Results tagged ‘ Playoffs ’

Red Sox Claim Last Remaining Division Title Spot

Despite losing to the Yankees on Wednesday night via a Mark Teixeira walk-off grand slam, the Red Sox still managed to pick up a major victory. With the Orioles defeating the Blue Jays, Boston has now officially snatched up the final division title slot remaining in baseball, leaving just the Wild Card spots to be decided.MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox

Joining the Indians, Rangers, Nationals, Cubs and Dodgers as the other divisional winners from around baseball, the Red Sox have had a somewhat unpredicted fantastic season. Following a last-place finish in the American League East just a year ago, the Red Sox stormed back to take the division crown once again in 2016, picking up a whopping 14 more wins thus far than last year.

One of the most remarkable things about Boston’s ability to take the division title is their doing so within a division that has once again emerged as one of the best in all of baseball — every team except the Rays have been in the postseason race all season long — in addition to having a multitude of injuries and underperformances (namely, David Price) throughout the year.

With all of the top spots in all six divisions out of reach for the other twenty-four teams in baseball, there now remains just six teams still mathematically in contention for one of the two Wild Card spots in the American League, with three doing the same in the National League. Having four games remaining in the season (the days until the postseason can now be counted on one hand), it should be fun to watch how things unfold.

As great as the regular season has been, the best is inevitably yet to come.

Time Running Out for Teams Looking to Make Playoffs

There comes a point in every baseball season when teams who have kept hope alive all year long for a turnaround that would see them subsequently powering their way to the playoffs have to face the reality that time has simply run out.cole

For the Braves and Twins, that point in the season has already come and gone, as they have both officially been eliminated from playoff contention. For another nine squads still technically in the race, a shot at the postseason is looking very slim, as they’ve already been eliminated from the possibility of winning their given division, with their elimination number to grab even a wild card spot growing smaller and smaller everyday.

Eight teams have elimination numbers in the single digits (the Rays are just two loses away from complete elimination) with just under twenty games left in the regular season. With things slowly begin to wind down, a rough idea of the teams that will make up the postseason is already starting to take shape.

The Cubs are well on their way to a 100-win season, and should become the first team to clinch a playoff spot in the coming weeks. Likewise, the Nationals and Rangers are approaching 90-win seasons, and look to be postseason-bound.

However, on the flip side, teams such as the Marlins, Pirates and Rockies in the National League, and the Astros, Mariners and Royals in the American League, are going to have to go on major runs to have any shot at a Wild Card spot. Given, baseball is a game in which any team can go on a major run at any point in the year and make the postseason in spectacular fashion (the Mariners have won six straight), the chance of doing so with so few games left is a major feat to attempt to accomplish.

But even if a team or two does shock the world and make the playoffs, the most difficult part of their journey won’t be complete. They’ll then have to go up against powerhouse teams such as the Cubs, who seem determined to make the World Series and end their century-long World Championship drought. For that reason, it’ll be interesting to watch all the teams around baseball to see what goes down over the next few weeks.

Time may be running out, but the fun is just beginning.

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.


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.

Thrilling Wild Card Race Finishes Setting Up

One of the best things ever done for Major League Baseball in recent history, in my opinion, was the implementation of the second Wild Card back in 2012. Since then, a number of teams have been given at least a shot at postseason glory that would have missed the cut completely in season’s past. This year is looking to be another great example of that.

With just over fifty games still to be played over the course of the 2016 season, there are eleven teams around baseball within five games of a Wild Card spot, giving them hope of a magical season. It’s the prospect that any team can now make he postseason that’s making things all that more exciting.

Two of the most surprising teams vying for a spot in the playoffs this season are the Marlins and the Rockies. The Marlins currently hold a Wild Card spot, with Colorado just four games back of their own. Neither team was really expected to do all that much when the season began, so for them to be in such a place this late in the season is remarkable.

However, there is still a lot of season left where anything can potentially happen. It will all come down to the wire, making for a terrific finish to the regular season over the next couple of months.

Will 2016 Finally be the Year for the White Sox?

The Washington Nationals were hands down the most disappointing team of the 2015 season, but the White Sox weren’t all that far behind. After picking up Jeff Samardzija last offseason, along with David Robertson, Adam LaRoche and Melky Cabrera to go along with their already decent rotation and lineup, the White Sox were given a great shot byLose many people to make it back to the playoffs (at least via a Wild Card spot) for the first time since 2008.

But a number of things happened that kept the White Sox from ultimately reaching the postseason.

