World Series Tied Heading to Chicago

One of the things that makes the World Series great each and every year is a quality matchup between two great seriesteams in which it’s a true toss-up as to which team will come out on top. This season has that playing out once again.

Although the Cubs are a better team on paper, the Indians have repeatedly proven people wrong all season long, making it truly impossible to predict the winner when all is said and done.

But there’s an added element to the 2016 Fall Classic that makes this one far more exciting and interesting, and it’s the fact that the Cubs and Indians — the two teams in the World Series — haven’t won a World Title in a combined 176 years (the last titles coming in 1948 for the Indians and 1908 for the Cubs). To say the fans of these squads have been waiting for the feeling of having won it all for quite some time would be a vast understatement.

The first game in a race to four wins and an end to a generational drought for both teams began on Tuesday night in Cleveland, with Corey Kluber and his 0.98 postseason ERA going up against Jon Lester and his October mark of an 0.86 ERA. For many, a pitchers dual was all but guaranteed to happen, but it quickly became evident that things wouldn’t turn out that way.

Kluber began the game strong, striking out two of the first three batters he retired and looked like the Kluber of old who has become known as one of the game’s best pitchers, despite some rust at times this season. However, on the kluberother side, Lester was a bit shaky out of the gate, allowing a hit to Francisco Lindor (his first of what would be three on the night) as well as a subsequent stolen base in the very first inning — a steal which earned everyone in America a free taco from Taco Bell on November 2nd.

Lester proceeded to walk the next two batters and load the bases for Jose Ramirez, who would hit a weak tapper that was unable to be fielded, allowing the first run of the series to score. Soon after, Lester hurt his cause even further, hitting Brandon Guyer to force in a run and make the score 2-0.

Although Lester was able to work out of further trouble, thanks to David Ross making a great play behind home plate, the Cubs didn’t do anything to capitalize on it. To make matters worse for the Cubs, Kluber was absolutely on top of his game, striking out eight batters through the first three innings, setting the all-time record in the 1,503-game history of the postseason for the most batters struck out by a pitcher in the first three innings.

The Indians would rally once again in the next inning, as Roberto Perez launched a line-drive homer to give the Indians a 3-0 lead. Having previously won 60 straight games when leading by three or more runs, things were getting late early for the Cubs.

One of the first bright spots for the Cubs came in the seventh inning, when Corey Kluber was removed from the game after allowing a hit to the first batter of the inning. Normally his replacement Andrew Miller would strike fear into the hearts of the opposing team, but things didn’t begin that way upon his arrival. The bases quickly became loaded against Miller with no outs, giving the Cubs their best scoring opportunity of the night. But once again they failed to record a run-scoring hit, letting Miller off the hook without a single runner crossing the plate.APTOPIX World Series Cubs Indians Baseball

The Cubs would continue to give things a valiant effort into the late-innings, but in going 1-11 with runners in scoring position, they simply couldn’t get the job done. The death-blow came in the eighth inning, when Roberto Perez blasted his second home run, giving the Indians a 6-0 lead, and making Perez just the third player in Indians postseason history to hit multiple homers in a single game, joining him with Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez.

That 6-0 lead would turn out to be the final score, and marked the first game one shutout in a World Series since the A’s failed to tally a run in the 1990 series.

With such a commanding win by the Indians, you began to wonder whether or not the Cubs simply weren’t able to do much of anything against a masterful pitching performance or if their bats were once again falling cold, as they had earlier in the postseason. After all, this is the time of year when every single out counts, and low production absolutely can’t be afforded.

Citing that the team to win game one has won 12 of the last 13 World Series, the Cubs needed to make a statement in game two to get the momentum back on their side, and you had to figure they would come out trying to make something happen very early the next night.

Heading into game two, which had its start time moved up an hour due to the threat of rain, Trevor Bauer was set to face off against Jake Arrieta, both of whom had been back and forth all season long in terms of their quality of pitching. You didn’t really know what you were going to get out of them on Wednesday night, but you got the feeling each would be on top of their game.

rizzoAs it would turn out, however, it wasn’t Bauer’s night at all, as the Cubs got off to the aforementioned hot start they needed, scoring a run via an Anthony Rizzo RBI-double in the first inning.

