Results tagged ‘ National League ’
It’s still early, but now that the 2015 MLB regular season is over two weeks underway, fans around baseball are beginning to get a feel for how their team is going to perform throughout the year. Given, there’s still a ton of baseball left, where any team could see a major rise or fall in the standings, but for the most part teams have shown whether or not they have the talent to compete this season.
With that in mind, I decided to take a look at the current standings in each division and give my overall thoughts on where each team stands.
American League East
So far, this division hasn’t surprised me at all. Every team is close to where I felt they would be heading into the season, and each team has performed close to the way I pictured. If I had to give an answer for which team has surprised me the most, it has to be the Blue Jays. They are doing really well so far this season, and it would be great to see them keep it up as the season continues to roll along.
National League East
Unlike the American League East, the National League portion is completely mixed up to this point from where I thought it would be. For starters, the Mets being in first place simply amazes me, as does the Marlins being in last place. Both have surprised me with their play so far in the season. The Nationals also haven’t been playing as well as I thought they would have, but they have time to turn things around.
American League Central
The Tigers being at the top of the division is no shocker, but the Indians being near the bottom does come as a bit of a surprise to me. The Indians pitching isn’t as good as some of the other teams in the American League Central, however, their lineup can be just as good as any other club if they put everything together. No matter what, this will likely turn out to be one of the most interesting divisions to keep an eye on.
National League Central
After such a long time of being down near the bottom of the division, it’s nice to see the Cubs up near the top of the rankings. Admittedly, with all of the talent they possess, it comes as no surprise. What does come as a bit of a surprise, however, is the Brewers sitting dead last in the division with one of the worst starts they’ve gotten off to in years. If they don’t fix whatever their problem is, it could be an ugly season in Milwaukee.
American League West
I surely never saw the Houston Astros in first place of their given division two weeks into the season. They have plenty of time to slow down their hot start and fall back down in the standings, but so far they are looking pretty good. One of the teams that has surprised me in a negative way is the Mariners. Sitting in last place, they have the talent to pull out of this early hole, but it will take a full team effort to do so.
National League West
The Dodgers look to be in mid-season form extremely early in the season, standing atop the division board in the National League West division. San Diego is also doing their fair share of winning games, sitting just behind the Dodgers and looking really good to this point. The Giants have been doing worse than I had anticipated to this point in the year, but as with every other team around the league, there’s still numerous games to play for them.
For the fourth season in a row, I’m making predictions (you should too) as to how I feel each Major League Baseball team will fare throughout the coming season. Although I haven’t come close yet to predicting the exact finishing order of each division (I picked the Giants finishing third in their division in 2014 and they won the World Series), it’s a new year, and with it comes a new chance to luck out and get everything right.
I posted my predictions for the American League several days ago, and today I’m going to give my predictions for the National League (along with my reasoning), starting with the National League East:
If the Nationals don’t win 100 or more games this coming season, it would absolutely shock me. They have such a good team from top to bottom that there is a really good chance of them repeating as National League East division champions. After winning 96 games in 2014, the Nationals spent this offseason getting even better. Adding Max Scherzer to a rotation that now includeds Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister, each and every game allows the Nats a good shot at a victory. Their bullpen is just as good, and their lineup is one the best in baseball. With Ian Desmond, Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper, among many others, Washington has forces both offensively and with their pitching staff. Combining together their amazingly good starting rotation with their talented lineup, the Nationals should be able to win a ton of games.
Coming up second to the Nationals, I think the Marlins will be really improved in 2015. Playing in a weaker division, with the Braves taking a step back and the Mets and Phillies still finding themselves, the Marlins should easily pull out a Wild Card spot this year. Although they’ll be without phenom Jose Fernandez until midseason, their pitching rotation is still very solid. Henderson Alvarez, Mat Latos and Dan Haren should perform well for Miami, with their bullpen consisting of one of the most underrated closers in the game today, Steve Cicshek. If their pitching staff can do well, then they should be a good team. Their lineup is going to be good either way, however. With speedy Dee Gordon, superstar Giancarlo Stanton, and veteran Ichiro Suzuki, the Marlins have a nice combination of players. They will surely be a really good team in the coming regular season.
For the Atlanta Braves, it’s a true mystery how they will fare in the coming season. On one hand, they still have a decent team with a lot of good players. But on the other hand, they lost a few key pieces of their team this offseason. And therefore, your guess is as good as mine. Nonetheless, I have the Braves coming in third, just ahead of the Mets. They lost Jason Heyward, but picked up a decent replacement in Nick Markakis. And despite having a below average outfield now that Justin Upton is a Padre, the rest of their lineup isn’t that bad. With Andrelton Simmons, Chris Johnson and Freddie Freeman still apart of their offensive squad, they should be able to score runs. Their pitching should do a good job of preventing runs as well. Though not overly dominant, the Braves have Julio Teheran, Shelby Miller and Alex Wood, along with Craig Kimbrel to slam the door in the ninth. Things could be interesting in Atlanta.
