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 West Preview

The American League West one that at times can be tough to figure out on a yearly basis. Right now the Houston Astros are the team to beat in the West and has been that way for the last few years. The other teams, really tough to figure out. You have two teams that look to be a threat, but have holes that are just too much and you have two more teams you don’t know if they are coming or going anymore.

Last year the Astros won 103 games, two more than what they won in their world championship run in 2017. However, a loss to the better Boston Red Sox squad took away their chances of a repeat. The team that surprised many was the Oakland Athletics, winning 97 games and making a Wild Card berth before inexplicably trying to use the Tampa Bay Rays formula of trying to start with a reliever. They made moves to try to eat into the Astros dominance in 2019. The Mariners started off red hot, but could not capitalize on their start coupling in with the A’s and Astros remaining on a torrid pace. The Angels had Shohei Ohtani, the Japanese import who can do it all, but an injury took him back, as did the Angels, despite having the best player in the game in Mike Trout. And the Rangers were a few steps away from starting from scratch.

So will we see similar stories this year? Will Houston continue to thrive? Will Oakland continue to chase after them? Will the Angels get over the hump with Trout? Will the Mariners go into full rebuild? Will the Rangers clear off the final pieces to start fully over?

Verlander will need a Cy Young caliber year to really keep Houston ahead in the division

(1) HOUSTON ASTROS

Last year: 103-59 (defeated Cleveland in ALDS, lost to Boston in ALCS)

KEY ADDITIONS: OF-Michael Brantley (FA-Cleveland), C-Robinson Chirinos (FA-Texas), IF-Aledmys Diaz (Trade-Toronto), P-Wade Miley (FA-Milwaukee)

KEY LOSSES: C-Martin Maldonado (FA-Kansas City), C-Brian McCann (FA-Atlanta), OF-Marwin Gonzalez (FA-Minnesota), P-Dallas Keuchel (FA), P-Charlie Morton (FA-Tampa Bay), P-Tony Sipp (FA-Washington), C-Evan Gattis (FA)

The Astros made some moves and also lost some key guys such as Dallas Keuchel and Marwin Gonzalez. However, their farm system will keep them afloat assuming they won’t make a massive trade. The key move was bringing in Michael Brantley from Cleveland, who had a movie story comeback year in 2018. The Astros hope he continues the upward trend and enjoys the hitter friendly Minute Maid Park more than the pitcher-leaning Progressive Field. There will also be a new backstop as Brian McCann, Evan Gattis, and Martin Maldonado are all gone. The Astros brought in Robinson Chirinos to catch the likes of Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander. Speaking of Cole and Verlander, they will have to pitch like they did in 2018 as Houston said goodbye to former Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel and the durable Charlie Morton. That means free agent signing Wade Miley, Colin McHugh, and Brad Peacock will all have to step up in a big way. Houston’s bullpen should be relied on again, but if the back three struggle, it may tack on more innings and more energy so this is something to keep an eye on. But the Astros offense should be fine especially if George Springer and Carlos Correa rebound from mediocre years on their end to go along with MVP candidates Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman. And if Yuli Gurriel can also rebound from a not-as-good-as-2017 year the Astros should make another threat for the World Series. MY PREDICTION: 96-66

Oakland Athletics’ Khris Davis (2) hits a solo home run against the Texas Rangers in the third inning at the Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, August 20, 2018. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

(2) OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Last year: 97-65 (Lost to New York Yankees in Wild Card Game)

KEY ADDITIONS: IF-Jurickson Profar (Trade-Texas), C-Nick Hundley (FA-San Francisco), P-Marco Estrada (FA-Toronto), P-Joakim Soria (FA-Milwaukee), P-Jerry Blevins (FA-New York Mets)

KEY LOSSES: P-Emilio Pagan (Trade-Tampa Bay), C-Jonathan Lucroy (FA-Los Angeles Angels), IF-Jed Lowrie (FA-New York Mets), OF-Matt Joyce (Atlanta), P-Trevor Cahill (FA-Los Angeles Angels), P-Edwin Jackson (FA), P-Jeurys Familia (FA-New York Mets), P-Shawn Kelley (FA-Texas)

