In Trade-Crazed Baseball World, Dodgers Resigning Talent

Each offseason, every team around Major League Baseball attempts to improve their ball club heading into the next year. Whether a team won the World Series or finished with the worst record in baseball the previous season, it has become common practice for teams to trade away some of their expendable players for others they feel can help their roster even more.dodgers

But the Dodgers are taking a different approach.

Instead of going about things like the Red Sox, who recently traded away two of their prospects viewed as future superstars, the Dodgers are holding on to their prospects as well as their big league talent.

Beginning early this month with the resigning of starting pitcher Rich Hill to a three-year contract worth a cool 48 million, the Dodgers just recently also brought back closer Kenley Jansen for the next five seasons, at 80 million dollars, as well as third baseman Justin Turner on a four-year, 64 million dollar contract. It’s still early in the offseason, but those decisions may prove to be extremely wise.

Despite being set to turn 37 before the 2017 season gets underway, Rich Hill has become known as one of the best pitchers in all of baseball over the past couple of seasons. Following a rough beginning to Hill’s major league career, posting a combined 4.73 ERA over 90 games started from 2005-2011, Hill was on his way out of baseball before finally breaking through.

This past season between the Athletics and the Dodgers, Hill recorded a 2.12 ERA over the course of 110.1 innings pitched. With stats like those, it’s no wonder why the Dodgers found him so valuable.

Equally as important to the Dodgers in their minds was hanging on to their All-Star closer, Kenley Jansen, who finished tied for second in all of baseball with 47 saves this past season. Notching a 1.83 ERA, Jansen proved to be extremely effective at the back end of the Dodger’s bullpen with a 13.6 strikeout-per-nine rate.

Recording 127 saves over the last three years, Jansen is in line to tally his 200th career save in 2017, sitting just 11 shy. With top notch closers being at such a premium in today’s game, the Dodgers truly got a great one with an uncanny ability to keep hitters off balance.

But although opposing hitters have trouble against Kenley Jansen, the closer’s teammate, Justin Turner, certainly has no problem getting the offense going. However, it hasn’t always been that way. From his debut in 2009 through his arrival to the Dodgers in 2014, Turner was a .260 career hitter with a mere 8 career home runs. Since then, it’s been a completely different story for Turner.

Hitting .340 in 2014, Turner has also seen his power increase dramatically, seeing him hit 27 homers in 2016. Although anything can happen in baseball from one season to the next, the Dodgers would seem to have confidence in Turner’s power continuing.

The Dodgers should certainly hope so. After winning the National League West division last season, despite some injuries to some of their key players, such as Clayton Kershaw, the sky is truly the limit for 2017 if all of their pieces can stay healthy and perform as expected.

Rich Hill will still remain the number two starter behind Clayton Kershaw, but their overall rotation is good as well, with guys such as Kenta Maeda and youngsters Julio Urias and Jose De Leon expected to really break out in 2017. Additionally, Kenley Jansen will inevitably be the dominant force he has been for quite some time, continuing to be the answer in the ninth inning.

On the offensive side of things, Justin Turner has 30 homer power, to go along with 2016 Rookie of the Year winner, Corey Seager, and other power bats in Joc Pederson, Yasmani Grandal, Adrian Gonzalez and even Yasiel Puig, if he can play to his potential. laWhen you put it all together, the Dodgers’ lineup could be quite potent heading into next season.

Combine their great offense with their stellar pitching options, and it’s very easy to see a team that can win the division again in 2017, with a deep playoff push not being out of the question. Despite not being able to get past the Championship Series since making it to, and subsequently winning, the World Series in 1988, the Dodgers seemingly have all the pieces needed to break that streak in 2017.

They may not be taking the conventional approach of many other teams, trading for game-changing talent or signing big-name free agents who played elsewhere in 2016, but the Dodgers still seem to be on a successful path.

Conventional or not, their strategy has a great chance of working.

2016 World Series Predictions

You would think that after years of unsuccessful predictions I would get the message that I’m absolutely no good at foreseeing baseball future. But despite the countless hours spent trying to analyze a team’s roster and correctly select which would win any given series only to pick the wrong team — I’ve only made a handful of correct predictions to date — I’m going to give it a go once again.

world-series

Originally, I had the World Series being the Red Sox taking on the Cubs in my postseason predictions. With the Red Sox getting beaten out by the Indians in the first round of the playoffs, that prediction obviously didn’t come true, but getting the Cubs correct wasn’t half bad, considering they hadn’t been to the World Series since 1945. I now have a fifty/fifty shot at correctly getting the World Series right, but I’ll probably find a way to mess that up, too.

Game one takes place Tuesday night, with Jon Lester set to face off against Corey Kluber. It has all the makings of a great pitchers dual, but you never know what to expect with playoff baseball. In the end, I have the Cubs taking game one by the slightest of margins. Game two in Cleveland is another tossup, but I feel the Indians will have the crowd behind them and will be able to get to Jake Arrieta, who has been a bit shaky as of late.