I was somewhat of a believer in the Mets having a special season up until the news came out that Zack Wheeler needed Tommy John surgery. Now, however, I feel that they will likely come up just short of a potential second Wild Card spot. But even so, they have a decent team that will win a good chunk of games. Juan Lagares had a breakout season in 2014, and if Curtis Granderson can bounce back, along with David Wright, the Mets could surprise me. Their rotation isn’t great, but it isn’t horrible either. Jacob deGrom should have another solid season, with Bartolo Colon doing well. Beyond that, they have Dillon Gee, and the return of phenom Matt Harvey. In the end, it’s how their pitching fares that will determine what kind of year they have. The Mets may not end up pulling out a spectacular season, but they could definitely have a few impressive streaks throughout the year.
It wasn’t that long ago that the Phillies were the most dominant team in the National League East, and one of the best in all of baseball. But things have gone downhill very fast. With virtually no pitching, beyond Cole Hamels, Ken Giles and Jonathan Papelbon, the Phillies are going to have a difficult time keeping opposing teams off the board in the coming year. On the flip side, they will likely also have struggles of their own of scoring runs. No longer with Jimmy Rollins, the Phillies have to rely on Chase Utley and Ryan Howard — two players who have been up and down over the past several years — to produce for the majority of the team’s run. But while the fate of those two players are up in the air, the Phillies still have the speedy Ben Revere and talented third baseman Cody Asche. They should help out what is otherwise a worn out team. I truly don’t think things will be too pretty in Philadelphia in 2015.
The Cardinals are sure to have a battle on their hands to win the division with the resurgence of the Cubs and the always good Pirates, but I think they have the talent to pull it off. Their pitching is good, having a good mix of both veterans — Adam Wainwright and John Lackey — as well as young stars — Marco Gonzalez and Michael Wacha. Their pitching alone will go a long way in winning them a lot of ballgames. To make those pitchers even better, the Cards have Yadier Molina behind the plate, who is an extremely valuable asset to their team, as he has been for years. Beyond that, Matt Adams, Kolten Wong and Matt Carpenter are sure to have good years, as are Matt Holliday and newly acquired Jason Heyward, who came over from the Braves this offseason. No matter what, they will likely have a great season, with a long run into the playoffs looking like it could be a good possibility.
It is going to be an exciting season in Chicago, no doubt about it. The White Sox are looking like they’ll have a great year, and the Cubs certainly have the talent to do the same. The Cubs’ offense is loaded with a lot of young talent, given it is unproven for the most part on the big league level. Still, with names like Jorge Soler, Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, along with Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantra, and Miguel Montero, the Cubs have a strong player at every spot in the lineup. And that’s before Kris Bryant is even a part of the mix. Set to come up in mid April after hitting 43 homers in the minors last year, Bryant could be an All-Star for years to come. On the pitching side of things, the Cubs don’t have a rotation that will dominate every team in their way, but it is good enough to get the job done. After the pickup of Jon Lester this offseason, they should have a good enough team to make a push for a Wild Card.
The Pirates finally broke their long playoff drought in 2012, but although they’ll be good again this coming season, I don’t think they’ll make it to the postseason in 2015. Their pitching staff is merely okay, with guys like Gerritt Cole, A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano, and their bullpen is a bit iffy. It comes down a lot of times to how well a team’s pitching performs from one night to the next, so that could turn out to be a big issue with the Pirates. As far as their lineup is concerned, it is actually a pretty good one. With an outfield of Gregory Polanco, Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte, the have a great combination of hitters that also play great defense. That extends into the infield, where they have Neil Walker, Josh Harrison and Pedro Alvarez. So, will they go on a run and make it to the postseason? That remains to be seen. But as far as I can see, they’ll likely come up just short.
It is somewhat difficult to place the Reds in fourth place in the National League Central division with the great level of talent that they posses, but it’s simply where I find them falling when the season has concluded six months from now. Despite a rotation that is lead by Johnny Cueto, that’s basically where their dominant pitching ends. Sure, the Reds have Homer Bailey and Mike Leake, with Tony Cingrani looking to bounce back in 2015, but they don’t have the arms to compete with the three teams I have finishing ahead of them — even with the flame throwing Aroldis Chapman as their closer. But what they lack in pitching, they make up for in offense, which is what will keep them from falling into last place. From the speedy Billy Hamilton to Todd Frazier, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce and Devin Mesoraco, the Reds should have a decent lineup in 2015, but will have little to show for it in the end.
For the Brewers, it looks to be a rough season for them. In my opinion, the Reds are the only team they could potentially swap spots with, assuming something goes wrong with the Reds and things go really right with the Brewers. I’m not trying to knock the Brewers — they’re a good team. But they simply don’t have the talent in their lineup or pitching that can have me place them any higher. While their pitching staff isn’t horrible, it isn’t great either. With Mike Fiers, Kyle Lohse, and Matt Garza, and a bullpen that has Francisco Rodriguez as their closer, the Brewers are a true mystery for how they will perform this season. Their bright spot, however, is their lineup. Jonathan Lucroy, Scooter Gennett, Aramis Ramirez, Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez will all combine to lead to a good amount of runs, but I don’t feel it will be on a consistent enough basis for the Brewers to do all that well this season.
