2nd Half NL Preview: Obstructed Questions

Yesterday I looked at the American League and teams with questions they will have in the second half of the season. Today I will look at the National League.

The National League, unlike the American League has really been competitive from top to bottom in 2019. 7.5 games separate the top wild card leader (Nationals) with the 14th place team (Mets) so in a year where no trades will be made at all after the July 31 deadline, teams will have to make their answers pretty quickly in the NL. So what are the questions?

NL EAST

Acuna and Albies are two Braves prospects who have made major impacts in Atlanta’s new run.

ATLANTA BRAVES (54-37, 1st place): Will the Braves use the farm to make a blockbuster for a starter at the deadline? Atlanta was ridiculed by many (myself included) for not making moves to improve the meager bullpen in the off-season. They made two under-the-radar moves in the season to improve it when they traded for Jerry Blevins and Anthony Swarzak. It actually panned out as the bullpen ERA since May 1 has been the best in the Majors. But another question is, can the bullpen hold up especially if the starters can’t go longer than normal. It seems like the Braves starters can only go 5 or 6 before getting the hook from Brian Snitker. At some point for as good as Atlanta’s bullpen is, you worry about fatigue. Which means the starters have got to do better. Dallas Keuchel was a start. Mike Soroka has been strong. But Julio Teheran and Max Fried are both streaky/inconsistent right now and then the two guys who actually did something last year for the Braves down the stretch with Kevin Gausman and Mike Foltynewicz have been an epic disaster. The Braves *should* make it to October, but when they see the division leaders in Chicago and Los Angeles opposing them, they realize that the starting pitching doesn’t stack as well as for those teams. And like most Octobers since 1991, the Braves bats cool off too much. They need that guy who can just go long and shut down opposing hitters. But they have not been willing at all to move key prospects in trades (which may mean Gausman, Inciarte, and Foltynewicz could be pushed out of Atlanta) to get that front end guy. If they stand pat and not make that move, fans who have been irked by Atlanta’s inactivity will go through the roof at the deadline.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS (47-42, 2nd place, 6 GB): Can the Nationals shore up the bullpen woes? One of the hottest teams in baseball since the end of May have been the Washington Nationals. After going 19-31 to begin the season, the Nats are now 28-11 since. However, 6 of the 11 losses were from the bullpen and 4 of the 11 losses the Nationals had leads going into the 8th inning. In other words, the Nationals are rolling despite the bullpen issues. Let me put it this way: Sean Doolittle, the closer has a 3.13 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP with a 10.6 K/9 rate. That’s pretty much stout compared to the rest of the pen. Javy Guerra has a 3.43 ERA, which is the next lowest but then the rest of the crew have ERA’s in the mid 4’s or higher. IF the Nationals want to really be considered for a playoff spot, something must be done down in that pen, which has doomed them since 2012. Trade? Sure. But even that goes sideways in DC.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES (47-43, 3rd place, 6.5 GB): Can the Phillies starting pitching get it together? While the acquisitions the Phillies got in the off-season (Harper, Realmuto, Segura) have not been as advertised, they are still doing their part and hitting. It has been the starters that have been a mess. Aaron Nola hasn’t repeated his 2018 performance at all (3.74 ERA, 1.30 WHIP) though he hasn’t been horrid compared to Jake Arrieta, Nick Pivetta, and Jerad Eickoff (ERA’s 4.67 or higher). Those guys have got to get it together and right now have an injury concern (and probably concern between the ears) with Arrieta. Count Philadelphia as a team who will be looking heavy into starting pitching in the next three weeks especially if they have to shelve Arrieta.

NEW YORK METS (40-50, 4th place, 13.5 GB): Will the Mets finally start a rebuild? The Mets will always be that team that despite having a double digit number of games under .500/double digit number of games behind in playoffs will constantly think they should buy. Maybe it is out of fear they will remain the jokes of the city or they don’t know when to start the rebuild, but the Mets it seems really hate it when people think they should fold tent and start over. Of course, the Mets are way behind Atlanta and while only 7 out, they have to make a major jump/push to get to Washington/Philadelphia. But the talk again is could the Mets move Zack Wheeler or Noah Syndergaard. However, they’d be moving them when both their value has never been lower (Wheeler is 6-6 with a 4.69 and a 1.28 WHIP while Syndergaard is 6-4 with a 4.68 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP) So the Mets could easily hold onto both because the value isn’t there like they had hoped. Some people think the Mets should move Jacob deGrom because the value will still be there despite having an “off-year” (4-7, 3.27 ERA, 1.09 WHIP). But many feel like the Mets need to just start over as this season is already a disaster and an embarrassment with the dysfunction they have. But given the Mets front office, they will still think they have a legit shot at October.

MIAMI MARLINS (33-55, 5th place, 19.5 GB): Will the Marlins give whatever fan base they have any hope for the future? Credit the Marlins players for fighting constantly and credit Don Mattingly for sticking around. But the moves they made in the past two seasons gave little hope to the franchise as while there are some prospects ready, it isn’t enough to really make a splash in the NL East. The current crop of players are really unknowns and you have Curtis Granderson who is well past his prime. Neil Walker will probably end up elsewhere at the deadline as might Sergio Romo. But what is going on with the Braves, Phillies, and Nationals, may be a sign of things to come while the Marlins just don’t have a bright future ahead with their system yet. Maybe it should be Jeter’s team to split time in Montreal.

NL CENTRAL

Contreras is energetic but the other Cubs seem to just have no sense of urgency

CHICAGO CUBS (47-43, 1st place): Can the Cubs grow up? I’ve said it on a few instances Chicago’s run in 2016 while ended the curse, may have been too fast and too successful for that core of young Cubs players like Baez, Contreras, Bryant, Schwarber, Rizzo, etc. and the veterans who kept the kids honest (Dexter Fowler, David Ross, etc.) aren’t there. But the Cubs, they are that team that believe they are the best in the league but have that “ho-hum” attitude when they are struggling and and just expect they can flip on the switch (like they did last year and look how that turned out). They are really too good to be 47-43 and should be well ahead of Milwaukee instead of a half-game lead over the Brewers. But we’ve seen this story. I think even Theo Epstein is tired of this story and has made some comments about it. The likes of Rizzo, Bryant, Contreras, and Baez need to just focus on baseball like they did in 2016.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS (47-44, 2nd place, 0.5 GB): Can the Brewers make that big splash at the deadline to get a much-needed starter? In 2017 Milwaukee contended for the division with the World Series hungover Cubs, but failed to make a move at the deadline for a pitcher. The end result was a mini-collapse (to couple in with the Cubs realizing they were the Cubs). 2018 arrived and Milwaukee added pieces including future MVP Christian Yelich and took the Dodgers to 7 games in the NLCS. But again, little was addressed (okay, they traded for Gio Gonzalez during the waiver deadline period, which won’t happen this year). However, Milwaukee DESPERATELY needs a starter to really compete with the Braves/Dodgers/Cubs. Brandon Woodruff has been a great starter for the Brew Crew and Zach Davies has been solid, but past them they are in a world of trouble (and Gio has a dead arm right now and on the 10-day DL). Milwaukee has to really go after a big starter at the deadline, whether that be Stroman, Boyd, etc. to make that needed splash and jump ahead of the Cubs. If not, then Milwaukee wasted another season that could have been.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (44-44, 3rd place, 2 GB): Can Paul Goldschmidt return to form? St. Louis made a huge splash in the off-season by adding Goldschmidt from Arizona. Goldy’s numbers in Arizona were near the top in the baseball world. Since joining the Cardinals, he’s been really average at best. He’s nearly 50 points lower than his career average (hitting .254 this season as opposed to his nearly .300 career average) and his OPS is 150 points lower (.769 as opposed to a .917). He isn’t drawing as many walks like he did in Arizona, and is on pace for a career high in strikeouts. I’m not sure if it is adjusting to a more pitcher’s friendly park in St. Louis as opposed to a hitter’s haven in Arizona, but he has been a disappointment in St. Louis. But if he can get it going in the second half, the Cubs and Brewers are both going to be in trouble.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES (44-45, 4th place 2.5 GB): Will the Pirates buy or sell at the deadline? Pittsburgh is the opposite of the Mets in the sense of if they are in that shady area of going one way or the other, they often put up the white flag. Last year was an anomaly when they moved Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow for Chris Archer, but that trade completely backfired on the Pirates. The thing is, the Pirates offense is one of the best in the NL thanks to Josh Bell but also contributions from Bryan Reynolds, Kevin Newman, Colin Moran, Starling Marte, and even Melky Cabrera (yep, the ageless one). But what stings them has been the starting pitching which has been atrocious since the start of May. So would the Pirates make a push to get another starter to have a shot at the NL Central or move some veterans and get MLB ready prospects? Pittsburgh fans are somewhat getting tired of the whole “let’s get ready for next year” mode that has plagued this franchise since really when Sid slid in 1992.

