Naquin, was walked to get to the pitcher.
But Kluber proceeded to hit a weak tapper that was thrown wildly by Bryant for his second error of the game, allowing Chisenhall to score and give the Indians a one-run lead. Once again, the next inning, after a leadoff double by Kipnis, the Indians would score when Lindor singled him home, giving the Indians a 3-1 lead.
Neither team would score again for the next two innings, but the Indians were back at it again in the sixth. Mike Montgomery, the reliever for Lackey, gave up a leadoff walk to Lindor, a single to Santana, and a ground out that made it first and third with one out. The next batter Chisenhall then blasted a ball deep enough into the outfield to allow Lindor to score and make it 4-1.
The Cubs would attempt to answer back in the bottom half when a leadoff double from Rizzo got the crowd amped up, but yet again the Cubs couldn’t make it count, failing to get another hit in the inning.
The Indians, however, couldn’t stop hitting all night long. Leading off the seventh with a double was Coco Crisp, who advanced to third on a wild pitch with no outs. Rajai Davis was then drilled with the next pitch, and Jason Kipnis ended up launching a three-run bomb to push the lead to six runs.
With that hit, the fans went absolutely silent, especially with Andrew Miller entering the game. But Miller proved that he was in fact human, giving up a homer to Fowler in the eighth inning. Still, the Cubs weren’t able to get anywhere close to threatening the Indians 7-2 lead, as Cleveland was victorious for the second straight night and moved just one win away from winning it all.
Down 3-1 in the series, Sunday night’s game was a win or go home game for the Cubs. If they had any shot at extending their season, they would quite simply have to start getting big hits in game five or they wouldn’t stand a chance against the Indians. Though the odds were against them, the majority of the baseball world was with them, hoping they could find a way to keep the season going just a little while longer.
Jon Lester certainly gave the Cubs’ fans plenty to cheer about in the very first inning, looking sharp and striking out the side to begin the game — the first National League pitcher to do so since John Smoltz in 1996. Equally sharp, however, was Trevor Bauer, who kept the Cubs off the board as well to begin the ballgame.
The second inning was deja vu for the Cubs, as it saw the Indians once again taking an early lead off of a Jose Ramirez solo shot — the youngest player to hit a World Series homer at Wrigley Field since Joe DiMaggio in 1938. Citing the fact that the Indians had won their last fifteen games in which they had hit a home run, going back to the regular season, the odds were slowly falling away from a Cubs victory.
But then the fourth inning happened. Despite Bauer being terrific through the first three innings, his second time through the order proved troublesome. The Cubs bats absolutely came alive, as following a Kris Bryant leadoff home run, Anthony Rizzo proceeded to double off the outfield wall and later scored after a couple of well-placed singles. The bases would quickly become loaded after an out was recorded, and the veteran David Ross would deliver a sacrifice fly, scoring the Cubs’ third run of the inning, making it 3-1.
Despite Wrigley Field hopping following the breakout inning, the Indians would cool things down a bit, leading off the fifth inning with a double from Carlos Santana, who was moved to third with just one out. But a terrific job of pitching by Lester kept the Indians from scoring a single run.
That would only last through the sixth inning, however, when a two-out drop-in single by Francisco Lindor scored the second run of the contest for the Indians. After finishing out that inning, Lester’s night was done. His replacement, Carl Edwards Jr., was shaky to begin, giving up a single to Mike Napoli and allowing him to advance to second with no outs on a passed ball. But Chapman was brought on, who kept things from getting out of hand.
Chapman would stay in for the eighth inning, and although he would allow a runner to make it all the way to third with two outs, a 102 mile-per-hour heater got the strikeout he needed to escape the inning untouched. After little getting through the eighth, Chapman was entrusted with the ninth inning as well, getting the job done in quick fashion, and securing the victory for Chicago with a lengthy eight-out save performance.