I see the Dodgers easily repeating as division champions in 2015. Offensively, they got a little weaker, losing Matt Kemp to the Padres as well as Hanley Ramirez to the Red Sox, but it is still a very deep lineup regardless. Joc Pederson — Kemp’s replacement — is looking to have a good year in center field, as are his outfield partners, Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier. For the infield, the Dodgers picked up veteran Jimmy Rollins to replace Ramirez at short stop, as well as Howie Kendrick, who should make for a good double play partner for Rollins. Everything together leads to a solid offensive bunch. But the Dodgers also have a lot of pitching talent, beginning with Clayton Kershaw. Coined by the majority of people as the best pitcher in baseball, Kershaw mans a staff that includes Zack Grienke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and now Brandon McCarthy. It could be an exciting year in Los Angeles.
It may also be another fun season in San Francisco, but I don’t think it will all lead to another World Championship. Even so, the Giants should be a very good team — good enough to give the Dodgers a run for their money. A pitching staff lead by Madison Bumgarner, and containing Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Jake Peavy, not to mention a really good bullpen, the Giants should be able to prevent runs on a very consistent basis. And they should be able to score a lot of runs as well. With Buster Posey leading the charge, complimented by Brandon Belt, Hunter Pence (once he returns) and Brandon Crawford, the Giants should have a good offense capable of competing with any team in the league. But what really gives them a little added help is their manager, Bruce Bochy, who has become known as one of the best managers in the game in recent history. Bochy may be managing yet another postseason bound team.
If you had asked me on the final day of last season where I thought the Padres would place in 2015, there’s a good chance I would’ve placed them fourth, if not in dead last place. They simply weren’t a very good team last year. However, things should be much different than they were in 2014. The Padres’ general manager, A.J. Preller, did an unbelievable job this offseason of revamping their roster, snatching up numerous high level additions via free agent signings or trades. With a completely different outfield, now made up of Justin Upton, Wil Myers and Matt Kemp, as well as an infield that now includes Will Middlebrooks to go along with Jedd Gyorko and Yonder Alsono, and offseason pickup Derek Norris behind the plate, this Padres team looks to be on a whole other level offensively. Combine that with a pitching staff of Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and James Shields, this Padres team will be interesting to watch.
I really believed in the Diamondbacks last season, but they really disappointed a lot of people, who had predicted them to do well. Now, with them losing a couple of players this offseason, and not doing much to get all that much better, I see the D-backs finishing next to last in the division. With the exception of Paul Goldschmidt, Mark Trumbo and newcomer Yasmany Tomas, Arizona doesn’t have too much power in their lineup. They have a few other good players — namely A.J. Pollock, Jake Lamb, Aaron Hill, etc. — who could help them win some games, but it’s going to come down to how their pitching performs. Patrick Corbin — a breakout pitcher from 2013 — is set to come back from Tommy John surgery, and he will help the D-backs immediately. But beyond him, their staff — Jeremy Hellickson, Daniel Hudson, etc. — is a bit of a mystery as to how they will pitch every fifth day. We’ll just have to wait and see.
In a few years from now, I could see the Rockies finally making a climb in the divisional standings with all of the prospects they have on the way, however, this year is not the year. I have them finishing dead last in the National League West division, as they simply can’t compete with the other teams in their division over the long 162-game season. They have a decent catcher in Wilin Rosario, as well as Nolan Arenado, Troy Tulowitzki and Justin Morneau in the infield, and Carlos Gonzalez, Corey Dickerson and Charlie Blackmon in the outfield. So the offensive side of the team is there. But what they have in lineup strength, they lack in pitching depth. The Rockies have no true ace of the staff, with all of their starters being major league average at best. And their bullpen isn’t all that spectacular either. Meaning, no matter how well their lineup produces, their pitching will likely be a big letdown.
Leave a comment below with whether or not you agree with my predictions.
It’s finally March, which means baseball is finally here.
Over the course of the next few days, each and every team around Major League Baseball will put their team on display in live games for the first time in 2015. With some teams being completely different than they were last season — some have improved, some have gotten worse — it gives fans the chance to see glimpses of what to expect and look forward to when the regular season begins next month.
As has been the case over the course of this blog, March also brings my predictions and overall thoughts leading up to the new year in baseball. This year is no different. Therefore, to kick things off, I’m going to allow you, the reader, to let your opinions be known by giving you the opportunity to vote for which team you think has the best shot at winning each division. (Be sure to vote for all six, and not just the top few.)
I’m going to be doing a separate couple of blog posts (one for the American League and one for the National League) on my predictions for how I feel each team will fare this season sometime in the next week or two, but for now, I want to hear what you all think. Cast your vote below for which team you feel is most likely to win each division in 2015:
After a busy offseason of moves that included trading for speedy Dee Gordon, signing free agent outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, and locking up slugger Giancarlo Stanton on the biggest contract in sports history, the Marlins have officially been named as the hosts of the 2017 Major League Baseball All-Star game.
Set to come in the 25th year of the Marlins’ existence, this is the first time in their franchises history that they have been awarded the Midsummer Classic — they were supposed to host the game in 2000, but it was given to the Braves instead — making it sure to be a game full of excitement for the fans in the area.
But there is one thing on everyone’s mind that a lot of people are posing issue with.
Generally, the All-Star game has alternated between American League and National League hosts each year, with the host team having home field advantage. With the All-Star game holding a lot of value, in that the winning league receives home field advantage during the World Series, the stakes have become very high. However, with the Cincinnati Reds set to hold the surrounding festivities this year, the Padres in line to do the same in 2016 and now with the Marlins getting named the site for 2017, that makes for three straight years in a National League teams ballpark.