CINCINNATI REDS (41-46, 5th place, 4.5 GB): Will the Reds buy or sell? Cincinnati’s window of competing may have started opening up this year. The Reds have a pitcher who is going to be the ace for a long time in Luis Castillo (the Marlins made an oopsie on that one too) and the staff has been solid outside of him (Sonny Gray, Anthony DeSclafani, Tanner Roark, and Tyler Mahle have been consistent/solid) and overall Cincinnati’s pitching is second only to the Dodgers in ERA. The offense is streaky however. After Yasiel Puig, Derek Dietrich, and Eugenio Suarez, the rest of the group including Joey Votto has been mediocre. They could grab a bat for a middle infielder if Scooter Gennett can’t keep healthy (Tim Beckham? Eric Sogard?). Or do they hope that Nick Senzel and Jessie Winker get it going in the second half and Votto turns on the fountain of youth. Or do they sell? I’d say they should stand pat and hope that the bats warm up to go along with their pitching to make things interesting in the NL Central.

NL WEST

Bellinger and Turner are enjoying the historic Dodgers season in 2019

LOS ANGELES DODGERS (60-32, 1st place): Do the Dodgers have a massive weakness right now? Los Angeles has the top offense in the NL though Braves fans may say theirs is just as stout. The pitching is tops in the NL too with that rotation dealing. There is something really special going on in Dodgertown where it is hard to imagine they aren’t considered the favorites to win it all. However, if they are active before the deadline it is probably to get a reliever and depth off the bench (but AJ Pollock is coming back which means Alex Verdugo will be utilized as a pinch-hitter). But if they are making a move, it will be that. It won’t be a splash to get someone like Shane Greene but probably an under-the-radar move. And the Dodgers making a trade for a catcher probably won’t happen since they have Will Smith in Oklahoma City (and deserves to be on the Big League squad).

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS (46-45, 2nd place, 13.5 GB): Could the Diamondbacks string a big run in the second half? Despite the loss of Paul Goldschmidt via trade (and Christian Walker outplaying him this year) Arizona has turned many heads especially on offense with Walker, Ketel Marte (all-star), Eduardo Escobar, David Peralta, and even Adam Jones has made some noise. Arizona’s pitching has been solid with Zack Greinke looking like that Cy Young threat like we have come to know while Robbie Ray has looked solid. And even Merrill Kelly has been serviceable. Arizona could use an upgrade with the bats (outfield) and pitching at the deadline and they could pick up somebody to really make noise like they did a la JD Martinez in 2017. This is where maybe another deal with Detroit could happen and Greene comes over (maybe Castellanos gets moved here too?). Arizona won’t catch the Dodgers, but the Dbacks can get a wild card and go on a torrid run to really distance themselves from the rest of the NL.

SAN DIEGO PADRES (45-45, 3rd place, 14 GB): Do the Padres get that desperately needed starter at the deadline or do they sell? San Diego’s future is beginning now. Fernando Tatis Jr. is a superstar in the making and then you got some major boppers in Franmil Reyes and Hunter Renfroe. And then the big signing of Manny Machado has starting to tear it up in the past month. Despite those guys and Eric Hosmer, the Padres have some holes on offense and starting pitching. San Diego has been inked to Cleveland pitchers Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber this season and they could dive in and try to bring in one of the top starters on the market. Or do they wait and go “next year is most definitely our year” where Joey Lucchesi, Chris Paddack, and Eric Lauer are more experienced and then it wouldn’t be as much of a need? I don’t see San Diego selling unless they get off to a slow start and then it would only be “who wants Ian Kinsler, Gregg Garcia, or Wil Myers?”

COLORADO ROCKIES (44-45, 4th place 14.5 GB): Can the Rockies do ANYTHING away from Coors Field? “Fool me once…” After years of not ever taking the Rockies seriously, I actually thought this year was the year they would do some damage in the NL and give the Dodgers a legit run. In fact, it looks like those days of the Blake Street Bombers in the 90’s when Colorado dominated on offense and needed to to off-set the pitching and then scuffle away from Coors Field and you couldn’t take them seriously. After splitting with the Dodgers at home, the Rockies have lost 5 straight including a 3-game sweep in Arizona. They are 24-19 at home and 20-26 on the road. We know they can hit, especially at home as the All-Star trio of Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, and David Dahl is lethal. But the minute you pull all three out of Colorado, you get pretty much average hitters (and Blackmon doing his Dante Bichette impression of being useless outside of Coors Field). Worse, the Rockies road schedule in the second half is a nightmare as all but 6 games are against teams .500 or better and 3 of them are to the pitching quality Reds right now. More fun: 11 road games are against the Yankees (3), Astros (2), and Dodgers (6). Colorado could be out of it around Labor Day Weekend if they can’t figure out how to hit away from Coors Field or be able to pitch.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS (41-48, 5th place, 17.5 GB): Is it finally time for that rebuild? San Francisco has been competitive the last few years but a far cry from their run from 2010-2016 where three world championships reside. The cornerstones of the franchise in this run (Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, and Brandon Crawford) are aging, fast and have underperformed this year. Pablo Sandoval (also a part of that great run) has aged, but is actually looking like his old self. Then you have Madison Bumgarner (not his dominant self) and Jeff Samardzija (aged). Add in over 30 players in Evan Longoria and Kevin Pillar and you have a team full of veterans who are not getting it done. The farm system is better than it was in recent memory but still a long ways off from being productive aside from Joey Bart and Heliot Ramos (still not on track for the Majors until likely 2021). Giants have to start over. It was a nice run, but they fell too much into the “we kept our players far too long” category like the Tigers, Phillies, and Orioles did. Hopefully it won’t be as disastrous. But they need to make those moves.

That is it. Look forward to a fun 2nd half in the Senior Circuit.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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2nd Half AL Preview: Obstructed Questions

We are at the post-All Star Break of the season. The American League and the National Leagues have been varied. The National League is more balanced with really all but three teams (Giants, Marlins, Mets) in the thick of a race to October baseball. The American League? A massive gap between the contenders and the rebuilders. You’re either in contention or you’re done. Probably the lone exception is the Chicago White Sox who seem to have their arrow pointing up as the rebuilding on the Southside is nearly complete, but still sit slightly under .500 and still a nice way back from Minnesota.

So I will preview it with a form of a question for each team in the American League today.

AL EAST

LeMahieu has been the Yankees MVP in 2019 so far.

NEW YORK YANKEES (57-31, 1st place): Can the Yankees continue getting production out of their “not superstars?” Have to credit Aaron Boone for the job he’s done with injuries galore on the Yankees in 2019. Aaron Judge has only played 33 games to this point through injury. Giancarlo Stanton only has played 9. Miguel Andujar has been lost for the year. Didi Gregorius has only played 22. Aaron Hicks has played in 41 but has struggled (though gotten better as of late). But it has been Gary Sanchez, DJ LeMahieu, Luke Voit, and Gleyber Torres that has really carried the team. Can they continue it through the second half is the key question. My guess is yes as Judge, Hicks, and Gregorius should be healthy down the stretch. The other question will be can the Yankees pick up another starter whether that is Bumgarner, Stroman, Boyd, or even Noah Syndergaard? Pitching could sting them down the stretch if the bats don’t continue.

