Results tagged ‘ MLB ’
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.
There comes a point in every baseball season when teams who have kept hope alive all year long for a turnaround that would see them subsequently powering their way to the playoffs have to face the reality that time has simply run out.
For the Braves and Twins, that point in the season has already come and gone, as they have both officially been eliminated from playoff contention. For another nine squads still technically in the race, a shot at the postseason is looking very slim, as they’ve already been eliminated from the possibility of winning their given division, with their elimination number to grab even a wild card spot growing smaller and smaller everyday.
Eight teams have elimination numbers in the single digits (the Rays are just two loses away from complete elimination) with just under twenty games left in the regular season. With things slowly begin to wind down, a rough idea of the teams that will make up the postseason is already starting to take shape.
The Cubs are well on their way to a 100-win season, and should become the first team to clinch a playoff spot in the coming weeks. Likewise, the Nationals and Rangers are approaching 90-win seasons, and look to be postseason-bound.
However, on the flip side, teams such as the Marlins, Pirates and Rockies in the National League, and the Astros, Mariners and Royals in the American League, are going to have to go on major runs to have any shot at a Wild Card spot. Given, baseball is a game in which any team can go on a major run at any point in the year and make the postseason in spectacular fashion (the Mariners have won six straight), the chance of doing so with so few games left is a major feat to attempt to accomplish.
But even if a team or two does shock the world and make the playoffs, the most difficult part of their journey won’t be complete. They’ll then have to go up against powerhouse teams such as the Cubs, who seem determined to make the World Series and end their century-long World Championship drought. For that reason, it’ll be interesting to watch all the teams around baseball to see what goes down over the next few weeks.
Time may be running out, but the fun is just beginning.
Last year I did a post at the end of the 16 games I spent out at a baseball park recapping my 2015 MiLB season. With the 2016 MiLB season now over for me, I wanted to once again post an overview of the games and of the autographs I received this year. In all, I managed to make it to thirteen baseball games this season. It was a great year, full of fun, and I thought I’d take the time to recap it all:
April 19th — Salem Red Sox Vs. Carolina Mudcats
Game one of the year turned out to be a rather good one. Before the game, I was able to get Rafael Devers and Joe Oliver to sign a couple of cards, as well as Andrew Benintendi (he amazed everyone and actually signed cards — something he claimed to never do) and Angel Berroa, who both signed a card apiece. The big miss on the day was Yoan Moncada, who ignored everyone. But I had already gotten him last season, so I wasn’t overly disappointed. After the game — which lasted 12 innings, and ran roughly four hours — I was able to get Braves top prospect, Dansby Swanson, to sign a 4×6 photo, in addition to a card:
April 24th — Indianapolis Indians Vs. Durham Bulls
Following a good night five days earlier at the Mudcats, I was really looking forward to this game. I was able to get Mel Rojas Jr., Trevor Williams and Tyler Glasnow to sign a card before the game, in addition to Cory Luebke signing two cards. After the game, I ventured outside and picked up Jameson Taillon and Cole Figueroa on a couple of cards each, with Josh Bell signing one card after coming back from buying pizza. The biggest misses on the day were Jung-Ho Kang, who was rehabbing but didn’t sign for anyone, as well as Alen Hanson. But overall, it was a good evening for autographs:
May 12th — Buffalo Bisons Vs. Durham Bulls
I wasn’t sure how great this game was going to wind up, originally. The Bisons didn’t have a single one of the Blue Jays’ top 30 prospects heading into this game, yet I headed out to the ballpark anyhow. Things turned out to go amazingly; so good that I have to put it in two separate pictures. Before the game, I received three autographs from former Red Sox pitcher Bob Stanley, and two from Pat Venditte, David Aardsma, Fausto Carmona (now named Roberto Hernandez) and Alexi Casilla:
Then, after the game, I was able to do just as good as pregame, getting Matt Dominguez and Tony Sanchez to sign a card, with Domonic Brown, Jesus Montero and Drew Hutchinson all signing a handful:
May 16th — Lynchburg Hillcats Vs. Carolina Mudcats
There weren’t a ton of top prospects on this team, with the main two players being Bobby Bradley and Justus Sheffield. Due to Sheffield starting the game, I was only able to get Bradley, Dorssys Paulino (on three cards) and Anthony Santander before the game. But after the game, Justus Sheffield was nice enough to sign a card, as well as Yu-Cheng Chang on a 4×6 photo:
May 31st — Scranton Wilkes-Barre Railriders Vs. Durham Bulls
I didn’t do all that well inside before the game, getting just Aaron Judge and Chris Parmelee (on two cards), but outside allowed me to redeem myself. There were probably around 50 people waiting around for Nick Swisher, who has always been a fan favorite — and Swisher didn’t disappoint. He stuck around for nearly ten minutes, signing autographs for everyone who wanted one, taking pictures, and simply being himself and joking around with the crowd. It was an awesome experience. After getting Swisher on two cards, I also obtained Cesar Puello and Jake Cave on a card, as well as Ben Gamel on a 4×6 photo:
June 3rd — Gwinnett Braves Vs. Durham Bulls
The original plan for this game was to get the few autographs I needed from the Bulls’ players before the game, and then get the many players I needed from Gwinnett outside after the game. However, things didn’t go as planned. I was able to get autos from the Bulls before the game like I wanted, but a two-hour rain delay in the second inning lead to the game starting back after 9:30. For that reason, I decided not to stick around for the game, which ended up concluding at 12:15 in the morning. Even so, I was able to get J.P. Arencibia and Daniel Robertson on a couple cards, as well as Jaff Decker and Adam Kolarek on a card each; in addition, I got Austin Pruitt on an old program, and Richie Shaffer on a 4×6 photo that I was hoping to get Blake Snell to sign as well, but was never able to due to his callup to the Rays:
June 26th — Lehigh Valley Ironpigs Vs. Durham Bulls
I had been looking forward to this game since last season, when the Phillies had so many top prospects in Double-A that I assumed would make the jump up to Triple-A in 2016. I wound up seeing the Phillies’ top three prospects (all in the top 100) on the team. I obtained three autographs from Jake Thompson, two autographs each from Nick Williams, J.P. Crawford and Ben Lively, as well as an auto from David Buchanan, James Russell, Darnell Sweeney, Emmanuel Burriss and Darin Ruf. So, all-in-all, everything went very well, despite missing out on a few key players such as Andrew Knapp and Edward Mujica due to a combination of bad luck and mental errors:
July 6th — Syracuse Chiefs Vs. Durham Bulls
Trea Turner was the obvious standout of this game, sitting as the number nine overall prospect at the time. Before the game, I wasn’t able to get Turner, but instead got A.J. Cole (he surprisingly signed, despite being the starting pitcher), Matt Skole and Michael Taylor (on a couple cards), who had just been sent down. After the game, I was successful in getting Trea Turner to sign a card outside, along with Pedro Severino, and Austin Voth on a 4×6 photo:
July 25th — Durham Bulls Vs. Toledo Mud Hens
I was most looking forward to seeing Steven Moya at this game, who I saw last year but wasn’t able to get. However, he didn’t sign before the game. Instead, I began the day by snagging former Cubs’ pitcher Jeff Pico on a few cards, and proceeded to get Dean Green on a 4×6 photo, as well as Dixon Machado and Casey McGehee on two a piece, with Jacoby Jones, Argenis Diaz and Jordan Valdespin each signing one for me. Then, outside after the game, I got Bobby Parnell, John Hicks and Steven Moya (finally) on two cards:
August 2nd — Carolina Mudcats Vs. Winston Salem Dash
There was really no pressing reason for me to attend this game, other than the fact that I hadn’t been to a Mudcats game in around three months, and I was missing it. (And, of course, I knew it would be my last game there of 2016.) Even so, I made the most of it, getting autographs from 2016 first-round draft pick Zack Collins, as well as Telvin Nash, Jose Bautista (not THAT Jose) on three, Brett Austin on a card, and Jordan Stephens on a photo. After the game, I got Travis Demeritte on a couple cards, Braxton Davidson on a card and Sal Giardina on the program for the night:
August 7th — Gwinnett Braves Vs. Durham Bulls
I had already seen Gwinnett once this season, but I was trying for autographs from the Bulls players at that time. This time around, I was solely going for Gwinnett, as they still had a great team. I ended up doing fantastic, getting Omar Infante, Matt Lipka, Rio Ruiz, Aaron Blair, Rob Wooten, Jason Hursh and John Gant before the game:
Then, after getting Ryne Stanek following the final out, I ventured outside and obtained a signature or two from Matt Wisler, Michael McKenry, Reid Brignac, Chris Ellis, Matt Duffy (on the blank-auto card), Curt Casali, Eury Perez and another from Rio Ruiz:
August 19th — Norfolk Tides Vs. Durham Bulls
I don’t really have that much to say about this game. My mind wasn’t completely in it, and it still bugs me. For that reason, I only got five autographs, from Christian Walker, Trey Mancini, Andy Oliver, Pedro Beato and L.J. Hoes. The end.