However, there is a solution to the problem that new commissioner, Rob Manfred, has put into place. “We will alternate years, in terms of who bats last,” said Manfred on Friday. “We will be making that change going forward.” Meaning, in 2016, when in San Diego, the American League team will be the “home” team and bat in the bottom half of the order to make things a bit more fair.
As far as the Marlins are concerned, after spending 19 seasons in a football stadium — they shared a venue with the Miami Dolphins, finally receiving a park of their own in 2012 — they are extremely deserving of the All-Star game. Although attendance has been up and down (mainly down) over the course of time since, they will undoubtedly do a great job of hosting the event.
But before Marlins fans get too excited about the looming All-Star game, they need to enjoy focusing on the season at hand. Their team is really, really good, and they stand a shot at doing some big things in the National League this coming season. While getting the All-Star game for 2017 is a big story, the Marlins could be making plenty of headlines throughout the season as 2015 rolls along.
When you think of a magic number for a pitcher in a season the first number that will likely will pop into your head is twenty wins. For a hitter, when you think of a solid season, it likely involves around a .300 average, 20-30 home runs and/or around 100 RBI’s. And when you think of a so called magic number for a team as a whole, the number 100 probably stands as the number that everyone pictures each team shooting for but very few teams hitting.
While a twenty win pitcher occurs seemingly every year, and a player (or several) always reaches the aforementioned magic numbers for a hitter, it is becoming more and more rare for a team to pick up 100 wins in a season. In fact, there hasn’t been a single 100-game winner in all of baseball since the 2011 Phillies. Taking things even deeper, two or more teams haven’t reached the 100-win mark in a single season since 2004, after a streak of multiple 100-game winner from 1998 through 2004 (with the exception of 2000).
It would appear, however, that both droughts could be broken in 2015.
With that in mind, I decided to take a look at the division winners from 2014 — the teams with the best shot at making a strong run in 2015 — and attempt to project how many, if any, of the teams could potentially obtain 100 wins in 2015:
2014 American League Division Winners
East – Orioles (96-66): The Baltimore Orioles completely blew away all of the competition in the American League East last season, winning by a total of twelve games over the second place Yankees. But while they were a terrific ball club last season, things are likely going to take a bit of a downfall in the coming season.
The biggest reason for the fall being that they O’s lost a good chunk of their offense via trades and free agency throughout the past few months. No longer possessing slugger Nelson Cruz, veteran outfielder Nick Markakis or reliever Andrew Miller, things are sort of up in the air for how the Orioles will perform in 2015.
Therefore, even if they surprise some people, I don’t think they’ll be able to pull off the stunning feat of winning 100+ games.
Central – Tigers (90-72): For the Detroit Tigers, they are a particularly intruiging team. For the past couple of years, there’s no reason they shouldn’t have been able to pull off a 100-win season, playing in somewhat of a weaker division, however, the Tigers have disappointed to a degree.
Having a great lineup and pitching staff, the Tigers have recently been in the preseason World Series predictions by a number of people throughout the baseball world. But things just haven’t panned out.
Having lost Max Scherzer — their undeniable ace of the pitching staff — to the Nationals, and with certain players not performing up to their potential, I’d say it’s going to be tough for the Tigers to even hold off the Royals from taking the division crown. A 100-win season was doable over the past few seasons, but the opportunity for them has come and gone.
West – Angels (98-64): The Angels fall into a category much like the Tigers. The slightly more successful version of Detroit, many people saw the Angels winning it all in 2012 after the acquisition of Albert Pujols, but injuries and underperformance in general have caused the Angels to come up short.
Their lineup is there — with the exception of Josh Hamilton, who is a huge question mark — and their pitching is good as well.
The only thing standing in their way are the other teams in the West. The Athletics — despite an offseason deconstruction — always seem to be in the mix, and the Mariners are very good as well. It will be exciting to see what happens.
2014 National League Division Winners
East – Nationals (96-66): Without question, the number one team to watch throughout the 2015 season is the Washington Nationals. After putting together a 96-win season last year — winning the National League East division by a major league best 17 games over the Braves — the Nationals could likely make a run at 100 wins if they put out the exact same roster from 2014. But their roster is better than last season — much better.
Picking up Max Scherzer who has gone 39-8 with a 3.02 ERA over the past two seasons, their pitching staff is the top one or two in all of baseball. If Scherzer can continue to pitch as he has over the recent history of his career, and if supposed phenoms Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg can finally put up super star caliber numbers, the sky is truly the limit for what appears to be an extremely dominant Nationals team.
Central – Cardinals (90-72): I am a strong believer that the National League Central Cubs will make a run at the postseason as soon as 2015, but they by no means will win 100 games. The Cardinals, though, stand a chance, however slight it may be. Given, it would have to be a ten win jump from their record in 2014, the Cardinals are one of those teams that could surprise some people.
With a decent rotation that includes the always reliable Adam Wainwright, and a lineup that possesses All-Star catcher Yadier Molina, who can make any pitcher look like a former Cy Young winner, the Red Birds will win a lot of games moving forward. The division isn’t extremely strong, and their track record has proven that the Cardinals can go on a run with the best of them. Still, it won’t likely add up to a 100-win year for them.