With the win, the Cubs move to 3-2 in the series. Although still at a disadvantage heading back into enemy territory down a game, you know the Cubs are at the very least going to be very competitive and not go down without a fight. History is still in the process of being made. After 108 years of disappointment, the Cubs are by no means done in their attempt at achieving baseball glory.
Any doubt the baseball world had about the Cubs throughout the entirety of the NLDS against the Giants and the first three games of the NLCS against the Dodgers is slowly beginning to fade away. Despite their offense all but shutting down over the course of the playoffs to this point, the Cubs have been able to post 18 combined runs over their last two games, once again making them the heavy favorites in this postseason.
Sitting now just one win away from their first World Series appearance since 1945, the Cubs are on the verge of a season not seen in over seven decades. With the team to win game five of the NLCS going on to the World Series nine out of the last ten seasons, it’s all but assured — baring another Steve Bartman incident — that the Cubs will be celebrating big time come either Saturday or Sunday night.
But in order to make the World Series and have any amount of success in it, the Cubs will obviously need to continue hitting. Their pitching has been only decent to this point — other than Jon Lester, who has been phenomenal — and their offense has been far worse. Javier Baez has been tremendous to this point, as has Kris Bryant, but their other stars during the season of Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist and Addison Russell are all hitting well under .200 thus far.
However, despite their struggles, I am with the majority of baseball fans who still believe in the Cubs and their ability to get the job done. Perhaps the past two games of the NLCS have given them enough confidence to keep the hit-parade going in the next dozen days or so. Although they must face Clayton Kershaw on Saturday, having to win just one of the final two games at home, the Cubs should make the World Series when all is said and done, even if it takes a full seven games.
How far beyond that they go is yet to be seen, but the Cubs have come much too far to stop now. Even if their pitching and offense aren’t on the levels they were over the length of the 162-game season, they still stand a good chance of giving the overachieving Indians a run for their money.
We very well could be just days away from it being 1908 all over again.
Despite losing to the Yankees on Wednesday night via a Mark Teixeira walk-off grand slam, the Red Sox still managed to pick up a major victory. With the Orioles defeating the Blue Jays, Boston has now officially snatched up the final division title slot remaining in baseball, leaving just the Wild Card spots to be decided.
Joining the Indians, Rangers, Nationals, Cubs and Dodgers as the other divisional winners from around baseball, the Red Sox have had a somewhat unpredicted fantastic season. Following a last-place finish in the American League East just a year ago, the Red Sox stormed back to take the division crown once again in 2016, picking up a whopping 14 more wins thus far than last year.
One of the most remarkable things about Boston’s ability to take the division title is their doing so within a division that has once again emerged as one of the best in all of baseball — every team except the Rays have been in the postseason race all season long — in addition to having a multitude of injuries and underperformances (namely, David Price) throughout the year.
With all of the top spots in all six divisions out of reach for the other twenty-four teams in baseball, there now remains just six teams still mathematically in contention for one of the two Wild Card spots in the American League, with three doing the same in the National League. Having four games remaining in the season (the days until the postseason can now be counted on one hand), it should be fun to watch how things unfold.
As great as the regular season has been, the best is inevitably yet to come.
In baseball — much like in life — surprises can be really good or they can be really bad. A good surprise in baseball might be a player or team having an unpredicted breakout season, while a bad surprise may be defined as a team or player destined for great things having a below average year. The 2016 season has had plenty of both throughout the entire stretch.
With just over a week left until the last games of the season leading up to the playoffs, a lot has taken place that can be deemed as good surprises or bad surprises. Having said that, I wanted to take the time to go over six hitters, six pitchers and six teams who surprised the baseball world in good or bad ways, keeping in mind that it is by no means a record of all the players who fit each category, nor is it the very top options in some cases. It’s simply a broad overview meant to recap the season as a whole.