TAMPA BAY RAYS (52-39, 2nd place, 6.5 GB): Can Austin Meadows get out of his slump? The Rays and the youngsters they have in Tampa are getting the job done. Pitching is fine, whether it is starters or relievers (or however you want to say it), but do they have the hitting to back it up? When the Rays held the top spot in the AL East early in the season, Austin Meadows was raking big time and was an MVP candidate. But since June Meadows has slumped in a big way. He has only hit .214 with a meager .584 OPS since the start of June. Maybe he has been figured out by pitchers and/or he has adjusted poorly? Who knows, but Meadows decline also mirrored Tampa Bay’s slip in the standings somewhat where they are a healthy distance behind the Yankees. He needs to step up or else Boston is the next team to jump ahead.

BOSTON RED SOX (49-41, 3rd place 9 GB): Can the Red Sox get Porcello and Sale back on track? One key reason why the Red Sox have not been in contention in the AL East has been the starting pitching outside of David Price. Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Rick Porcello have been awful this year for Boston. Worse, the Red Sox once rich farm system is pretty much depleted with the trades made over the past few seasons so if Dave Dombrowski is to make a move to get a front end starter he will have to work his magic (my guess a three-team deal like he did with Detroit in getting Price in 2014), but given the contenders that have better farm systems and prospects to offer (Braves, Yankees, Twins, Brewers, etc.) Boston will be handicapped. That means Porcello, Sale, and Rodriguez better step up their game. They had a nice win streak entering the break, but the Red Sox are done playing Detroit.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS: (34-57, 4th place, 24.5 GB): How much can the Blue Jays get for Marcus Stroman? Not many people penned Toronto to be in any race this year, but one bright spot has been Marcus Stroman. After the disastrous 2018 season where he had a 5.54 ERA, he returned more to his 2017 season and is pretty parallel off of it. He’ll be under control a few more years which helps the value, but he won’t be confused with a Justin Verlander here. WHIP is okay (1.24) and the K/9 isn’t wowing. But he can be of good use to a team that needs to add that middle starter (Braves? Twins?) so Toronto could really make a nice deal for him and honestly the Blue Jays future looks pretty exciting with Vlad Guerrero Jr. there and a few more prospects we will hear about down the road.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES (27-62, 5th place 30.5 GB): Can the Orioles get a nice return for Andrew Cashner? A good friend of mine and I like to poke fun at Cashner a bit, but his numbers have been overall solid in 2019 (9-3, 3.83 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 6.2 K/9). Honestly this is the best he’s pitched in 6-7 years when he was in San Diego and had a nice run in that spacious park. Cashner is doing it in Baltimore when he has to face the Yankees and Red Sox. And there is a team option on Cashner so the Orioles could net something for Cashner. They did for Gausman so it’s very possible a team who loses out on Stroman/Bumgarner/Boyd could get Cashner to which the Orioles desperately need help before another 110+ loss season happens again.

AL CENTRAL

Minnesota Twins’ Nelson Cruz (23) and Eddie Rosario celebrate scoring their runs on C.J. Cron’s RBI double during the first inning of a baseball game against the Houston Astros, Monday, April 22, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

MINNESOTA TWINS (56-33, 1st place): Can the Twins offense keep rolling? Here’s the scary part about the Twins: they are probably the best all-around team not named the Dodgers in the Majors right now. I can’t really find a major hole to them, and that includes their pitching (starters and bullpen). But if there is one thing that would concern me is, can the offense continue their slugging ways? Nelson Cruz aside, the players haven’t strung together this kind offense for a full season yet. My take is some will fall back, but others will continue (I think Buxton will have a great second half). They may need to if Cleveland is going to make one last strong push for the division.

CLEVELAND INDIANS (50-38, 2nd place, 5.5 GB): Will the Indians make a blockbuster move go get a needed bat? For a while (and even some rumors say even now) the Indians may look to sell a piece or two from their starting pitching as maybe the Tribe’s window has closed with this group. Twelve games over and having to see the Royals and Tigers a good deal will keep the Indians in the race with the Twins. The offense isn’t near the contenders despite an MVP caliber year from Carlos Santana and another great year from Francisco Lindor and Roberto Perez has been great. But the rest of the lineup is a giant mess. Jose Ramirez has struggled terribly and Jason Kipnis has been missing since 2016. Talk of the Tribe moving the ever quotable Trevor Bauer continues. An ideal match maybe San Diego who has a jammed up outfield though the Padres may be hesitant to move Renfroe or Reyes. But the Indians either need to rely on Ramirez getting hot and Santana staying hot to overtake Minnesota right now.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX (42-44, 3rd place, 12.5 GB): Can the White Sox finish over .500 in 2019? The White Sox rebuilding is nearly done. The prospects are coming up and making that impact (Moncada, Anderson, Giolito), and a few more are ready to make that splash (Jimenez, Cease). They will probably “sell” or stand pat at the deadline and the hope is Chicago can bust out for 81 wins. My concern is there isn’t much starting pitching outside of Giolito and unless we see more of Cease so I think 79-83 will be where the ChiSox are by the end of the season.

DETROIT TIGERS (28-57, 4th place, 26 GB): Can Al Avila hit a home run at the trade deadline? Tigers fans (casual or diehards) have developed a hatred for Al Avila. Casual fans are irked because he has pretty much thrown in the towel at Spring Training with his “we aren’t really going to contend at all this year” comments. Diehards (where I fall into this category as a Tigers fan) are mad for his so far very underwhelming trades (JD Martinez trade, the Justin Wilson trade where the prospects haven’t panned out, the Verlander trade, etc.). To be fair, Avila has drafted well since taking over and has gotten the farm system from horrible to at least average. However, the molasses slow rebuilding process in Detroit is getting fans angrier. Avila will have two trade chips in Shane Greene and Matt Boyd. Greene is a closer that a team in contention would need badly or a set-up man for a team to really shut down games by the 7th or 8th innings. And Boyd is having a great year and would be much needed for a contender looking to bolster the rotation (Braves, Brewers, Phillies, Yankees). Now the talk is the asking price of Boyd is high. Well…Avila needs to have a home run hit on Boyd because the trades he’s made so far has not panned out to this point (jury is out on Isaac Paredes, Jake Rogers, and Willi Castro-which may have been his best trade, trading Leonys Martin for him). So Avila got his extension. Now he needs to earn it with a quality Boyd and/or Greene trade.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS (30-61, 5th place, 27 GB): Can the Royals make any worthy moves at the deadline? The Royals are in a grim situation. Alex Gordon is a corner outfielder so the value for him may not be too high. Ian Kennedy is probably the best bet. Kennedy is starting to close games out in Kansas City so there may even be a buyer beware on him for a team looking to play in October. The only pieces the Royals could net would be if they moved Whit Merrifield and/or Hunter Dozier. But you’d have a major uprising in Kansas City if you did that and honestly would set the team back another year as those two guys are two to build around.

AL WEST

A healthy Springer (with a healthy Altuve and a healthy Correa) could give the Astros their second world championship in three years.

HOUSTON ASTROS (57-33, 1st place): Will the Astros flex their muscle if/when everybody is healthy? The Yankees won a lot of games with their big names out. Houston did the same too. Altuve has been hurt and really hasn’t been Altuve-ish even before his injury. George Springer has been raking this year when healthy. Carlos Correa had a nice bounce-back year before he got dinged. Correa is still out, but if the the Astros can keep healthy and have Yuli Gurriel continue his hot streak, they should overtake the Yankees for the best record in the American League given how strong their pitching is. But they just need to keep healthy.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS (50-41, 2nd place, 7.5 GB): Will we see a 2nd half run by Oakland? The Athletics always seem to turn up the heat in second half of seasons. This year is interesting. Yes, they will be in contention, but having Frankie Montas suspended stings badly. But they also need a closer desperately as Blake Treinen is not really getting the job done. With Houston, Texas, and the Angels being competitive, Oakland needs to upgrade their pitching (notably the back end of the rotation as the Bassitt/Mengden duo aren’t really getting it done) in order for them to be considered for an October spot.