The Athletics surprised many all around baseball in 2018. The Matt boys (Chapman and Olson) were huge for the Athletics, who many were just rolling along until (if) the new ballpark came to fruition. So far, nothing in stone yet, but sounds like more progress has been made (yay!) With that said, Oakland was very busy in the off-season (like they mostly are). Jed Lowrie moves on to greener pastures in New York, but the Athletics hope they can get former top Rangers prospect Jurickson Profar going to go with a lineup that is vastly underrated in all of baseball with the Matts, Stephen Piscotty (who had a huge year) and Khris Davis. The Athletics hope to get some consistency behind the plate bringing in Nick Hundley to help out with a few good veterans including former Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada. However, if the Athletics are in contention at the deadline, which they should be, don’t be surprised if they look for front end help as while Mike Fiers and Estrada are durable, they won’t outduel the likes of Kluber, Verlander, Sale, etc. come October. The bullpen should be strong however with former closer Joakim Soria coming in to go along with Fernando Rodney (better used as a setup guy) with actual closer Blake Treinen. Oakland has gotten off to an 0-2 start with the Japan series, but I doubt it will continue. They should roll once April starts. MY PREDICTION: 92-70

The always happy Mike Trout will be happier if the Angels can see some October baseball

(3) LOS ANGELES ANGELS

Last year: 80-82

KEY ADDITIONS: 1B-Justin Bour (FA-Philadelphia), C-Jonathan Lucroy (FA-Oakland), C-Kevan Smith (Waivers-Chicago White Sox), IF-Tommy La Stella (Trade-Chicago Cubs), OF-Peter Bourjos (FA-San Francisco), P-Trevor Cahill (Oakland), P-Matt Harvey (FA-Cincinnati), P-Cody Allen (FA-Cleveland), P-Dan Jennings (FA-Milwaukee)

KEY LOSSES: OF-Chris Young (FA), OF-Eric Young Jr (FA-Baltimore), P-Garrett Richards (FA-San Diego), P-Matt Shoemaker (FA-Toronto), P-Blake Parker (FA-Minnesota), P-Junichi Tazwa (FA), P-Blake Wood

The Angels went through a bit of an overhaul in the off-season, adding pieces, notably to the pitching (Cahill, Harvey, Allen), and also having a new manager at the helm in Brad Ausmus, but the biggest move was this past week, locking in superstar and Mr. Angel Mike Trout to a 12 year deal north of $400 million. Trout stays, but one thing to take note is that the Angels will also need to add pieces around him to get into October baseball (something Trout has only seen ONE TIME in his career and that was 5 years ago). If they can find a way of eliminating Albert Pujols’s contract (odd to say that) it may be possible, but Pujols still has 3 years after this season…ouch! Trout’s teammates, notably Justin Upton, Andrelton Simmons and free agent Justin Bour will have to help Trout out and not go deep streaks of struggling. And Kole Calhoun HAS GOT to step up at some point. Last year was a disaster in nearly every sense for him. Now if sensation Shohei Ohtani gets more at-bats, that will also help tremendously. Ohtani won’t be pitching in 2019 but the Angels added a couple of arms in Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill. Nothing overly wowing but if Harvey notably pitches well (I think he just needed a change of scenery away from New York) the Angels could vie for a Wild Card, but the rotation is pretty thin outside of those two. The bullpen could help keep them in games, but if the rotation struggles, they may be tacked as well. MY PREDICTION: 81-81

