The 9th Inning Column: The London Series, Race for NL MVP, and Brendan McKay’s fantastic debut

Welcome back to the 9th Inning. This is the third edition of this in the 2019 MLB season. This is a monthly column on Pro Sports Fandom in which I roundup the month’s biggest happenings in the baseball realm. I’ll discuss what teams are hot and what teams are not. I will also give my personal thoughts on a few notable baseball-related events as well as giving out monthly awards for team of the month, players of the month, and rookies of the month. It’s basically a baseball podcast squeezed into an article that happens near the end of every month. This is the second article of this season 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 for June with a few rounded-up thoughts in recap of the biggest stories recently, both on the field and off.

The London Series

What a wild two game series it was in London this weekend between the Red Sox and the Yankees. The two teams combined for 50 runs, a two-game record between the two clubs. It was an offensive showdown on both days, as neither starting pitcher made it out of the first inning in Game 1, and the bullpen for both teams proved to be shaky at times. The Yankees had three innings in the series in which they scored six or more runs, and the Red Sox had two of these innings. When the MLB returns to London next season, hopefully they can give the fans a pitcher’s duel to remember.

The race for NL MVP

Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger are in a tight race for the National League MVP award at the moment. Both of these young outfielders are having fabulous seasons and Yelich is looking to win his second MVP in a row. Both are All-Star starters, so how do we separate them? Bellinger has a better batting average, RBIs, and WAR, while Yelich has more home runs and stolen bases. It’s extremely close at the moment, but Bellinger would be my pick if I had to choose between these two.

McKay’s fantastic debut

The Tampa Bay Rays had an exciting weekend by taking a series with the Texas Rangers, but also with the debut of highly touted prospect Brendan McKay, who came up as a pitcher who still has two-way potential. He was ranked as the 23rd best prospect in all of baseball by MLB Pipeline and he was the second best prospect in the Rays system. He retired the first 16 batters of his MLB career and finished a terrific outing by pitching six innings of one-hit shutout baseball with only one walks and three strikeouts. This is a sign of things to come for McKay, who has an extremely bright future in the big leagues.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not?

The New York Yankees have been on the hot section of this list for all three columns thus far in 2019, and it seems to be with good reason. Since losing two in a row to the White Sox on June 13th and 14th, the Yankees rattled off eight consecutive victories and have gone 13-1 overall, with series wins over the Rays, Astros, and Red Sox. Chad Green has found success as an opener as he pitched to a 0.69 ERA in 13 innings during the month. The offense was ruthless throughout the month, led by D.J. LeMahieu’s clutch hitting, Gleyber Torres balanced approach, Gary Sánchez’s pop, and the returning Aaron Judge. They are undoubtedly the best team in baseball right now, and they’ve shown no signs of slowing down.

The Oakland Athletics have once again gotten extremely hot near the end of the month, similar to how the month of May concluded. They’ve gone 7-3 in their past 10 games, climbing within a half game of the second AL Wildcard spot. Matt Olson was a big contributor for the A’s, hitting 9 homers and notching 20 RBIs. Ramon Laureano also showed significant increases in his power hitting abilities, hitting 7 home runs in the month. It certainly hurts to lose Frankie Montas to a PED suspension, but the Athletics are still hungry to make the postseason for the second straight season.

The Washington Nationals were struggling to win not too long ago, but recently they’ve found something that’s clicked. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games and still find themselves in the thick of the hunt for the NL Wildcard spots. Anthony Rendon continued to prove why he’s going to get paid this fall, as he batted .311 with 9 homers and 24 RBIs in the month. Max Scherzer was also phenomenal in June, but we’ll discuss that later. All this stretch did was prove that the Nats won’t sell and why would they?

The New York Mets were expected to contend in the NL East in 2019, but instead they looked like they’ve built an utter disaster. They just ended a seven game losing streak and have gone 3-7 in their last 10 games. The roster was built to win but it simply has not done that, as they now sit 12 games back of the first place Braves. Barring a massive hot stretch, it doesn’t look like Queens will be able to see their hometown Mets play in October this season.

The Boston Red Sox have simply not looked like a great baseball team this season. The defending champs have serious issues with the bullpen and getting run support for Chris Sale. The London Series was pretty embarrassing to be quite frank with you, as Rick Porcello and the bullpen got slaughtered. They’ve fallen 11 games back of the Yankees in the AL East standings amid a three game losing streak and a 4-6 stretch in their last 10 games.

The Monthly Awards:

Team of the Month is…

The Atlanta Braves (20-8)

Despite losing to the Mets on Sunday Night Baseball in difficult fashion, the Braves had a phenomenal month in June, going 20-8 and building a 5.5 game lead in the NL East Standings over the Philadelphia Phillies. They joined the 50 win club yesterday, becoming the fifth team to do so thus far in 2019. Freddie Freeman is unbelievable, Ronald Acuña Jr. is one of the game’s brightest young stars, and Mike Soroka has been unbelievable in his rookie season. Even if they don’t win the World Series this year, the Braves can rest assured that they have one of the brightest futures of any team in the MLB.

Hitter of the Month is…

New York Yankees 2B D.J. LeMahieu

LeMahieu was an absolute superstar for the unstoppable Yankees offense in June, and he is climbing his way up the AL MVP contenders list because of it. LeMahieu batted .395 in the month with six homers and 29 RBIs with a 1.092 OPS. He continues to be one of the most (if not, the most) valuable signings from the offseason. In fact, he’s been rewarded for his outstanding play by being named as the AL Starter at Second Base in the 2019 All-Star Game. He undoubtedly deserves the hitter of the month award for his performance in June.

Starter of the Month is…

Washington Nationals RHP Max Scherzer

Frequently being talked about as a long shot trade deadline target for a few clubs, Max Scherzer’s dominant month of June has been a huge reason why the Nationals are right back in the NL Wildcard hunt. He broke his nose and pitched a gem against the Phillies the next day. Not to mention, he made 6 starts in the month, getting the victory in all 6, and pitching 45 innings with a 1.00 ERA. He only gave up 25 hits, 5 runs, and had 68 strikeouts against only 5 walks in the month. Opponents were hitting just .156 against him and he had a 0.67 WHIP as a result.

Reliever of the Month is…

Oakland Athletics RHP Liam Hendriks

Used as an opener near the end of the 2018 campaign, Liam Hendriks has reestablished himself as one of the better relief pitchers on the Oakland Athletics roster. He pitched 15 innings of one run baseball in June, good for a 0.60 earned run average. He gave up only 10 hits, struck out 22, and walked four batters. Opposing hitters batted just .192 against him in the month and struggled against him all month long.

Rookie Hitter of the Month is…

New York Mets 1B Pete Alonso

Despite being apart of a struggling Mets ball club, first baseman Pete Alonso coasted his way to his second Rookie Hitter of the Month award for my column. In June, the newly announced NL All-Star batted .309 with 9 home runs, 19 RBIs, and a 1.097 OPS. He also had an impressive on-base percentage of .437, as he walked 17 times compared to striking out 22 times. If he continues to hit like this, he’ll be the unquestioned NL Rookie of the Year.

Rookie Pitcher of the Month is…

Arizona Diamondbacks RHP Merrill Kelly

You might be questioning how a 30 year old can be a successful rookie, but Merrill Kelly fits the bill. An eighth round draft pick of the Rays in the 2010 draft, Kelly pitched in the minors until 2015, when he went to the KBO to play baseball. After three years there, Kelly has made his MLB debut in 2019. He was phenomenal in June, making six starts and pitching 39.1 innings with a 2.75 earned run average. He only walked five batters all month and opponents were hitting .212 with a .238 on-base percentage against him in the month.

Thanks for reading the June 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 month! Peace!

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The 9th Inning Column: MLB Draft Week, Jose Ramirez’ struggles, and RIP Bill Buckner

Welcome back to the 9th Inning. This is the second edition of this in the 2019 MLB season. This is a monthly column on Pro Sports Fandom in which I roundup the month’s biggest happenings in the baseball realm. I’ll discuss what teams are hot and what teams are not. I will also give my personal thoughts on a few notable baseball-related events as well as giving out monthly awards for team of the month, players of the month, and rookies of the month. It’s basically a baseball podcast squeezed into an article that happens near the end of every month. This is the second article of this season 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 for May with a few rounded-up thoughts in recap of the biggest stories recently, both on the field and off.

It is almost time for the MLB Draft!