West – Dodgers (94-68): A pitching rotation that includes Clayton Kershaw is always sure to be a terrific one. But the Dodgers’ staff doesn’t begin and end with Kershaw. He’s their best pitcher, no doubt, but the addition of Brandon McCarthy to go along with Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu will go a long way in a 2015 quest for 100+ wins.
But the Dodgers will be without on and off superstar Matt Kemp in the outfield — the hope is that Joc Pederson will fill the role there — and the loss of Dee Gordon and Dan Haren will certainly have an impact. The lack of those players could be enough to keep them from winning the division like they were able to do in 2014.
Nonetheless, despite all of the losses, the pickup of veteran infielder Jimmy Rollins in addition to promising backstop Yasmani Grandal should lead to a decent enough lineup. If I had to guess, though, the Giants will be riding them too closely for the Dodgers to break 100 wins.
In conclusion, while every season is unpredictable, this year could see a 100-game winner (or two) for the first time in four seasons. But even if that doesn’t happen, there are teams such as the Cubs, White Sox and Padres who will make legitimate playoff runs after failing to do so in quite some time. That alone is enough to cause any baseball fan to continue counting down the days until Opening Day.
Patience is a virtue — especially in baseball.
Max Scherzer proved that on Wednesday afternoon by officially inking a seven-year, 210 million dollar contract with the Nationals that’s set to keep him in D.C. through the 2021 season. Coming after Scherzer took the gamble of turning down a six-year, 144 million dollar offer from the Tigers last year, waiting things out until free agency, and betting on his abilities, paid off extremely well for him, with Scherzer netting a total of 66 million extra dollars.
But the money is well deserved, as Scherzer has quickly become one of the most feared pitchers in baseball. While Scherzer didn’t start off his career with fantastic pitching performances — posting a 4.43 ERA over 33 starts with the Tigers in 2011 — over the past two seasons he’s been one of the best. Going a combined 39-8 with a 3.04 ERA between 2013 and 2014, it’s no mystery why the Nationals wanted Scherzer so badly.
Heading to D.C. after five years in Detroit, Scherzer’s mega contract sits second all-time in amount given out to a pitcher, behind only Clayton Kershaw’s 215 million dollar deal with the Dodgers. (Kershaw, however, is in a class all his own.)
Choosing to receive his contract over the next 14 years, coming out to 15 million a year, the structure of Scherzer’s contract allows the Nats to use the money saved per season to lock up other talented players around him, making this an even better deal in the end.
With Scherzer joining a rotation that already consisted of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister, the Nationals now have one of the best — if not THE best — rotations in baseball. (The Nationals also have a couple promising pitching prospects in A.J. Cole and Lucas Giolito in the minors who will be making major impacts over the coming years, so they will have additional pitching options for years to come.)
Although their bullpen could use some work after the loss of closer Rafael Soriano — there’s still plenty of time to improve that aspect of the team — the Nationals’ lineup is equally as talented as their pitching staff. From Ian Desmond and Anthony Rendon to Jayson Werth and Denard Span, along with a hopefully healthy Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper, the Nationals are going to score a lot of runs.
With the Nats likely setting themselves up to produce runs night after night, and a rotation filled with pitchers capable of giving up a few mere runs a game, the Nationals have a nice combination that should lead them to a ton of wins in 2015.
After going 96-66 last year — good enough to earn Nats’ skipper, Matt Williams, the National League Manager of the Year award — there is truly no reason they couldn’t post a 100-win season this year. If that happens, it will make them the first team since the Phillies in 2011 to win 100+ games in a season.
And therefore, after winning the National League East division by a staggering 17 games a year ago, the Nationals could be looking at the same type of dominance in the foreseeable future. The Braves, who finished in second place for 2014, are in the process of rebuilding and currently seem to be out of the postseason picture for 2015, as do the Phillies who are theoretically trying to find their new identity. That leaves just the Marlins and the Mets to challenge the Nationals for the divisional title — though both teams, especially the Marlins, could make a big push towards the playoffs this year.
Even so, the Nationals are nearly a lock to make the postseason for the third time in four seasons, with an aforementioned 100-win season not completely out of the question. They have all the talent in the world, with great pitching and a good mix of young and veteran star players. But in the end, making the playoffs is only part of the goal. The one question on everyone’s mind is whether or not the Nationals have enough with the addition of Max Scherzer to lead them to the World Series and a subsequent World Title?
The unfortunate truth is, only time will tell. All too often does a team expected to dominate fall into a slump and not do much of anything for the season, while a team that was predicted to go nowhere exceeds expectations and makes a playoff push. That’s baseball. That’s what makes things fun each and every season.
But regardless, I have to agree with the majority of people that the Nationals are going to be terrific, and therefore anything short of a World Series appearance for them would be a disappointment with all the promise they have of putting out an effective winning machine this season.
After all, it’s that very expectation of winning (I’m sure the money was a factor as well) that ultimately led Scherzer to sign a deal with the Nationals, saying, “I think this team is capable of winning and winning a lot. When you look at near term and long term, this is an organization you want to be a part of . . . . I want to win and that’s why I’m here.”
With Max Scherzer now on board, it looks to be an exciting season in D.C.