Samardzija, who had posted a stellar 2.99 ERA in 2014 and was being counted on to help the White Sox win a lot of games, was simply a bust this past season, plain and simple. Posting an 11-13 record with a 4.96 ERA, Samardzija did little at all to help the Sox. (Even so, the Giants have signed him to a 5-year, 90 million dollar contract.)

Their other big pickups for 2015 didn’t fare all that much better. David Robertson posted a decent 3.41 ERA, but wasn’t the dominant closer he’s been in the past. In addition, Adam LaRoche hit only 12 homers and batted .207, and Melky Cabrera, while he had a decent year, hitting .273 with 12 homers and 77 RBI’s, didn’t do quite as good as many felt he would.

It wasn’t just the newcomers who performed poorly, however. Of all the players on the roster who played in a full season worth of games, only Jose Abreu (Abreu’s 30 homers and 101 RBI’s were the only true stellar stats of any White Sox player in 2015), Adam Eaton and Melky Cabrera hit above .270. With such a poor offensive showing, the Sox placed 22nd in all of baseball with a mere .250 team average.

On the flip side, the Sox 3.98 team ERA wasn’t terrible, but it was still only good enough for 14th best. When you have a lineup that’s hitting on all cylinders, you can make up for a lack of dominant pitching. But when you have a lineup perform like the White Sox did in 2015, a near four team ERA on the year simply doesn’t cut it.

But there is a bit of hope for the White Sox heading into next season. Despite losing Jeff Samardzija to the Giants, they still have Jose Quintana who posted a team best 3.36 ERA in 2015, as well as their Ace, Chris Sale, who recorded a 3.41 ERA. Rookie Carlos Rodon should also be a big piece of the puzzle next season, as while he posted a 3.75 ERA in 2015, he has all the talent in the world to become a dominant starting pitcher.

Furthermore, the White Sox have made several key additions already this offseason that will inevitably help improve their offense immediately beginning on Opening Day 2016. The pickup of catcher Alex Avila will be a nice addition to Fraziertheir lineup, as should the trade they made for Brett Lawrie. But there is one key player the White Sox acquired this past week that has many people abuzz around the baseball world.

In a three-team, seven-player trade on Wednesday, the White Sox picked up Todd Frazier from the Reds to man the hot corner for them in 2016. In return, the White Sox sent Frankie Montas, Micah Johnson and Trayce Thompson to the Dodgers who then sent Jose Peraza, Scott Schebler and Brandon Dixon to the Reds. All in all, I see it as a good trade for everyone, though the loss of three good prospects could wind up hurting the White Sox down the road.

But the White Sox aren’t concerned with “what may have been” a year or two down the road. They’re focused on right here, right now. The pickup of Frazier, in addition to several other smaller pieces, makes the statement that the White Sox are looking to win in 2016. They certainly have the pieces if all of their players can simply live up to expectations.

As we know, however, that hardly ever happens. Teams who seemingly have everything all figured out are usually are the ones who turn out to be the biggest disappointments. Even so, if the White Sox can make a few more moves to better their team in the several months remaining until the start of the 2016 season, I really like their chances of making it a special year when all is said and done.

Then again, I said that about several teams last season . . . .

What Can We Expect from the Red Sox In 2016?

When the Red Sox finished in last place in 2012, not many people predicted too much from them the next year, but they went on to win the 2013 World Series. Following their championship, there were a lot of expectations out of the Sox in 2014, but they once again finished dead last in their division. With Boston not faring any better this David Pricepast season, there is little guarantee as to where they will wind up when the 2016 season comes to a close.

But the Red Sox made a big splash in the free agent market on Tuesday evening, acquiring David Price for a record breaking contract. Price was signed to a seven year, 217 million dollar contract, locking him up in Boston through the 2022 season, and possibly for the rest of his career, with him being 30 years old.

The mega deal makes Price the highest paid pitcher in Major League Baseball history, beating out Clayton Kershaw’s 215 million dollar deal. His annual value of 31 million a season is over four times what Price earned in 2015, so it is undoubtedly a happy day for David Price.

But it’s also a happy day for Boston and their fans. While there are plenty of people who would say the Red Sox vastly overpaid for Price (I could easily see anyone making that case), there is no doubt that Price, who holds a 1.95 career ERA at Fenway Park, will ultimately help the Sox push towards the playoffs after another disappointing season in 2015.