We are less than a week away from the 2019 MLB Draft and there’s a lot of speculation swirling about the first few rounds. Firstly, nearly everybody in the business believes that the Orioles have to take Adley Rutschman with the top pick. Rutschman, a catcher for Oregon State, is a switch-hitter with solid power and great defensive skills behind the plate. Secondly, a lot of people believe that the Royals will take Bobby Witt Jr. with the second pick. Witt Jr. is a five-tool shortstop coming out of Colleyville Heritage High School in Texas, and he’s the son of a former big league starter. Overall, we are looking at a draft class that is somewhat weak on quality arms but more than makes it up for it with high potential position players.

What is wrong with Jose Ramirez?

In the past few seasons, Jose Ramirez gave the Cleveland Indians another budding star to put alongside Francisco Lindor. Yet in 2019, Ramírez looks to be well off his game. He doesn’t look like he’ll achieve a three peat of third place AL MVP finishes. In 55 games, the 26 year old third baseman is batting a mere .211 with only 4 home runs and 17 RBIs. He’s striking out more, walking less, and seems to have lost his touch at the plate. A good thing for Ramirez is that he’s been playing well lately, batting .357 in his last three games. Still though, the Indians are struggling as a team and falling way back in the race for the AL Central, and they’ll need Ramírez to start putting up the numbers that he’s capable of if they want to get back in it.

Former batting champ Bill Buckner passes away

An MLB legend passed away on Monday after a battle with dementia. Bill Buckner played in the big leagues for 22 seasons and totaled 2,715 hits on a career .289 batting average. Buckner was a great teammate and was highly valued as a utility player during his time in the MLB. In 1980, he batted .324 and was the National League Batting Champion. In 1981, he made his only All-Star team. Buckner deserves respect across the league for his great career. Rest In Peace, Bill Buckner.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not?

The New York Yankees were the best team in baseball throughout the month of May and I’ll discuss them later, because they won one of the column’s awards.

The Minnesota Twins were certainly in the mix for the team of the month award in May, but they were just edged out by the Yanks. They’re pulling away from the Indians in the AL Central, as they currently have a 9.5 game cushion. Newfound ace Jake Odorizzi was phenomenal in May, pitching his way to a 0.94 ERA in five starts. First baseman C.J. Cron led the high powered Twins offensive attack in May as he hit eight home runs, batted .301, and tallied 21 RBIs. The Twins continue to surprise folks and they are seriously one of the top five teams in baseball right now, without any doubt.

The Oakland Athletics have recently gotten themselves firmly back in the hunt for the AL West crown with a 10-game winning streak and an 8-2 stretch over their past ten games. They are alone in second place in their division and sit 7.5 games back of the Houston Astros. The Athletics were led by Frankie Montas strong pitching (2.64 ERA in 30.2 IP) and the offense was helped a lot by Josh Phegley (4 HRs and 20 RBI). With franchise cornerstone Matt Chapman and a solid pitching staff, last year’s second AL Wildcard team could be well on their way to another postseason appearance.

If you haven’t heard about Cody Bellinger’s stellar start of a 2019 campaign, then you’ve been living under a rock. Combine that with a dominating pitching staff and you can see why the Los Angeles Dodgers are continuing to build a sizeable lead in the NL West Standings. They either won or split every series in the month of May, proving that they can compete in every single game. Sitting at a 38-19 record, the Dodgers look to be well on their way to another NL West crown.

The St. Louis Cardinals were very good in the first month or so of 2019, but they’ve fallen off to a below .500 record as we turn the calendar to June. They are 4-6 in their last ten games and now sit 4.5 games back of the first place Cubs in the NL Central. The Cardinals play in perhaps the toughest division in all of Major League Baseball, so they’ll need to stop skidding before they find themselves in too big of a hole.

Remember when the Seattle Mariners were hitting all sorts of bombs every day and were in first place in the AL West? Yeah, I do too, and those days are long gone as the Mariners have the worst record in all of Major League Baseball in the month of May at 6-21. They’ve struggled as a pitching staff and had tough offensive nights, leading to their fall to dead last in the AL West standings. It looks like the Mariners have run out of magic.

In last month’s column, I talked extensively about what the San Francisco Giants should do if they didn’t start winning soon. Well, the Giants haven’t done any better and are still in last place in their division as they’ve been extremely cold as of late. They’re in the midst of a 2-8 stretch in their last ten games and they are on their way to being an early seller on the summer trade market.

The Monthly Awards:

Team of the Month is…

The New York Yankees (19-7)

The New York Yankees have surged to the top of the American League East recently due to a continued stretch of dominance. They’ve gone 12-3 since May 12th and that includes series victory over the Tampa Bay Rays (twice) and the San Diego Padres. Masahiro Tanaka had been dominant in May until his start on Tuesday, having a 2.80 earned run average in 35.1 innings of work. Gleyber Torres (.308 AVG and 9 HRs) and Gary Sanchez (.288 AVG and 9 HRs) have carried the load offensively for the Yanks throughout the month. The bullpen is starting to round into form as well, proving it is as good as advertised with Chapman, Britton, Kahnle, and Ottavino all in peak form right now. With so many injuries, the Yankees performance has simply been impressive.

The Hitter of the Month is…

Pittsburgh Pirates 1B Josh Bell

One of the best hitters in all of the majors through the season thus far, Pirates first baseman Josh Bell has been absolutely smoking baseballs left and right. He is undoubtedly the hitter of the month of May, as he hit at a .389 batting average with a .444 on-base percentage and an .814 slugging percentage. He also has hit 12 homers in the month and has racked up 30 RBIs. He’s shown considerable improvements in the 2019 campaign so far, as he’s close to reaching previously career high numbers already. Bell is the unquestioned leader in Pittsburgh and if he continues hitting like this, he will be in Cleveland as an All-Star this summer.

The Starter of the Month is…

Los Angeles Dodgers LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu

Garnering praise as a “left handed Greg Maddux”, the 32-year old veteran Ryu is off to a Cy Young-esque start in 2019. In May, he was nearly unhittable, going 5-0 and pitching his way to a 0.59 ERA in 45.2 innings on the mound. Opposing hitters had just a .177 batting average against him in his six starts and he continues to provide great outings for the dominating LA Dodgers club. If Ryu continues to control the strike zone and limit walks, I could easily see him being named the Cy Young award winner for the National League in the fall.

The Reliever of the Month is…

New York Yankees RHP Adam Ottavino

Adam Ottavino has started off his 2019 campaign still right in his dominant 2018 form. The veteran reliever was superb in May, appearing in 13 games and not giving up any runs. Since April 21st, Ottavino has not given up a run. Thus far in 2019, the former Rockie has a 2-1 record with 12 holds and a 1.37 ERA in 26.1 innings pitched. He’s been exactly the guy that the Yankees wanted him to be when they signed him in the offseason. He undoubtedly deserves the reliever of the month award for his performance in May.

Rookie Hitter of the Month:

Boston Red Sox 2B Michael Chavis

The third best prospect in the Boston farm system, Chavis has immediately come up into the big leagues and helped provide a stable bat in the lineup. In May, he batted .255 with seven home runs and he’s showing off his advanced hitting tool. With other rookies struggling, Chavis has climbed his way up near the top of the American League Rookie of the Year award race.

Rookie Pitcher of the Month:

Atlanta Braves RHP Mike Soroka

Mike Soroka has been more than just a valuable contributor for the Braves rotation this season. He’s been dominant and looks to be firmly in the mix for the NL Rookie of the Year award. If the award was won in May, Soroka may have just clinched it. He pitched his way to a 0.79 ERA in 34 innings during the month. He only gave up three earned runs and opponents hit just .145 against him in the month. Soroka has been just as good as his prospect evaluation hyped him up to be, and he’s on his way to becoming the ace of the Braves already.

Thanks for reading the May 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 month! Peace!

The 9th Inning (April): Vlad Jr’s debut, Mize’s Double-A gem, and what’s wrong with the Red Sox?

Welcome to the 9th Inning. This is the first edition of this in the 2019 MLB season. This is going to be a monthly column on Pro Sports Fandom in which I roundup the month’s biggest happenings in the baseball realm. I’ll discuss what teams are hot and what teams are not. I will also give my personal thoughts on a few notable baseball-related events as well as giving out monthly awards for team of the month, players of the month, and rookies of the month. It’s basically a baseball podcast squeezed into an article that will happen near the end of every month. This is the debut article of this season 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 for April with a few rounded-up thoughts in recap of the biggest stories recently, both on the field and off.