August 29th — Columbus Clippers Vs. Durham Bulls
I wanted to end the season with a bang (especially after doing so poorly at the last game), and I did just that. Before the game, I was able to get Steve Karsay, Bradley Zimmer, Ronny Rodriguez, Collin Cowgill, Ryan Merritt, Michael Choice and Erik Gonzalez on a varying number of cards. Then, after getting Jake Hager and Casey Gillaspie immediately following the game, I went outside and picked up an autograph from Cody Anderson, Giovanny Urshela and Yandy Diaz, on a 4×6 photo:
By the Numbers
Though you could take the time for yourself to add it all up, I figured I’d make things a bit easier. Here’s a numbers recap of my 2016 MiLB season:
Games attended: 13
Win-loss record for the home team: 7-6
Total runs scored (Home Team-Visitor): 53-40
Top 100 prospects seen in person: 16
Autographs from top 100 prospects: 13
Total autographs: 156
Total miles traveled to & from games: 1,240
It’s September, which means the only thing on the minds of the majority of baseball fans is October, and the postseason that subsequently comes along with it. For that reason, it can be somewhat easy to overlook the great season any given player is having, especially if they are doing so somewhat under the radar. With that in mind, I thought I’d take a look at the players who I feel are near the top of the most underrated players list at each position (not the best player at each position) from around all of Major League Baseball:
FIRST BASE: Chis Carter (right)
Over the past several seasons, Chris Carter has burst onto the scene as one of the best power-hitting first basemen in all of baseball, despite being a strikeout machine. Carter is having yet another season of great numbers, batting a mere .228 so far in 2016, but having notched 33 home runs and 78 RBI’s, making him a somewhat overlooked star first baseman.
SECOND BASE: Brian Dozier
Brian Dozier has received more and more recognition lately after having a few above average seasons, but Dozier still isn’t seen as the superstar he is. Having hit 38 home runs and recorded 91 RBI’s on the year, Dozier is well on his way to yet another unbelievable and historic season — a season that you may not be all that aware of.
THIRD BASE: Justin Turner
After a few poor years with various teams to begin his career, Justin Turner has been an elite third baseman the past couple of years with the Dodgers. This season has been no different, seeing Turner hit .270 with 25 home runs and 77 RBI’s. As such, despite Nolan Arenado and Kris Bryant holding all the spotlight at the hot corner, Turner deserves his share of recognition.
SHORTSTOP: Asdrubal Cabrera
Once upon a time with the Indians, Asdrubal Cabrera was a star. Making great plays and hitting near the top in every offensive category among shortstops, Cabrera hasn’t been that type of player in recent seasons. But this year with the Mets, Cabrera has resurged again, hitting .276 with 19 homers and 49 RBI’s.
CATCHER: Yasmani Grandal (left)
With guys such as Buster Posey and Salvador Perez, among others, seeing the most publicity among big league backstops, it’s players like Yasmani Grandal who fall by the wayside. Grandal has truly broken out as one of the best hitting catchers in the game today, blasting 24 homers despite batting just .234 on the year. As such, I see him as the most underrated catcher in baseball.
