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 AL Central Preview

The AL Central from the mid-90’s through the early part of the 2000’s was dubbed the Comedy Central for having some bad teams in that time period. Cleveland dominated while the rest could never seem to get it together. Yes, you had years where teams would go up and down in the standings, but nothing in the way of being a major legit.

So we fast forward to the last couple of seasons. The Indians once again dominate and the other teams are just a mess. Minnesota has shown hope and promise but last year the Twins disappointed as some had them to be a threat for the Wild Card. The Tigers are deep in their rebuild. The Royals are as well. The White Sox however, are trying to show their rebuild is near an end.

So will the Indians thrive? Will the Twins off-season moves give Cleveland a fight within the division? Will Chicago contend? Will the rebuilding process of Detroit and Kansas City continue to progress into maybe something quicker?

Kluber was subject to trade rumors this off-season but the Indians did the right thing

(1) CLEVELAND INDIANS

Last year: 91-71 (Lost to Houston in ALDS)

KEY ADDITIONS: OF-Jake Bauers (Trade-Tampa Bay), 1B-Carlos Santana (Trade), DH-Hanley Ramirez (FA-Boston), 2B-Brad Miller (FA-Los Angeles Dodgers), C-Kevin Plawecki (Trade-New York Mets), IF-Max Moroff (Trade-Pittsburgh), OF-Jordan Luplow (Trade Pittsburgh), OF-Carlos Gonzalez (FA-Colorado)

KEY LOSSES: DH-Edwin Encarnacion (Trade-Seattle), IF-Yandy Diaz (Trade-Tampa Bay), C-Yan Gomes (Trade-Washington), IF-Erik Gonzalez (Trade-Pittsburgh), 3B-Josh Donaldson (FA-Atlanta), IF-Adam Rosales (FA-Minnesota), OF-Michael Brantley (FA-Houston), OF-Melky Cabrera (FA-Pittsburgh), OF-Lonnie Chisenhall (FA-Pittsburgh), OF-Rajai Davis (FA-New York Mets), P-Josh Tomlin (FA-Atlanta), P-Cody Allen (FA-Los Angeles Angels), 1B-Yonder Alonso (Trade-Chicago White Sox), P-Andrew Miller (FA-St. Louis)

The Indians still have a load of talent on their roster that is really unmatched in the AL Central. There is no better left side of an infield than Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez in all of baseball. The rotation headed by Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer is stout and when you throw in Mike Clevinger, yikes. Cleveland also brings back former Tribe star Carlos Santana who had a bit of a disappointing year in Philadelphia. However, it feels like the window to win a World Series is starting to close a bit. Andrew Miller and Cody Allen are gone. Cleveland also said goodbye to Michael Brantley and Edwin Encarnacion as well. There had been talk that Cleveland would ship out ace Kluber in the off-season but it didn’t happen. They brought in Carlos Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez. Had this been 2009, these would be great pickups. With that said, the Tribe knows how to get the best of veterans on the downswing. But Cleveland from an October standpoint are somewhat lagging behind the AL’s big boys in depth. Should the Indians win the AL Central? Yes. But it doesn’t feel like the same team we’ve seen in 2016-2018. MY PREDICTION: 88-74

IF Berrios is a little more consistent he can be the Twins ace without question.

(2) MINNESOTA TWINS

Last year: 78-84

KEY ADDITIONS: DH-Nelson Cruz (FA-Seattle), 1B-CJ Cron (Waivers-Tampa Bay), 2B-Jonathan Schoop (FA-Milwaukee), 3B-Marwin Gonzalez (FA-Houston), P-Blake Parker (FA-Los Angeles Angels), P-Ryne Harper (FA-Seattle), P-Martin Perez (FA-Texas)

KEY LOSSES: C-Chris Gimenez (Retired), 1B-Joe Mauer (Retired), 1B-Logan Morrison (FA), 2B-Logan Forsythe (FA-Texas), P-Robbie Grossman (FA-Oakland), P-Ervin Santana (FA-Chicago White Sox), P-Matt Belisle (FA)