For the most part, I like to write about big time trades and/or signings within a day of when they occur. I feel that waiting too long to give my thoughts on a particular transaction causes it to become old news and therefore not really relevant to the everyday fast developing topics around baseball.
However, for the 113th annual baseball Winter Meetings that took place this past week in San Diego, things were happening so fast and at such a high volume that I would’ve been blogging multiple times a day to keep on top of the action. I didn’t have time to do that, nor did I want to do that. And thus, I decided to post this recap upon the conclusion of the Winter Meetings. (Keep in mind, not every single signing or trade is included in this post; just the major ones, in my mind.)
Ending on Thursday, this years meetings saw an unprecedented amount of teams signing or trading players. Practically every ten minutes news broke of a new deal or trade that was sure to shake things up in 2015 and beyond. Seeing more trades go down over the past week than the last three Winter Meetings combined, a lot of exciting things look to be in store for the 2015 season.
The Winter Meetings were kicked off with a trade of Brandon Moss by the Athletics on the very first day. Getting sent to the Indians in return for minor leaguer Joe Wendle, Moss will certainly add a bit of pop to Cleveland’s lineup, having hit 25 or more home runs each of the last two seasons.
But the A’s weren’t done parting with players. Following the departure of Moss, Oakland traded away pitching prospect Michael Ynoa to the White Sox along with breakout pitcher Jeff Samardzija, whom the A’s gave up a few of their extremely promising prospects for in a trade back in July. In return for Samardzija, the White Sox simply had to toss a few prospects to the Athletics, in Marcus Semien, Chris Bassitt, Josh Phegley and Rangel Ravelo.
In my opinion, and the opinion of many others, the Athletics didn’t get back quite enough in that deal. All of this coming after the trade of Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays, many are really questioning the A’s logic.
No one, however, is questioning the White Sox. After acquiring Samardzija, a lot of people began to talk about the White Sox’ playoff chances in 2015 with their improved pitching staff. But those talks only increased when the Sox announced a four-year, 46 million dollar signing of David Robertson. After the past few seasons Robertson has been able to put together, saving 39 games last year for the Yankees, he was near the top of available free agent relievers. The White Sox adding Robertson to their roster gives their fans hope for a promising upcoming year.
The White Sox aren’t the only Chicago based team that’s setting themselves up for a nice 2015 season, however. Across town, the Cubs are also in line to be much improved. Following the addition of veteran catcher Miguel Montero to their lineup in a trade that sent two minor leaguers, Jeferson Mejia and Zack Godley, to the Diamondbacks, the Cubs obtained one of the biggest free agents heading into the Winter Meetings.
While it took awhile for him to decide on the Cubs, Jon Lester made the choice to head to Chicago for the next six years, signing a contract worth 155 million dollars. Combined with a new manager in Joe Maddon, and a talented young roster of players, it should be fun to watch the Cubs moving forward.
But although there were large deals such as the one Jon Lester signed with the Cubs that went down over the course of the Winter Meetings, there were also multiple smaller deals that could end up having large impacts on the given team(s) involved.
Francisco Liriano resigned with the Pirates on a deal worth 39 million over the next three years; and the Twins picked up Ervin Santana for the next four years, set to pay him a total of 55 million over that span. But the smaller signings I like the most are the ones the Astros made by adding Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson to their struggling bullpen, which had the worst ERA (4.80) in all of baseball in 2014. After not getting David Robertson or Andrew Miller, the Astros had to settle with these two relievers, but Neshek and Gregerson will go a long way in helping a bullpen that had 26 blown saves in 2014. Even so, the Astros aren’t likely to make the playoffs just yet.
Just the opposite, the Dodgers have been a playoff team for the past two years and seemingly would be so again in 2015 regardless of if they did anything to change their roster. But that didn’t at all stop them from making moves — big moves.
After making an impactful 4-year, 48 million dollar signing of free agent starting pitcher Bandon McCarthy, who was terrific in the second half of 2014 with the Yankees after an up and down career, the Dodgers proceeded to reshape a good portion of their team.
Coming after weeks of rumors that the Padres were interested in Matt Kemp, the Dodgers complied with the Friars, sending Kemp and Tim Federowicz to San Diego for Yasmani Grandal, Joe Wieland and Zach Eflin.
The fact that this trade went through came as a shock to many, as Kemp is a superstar when healthy, and the Dodgers didn’t get much in return, but it needed to be done with the overcrowded Dodgers outfield.
Although the Dodgers were quoted as saying that their All-Star second baseman, Dee Gordon, was not being considered for a possible trade, the baseball world did in fact see Gordon, along with Dan Haren and Miguel Rojas, leaving the Dodgers. Unlike the Kemp trade, Gordon and company getting shipped off to the Marlins in a trade for Andrew Heaney, Chris Hatcher, Austin Barnes and Enrique Hernandez made sense, as this swap seemingly would help both sides.
Part of the trade, though, wouldn’t last even an hour. A brief time after obtaining promising pitching prospect Andrew Heaney, the Dodgers flipped him to the Angels in exchange for Howie Kendrick. In addition, the Dodgers also flipped Zach Eflin, whom they received for Matt Kemp, and another prospect to the Phillies, in a swap for Philadelphia’s franchise hits leader, Jimmy Rollins.