TEXAS RANGERS (48-42, 3rd place, 9 GB): Will the clock strike midnight? Texas for a while was holding the Wild Card lead. The Rangers were getting major contributions from guys who were cast-offs (Danny Santana, Hunter Pence) and jolts from some of their mainstays (Joey Gallo, Elvis Andrus, Sin-Soo Choo) while the front end of Mike Minor and Lance Lynn has been beyond overachieving. However, is the foundation shaking a bit as Texas limped into the Break with injuries to Pence and Choo and lost 6 of 8 and behind Oakland, Cleveland, Tampa Bay, and Boston in the Wild Card. As much as I want the Rangers to keep surprising, I think teams will get to Texas and at some point Santana and Pence will go back to their old ways as will Lynn and Minor. But I hope they don’t.

LOS ANGELES ANGELS (45-46, 4th place, 12.5 GB): What will the Angels do at the deadline? They are too far from making a run for a Wild Card, but they are not in an epic disaster mode like Baltimore, Kansas City, Detroit, Toronto, or Seattle are. It is frustrating as a baseball fan to see a team with the best player in this era in the form of Mike Trout to be sitting in that limbo mode. They can’t go into rebuild (which in a way they need to), but they can’t really overly compete and couple that Tommy La Stella who was having an All-Star year out for pretty much the season and the untimely loss of Tyler Skaggs (who was really their best starter in 2019) and you have a team that is pretty much not good enough to be a threat but with guys like Trout and Ohtani, not bad enough to blow up the team. They may stand pat largely because unless the Angels offer Trout or Ohtani (they won’t), nobody would really want the rest of what the Angels have.

SEATTLE MARINERS (39-55, 5th place, 20 GB): What next? In April, the Mariners were world champions. Since then, they are no different than the Tigers, Royals, Blue Jays, and Orioles, maybe even worse than those teams. The two veterans they acquired in the off-season, Jay Bruce and Edwin Encarnacion are gone. And now the Mariners don’t have much in the way of pieces to keep their rebuild (Haniger is out past the deadline). There are veterans of Mike Leake, Dee Gordon, Tim Beckham, and Kyle Seager, but no team will pony up key prospects for any of those guys (Leake might net something given he is a pitcher and a team who may lose out on one of the key available pitchers might look into him, but not a top prospect from anybody). Mariners GM Jerry DiPoto wanted a rebuild, but the way he’s doing it doesn’t seem like the rebuild will be a quick one at all and he is just stuck with what he has.

That’s it for the AL. NL tomorrow.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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The Obstructed MLB Mid-Season Awards

MLB has reached its halfway point in 2019 about a week ago. With the All-Star Game looming it’s time to go back and see the highlights and such of the season as well as give out the awards for mid-season MVP’s, Cy Youngs, Rookies of the Year, etc. So sit back and enjoy.

Trout is Trout….

AL MVP: MIKE TROUT, ANGELS: So much for a heavy contract changing a guy. Trout’s numbers are still on par with what he’s done (meaning Hall of Fame levels) and is still destroying everything he sees. The issue will be of course is the team he is on. The Angels aren’t good enough to be a serious contender in the AL, but not bad enough to be considered with the likes of the Tigers, Royals, Orioles, and Mariners. He will likely take MVP honors if all continues as the chief competitors for him are Joey Gallo, Carlos Santana, and DJ LeMahieu. Nothing against those guys at all and I would love to see how they do the rest of the way (especially Santana since he’s on my fantasy team), but with Gallo and Santana you wonder when the other shoe will drop on both of them. Honorable mentions: LeMahieu, Santana, Gallo

Yelich is following up his MVP season with another MVP season

NL MVP: CHRISTIAN YELICH, BREWERS: You could easily go with Bellinger here. Yelich has shown 2018 was no fluke and continues to mash the ball. I think why I give Yelich the slightest nod over Bellinger is that if Bellinger and Yelich were off their respective teams, the Brewers would find themselves near the bottom of the NL while Los Angeles would still be near atop. Is it a fair assessment? Probably not, but it is something to factor in. But it will be a major race for MVP as those two and coupled with Freddie Freeman of the Braves, Josh Bell of the Pirates and Nolan Arenado of the Rockies are having amazing years. If both the others fall off, it could get very interesting in the NL. But Yelich to me is the MVP largely because he’s kept the Brewers afloat in the NL Central. Honorable mentions: Bellinger, Freeman, Arenado, Bell

Verlander is currently in a dogfight forthe Cy Young in the AL

AL CY YOUNG: JUSTIN VERLANDER, ASTROS: This will be a tough race to project. Verlander for the most part has been back to his old dominant ways ever since being traded to Houston (though his final year and a half in Detroit he was pretty strong again). However, he’s slipped in his last few outings and the ERA is climbing closer and closer to 3. But he still dominates with a low WHIP, high K/9 rate, and a good, solid ERA to this point. However, keep an eye out for Lucas Giolito, whose ERA is lower than Verlander’s, a strong whip, and just slightly under Verlander’s K/9 ratio himself. Another guy to keep an eye on is Verlander’s former teammate in Houston in Charlie Morton whose ERA is way lower than both. This will be a major toss-up assuming all three continue their stellar seasons. But right now Verlander gets it…barely. Honorable mentions: Giolito, Morton

Ryu is next in line for Dodgers pitchers with a Cy Young

NL CY YOUNG: HYUN-JIN RYU, DODGERS: We probably should have seen this coming last year with Ryu’s abbreviated numbers, but he’s taken his game to the next level. He’s been as dominant as any other pitcher in the majors this year. The 1.73 ERA is sick and his WHIP leads the NL. He doesn’t walk many guys (10 to this point) and is probably the most reminiscent of Greg Maddux we’ve seen. His primary competitor will be Max Scherzer without a question especially after the run Max has had, he is still behind on Ryu on ERA by a good margin and WHIP. Ryu will obviously get offense being with the Dodgers, so you have to think he will be flirting with 20 wins by season’s end, assuming all goes well. Honorable mention: Scherzer

Lowe has been one of the guys to keep Tampa Bay in the mix

AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: BRANDON LOWE, RAYS: Surprisingly, Lowe still falls under the Rookie status and has been raking for Tampa Bay. Eloy Jimenez may have something to say too (if he continues hitting like he did in June), but right now Lowe is doing great things down at the Trop and his not an easy out for any opposing pitcher to this point. But again, it may be him and Jimenez in a two man race for Rookie of the Year. Vlad Jr. hasn’t gotten heated up to this point. Honorable Mention: Jimenez

Alonso along with Tatis lead the way for rookies in the NL

NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: FERNANDO TATIS, JR, PADRES AND PETE ALONSO, METS: I’ve flip-flopped over both guys winning this so I will do the best thing: they both have earned it. Alonso has the power while Tatis has the all-around ability. Alonso has played 30 more games than Tatis so that does factor into it (which also may be a factor if the end of the year votes give it to Alonso). But both Alonso and Tatis are raking in ballparks that are considered hitter’s nightmares (Citi Field, Petco Park) and they are doing it with ease. Of course, Braves fans (and their announcers) will be screaming for Mike Soroka and Austin Riley. Soroka is definitely up there and should be considered with his numbers (9-1, 2.42 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 7.0 K/9), but Riley’s inability to draw a walk hurts him. And if either the Mets or Padres were over .500 both guys would be considered MVP candidates themselves (well, San Diego is close enough to compete for a Wild Card right now). But this will be a puppy fight the rest of the way with those four players. Honorable mentions, Soroka, Riley

Minnesota Twins manager Rocco Baldelli greets his players as he is announced prior to the baseball game against the Cleveland Indians Thursday, March 28, 2019, in Minneapolis. The Twins won 2-0. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)

AL MANAGER OF THE YEAR, ROCCO BALDELLI, TWINS: Minnesota for a while now has been considered a team on the rise. In 2015 they made noise in a big way. In 2017 they got a Wild Card. But the years in between with high hopes they fizzled out. Badly. The move was made from Paul Molitor to Rocco Baldelli, more of a new wave kind of guy and it has paid off. Minnesota got off to a big led in the AL Central (really their primary competition in Cleveland) and an offense that is murdering pitching staffs around the league. The pitching has been serviceable which has distanced themselves from the pack and Minnesota should be playing October baseball when all is said and done (assuming they can make a move for a front-end pitcher by the deadline). But all the credit to Baldelli on getting Minnesota rolling again. Honorable mention: Kevin Cash, Rays; Chris Woodward, Rangers.