The Twins a few years ago hoped that another run that was similar to the Mauer/Morneau/Cuddyer/Santana days would have happened by now with the likes of Miguel Sano/Byron Buxton/Eddie Rosario/Jose Berrios. It hasn’t happened. After a run in 2015 and one in 2017, the Twins have failed to garner that run as Sano has been all-or-nothing after his torrid start and Byron Buxton hasn’t found his groove yet. And Berrios has shown flashes, but nothing consistent as of yet. It is probably why Minnesota invested heavy into veterans such as slugger Nelson Cruz, Jonathan Schoop, and making a cople of good under-the-radar moves in CJ Cron (how’d the Rays let this guy go?) and Marwin Gonzalez. Of course, what may decide how well they do is their starting pitching. Berrios showed great signs of taking that next step and Kyle Gibson was reliable, but Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda will have to make those next steps to really put Minnesota in the mix of a Wild Card, perhaps a division title spot. They have the talent all around but can they put it all together and make that needed run? MY PREDICTION: 83-79

Eloy Jimenez is one of two young stars that will be must-see TV for MLB

(3) CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Last year: 62-100

KEY ADDITIONS: OF-Jon Jay (FA-Arizona), 1B-Yonder Alonso (Trade-Cleveland), C-James McCann (FA-Detroit), P-Ivan Nova (Trade-Pittsburgh), P-Alex Colome (Trade-Seattle), P-Kelvin Herrera (FA-Washington), P-Manny Banuelos (Trade-Los Angeles Dodgers)

KEY LOSSES: C-Omar Navarez (Trade-Seattle), IF-Matt Davidson (FA-Texas), OF-Avisail Garcia (FA-Tampa Bay), P-Jeanmar Gomez (FA-Texas), P-Hector Santiago (FA-New York Mets), P-James Shields (FA), P-Miguel Gonzalez (FA)

It’s hard to think what the White Sox had was a disappointment in the off-season after striking out on the big-name free agents of Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. But the good news is that the White Sox rebuild seems to be winding down and the South Side will get back into the swing of things in 2019. Of course, there will be some hiccups, but many hope to see the farm system really shoot up, notably with Eloy Jimenez who I am very high on. Add him with Jose Abreu and you have a nice punch there. If Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada can figure things out, keep an eye on this team at the All-Star Break. They may make a move to improve their rotation which is pretty anemic (surprised they didn’t go after Dallas Keuchel more), but it is also what may keep the White Sox from getting over that hump form being a threat for an October spot. But they will make strides this year and 2020, watch out! MY PREDICTION: 74-88

Merrifield was a nice surprise for the Royals in 2018

(4) KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Last year: 58-104

KEY ADDITIONS: DH-Lucas Duda (FA), C-Martin Maldonado (FA-Houston), OF-Billy Hamilton (FA-Cincinnati), OF-Chris Owings (FA-Arizona), OF-Terrance Gore (FA-Chicago Cubs), P-Homer Bailey (FA), P-Brad Boxberger (FA-Arizona), P-Jake Diekman (FA-Arizona), P-Chris Ellis (Rule 5-Texas),

KEY LOSSES: P-Jason Hammel (FA-Texas), IF-Alcides Escobar (FA)

IF you want to know the payment charge of winning a world championship, look at what has gone on in Kansas City. The Royals are 4 years removed from being the true kings of baseball, and with the moves of trading prospects for Johnny Cueto and others, while unable to compete to keep their key contributors (Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, and Mike Moustakas), dark ages reign supreme in Kansas City. This year, Salvador Perez is injured and likely out for the season as he was the last of the championship players. The Royals are in the early stages of the rebuild but if things go well, and make a good draft, keep an eye out for this group down the road. But again, for this year, not as much. The hopes of Lucas Duda, Chris Owings, and Billy Hamilton of getting the Royals into contention will not scare anybody. And Homer Bailey leading the way? Well, at least he is out of the Great American Smallpark. Just don’t expect a Cy Young run out of him. MY PREDICTION: 63-99

It will be a long year for Cabrera and the Tigers in the Motor City

(5) DETROIT TIGERS

Last year: 64-98

KEY ADDITIONS: IF-Josh Harrison (FA-Pittsburgh), SS-Jordy Mercer (FA-Pittsburgh), IF-Gordon Beckham (FA-Seattle), P-Tyson Ross (FA-St. Louis), P-Matt Moore (FA-Texas), P-Reed Garrett (Rule 5-Texas)