Domingo Santana is trying to silence critics that Seattle won’t contend in 2019

(4) SEATTLE MARINERS

Last year: 89-73

KEY ADDITIONS: OF-Jay Bruce (Trade-New York Mets), DH-Edwin Encarnacion (Trade-Cleveland), OF-Domingo Santana (Trade-Milwaukee), C-Omar Narvaez (Trade-Chicago White Sox), SS-Tim Beckham (FA-Baltimore), IF-Dylan Moore (FA-Milwaukee), P-Yusei Kikuchi (FA-Japan), P-Hunter Strickland (FA-San Francisco), P-Cory Gearrin (FA-Oakland), P-Zach Rosscup (FA-Los Angeles Dodgers), P-Brandon Brennan (Rule 5-Colorado), P-Anthony Swarzak (Trade-New York Mets)

KEY LOSSES: P-Edwin Diaz (Trade-New York Mets), 2B-Robinson Cano (Trade-New York Mets), SS-Jean Segura (Trade-Philadelphia), OF-Ben Gamel (Trade-Milwaukee), P-Alex Colome (Trade-Chicago White Sox), P-James Paxton (Trade-New York Yankees), IF-Gordon Beckham (FA-Detroit), IF-Andrew Romine (FA-Philadelphia), DH-Nelson Cruz (FA-Minnesota), OF-Cameron Maybin (FA-San Francisco), OF-Denard Span (FA), P-Zach Duke (FA-Cincinnati), P-David Phelps (FA-Toronto), P-Adam Warren (FA-San Diego), C-Mike Zunino (Trade-Tampa Bay)

Before I begin, yes, the Mariners are 2-0 in Japan. However, do I expect Seattle to hold up? No. So why? Seattle was 89-73 last year with players who were doing their part especially with Robinson Cano on the suspended list for PED’s. Pretty much any other division, they are going to win the division (save AL East) and likely a Wild Card if they were in the NL. The last thing a franchise that has the longest playoff drought in baseball needs to do is blow up a team that was in the mix of the playoffs and have to “start over.” “But but they brought in veterans in the trades like Encarnacion, Bruce, and Santana!” So let guys who can hit the ball well all over the place, not whiff a billion times, have good averages and a power hitter who can obliterate the ball in any park including Yellowstone for guys who can really only benefit from being in hitter’s parks and go anemic in the larger ballparks such as Seattle’s T-Mobile Field (hard for me to say that one after years of saying Safeco) and in a division where there are a couple of large parks in their own right (Angel Stadium, Oakland Coliseum)? Brilliant. Add in for good measure trade away a lights-out closer and a solid set-up man as well as your most consistent starter in 2018, and you are going to get a contending team? That said, the moves made are obviously not set up for a 2018 run. However, we are talking about this year. I can see the Mariners for a while being competitive, but at some point, the rotation will fall back (Felix Hernandez will not be going back to a time machine to 2010), and there will be some frustrations for the power hitters to see home runs that would suffice in Toronto and Cincinnati be warning track outs in Seattle….and plenty of whiffs. I don’t see the need for the Mariners to rebuild after the season they had and you can see the likes of Encarnacion and Bruce get dealt again before the July deadline. MY PREDICTION: 73-89

Mazara will be in front and center of the Rangers season in 2019

(5) TEXAS RANGERS

Last year: 67-95

KEY ADDITIONS: 3B-Asdrubal Cabrera (FA-Philadelphia), C-Jeff Mathis (FA-Arizona), IF-Logan Forsythe (FA-Minnesota), OF-Hunter Pence (FA-San Francisco), P-Lance Lynn (FA-New York Yankees), P-Drew Smyly (Trade-Chicago Cubs), P-Shelby Miller (FA-Arizona), P-Jessie Chavez (FA-Chicago Cubs) P-Shawn Kelley (FA-Oakland), P-Zach McAllister (FA-Los Angeles Dodgers), P-Jeanmar Gomez (FA-Chicago White Sox)

KEY LOSSES: C-Robinson Chirinos (FA-Houston), 3B-Adrian Beltre (Retired), P-Bartolo Colon (FA), P-Doug Fister (Retired), P-Yovani Gallardo (FA), P-Matt Moore (FA-Detroit), P-Martin Perez (FA-Minnesota), P-Tony Barnette (FA-Chicago Cubs)