Surprisingly Good: Brian Dozier, Brad Miller and Adam Duvall
Over the past several seasons, Brian Dozier has been one of the best second basemen in all of baseball. However, this season, he has broken out as arguably the best second baseman in baseball. With a previous career high of 28 home runs coming last year, Dozier has been even better this season, having knocked 42 so far — the most in American League history for a second baseman. Despite the Twins having the worst record in baseball, Dozier has been a huge surprisingly bright spot in Minnesota.
On the same theme, Brad Miller has been the biggest standout on the Rays, with the exception of All-Star Evan Longoria. Hitting 30 homers to this point in the year, Miller has blasted more round-trippers this campaign than he had over the past three seasons (343 games) combined. For that reason, Miller has been a great surprise to Tampa Bay. Whether Miller will be this type of player moving forward or is simply having a career-year, there is little argument that he wasn’t expected to be this good when the season began.
The final player on my list is Adam Duvall. After winning a World Series ring with the Giants back in 2014, Duvall has spent the last two years in Cincinnati, where he has turned out to be an extremely productive player. After playing in just 27 games last season, in which Duvall managed to hit just 5 home runs, this season has seen Duvall breaking out to record 31 blasts. It surely was surprising to see Duvall break out in the way he did, but it certainly was of the good surprise variety for the Reds and their fans.
Surprisingly Bad: Mark Teixeira, Jason Heyward and Bryce Harper
Mark Teixeira announced earlier this season that 2016 would be his final year, but he’s not going out with a bang as many of baseball’s greats have before him. Unlike his fellow retiree David Ortiz, who has recorded one of the best years in baseball history for a player 40 or older, Teixeira hasn’t been able to hit even a mere .200 and has notched only 13 homers and 38 RBI’s in 2016. Following 2015, in which Tex managed 31 homers, his year has definitely been a bad surprise for the Yankees. Even so, he is still one of the best players in recent baseball history, having hit over 400 homers in his career.
When the Cubs signed Jason Heyward to an eight-year, 184 million dollar contract leading up to this season, he was obviously expected to put up All-Star numbers for Chicago. However, he has somewhat surprisingly been pretty horrible, quite frankly. Only managing to record seven home runs and a .230 average, Heyward has yet to get things going, now nearly six months into the season. Given, Heyward can turn things around with the playoffs looming, but it would take a lot for that to happen where things stand now.
Bryce Harper’s 24 home runs and 82 home runs would be a great season for any number of players around Major League Baseball. But by Harper’s standards — set last season with his MVP-earning 42 homers — Harper is having a surprisingly bad year, seeing his batting average drop nearly an entire 100 points from a year ago. There have been rumors that Harper has been playing through an injury all season long, but that’s being denied by Harper. Whether or not it’s true, Harper — who was expected to be in the running for a second straight MVP — is still having a surprisingly down year by all accounts.
Surprisingly Good: Kyle Hendricks, Tanner Roark and Steven Wright
Part of a rotation that includes the likes of Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks has surprisingly been the best pitcher of the Cubs’ entire rotation. Over the course of 28 games started for the Cubs, Hendricks has notched a mere 2.06 ERA — the best in all of baseball. By doing so, Hendricks has helped to lead the Cubs to the best record in baseball and what looks to have all the makings of a postseason run. Although it’s yet to be seen whether or not this is actually the year for the Cubs, it has certainly been the year for Kyle Hendricks.
Tanner Roark has been an average to above average pitcher for the Nationals over the past few years, but this season Roark has truly broken out. Holding a 2.70 ERA over 200.1 innings pitched, Roark has kept the Nats push towards October strong, despite the loss of Stephen Strasburg for a good chunk of the season, and inevitably the final several weeks. It very well may come down the Roark’s ability to keep his surprisingly good performance going in order to keep the Nationals going deep into the postseason.