KEY LOSSES: C-James McCann (FA-Chicago White Sox), DH-Victor Martinez (Retired), SS-Jose Iglesias (FA-Cincinnati), P-Francisco Liriano (FA-Pittsburgh)

I’m going to quote the musician Mary Hopkin and say “Those were the days my friend, we thought they’d never end.” Double meaning for me. First off, any run the Tigers had from 2006-2014 was a nice run (2008 excluded) and those were some good teams that *could* have netted a world championship at some point, but never did. And the other meaning of the Detroit Tigers from 1995-2003 where they were just downright awful and you never thought Detroit would ever revert back to contention. Well, the latter has arrived in full swing since 2017. Now, there is slight hope as the once-depleted farm system has some arms to keep an eye on for the next few years (Alex Faedo, Matt Manning, Beau Burrows, Casey Mize), but as for 2019, uh, yikes. The Tigers are relying on Jordan Zimmermann, the injured and inconsistent Jordan Zimmermann. Supporting staff will include Tyson Ross, Matt Moore, and Matt Boyd (who did pitch pretty well at times), but this isn’t the rotation of Verlander, Scherzer, Anibal, Porcello, and Fister we are talking about…..or 1/5th of that. The bullpen has a good setup punch of Joe Jimenez for Shane Greene assuming the Tigers will have a lead in 2019. The offense, if they are to win will have to send Miguel Cabrera to the Fountain of Youth while making him become the Bionic Man as they look very thin outside of him and Nicholas Castellanos (who could be trade bait in July). Now if Jeimer Candelario makes strides after his first season in Detroit where he started fine but fell apart down the stretch, the Tigers will be somewhat formidable especially if their big off-season move of Josh Harrison has a good year and he has something to prove honestly so that part may help the Tigers out a bit and be somewhat competitive under Ron Gardenhire. But that rotation currently isn’t one to get hopes up for a Cinderella season. MY PREDICTION: 60-102

-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!

What This Year’s Hall of Fame Means to Me

Anybody who knows me knows I was born in Detroit and grew up there for the first portion of my life, up through I was nearly 12 years old.  They also know that for the rest of that time I’ve lived in the South, mostly Atlanta (with a two year stop in Alabama).  I still love my Detroit teams but I do love the Atlanta teams as well.  But I will pull for the Detroit squads before the Atlanta squads (save the Falcons and Lions where I held season tickets to Atlanta for a few years and was invested financially and emotionally).

So when February arrived and they announced the newest members of the Hall of Fame, I had to go.  It was a must.  The veterans committee selected Tigers greats Alan Trammell and Jack Morris.  And then the voters selected Chipper Jones on his first chance.  Also going were Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, and Jim Thome.  Every year I take the family and do a summer vacation to a different place that hosts an MLB team.  I had planned on doing the Rockies and Royals, but this was before I knew about who was getting in.  So the plans changed.

My wife teaches and is frustrated with me for the fact we are putting our vacation right before school starts (we Georgians start school in early August), but I told her she didn’t understand (thus taking the risk of being thrown on the couch) what going meant.

Showing my age here a little bit, but I was really young when the Tigers won their last World Series in 1984.  I remember vaguely that my mom and dad were standing outside Tiger Stadium hoping to get World Series tickets.  Spoiler alert: we didn’t.  But I remember at 5 starting to watch baseball on PASS Sports (Detroit’s sports station before Fox Sports did all local stuff) and seeing the Tigers.  My mom and dad went to a few games with her softball teams and would come back giving me a souvenir.  First was a pennant and the next was a Tigers helmet.  In 1986 I started watching the Tigers and the faces and names would be familiar with me: Alan Trammell, Jack Morris, Lou Whitaker, Kirk Gibson, Darrell Evans, Larry Herndon, Chet Lemon (my all-time Tiger), Tom Brookens, Lance Parrish.  I could go on.  I remembered at my local library they had allowed us to rent videos and they had the History of the Detroit Tigers video which I would always try to grab and watch when I got home so I could know about my Tigers.