Heading into Chicago for game three, I have the series tied at a game each. I think Kyle Hendricks will pick up right where he left off, earning the Cubs their second win of the series. Not wanting to see things slip away, I feel the Indians will even things up again in game four, with the final game of 2016 at Wrigley Field having the Cubs sent off with a victory. That would force them back to Cleveland up 3-2 on the Indians.

Following that, I don’t think the Cubs will waste any time in Cleveland, winning game six of the series, and earning their first World Series title since way back in 1908.

No matter what happens, this is set to be a remarkable series. With both teams facing generational droughts, either one would be bringing joy to their respective fan bases who haven’t seen a World Series Championship in decades. But despite the fact that the team with home-field advantage has won the last 24 out of 30 titles, I think the team celebrating when all is said and done will indeed be the Chicago Cubs.

Can Any Team Stop the Cubs in October?

After making the playoffs last season following a seven-year drought, many felt that the time had finally arrived in which the Cubs would break their historic curse and win the World Series title that has eluded them for over a century.cubs However, despite making it all the way to the National League Championship series for the first time since 2003, the Cubs were promptly swept in four games by the Mets.

This season, the Cubs are setting themselves up nicely once again. They have a great team, which has been evident all season long, allowing them to be the first team to officially clinch a postseason spot, as well as run away with the division title by a whopping 17 games over the Cardinals.

But the big question is, are the Cubs setting themselves up for a magical finish to the year or yet another disappointing conclusion?

One of the key differences from the team the Cubs put on the field last season and the one they have this time around is their overall dominance. From week one of the season, the Cubs put their talent on full display, taking the division title with ease (they wound up in third place last season), having never been out of first place since the first few games of the year.

Their offense is extremely good, despite the collective team stats saying otherwise. The Cubs don’t sit in the top few slots in either home runs or batting average for their team, but with 30+ homer guys such as Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo — who are both considered top MVP-candidates — the Cubs have plenty of thump to get the job done.

But as good as their lineup is, it’s their pitching that puts them in historic territory.

Four of the Cubs’ rotation options from this season hold ERA’s below 3.00, with all of their starters having recorded ERA’s less than 3.60, chapmanall adding up to a collective team ERA (including the bullpen) of just over 3.00 — by far the best in all of baseball.

On top of their fantastic starting pitching, holding an elite closer in Aroldis Chapman to get the job done at the end of the game gives the Cubs a great chance at a win day in and day out.

However, as has been proven in the past, a win isn’t guaranteed by any means in the month of October, no matter how good of a roster any team may possess. All it takes is for an under-the-radar team to get hot at just the right time and come along to kill the dreams of any given team.

But does any team actually have a chance of beating the Cubs when the postseason rolls around in less than three weeks? Obviously, the answer is yes — anything can and usually does happen in October. But although it remains a possibility, I — along with a great number of people around the baseball world — believe that this could actually end up being the year the Cubs win it all (I said that in 2015, too).

No team could stop the Cubs in the regular season.

Only time will tell if the same will hold true in the postseason.

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.

Marlins’ Playoff Chances Without Stanton Still High

It’s been said countless times, both on this blog and around the baseball world: If Giancarlo Stanton could stay healthy for a full season, he could hit 45+ home runs. The problem? Stanton has never been able to stay fully healthy for a whole year throughout the length of the majority of his entire career, proven once again recently by his latest injury that’s going to force him to sit out the rest of 2016. Stanton

The most games Stanton has ever played in came back in 2011, when he took part in 150. Since then, Stanton has missed 249 possible games with the Marlins, leaving them without his immense power for an extended stretch.

In 2014, Stanton missed the final two weeks of the season after getting hit in the face by a pitch. Then, last season, Stanton lost out on an entire three months after breaking his hand. Given, Stanton can’t avoid freak injuries such as those, but it’s certainly not the amount of playing time the Marlins were looking for when they signed him to a 325 million dollar contract.

Stanton’s latest season-ending injury takes him from the Marlins just as they are in a race for the second Wild Card spot. Now, without Stanton and his team-leading 25 home runs and 70 RBI’s, many people are simply dashing any chance whatsoever of the Marlins making the postseason.

But I’m just not convinced.

Yes, the loss of Stanton is very impactful. Hitting anywhere from 24 to 37 home runs each of the past six seasons, and crushing the ball virtually every game, Stanton is a bat that you definitely want in your lineup. However, the time to panic for the Marlins and their fans is not now.

Although given just a 22 percent chance at making the postseason by MLB.com, the Marlins still have some big time contributors, including Christian Yelich, Martin Prado and Marcell Ozuna, among others. While their pitching, with the exception of Jose Fernandez, isn’t all that great, I feel they have enough to make the postseason without Stanton, or at least stay relevant right up until the end.