Snitker has gotten Atlanta rolling in the NL East

NL MANAGER OF THE YEAR, BRIAN SNITKER, BRAVES: The current reigning winner of the title gets my nod right now. Snitker (whom I’ve criticized a lot over the years including the beginning of this year) has pretty much got the magic touch going for him in Atlanta. Yes, it does help that the prospect-filled Braves are showing what they are made of (Acuna, Albies, Soroka, Riley, etc.), but questions were aplenty with the pitching, notably the bullpen. After one month where the bullpen was a disaster, moves were made (notably getting Anthony Swarzak and making some roster call-ups) and the bullpen has been a *gasp* strength. Questions still are abound with the starting pitching (after the struggles/injuries of Gausman and Foltynewicz) even with Dallas Keuchel being signed, but Atlanta is running away with the NL East and you do have to credit Snitker for some of that.

Where would the Rangers be without Pence?

AL SURPRISE TEAM: TEXAS RANGERS: The Rangers looked to be more of a team in limbo than a contender. In fact, I thought they would have been a team selling their veteran pieces at the deadline and on pace for a 90+ loss year. And then Chris Woodward comes in. He gets Joey Gallo from being an all likely Chris Davis 2.0 to a player who is having an MVP year, being able to draw some walks, and cut down some of his strikeouts. Sin-Soo Choo has been a consistent player and continues to do so and Elvis Andrus has been having a career year at the plate. But two newcomers who were pretty much on their final legs in the majors that have made all the difference have been Hunter Pence and Danny Santana. Pence has been a feel-good comeback story (and probably gets my nod as Comeback Player of the Year to this point) and Santana has been hitting. Also speaking of comebacks, Mike Minor and Lance Lynn heads the rotation of being respectable (Minor will garner some Cy Young votes given how well he’s pitched) and the bullpen has been solid with Shawn Kelley closing games out to go along with Jesse Chavez and Chris Martin setting him up. This right here I never dreamt of typing back in April. Had it not been for Baldelli getting Minnesota as a frontrunner in the AL, Woodward would get my vote for Manager of the Year for what he’s done in Texas.

Bell has kept the Pirates in the NL Central race

NL SURPRISE TEAM: PITTSBURGH PIRATES: It’s somewhat of a default one, but I didn’t think Pittsburgh after the moves made would have been in the thick of it. Then again, the NL Central teams can’t get their acts together, in Chicago, Milwaukee, or St. Louis. The Pirates are in the race thanks to Josh Bell destroying the ball. Adding on to the likes of Bell, Starling Marte is quietly having a good year as is rookie Bryan Reynolds. What has killed Pittsburgh has been the starting pitching (as it has gone downhill since the first part of the season and Chris Archer is on a milk carton ever since joining the Pirates). But thanks to the inconsistencies of the other teams, the Pirates still have a fighting chance.

Porcello’s issues have really kept Boston from making a dent against the Yankees and Rays. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

AL DISAPPOINTING TEAM: BOSTON RED SOX: With an offense that the Red Sox have (and their offense is still pretty good even with “down” years by Betts and Benintendi) and a staff that has Sale, Price, Porcello, this team shouldn’t be “slightly over .500” at this point. Porcello has been horrible to this point and the bullpen has been a mess. And Boston is somewhat in trouble for trying to improve their team as the once plentiful farm system has been dried up (a Dave Dombrowski staple everywhere he’s gone) so making a trade to get bullpen help (Kirby Yates? Shane Greene?) will be very interesting to see. But right now Boston has fallen like the 2017 Cubs of having that World Series hangover.

Syndergaard and the Mets have struggled badly in 2019

NL DISAPPOINTING TEAM: NEW YORK METS: I would have given the nod to the Phillies but many wondered if Philadelphia had the arms to begin the year and that answer is “no.” The Mets however, had a strong pitching staff headed by deGrom and Syndergaard while having quality hitters like Michael Conforto and adding the consistent Robinson Cano. Instead, while there have been surprises (Alonso, McNeil, JD Davis), there have been disasters all around. Cano has been atrocious. Amed Rosario has not been what the Mets had hoped. And Juan Lagares is an epic disaster at bat. And the oft-reliable starting pitching has been a disaster. deGrom hasn’t lived up to his Cy Young season, but compared to his pals in the rotation has been smooth. Wheeler has been mediocre, Syndergaard is declining badly and Matz has been a disaster. And the bullpen where the Mets heavily invested in with Diaz and Familia, two guys who know how to close games out, are way worse than the starters. And then Mickey Callaway has shown he is not cut out to manage in the Majors.

Santana and the Mariners started off torrid and now are falling fast.

BIGGEST KNEE-JERK STORY: SEATTLE MARINERS: Remember when the season started in Japan and the Mariners drubbed the Athletics? Then April rolled around and the Mariners were the talk of the town? Jerry DiPoto was hailed as a genius for getting veterans in on a rebuild mode (which the Mariners didn’t need to do to begin with) and that they were the most exciting team in baseball? And then Seattle realized they had too many “swing for the fences or bust” hitters and were in a park that the fences are a little too far away. They went from being darlings to afterthoughts. Jay Bruce was traded before June and Edwin Encarnacion was traded right before Father’s Day. And now the Mariners are more likely to finish 30 games under .500 when all is said and done, in a year that if they were hoping for a high pick….well….given where Detroit, Baltimore, and Kansas City are, good luck with that.

STORY WHO SHOULD GET MORE PRESS: Texas Rangers. Honestly I don’t know what else Texas can do to get more love. But being in the same division as the Astros who are getting all the love doesn’t help.

Familia may be the symbol of the 2019 Mets season

FREE AGENT FLOP: JEURYS FAMILIA, METS: 3 years and $30 million for a guy with a 7.53 ERA. People want to bash Harper and what he hasn’t done in Philadelphia, but at least he is still contributing in a positive way and Machado has started to come around in San Diego and the numbers are pretty good on him now. Familia was supposed to shut down games after the 7th innings for the Mets. Well, he and Edwin Diaz are roasted by everybody. Opposing hitters, Mets fans, New York media, etc.

“IF I COULD TURN BACK TIME AND NOT MAKE THAT TRADE AGAIN” AWARD: PHILLIES TRADING JP CRAWFORD AND CARLOS SANTANA TO MARINERS FOR JEAN SEGURA AND JUAN NICASIO: From the Phillies standpoint, at the time it seemed great because Santana had an off-year for the Phils and you were ridding his contract so you can add more to get Bryce Harper. But you also added an underrated shortstop in Segura and relief help in Nicasio. Instead, Segura hasn’t panned out (much like the other Phillies acquisitions to this point) and Nicasio has been a mess. JP Crawford, who was slated as one of the future players for the Phillies has started doing well in Seattle while Carlos Santana (after a trade from the Mariners to the Indians) has enjoyed an MVP caliber season. Of course I would praise Jerry DiPoto, but honestly the trade of Santana for Edwin Encarnacion and then Encarnacion (plus cash) for a former Mariners prospect in Juan Then really was silly. Anyway….

During the All-Star Break I will try to do previews of the second half

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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Tristan Beckmann’s Ultimate MLB Playoff Preview: Predictions, Analysis, and more

Its the best time of year for baseball fans across the globe. Playoff baseball will commence tonight when the Colorado Rockies head to Wrigley Field to face the Chicago Cubs in the NL Wildcard Game. There’s so much more to come from there though. 10 teams will be dueling it out in the American League and National League. Only one team will survive the grueling grind and be crowned the 2018 MLB World Series Champions. Whether it’s a J.D. Martinez grand slam, a nine strikeout game from Justin Verlander, or epic playoff atmospheres, there’s something for everybody when it comes to the biggest stage in all of baseball.

I’ve watched a lot of baseball this season and I know a good enough amount of baseball that I’m putting my predictions and analysis out there for the world to see. I’m going to provide a Team by Team breakdown complete with their strengths, weaknesses, and one X-factor. Then I’ll take the deep dive into my full playoff predictions, before letting you leave after reading a few of my colleagues playoff predictions. I know I’m ready, but are you?