But of course, my excitement spiked when my parents took me to Tiger Stadium when I was 6 and I was all excited.  Of course, we were in the lower deck and in the high rows which meant you couldn’t see the black & white scoreboard.  But I remember how the fans cheered for the Tigers and just looking around I was just amazed at everything Tiger Stadium had to offer.  It was heaven with the smell of hot dogs flowing all around the concourse.  Seeing the park was awesome and seeing the Tigers win was always a happy time for me.  The years after we got closer to the field and saw the scoreboard, which wasn’t wowing by today’s technology, but it was awesome to see it.

Detroit

As I said, it was always exciting to go to Tiger Stadium as a kid.  But it was more exciting as every time I went, they won.  And anytime I went Trammell would have a good day at the plate and on a couple of instances I saw Jack Morris pitch two complete games.  One of them a complete game shut-out on my birthday (as Trammell homered in that game as well).  But growing up it seemed like of all the players on the Tigers, Morris and Trammell were the constants that you felt like would always come through.  Morris was the proverbial bulldog, able to go 8 or 9 innings any outing and Trammell always seemed to have that clutch hit.  And when Morris was on, it felt like the Tigers couldn’t ever lose.  And I remember as a kid having a Jack Morris baseball card folder for school and the kids would always look at it and on the back of the folder had the stats of Morris through 1987.  Trammell as I said always came up big especially when I went to games at Tiger Stadium.  He was Mr. Reliable.  He wasn’t outspoken or flashy.  He did his job and did it well.  Every time I went to Tiger Stadium, I always got excited because they had a chance to win but also I knew Trammell would always give them a shot to win as I remember him hitting home runs, getting key hits and having a big night back in 1988 when he had 5 RBI against Boston when they threw out Roger Clemens against the Tigers.  Even on my last trip to Tiger Stadium in 1994 before the strike, I saw Trammell, whose prime had certainly passed at this point hit a home run in a come-from-behind win against the Athletics on Sunday Night Baseball.

Atlanta

I moved to Atlanta in the mid-90’s (in my teen years) and my first full year living here was Chipper’s rookie year in 1995.  I only saw two games at the old Fulton County Stadium (and two was enough for me), but Chipper played well in both games I saw though no home runs.  However, when the Braves moved to Turner Field, it seemed like starting in 1999 through 2012, Chipper ALWAYS homered when I went, whether they were winning or losing.  He was a pure hitter and a sight to see switch-hitting.  He wasn’t my favorite player because some of the comments he would make in the media and such, but I also know he was the face of the Braves franchise and the center piece.  1999 was a special year as the Braves, losing slugging star Andres Galarraga due to chemo treatment took a step back and the Mets were on the rise.  Chipper pretty much single-handedly beat the Mets in the head-to-head match-ups while hitting 45 HR en route to an MVP season.  But as I got older and at college, I would buy a couple of cheap seats in the 435 section and again, it always was like he would hit a home run.  Even in his final years, Chipper played at a high level and the same feeling I had for Trammell when I always went to Tiger Stadium, I had for Chipper of he was very capable of having a big night for a Braves win.  And much like the last time I saw Trammell play in person, Chipper homered in the last game I saw him play in person.  I guess with those two it was just a symbolic way to say goodbye and thanks.

Montreal

What puts a cherry on top of this Hall of Fame class to me is Vladimir Guerrero.  He wasn’t a Tiger or a Brave, but the minute he stepped on the field I was in awe of this guy.  One of the first games I ever went to Turner Field I was taken out of school for a day game between the Braves and Expos.  Maddux was on the mound so I was pumped as it was.  Then I see this guy for the Expos come up.  He had the range to get fly balls in right field, had a cannon for an arm, and was hitting shots.  He hit a double off of Maddux and in that same inning, this guy was fast that he tagged up from second base to score the go-ahead run and the place was stunned at his athleticism.  That guy?  Vladimir Guerrero.  The Braves actually won the game thanks to a Keith Lockhart walk-off, but all I remember that game was talking about Guerrero.  He had become one of my favorite players right behind Jeff Bagwell and anytime the Expos came to Atlanta until 2003, I was always excited on seeing Guerrero play.  For me what made Guerrero so fun was that he really never met a pitch he didn’t like and he was the best hitter who swung at the worst stuff and he did it with excellence.  His outfield was underrated I thought, but I know as the later years arrived he wasn’t the same guy.  But I still had to see him hit whenever he was on television, whether it was when he was with the Expos, Angels, Rangers, and Orioles.  Being in Atlanta you rarely see the Angels play and when Guerrero played with the Angels, they never arrived in Atlanta.  But in 2010, I was fortunate enough to get to Texas to visit my uncle in the Dallas area in early April and saw the Rangers (who had Guerrero that season) play.  And in the last game I saw Guerrero play in person………..he homered.  And on a side note, last year I went to Lansing and saw the Lansing Lugnuts play.  His son was a Lugnut, and much like his dad, was hitting missiles all over the place.  I can’t wait to see his son come up for the Blue Jays.