Vlad Jr’s debut

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. made his highly anticipated MLB debut this past weekend for the Toronto Blue Jays. MLB Pipeline’s number one prospect may have been the most hyped up debut since Bryce Harper. Guerrero is only batting .250 after his first series is in the books, but part of that is due to him not getting great pitches to hit. MLB.com says that Guerrero had a 37.3% zone rate over his first few games. The Blue Jays are set to take on the Angels in Anaheim in their weekday series, and it’ll be a great series to watch!

2018 top draft pick dominates in first AA Start

Not often will I talk about a player in the Double-A levels of minor league ball in this column, but I feel that this one is well deserved. Casey Mize, the number one overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, made his AA debut with the Detroit Tigers on Monday. The Auburn product dominated and sent a message to the scouts, throwing a nine inning no-hitter in a win for the Erie Seawolves. It was an impressive performance that caught the eyes of many, as Mize only walked one batter and hit another. If he continues to pitch like this, Detroit may soon have a bonafide ace on their big league roster.

What’s wrong with the Red Sox?

The defending champion Boston Red Sox are off to a sour start in the 2019 season, having a 12-17 record to show for it just one month in. They’ve cleaned it up as of late, but there’s still cause for concern with the Beantown squad. Jackie Bradley Jr. has been horrible with the bat, 2018 World Series MVP Steve Pearce is struggling, and Eduardo Rodriguez/Chris Sale both have ERAs over 6. If the pitching staff doesn’t get going soon, Boston may find itself in a hole too big to overcome, but there’s certainly reason to believe in this team. I mean heck, they are the defending World Series Champs after all!

Where do the Giants go from here?

A lot of talk has circulated about how the San Francisco Giants will attack the summer trade deadline. It’s the final season for manager Bruce Bochy, and it is perhaps the final year for longtime franchise ace Madison Bumgarner in the Bay Area. The Giants have built a team of veterans in hopes of competing in 2019, but it’s gone very badly thus far. They are 12-17 in the NL West, which is last in the division. They are not doing well at the plate, and Jeff Samardzija is their only qualified starting pitcher with an ERA below four. As we near June, the Giants are creeping closer and closer to being the first team to sell off their top veterans to buyers.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not?

The banged-up New York Yankees are the hottest team in baseball right now, as they’ve gone 11-2 since losing a home series to the Chicago White Sox on April 14th. Luke Voit was dominant for the Bronx Bombers last week on their West Coast road trip, winning AL Player of the Week Honors by going 13 for 30 with four home runs and 10 RBIs. In doing so, Voit has continued a ridiculous 39-game on base streak into the Yankees two game series against the Diamondbacks.

The Minnesota Twins have won 8 of their last 10 games and have taken 2.5 game lead in the AL Central over the Cleveland Indians. Eddie Rosario (11 HRs) and Jorge Polanco (.948 OPS) have lead the scorching hot Twins offensive attack and Jose Berrios continues to grow into an ace, leaving the Twins in great position to make a run at the postseason in 2019.

The St. Louis Cardinals have won 8 of their last 10 games as well, en route to taking a three game lead over the Cubs and Brewers in the NL Central Division. Paul DeJong (.342 AVG, 5 HRs) and Marcell Ozuna (.271 AVG, 10 HRs) are leading a Redbirds offense that is still awaiting an inevitable annual hot stretch from All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.

After a rough start to the 2019 campaign, the Chicago Cubs have gotten back near the top of the NL Central with a recent hot stretch. They are winners of 7 of their last 10 games, climbing into a tie for second in the division with the Milwaukee Brewers. Javier Baez has been otherworldly thus far, hitting .315 with 9 home runs and 22 RBIs. The Cubs are also getting great contribution from catcher Willson Contreras (1.033 OPS). They can certainly push for the NL Central, and I fully expect them to do so.

The Pittsburgh Pirates were 12-6 after a win over the San Francisco Giants on Saturday, April 20th. Since then? They’ve been one of the worst teams in baseball, losing eight straight and falling to fourth place in the NL Central Division. With competition like the Cubs, Brewers, and Cardinals, the Pirates cannot have losing streaks like this and expect to stay atop the division. If they don’t figure it out soon, Pittsburgh could be in serious hot water.

The Washington Nationals have also caught a case of the cold as we flip the calendar to May. They’ve lost three series in a row to teams that I’m just not quite sure they should be losing to. On paper, the Nats have one of the best complete rosters in all of Major League Baseball, but they haven’t been able to put it together just yet in 2019. Let’s see what this team does in May before we press the panic button!

The Oakland Athletics are in serious danger of not getting back to the postseason already in 2019, and that’s not because I don’t have faith in their ability to turn it around after a rough start. The AL West is more competitive this year, and the A’s have struggled as of late, getting swept by Toronto twice in two weeks and losing 7 of their last 10. Will Khris Davis and the Oakland crew figure it out before it’s too late?

The Monthly Awards:

Team of the Month is…

The Tampa Bay Rays (19-9)

The Rays definitely were not a lot of experts picks to lead the AL East through one month, but here we are. Tampa Bay holds a 1.5 game lead on the Yankees as we speak, and they’ve had a terrific first month of baseball. A big reason for their success is the pitching staff, as Tyler Glasgow (5 wins, 1.75 ERA), 2018 AL Cy Young award winner Blake Snell (2 wins, 2.54 ERA), and free agent acquisition Charlie Morton (3 wins, 2.76 ERA) lead the MLB’s top pitching staff thus far. Jose Alvarado has been one of baseball’s best relievers (we’ll discuss him later) and the Rays are much deeper than this, but there’s too many people to name. Austin Meadows was absolutely raking before he got injured (.351, 6 HRs, 19 RBIs), and he should be back rather soon. Yandy Diaz (.298, 7 HRs, 18 RBIs) is having a breakout season at the hot corner for Tampa Bay and veteran outfielder Tommy Pham continues to put up productive numbers (.294, 4 HRs, 12 RBIs). They should be taken seriously as one of the premier World Series contenders.

The Hitter of the Month is …

Los Angeles Dodgers OF/1B Cody Bellinger

Cody Bellinger has played at both right field and first base this year, so I’m not sure what to call him with such a small sample size. But I can call him something, and that is an absolutely on-fire baseball player. The third-year superstar has been nothing short of spectacular in 2019, batting .434 with 14 homers and 37 RBIs. His on-base percentage is over .500 and his slugging percentage sits firmly at .906. What’s even more impressive is that Bellinger has increased his base on balls percentage from 10.9% to 14.1%, while also cutting down his strikeout percentage from 23.9% in 2018 to 11.7% through one month of 2019. If he continues to play like this, he will shatter records, and with this hot start, he’s certainly the favorite to win NL MVP!

Starter of the Month is …

Cincinnati Reds RHP Luis Castillo

When called up to the bigs in 2017, Luis Castillo was the tenth best prospect in the Reds farm system. With a lot of patience by Cincinnati’s staff, Castillo looks to be turning the corner into one of the best pitchers in the National League. His first month of 2019 certainly proved such, as the 26 year old rising phenom has made six starts, going 3-1 with a 1.23 ERA in 36.1 innings of work. He’s striking out more batters than he has at any point in his young career, and has reduced his home runs per nine innings rate from a sour 1.49 in 2018 to an impressive 0.25 thus far in 2019. His HR/FB rate sits at a solid 4.5%, showing that Castillo has been stingy in terms of preventing the longball. At this point, batters just haven’t been able to hit his stuff, as hitters are hitting just .165 against him. If he continues to pitch like this, he may just deliver the NL Cy Young Award to Great American Ball Park.

The Reliever of the Month is …

Tampa Bay Rays LHP Jose Alvarado

Dating back to 2018, the 23 year old Alvarado has been one of the best relievers in all of Major League Baseball, and that trend has continued to pick up steam as we turn the calendar to May. Thrust into a big late-inning role in 2019, the lefty has been nothing short of excellent thus far. He’s made four saves in 14 appearances, pitching his way to a 1.38 ERA and a 1.82 FIP, proving his performance is no fluke. Alvarado has not surrendered a home run yet this season, and he’s striking out 13.1 batters per nine innings. The only negative in 2019 is that Alvarado’s walks per nine innings rate has increased a bit from 4.08 to 4.85, but it’s not too severe of a jump.

