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.

Mariners

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.

Baseball Returns With a Three-Game Slate

It’s been a little over five months since the last non-exhibition Major League Baseball game was played, but meaningful baseball is finally taking place again today (Opening Day, part one). After a month of Spring Training games, six of baseball’s thirty teams are scheduled to dual it out over the course of this afternoon and evening, with the remaining twenty-four squads playing their opening games on Monday.Opening Day

Game one of the regular season is set to kick off at 1:05, and sees the Cardinals taking on the Pirates in a National League Central battle. Francisco Liriano and Adam Wainwright are the scheduled starters for the contest, leaving little to doubt that it will be a great game. With the NL Central likely to be a very close race throughout the coming 162 games, it’s never been more important to get off to a good start against a division rival.

The second game on the docket for today is another divisional faceoff, as the Blue Jays are going up against their American League East counterpart Rays. While the Rays aren’t predicted to hold up against Toronto in the long run, anything can happen in the first game of the year. On the mound for Tampa is Chris Archer, with Marcus Stroman toeing the rubber for the Jays. It will likely be a fun one to watch, with this game beginning at 4:05 in the afternoon.

But while the previous two games are sure to be exciting and well worth watching, the one I’m going to be watching the closest and am looking forward to the most is the World Series rematch between the Mets and the Royals at 8:37. Game five of the Fall Classic way back on November 1st saw Matt Harvey starting for the Mets, with Edinson Volquez setting the tone for Kansas City, which just so happens to be the pitching matchup for tonight. For that reason, this should wind up being an unbelievable game.

As we all know, the Royals walked away World Series champions over the Mets in 2015, however, that was last season. It’s a new year, and with it comes new opportunities for each and every team around baseball. The road to the World Series starts with game one, and the first week always promises excitement from teams and individual players around baseball, as they all look to get off to hot starts.

Let the season begin.

My 2015 Postseason Predictions

For the fourth straight season, I made preseason predictions as to how I felt each division would play out, and for the fourth straight season I was extremely far off. For one reason or another, I’m not very good at making division predictions before a given season begins.

This year, though, I hope to finally correctly predict how the postseason will play out. While I’ll likely be off, either by a little or a lot, it’s always fun to make predictions. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get lucky and have a perfect prediction of how the postseason will play out. You never can tell what may happen in October.

WILD CARD GAMES (AL October 6th & NL October 7th)

American League: Yankees Vs. Astros

Winner: Yankees

It’s somewhat difficult to pick a winner of this matchup. Neither one of these teams were locks to make the playoffs at all when the season began, and yet here they are. I would have to say that the Astros’ lineup has more thump in it than the Yankees by a bit, but when it comes down to it, I think the bullpen will decide this game. With Masahiro Tanaka going up against Dallas Keuchel, the relievers could very well be the ultimate factor. With that said, I think the Yankees will be able to hold off the Astros and advance to the next round.

National League: Pirates Vs. Cubs

Winner: Cubs

This is another tough one to call. With it being just one game, and with Jake Arrieta going up against Gerrit Cole, you can basically flip a coin to pick which team is more likely to win. Overall, though, I think that the Cubs will have the added motivation of trying to break the century long World Series drought that will help them prevail. Even so, this is sure to be one of the best games of the entire playoffs when all is said and done. Both teams have great lineups, and each has the ability to make this an unforgettable game.

AMERICAN LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES (Begins October 8th)

Blue Jays Vs. Rangers

Winner: Blue Jays

The Rangers have a good pitching staff as well as a good lineup, but they are quite simply no match for the Blue Jays in my mind. I could easily see this being a three-game sweep by the Blue Jays if Toronto’s pitchers can pitch well. Their roster, consisting of unbelievable power throughout the lineup, is more than enough to dominate the Rangers. Although the Rangers made an impressive run to even make it into the playoffs, their run will likely end in the first true round of the 2015 postseason.

Royals Vs. Yankees

Winner: Royals

After making it all the way to the World Series in 2014 — they lost to the Giants in game seven — I think the Royals will easily overtake the Yankees. The Royals have a strong team in every single aspect. From their pitching staff to their bullpen to their extremely diverse lineup, the Royals are a very formidable club. Although I’m not sure they will make it to the World Series as they did in 2014, I think they will have no problem overtaking the Yankees, despite the Yankees being a good team as well.