It’s been thirteen years since the Marlins made the postseason at all, winning the World Series back in 2003. If nothing else, the Marlins are giving the fans in Miami something to be optimistic about for a change, currently tied with the Cardinals for a Wild Card spot with less than fifty games remaining.

They survived 80 games without Dee Gordon.

Now they just need to make it 44 without Giancarlo Stanton.

Darwin Barney Shines In Spring Training Kickoff

The first game of the 2016 Major League Baseball Spring Training month of March saw the Philadelphia Phillies taking on the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday afternoon. While these games don’t count in the standings and show no definite signs of how any team will fare in the regular season, you have to figure that the Blue Jays (they won 5-2) are headed for another postseason run,Barney with Philadelhia on the flip side still in the process of rebuilding.

Even so, if it wasn’t for one player in Toronto’s lineup, things may have turned out quite differently on the day. Darwin Barney is currently still batting a thousand in the books, after going 3-3 with five total RBI’s for the game. Although you can’t take such a quick start as a sign of things to come, especially with pitchers not at the top of their game yet, it is certainly nice to see for Barney.

After being a regular player for the Cubs from 2011 through 2013, Barney hasn’t been able to stay consistent in the majors since being traded to the Dodgers in 2014. Spending nearly 100 games in the minors last season before being traded to the Blue Jays, Barney wasn’t with Toronto long enough to be eligable for their postseason push, which was obviously disappointing for him.

But if game one of Spring Training is any inclination, Darwin Barney looks to be on a mission to become an everyday player again in the big leagues, with ultimate hopes of still playing big time games come October.

Correa and Bryant Win Rookie of the Year Award

The Rookie of the Year award was first handed out in 1947 to Jackie Robinson, after he broke baseball’s color barrier and went on to have a great first season of what would become a Hall of Fame career. Given out to a single player again in 1948, the award was expanded in 1949 to include a player from each league, and has been that way ever since.

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 Rookie of the Year award, making a total of thirty voters for each league (fifteen teams, with two voters per city). A first place vote earns a player five points, a second place vote gets three points, with a third place vote receiving one point. Once added up, the player with the highest overall total wins.

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

AMERICAN LEAGUE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Original Pick: Carlos Correa

Finalists: Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor and Miguel Sano

Winner: Carlos Correa

Thoughts On Carlos Correa Winning

For a player who made his MLB debut two full months into the season (June 8th), Carlos Correa put up unbelievable stats in 2015. The former number one overall pick in 2012, Correa batted .279 with 22 home runs and 68 RBI’s, all AstrosRoyalswhile stealing 14 bags to boot.

Carlos Correa received 17 of the 30 first-place American League Rookie of the Year votes, for a total of 124 points, to edge out runner up Francisco Lindor, with his 109 points, and Twins’ slugger Miguel Sano, with a mere 20 points. At just 21 years old, Correa was the youngest position player in the big leagues this season, and with him still learning how to go about life in the big leagues, he will only improve as the years go on.

Correa became the 14th shortstop in history to win the award, and is just the second Astros player to earn the honor, joining Jeff Bagwell who won back in 1991.

Although some players have posted great rookie seasons only to go onto have poor MLB careers, it’s safe to say that Carlos Correa is bound for many more historic seasons moving forward.

NATIONAL LEAGUE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Original Pick: Kris Bryant

Finalists: Kris Bryant, Matt Duffy and Jung Ho Kang

Winner: Kris Bryant

Thoughts On Kris Bryant Winning

Kris Bryant’s journey to the major leagues was a short one, going from first round draft pick in 2013 to MLB All-Star this past season (Joc Pederson was the only other rookie in the Midsummer Classic). Furthermore, in the minds of many, it was Bryant’s performance all season long was one of the many key factors that helped carry the Cubs to the postseason. MLB: JUN 25 Dodgers at Cubs

Winning the National League Rookie of the Year by a unanimous vote (just the 20th such player in history), Bryant follows in the footsteps of fellow Chicago slugger Jose Abreu, who won the American League Rookie of the Year last season, earning all 30 first-place votes.

Bryant batted .275 with 26 homers and 99 RBI’s this season (breaking both the homers and RBI’s mark for a Cubs’ rookie), and, despite his league-leading 199 strikeouts, was truly the only logical choice for the award. He was consistent for the most part throughout 2015, and came up big each and every time the Cubs needed him to.

Picking up each of the 30 first-place votes, Bryant’s 150 points overall easily carry him past the runner up, Matt Duffy, who picked up 70 points, and Jung Ho Kang, who placed third, with his 28 overall points from the BBWAA.

As with Carlos Correa, the newest Chicago Cubs’ superstar, Kris Bryant, will likely only get better as time goes on. It should be interesting to see how Correa and Bryant, and their respective teams, fare over the next decade or so.