The Rookie Hitter of the Month is …

New York Mets 1B Peter Alonso

A second round selection by the Mets in the 2016 MLB Draft, Peter Alonso has made a quick transition to the pros. He is a phenomenal hitter and subpar defender at first base, and he showed that in the minor leagues all the way up until earning the Mets starting first baseman job in 2019. Since he earned the job, Alonso has proven why he was one of the Mets untradeable chips as they rebuilt last year. He’s an early frontrunner for the NL Rookie of the Year award, as he’s batting .304 with nine home runs and 25 RBIs in 2019. He will have to continue to work on balancing his approach and limiting strikeouts, but right now, Alonso is hot and off to the races, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.

The Rookie Pitcher of the Month is …

San Diego Padres RHP Chris Paddack

Paddack is the 31st best prospect in all of Major League Baseball according to MLB Pipeline, but after one month of him in the bigs, I think he may deserve a huge boost before he loses his eligibility on such lists. He’s 23 years old and has been firing on all cylinders to start his MLB career. He’s made five starts, going 1-1 and pitching 27 innings with a 1.67 ERA, ranking third amongst all National League pitchers with 25 or more innings pitched. He’s just been purely unhittable, as opposing hitters have a .111 batting average against him. He’s striking out 10 batters per nine innings, only walking about 2.6 per nine, and only surrenders 0.6 home runs per nine. If he continues to pitch like this, he’ll be right in the thick of the battle for NL Rookie of the Year with his teammate Fernando Tatis Jr. and Mets slugger Pete Alonso (mentioned above).

Thanks for reading the season 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 month! Peace!

The Obstructed NL West Preview-2019

The National League West has been dominated by the Dodgers for a while now. Last year we saw jumps however from the Rockies, hoping to take that next step after winning the Wild Card game and getting to the NLDS. Do they have enough to take the Dodgers down in 2019? The Padres made one of the biggest splashes in the off-season by bringing in Manny Machado and the hope is that the farm system, which is prime as prime can be, can pay off dividends starting this year. The Giants, if healthy (keyword: IF) can make some noise but the likes of Cueto, Bumgarner, and Posey need to be healthy and have better years from the Brandon boys (Crawford and Belt-who also needs to stay healthy). And the Diamondbacks look more towards a rebuild after the losses of Goldschmidt, Pollock, and others. So let’s take a look at how this year could fare out in the NL West. Again, my previews are how I believe the teams will play out in 2019 for predictions.

Arenado will prove why he is a big money player for the Rockies

(1) COLORADO ROCKIES

Last year: 91-72

KEY ADDITIONS: 1B-Mark Reynolds (FA-Washington)

KEY LOSSES: C-Drew Butera (FA-Philadelphia), 2B-DJ LeMahieu (FA-New York Yankees), OF-Carlos Gonzalez (FA-Cleveland), OF-Gerardo Parra (FA-San Francisco, P-Adam Ottavino (FA-New York Yankees)

The Rockies were one game back behind the Dodgers last year. Surprisingly the pitching of the Rockies really kept them in the race and getting into October baseball, notably by the arms of German Marquez and Kyle Freeland. However, there is hope the live armed Jon Gray turns it around this year which would be huge for the Rockies. The bullpen was decent, but Wade Davis needs to regain his form like he had in Kansas City and with the Cubs. If that happens, they will be a major threat for the NL in 2019. The offense of the Rockies, well, is the offense. Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, and Trevor Story will lead the way. But they do need more consistency out of their big free agent pickup from a couple of years ago in Ian Desmond and now we get to see Ryan McMahon play on an everyday level (and a guy I have high hopes for-he better since I have him on my fantasy team). If all goes well, the Rockies could be a major threat to the National League to get to the World Series in 2019….yes, I finally bought in to the Rockies after a few years of being a Doubting Thomas. MY PREDICTION: 93-69

Muncy will need to continue his streak in Los Angeles to help keep the Dodgers in the running

(2) LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Last year: 92-71 (Defeated Atlanta in NLDS, Defeated Milwaukee in NLCS, Lost to Boston in World Series)

KEY ADDITIONS: OF-AJ Pollock (FA-Arizona), C-Russell Martin (Trade-Toronto) P-Joe Kelly (FA-Boston),

KEY LOSSES: OF-Matt Kemp (Trade-Cincinnati), OF-Yasiel Puig (Trade-Cincinnati), P-Alex Wood (Trade-Cincinnati) C-Yasmani Grandal (FA-Milwaukee), 2B-Brian Dozier (FA-Washington), SS-Manny Machado (FA-San Diego) P-John Axford (FA-Toronto) P-Daniel Hudson (FA-Los Angeles Angels) 2B-Chase Utley (retired)

The Dodgers had a unique off-season to say the least. People (myself included) thought the Kemp/Puig/Wood trade to Cincinnati opened the door to the Dodgers signing Bryce Harper after all that payroll was freed. And that obviously didn’t happen. Also gone was reliable catcher Yasmani Grandal to Milwaukee, and prized trade acquisition Manny Machado. Los Angeles added the Diamondbacks prized free agent AJ Pollock which was a decent move and the reliable reliever in Joe Kelly, but did it off-set the losses? I’m not sure. And Clayton Kershaw is having injury issues and at times didn’t look as dominant last year. Corey Seager is also coming back from injury and the hope is that Max Muncy is a legit baseball player after exploding onto the scene last year. The other hope is if Cody Bellinger and Joc Pederson can find any way to get consistent as to me this one of the years that the Dodgers have a few more question marks than prior. But if their farm system (which is still strong) can step up with the young players, they should figure to be a threat in the West. MY PREDICTION: 89-73

The Machado signing may be the birth of something grand in San Diego

(3) SAN DIEGO PADRES

Last year: 66-96

KEY ADDITIONS: 3B-Manny Machado (FA-Los Angeles Dodgers), 2B-Ian Kinsler (FA-Boston) IF-Greg Garcia (Waivers-St. Louis), P-Adam Warren (FA-Seattle), P-Aaron Loup (FA-Philadelphia), P-Garret Richards (FA-Los Angeles Angels)

KEY LOSSES: P-Clayton Richard (Trade-Toronto), C-AJ Ellis (retired), 2B-Corey Spangenberg (FA-Miami), SS-Freddy Galvis (FA-Toronto)

A lot of high hopes now run in San Diego thanks in part to the signing of Manny Machado. He fills the need of that offensive weapon that the Padres have sorely lacked since really Adrian Gonzalez. If Wil Myers can stay healthy and Eric Hosmer can get a little more pop, the Padres have a nice offense going in what it seems like it’s forever. The other hope is that we start seeing some of San Diego’s top prospects come into play such as Fernando Tatis Jr (who should be up with San Diego by May) and Luis Urias making an impact. Of course, what will really slow down the Padres will be the starting pitching. San Diego ranked near the bottom in everything with starting pitching and Garret Richards isn’t likely to pitch in 2019 so the starting five are Joey Lucchesi, Chris Paddack (one of their top prospects), Matt Strahm, Eric Lauer, and Robbie Erlin. So it may be a rough stretch for the Padres, but I think as the season unfolds, they will get better and will try to swing a trade to get an established ace (Corey Kluber’s name has come up, but doubtful the Indians would trade them especially if they are in the hunt for the post-season). But the first steps are rolling in the land of Ron Burgundy for the Padres. They will show vast improvement in 2019. MY PREDICTION: 82-80

Posey is continuing to battle for the Giants

(4) SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Last year: 73-89

KEY ADDITIONS: OF-Gerardo Parra (FA-Colorado), IF-Yangervis Solarte (FA-Toronto) OF-Cameron Maybin (FA-Seattle) P-Drew Pomeranz (FA-Boston), C-Stephen Vogt (FA-Milwaukee)

KEY LOSSES: C-Nick Hundley (FA-Oakland), OF-Gregor Blanco (FA-New York Mets), OF-Hunter Pence (FA-Texas), P-Hunter Strickland (FA-Seattle)

The Giants….well, it seems like they avoided giving the heavy contract out that always seems to bite them on the rear end this year (though the Johnny Cueto signing was fine until he got injured). But the biggest things with San Francisco that has plagued them in the past two years have been injuries and inconsistencies. The injuries have taken its toll with this veteran bunch all over the place and they haven’t has been as consistent as we remembered them when they won 3 titles in 5 seasons. And they are getting older on top of it while having a farm system that is not exactly in the best of shapes. But if Buster Posey can keep healthy, and Crawford and Belt can be more consistent, they have a shot at competing. Similar case can go for Madison Bumgarner (health) and Jeff Samardzija (consistency) If those guys can do their thing, they will be a tough out in the NL West. But there are just too many questions in San Francisco for me to think they have a major chance to bring down the Rockies or Dodgers in 2019. MY PREDICTION: 76-86