NATIONAL LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES (Begins October 9th)

Dodgers Vs. Mets

Winner: Dodgers

This is going to be a series for the ages. The Dodgers have one of the best one-two pitching staff punches in baseball history, with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, and their offense is one that can score a lot of runs. Likewise, the Mets have a deep pitching staff that starts with phenom Matt Harvey, and they can score runs with the best of them as well. I could see this series going down to a game five, with the team that scores first being the team that holds on to advance to the Championship series.

Cardinals Vs. Cubs

Winner: Cardinals

Unfortunately, this is where I see the Cubs’ hopes for a 2015 World Championship coming to an end. They are a good team, as I previously stated, but I don’t think they can withstand the team with the best record from the regular season. The Cardinals are a great team, and they know how to win. I think they will continue their winning ways and push on to the next round of the playoffs. Despite that, it should be fun to watch the Cubs put up a fight to take out the Cardinals. If absolutely everything goes perfect, they could do it, but I just don’t see that happening.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES (Begins October 16th)

Blue Jays Vs. Royals

Winner: Blue Jays

What a series this would be. Both teams are dynamic, and both teams are very talented. However, both teams can’t win. With that said, I think it will be back and forth series in every sense of the word. I think this series will take six or seven games to decide, and it will be extremely exciting to watch. In the end, however, the Jays have an extremely good team, and I see them knocking the Royals out of contention. Although the Blue Jays haven’t been to the World Series since 1993, I have them making it there this year.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES (Begins October 17th)

Cardinals Vs. Dodgers

Winner: Dodgers

Another sure to be great series against two great teams, this is yet again a nearly impossible matchup to predict (as many of them are). It could honestly go either way, depending on an exponential number of factors. It will all come down to who is hot at the right times and which team comes up with the clutch hits. But if Kershaw can hold up against the Cardinals (something history has shown he’s had a difficulty doing), I would bet my money on the Dodgers. They have the ability to make it into the World Series.

WORLD SERIES (Begins October 27th)

Blue Jays Vs. Dodgers

Winner: Dodgers

If the Blue Jays can’t score runs they can’t win games. That’s the logic I’m using for trying to predict the World Series. Going up against the Dodgers’ unbelievable pitching staff, it may be difficult for Toronto to come out on top. The Blue Jays’ strength is undoubtedly their power bats, which the Dodgers don’t have as much of. But the Dodgers have more than their share of good pitching, which is what usually has the edge. When all is said and done, and the season has completely come to an end, I see the Dodgers as the only team remaining, as World Series Champions.

Leave a comment with who you have winning the World Series. I’d love to hear your picks.

Cubs Make Playoffs for First Time in Seven Years

Heading into Friday, the Cubs were a mere one game from clinching a playoff berth. Either a win by the Cubs or a Giants loss would mean October baseball for the Cubs for the first time since back in 2008. However, it appeared that things may have to wait for another day after the Cubs lost to the Pirates 3-2 in the afternoon’s game.MLB: Chicago Cubs at Chicago White Sox

With the loss, attention swung to Oakland, where the Giants were playing that night. If the A’s could pick up the win, the Giants would be eliminated from Wild Card contention, and the Cubs would become the fifth team to clinch a playoff spot. The Giants would end up come through for the Cubs, losing to Oakland, and being knocked out of the running.

Now that the Cubs have officially made the playoffs, it allows baseball fans from all over to set their sights on perhaps bigger things in Chicago. It’s common knowledge for any follower of the game that the Cubs haven’t won the World Series since 1908, having not even reached the Fall Classic since all the way back in 1945. To say fans in Chicago have been waiting for a World Series appearance for awhile would be a vast understatement.

But with the Cubs making the postseason, there officially begins to arise a bit of hope. Perhaps — maybe, just maybe — this is finally the year the Cubs break the longest World Series drought in baseball history and finally go the distance. However, they face a tough road to even reach the final seven game series.

Friday’s game against the Pirates was likely a preview of the Wild Card game set to take place on October 7th, assuming the Cardinals can hold onto their three game lead over the Pirates. But if Friday’s game was any indication, the Cubs will have to be on top of their game to advance to the Divisional Series.