The Cubs would score again in the third off a couple of singles that advanced Rizzo all the way home, giving the Cubs an early 2-0 lead. Due to the runs allowed, Bauer wouldn’t last even four innings, getting pulled in the third for a reliever — vastly different than Kluber’s outing some 24 hours prior.

However, the switch didn’t cool down the bats of the Cubs by any means. If anything, it energized them even further, as they proceeded to score three more runs in the fifth inning, off of a Ben Zobrist RBI-triple (helped in large part to Lonnie Chisenhall falling down while in pursuit of the ball), yet another RBI from Kyle Schwarber and a bases-loaded-walk of Addison Russell that forced in a run.

Up 5-0 with still half the game to play, things were virtually flipped from the game before in terms of the team who had control of the game.

Equally swapped was the teams’ pitching dominance, as following the Indians’ Corey Kluber dominating in game one, the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta was even better, failing to allow a hit through 5.1 innings pitched, setting the longest such streak in World Series play since back in 1969.

arrietaThe double that broke up the no-hitter was notched by Jason Kipnis who proceeded to advance down to third before a wild pitch by Arrieta allowed him to jog home for Cleveland’s first run of the game.

Mike Montgomery would come on in relief to settle things down, and he was absolutely terrific, giving the Cubs two strong innings, before being replaced by the flame-throwing Aroldis Chapman. As per usual, Chapman slammed the door on the Indians, hitting 104 on the gun and evening up the series at a game apiece.

The World Series now heads to Wrigley Field where the next three games will be played. Although a three-game sweep would win either of the teams the World Series, such an occurrence isn’t all that likely. Given, this is the postseason, and anything can and usually does happen. But from the back and forth dominance we’ve seen to this point, this series has all the makings of a six or seven game affair.

My Vote for 2016 N.L. Most Valuable Player Award

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 usually look solely at which player had the best overall stats, but Most Valuable Player bryantsometimes 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. Daniel Murphy, Joey Votto, Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado and Anthony Rizzo 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.

Joey Votto had a somewhat under-the-radar superstar season, after getting off to a horribly slow start. When all was said and done this season, Votto wound up hitting .326 with 29 home runs and a .440 OBP. Playing for a sparsely talented Reds club, it’s easy for Votto to get overlooked, but he was in fact very valuable.

Equally as valuable was Daniel Murphy. This season for the Nationals, Murphy hit a staggering .347, virtually getting a hit every night. Also hitting a career high 25 homers to go along with 104 RBI’s, the year Murphy had is certainly one to remember, but not one to award with the MVP.

One of the brightest stars in baseball at the moment, Anthony Rizzo, also placed in the running for MVP in the National League. With his 32 homers and .385 OBP, Rizzo helped propel the Cubs to the postseason for the second straight season. But regardless, the numbers simply aren’t there for him to win the award.

Once again, I made the very difficult decision of placing Nolan Arenado as runner up in the voting for MVP. Despite him having hit 41 homers with a mammoth 133 RBI’s on the season, I find it hard to give him my vote. Even so, there should be nothing taken away from the season he had. Arenado is in a class all his own.

With the second-place finish of Nolan Arenado, that leaves Kris Bryant on top for the Most Valuable Player in all of the National League. Although he recorded 31 fewer runs batted in than Arenado on the year, his performance day in and day out, including two five-for-five performances, helped cement the Cubs with the best record in all of baseball, subsequently giving Bryant the edge in the MVP voting.

My Vote for 2016 N.L. Cy Young Award

As I stated in my American League Cy Young post, each season there are usually several pitchers from each league who have incredible seasons, making it difficult to choose between them for who most deserves the Cy Young award. This year was no different. Max Scherzer, Jose Fernandez, Tanner Roark, Johnny Cueto, Madison Bumgarner, scherzerNoah Syndergaard, Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks all had years worthy of recognition, but in the end only one can with the National League Cy Young award.

Admittedly, there are a few others with unbelievable stats from 2016 in the National League not included on my list, but I decided to begin the discussion with Tanner Roark, who is one of the eight pitchers in the NL with an ERA below 3.00. Roark’s 2.83 ERA over the course of this season is quite remarkable, but with so much competition, it quickly leaves him on the outside looking in.

Another pitcher in Roark’s position is Johnny Cueto, who had an unbelievable year but still didn’t do enough to earn the Cy Young. Even so, Cueto’s 18-5 record with a 2.79 ERA helped get the Giants into the postseason once again, despite some offensive struggles, and he will be a big part in their success moving forward.