Peralta and Arizona could be in for a long year

(5) ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Last year: 82-80

KEY ADDITIONS: 2B-Wilmer Flores (FA-New York Mets), C-Carson Kelly (Trade-St. Louis), OF-Adam Jones (FA-Baltimore), P-Luke Weaver (Trade-St. Louis), P-Greg Holland (FA-Washington)

KEY LOSSES: 1B-Paul Goldschmidt (Trade-St. Louis), C-Jeff Mathis (FA-Texas), IF-Daniel Descalso (FA-Chicago Cubs), OF-Chris Owings (FA-Kansas City), OF-Jon Jay (FA-Chicago White Sox), P-Patrick Corbin (FA-Washington), P-Shelby Miller (FA-Texas), P-Brad Boxberger (FA-Kansas City), P-Randall Delgado (FA-Chicago White Sox), P-Jake Diekman (FA-Kansas City)

While my fellow baseball friends keep telling me the Diamondbacks aren’t in a full rebuild, it certainly looks that way. One of your aces in Patrick Corbin is gone. Your stellar outfielder in AJ Pollock is gone. And you traded one of the best first basemen in all of baseball in Paul Goldschmidt away. And then you bring in a veteran well past his prime in Jones, a utility player that never really exploded on the scene in Flores, and a guy who hasn’t been the same since his arm injury in Holland. And now the Diamondbacks are hoping the likes of David Peralta and Eduardo Escobar can carry the load for them as well as Jake Lamb who is coming off of injury. If the Diamondbacks are to go anywhere, Zack Greinke has to look like the Dodgers version of himself and also step up to be a leader as opposed to being the stand-offish kind of guy. If Robbie Ray looks like 2017 Robbie Ray and Zack Godley continues his improvement while Luke Weaver steps up, the Diamondbacks may frustrate some hitters in the NL West. However, I don’t figure Arizona to be in the race and also don’t figure them to keep somebody like Greinke by the deadline. That offense looks to maligned right now for me to think the Diamondbacks have a shot in the NL West. MY PREDICTION: 69-93

That’s it for this go-around.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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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!

Ultimate MLB Second Half Guide: Analysis and Predictions for Trade Deadline, Standings, Awards, and the Playoffs

We are one week away from the MLB All-Star break and inching ever closer to the July 31st league-wide non-waiver trade deadline. We have watched more than one half of the season and we are starting to get a good idea of the playoff picture, trade fits, standings, and award candidates. That’s why I felt that it was the perfect time to release a massive guide to the second half of the baseball season. My guide is here, complete with predictions and analysis on the trade deadline, final standings, playoffs, and season awards.

Table of Contents:

Trade Deadline Predictions- PG. 2

Standings Predictions- PG. 3

AL Playoff Predictions- PG. 4

NL Playoff Predictions- PG. 5

World Series Predictions- PG. 6

Season Awards Predictions- PG. 7

Concluding Thoughts- PG. 8

Cursed Sports Cities in America: Phoenix

Last week I started a new blog talking about the curses of cities in America.  I started with Atlanta as it is one of the top cities with just flat-out bad luck.  But that isn’t to say there aren’t others.  In fact, there are a lot of cities in the United States (and Canada) that have seen heartbreaks and unfortunate events around.  And for whatever reason, the teams cannot get over the hump in those towns.  This week, we go to Phoenix.

The Valley of the Sun has grown from having just one professional sports team (the Suns) before the 1980’s to having the four major sports now when the original Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix after the 1995-1996 season and MLB awarded the city with the Arizona Diamondbacks.  Maybe because it does get overlooked as being “not in the east” in the country, but Phoenix gets overlooked a great bit with their sports.  Odd because while it is one of the few major cities I haven’t visited yet, seems like it is a great sports town.  The city also has been known as somewhat of a transient city similar to Atlanta where there are strong fan bases of other teams given people have moved away from their original towns and thus not having an actual strong fan base at home.  How true that is, I don’t know.  But when you see Coyotes and Diamondbacks games on television you get a good fraction of the opposing teams fans there.

As for the teams itself, Phoenix hasn’t garnered a lot of success over its time in the major four sports.  Only one world championship resides among them and that was the Diamondbacks in 2001, in a classic 7 game World Series tilt with the Yankees.  The others just have not rendered much success at all or at recent memory.  But let’s begin.

CURSED CITY: PHOENIX: HOME OF THE ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS, ARIZONA CARDINALS, PHOENIX SUNS, AND ARIZONA COYOTES

RESUME: 1 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP (DIAMONDBACKS-2001), 1 SUPER BOWL APPEARANCE (CARDINALS-2008), 2 NBA FINALS APPEARANCES (SUNS-1976, 1993); CHAMPIONSHIP DROUGHT OF 17 YEARS

Arizona

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS (1 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP-2001):  We’ll start probably with the “least cursed” out of them, and the “youngest” of the bunch in the Diamondbacks.  Arizona bucked the trend of the whole “expansion team” experience early on.  Yeah, the first season in 1998 wasn’t anything to behold as they were 65-97.  Again, that’s not a curse, but more of a franchise rite of passage.  In 1999, the Diamondbacks didn’t wait long and signed Randy Johnson to get fans talking about contention while getting strong contributions from the likes of Luis Gonzalez and Steve Finley.  In their second year, Arizona won 100 games, but bowed out in the NLDS to the Mets on what was a highlighted moment of Todd Pratt’s walk-off home run to win it for New York, just past the outstretched gold glove of Steve Finley.  2 years later however, the Diamondbacks won the World Series thanks to Randy Johnson and then Curt Schilling, who were one of the most lethal 1-2 punches in this modern era.  The next year Arizona made it back to the playoffs, winning 98 games but were swept by St. Louis.  After that, the Diamondbacks made a string of questionable moves, trading Schilling to Boston and trading for Richie Sexson while Gonzalez and Finley continued to age.  Arizona had a record of 51-111 just 3 years after their World Series win.  However, after a quick rebuild, the Diamondbacks made it to the NLCS in 07 before being swept by the Rockies.  However the rebuild was short lived as the likes of Brandon Webb (who was supposed to be the next great ace and showed it in 06 and 07) was oft injured.   Chris Young never panned out as many hoped.  Mark Reynolds was all-or-nothing at the plate.  They brought Randy Johnson back after trading him to the Yankees after the 2004 season, but he was on his decline.  Dan Haren had a couple of good years on the mound for them but fell apart in 2010 before being shipped to the Angels.  Arizona made it back to the playoffs in 2011, but lost to Milwaukee in extra innings in Game 5 of the NLDS.  After that season, Arizona never made it past .500 until 2017 when they went into the postseason as wild card, beating rival Colorado but then being swept by the Dodgers.  Now there is concerns that the Diamondbacks may move out of Phoenix as they had been wanting the city to pay for upgrades and maintenance.  The city on the other hand has been telling them no.  So the question is will the Diamondbacks stay in the Phoenix area a la Glendale where the Coyotes are, or will they up and move to a whole new state?

CURSED MOVES:  Arizona is more of the “the Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away.”  They’ve had done some good moves such as trading Karim Garcia to Detroit for Luis Gonzalez and acquiring Curt Schilling from Philadelphia.  However, the Schilling to Boston deal didn’t pan out as well (though Brandon Lyon wasn’t too bad).  However, Arizona fans would love to have a mulligan on two big trades, ironically both 3 team trades with the Tigers and Yankees.  The first trade was letting young fireballer Max Scherzer go to Detroit while getting Ian Kennedy from the Yankees.  Kennedy did okay in his first year with Arizona but fell apart after.  And with Scherzer, well, you know that story right now.  The other 3 team trade was trading Didi Gregorius to the Yankees while getting Robbie Ray back.  So far, it hasn’t been a complete wash, but Ray has been injured a good bit this year after a Cy Young-like year last year.  Gregorius has come into his own as a good power hitting shortstop with the Yankees as Arizona right now is hoping Ketel Marte is a solution.  Speaking of Marte, he was acquired in a deal with Seattle that sent Jean Segura and Mitch Haniger, both of whom are major contributors to the Mariners strong season in 2018.   And an honorable mention of another stinging trade was trading Ender Inciarte and top overall pick in 2015 Dansby Swanson to the Braves for Shelby Miller who has pitched a total of 24 games in 3 seasons due to Tommy John surgery and has not pitched this season to this point.  Worse, he hasn’t been effective when he has pitched.  Inciarte has been a defensive wizard, winning two Gold Gloves in Atlanta and after a slow start, Swanson has picked it up.