I’ve been bringing up the name Steven Wright all season long, and for good reason. Despite being a knuckleballer, Wright has been one of the top surprises in terms of pitchers this season for the Red Sox. Although his historic start to the season has slowly dwindled away as the year progressed, Wright’s 3.30 ERA is still good enough to make this list. Although he is currently working to battle his way back from an injury, Wright has still recorded enough innings to prove himself to all of baseball that he is a true weapon moving forward.
Surprisingly Bad: Chris Archer, Shelby Miller and Zack Greinke
Chris Archer broke out in 2015 to be one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, and was set to be the Rays’ ace moving into this season. But after getting off to a poor start to begin the year, Archer hasn’t been able to get much of anything going with only one more start remaining. The strikeouts are still there, as he has produced over ten strikeouts per nine innings on the year; and with the Rays’ poor collective season, Archer’s 19 losses are somewhat deceiving. But his 4.02 ERA can’t be ignored, especially following his Cy Young eligible season last year.
Being traded to the Diamondback’s this past offseason in exchange for Dansby Swanson, who has gone from 2015 first overall draft pick to star in the big leagues, Shelby Miller has been one of the biggest surprises in all of baseball this year. Having never recorded a full-season ERA above 3.74 heading into this year, Miller has posted an ERA of 6.47 over 19 starts. Following Miller’s 3.02 ERA with the Braves last season, many expected Miller to help get the Diamondbacks back into the postseason, but he has been virtually no factor whatsoever.
Joining Shelby Miller as part of the D-back’s rotation, Zack Greinke was expected to help make their rotation one of the greatest in the majors. After all, with Greinke posting a historically-low 1.66 ERA with the Dodgers in 2015, he was all but guaranteed to be the number one starter for the D-backs. But this is baseball, where nothing is guaranteed and anything can happen from one year to the next. As such, Greinke has put up his worst ERA since back in 2005, notching a 4.37 ERA for his efforts in 2016.
Surprisingly Good: Marlins, Mariners and Indians
I didn’t know what to make of the Marlins heading into the 2016 season, but they truly surprised me in a big way. Dealing with the losses of star players such as Dee Gordon and Giancarlo Stanton at various points in the season, for drastically different reasons, many expected the Marlins to fade away early on. But they’ve hung in there all season long, sitting five games back of a wild card spot. Inevitably, there aren’t enough games remaining for the Marlins to wind up in the playoffs, but to still be in the discussion at this point in the year is remarkable.
Things are coming down to the wire for the Mariners, and they may not have enough in them to make the postseason for the first time since 2001, but they had a year that shocked a lot of people. With Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager all having great seasons at the right times, Seattle was able to beat a lot of teams around baseball that many felt would give them trouble. As such, they easily made my list. They may or may not make the postseason in 2016, but things are looking positive all of a sudden for them to finally get there in 2017.
Many people felt the Indians would be as good as they have been this year, but I wasn’t as convinced. I simply thought the World Series defending Royals and the always good Detroit Tigers would keep Cleveland from being relevant in the month of September. But to my surprise — as well as the surprise of some people who felt the same way I did — the Indians are sitting atop the American League Central. If they can keep things going into the playoffs, they may not be done surprising people as the postseason plays out.
Surprisingly Bad: Rays, Braves and Twins
A lot of people actually picked the Tampa Bay Rays to win the American League East division this season, with their rotation being the key to that happening. However, with Chris Archer having a rough year along with several untimely injuries, the Rays haven’t been able to come close to realizing their predicted potential. With only a week to go, the Rays are in sole possession of last place in the American League East. With the division strong once again, it remains to be seen if the Rays can turn things around in 2017 and beyond.
It took the Braves forever to win a single game this season, and once they finally recorded one in the win column, they still weren’t able to get much of anything going. Losing 91 games to this point in the year, the Braves are promising that 2017 will be the year things turn around, with them getting a shiny new ballpark across town. But if the Braves don’t turn things around next year in a big way from this season, their ballpark could easily turn out to be the bright spot in the entire season when all is said and done.
