Decision of Yoenis Cespedes Could Decide the NL East

After watching the majority of above average outfield free agents get plucked off the market over the course of this offseason (the most recent case being Justin Upton, who agreed to a six-year, 132.75 million dollar contract with the Tigers), Yoenis Cespedes is currently in the process of determining his fate for the 2016 season and beyond.Cespedes

Reportedly, the two teams most in the running to nab Cespedes are the New York Mets and the division rival Washington Nationals (though the Yankees have been mentioned as well).

As with every team around baseball, either team would be a better version of itself with Cespedes as part of their everyday lineup in 2016, but in this case I think the choice could wind up being more important than usual. With the Mets and Nationals going back and forth in the division last season, all the way until the latter part of the year, I truly believe that the team that gets Cespedes will be the team that holds the advantage to win the National League East division.

Back on July 31st of last year, the National held a two game lead over the Mets and were seemingly on their way to the postseason as had been expected from Opening Day. But a trade for Yoenis Cespedes by the Mets ultimately gave them what they needed to surpass the Nationals and never look back.

In 57 games with the Mets, Cespedes blasted 17 home runs and drove in 44 runs, all while hitting a cool .287. With Cespedes leading the way, New York wound up taking what was supposed to be an easy division win by the Nats and turning it a complete 180 degrees into a cakewalk division win by the Mets — an outcome that truly stunned many around the baseball world.

Sure, the Mets had a lot go right last season, and the Nationals had almost everything go wrong, but you can’t deny the impact that the lone presence of Cespedes brought to the Mets.

With the Phillies still seemingly lost heading into 2016, NLEastthe Braves working on rebuilding their club and the Marlins being much improved but still likely a third place team at best, the division will inevitably go to either the Nationals or the Mets.

On paper, the two teams are quite even. While I would give the edge to the Mets in terms of pitching staff (with guys like Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard), I would declare the Nationals the better lineup, with tons of pop including the 2015 National League Most Valuable Player, Bryce Harper, who hit 42 home runs and batted .330 a year ago. The difference maker, in my mind, for both teams comes down to one free agent: Yoenis Cespedes.

With the National League East division set to be just as competitive as ever between the Mets and the Nationals, whoever can win the Cespedes sweepstakes (given the reports are correct, and he does end up with one of the two) will hold the upper hand heading into 2016 to win the division. As history has shown since the introduction of the second wild card in 2012, winning the division is extremely important in securing a long playoff run in October.

Donaldson and Harper Win MVP Award

The Most Valuable Player award was first given out in 1911 to Ty Cobb of the American League and Frank Schulte of the National League. Originally known as the Chalmers award, named after Hugh Chalmers, the award didn’t catch on as well as had been hoped, and therefore was discontinued after the 1914 season.

In 1922 the League Awards were established to honor the baseball player in the American League (National League began being recognized in 1924) who provided the greatest all-around service to their club. The winner — who received a medal and cash for winning — was voted on by a committee of eight baseball writers, with a player not being able to win more than once. Like the Chalmers awards, these awards didn’t last long, stopping in 1929.

Finally in 1931 the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Most Valuable Player award was established, which is the award still given out today.

Voting for the award is fairly straightforward.

Two writers from each city of both the American League and National League make up the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) voters for the Most Valuable Player award, making a total of thirty voters for each league (fifteen teams, with two voters per city). A first place vote earns a player fourteen points, a second place vote gets nine points, a third place vote receives eight points, a fourth place vote is worth seven points, and so on, all the way until tenth place for one point. Once added up, the player with the highest overall total wins.

There is no specific criteria for the voters to use when choosing the Most Valuable Player, but some suggested attributes include value of a player to his team (strength of offense and defense), number of games played, and a player’s overall character, disposition, loyalty and effort.

The 2015 Major League Baseball Most Valuable Player award winners for both the American League and National League were announced Thursday night on MLB Network. Here are the winners, along with my thoughts on each:

AMERICAN LEAGUE MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

Original Pick: Josh Donaldson

Finalists: Lorenzo Cain, Josh Donaldson and Mike Trout

Winner: Josh Donaldson

Thoughts On Josh Donaldson Winning

Anytime a players posts a .297 average with 41 home runs and 123 RBI’s, they have to be considered as a very strong candidate for Most Valuable Player. That’s exactly what Josh Donaldson was able to do this season, and he was the Donaldsonfavorite heading into the award announcement on Thursday night.