DEFINING CURSED MOMENT:  I originally leaned towards Finley’s miss of robbing Pratt’s home run, but I label that more as heartbreaking.  I will say the 2011 NLDS Game 5 where it went to extra innings as Arizona opted not to intentionally walk Nyjer Morgan with Gomez on 2nd and 1 out as he hit a soft comebacker that snuck by JJ Putz and shortstop Willie Bloomquist that sent the Brewers into the NLCS.

CURSED RATING: 2/5 (SLIGHTLY CURSED-partly due to the poor trades in recent memory)

NFL: NFC Championship-Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers

ARIZONA CARDINALS (1 SUPER BOWL APPEARANCE-2009):  We will just talk about the Cardinals history in Phoenix/Arizona and not when they resided in St. Louis or Chicago.  So I will sum it up about the Cardinals run from when they were in the Desert since 1986 through 2007: 1 playoff.  And years of being completely irrelevant to the NFL.  The Cardinals only had one year of a winning record, going 9-7 in that time period.  There had been hope in the mid-90’s of bringing some sort of hope with Buddy Ryan and bringing in his defensive studs from those early 90’s Eagles defenses, but his demeanor and attitude didn’t help and while the likes of former Eagles Clyde Simmons and Seth Joyner were solid, Arizona didn’t look like those Eagles teams Ryan coached earlier.  The funny thing was, Arizona had some quality players like Aeneas Williams and Eric Hill who could work, but it would be another issue, notably on offense as they never had a consistent quarterback as they went with the likes of Neil Lomax, Dave Kreig, and Boomer Esiason to change things (but the latter two were well on the downswing of their careers) They had hoped Jake Plummer would turn things around and after a playoff win in Dallas, it would have happened to go along with Rob Moore and Frank Sanders while adding a beast at WR in David Boston from Ohio State.  But nope.  Plummer was inconsistent in his time with the Cardinals and Boston had is issues despite being a talented receiver.  Signings of aging players like Emmitt Smith didn’t help either.  However, things changed when the Cardinals picked up Kurt Warner, who was pretty much left for dead after his one year with the Giants, supposedly to help mentor Matt Leinart.  Instead, Warner, with weapons of Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald started turn things around in Arizona and got the Cardinals to a stunning Super Bowl run despite being 9-7.  It nearly was a Cinderella season as Arizona nearly pulled off beating the Steelers in the Super Bowl, but an amazing catch by Santonio Holmes from Ben Roethlisberger with 35 seconds left ended that hope.  Arizona made the playoffs again in 2009 but were out-gunned by a higher octane New Orleans Saints squad.  Warner retired after the season and left a huge void (Leinart had left for Oakland at the same time).  Arizona changed philosophy a couple years after and became a very defensive oriented team and bringing in veteran QB Carson Palmer.  In 2014, the Cards had a great shot being the first team to play a Super Bowl  in their home stadium starting off 9-1, but injuries to Carson Palmer and then backup Drew Stanton derailed that as Arizona lost the division to Seattle and then got unceremoniously bounced by the 7-8-1 Panthers in the Wild Card.  A year later and with a healthy Palmer, the Cardinals won the NFC West, beat Green Bay in a classic overtime thriller (had the Cardinals lost that game, everybody would have pointed to Aaron Rodgers Hail Mary as the cursed moment in Cardinals history), but then got embarrassed by Carolina as the entire bottom fell out that day.  Since then, Palmer was unable to keep healthy or consistent and despite having a young running back in David Johnson (who was lost early in the 2017 season due to injury and pretty much eliminating Arizona from any contention), the Cardinals have gone back to obscurity though only being 15-16-1, but they’re just not a threat in the conference or division at this point.

CURSED MOVES:  When you’re talking Arizona pre-2008, take your pick.  Signing of Emmitt Smith, drafting Leinart, drafting Wendell Bryant, etc. but to me trading Thomas Jones was a problem.  Jones had some great years with the Bears and the Jets he never had in Arizona and helped take the Bears to a Super Bowl and the Jets to an AFC Championship game.  Arizona may not have utilized him the way he should have or it may have been just a wrong scheme, but to me, this was always a bit of a shocker they gave up on him so early.

DEFINING CURSED MOMENT: Probably the Holmes catch on the Cardinals in the Super Bowl.  It was a great catch and a catch not many could have done.  And Holmes did it with 35 seconds left to keep the longest championship drought in NFL history going.

CURSED LEVEL: 4/5 (PRETTY CURSED)

Arizona

PHOENIX SUNS (2 NBA FINALS APPEARANCES-1976, 1993):  As far as my memory serves me, I have always remembered the Suns when they were near the top of the NBA mountain of being one of those offensive juggernauts.  The Suns made a Finals appearance in 1976 against Boston despite being only 42-40 and took the Celtics during their glorious run to 6.  And bear in mind Phoenix at that point was still a young team.  The Suns slowly flexed their muscles in the late 70’s/early 80’s, but had difficulty getting to the Western Conference Finals in that time (remember this is when the Lakers ruled the roost).  However, you saw a small rebuild in the mid-80’s which probably led to the Suns golden era from 1988-1995.  They were an offensive juggernaut, ranking near the top of the league in scoring and it was led by Kevin Johnson, Jeff Hornacek, Tom Chambers, Eddie Johnson, and then later on with Dan Majerle and Cedric Ceballos.  For four seasons, the Suns made it past the first round 3 of those years and ended up being in the Conference Finals two of those years before bowing out to the Lakers and Portland.  Phoenix needed some toughness as many considered them being too flashy to win and traded for Charles Barkley.  Barkley made an impact as Phoenix won 63 games in 1993 enabling them homecourt throughout the playoffs.  However, the Suns failed to win a game at home in the Finals to the Jordan-led Bulls team, losing in 6 games.  With Jordan retiring, many penned the Suns to roll out West, but somewhat scuffled in 1993-1994.  They get into the playoffs looking like the team before, sweeping Golden State and taking a 2-0 lead on the Hakeem Olajuwon led Rockets winning both in Houston.  However, the Rockets crushed Phoenix in the next two and ultimately winning in 7.  A year later, the Suns built really a superteam before we knew it, adding Danny Manning and Wayman Tisdale as they all wanted the ring.  The Suns won the division and faced Houston in the semis, where this time Phoenix took a 3-1 series lead only to blow it.  Then the Suns traded Majerle to the Heat.  And Barkley was unhappy on the team’s direction, wanting a trade.  Phoenix sent Barkley to Houston for 4 guys including Robert Horry, Sam Cassell, Chucky Brown, and Mark Bryant.  The trade was a mess in all actuality as Horry hated being with the Suns and an image of him throwing a towel at coach Danny Ainge has pretty much been his lone Suns highlight and was traded to the Lakers to bring back Ceballos.  Cassell didn’t make it past one season as he was shipped to Dallas for Jason Kidd.  The Suns from 96-03 were still playoff bound most years, but one-and-done save for 2000 when they got stomped by the Lakers.  After bringing back Steve Nash and hiring Mike D’Antoni, the Suns returned to being the high-octane offense that served them well in the late 80’s/early 90’s, getting back to the conference finals in 05 and 06, but as their offense rolled, the team defense was a mess, and was bounced out by teams with a defensive prowess with San Antonio and Dallas.  A couple of playoff runs that had them bounced again thanks to defensive woes and a rare miss of a playoff despite being 46-36, the Suns became the Lakers bridesmaids once more thanks to a porous defense to compliment the #1 offense led by Nash and Amare Stoudemire.  After the 2010 season, Phoenix has not made a playoff appearance despite one year winning 48 games (and in the East that would have netted them a homecourt advantage in the first round most years).  So this team to me is pretty cursed.