Jose Fernandez is the next pitcher I’m taking off the list, which is truly unfortunate. With the stunning news of his untimely death coming back in September, it would be fantastic to see him win the award. However, while I’m all for honoring his memory, there are other candidates who deserve the award more when you take a close look at the stats.

Despite getting the Mets into the postseason for the second straight season, Noah Syndergaard won’t wind up with the Cy Young award when all is said and done. But his 2.60 ERA and 218 strikeouts certainly stand out on a pitching staff that saw a plethora of injuries, and Syndergaard will likely continue to be the ace of Queens.

Three-thousand miles away, out in San Francisco, Madison Bumgarner had yet another great season of what has become a great career to this point. Bumgarner managed to strike out 251 batters over the span of 34 starts this season, and combined with Johnny Cueto to make on of the best one-two punches in all of baseball, but won’t take home the award when the voting is revealed.

Speaking of one-two punches, John Lester made up one half of perhaps the best duo in all of baseball for the Cubs. His 2.44 ERA was second best in all of baseball, and his .211 opponent batting average definitely jumps out, but so does Lester’s less than one strikeout-per-inning, making him fall short of the Cy Young award.

It came down to a couple of aces this season. But while Kyle Hendricks and his MLB-best 2.13 ERA initially makes him the heavy favorite, I couldn’t select him to pick up the award. His strikeout numbers are subpar at best, and while that isn’t always a deciding factor in the voting process, it is in this case.

For that reason, I went with Max Scherzer to win the National League Cy Young. He has the worst ERA of all the players on my list, at a dismal 2.96, but it’s his strikeout numbers that give him the edge in my mind. The Cy Young award is about utter dominance, and Scherzer’s 284 K’s (including a 20-strikeout performance this season) makes him the number one choice. Striking out 114 more batters than my runner up Kyle Hendricks, I made the tough but correct decision for the award this season.

My Vote for 2016 N.L. Rookie of the Year Award

As I stated in my American League Rookie of the Year post, watching young players succeed upon their first year in the majors is always fun. Though it never guarantees that any given player will carry that early success throughout their career, it’s always a good indication of which players are going to be stars for years to come. We certainly had a fair share of those type of players in the National League this season, with players such as Trea Turner, Brandon Drury, Junior Guerra, Aledmys Diaz, Ryan Schimpf, Tommy Joseph, Corey Seager, Trevor Story and Seung Hwan Oh allSan Diego Padres vs Los Angeles Dodgers having seasons worthy of recognition. However, in the end, only one player can win the coveted Rookie of the Year award.

With so many names in theoretical contention for the award this season, it’s simply not practical to discuss them all, and thus I’ll take this time to go ahead and eliminate a few of them from my list right now. Brandon Drury, Ryan Schimpf and Tommy Joseph are the easiest to eliminate, as although they each has something special among their stats, the simply sit at the bottom of the pack when it comes to the running for the award.

Now having that out of the way, the next player I can take out is Aledmys Diaz. While he lead all of baseball in batting average for a good bit of time upon his arrival this season, Diaz fell off as the year went on. Even so, his 17 homers and 65 runs batted in to go along with an even .300 average make him a player worth watching in the future.

Next to be slashed off is Seung Hwan Oh, who is probably not a well known name to the majority of baseball fans. Even so, there is good reason to learn his name. Striking out 103 batters in 76 relief appearances for the Cardinals this season, Oh’s 1.92 ERA is very impressive, but not good enough to make me feel he is deserving of the award.

The other pitcher on my list — of the starting variety — is yet another young star in the making. Junior Guerra’s 2.81 ERA over 20 starts for the Brewers was truly one of the only bright spots of yet another down year for the Brewers. If he can keep that going in the future, Guerra could turn out to be a valuable part of Milwaukee’s rotation.

One of the toughest things for me to do is put Trea Turner finishing third on my Rookie of the Year list, but that’s exactly where I have him falling. His .342 average on the season with 33 stolen bases and 13 home runs make him a well-rounded future All-Star, but not the Rookie of the Year winner.