The Rangers are really in the midst of a rebuild, and probably the early stages. Adrian Beltre is gone. Yu Darvish has been gone and Cole Hamels is gone. It means that despite a few interesting starting pitching signings, the Rangers have that vibe of fielding a team to pass the time until the Dallas Cowboys play. They could end up making a few trades to improve the system (Elvis Andrus perhaps?) but really the talent isn’t there. It is not the best way to go into the new ballpark in 2020, but it may be different in 2020 and time will tell if Texas can move Sin-Soo Choo’s contract to help out. But they will fight in my eyes, but just get over-matched. Nomar Mazara may be a bright spot and we can see some ticker-tape blasts from Joey Gallo, but overall, I think the Rangers, like the Mariners will be moving pieces to contenders in July. MY PREDICTION: 67-95

That’s it for this blog.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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The 2017-18 Moves That Got the Teams to the Postseason

We are sitting on the end of the 2018 MLB regular season.  And 11 teams are still alive (maybe 10 assuming the Rockies and Dodgers win either today or tomorrow OR if St. Louis loses one of the next two days).  So for argument’s sake, we will look at the teams that are in plus the Rockies and Dodgers.  How did this come to be for the teams this year?

Of course we have a couple of new faces in postseason (Braves, Brewers, Athletics) that we haven’t seen before and we have teams who hope to get over the top while the defending champion Astros keep their title for one more season.  So let’s look at how things changed for these teams and what moves they made to get them there.

Atlanta

ATLANTA BRAVES:  Calling up Ronald Acuña and trading for Kevin Gausman.  We know about the Braves rebuild and many believe the moves that were made were the ones that got them over the top.  In reality, Acuña (and Ozzie Albies) were actually Frank Wren signings before Atlanta used him as the fall guy at the end of the 2014 season.  And the major impact guy in all those fire sale trades this year was Mike Foltynewicz (part of the Evan Gattis deal).  The two trades made with San Diego (Uptons, Kimbrel), nobody has made an impact (and most of them are gone), and the Simmons-Newcomb trade has been mixed at best for Atlanta.  The Braves were on the up until they called up Acuña and he tore the cover off the ball.  He got injured but when he came back he remained a monster for the Braves and many in the Atlanta area believe not only should he get Rookie of the Year but an MVP.  The Braves all season up through July were either in the lead of the NL East or never more than 2.5 games back of Philadelphia in the division.  With Newcomb struggling and unease with Teheran as well as questions if Anibal Sanchez (a great pickup too) reverting back to more of his last years with the Tigers instead of 2013 Sanchez pushed Atlanta to trade for Kevin Gausman.  Gausman had been a flop for Baltimore (who isn’t right now?) and the Braves may have bought him low.  But many felt Gausman would improve with a change of scenery out of the rough AL East.  And he has.  Since joining Atlanta Gausman has gone 5-2 with a 2.86 ERA and a WHIP of 1.09.  Needless to say, all of that have been the best he’s pitched to this point.  The K/9 rate is slightly concerning (only 6.3) but he’s been everything the Braves needed.  And it also improved the rotation’s morale as Julio Teheran has been pitching far better since Gausman’s arrival.  After the trade, the Braves have gone 33-23 and went up 9.5 games on the division that was originally close with them and the Phillies (also helped with Philadelphia collapsing down the stretch).  But these two moves catapulted the Braves into October.

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BOSTON RED SOX: Signing JD Martinez.  Boston last year made the playoffs but the offense was stagnant and lacked any power ever since David Ortiz retired.  Martinez came on a contract that would net him over $100 million (and some believed the Sox overpaid him because he was a liability in the outfield).   But comparing Martinez to what Giancarlo Stanton that the Yankees did, the signing looks like a bargain compared to what the Yankees have to pay Stanton.  Boston’s offense clicked and everybody started hitting in Beantown.  Mookie Betts is also an MVP candidate and the likes of Andrew Benintendi and Xander Bogaerts stepped up in a big way.  With the starting pitching capable of going against anybody (assuming if they are healthy), Boston is considered a favorite and are well north of 100 wins this year.  Martinez was obviously the best free agent signing in the off-season.  And it has paid dividends for Boston.