Table of Contents:

Introduction, pg. 1

AL Team By Team Analysis, pg. 2

NL Team By Team Analysis, pg. 3

Power Rankings, pg. 4

Wildcard Round Analysis, pg. 5

Divisional Series Analysis, pg. 6

Championship Series Analysis, pg. 7

World Series Analysis, pg. 8

Other Writers Predictions, pg. 9

The 9th Inning: Are The Rays the most underrated team in baseball?

Welcome to the 9th Inning. This is a weekly column every Sunday on Pro Sports Fandom in which I roundup the week’s biggest happenings in the baseball realm. I give my personal thoughts on a few events as well as tell you what to look forward to in the following week. I also give out weekly awards for team of the week and player of the week. It’s basically a baseball podcast squeezed into an article that will happen every week. I was unable to publish the column last Sunday due to a busy schedule but it returns today.

This is the third article of this column and I hope for some immense success with it each week. If you’d like, be sure to share with your friends, social media, and family! I’d love my column to reach as big a global market as possible. Let’s dive right into it.

The AL East is not over just yet

Last week, if you would’ve asked me whether I thought the AL East was a locked up race yet, I would’ve said it’s close to it. It’s amazing how in one week of baseball, things can change in a heartbeat. The Red Sox have hit a wall, are in danger of being swept by the Rays today, and neither Chris Sale nor Eduardo Rodriguez have come off the DL yet. Now Red Sox fans should obviously not panic, as I don’t think there’s anyway this team misses the postseason and it will take an elongated hot streak by the Yankees to get them closer to the Sox. The Red Sox are still the best team in baseball but they cannot afford to slump now, especially this late in the year. Mookie Betts is in a slump and he hasn’t really done that all year, he’s hitting 5 for 33 (.152 average) in his past eight games. Red Sox fans should however stop saying that the AL East is over, because the Yankees are only seven games out, six in the loss column, and the rivals still play six more times in the regular season.

The Athletics are a true contender and are challenging Houston for AL West supremacy

I never saw it coming. Not once. Who would’ve thought that the Oakland Athletics would be a game and a half back of the Houston Astros in the AL West in late August? If you did, you’re a lucky person. The Athletics are baseball’s best story and they are grinding everyday to try to potentially win the division but also be sure to lock up a spot in the postseason. The Athletics aren’t a pretender, and they have the team to compete in October. The schedule gets extremely tough from here on out and we will learn a lot about the A’s in September.

The most underrated team in baseball

What if I told you that the most underrated team in baseball was going to miss the playoffs and is soon bound to be eliminated from division contention? Yes, the Tampa Bay Rays are the most slept-on team in the major leagues. They’re overshadowed by the Yankees and Red Sox in the tough as nails AL East, but they’re a winning baseball team and are not talked about nearly enough as they should be. Blake Snell is a top of the line ace in the big leagues and could very well be the AL Cy Young this season. Tommy Pham has been a solid addition from the trade deadline for the Rays. Their opener experiment has turned their pitching staff into one of the overall best in baseball. They are no joke and can compete with the best of the best on any given night. They’ve gone 8-7 against the Yankees this season, and beaten the Red Sox six times this season. They would be in the midst of the playoff race if they were in any other division.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not?

Hot:

The Tampa Bay Rays (8-2 in Last Ten)

The Chicago Cubs (7-3 in Last Ten)

The New York Yankees (7-3 in Last Ten)

The Colorado Rockies (7-3 in Last Ten)

Not:

The San Francisco Giants (3-7 in Last Ten)

The Pittsburgh Pirates (3-7 in Last Ten)

The Philadelphia Phillies (3-7 in Last Ten)

The Los Angeles Angels (3-7 in Last Ten)

The Boston Red Sox (4-6 in Last Ten)

Power Rankings:

1. Boston Red Sox (90-41)

2. New York Yankees (82-47)

3. Houston Astros (79-50)

4. Oakland Athletics (78-52)

5. Chicago Cubs (75-53)

6. Los Angeles Dodgers (69-61)

7. Colorado Rockies (71-58)

8. Arizona Diamondbacks (71-58)

9. Cleveland Indians (73-56)

10. Atlanta Braves (72-57)

11. Seattle Mariners (74-56)

12. St. Louis Cardinals (72-58)

13. Milwaukee Brewers (72-59)

14. Philadelphia Phillies (69-60)

15. Tampa Bay Rays (69-61)

16. Pittsburgh Pirates (64-66)

17. San Francisco Giants (64-67)

18. Washington Nationals (64-66)

19. Toronto Blue Jays (60-69)

20. Los Angeles Angels (63-67)

21. Minnesota Twins (61-68)

22. Texas Rangers (58-73)

23. New York Mets (58-71)

24. Cincinnati Reds (56-74)

25. Chicago White Sox (50-79)

26. Detroit Tigers (53-77)

27. Miami Marlins (53-78)

28. San Diego Padres (50-82)

29. Kansas City Royals (40-90)

30. Baltimore Orioles (37-93)

The Weekly Awards:

The Team of the Week is the …

Tampa Bay Rays (7-0 record)

The Rays started off the week last Sunday with a road shutout win over the Red Sox to salvage a game in an already-lost series. They then returned to the dump that is Tropicana Field (sorry, Rays fans, I’m just being honest) and swept the Kansas City Royals in four games. After the Royals left, the Red Sox came to the Trop and the Rays gave the Red Sox a rare series loss over the weekend, winning the first two games of the series to extend their winning streak to seven. The Rays will go for a rare sweep of the Red Sox today at 1:10 pm with dominating ace Blake Snell on the mound. What a week for them!

The Hitter of the Week is …

Toronto Blue Jays DH/1B Kendrys Morales

The veteran slugger was firing on all cylinders during this past week and he certainly deserves this recognition. Heading into today’s game against the Phillies, Morales has homered in six straight games, which is tied with two other players for the longest streak in the 2018 MLB season. Over the past week, Morales made 24 plate appearances in six games, hitting seven home runs, scoring eight runs, and batting in 11 RBIs while putting up a .500 batting average. He totaled a 0.9 WAR this week, which was best amongst big league hitters. Way to go Kendrys!

The Pitcher of the Week is …

New York Yankees RHP Sonny Gray

You might be a little intrigued by seeing Gray’s name on here as Pitcher of the Week, considering he’s struggled all season long and enough to the point where he’s now a bullpen long man and spot starter in the Bronx. But Gray had a phenomenal week and looks to be gaining more comfort in his new role. Last Sunday against the Blue Jays, Gray entered out of the bullpen and pitched two scoreless frames for the Yankees, giving up two hits, walking one batter and recording one strikeout. Yesterday in the second game of the Yankees doubleheader against the Orioles, Gray shined in his first start since he got rocked by the Orioles on August 1st. He tossed six and a thirds worth of scoreless baseball on the mound, surrendering three hits, walking one, and striking out seven batters. Gray, now widely known as “Pickles”, secured the win and a sweep of the day for the Yanks!

What to Look Forward To:

There is a lot of exciting baseball to look forward to heading into the final week of August. Firstly, September Call-Ups will begin on Saturday and we will get a glimpse of the future for a ton of teams. To start the week, we get to see the Oakland Athletics travel to MinuteMaid Park to take on the Houston Astros in a three game series that will be pivotal towards the AL West standings. We also will get to see the Pittsburgh Pirates head to St. Louis to take on the Cardinals in what could be a ride-or-die series for the Pirates in terms of what they will be able to do in the NL Wildcard race. The Tampa Bay Rays will look to continue their hot stretch when they head to Atlanta to face the Braves, which will be a very exciting series to watch.

Starting off the weekend series on Thursday will be potential playoff battles such as the Mariners @ Athletics, Diamondbacks @ Dodgers, and the Cubs @ Braves in a rainout makeup game. After their makeup game, the Cubs will head to face the Phillies in Philadelphia in another potential playoff matchup preview. We have an exciting slate of games all week long in the major leagues!

