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.

Kluber and Kershaw 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.

Seventeen players who have won the Cy Young award have gone on to the Hall of Fame up until this point — several of those winners are still active players, however. The current record for most Cy Young awards is held by Roger Clemens, with seven, but sixteen total players have won multiple Cy Young’s in their career.

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 2014 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: Felix Hernandez

Finalists: Felix Hernandez, Corey Kluber and Chris Sale

Winner: Corey Kluber

Thoughts On Corey Kluber Winning

I originally had Felix Hernandez winning the 2014 Cy Young award, and after seeing that he was one of the three finalists for the honor, I still held strong with my selection. However, in one of the closest votes in Cy Young award history, Corey Kluber took home the award for his terrific, breakout season.

KluberJust edging out the win by ten points, Kluber received a total of 169 points and 17 first-place votes, with Hernandez getting the other 13 first-place selections totaling 159 points. Third place recipient Chris Sale got 78 points from the voters.

Never receiving a single vote for the Cy Young award before this time around, Kluber becomes the fourth player in Indians’ franchise history to win the Cy Young award.

Going 18-9 with a 2.44 ERA on the season, Kluber essentially came out of nowhere and posted some incredible outings on the season. Kluber was one of the absolute best pitchers in baseball after the All-Star break, recording back-to-back 14 strikeout games in September and notching the best overall ERA of any starting pitcher over that span.

Heading into next season, it’s hard to know what to expect out of Corey Kluber. Although he was superb in 2014, there have been plenty of cases where a pitcher breaks out for a season and never performs that way again. But despite that, Kluber will in all likelihood be one of the best pitchers in the game, even if he isn’t quite as good as the masterful year he had this past season.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CY YOUNG

Original Pick: Clayton Kershaw

Finalists: Clayton Kershaw, Johnny Cueto and Adam Wainwright

Winner: Clayton Kershaw

Thoughts On Clayton Kershaw Winning

After yet another historic season put together by Clayton Kershaw, there was no real debate over whether or not he most deserved the 2014 National League Cy Young award. Winning his unprecedented fourth straight ERA title, Kershaw’s stats simply blew away the competition, which saw the next closest N.L. ERA nearly half a run higher. Clayton+Kershaw+San+Diego+Padres+v+Los+Angeles+Hc6ylRJ3VZ_l

Kershaw’s unbelievable season netted him a unanimous vote for the Cy Young, with him receiving all 30 first-place votes and 210 points overall. Johnny Cueto, the second place vote getter only tallied 112 points, with Adam Wainwright finishing in third with 97 points. With the unanimous selection, Kershaw becomes the first to do so since Justin Verlander in 2011.

Tying Sandy Koufax for the most Cy Young awards in Dodgers’s franchise history, Kershaw’s back-to-back Cy Young awards make him the youngest in MLB history, and one of only nine players, to win three in their career.

Firing a 15-strikeout no hitter in June, Kershaw’s season was remarkable, as despite missing the first month of the season, Kershaw was able to record 21 wins to go along with a mere 1.77 ERA. With many already naming Kershaw as the predicted front runner for the Cy Young award again in 2015, barring injury, there’s a chance that Kershaw could challenge Roger Clemens’ all-time record of seven career Cy Young awards.

But before Kershaw makes a run towards reaching Clemens, he is looking to become the ninth player in history to win both the Cy Young award and the Most Valuable Player award in the same year. Although some people have Giancarlo Stanton taking the honor, with a few giving it to Andrew McCutchen, there’s still a good chance that Kershaw could win the MVP. In my opinion, he deserves it.

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.

American League Wins the 85th MLB All-Star Game

With a 5-3 win over the National League, the American League achieved the All-Star game victory on Tuesday night, and, more significantly, secured the all important home field advantage for this year’s World Series. Though home field advantage is considered by some to be meaningless, with the home team having gone 18-18 in the history of World Series game sevens, given the fact that the past five World Series 402-1gCL7O_AuSt_55winners have had home field advantage, it’s proven to give a slight advantage when the Fall Classic rolls around, at least as of late.