One of the things that held the Red Sox back last season was their lack of good starting pitching. Their collective team ERA of 4.31 was 25th in all of baseball in 2015, with none of their starters having good, consistent years. Price, who spent the first six seasons of his career with Tampa before heading to Detroit in 2014 and the Blue Jays for the second half of 2015, holds a 3.09 ERA and went 18-5 with a 2.45 ERA last season alone. He will definitely prove to be a bettsbogaertsvaluable addition.

On the flip side of things, the Sox offense was somewhat under the radar decent. They were able to post a .265 team average on the year, which tied them for fifth best in all of baseball. If their additions of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval from last offseason can have bounce back seasons, combined with further contributions from their young stars Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr., as well as veterans Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz, they could have a special season.

With David Ortiz already announcing that he will be retiring after the 2016 season, it should be interesting to see how the Red Sox perform next year. They have a few more things that need to be addressed to help their club overall for next season, but I like the signing of Price, as well as the pickup of Craig Kimbrel earlier this offseason, and the general direction that those moves take them.

No matter what happens, acquiring David Price for the next seven years is sure to make for some exciting seasons to come up in Boston.

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.

Time to Panic In D.C. for the Nats

There is now less than a month remaining in the 2015 MLB regular season, and things aren’t looking too good for the Nationals.

StrugglingCurrently sitting six games back of first in the National League East division, it will take a major run for the Nationals to catch the somewhat surprisingly good first place Mets.

Their best shot at making a dent into the Mets’ lead began on Monday, when a three game series between the Mets and Nats kicked off. However, instead of capitalizing on the major opportunity, the Nats have dropped the first two games of the series.

Tuesday night’s game was a bigger loss than most, though. Up 7-1 at one point, the Mets proceeded to battle back in the sixth via good at-bats and wild relief pitching. The result was a comeback that saw the game tied by the end of the inning, and had the Mets take the lead on a Kirk Nieuwenhuis homer in the eighth.

The comeback in the seventh came on 54 pitches, with only 19 of them being strikes, and is the largest lead lost by the Nationals this season. For a team that was supposed to completely blow away the competition with all of the offseason additions they made, the Nationals aren’t exactly producing the way many people think — and know — they should.

With the Mets’ young star pitcher Jacob deGrom taking the mound on Wednesday night, the Mets have to like their chances. Not only of winning the game, but of putting the division out of reach for the Nationals as the weeks go on.

Blue Jays Headed for Playoff Run?

At the beginning of the season, I didn’t see the Blue Jays doing much of anything in 2015. In fact, I had the Yankees, Red Sox and Orioles all finishing ahead of them in the standings. But it seems that I will turn out to be very wrong when all is said and done.

The Jays currently sit second in the American League East, just behind the surprisingly dominant Yankees by four and a half games. As recently as a week ago, Toronto was six games back of first, and two out of the American League wild card. MLB: Kansas City Royals at Toronto Blue JaysNow, after a terrific recent stretch of games that includes a four game winning streak to date, the Jays are in line to make the playoffs for the first time since 1993 when they won the World Series.

When the season kicked off in April, the Blue Jays were given a 27 percent chance of making the playoffs, but now they sit at a respectable 65 percent. The remaining schedule the Jays have left isn’t a cakewalk by any means, but if the Jays can continue their hot streak things could get very interesting down the road.

Although the Jays were already having a decent year before the trade deadline, a big reason for their recent run can somewhat be attributed to their acquisition of Troy Tulowitzki and David Price.

With Tulo in the lineup, the Jays take a dangerous middle of the order and turn it into a dangerous entire lineup from the very first pitch. Likewise, Price adds depth to their rotation, and should be able to help power their team forward as the year progresses.

No matter whether or not the Blue Jays end up making the playoffs — after all, there is close to two months still remaining — just the idea of it is enough to excite the fans around Toronto and around the baseball world in general. But if things continue to roll for the Jays and they make it into October, they could turn out to be a very formidable team to take on in a playoff series where anything can happen.

Padres Going All In for Next Season

When the dust settles a couple months from now, and spring training begins to kick off, the Padres could turn out to be the winners of the entire offseason. While the Red Sox are arguably the most improved team, with their pickups of both offensive presence and starting pitching, it’s the Padres that have done the most to improve their club in a very short amount of time.

Finishing with a record under .500 for the fourth straight season in 2014, not a lot of people likely had the Padres doing much of anything impactful this offseason that would give them any chance against the division dominant Dodgers and Giants moving forward. However, the Padres are seemingly putting together a competitive ball club, and are losing very little in the process, all thanks to their new general manager, A.J. Preller, who was given the daunting task of turning around one of the worst offenses from the previous year.Kemp-Myers

News of the Padres’ team revamp first arose during the Winter Meetings, when a trade for Matt Kemp was first reported. Although it took them over a week to finalize the deal due to a concerning physical of Kemp that showed arthritis in his hips, the Padres landed their man, getting Matt Kemp (along with 32 million dollars) and Tim Federowicz from the Dodgers, in exchange for Yasmani Grandal, Joe Wieland and Zach Eflin.