It came down to a couple of sluggers in my mind, with Trevor Story finishing runner up. Had he not have gotten hurt, things would’ve been much closer, with Story perhaps winning the award, but his 27 home runs and 72 RBI’s have him placing second. Given, this power surge could’ve been a fluke, but it would appear Story has found a home in Denver.

The winner of the National League Rookie of the Year award therefore falls to Corey Seager, who was the heavy favorite heading into the 2016 season. His stats are hard to ignore, as Seager looks to be the Dodgers’ starting shortstop for the next decade or more. Seager’s .308 average combined with 26 home runs and 72 RBI’s make him one of the game’s brightest stars in the coming years.

2016 MLB Postseason Predictions

For the fifth straight season, I made preseason predictions as to how I felt each division would play out, and for the fifth 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 unfold. You never can tell what may happen in October.

WILD CARD GAMES (AL October 4th & NL October 5th)

American League: Blue Jays Vs. Orioles

Winner: Orioles

This is sure to be a great game between two great teams, and although it will be played up in Toronto, with the Blue Jays having home-field advantage, I think the Orioles will be able to prevail. The key reason behind that logic lies with Zach Britton, who can almost guarantee a win, should the Orioles be holding the lead heading into the ninth. With the Orioles having hit the most homers in all of baseball this season, they should be able to put together enough runs to pull out the victory, despite having to face Toronto’s Marcus Stroman.

National League: Mets Vs. Giants

Winner: Mets

I realize it’s an even number year, and therefore the Giants should be all but guaranteed to win the entire World Series — they won in 2010, 2012 and 2014 — but I don’t even see them making it past the Wild Card game. Yes, the Giants’ starter, Madison Bumgarner, had a stupendously great year, but the Mets have a Cy Young candidate of their own on the bump, in the form of Noah Syndergaard. With this sure to be a pitcher’s duel, one run very well could be the difference, with the Mets’ lineup simply having more thump than that of the Giants.

AMERICAN LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES (Begins October 6th)

Indians Vs. Red Sox

Winner: Red Sox

I’ve been betting against the Indians all season long, so I’m a bit hesitant to go against them after they had the season they did. But although I don’t think this will be an easy task by any means for the Red Sox, I see them overtaking the Indians, especially with the injuries Cleveland began experiencing towards the end of the regular season. Without the full health of their rotation, I don’t see the Indians overtaking Boston. For that reason, when all is said and done, the Red Sox should be the team moving on to the ALCS.

Rangers Vs. Orioles

Winner: Orioles

This is by far the most difficult decision I had to make to this point in the post, as both teams have very even rosters from top to bottom, and each have had rotations that have struggled at times. But despite all of that, the Orioles seem to be a bit better set up for a postseason push than the Rangers do. Having likely just won the Wild Card game in my mind against the Blue Jays, I feel that Texas won’t be able to withstand the momentum of the hard-hitting and hard-throwing Orioles for the full length of the series.

NATIONAL LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES (Begins October 7th)

Nationals Vs. Dodgers

Winner: Nationals

After several disappointing seasons in which many people envisioned great things for the Nationals only to watch them fall apart during or even before the playoffs, this is the year for the Nationals to finally win a few playoff games, in my opinion. Although they have a great deal of injuries, including those to several All-Star players, I don’t think the Dodgers will be able to compete with Washington when all is said and done, even with the best starting pitcher in baseball, Clayton Kershaw, leading their staff.

Cubs Vs. Mets

Winner: Cubs

2016 is finally the year of the Cubs — or at least that’s what ninety-nine percent of the baseball world is happily telling themselves. Following a century-long drought of a World Series title, the Cubs seemingly have no holes whatsoever in their entire roster. Even though there’s a long way to go before the end of the postseason (they need to win eleven games to take home the Championship), there are still a lot of reasons to like the Cubs. I really don’t think this will be that competitive of a series, with the Mets lacking the all-around talent that the Cubs have.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES (Begins October 14th)

Orioles Vs. Red Sox

Winner: Red Sox

This will wind up being the end of the line for the Orioles as far as I’m seeing things now. If in fact they are taking on the Red Sox in the ALCS, I don’t think the Orioles will be able to beat them in the end. Even so, this series could wind up going to a sixth or possibly even seventh deciding game. It would truly be one of the best postseason series we’ve seen in quite a while, especially with it being the final season for David Ortiz. What each team lacks in pitching dominance, they more than make up for in power hitting, which could make this a back-and-forth series.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES (Begins October 15th)

Nationals Vs. Cubs

Winner: Cubs

If the Nationals manage to make it this far into the playoffs, it will include a small amount of luck, and I simply don’t think they will be able to defeat the powerhouse Cubs. As I’ve already stated, the Cubbies are one of the best all-around teams we’ve seen in quite some time, and the Nationals don’t seem to have what it takes to take down a team such as Chicago. With that said, I still think it would end up being an exciting matchup, just not quite as good as the ALCS would be. But then again, it’s October baseball, where the impossible happens on a regular basis.