But while each and every All-Star game brings it’s share of superstar players who are looking to take home a win, this particular game was noticeably more special than it has been in a long time.

Derek Jeter, who announced back in February that he had planned to retire following the season, was the focus of everyone’s attention. After playing in just 17 games all of last year with an ankle injury, coming back for one final season gave fans all around the country the opportunity to show their appreciation to the captain.

In his fourteenth and final Major League Baseball Midsummer Classic, the entire ballpark took the time to acknowledge the brilliance of Jeter’s two decade career in pinstripes, giving him a loud cheer upon his introduction and a long standing ovation for his first at-bat of the game.

On cue, Jeter drove the second pitch from Adam Wainwright down the right field line, pulling into second base with a double — good old-fashioned Derek Jeter baseball. With a triple off the outfield wall, Mike Trout drove in Jeter for the game’s first run, and was promptly driven in by Miguel Cabrera, who blasted a home run to left field to give the American League a quick 3-0 lead.

The National League would answer back in the top of the second, with an Aramis Ramirez single, followed by a pair of doubles from Chase Utley and Jonathan Lucroy, which brought the score to within one run, to 3-2.

Jeter came up to the plate in his second and final at-bat of the game (his final All-Star at-bat of his career) in the third, and he once again found a way to bloop a hit out into right field — something he’s done numerous times in his career. With that hit, Jeter raised his career All-Star game average up to a staggering .481 average (just a few back of the best career Midsummer Classic average of all time) and became the oldest player in history to record a multi hit All-Star game.

Taking to the field in the top of the fourth, Derek Jeter was replaced by Alexei Ramirez before the inning got going, and exited the game to a standing ovation. After giving the crowd a curtain call, Jeter returned to the dugout where he would take in the remainder of the game, which saw many great plays, and tons of excitement.

In the very inning that Jeter was removed, the National League, with the help of a Jonthan Lucroy double that scored the speedy Dee Gordon from first (Gordon had just replaced Chase Utley) tied the game at three aside. But it wouldn’t last long. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Mike Trout and Alexei Ramirez each drove in a run after a few hits put players on the bases, taking the score up to 5-3 in favor of the American League.

Things would stay right there through the ninth inning, when hometown guy, Glen Perkins, came in to close out the game. Going down 1-2-3, the National League didn’t have a comeback in them on Tuesday night, and the American League won the game, thanks to a save by Perkins Untitledwho is one of the most underrated closers in the game.

Although it was Jeter’s final All-Star game, Mike Trout ended up taking home the Most Valuable Player award, having gone 2-3 with a couple of RBI’s on a triple and a double. Though many people felt it would’ve been story book for Jeter to win the MVP, Trout was certainly deserving of the honor.

In his third All-Star game, Trout becomes the second youngest player to win the game’s Most Valuable Player (Ken Griffey Jr. was the only player younger), and there’s no doubt that Trout will play in numerous more Midsummer Classics, with a good shot that he will pick up a few more MVP’s in the process.

In the end, while it was a competitive All-Star game that went back and forth, there’s one thing from the entire event that will forever stand out in people’s mind. Sure, people may remember the great pitching performances by the American League; they’ll probably remember the great MVP caliber game that Mike Trout put together. But the one thing that everyone will remember the most is Derek Jeter and the final All-Star memory he instilled upon all who witnessed it.

That will stick with people for a lifetime.

MLB Award Frontrunners At the All-Star Break

Sunday marked the last day of MLB games until after the All-Star break, and although the baseball world is looking forward to seeing Giancarlo Stanton put on a show in tonight’s home run derby (he’s the favorite to win), I wanted to focus my attention on the players who have posted amazing performances throughout the first half of the season.

For this post, I’m covering the players who I feel stand the best chance right now (given, it’s still early) of winning the three major awards of Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year and Cy Young. All three awards have multiple players who can be argued as being deserving, but I have my own opinion as to who deserves each award the most at this point in the season.