CURSED MOVE:  The Suns in their first golden time in the late 80’s/mid-90’s couldn’t have done anything wrong, whether it was trades, signings, or drafts.  They were known for making good draft steals (Nash, Majerle, Wesley Person, Ceballos, Michael Finley, etc.) and while the Barkley trade itself was a mess in its own right, they ended up getting Jason Kidd back ultimately.  And really it wasn’t a move that the Suns did, but it was a move the Suns DIDN’T do.  And that was to counter the Rockets in the mid 90’s with Hakeem Olajuwon.  I know they couldn’t have traded for Shaq, Robinson, or Ewing, but Mark West was not the man to stop him.  And Oliver Miller, while young constantly battled weight issues throughout his career.  And then there was Joe Kleine…and Danny Schayes.  Those moves the Suns made of getting Manning and Tisdale weren’t awful by any stretch.  But it made Phoenix a smaller team in a conference where they had to see Hakeem and Robinson in the playoffs in 1995.  They brought in Hot Rod Williams the year after, but the damage may have been done as Phoenix wasn’t considered a front-runner by then.  I was a bit stunned that the Suns didn’t inquire about Kevin Willis with the Hawks before the 1994-1995 season began as he would have filled a huge void in the middle.

DEFINING CURSED MOMENT: Two moments stick out in my head for the Suns actually and both can be defined as the cursed moments.  I’m emulating Marv Albert’s voice here: “Here’s Paxson for three! Yes!” The Suns in the 93 Finals were down 3-1 and beat Chicago on their court for Game 5.  They came back to Phoenix and the Suns clamped down on the Bulls in the 4th in Game 6, taking a 2 point lead late.  After a dish by Pippen to Grant who found the open Paxson, he nailed the shot as Paxson ran down the court arms up in the air right after.  An honorable mention was Mario Elie’s game winning 3 pointer in 1995 in Game 7 of the semis completing Houston’s comeback as Elie blew a kiss towards the Suns bench right after.  Really, the kiss of death for the Suns of that time period (oddly, Elie would play for Phoenix 6 years later).

CURSED RATING: 4/5 (PRETTY CURSED)

Arizona

PHOENIX/ARIZONA COYOTES:  Oh boy.  It’s hard to believe at one point when the Coyotes first arrived from Winnipeg they were considered a Western Conference front-runner alongside the likes of the Avalanche, Red Wings, and Stars of the late 90’s, but they were.  They had all-stars in Keith Tkachuk, Cliff Ronning, Mike Gartner.  They had quality veterans in Dallas Drake, Dave Manson, Darrin Shannon, and Teppo Numminen.  Then you had some young stars in Shane Doan, Oleg Tverdovsky, and Nikolai Khabibulin.  And just to get the new home fans excitement, trade for all-around star Jeremy Roenick from Chicago.  And what do you get out of it?  How about no playoff series wins.  The Coyotes continued the tradition that plagued the Jets since 1988 of being one and done in the playoffs.  From 97-02, the Coyotes were eliminated in the first round 5 of the 6 years (with the lone year they were out of the playoffs).  After that point, the Coyotes suffered 6 straight years of not making the playoffs ironically at a time when Wayne Gretzky (yes, that same Great One Wayne Gretzky) was coaching them.  Dave Tippett took over for Gretzky before the 09-10 season and had a re-birth for the Coyotes getting back to the playoffs with the likes of Doan, Matthew Lombardi, Ed Jovanovski, and Radim Vrbata and a good young blue-liner in Keith Yandle.  However, two more first round eliminations happened thanks to the Detroit Red Wings (whose dynasty was waning at this point).  Also, talks of the Coyotes leaving back to Winnipeg took full focus thanks in part to porous attendance. However, Gary Bettman stepped in and helped Phoenix keep its hockey team while Winnipeg would take Atlanta’s team instead.  After the save, Phoenix broke the 1st round curse in getting to the Western Conference Finals in 2012 before losing to the eventual champion Kings.  Since then however, it has been more of a mess for the Coyotes as they have missed the playoffs for the last 6 years, and not even coming close at all.  Worse, the Coyotes are near the bottom of attendance once again as only the Islanders had worse attendance numbers and the Isles & Hurricanes had a lower percentage of fans to come out to their home arenas.

CURSED MOVE: I wouldn’t call it a move on the Coyotes part, but those early years while the Coyotes were figured to be a contender in the West, the thing that really stuck out was two of the youngsters, Khabibulin and Tverdovsky had contract disputes with the Coyotes which really ultimately led the Coyotes having to trade them later on.  Had the Coyotes kept those guys for the long run and solved those disputes, who knows what the landscape of the Western Conference would be with the Red Wings, Avalanche, and Stars owning it.   Could the Coyotes have mixed in with those teams?  And also, could hockey in Phoenix have been very different than what we see now?  The worse part was that Khabibulin and Tverdovsky, after both left Phoenix, would win Stanley Cups elsewhere.

DEFINING CURSED MOMENT:  There hasn’t been many successful seasons in Phoenix, but I go back to the 98-99 season when the Coyotes were ranked 4th behind the Stars, Avs, and Wings.  They went up against a Blues team without Brett Hull and many figured the Yotes would win that series.  The series got pushed to 7 after the Coyotes had a 3-1 series lead.  And Pierre Turgeon scored the lone goal via deflection, a game-winner late in the first overtime to end it for Phoenix.  Honestly, it may have been a game that the franchise has never recovered from either.

CURSED RATING: 4/5 (PRETTY CURSED)

Overall, Phoenix isn’t the most cursed sports city in America, but they’ve had their share of rough moments and all within the modern time period.  Sure, it won’t get the hype like Cleveland has or Philadelphia/Washington has, but the fans out there have experienced a little too much heartbreak out in the desert with their teams.  But at least Luis Gonzalez and the Diamondbacks came back off of Mariano Rivera in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series so that has to account for something.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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MLB Summer Trade Market 2018: An early forecast on this year’s trade deadline

The MLB season is in full swing and we are getting ready to reach the start of the summer of the long baseball season. June is a few days away and that means that we are inching closer and closer to the trade market heating up in its classic summer form. With my knowledge, I’ve mapped out multiple trades that I think could happen during the trade deadline. So without further ado, let’s get into my early trade deadline predictions. And we will surely look back at this in July and see if I was right with any of my predictions. Let’s go!

  • The Boston Red Sox acquire catcher J.T. Realmuto and second baseman Starlin Castro from the Miami Marlins.
  • The Philadelphia Phillies acquire third baseman Josh Donaldson from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for multiple young, talented prospects.
  • The Cleveland Indians acquire reliever Kelvin Herrera from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for a prospect or two.
  • The Atlanta Braves acquire third baseman Mike Moustakas and veteran starter Ian Kennedy from the Kansas City Royals.
  • The New York Yankees acquire reliever Brad Hand from the San Diego Padres.
  • The New York Yankees acquire left handed starter Patrick Corbin from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
  • The Chicago Cubs acquire right handed starter Chris Archer from the Tampa Bay Rays.
  • The Milwaukee Brewers acquire first baseman Justin Bour from the Miami Marlins.
  • The Houston Astros acquire left handed reliever Zach Britton from the Baltimore Orioles.
  • The Los Angeles Angels acquire left handed starter J.A. Happ from the Toronto Blue Jays.
  • The Cleveland Indians acquire veteran outfielder Adam Jones from the Baltimore Orioles.
  • The Los Angeles Dodgers acquire utility specialist Jed Lowrie from the Oakland Athletics.
  • The Milwaukee Brewers acquire veteran lefty Cole Hamels from the Texas Rangers.
  • The Philadelphia Phillies acquire right handed reliever Brad Brach from the Baltimore Orioles.
  • The Seattle Mariners acquire veteran second baseman Brian Dozier from the Minnesota Twins.
  • The Milwaukee Brewers bring back veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy in a trade with the Oakland Athletics.
  • The Cleveland Indians acquire second baseman Scooter Gennett from the Cincinnati Reds.
  • Despite the Orioles being huge sellers at the deadline, they hold off on swinging a deal trading away All-Star shortstop Manny Machado.

The Obstructed National League West Preview

One of the things about the National League West that I don’t think gets enough credit is they are a dog-eat-dog division.  It seems like year after year you have a fight among the teams from first through fifth.  And how each team goes about their way is different.  We know historically that the Dodgers, Giants, and Padres, thanks in part to their ballparks, are more oriented with pitching and it shows year in and year out while the Rockies and Diamondbacks, known for having two great offensive parks, are more inclined to rely heavy on the bats.

Dodgers

Last year we saw the Dodgers roll in the NL West though the Rockies and Diamondbacks both played out of their minds to snag both Wild Cards.  The Padres were still in the midst of rebuilding and the Giants just had really bad luck all year round (or so Giants fans think and hope) and weren’t a factor in the division.