Doing so subsequently fills the holes left by the loss of Hanley Ramirez and Dee Gordon, and now gives the Dodgers a double play combo of Rollins and Kendrick. That’s certainly not bad at all, especially with Kendrick basically coming over for free with the trade of the newly acquired former Marlin Heaney.
But the Andrew Heaney deal with Los Angeles didn’t quiet the Marlins. After locking up Giancarlo Stanton to a 13-year, 325 million dollar deal last month, the Marlins made a promise that they would surround Stanton with talent capable of winning a lot of ballgames, and so far they’re keeping good on it.
Following the addition of Dee Gordon, Dan Haren and Miguel Rojas, Miami later made a trade for another key piece to place in their starting rotation — Reds’ solid pitcher, Mat Latos. Getting Latos for the price of Anthony DeSclafani and Chad Wallach, the Marlins could very well be setting themselves up to be a playoff contender as soon as 2015.
That’s what the Red Sox are attempting to do. Going from last to best to last over the past number of years, logic would tell you that the pattern indicates that 2015 would be another up year. Unfortunately, things don’t always follow patterns. And thus, things have to be done to actually improve the Red Sox’ team and not leave them merely hoping for a miracle season.
The main need for Boston heading into the Winter Meetings was pitching. Signing Justin Masterson to a 9.5 million dollar contract for 2015; trading away Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster and another prospect for Wade Miley; and acquiring Rick Porcello from the Tigers by trading off Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Wilson and Gabe Speier; the Red Sox quickly added three solid pitchers to their poor rotation in a matter of days. Those three should drastically help them next season, as they already own a great lineup following the signings of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval.
So there you have it — a recap of the majority of the deals and trades that took place at the 2014 baseball Winter Meetings, and the possible impacts each move will have for each given team. As many have pointed out numerous times, this was one of the most active Winter Meetings in their long history. But nonetheless, there are still a number of valuable free agents that remain on the market.
From James Shield and Max Scherzer to Melky Cabrera and Chase Headley, there are multiple impact players that are available to any team that does what it takes to get them. With every free agent having to find a home somewhere, the exact ball club they wind up with could have a big effect on the outcome for teams in 2015.
26 days after winning it all with the Giants, Pablo Sandoval is heading to Boston.
Receiving a five-year deal from the Red Sox, reportedly worth around 100 million dollars, Sandoval is set to don a uniform other than that of San Francisco for the first time in his career, going to the Red Sox after three World Championships won with the Giants.
Reportedly offered around the same deal, both in years and dollar amount, by the Giants as was given to Sandoval by the Red Sox, a lot of people question why Sandoval, coming off a World Series title, would leave and join a team that was one of the worst in baseball in 2014. But despite the Sox’ down 2014 season, there are many predicting a bounce back year for them in 2015.
A two-time All-Star, Sandoval will certainly help the Red Sox moving forward. Though Sandoval hasn’t hit 20 or more home runs since 2011 — his best all around year came back in 2009, when he blasted 25 homers (career high) and recorded 95 RBI’s (career high) to go along with a .330 average (career high) — that’s not to be expected from Sandoval each and every year. He’s still a respectable .294 career hitter, and a great defender at third base.
Staying healthy this past season, playing in a career best 157 games, Sandoval was able to record 16 home runs and drive in 73 runs, all while batting .279. While that’s certainly solid numbers for a third baseman, and around what you should expect Sandoval to produce from season to season, his most value comes in the postseason, where Sandoval has proven to be one of the most clutch hitters in baseball history.
If the Red Sox can find a way back to the playoffs in 2015, they should see a level of Pablo Sandoval that far exceeds his regular season statistics.
But Sandoval isn’t the only player that could help the Red Sox return to the postseason. Another player who should help the Red Sox’ playoff hopes is Hanley Ramirez, who the Sox also picked up on Monday.
Coming over from the Dodgers, where he hit .283 with 13 homers and 71 RBI’s while manning the shortstop position this past season, Ramirez is receiving a four-year deal from the Red Sox, coming out to 88 million dollars. However, for Ramirez, who has played the infield for all of his career, there’s a slight catch in the contract.
Due to an already set infield, with newly signed Pablo Sandoval at third and Xander Bogaerts holding at shortstop, the Red Sox’ current plan involves moving Ramirez to left field — a postion he’s never played before. Getting placed in front of the Green Monster at Fenway Park, it will surely be interesting to see how Ramirez fares in the outfield, especially with the 37-foot wall looming behind him.
More importantly, however, sending the three-time All-Star, Ramirez, out to left field takes away the spot of Yoenis Cespedes, who the Sox acquired via trade for Jon Lester in the second half of the 2014 season.
With Cespedes an odd man out, and numerous other outfield options, including Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo, Shane Victorino, etc., Boston will definitely have to move at least a couple of their players. Desperately in need of pitching, many feel it would best serve the Sox to trade away a non crucial outfielder (possibly Cespedes?) in return for some good pitching. And they’re rumored to be looking into doing just that.
But although Boston still needs to do some more work on their pitching situation, the signing of Ramirez would appear to be a good deal. The 2006 Rookie of the Year with the Marlins and Most Valuable Player runner up in 2009, when he hit a staggering .342 with 24 home runs and 106 RBI’s, Ramirez will likely be a nice fit for the Red Sox, regardless of the fact that he won’t be playing his favored position.