Following that initial announcement of the Kemp deal, the Padres proceeded to further improve their outfield for next season, acquiring Wil Myers as part of a three team, 11-player deal with the Rays and Nationals.

In the large swap, the Padres received Myers, Ryan Hanigan, Jose Castillo and Gerardo Reyes from the Rays, and sent Rene Rivera, Joe Ross, Burch Smith, Trea Turner, and Jake Bauers back to Tampa. The Rays then flipped Turner and Ross to the Nationals for Steven Souza and Travis Ott. (Follow all that?) In short, the Padres acquired promising young outfielder Wil Myers without giving up too much in return — just as they did with the Matt Kemp trade.

But the little loss, big return trade pattern didn’t stop there for the Padres. Shortly after announcing the Wil Myers acquisition, the Padres made yet another trade, once again for an impactful outfielder, bringing over Justin Upton and Upton1a low level prospect to be named later from the Braves. In return for Upton, San Diego didn’t have to part with too much, sending away just Max Fried, Jace Peterson, Dustin Peterson and Mallex Smith. Although three of those four players were in the Padres top twenty prospects list, the Padres were still able to maintain their top two prospects in Austin Hedges and Matt Wisler, which is truly remarkable when you think about it.

Not all of the moves the Padres have made have been large, though. Some of the smaller changes the Padres have completed that could turn out to have major impacts have also taken place over the past day or so.

As replacement for the slot lost when they traded away Yasmani Grandal, the Padres traded Jesse Hahn and R.J. Alvarez to acquire former All-Star catcher, Derek Norris, along with Seth Streich and an international signing slot from the Athletics. In addition, the Padres made a smart small move on Friday, flipping Ryan Hanigan, who they just acquired in the Wil Myers trade, to the Red Sox in return for Will Middlebrooks, who will now man the hot corner in 2015.

All of these moves for a brand new outfield, as well as an improved infield, will go a long way in improving the Padres next season. Their lineup is undeniably better, and one that will be a force to reckon with for sure. But what about their pitching? As has been proven time and time again, you don’t win games with just hitting, you have to have pitching as well. But surprisingly, despite the Padres’ dismal win-loss record from 2014, they did in fact have a good, under the radar pitching staff made up of solid players.

Due to the bad offensive production, which saw the Padres finish the season last in batting average, last in RBI’s and 28th in home runs, it was overlooked that the Padres had the fourth best team ERA in all of baseball on the season, coming out to a mere 3.27. With their big name pitchers from 2014 — Tyson Ross (2.81 ERA), Andrew Cashner (2.55 ERA), and Ian Kennedy (3.63 ERA) — still on the roster, to go along with newly acquired Brandon Morrow and Josh Johnson, who is reportedly close to returning, the Padres truly have a solid team for 2015.

But they still aren’t likely done.Winnings

After obtaining Matt Kemp, Wil Myers and Justin Upton via trades, San Diego now has a surplus of outfielders — Seth Smith, Will Venable, Carlos Quentin, Cameron Maybin — whose spots have been filled. That assuredly means that at least one of them will be on the move, and that could end up bringing the Padres yet another piece of the puzzle.

But while the Padres are no doubt headed in the right direction and will show drastic improvement as soon as next season, I don’t think it will be enough to win the National League West division. The Dodgers and Giants are still too good, and will likely make moves of their own to get a little better before April. After finishing 17 games back of the division winning Dodgers last season, that’s too far of a jump for the Padres to make in a single season, in my mind.

However, despite that, I applaud the San Diego Padres. Following a season in which they were at the bottom of the pack in nearly every offensive category, the Padres look to have solved that in a matter of a couple weeks. If the new additions of Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Justin Upton, etc., can play to their full potential, and if the down seasons by former standouts Jedd Gyorko and Yonder Alonso can be turned around, things look to be bright for the Friars.

Even if they don’t make a run at the division title, the Padres are in line to compete for at least the second Wild Card spot in 2015. Having not made the postseason since 2006, fans in San Diego have been waiting for quite awhile to see a team with this talent level be presented on the field, long wishing that some major changes would be made.

It would appear Padres fans have finally received their wish.