PITCHER: Tanner Roark
Kyle Hendricks has broken out as one of the best pitchers in the game this season, but it’s Tanner Roark who I feel is still under the radar. Posting a 2.89 ERA this season with the Nationals, Roark has been fantastic for them in his 28 starts. His .235 average against may not be in the top 20, but in my mind he is number one on the most underrated list.
OUTFIELD: Khris Davis (right)
Hitting just .254 on the season with 141 strikeouts, there are a lot of holes in Khris Davis’s game, but he is still the most underrated outfielder in my book. He is second in home runs among outfielders, with 35 (behind just Mark Trumo, who leads all of MLB). For that reason among others, Davis is a player everyone around baseball should know, but only a select amount do.
But whether or not you were aware of every single one of those players having amazing seasons, or have never heard of half of them, the point still stands. There are a ton of players around baseball each season who don’t receive the credit they deserve.
It’s time they were seen for the stars they are.
With the first five months of the 2016 MLB season in the books, I thought I’d take the first day of the new month to recap the season thus far. It’s been exciting as well as disappointing, depending on how you look at it and who you’re rooting for.
But instead of talking about the events that have taken place so far this year, I decided to make a list of different categories and beside them name the player(s) that leads that particular category. I’ve done lists like these for the past several years, and they have been well received, so I decided to do it again.
The following lists are categorized into hitting and pitching, but not AL or NL:
MLB LEADERS (AL and NL) – HITTING
Most Games Played – Alcides Escobar, Jonathan Schoop and George Springer (133).
Most At-Bats – Mookie Betts (559)
Most Hits – Jose Altuve (184)
Highest Average – Jose Altuve (.351)
Highest OBP – Mike Trout (.436)
Highest SLG – David Ortiz (.622)
Most Runs – Kris Bryant (111)
Most Doubles – David Ortiz (42)
Most Triples – Brandon Crawford, Cesar Hernandez and Chris Owings (9).
Most Home Runs – Mark Trumbo (40)
Most RBI’s – Nolan Arenado (115)
Most Base On Balls – Paul Goldschmidt (95)
Most Strikeouts – Chris Davis (181)
Most Stolen Bases – Billy Hamilton (54)
Most Caught Stealing – Jonathan Villar (16)
Most Intentional Base On Balls – Bryce Harper (16)
Most Hit By Pitch – Brandon Guyer (29)
Most Sacrifice Flies – Francisco Lindor (11)
Most Total Bases – Mookie Betts (315)
Most Extra Base Hits – David Ortiz (74)
Most Grounded Into Double Plays – David Ortiz (22)
Most Ground Outs – Alcides Escobar (200)
Most Number Of Pitches Faced – Paul Goldschmidt (2,488)
Most Plate Appearances – George Springer (612)
MLB LEADERS (AL and NL) – PITCHING
Most Wins – Rick Porcello (18)
Most Losses – Chris Archer (17)
Best ERA – Kyle Hendricks (2.09)
Most Games Started – Eight players tied for most (28).
Most Games Pitched – Zach Duke and Hector Nerris (67).
Most Saves – Jeurys Familia (44)
Most Innings Pitched – Max Scherzer (190)
Most Hits Allowed – Jered Weaver (187)
Most Runs Allowed – Patrick Corbin (107)
Most Earned Runs Allowed – James Shields (97)
Most Home Runs Allowed – Josh Tomlin (35)
Most Strikeouts – Max Scherzer (238)
Most Walks – Francisco Liriano (79)
Most Complete Games – Chris Sale (5)
Most Shutouts – Clayton Kershaw (3)
Best Opponent Avg. – Jake Arrieta (.185)
Most Games Finished – Jeurys Familia (56)
Most Double Plays Achieved – Martin Perez (35)
Most Wild Pitches – Mike Fiers and Sonny Gray (15).
Most Balks – Matt Andriese and Antonio Bastardo (4).
Most Stolen Bases Allowed – Noah Syndergaard (41)
Most Pickoffs – Julio Urias (5)
Most Batters Faced – David Price (765)
Most Pitches Thrown – Justin Verlander (3,012)
When Trevor Story came up with the Rockies on Opening Day and proceeded to set the baseball world on fire by blasting a homer in his first four career games (six total over than span), he accomplished something that had never been done in the history of Major League Baseball. You had to figure it’d be awhile before we saw anything quite like that again.