Cleveland.jpg

Jim Thome I only saw play a few times when he was with the Phillies and came to Atlanta.  He was not my favorite player (seemed like he was always on the rival teams of the Tigers and Braves) but I always liked him and appreciated his love of the game.  He always seemed like he had a smile on his face and was a true class act anywhere he went.  And a memorable moment was his home run #600 hit in Detroit as the sold out Tigers faithful gave him a standing ovation (probably because he destroyed Detroit all throughout his career with the Indians and Twins), but it couldn’t have happened to a better guy than Thome.  And I remember watching him growing up and just loved how he played the game.

Hoffman.jpg

Trevor Hoffman I only saw pitch twice as the Padres are only 3 games per year in the Atlanta area now.  But in those two games he didn’t allow a hit and struck out one guy.  But I remember the first time I saw him pitch in person (when I was in college) I was excited because I believed when he started to become that dominant closer that there wasn’t anybody better, which said something with Mariano Rivera also closing at the same time (and he was also one of the best ever).  But hearing AC/DC’s Hell’s Bells on tv when he came out to close a game was awe inspiring on top of it and it was like “oh yeah, it’s Trevor time.”  And like Thome he was also one of those guys that just seemed like he loved to play and like Thome, I don’t have any real connection with the guy but I always appreciated what he did for his team and baseball in general.

So there you have it.  My life in a nutshell with baseball.  As a little kid I grew up watching Jack Morris throw complete games and Alan Trammell having big nights at Tiger Stadium.  When my teen/early adult years arrived, I saw Chipper slice up pitchers left & right while hearing Ozzy’s Crazy Train before he came up.  Following Guerrero and never passing up a chance to see him play was a treat as well.  So really Trammell, Morris, Chipper, and Guerrero are 4 of the major guys who have made me come out to the ballpark and build that love for baseball.  And it spanned nearly 30 years of my life and going up there next Sunday is my way of saying “thank you” for they have done.

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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

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 Preview of the AL Central-2018

The American League Central on paper seems to go back to a vintage time when the Cleveland Indians ran the show.  The Tribe has fielded a far more balanced team than the ones in the 90’s that were dominated by Lofton, Belle, Manny, and Thome, but they are just as deadly thanks to a top-notch rotation.  Which means the rest of the division is well, fighting over who will come in second.

Or will it?

The Twins made some moves of going more in with key pickups and may surprise as a Wild Card contender and perhaps an outside shot at upending Cleveland for the division.  It’s not overly probable, but it is possible.

As for the rest of the division, it is in practical rebuild modes.  The White Sox seem to have all the pieces in play in the farm system to really make some noise maybe in the 2nd half of this season but really 2019 may be the year for Chicago.  The Royals and Tigers are really fighting it out to see which one can avoid last place as both are in early rebuilds.  So it is definitely not going to be an interesting division from top to bottom, nor the most competitive one for sure (perhaps the worst in baseball right now?), but there could be some surprises especially if Minnesota and Chicago can make some noise.

Previews are in order of where I project them to be.