Much like the Braves, the Twins’ season was over before it even got started. When the final game has been recorded, the Twins will have more than likely lost 100+ games after finishing four game over .500 last year. Following that breakout performance for the Twins, many people felt that they would be able to keep it going into this year. But it wasn’t meant to be, as the Twins have been one of the worst teams in recent baseball history. Although they could easily turn things around in 2017, all hope is lost for this year.
With exactly two weeks until the first Wild Card playoff game is set to be played, things around baseball are starting to get more and more exciting. The postseason always brings an uptick in fantastic games, and with it comes an increase in my overall blog post numbers.
Over the course of this blog, October has always been one of the busiest months in terms of posts produced, and for good reason. With the playoffs going on, there is virtually an endless supply of content to discuss, which makes things both fun and difficult as I try to keep this blog up to date with the latest news. With that said, I thought I’d go ahead and give a brief overview of what to expect from this blog over the coming month or so.
Once all of the teams have officially filled every playoff spot — whether that comes at the end of this month or the first few days of October — I’m going to be writing about how I feel the playoffs will play out, giving my prediction for each round of the postseason. Given, I’m not very good at predictions, but I’m going to try again, nonetheless.
Then, on the last day of the 2016 season, I’m going to give one final update to recap the stats of the players who lead Major League Baseball in each category you can think of. I did that throughout the year on the first day of the new month, but figured I’d wait until the entire season was over to post it this time around.
After all of that, things are going to get really busy, as I’ll be discussing in individual posts which players I feel are most deserving of AL and NL MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year. There are several great candidates for each category, so choosing will be rather difficult to do. Following that, I’ll be posting some World Series predictions in addition to giving recaps of the games as the Fall Classic moves along.
So get ready for a good number of blog posts in a short amount of time as October rolls closer. That’s what happens when baseball enters it’s final month.
After making the playoffs last season following a seven-year drought, many felt that the time had finally arrived in which the Cubs would break their historic curse and win the World Series title that has eluded them for over a century. However, despite making it all the way to the National League Championship series for the first time since 2003, the Cubs were promptly swept in four games by the Mets.
This season, the Cubs are setting themselves up nicely once again. They have a great team, which has been evident all season long, allowing them to be the first team to officially clinch a postseason spot, as well as run away with the division title by a whopping 17 games over the Cardinals.
But the big question is, are the Cubs setting themselves up for a magical finish to the year or yet another disappointing conclusion?
One of the key differences from the team the Cubs put on the field last season and the one they have this time around is their overall dominance. From week one of the season, the Cubs put their talent on full display, taking the division title with ease (they wound up in third place last season), having never been out of first place since the first few games of the year.
Their offense is extremely good, despite the collective team stats saying otherwise. The Cubs don’t sit in the top few slots in either home runs or batting average for their team, but with 30+ homer guys such as Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo — who are both considered top MVP-candidates — the Cubs have plenty of thump to get the job done.
But as good as their lineup is, it’s their pitching that puts them in historic territory.
Four of the Cubs’ rotation options from this season hold ERA’s below 3.00, with all of their starters having recorded ERA’s less than 3.60, all adding up to a collective team ERA (including the bullpen) of just over 3.00 — by far the best in all of baseball.
On top of their fantastic starting pitching, holding an elite closer in Aroldis Chapman to get the job done at the end of the game gives the Cubs a great chance at a win day in and day out.
However, as has been proven in the past, a win isn’t guaranteed by any means in the month of October, no matter how good of a roster any team may possess. All it takes is for an under-the-radar team to get hot at just the right time and come along to kill the dreams of any given team.
But does any team actually have a chance of beating the Cubs when the postseason rolls around in less than three weeks? Obviously, the answer is yes — anything can and usually does happen in October. But although it remains a possibility, I — along with a great number of people around the baseball world — believe that this could actually end up being the year the Cubs win it all (I said that in 2015, too).
No team could stop the Cubs in the regular season.
Only time will tell if the same will hold true in the postseason.