Most Valuable Player Award

American League: This is finally the year that Mike Trout wins the American League Most Valuable Player award. At least, that’s what many Mike-Troutpeople are hoping. After posting amazing stats each of the past two seasons (25+ HR’s, 30+ SB’s) many felt Trout deserves to have already won an MVP or two in his career (each year the MVP went to Miguel Cabrera).

Even so, while there are a few other players being Nelson Cruz, Edwin Encarnacion and the always consistent Miguel Cabrera in the conversation, the Angels are nearing the top of the division thanks to another great season from Trout, who’s at the top of his game.

National League: Troy Tulowitzki is having an amazing year. Andrew McCutchen is having an even better season than the MVP one he put together last year. But Giancarlo Stanton is doing something extremely special.

No, he doesn’t have the astronomical batting average that Tulo possesses (mid .300’s), but Stanton’s power bat is keeping a counted out Marlins team in the running, despite some rough patches as of late.

Whether or not the Marlins turn things around is yet to be seen, but even if they don’t, Stanton is doing enough for him to pick up the NL MVP, in my mind.

Rookie of the Year Award

American League: It’s very likely that the running for the 2014 AL Rookie of the Year award is going to come down to two players once all is said Billy+Hamilton+Pittsburgh+Pirates+v+Cincinnati+-mQdzhL5gT4land done — Jose Abreu and Masahiro Tanaka. On the offensive side, Abreu’s closest rival is George Springer, who’s been one of the few bright spots for the Astros, but is batting in the low .200’s.

Abreu leads all rookies in hits, homers, slugging percentage and RBI’s, and while Masahiro Tanaka has been the pitching equivalent of Abreu — leading rookies in wins — a recent UCL injury to Tanaka will likely push Abreu over the top.

National League: Despite getting off to a slow start to his rookie campaign, speedster Billy Hamilton has made adjustments that have enabled him to succeed on the major league level.

Although thought of as mainly a speed threat — having stolen 38 bases so far this year — Hamilton has also proven to many that he can handle the bat.

Showing a little power, blasting six home runs, and coming through big, leading all National League rookies in RBI’s, with 38, Hamilton is truly the only current above average NL candidate for the Rookie of the Year award.

Cy Young Award

American League: Scott Kazmir and Masahiro Tanaka (and even Garrett Richards) are arguably in the running for American League Cy Felix HernandezYoung, but as of right now, Felix Hernandez is the front runner. Finally receiving some run support, Hernandez holds an 11-2 record to go along with a dismal 2.12 ERA over twenty games started this year.

Striking out nearly ten batters per nine innings pitched, the Mariners’ ace has proven why he’s been coined “The King” in Seattle. Hernandez could very well be crowned with the Cy Young award when the end of the season arrives.

National League: In my opinion, the NL Cy Young is Adam Wainwright’s to lose at this point. Though the runner up to Wainwright in ERA, Johnny Cueto (Kershaw doesn’t yet qualify due to innings pitched), has a legitimate case for the Cy Young, Wainwright has been unbelievable this season.

Holding opponents to a mere 1.83 ERA, Wainwright has played a big part in keeping the Cardinals near the top of the division, sitting just one game back of the first place Brewers. If Wainwright can keep up the amazing pitching, he could receive his first career Cy Young award for his 2014 campaign.

Whether or not you agree or disagree with my picks for who deserves each award at this point in the season, one thing is for sure: there is still a lot of season left where any player can have anything happen. With 17 of the 30 teams at .500 or better, in terms of win-losses go, regardless of the award races, the games following the mid-summer classic are sure to make for one of the most exciting second halves in years.

Scherzer and Kershaw 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 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.

Fifteen players who have won the Cy Young award have gone on to the Hall of Fame up until this point — several of those players are still active, however. The current record for most Cy Young awards is held by Roger Clemens, with seven, but seventeen total players have won multiple Cy Young’s in their career.