1ST PLACE: CLEVELAND INDIANS:

Cleveland

2017: 102-60, 1st place (lost to New York Yankees in ALDS)

OFF-SEASON: ADDS: 1B-Yonder Alonso (FA-Seattle), OF-Rajai Davis (FA-Boston), P-Matt Belisle (FA-Minnesota), 1B-Mike Napoli (FA-Texas); SUBTRACTS: 1B-Carlos Santana (FA-Philadelphia), OF-Jay Bruce (FA-New York Mets), OF-Austin Jackson (FA-San Francisco), P-Craig Breslow (FA-Toronto), P-Boone Logan (FA-Milwaukee), P-Bryan Shaw (FA-Colorado), P-Joe Smith (FA-Houston)

Outlook:  The Indians possess a stellar lineup and one of the top rotations in all of baseball.  Corey Kluber is a true ace and when healthy, the likes of Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar are also great front-end guys.  The lineup with Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and Edwin Encarnacion is very potent, while the Tribe added Yonder Alonso to replace Carlos Santana.  IF there is a question, it will have to be the outfield again with the group of the oft-injured Michael Brantley, Rajai Lonnie Chisenhall, Bradley Zimmer, and Rajai Davis.  The good news is, the Indians are in a division where they can get to the deadline near the top or at the top and make a key trade to get another hitter like they did with Jay Bruce last year.  That is if the Indians are struggling for a power bat in the outfield.  But everything else is clicking, especially in the bullpen.  But again, while the roster is definitely good enough to win the AL Central, will there be enough offense in the outfield to get past the Yankees, Red Sox, and Astros?

MY PROJECTION: 100-62.  Indians will be just fine and should get a lot of W’s within the division, but they still need to get an outfield bat at some point.

 

2ND PLACE: MINNESOTA TWINS

Buxton.jpg

2017: 85-77, 2nd place (lost to New York Yankees in Wild Card Game)

OFF-SEASON: ADDS: 1B/DH-Logan Morrison (FA-Tampa Bay), OF-Ryan LaMarre (FA-Oakland), P-Lance Lynn (FA-St. Louis), P-Jake Odorizzi (Trade-Tampa Bay), P-Fernando Rodney (FA-Arizona) P-Addison Reed (FA-Boston), FA-Zach Duke (FA-St. Louis), P-Tyler Kinley (Rule 5-Miami); SUBTRACTS: P-Bartolo Colon (FA-Texas), P-Hector Santiago (FA-Chicago White Sox), P-Matt Belisle (FA-Cleveland), P-Dillon Gee (FA-overseas), P-Glen Perkins (Retired)

Outlook: After a rebound year from the disastrous 2016 season, the Twins sneaked into the Wild Card game.  With a good farm system and a youth push in Minnesota, the time to win is now for the Twins.  And they made key moves that you probably have to consider as bargains around with getting home run leader Logan Morrison from Tampa Bay and then Cardinals front-end starter Lance Lynn while trading for the Rays front-end guy in Jake Odorizzi.  The Twins starting lineup is pretty potent from top to bottom with the likes of Morrison, Brian Dozier, Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, etc.  The rotation needed the key upgrades and they got them.  Lynn and Odorizzi will help a rotation that will see Ervin Santana miss the first month of the season, but if Jose Berrios continues his upward trend as does Kyle Gibson, Minnesota will be barking on the Indians door.  The only question will be despite the moves in the bullpen is can the Twins win with Fernando Rodney as their closer?  He keeps getting jobs and the saves are up anywhere he goes, but he is very ugly in doing so.  But the adds of Addison Reed (in case Rodney fails would be the closer) and Zach Duke really helps out the Twins for the season.

MY PROJECTION:  92-70.  Minnesota could be a team nobody in the AL wants to see, especially in October.

 

3RD PLACE: CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Chicago.jpg

2017:  67-95, 4th place

OFF-SEASON: ADDS: C-Wellington Castillo (FA-Baltimore), P-Miguel Gonzalez (FA-Texas), P-Joakim Soria (Trade-Kansas City), P-Luis Avilan (P-Los Angeles Dodgers), P-Hector Santiago (FA-Minnesota); SUBTRACTS:  C-Geovany Soto (FA), P-Mike Pelfrey (Retired)

Outlook: Right now in Chicago it is more of the waiting game for the prospects the White Sox gained over the trades they made for the likes of Todd Frazier, Jose Quintana, Chris Sale, and Adam Eaton.  The White Sox will be primed more for the next season than this as the prospects get that experience.  But if they have to they can add more prospects as rumors abound that Avisail Garcia may be a trading chip as may be the White Sox acquisition of Wellington Castillo by the deadline if they are out of it.  But they will be a fun team, especially after the deadline and the roster expansion to see some of these top prospects get their feet wet in Chicago.  But right now, it is really about patience if you’re a fan of the Pale Hose.