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CHICAGO CUBS: Signing Steve Cishek and trading for Cole Hamels.  Over the past year and a half, the Cubs moves were in question with the overpaying of prospects for Jose Quintana (who has not lived up to the expectations), the trade for Justin Wilson, and the Yu Darvish signing.  However, the Cubs made an under the radar move of getting Steve Cishek and he has helped keep the bullpen pretty strong for them.  And then the Cubs traded for Cole Hamels (as Chicago had been tapped out of prospects with the Quintana and Wilson trades) to take on his salary.  He has pitched great, going 4-2 with a 2.47 ERA and a WHIP of 1.14.  Hamels and Cishek are two major reasons why the Cubs are still slightly ahead of Milwaukee in the NL Central race.

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COLORADO ROCKIES: Signing Chris Iannetta.  The Rockies made no massive moves outside of Iannetta.  While his WAR according to Baseball Reference has him at a -0.6, I don’t think you can put a value to what he means to the Rockies starting rotation that is actually not bad.  While he obviously won’t win the Cy Young, Kyle Freeland will get a couple of Cy Young votes with his record (17-7, 2.85 ERA and the ability to not give up home runs).  Geman Marquez is a strikeout machine and has strong numbers across the board.  And Jon Gray since his return from Albuquerque has been more like the Jon Gray Rockies fans and “live arm” fans have hoped he would be.  And it was needed this year as save for Trevor Story’s MVP push and Nolan Arenado, Colorado’s offense is not a massive juggernaut like we have come to known.

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CLEVELAND INDIANS: Trading for Brad Hand.  Well, Cleveland pretty much sleepwalked to the AL Central title this year given the problems of the other four teams in that division.  And they played like it at times.  They lost a lot in the way of their bullpen from a year ago, which was so dominant and when you factor in Andrew Miller’s injury, the Indians weren’t the same squad at all.  Getting Brad Hand at the price was a bit risky, but he’s been solid for them and has re-established Cleveland as a team to watch in October.

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HOUSTON ASTROS: Trading for Gerrit Cole.  Houston may have robbed the Yankees in getting this guy as before the Astros got him it looked all but finished that New York was going to get him and in that aspect, kept the Yankees from REALLY dominating.  And at the same time it also kept the Astros afloat in picture.  Houston’s pitching is very stout with Verlander, Keuchel, and Morton, but needed Cole especially as the offense is not the same strong offense like their championship run last year.  Altuve is still Altuve but his numbers are well down.  Even when he’s been on the field Carlos Correa has been WAY down.  Adding on, the outfield hasn’t produced either.  So the move for Cole was big for them this year especially with how the Athletics came on.

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LOS ANGELES DODGERS: Calling up Walker Buehler & Max Muncy.  Los Angeles was plagued by injuries early on in the season and widespread panic hit Dodgertown.  However, things started to look up when the Dodgers called up Walker Buehler to start and he has been nothing short of stout.  He has a 7-5 record with a 2.86 ERA and a WHIP of under 1 and has ace written all over him.  He should garner some Rookie of the Year votes too.  But Max Muncy came out of nowhere and was that guy that just could rocket bombs into the outfield seats for Los Angeles as the Dodgers offense needed when Seager, Turner, and Puig were on the DL.  It is surprising that Manny Machado, who is a key add at the deadline obviously isn’t here, and he has been strong, but the average hasn’t been as high.

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MILWAUKEE BREWERS: Trading for Christian Yelich.  Yelich may have the inside track for MVP given how he has terrorized pitching in the past month.  The move was pretty big at the time, but it is huge now given that Milwaukee is chasing down the hated Cubs for the division lead.  The numbers speak volumes but what he’s done in the 2nd half alone reminds me of what Chipper Jones did down the stretch for the Braves in 1999, always stepping up in that key moment.  In the second half, Yelich is hitting .363 with 22 HR and an OPS of an astounding 1.193.  Wow.