Thanks for reading the third edition of the 9th Inning column! I hope you enjoyed! Don’t forget to share with your friends, family, and on social media! Feel free to contact me on my Twitter @TBeckmann24 if you have any questions! I’ll be back next time! Peace!

The 9th Inning: These Red Sox cannot be stopped and some interesting players of the week

Welcome to the 9th Inning. This is a weekly column each Sunday evening on Pro Sports Fandom in which I roundup the week’s biggest happenings in the baseball realm. I give my personal thoughts on a few events as well as tell you what to look forward to in the following week. I also give out weekly awards for team of the week and player of the week. It’s basically a baseball podcast squeezed into an article that will happen every week. This is the second article of this column and I hope for some immense success with this column. If you’d like, be sure to share with your friends, social media, and family! I’d love my column to reach as big a global outreach as possible.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not?

*Record for the week is in parentheses.

Hot:

The Boston Red Sox (4-1)

The Oakland Athletics (5-1)

The Atlanta Braves (5-1)

The Philadelphia Phillies (5-1)

Not:

The New York Yankees (2-4)

The Seattle Mariners (2-5)

The Tampa Bay Rays (3-3)

The Weekly Awards:

The Team of the Week is the …

The Boston Red Sox (4-1)

There is no doubt in my mind, as a New York Yankees fan, that these Red Sox are the clear best team in baseball as of today. It hurts me to say it but I cannot avoid speaking the truth. Look at what they did to the Yankees over the past weekend, taking three straight and going for the sweep currently as I’m writing this. They also took their only loss of the week (so far) to the Philadelphia Phillies, who have been hot as of late and are certain to be one of the NL’s premier teams. This Boston team is one of the most well-balanced teams in recent MLB history with a powerful offense led by Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, combined with a Cy Young contender in Chris Sale and a Cy Young winner in Rick Porcello. Oh, and I shouldn’t forget about their all-star closer in Craig Kimbrel. The Red Sox had a great week and truly deserve this honor.

The Hitter of the Week is …

Arizona Diamondbacks SS Nick Ahmed

This might be a shocking name for the hitter of the week for you guys, but Ahmed is certainly delivering some offense for the Snakes out West. In six games during this week, Ahmed hit .529, hit three home runs, collected six runs and 8 RBIs. The shortstop also had a ridiculous 1.854 OPS this week. He is providing some unexpected offense for a D-Backs team that will certainly need it down the stretch as they are in a tough battle in the NL West.

The Pitcher of the Week is …

New York Mets SP Zack Wheeler

Yes, I know, it is shocking that a New York Met has earned an award of some sort in 2018. Well, it’s based on Wheeler’s individual performance, which was ridiculous over the past week. Wheeler had been frequently talked about in trades with other teams but it’s easy to see why the Mets held onto him. In two starts this week, he was 2-0 in 13 innings, while allowing zero earned runs, and having a 1.16 FIP. He certainly deserves it.

Series to Watch This Week:

Houston Astros @ San Francisco Giants

Atlanta Braves @ Washington Nationals

Philadelphia Phillies @ Arizona D-Backs

LA Dodgers @ Oakland Athletics

This Weekend?:

Seattle Mariners @ Houston Astros

LA Dodgers @ Colorado Rockies

Washington Nationals @ Chicago Cubs

Milwaukee Brewers @ Atlanta Braves

Anyways, thanks for reading the second ever edition of the 9th Inning column! I hope you enjoyed! Don’t forget to share with your friends, family, and on social media! Feel free to contact me on my Twitter @TBeckmann24 if you have any questions! I’ll be back next time! Peace!

The 9th Inning: Newcomb’s Tragedy, A Terrific HOF Class, A Rollercoaster Week for the Yankees, and The Tale of DeGrom

Welcome to the 9th Inning. This is going to be a weekly column each Sunday evening on Pro Sports Fandom in which I roundup the week’s biggest happenings in the baseball realm. I also give my personal thoughts on a few events as well as tell you what to look forward to in the following week. I will also be giving out weekly awards for team of the week and player of the week. It’s basically a baseball podcast squeezed into an article that will happen every week. This is the debut article of this column and I hope for some immense success with this column. If you’d like, be sure to share with your friends, social media, and family! I’d love my column to reach as big a global outreach as possible.

I’m going to start the 9th Inning column out with a few rounded-up thoughts in recap of this week’s action both on the field and off.

A Truly Deserving Hall of Fame Class of 2018

I know it’s not current baseball talk, but I have to tip my cap to all of the voters for the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Class of 2018 is one of the most deserving ones in years. It was an amazing ceremony and it fulfilled fans in attendance. Perhaps the most deserving inductees were none other than Chipper Jones and Vladimir Guerrero. Jones, the sensational switch-hitting third baseman, more than deserves this recognition, as he truly revitalized the third base position heading into the modern era. Guerrero, whose son is going to make a name for himself in the big leagues soon, also truly deserves this honor, as one of the most iconic players in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Congratulations to all of the six men who were inducted into Cooperstown this year!

The Sad Story That Is Jacob deGrom

Ok, it’s sad, but we have to address it. All jokes aside (including the Mets Franchise), Jacob deGrom is pitching his way to one of the greatest single seasons for a pitcher in recent baseball history. He is defying the shift in the newfound era of the home run ball. But the Mets offense seems to hate him. He won’t be getting traded this summer sadly and I think about every realistic baseball mind knows that. In his last 12 starts, Jacob deGrom has a 1.87 ERA in 87 innings on the mound with 95 strikeouts, 65 hits, and 18 earned runs. His record in those 12 starts? 1-6. The Mets offense doesn’t support him and the bullpen doesn’t finish off the unbelievable outings he has consistently put together. He’s on pace to finish with a 2.23 ERA and a 10-9 record, and because he doesn’t have a pretty record, people are worrying that he’ll be overlooked as a Cy Young candidate. Move aside, if the season ended now, the kid would be a lock to win the award.

The Yankees Rollercoaster Week

If I told you that the Yankees would’ve acquired Zach Britton and J.A. Happ before this week began, would you have been HAPPy? (See what I did there). Most likely you would’ve been ecstatic if you were a Yankees fan. They bolstered their bullpen by trading for the left-handed Britton and then replenished their starting rotation by adding another left hander in veteran J.A. Happ. But why are Yankees fans still acting disappointed and negative after this week? The first reason: their division rival Red Sox do not seem to lose much at all, and they trail them by 5 1/2 games in the AL East. Secondly, they have lost their superstar outfielder Aaron Judge for three weeks due to a chip fracture in his wrist. The negativity seems like it won’t stop coming! But as I said in my article yesterday, RELAX Yankees Fans!

Newcomb’s Tragic Final Out

A few weeks after Josh Hader caught the nation’s heat for some old racist, sexist, and homophobic tweets that were dug up, Atlanta Braves starter Sean Newcomb experienced the exact same issue. This is definitely not a good look for the MLB or baseball as a whole, so let’s hope that this doesn’t start becoming a trend. But what made it even more upsetting was the fact that Newcomb had just thrown his best outing ever in the major leagues, and was at an all-time high before he found out. He dominated the Dodgers lineup on Sunday afternoon, but he also dominated the media. He was one strike away from a no-hitter, which would’ve also set the Internet on fire. But a single from Chris Taylor ended his hopes. Such tragedy happens in the major leagues.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not?

Hot:

The Boston Red Sox (7-3 in Last Ten)

The Pittsburgh Pirates (7-3 in Last Ten)

The Colorado Rockies (8-2 in Last Ten)

Not:

The San Francisco Giants (3-7 in Last Ten)

The Houston Astros (4-6 in Last Ten)

The San Diego Padres (2-8 in Last Ten)

The Tampa Bay Rays (4-6 in Last Ten)

The Seattle Mariners (4-6 in Last Ten)

The Weekly Awards

The Team of the Week is the …

Colorado Rockies (4-2 record)

The Rockies started off the week with a split two game series against the Houston Astros, but finished the week with an impressive three-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics to finish the week with a 4-2 record. Both the Athletics and Astros are playoff contending teams in the AL, so it’s an extremely impressive week for the Rox. They sit just a game out of first place in the NL West as they mark their quest to a postseason berth!