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 2013 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: Max Scherzer

Finalists: Yu Darvish, Hisashi Iwakuma and Max Scherzer

Winner: Max Scherzer

Thoughts On Max Scherzer Winning

Max Scherzer winning the Cy Young award seemed to be an easy choice, as he was the only pitcher with twenty or more wins this past season, however, both Yu Darvish and Hisashi Iwakuma had great cases, with many people siding with one of them. But in the end, the writers’ voted for Scherzer, giving him 28 of the 30 first-place votes, and a total of 203 points.

Max+Scherzer+Chicago+White+Sox+v+Detroit+Tigers+6PNKd3srCAKlAlthough Yu Darvish, who received 93 points, was better than Scherzer in both ERA and strikeouts — leading the league in games with ten or more strikeouts, with twelve — it was hard to overlook a win-loss record of 21-3 for Scherzer, which is what I feel ultimately gave him the edge over his competition.

Along with his impressive record, Scherzer posted a 2.90 ERA with 240 strikeouts, and in addition had a win streak of thirteen games to start the season. Many people make the argument that wins aren’t a very good indicator of a pitcher’s performance, being determined by a teams run support — a case make for Iwakuma, who earned 73 of the voters’ points — and while I agree, I don’t think it was close enough to completely throw Scherzer’s record out the door.

Max Scherzer had a great season and was the most deserving of the Cy Young award.

The BBWAA’s vote had Yu Darvish finishing second, with Hisashi Iwakuma coming in third.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CY YOUNG

Original Pick: Clayton Kershaw

Finalists: Jose Fernandez, Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright

Winner: Clayton Kershaw

Thoughts On Clayton Kershaw Winning

There was really no contest in the running for National League Cy Young. Clayton Kershaw, who won the award in 2011 and finished second in 2012, had an amazing year, and with the stats he was able to post, you had to figure he was going to be the winner. The voters agreed, as it wasn’t even close. Kershaw received all but one of the first-place votes, earning him 207 total points, beating outClayton Kershaw 4 seam fastball Adam Wainwright’s 86 points, and Jose Fernandez’s 62 — Fernandez picked up the Rookie of the Year award on Monday.

The only pitcher recognized on every voters’ ballot, Kershaw had a historical year, going 16-9 with an astounding 1.83 ERA; the lowest ERA since Pedro Martinez in 2000, and the lowest National League ERA for a left-hander since Sandy Koufax in 1966. With a batting average against of .195, Kershaw put up great numbers in every aspect possible.

Kershaw becomes the 17th pitcher in history to win multiple Cy Young awards in their career, and the third pitcher to lead the league in ERA for three consecutive seasons.

At just 25 years old, odds are this won’t be the last Cy Young award for Clayton Kershaw.

The BBWAA’s vote had Adam Wainwright finishing second, with Jose Fernandez coming in third.

2013 BBWAA ROY, Cy Young and MVP Award Finalists

The Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) award finalists for 2013 Rookie of the Year, Cy Young and Most Valuable Player were announced Tuesday night on MLB Network. For the most part, I agree with the finalists; but there are a few I’m surprised about.

Here are the finalists, with who I have winning (click their names to find out why):

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR FINALISTS

American League: Chris Archer, Jose Iglesias and Wil Myers

National League: Jose Fernandez, Shelby Miller and Yasiel Puig

I have Wil Myers and Jose Fernandez winning the Rookie of the Year award.

CY YOUNG FINALISTS

American League: Yu Darvish, Hisashi Iwakuma and Max Scherzer

National League: Jose Fernandez, Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright

I have Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw winning the Cy Young award.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER FINALISTS

American League: Miguel Cabrera, Chris Davis and Mike Trout

National League: Paul Goldschmidt, Andrew McCutchen and Yadier Molina

I have Chris Davis and Paul Goldschmidt winning the Most Valuable Player award.

The winner of each award will be announced next week on MLB Network. Here’s the schedule:

AL & NL Rookie of the Year: November 11th

AL & NL Cy Young: November 13th

AL & NL Most Valuable Player: November 14th

As stated in a previous blog post, I plan on posting a recap of each winner, along with a look at how well I did with my predictions, in a blog entry after each award is officially announced. So be sure to check back for that . . . .