Josh Donaldson wound up winning by a fairly large margin, amassing a total of 385 points off of 23 out of 30 first place votes, with Mike Trout getting the other 7 first place votes and 304 total points, and Lorenzo Cain placing third with 225 points of his own.

This marks the third time that Trout has finished second in the American League MVP voting, joining him with Mickey Mantle for second most runner up finishes in baseball history. But with the year Donaldson had, you simply had to pick him to take home the honor.

Helping the Blue Jays make the playoffs for the first time since 1993, Donaldson came up time and time again throughout the year for Toronto, and proved his value in some very big spots. He becomes just the second player in Blue Jays team history to win the Most Valuable Player award.

If Donaldson can keep it up and post another incredible season in 2016, it very well may not be his last time in the running for the award.

NATIONAL LEAGUE MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

Original Pick: Bryce Harper

Finalists: Paul Goldschmidt, Bryce Harper and Joey Votto

Winner: Bryce Harper

Thoughts On Bryce Harper Winning

There were three finalists for the National League Most Valuable Player award, but there was truly only one choice. The year Bryce Harper had made him more than deserving of the award in the minds of many people. Inevitably, the Baseball Writers Association of America agreed.Harper

Bryce Harper received all 30 first place votes for a collective 420 points. Paul Goldschmidt received 234 points, and Joey Votto got 175 point from the voters, earning him a third place finish.

At 23 years of age (Harper just turned 23 in October), Harper becomes the youngest player to ever win the MVP by a unanimous vote, and just the seventh all-time. In addition, Harper’s MVP is the first in Washington franchise history.

Batting .330 with 42 home runs, combined with a .460 OBP due to 124 walks, made Harper the easy pick for the award. While the Nationals didn’t make it to the postseason — a factor that has played a large part in the voting in recent years — it didn’t truly matter. His stats were more than worthy of him being the first player since Albert Pujols in 2008 to win MVP from a team that didn’t reach the playoffs.

Finally able to have a fully healthy season after battling injuries over the early part of his career, Harper ultimately was able to break out as a superstar, and all signs point to him being able to keep it up as he matures into his prime.

Both Josh Donaldson and Bryce Harper had terrific seasons in which they came up time and time again all season long for their given teams, making them very valuable. Moving forward, they will undoubtedly be in the MVP conversation in future seasons. It should be interesting to see which players emerge to challenge them in 2016.

Keuchel and Arrieta Win Cy Young Award

The Cy Young award — named after the Hall of Fame pitcher who died in 1955 — was first handed out in 1956 to Don Newcombe, with the goal of recognizing the “most valuable pitcher” from each season. The first eleven years of the award saw one pitcher per year receiving the honor, but in 1967 the Cy Young began being handed out to a pitcher from each league who was voted on as the best from the season.

Voting for the award is fairly straightforward.

Two writers from each city of both the American League and National League make up the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) voters for the Cy Young award, making a total of thirty voters for each league (fifteen teams, with two voters per city). A first place vote earns a player seven points, a second place vote gets four points, a third place vote receives three points, a fourth place vote is worth two points, with a fifth place vote earning a single point. Once added up, the player with the highest overall total wins.

The 2015 Major League Baseball Cy Young award winners for both the American League and National League were announced Wednesday night on MLB Network. Here are the winners, along with my thoughts on each:

AMERICAN LEAGUE CY YOUNG

Original Pick: David Price

Finalists: Sonny Gray, Dallas Keuchel and David Price

Winner: Dallas Keuchel

Thoughts On Dallas Keuchel Winning

Things couldn’t have been any closer statistically between Dallas Keuchel and David Price. Keuchel posted a 2.45 ERA on the season compared to Price’s 2.48 mark; Keuchel won 20 games, while Price netted 18; Price won in the strikeoutDallas Keuchel race, but only by a total of nine punchouts. To make a long story short, their seasons were nearly identical.

Because of the close race, I unsuccessfully picked Price to win, but Keuchel ultimately had a slight edge by pitching 232 innings that included three complete games and two shutouts.