The Hitter of the Week is …

Milwaukee Brewers OF Christian Yelich

Christian Yelich has had an extremely productive 2018 campaign in his first season with the Brew Crew. He continued his excellence this week with a fantastic seven day stretch. He had 30 plate appearances in seven games, hit three home runs, scored eight runs, had 10 RBIs, and maintained a prolific batting average of .536 with a 0.9 WAR for the week. Dating back to July 14th, the outfielder is on a 12-game hitting streak.

The Pitcher of the Week is …

Boston Red Sox LHP Chris Sale

It pains me a bit to say this but Chris Sale is the best pitcher in the American League. He further asserted his dominance with two fantastic outings this week en route to this honor. He pitched 12 innings, surrendered five hits, zero runs, while striking out 19 batters, walking only two, and having a 1-0 record for the week. He seems to be stretching out his cushion on the rest of the American League in terms of the Cy Young award race, but we will see if this continues.

What to Look Forward To:

In this upcoming week, there is a lot of baseball to look forward to! But the most notable even going on in the baseball realm is the trade deadline on Tuesday, July 31st. Everybody should be excited to see who is on the move on deadline day! Look forward to an action-packed Tuesday of moves!

There are plenty of series between great teams to start the week but I’ll name a few, such as the Brewers-Dodgers, Astros-Mariners, Phillies-Red Sox, and Cubs-Pirates. To close out the week, we will get to see four games of the Yankees-Red Sox at Fenway, three games of a World Series rematch between the Astros and Dodgers, and a three game stretch between playoff contending teams in the Rockies and Brewers.

Thanks for reading the debut of the 9th Inning column! I hope you enjoyed! Don’t forget to share with your friends, family, and on social media! Feel free to contact me on my Twitter @TBeckmann24 if you have any questions! I’ll be back next time! Peace!

R.E.L.A.X.: Why Yankees fans need to relax about the Aaron Judge situation and stay positive

It’s been an up and down week for Yankee fans. Brian Cashman has pulled off two solid trades to bolster their starting rotation and bullpen. Sonny Gray has looked very good in his last few starts and it seemed like something was starting to click with this Yankee squad. But on this night in which the Bronx Bombers celebrated a dominant victory over the Royals, there was one really bad issue.

Yankees fans cringed when they saw the trainers come out to check on their 6’7 superstar outfielder, Aaron Judge, after he was hit in the right wrist with a 93-mph fastball by Royals starting pitcher Jakob Junis. They breathed a sigh of relief when they saw trainers walk off the field and Judge still at first base, but that wasn’t the last of the issue. After hitting a weak infield single in the third, Judge was removed from the game as DH and replaced by rookie sensation Miguel Andujar.

And then Yankees fans saw the reports that Judge had been taken to a nearby hospital for an MRI and CT scan. How bad could it be? Would the season be on the line? Numerous Yankee fans had these thoughts swirling in their head. But after the game when they found out that Judge had sustained a chip fracture in his wrist, it seemed like nobody understand that there should be no reason to panic. In fact, Yankees fans should be relieved that the injury Judge sustained does not require surgery and is only a three or four week absence.

Instead of thanking the lord for Judge not having a fully broken wrist, Yankees fans scoured social media and dumped out all the possible negative scenarios with the Aaron Judge injury. What if he doesn’t come back as the same hitter? What if he can’t successfully rehab on time? Yes, these things can happen and maybe they will, but I’ve got one word for Yankee fans across the globe, RELAX.

I realize that Aaron Judge is a huge part of the Yankees team, he is a do-it all persona and he is much of the reason that this Yankee team is one of the best in recent history. Yes, it is a huge loss for one of the MLB’s best offenses. He is perhaps the biggest part of their offense, leading the team in home runs, runs, OBP, SLG, and base on balls. A three week absence from Judge isn’t great by any means, but it could’ve been much worse.

Judge could’ve had a worse wrist injury, such as a fully broken wrist or an even tougher fracture. But he luckily walked away with a chip fracture and a three-week absence. He will be back by the end of August and should be fully capable of helping the Yankees chase the Red Sox in the AL East pennant race.

And without Judge, there’s no reason to doubt the Yankees lineup and whether it can provide production itself. They have a reigning NL MVP in slugger Giancarlo Stanton, who has been extremely hot in the last month or so, hitting .323 with four home runs in the last 30 days. Didi Gregorius is starting to get back up to the level of play that he started the year with. Miguel Andujar is an absolutely sensational young hitter who has been terrific all season long. Greg Bird is starting to get comfortable in the lineup. Aaron Hicks is providing a good offensive punch as well as a defensive one. Gleyber Torres has been great all season and is back from his stint on the DL. Veteran Neil Walker should able to eat up ABs, and heck, even he’s been really hot as of late.

This offense is more than capable of carrying the load for a couple of weeks while Judge’s wrist heals. The last reason that Yankee fans should not panic is because of the schedule that is coming up while Judge will be out. He only misses one key series and while it is a big one versus the Red Sox at Fenway, we can live with it. The Yankees only play one other team with an above .500 record in the span that Judge is expected to miss, that being the Tampa Bay Rays. They have an easy schedule and therefore his absence should not hurt them too much. So please Yankees fans, just don’t panic, relax, and enjoy the rest of the baseball season. And the season is not over!

Sources: Yankees reportedly finalizing deal with Orioles that will bring All-Star closer Zach Britton to the Bronx

According to multiple reports, Zach Britton is close to being a New York Yankee. Ken Rosenthal first reported that the Yankees had emerged as a clear front-runner to acquire the veteran lefty’s services late in the afternoon. Jon Heyman reported that the deal had been agreed to at 9pm EST. The Yankees and Orioles are exchanging medicals and finalizing the parameters of the deal.

Joel Sherman of the NY Post reported that if the deal is finalized, the Yankees would be sending their ninth best prospect, RHP Dillon Tate, AAA prospect LHP Josh Rogers, and the Yanks #15 prospect in AAA reliever Cody Carroll. The Yankees give up a pretty fair haul for Britton, whom is a two-time All Star and when healthy, is one of the best left handed relievers in the major leagues. If he stays healthy, the Yankees add onto a bullpen that was already the best in baseball and it will become one of the fiercest that the baseball world has seen in years.

Britton made his MLB debut in 2011 for the Orioles and has played there ever since. He is 30-22 in his career with 139 saves and a 3.22 earned run average. He also has 425 career strikeouts to only 194 walks issued. He rarely gets beat by the long ball which is a key factor due to the transitioned focus to power for most major league hitters.

Britton’s career season came in 2016 when he stayed healthy and made appearances in 69 games for the O’s. He had a 2-1 record, 47 saves, 0.54 ERA, 1.94 FIP, 2.5 WAR, and only surrendered one home run in 67 innings on the bump. He even finished fourth in the AL Cy Young voting.

If Britton can return to those numbers, the rest of the MLB should watch out, because the Yankees bullpen could be merely unstoppable. According to his 2018 Pitch/FX numbers, Britton has heavily relied on his nasty 95 mph sinker and his 81 mph knee buckling curveball.

Barring a major meltdown in trade talks, it seems like a foregone conclusion that the Yankees have bolstered their bullpen with the two time All-Star.

Heyman: Nationals and Royals have agreed to a deal that will send closer Kelvin Herrera to Washington for prospects

This evening at around 7:45pm EST, Jon Heyman dropped one of the first trade bombs of the summer season when he reported that the Washington Nationals were on the verge of trading for closing pitcher Kelvin Herrera from the Kansas City Royals. A few minutes later, Heyman added that the Nationals would trade a few solid minor league prospects (not Juan Soto or Victor Robles) for the service of Herrera in their bullpen. The prospects that Kansas City will be receiving are unknown at this point but Heyman solidified that they are some very good prospects. Getting Herrera is a huge move by the Nationals as their bullpen was one of their biggest weaknesses heading into the summer trade season. Herrera has been strong so far this season, with a 1-1 record and an impressive 1.05 ERA in 25.2 innings of work. He has struck out 22 batters and only walked two, while having a strong 0.81 WHIP.