WORLD SERIES (Begins October 25th)

Red Sox Vs. Cubs

Winner: Cubs

What a World Series matchup this would be, between two great teams and taking place at two 100-year-old ballparks. With the Cubs looking to end their historical 108-year losing streak, and the Red Sox looking to send David Ortiz off into the sunset with style, neither team would want to give an inch in this series. I could easily see this matchup taking six or seven games to decide, with the Cubs ultimately just beating out the Red Sox. Thus, after nearly eleven decades without a World Title, I’m predicting this to finally be the year the Cubs win the World Series.

2016 MLB Leaders (April 3rd – October 2nd)

With the 2016 MLB regular season in the books, I thought I’d take today to recap the entire year. It was all very exciting as well as disappointing, depending on how you look at it and who you were rooting for.

But instead of talking about the events that took place this year, I decided to make a list of different categories and beside them name the player(s) that lead that particular category. I’ve done lists like these for the past several years, and they have been well received, so I decided to do it again.

The following lists are categorized into hitting and pitching, but not AL or NL:

MLB LEADERS (AL and NL) – HITTING

Most Games Played – Alcides Escobar, Jonathan Schoop and George Springer (162).

Most At-Bats – Mookie Betts (672)

Most Hits – Jose Altuve (216)

Highest Average – DJ LeMahieu (.348)

Highest OBP – Mike Trout (.441)

Highest SLG – David Ortiz (.620)

Most Runs – Mike Trout (123)

Most Doubles – David Ortiz (48)

Most Triples – Brandon Crawford, Cesar Hernandez and Chris Owings (11).

Most Home Runs – Mark Trumbo (47)

Most RBI’s – Nolan Arenado (133)

Most Base On Balls – Mike Trout (116)

Most Strikeouts – Chris Davis (219)

Most Stolen Bases – Jonathan Villar (62)

Most Caught Stealing – Jonathan Villar (18)

Most Intentional Base On Balls – Bryce Harper (20)

Most Hit By Pitch – Brandon Guyer (31)

Most Sacrifice Flies – Francisco Lindor (15)

Most Total Bases – Mookie Betts (359)

Most Extra Base Hits – David Ortiz (87)

Most Grounded Into Double Plays – Miguel Cabrera (26)

Most Ground Outs – Alcides Escobar (234)

Most Number Of Pitches Faced – Mike Trout (3,014)

Most Plate Appearances – George Springer (744)

MLB LEADERS (AL and NL) – PITCHING

Most Wins – Rick Porcello (22)

Most Losses – Chris Archer (19)

Best ERA – Kyle Hendricks (2.13)

Most Games Started – David Price (35)

Most Games Pitched – Brad Hand (82)

Most Saves – Jeurys Familia (51)

Most Innings Pitched – David Price (230)

Most Hits Allowed – David Price (227)

Most Runs Allowed – Edinson Volquez (124)

Most Earned Runs Allowed – James Shields (118)

Most Home Runs Allowed – James Shields (40)

Most Strikeouts – Max Scherzer (284)

Most Walks – Jimmy Nelson (86)

Most Complete Games – Chris Sale (6)

Most Shutouts – Clayton Kershaw (3)

Best Opponent Avg. – Jake Arrieta (.194)

Most Games Finished – Jeurys Familia and Mark Melancon (67).

Most Double Plays Achieved – Martin Perez (36)

Most Wild Pitches – Mike Fiers (17)

Most Balks – Matt Andriese and Antonio Bastardo (4).

Most Stolen Bases Allowed – Noah Syndergaard (48)

Most Pickoffs – Julio Urias (6)

Most Batters Faced – David Price (951)

Most Pitches Thrown – Justin Verlander (3,668)

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.