In addition, Keuchel set the record for most games won at home in a single season without a single loss, with 15 (the previous record was 13). For those reasons, the end result wasn’t as close as many had predicted.

Dallas Keuchel won the Cy Young award fairly easily, receiving 22 of the 30 first place votes for a total of 186 points, with David Price coming in second with 143 points and 8 first place votes, and Sonny Gray coming in third with a total of 82 points.

The season Dallas Keuchel had was inarguably unbelievable, and it should be very interesting to see if he can keep it up moving forward. Keuchel becomes the first Astros pitcher to win the Cy Young award since 2004, when Roger Clemens won the honor.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CY YOUNG

Original Pick: Jake Arrieta

Finalists: Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw

Winner: Jake Arrieta

Thoughts On Jake Arrieta Winning

As close as the American League Cy Young race was, the National League side of things was even closer. With Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw all having terrific seasons in vastly different ways, it was difficult to pick between them for who was most deserving.Arrieta

Even so, it was Arrieta who wound up winning the National League Cy Young award. While Greinke’s 1.66 ERA was unfathomable, and Kershaw continued his dominance with 301 strikeouts, Arrieta did something in the second half of the season that I feel truly put him over the top in the Cy Young voting.

Following the All-Star game, Arrieta went on a stretch never before matched in the history of the game. Arrieta posted a mere 0.75 ERA over the entire second half of the season, bringing his ERA down to 1.77 on the year, and ultimately was a big factor in the Cubs making the postseason.

Jake Arrieta got 17 total first place votes for a collective 169 points, barely beating out Zack Greinke’s 147 points including 10 first place selections, and Clayton Kershaw who received three first place votes of his own but finished third with 101 points.

The fifth Cubs pitcher to ever win the award, and the first since Greg Maddux in 1992, Arrieta continues the Cubs’ offseason award winning streak. With Kris Bryant winning the Rookie of the Year and Joe Maddon picking up the Manager of the Year award, the Cubs become the first team with three major award winners since the Mariners in 2001.

With this year’s Cy Young award race being the closest it has been in years, it makes everyone around the baseball world begin to look ahead to the 2016 season. The best teams are usually the ones with great pitching, and it should be fun to see how Dallas Keuchel and Jake Arrieta, and their respective teams, do in 2016 and beyond.

My Vote for N.L. Most Valuable Player

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.1401776486000-2014-06-02-Clayton-Kershaw

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.

My Vote for 2014 National League Cy Young

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. clayton-kershaw-a2b965ac23c766eb

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.

Jacob deGrom Dominates, Adds to His R.O.Y. Case

Although it didn’t result in a victory for the Mets, Jacob deGrom — given a no decision in a 6-5 Mets loss — was as good Monday night as he’s been all season long. Striking out the first eight batters he faced to start the game, deGrom was not only dominant, but he also made some history, setting the Mets’ franchise record for most consecutive batters struck out to begin a game.

Jacob+deGrom+New+York+Yankees+v+New+York+Mets+MZuwVH-4LtHlUnfortunately, deGrom didn’t surpass the MLB modern day record of eight straight batters retired to kick off an outing, set back in 1986, merely tying it. But even so, deGrom showed why he’s regarded by many as one of the top young up-and-coming pitching stars in the game today.

Now with a season ERA of 2.68 over the course of 21 starts — 7 of which were scoreless outings — and 134 strikeouts on the year, the 26-year-old deGrom is quickly becoming a household name.

Once the Mets get their ace, Matt Harvey, back in 2015 — who reportedly topped out at 95 on his fastball with great movement on his curveball in a simulated game at Citi Field on Monday — they should have a very formidable rotation, with deGrom as their strong number two starter behind Harvey.

But before all of that happens, people are focusing their attention on the present, placing Jacob deGrom as a top candidate for 2014 National League Rookie of the Year. However, while deGrom has been good and should be good for years to come, I’m not fully convinced the award will be his by a landslide as some are suggesting.

The stats deGrom has posted this season have been impressive, racking up a 28 inning scoreless streak before allowing three earned runs in the seventh inning on Monday, but an outfielder for the Reds by the name of Billy Hamilton is sure to give deGrom a run (no pun intended) for his money.

hamiltonThough Hamilton is batting in the mid .200’s — not something you want out of your leadoff hitter — he’s really been a big part of an otherwise struggling Reds team.