One of the upsides for the Cubs is that they will likely have Jake Arrieta on the mound against Gerrit Cole, instead of Jon Lester as they had on Friday. While Lester is a terrific pitcher, Arrieta has had an unbelievable season and will YoungCubslikely give the Cubs their best shot at advancing.

The Cubs certainly have a good enough lineup to compete with any team they may encounter. With Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Anthony Rizzo, among many other young stars and veteran players, run scoring shouldn’t be a problem for the most part. On the flip side, while their pitching isn’t terrible by any means, it’s also not that dominant either.

Past Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta, their rotation falls off a little bit, but they are each more than capable of picking up a win, especially with the lineup they have to score runs. In the long run, the Cubs may find they can’t compete with other teams’ pitching staffs, but I feel they will at least make it past the win or go home Wild Card game.

As history has shown, once a team reaches the first five game playoff series, pretty much anything can happen. While on paper the other teams around baseball would appear to have an advantage, October baseball has a way of throwing stats out the window. After all, the Cubs were supposed to still be “a few years away” from contention. They’ve already proved a lot of people wrong by breaking those odds.

This may turn out to be a historical year when all is said and done.

Excitement Building With First Place Races

From one year to the next, you never truly know what to expect in any given division race around baseball. Sometimes one team will completely blow away the rest of the teams in their division and run away with the first place spot, while other cases see multiple teams within a few games of each other down to the last game of the season. This year is more of the latter.

Of the six divisions, four of them have the second place team within three games of the first place squad (the Royals and Cardinals lead their divisions by a good margin). Furthermore, some of the teams closing in on first — or in some cases leading the division — haven’t been doing so well in quite a long time. Astros

The biggest example of that being the Astros and Mets. Each are leading their given divisions at the current moment, and each are making their push towards the playoffs years earlier than many people thought they would.

With the Angels a mere one game back of the Astros and the Nationals a game and a half removed from the Mets, the remaining games of the season should be exciting as we find out which teams can hold on to their hot seasons.

Although not in first place (at least not yet), the Blue Jays are another team that is making things very interesting in the race for first place. The Yankees, somewhat surprisingly, lead the American League East at the moment, but the surging Jays are right on their tail, at just one and a half games back. With the lineup they have, Toronto has the ability to overthrow the Yankees as the season progresses.

The Dodgers are also in the mix as far as exciting division races are concerned, despite still holding a two and a half game lead over the Giants for first. Even so, the Dodgers have been in somewhat of a slump lately (as have the Giants) and things could quickly switch around in the NL West.

No matter what happens over the coming several weeks as teams push towards October, the fact that so many teams that weren’t expected to make the playoffs in 2015 are currently on their way to doing just that is exciting. If the season ended today, the Yankees, Royals, Astros, Blue Jays, Angels, Mets, Cardinals, Dodgers, Pirates and Cubs would all be headed to the postseason.

With the Astros not having made the playoffs since 2005, the Mets since 2006, Cubs since 2008 and the Blue Jays since way back in 1993, this could turn out to be the season a lot of droughts could be broken for a lot of teams. That’s worth looking forward to.

Max Scherzer Pitching Like It’s 1938

The only time in baseball history that a pitcher has ever thrown back-to-back no-hitters was in 1938, when Johnny Vander Meer did so for the Reds.Scherzer

But with Max Scherzer coming off of a no-hitter in his last start, in which he was one plunked batter in the ninth away from a perfect game, many people began to wonder if Scherzer could become the second pitcher to accomplish the amazing feat.

Going up against a subpar Phillies roster, Scherzer appeared to have everything going in his favor, having allowed a mere one hit — a bloop single back on June 14th that kept him from a no-hitter then — over his last 18 innings pitched.

As predicted, Scherzer was dominant to start the game, carrying a perfect game through five full innings for the third straight start, helping to extend his hitless innings streak to an amazing 16 innings.

But it wasn’t meant to be, as Freddy Galvis of the Phillies rocketed a double down the line in the sixth innings to stop Scherzer’s bid at history. Even so, Scherzer didn’t let the hit shake him that much, as although he would allow four more hits in the game, as well as two runs — ending the National’s starters streak of 48 innings without an earned run — he still picked up his third straight start with a win, giving him 100 career victories altogether.

Not a bad night at all.