A .300 career hitter, Ramirez hasn’t been a superstar level player in a few years, but the potential to be one still remains. Ramirez in set to be 31 years old when the 2015 season begins, but he still can be a big impact on any team he’s on, and that’s more than you can say about a lot of players in baseball.
A Red Sox team that finished last in 2012, only to come back and win the World Series in 2013, and then wind up near the bottom of the pack in 2014, it will be intriguing to see what happens with them in 2015. Signing Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez will definitely go a long way in improving their record, but it will take a few more changes to get the Red Sox where they want to be.
However, if the signings of Sandoval and Ramirez are any sign of things to come this offseason, the Red Sox could be setting themselves up to make another playoff push in 2015 and beyond.
As I stated in my American League post, choosing the Most Valuable Player from each league is the most difficult decision of all the major baseball awards handed out at the conclusion of each season. With Rookie of the Year and Cy Young you can look solely at which player had the best overall stats, but Most Valuable Player sometimes involves a bit more than just stats. While it’s important that an MVP winner had a great statistical year, the best offensive player doesn’t automatically become the most valuable.
With that said, it was an even more difficult vote for me this season than it has been in seasons past. There are several players, including Adrian Gonzalez, Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton and Clayton Kershaw, who were all extremely valuable members of their given team in the National League. However, in the end, only one player can win the Most Valuable Player award.
Adrian Gonzalez is one of two Dodgers on my list, but he stands the least chance of the two to win the MVP award, and the least overall shot of all the players on my list. Although he led all of Major League Baseball in RBI’s on the season, with 116, while batting .276 and blasting 17 home runs, Gonzalez still doesn’t quite have the overall numbers to win the Most Valuable Player award. Even so, playing in all but three of the Dodgers’ 162 games, Gonzalez definitely had a great season worthy of recognition.
The current reigning N.L. Most Valuable Player, Andrew McCutchen, posted very similar numbers to the ones he posted in 2013. But although they are extremely close in likeness, McCutchen doesn’t deserved the MVP award this year anymore than I felt he deserved it last year when he won. Batting .314 on the season, with 25 homers and 83 RBI’s, McCutchen surely had a great season. But missing a good portion of the year, and getting outperformed by two other players in the National League, McCutchen will likely have to try again in 2015.
Giancarlo Stanton comes in runner up for the National League MVP award, in my mind. It was a difficult decision to not give him the honor, but finishing out the year on the disabled list, along with another player completely dominating everyone else in the N.L., caused him to just miss out. Still, Stanton posted the best numbers of his career thus far in 2014. Blasting 37 home runs and tallying 105 runs batted in, Stanton was by far one of the top valuable players in the National League, but not quite the most valuable.
For me, the correct choice, although it’s a difficult one — especially given the fact that he’s a pitcher — for the 2014 National League Most Valuable Player award is Clayton Kershaw, who I also have picking up the Cy Young award. Coming back from an injury to begin the year, which caused him to miss the first month of the season, and still winding up leading baseball in wins and ERA is simply remarkable. Notching 21 wins, along with a career best 1.77 ERA, which was nearly half a run better than the next closest ERA in the National League, Kershaw should pick up his first career Most Valuable Player award for his amazing performances all season long.
As I stated in my American League Cy Young post, each season there are usually several pitchers from each league that have incredible seasons, making it difficult to choose between them for who most deserves the Cy Young award. This year, however, it really wasn’t all that close. Although Adam Wainwright, Johnny Cueto and Clayton Kershaw all had great seasons, one simply stands above the rest. Even so, I’ll take the time to go over each of them anyway.
Adam Wainwright put together yet another strong season, going 20-9 over the course of 32 starts for the Cardinals. While he didn’t overly dominate the competition, he kept them off balance for the most part throughout the year, holding opposing batters to a mere .222 batting average against. Having posted the lowest ERA of his career thus far, with a 2.38 on the year, you’d figure Wainwright would stand a good shot at the Cy Young. But the talent he’s facing is simply too great for him to do so this time around.
Yet another strong candidate for the Cy Young award that will inevitably miss out is Johnny Cueto. After getting off to an unbelievable start to the season, Cueto began to pitch so well that he earned a few more votes after each and every outing. Even so, despite striking out 242 batters and subsequently putting together a mere 2.25 ERA over 243.2 innings pitched, Cueto will have to try his luck again in 2015. The season he put together will likely wind up as one of the best ever recorded by a runner up for Cy Young.
For me, the only choice for the 2014 National League Cy Young award is Clayton Kershaw. Regardless of the fact that Kershaw missed over a month of playing time after making the start for the Dodgers down in Australia, causing him to record seven fewer starts than his closest competition, Johnny Cueto, Kershaw is in a class of his own.
For the fourth straight season, Kershaw lead all of Major League Baseball in ERA, posting an incredible 1.77 on the season. To go along with that amazing statistic, Kershaw was able to win 21 games, despite missing a month of starts, including one of which was of the no-hitter variety, in which he struck out a staggering fifteen batters. Keeping batters off the base paths, holding them to a .196 batting average for all of 2014, Kershaw is one of the best all-around pitchers the game has ever seen. And thus, after a great season, Kershaw should pick up his third Cy Young award of the past four years.