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NEW YORK YANKEES: Trading for Giancarlo Stanton and calling up Gleyber Torres & Miguel Andujar.  While I think the Yankees are going to pay a steep price for Stanton in terms of money, Stanton stepped up when it mattered the most: when Aaron Judge was injured.  Stanton’s numbers aren’t the MVP ones he had last year in Miami, but still has 37 HR to his credit.  And for Torres/Andujar, 50 HR total from the rookies and the Yankees remained well ahead of the rest of the AL save Boston and Houston.

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OAKLAND ATHLETICS: Trading for Stephen Piscotty.  This move when it was made and you found out why the move was made seemed like it was a move that was more personal than a professional move.  Piscotty wanted to remain close to home near his mother with ALS.  Understandable as there are more things to life than sports.  But Piscotty’s value to the team should not be overlooked as he was a great veteran presence and he had a career year with 26 HR.  He alongside Jed Lowrie provided that winning veteran presence while keeping that Athletics brand of baseball going of just having fun and playing until the last out.

Later on I will put my playoff power rankings of the teams that are in, once I know which teams are in.

-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

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.

Previewing the 2017 World Series- Houston Astros versus the LA Dodgers

On the eve of the World Series, baseball fans of every fandom get more excited by the moment for what promises to be an entertaining World Series matchup between the 101-win Houston Astros and the 104-win Los Angeles Dodgers.  The Dodgers made quick work of the Chicago Cubs in 5 games, showing exactly why they had 104 wins on the 2017 season. However, the Houston Astros had to battle their way through a very resilient New York Yankees team that went down swinging, but provided every sports fan with a piece of history in Game 7.  That piece of history is that it was the first ever shutout in any Game 7 of the ALCS.

As a baseball fan, I am very excited for the simple fact that we may actually have the 2 best teams from the current season in the World Series.  This is the first time we have had two 100-win teams since the 1970 World Series that featured the 108-win Baltimore Orioles and the 102-win Cincinnati Reds.  In the Wild Card era, it is hard to find a World Series matchup that hasn’t featured a team that got hot entering the playoffs or during the postseason schedule.  The last time we saw both #1 seeds put on display for fans in the World Series was in 2013 between the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals.  The Dodgers and Astros were two of the best teams all season and two of the most fun to watch. So let’s break down just how these two pennant winners match up against each other.

Starting Lineup/Offense

The Houston Astros had the most potent offense during the 2017 season as they scored 896 runs through the 162 game season, which averages to 5.53 runs per game. The Los Angeles Dodgers were 12th in the league in runs scored with 770 runs, an average of 4.75 runs per game.  Both teams are able to score and put them up in a hurry thanks to the long ball with both of these squads surpassing the 220 team home run mark (221 for the Dodgers and 241 for the Astros).  The biggest difference between these two teams is way the Los Angeles Dodgers are able to control the strike zone to their advantage as they drew 649 walks compared to the 509 walks drawn by the Houston Astros.

The Dodgers offense has been great this postseason thanks to amazing performances from Yasiel Puig, Justin Turner, and lead-off man Chris Taylor, but the Houston Astros have the more explosive offense because of Carlos Correa, Jose Altve, and lead-off man George Springer.  The speed and power combination from all 3 of these position players will force the Dodger pitching staff and bullpen to limit the mistakes made inside the zone while also having to keep a close eye on the basepaths when runners do get on.  The Dodgers lineup will be even better than the NLCS thanks to the recent addition of shortstop Corey Seager to the World Series roster, who should be a huge factor for this Dodgers lineup.

