Time Running Out for Teams Looking to Make Playoffs

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.cole

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.

Recapping My 2016 MiLB Season

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:

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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:

DSCN7808May 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:

DSCN7809Then, 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:

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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:

DSCN7811May 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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

DSCN7819August 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:

DSCN7820August 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:

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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:

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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.

DSCN7823August 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:

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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

The Most Underrated Player at Each Position in MLB

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 allCarter 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.

GrandalSHORTSTOP: 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 RoarkDavis

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.

Latest MLB Leaders (April 3rd – August 31st)

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)

Gary Sanchez: The American League’s Trevor Story

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.Sanchez

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.

Zach Britton on the Same Journey as Mariano Rivera

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 pitcherClosers 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 BrittonAas 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.

Mariners Attempting to Break Postseason Drought

Back in 2013, the Pittsburgh Pirates were finally able to snap their 21-year postseason drought. Last season, the Toronto Blue Jays saw their 22-year postseason skid end. And now, the Seattle Mariners are in good positioning to get rid of their own 15-season departure from the playoffs.

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Sitting just one game back of a Wild Card spot (6 back of the Rangers for the divisional lead), the Mariners are doing all they can to finally make it to the playoffs for the first time in quite a number of years.

At the beginning of the season, a lot of people predicted the Astros to run away with the division after the great season they had last year. But things haven’t gone exactly as planned for them, leaving the door open for the Mariners to make their climb up the division standings.

But it hasn’t been all luck for the Mariners.

Their big three of Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager have each been having fantastic years, and have been doing a great job of carrying the team even when their pitching hasn’t been that great. And their pitchers have been fairly subpar at times.

Felix Hernandez — their Ace of the staff, and normally a perennial Cy-Young candidate — has been a bit shaky throughout the season (though, he’s looked good in his starts since his DL stint). Likewise, the rest of Seattle’s rotation hasn’t been overly dominant, though they have done enough to get the job done for the most part. In the end, it’s the Mariners pitching that’s going to be the deciding factor for whether or not they make it to the playoffs.

No matter what, the Mariners have shown the world that they have the ability to be a very competitive squad. Whether or not they make the postseason is yet to be determined, but their place as a dangerous team for years to come has already been established.