With his terrific string of starts as of late — six hits and two runs over his last 26 innings pitched — Max Scherzer now sits with a 9-5 record and a 1.79 ERA on the year. If he can keep pitching the way he has been lately, the Cy Young award is nearly a lock.

Monday Sees Two Major Deals & One Big Trade

Monday was certainly a big day in the baseball world.

Not only did one of the game’s biggest stars sign a contract unprecedented in the history of the sport — or any sport anywhere for that matter — but a catcher from the Steel City was locked up by the Blue Jays long term, and the Cardinals and Braves swapped players to help fill each others needs.

It was all very interesting to follow.

Giancarlo Stanton kicked off the news filled day, finally signing the mammoth contract that everyone knew would eventually come. While many Miami Marlins v Philadelphia Philliespeople predicted it would come from a team other than the Marlins, the Marlins were in fact the team that got a deal with Stanton done.

A team that was at the bottom, in terms of team combined payroll, this past season, the Marlins locked up Stanton to a 13-year, 325 million dollar deal (the largest in the history of North American sports).

In addition to being so large, Stanton’s deal comes with a full no-trade clause — previously unheard of for the Marlins’ franchise — as well as an opt-out clause after the 2020 season. Having just turned 25 year old, the Marlins logic behind this major contract to such an impact player, who has legitimate 40+ home run a season potential, can easily be understood.

Despite a season ending injury in September, Stanton posted career numbers this year, batting .288 with 37 home runs and 105 RBI’s, and finishing second in National League Most Valuable Player voting.

Tied with Dan Uggla for the most home runs in Marlins’ franchise history, with 154, Stanton will undoubtedly pass that mark early on in 2015, having hit over 20 home runs every single year of his five career seasons. A two-time All-Star, Stanton will surely go on to set numerous records while in a Marlins uniform now that this contract is officially in place, and could go down as one of the best sluggers in baseball history once all is said and done.

But Stanton wasn’t the only player that was locked up to a sizeable contract on Monday. Martin

Also getting signed on the day was veteran catcher, Russell Martin, who agreed to an 82 million dollar contract over the course of the next five years from the Blue Jays.

Playing his last two seasons with the Pirates, after time spent between the Yankees and the Dodgers since his debut in 2006, Martin has been an up and down player over the course of his career, but should be an impact player for the Jays.

A three-time All-Star, Martin had a break out season in 2014, hitting .290 with 11 home runs and 67 RBI’s over 111 games played.

Previously a combined .234 hitter over his past five seasons, including a career low .211 in 2012, Martin truly made a name for himself this past year, and should make the Blue Jays glad they snagged him.

While Giancarlo Stanton and Russell Martin both signed contracts with their given teams, there was a big trade between the Cardinals and Braves that everyone was talking about as well.

The Cardinals received Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden in exchange for Shelby Miller and minor league prospect Tyrell Jenkins, who got sent back to the Braves. Though none of these players can be categorized as major stars, at least as of yet, they all have the ability to be key pieces of each team moving forward, and the trade truly made sense for both sides.546a2e451ce21_image

With their starting rotation being one of their many issues from the 2014 season, the additions of Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins (both former first round draft picks) will likely do wonders for the Braves in the coming years.

Miller, who hasn’t yet been the consistent starter many envision him becoming, was decent in 2014, posting a 3.74 ERA on the season. As was Jenkins, who notched an ERA just above three over 13 minor league starts this year. Each of them have the capability to be standout players.

In the same way that the Braves needed starting pitching, the Cardinals found themselves in need of a good everyday right fielder, after the unexpected loss of their future superstar right fielder, Oscar Taveras. Jason Heyward certainly fills that role, though he hasn’t yet lived up to his superstar potential.

While Heyward has won a couple of Gold Gloves in his career with the Braves, making a lone All-Star appearance in his rookie season, he’s only a career .262 hitter. In addition, since a breakout year in 2012 when Heyward blasted 27 home runs and drove in 82 runs, he hasn’t notched more than 14 homers or upwards of 58 RBI’s in any single season.

Even so, Heyward is the type of player that can instantly improve any club he’s on. Gaining him (along with Jordan Walden, who posted a 2.88 ERA in 2014) can only help the Cardinals as they look to make another playoff run in 2015.