Advantage: Houston Astros

Bench/Designated Hitter

Both Dave Roberts and A.J. Hinch will have opportunities to mix and match their lineup to different situations during the World Series since the first two games will be played without the benefit of the DH, thanks to Los Angeles having home field advantage.  This will force Hinch to be without Gattis or McCann in the starting lineup for the first two games at least.  Hinch is likely to go with the left-handed veteran Brian McCann, who posted a 102 wRC+ against southpaws during the season while Gattis mustered up a wRC+ of 92.  The Astros haven’t utilized their backup outfielders recently as Cameron Maybin and Derek Fished only combined for five total plate appearances in the ALCS against the Yankees.  The Dodgers are going to base their daily lineup on the health of Corey Seager’s back, but they have a reliable backup in Charlie Culberson who is more than able to cover the position. Dave Roberts can also call upon veterans Yasmani Grandal, Chase Utley, Andre Ethier, and Curtis Granderson in pinch hitting situations.  The Astros have some depth, but the Dodgers bench has been more consistent and is slightly deeper thanks to all of the veteran leadership.

Advantage: Los Angeles Dodgers

Starting Rotation

The Los Angeles Dodgers have one of the best rotations in the game after going out and acquiring the right-handed Yu Darvish to go along with lefties Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, and Alex Wood.  However, the Houston Astros strengthened their rotation by going out and acquiring Justin Verlander from the Tigers, who has been wonderful to pair with Dallas Keuchel .  Verlander pitched a complete game against the New York Yankees during the ALCS to earn the ALCS MVP honor, but these two starters alone cannot carry the team. Charlie Morton pitched wonderfully during Game 7 of the ALCS, but he also hit some bumps in the road during Game 3 when he allowed 7 earned runs to the Yankees in less than 4 innings of work. On top of that, it is still unclear who will start Game 4 for the Astros between Lance McCullers Jr. and Brad Peacock.  Kershaw is the tipping factor in this matchup, even if we haven’t seen the same dominance in the playoffs by Clayton Kershaw as we do in regular season.

Advantage: Los Angeles Dodgers

Relief Pitchers

The Astros were able to trot out the previously mentioned Lance McCullers Jr. in Game 7 out of the bullpen for his first ever save as he went 4 innings and only allowed 1 hit and 1 walk while punching out 6.  That was about one of the only strong outings they have had from their bullpen this entire postseason.  The rest of the Houston Astros bullpen has been shaky as they have pitched 34 innings to the tune of a 5.03 ERA while dealing out 14 walks to 33 strikeouts.  The Dodgers bullpen has been otherworldly this postseason as they have compiled a 0.94 ERA through 28.2 innings while punching out 32 batters and only issuing 2 walks.  Kenley Jansen has only pitched 8 of those innings during the 2017 postseason while Tony Cingrani, Brandon Morrow, and converted starter Kenta Maeda have been stellar in relief.  The bullpen has usually been a weakness for LA, but this year, they have the ability to shut down any opposing offense they have seen in the postseason.

Advantage: Los Angeles Dodgers

Manager

This is A.J. Hinch’s first ride through the playoffs and he has done well so far, but now it is time for Hinch to face the pressure that comes along with the World Series berth.  Roberts is making his first World Series appearance as a manager as well, but he has been through the ringer that is the playoffs when he lost to the Cubs in 2016 in the NLCS.  He has clearly learned from last year as he has yet to let Kershaw get into too much trouble during the 2017 postseason.  Kershaw has had issues with limiting the damage during the playoffs, especially in the later innings. Roberts has learned from previous mistakes and is going to the bullpen before Kershaw can get into too much trouble. Roberts has been able to make all the right decisions so far this postseason and the previous playoff berth gives Roberts that little edge he will need in the chess game that goes on during every baseball game.

Advantage- Dave Roberts, Los Angeles Dodgers

This is going to be one of the most entertaining World Series matchups that we have seen in a long time. With 2 younger managers and lots of youth on both rosters, anything can happen.  This is the first time a team has actually earned home-field advantage for the World Series based on their regular season record and it will be interesting to see how much that plays into the flow of the series.  The Dodgers have a lot of slight advantages, but anything can happen from game to game with all of the pressure on both teams.  Either way, we will see a drought end for one of these ball clubs come to an end, but this isn’t a one and done opportunity for either team.

Prediction: Dodgers in 6 games