Even the off-season had a strange feel for all the teams.  The Dodgers unusually stood pat for the most part.  The Rockies added more bullpen help while their young arms in the rotation can get them over.  Arizona stood pat (and probably lost ground by letting JD Martinez walk).  But the Padres and Giants made key moves as San Diego was a player in the free agent market by getting one of the top prizes in Eric Hosmer and the Giants have gone all in for the 2018 season adding Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen in the mix to hopefully solidify a lineup that really fell apart in 2017.

My team previews are where I see them in the standings in 2018 so in other words, this where I think they will be.

Kershaw

1ST PLACE: LOS ANGELES DODGERS

2017: 104-58 (1st place; beat Arizona in NLDS, beat Chicago Cubs in NLCS, lost to Houston in World Series)

OFF-SEASON: ADDS:  OF-Matt Kemp (trade-Atlanta), P-Scott Alexander (trade-Kansas City), P-Tom Koehler (FA-Toronto), SUBTRACTS: P-Yu Darvish (FA-Chicago Cubs), P-Brandon Morrow (FA-Chicago Cubs), P-Tony Watson (FA-San Francisco), OF-Curtis Granderson (FA-Toronto), OF-Franklin Gutierrez (FA), OF-Andre Ethier (FA), P-Grant Dayton (Waivers-Atlanta), 1B-Adrian Gonzalez (Trade-Atlanta), IF-Charlie Culberson (Trade-Atlanta), P-Brandon McCarthy (Trade-Atlanta), P-Scott Kazmir (Trade-Atlanta), P-Luis Avilan (Trade-Chicago White Sox)

Outlook:  You do have to think that the Dodgers did a lot of addition by subtraction here by gutting some roster with sending away players who were high priced and not living up to the expectations (Kazmir, Gonzalez).  Los Angeles still has one of the most all-around rosters in all of baseball and a great young group while having a farm system that is very good.  So barring injuries, it is hard to think the Dodgers won’t be playing October baseball.  However, some players do need to make an impact like many had hoped when they first arrived, notably Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig.  If those two can get it going at the right time, oh boy.  Are there questions in the rotation behind Kershaw as in can Rich Hill and Alex Wood show 2017 wasn’t a fluke?  Perhaps, but right now I don’t see either one sliding off too much in 2018 (barring injury).  If the Dodgers can keep healthy, a repeat to the World Series is a very strong chance.

OVERALL PROJECTION: 99-63 (Dodgers may not have a better record than 17, but may have a better team in 2018)

 

Miami Marlins v Arizona Diamondbacks

2ND PLACE: ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

2017: 93-69, 2nd place (defeated Colorado in Wild Card round; lost to Los Angeles Dodgers in NLDS)

OFF-SEASON: ADDS:  P-Brad Boxberger (Trade-Tampa Bay), OF-Steven Souza Jr. (Trade-Tampa Bay) C-Alex Avila (FA-Chicago Cubs) SUBTRACTS: C-Chris Iannetta (FA-Colorado), IF-Adam Rosales (FA-Philadelphia), OF-Gregor Blanco (FA-San Francisco), OF-JD Martinez (FA-Boston), P-David Hernandez (FA-Cincinnati), P-Fernando Rodney (FA-Minnesota)

Outlook:  Arizona may have lost a bit in the off-season, notably from JD Martinez, who played HUGE for them after coming from Detroit in a mid-season trade.  But it’s hard to say they will take a huge step backwards.  After all, they have Paul Goldschmidt and Jake Lamb leading the way in the lineup.  The rest of the lineup is solid if anything where the likes of AJ Pollock, David Peralta, and Steven Souza Jr. can really hurt you if you aren’t careful.  The starting rotation is as good as any with Zack Greinke (though he has got to pitch better than what we’ve seen since he’s joined Arizona), Robbie Ray, and Patrick Corbin as well as Taijuan Walker.  The big question will be the pen as can Archie Bradley close out games and Brad Boxberger help set up?  That has to be somewhat of a question as well as keeping healthy.

2018 PROJECTION:  91-71 (look for Arizona to make a splash at the deadline to improve a need; catcher?)

 

Buster

3RD PLACE: SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

2017: 64-98, 5th Place

OFF-SEASON: ADDS: 3B-Evan Longoria (Trade-Tampa Bay), OF-Andrew McCutchen (Trade-Pittsburgh), OF-Austin Jackson (FA-Cleveland), P-Tony Watson (FA-Los Angeles Dodgers)  SUBTRACTS: P-Matt Moore (Trade-Texas), 3B-Christian Arroyo (Trade-Tampa Bay), OF-Denard Span (Trade-Tampa Bay), P-Kyle Crick (Trade-Pittsburgh), P-Matt Cain (retired)

Outlook: The Giants SHOULD get better from their miserable 2017 season.  They had down years from practically all the guys that didn’t need down years save Buster Posey.  Brandon Belt was way down as was Brandon Crawford.  Hunter Pence struggled tremendously while Madison Bumgarner was lost for a long period of time.  The rotation struggled with Johnny Cueto being very off and Jeff Samardzija being a victim of bad luck at times.  In case that the Brandon boys struggled again, the Giants added more depth by getting a former MVP in Andrew McCutchen and a former MVP candidate in Evan Longoria to really pick up the offense, that is if McCutchen can continue upward from a bad 2016 season (he had a good year in 2017 with Pittsburgh) and Longoria rebounds from a very down year (probably his worst season to date).  So San Francisco is hoping with the year being even again that the high risk will mean a high reward again.

2018 PROJECTION: 85-77 (Too many what-ifs for me to give the Giants a 2nd place finish).

 

Arenado

4TH PLACE: COLORADO ROCKIES

2017: 87-75 (3rd place, lost to Arizona in Wild Card)

OFF-SEASON: ADDS: C-Chris Iannetta (FA-Arizona), P-Wade Davis (FA-Chicago Cubs), P-Bryan Shaw (FA-Cleveland); SUBTRACTS: C-Ryan Hanigan (FA-Cleveland), C-Jonathan Lucroy (FA-Oakland), IF-Alexi Amarista (FA-Detroit), P-Tyler Chatwood (FA-Chicago Cubs), P-Pat Neshek (FA-Philadelphia) 1B/3B-Mark Reynolds (FA)

Outlook:  Colorado’s torrid start in 2017 was enough to get the Rockies a Wild Card spot in October.  The key reason why they got off to a great start was the Rockies bullpen started out great with the moves they made.  However, the starters did not eat a lot of innings, any of them and the bullpen got overworked and underachieved.  And really like every other year for the past 25 years in Denver, the Rockies pitching failed.  They did sign closer Wade Davis away from Chicago which helps and added a quality reliever in Bryan Shaw, but again, if the Rockies starters fail to deliver, it will be a similar situation to 2017.  Part of me thinks last year the Rockies sneaked up on some teams with their offense and how they crushed the ball at Coors, but when the Rockies slipped, they were human, especially on the road (similar to the last 25 years).  The Rockies have to play better away from Coors and the rotation has to pitch better, and that has always been the dilemma in Colorado.  I’m not sure if they will sneak up on anybody especially if San Francisco and San Diego get better.

2018 PROJECTION: 79-83 (Forgive me for not going in on the Rockies, they are the same group as we remembered in the old Blake Street Bombers days).

 

Hosmer

5TH PLACE: SAN DIEGO PADRES

OFF-SEASON: ADDS:  1B-Eric Hosmer (FA-Kansas City), 3B-Chase Headley (Trade-New York Yankees), SS-Freddy Galvis (Trade-Philadelphia), C-AJ Ellis (FA-Miami), P-Kazuhisa Makita (FA-Japan), P-Bryan Mitchell (Trade-New York Yankees); SUBTRACTS:  P-Jabari Blash (Trade-New York Yankees), 2B-Ryan Schimpf (Trade-Tampa Bay), SS-Erick Aybar (FA-Minnesota), P-Jhoulys Chacin (FA-Milwaukee)

Outlook: San Diego always comes off as baseball’s red-headed stepchild to me.  They don’t do anything that makes anybody impressed.  They have historically played a stale style of baseball since the expansive Petco Park opened in 2004 and nobody is ever excited about them year in and year out.  And they haven’t been a legit threat in the West for nearly 15 years.  But they did try to make a splash in the off-season signing Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer to generate some offense to go alongside Wil Myers, who should have a better year in 2018.  Adding on, San Diego has one of the best farm systems in all of baseball so it could be a new dawn for Padres fans real soon.  Maybe not this year but soon enough.

2018 PROJECTION: 77-85 (San Diego may be a spoiler to the rest of the NL West down the stretch)

That’s it for now.

 

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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