While Hamilton has cooled off drastically as of late after hitting at a fairly high clip for a portion of the season, his 56 stolen bases and fantastic defense in center are sure to earn him a number of votes for the Rookie of the Year in the National League.

Citing the fact that Hamilton wouldn’t be a candidate if not for his stolen bases, it’s certainly understandable to find yourself thinking deGrom has the edge in the race for the award. Neither side is truly the right or wrong answer, as both Hamilton and deGrom have good arguments both for and against.

In the end, however, the final handful of games of the season will tell the tale. Whichever player has the stronger finish will likely gain the edge when it comes to the voting for who deserves the title of Rookie of the Year.

Brewers’ Downhill Fall Continues Into September

After 150 days spent this season with at least a share of the first place spot in the National League central division, the Milwaukee Brewers are experiencing their first big struggle of the year. In fact, having lost a National League best nine straight games — the most for them since 2010 — the Brewers not only find themselves fighting for the division title, but more importantly they’re struggling to keep their playoff hopes alive.

With Thursday night’s 3-2 loss to the Cardinals — a team that is a must beat for the Brewers — Milwaukee is currently tied with the Braves for090414_cardinals_600 the second Wild Card spot, but they could quickly lose it to the Braves if they don’t begin to play any better than they have lately.

The Brewers kicked off 2014 with one of the best starts in franchise history, posting a five game lead in the division after the first month of the season. Things looked to be headed in the right direction in Milwaukee, however, although the Brewers were able to play decent baseball through the All-Star break as well as much of August, the Brewers finally collapsed to the surging Cardinals on September 1st, when the Cards took a one game lead in the division and haven’t looked back since.

With a four game lead over the now second place Brewers, the Cardinals have gone from 1 and 1/2 games back of first to four games up on the Brewers in the span of a week, having won six games in a row.

To put into perspective how quickly things have gone south for the Brewers, back on August 19th they held their best chance of making the playoffs according to MLB.com of a great 94 percent chance, with a 63 percent chance of holding on to win the division. Now, after struggling for so long, the Brewers hold around a 50 percent chance of making it to the playoffs, with a mere 16 percent chance of coming back to take the division title. A near 50 percent drop in their chances of winning the division in the matter of a few weeks is pretty remarkable.

With the start of the 2014 postseason quickly approaching on September 30th, this four game series against the Cardinals is absolutely crucial for the Brewers. With three games remaining in the series, the Brewers could either finish things out against the Cardinals seven games back of first place — taking away 04ec5432c8f60918580f6a7067003e57most of the remaining hope of them making the playoffs — or they could find themselves back in contention just a single game out of first. It all depends on how well they can play.

Being one of the worst teams in the National League since the All-Star break, sitting in 11th place for runs scored, and near the middle of the pack in runs allowed by their pitchers, the Brewers are facing a major battle if they want to keep their postseason dreams alive.

What they need is a player or two to step up and begin to transform this team back into the group it was before the All-Star break.

The only problem being that Ryan Braun, who has been out for a bit of time but is respected to return soon, and Carlos Gomez, who is out with an injury, haven’t been doing too well as of late even when they were in the lineup. In addition, Jonathan Lucroy, who at one point in time was on people’s radar for a possible National League MVP, has been performing poorly over the past couple of weeks. Without those player carrying the team, it can be very difficult to get an offense going, not to mention a sinking pitching staff. But, as history has shown, nothing is impossible.

With 22 games left in the Brewers’ regular season, they still have time to turn things around. However, they have to start the turnaround now. After they finish out this series against their division rival Cardinals, the Brewers go on to play the Marlins and Reds, both of which can always make things difficult to pick up a win.

Following that, the Brewers head on the road to face the Cardinals, in what could once again be pivotal games, as well as the Pirates and Reds, before returning home to finish out the year with a three-game series against the Cubs.

Depending on how the Brewers fare between now and their final home series, the fans in Milwaukee could either be cheering on a playoff bound team in the final days of September, or they could be watching on television from afar, with aspirations of postseason glory in 2015.