MY PROJECTION: 73-89.  ChiSox will be a team to spoil somebody’s season in the last months with their young group.

 

4TH PLACE: DETROIT TIGERS

Detroit

2017: 64-98, 5th place

OFF-SEASON: ADDS: OF-Leonys Martin (FA-Chicago Cubs), OF-Niko Goodrum (FA-Minnesota), OF-Victor Reyes (Rule 5-Arizona), P-Francisco Liriano (FA-Houston), P-Mike Fiers (FA-Houston), P-Johnny Barbato (Waivers-Pittsburgh), SUBTRACTS: 2B-Ian Kinsler (Trade-Los Angeles Angels), P-Anibal Sanchez (FA-Atlanta), P-Bruce Rondon (non-tendered)

Outlook: Oiy.  Despite the moves last year of freeing up payroll of the heavy contracts of Justin Verlander and Justin Upton (and then this off-season with Ian Kinsler) and also improving the farm system, the Tigers still remain a gigantic mess.  I still believe GM Al Avila squandered the JD Martinez trade which he practically netted 3 light-hitting third basemen who only one has a legit shot at having any impact on an MLB roster and many other Tiger fans believe he squandered the moves of Verlander (Houston) and Justin Wilson (Cubs).  But there is talk of moving the ace of the Tigers, Michael Fulmer, to get MORE high ranked prospects and such.  But I guess it really doesn’t matter where I put Detroit and Kansas City as it can be interchanged at this point.  I guess my bias thinks that the likes of Miguel Cabrera won’t be as bad as 2017 where he hit only .245 and Ron Gardenhire will be better than Brad Ausmus as manager.  So there is some talent still on Detroit that can keep them from completely sinking (Castellanos, who also can be a huge trade chip), but still.  The rebuild is still in its early stages, and I don’t think Avila is the man to right the ship in Detroit.

MY PROJECTION: 67-95.  Detroit could logically move Castellanos (though it may be a bad year to do so given if the Jays and Orioles are out of it, Donaldson and Machado may be also on the block) and perhaps James McCann with perhaps Shane Greene.

 

5th PLACE: KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Duffy

2017: 80-82, 3rd place

OFF-SEASON: ADDS: OF-Jon Jay (FA-Chicago Cubs), 1B-Lucas Duda (FA-Tampa Bay), C-Ryan Goins (FA-Toronto), P-Wily Peralta (FA-Milwaukee), P-Justin Grimm (FA-Chicago Cubs), P-Blaine Boyer (FA-Boston), P-Burch Smith (Trade-New York Mets), P-Brad Keller (Trade Cincinnati), P-Jesse Hahn (Trade-Oakland); SUBTRACTS: 1B-Eric Hosmer (FA-San Diego), OF-Lorenzo Cain (FA-Milwaukee), P-Trevor Cahill (FA-Oakland), P-Jason Vargas (FA-New York Mets), P-Mike Minor (FA-Texas), P-Peter Moylan (P-Atlanta)

Outlook:  It could have been worse for the Royals this off-season had Mike Moustakas and Alicedes Escobar had also left Kansas City, but the damage was plenty done, seeing World Series heroes of Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain move on.  And then Kansas City’s best pitcher in 2017, Jason Vargas, is gone.  So you have a quality starter in Danny Duffy, but after him, there are questions abound, especially on that back end.  Worse, the bullpen of the Royals who looked to be as one of the best in their October runs, may be one of the worst in the Majors now outside Kelvim Herrera.  So, much like the Tigers, Kansas City will have to start replenish their farm as the moves they made in their October runs in 2014 and 2015 took a hit.  The question will be can they get a lot in return for a guy like Duffy, if the Royals were to offer him, as well as Herrera.  So there are plenty of questions if the Royals can do it through trades, especially if 3B is going to be a high-supply and low demand for teams come July.

MY PROJECTION: 66-96.  The Royals will have a run similar to Detroit in struggling for the next few years.  The farm system has to be improved.

One more week and one more division to cover!

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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