But then Gary Sanchez was called up by the Yankees.
Despite getting two at-bats towards the end of the 2015 season, Sanchez performed poorly in Spring Training and was assigned to Triple-A to begin 2016. However, once he proved himself at Scranton, the Yankees decided to move him back up to the big league squad, and Sanchez has not disappointed.
In 20 games this season, Sanchez has batted a scorching .403 with ten homers — the same number he hit in 71 games this year at Triple-A. To put things in perspective, Sanchez has also recorded seven doubles, leading to 17 of his 31 hits this season being for extra bases and an unheard of .883 slugging percentage. To say Sanchez has been good would be a huge understatement.
Sanchez has in fact been historic, much in the way Trevor Story was performing before his season-ending injury earlier this season. With Sanchez’s first 10 homers coming over just 22 career games (counting the 2 from last season), he sits behind just Trevor Story and George Scott for the fewest number of games to ten career home runs (Story and Scott did it in 21 games). In addition, Sanchez’s 20 RBI’s joins him with the likes of Joe DiMaggio and Hideki Matsui as the only Yankees to ever reach that mark in their first 22 games in the pinstripes.
With Sanchez showing now signs of cooling off anytime soon, the Yankees look to be in a good spot heading forward. Having won their last three games, they now sit 3.5 games back of a Wild Card spot and 5.5 back of the division lead. While they will have to continue to beat good teams to stay in the race, and hold a small chance at the playoffs by all accounts, anything is possible in the game of baseball.
Gary Sanchez has already proven that.
Before I get too far into this post, let me begin by saying that I am in no way comparing Zach Britton to Mariano Rivera as far as the caliber of pitching is concerned (not yet, at least). Rivera is in a class all his own as the best closer in baseball history, hands down, and will inevitably be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Britton is still a long way away from being anywhere close to the pitcher Rivera was. But even so, there are undeniably a lot of similarities to this point in both of their careers.
Like Rivera, Britton began his career as a starting pitcher. Coming up through the Orioles’ system, Britton posted a 3.38 ERA over the course of 137 games in the minor leagues. However, upon reaching the majors, Britton wasn’t able to stick, posting a 4.77 ERA over 46 starts ranging from 2011-2013.
Rivera faired much the same in his attempt to be a big league starter. In his only season starting for the Yankees, Rivera was horrible, positng a 5.51 ERA over 10 starts. The following season, Rivera was made a reliever, and the year after that at the age of 27 was made the full time closer, notching 43 saves his first season as the ninth-inning-guy.
The rest is history.
In the first season as a full-time closer for Britton in 2014, he recorded 37 saves and posted a 1.65 ERA — a huge turnaround from the three subpar seasons in which he attempted to make it as a starter. And he hasn’t looked back since. Over the past three seasons, the two-time All-Star has recorded a collective 1.44 ERA as well as 111 saves, including 38 alone so far this season. But Britton is still being overlooked in the minds of many.
This year, Britton is not only having a breakout season that’s leading to him being seen as a top-notch closer, but also as a candidate for Cy Young or even (less likely) American League Most Valuable Player.
Britton is certainly making a good case to be in the running. After all, it’s been nearly four months since Britton allowed an earned run, coming all the way back on April 30th.
Since then, Britton has gone 43 straight appearances without allowing an earned run. When you put it all together, Britton has recorded one of the best seasons ever for a reliever, tallying a 0.53 ERA to this point — on pace to be the lowest single-season ERA ever for a reliever with over 50 games pitched (Rivera’s lowest ever was 1.38 back in 2005).
If that isn’t remarkable, I don’t know what is.
So, maybe Britton won’t go on to be a Hall of Fame closer. Sitting well over 500 career saves back of Rivera, Britton certainly has a long way to go before he could even come close to being viewed in that light, and there have been a fair amount of relief pitchers to explode onto the scene only to fall apart within a few years. That’s not the point I’m trying to make at all. But regardless, the similarities between the two are hard to ignore.
Who knows? Maybe Zach Britton’s career will turn out much like that of Mariano Rivera.
Failed starter, turned All-Star closer, turned all-time great.