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!

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

Welcome to the 9th Inning. This is the first edition of this in the 2019 MLB season. This is going to be a monthly column on Pro Sports Fandom in which I roundup the month’s biggest happenings in the baseball realm. I’ll discuss what teams are hot and what teams are not. I will also give my personal thoughts on a few notable baseball-related events as well as giving out monthly awards for team of the month, players of the month, and rookies of the month. It’s basically a baseball podcast squeezed into an article that will happen near the end of every month. This is the debut article of this season and I hope for some immense success with this column. If you’d like, be sure to share with your friends, social media, and family! I’d love my column to reach as big a global outreach as possible.

I’m going to start the 9th Inning Column for April with a few rounded-up thoughts in recap of the biggest stories recently, both on the field and off.

Vlad Jr’s debut

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

2018 top draft pick dominates in first AA Start

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

What’s wrong with the Red Sox?

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

Where do the Giants go from here?

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

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Monthly Awards:

Team of the Month is…

The Tampa Bay Rays (19-9)

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

The Hitter of the Month is …

Los Angeles Dodgers OF/1B Cody Bellinger

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

Starter of the Month is …

Cincinnati Reds RHP Luis Castillo

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

The Reliever of the Month is …

Tampa Bay Rays LHP Jose Alvarado

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

The Rookie Hitter of the Month is …

New York Mets 1B Peter Alonso

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

The Rookie Pitcher of the Month is …

San Diego Padres RHP Chris Paddack

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

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

The Obstructed NL West Preview-2019

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

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

(1) COLORADO ROCKIES

Last year: 91-72

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

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

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

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

(2) LOS ANGELES DODGERS

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

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

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

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

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

(3) SAN DIEGO PADRES

Last year: 66-96

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

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

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

Posey is continuing to battle for the Giants

(4) SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Last year: 73-89

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

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

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

Peralta and Arizona could be in for a long year

(5) ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Last year: 82-80

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

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

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

That’s it for this go-around.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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Manny Machado to Padres: Obstructed Thoughts

One of the last remaining free agents in the off-season in Major League Baseball finally has a home.

Manny Machado and the San Diego Padres agreed to a 10-year, $300 million contract, thus presumably spiking the Padres chances of being a major threat in the NL West.

Machado, a 4-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner with Baltimore, hit .297 with 37 HR last year combined with the Orioles and Dodgers while registering an impressive .905 OPS in the process. Many felt like he may be more of an asset to a team than current prized free agent Bryce Harper (primarily for the position on the field). However, some wondered after his comments about not hustling every play would diminish his contract chances. Needless to say, that’s a firm no.

So what are some takes I have on this?

PADRES MADE A GREAT MOVE: I get it: you don’t want to shell out $30 mil per year for the next ten years if your team signed him. However, San Diego is close to just having a sick team with the farm system they have led by Fernando Tatis Jr. (a guy whom my friend says is a can’t miss-to which I won’t really dispute; he’s going to be something else). Also, it has been too long for Padres fans to really get pumped up about the MLB season. There was false hope in 2015 when the Padres signed James Shields and then traded for Justin Upton and Wil Myers. But that failed miserably. But with Machado, Myers, Hunter Renfroe, and Eric Hosmer, it’s now a formidable lineup and if they get Manuel Margot going, it will be very scary. So to me, with everything falling in place in San Diego, this is a sign that the Padres are now a threat in the NL West to the Dodgers.

BRYCE HARPER STILL NOT OUT OF DISCUSSION WITH THE PADRES: If you could only imagine the Padres throwing out that money to Machado, and then they could still get Bryce Harper? It’s possible. Not probable, but possible. I don’t know if a team can invest in TWO $30 million guys for ten years, but stranger things have happened before.

SAN DIEGO IS ONE TEAM WHO CAN AFFORD MACHADO/HARPER WITHOUT MUCH CONSEQUENCE: I think a reason why the Padres signed Machado was because of their standing financially and from a roster standpoint. The big spenders of the Cubs, Red Sox, and Yankees were not even remotely rumored to pick up Machado in part because of their payrolls. The Dodgers did a payroll shift when they traded Kemp, Puig, and Alex Wood to Cincinnati, thus making people believe Harper is going there (and still very well could). And the teams like the Cubs and Yankees will be looking at mega extensions to their young stars such as Kris Bryant, Aaron Judge and so forth. San Diego has a great load of talent in the farm system, but while we could see the Padres start displaying their young guns, they are safe from having to lock down any of their stars in the foreseeable future. That is also why I think the Chicago White Sox have been active trying to get Harper or Machado.

IT WILL BE A FUN YEAR IN SAN DIEGO: Again, the Padres have desperately tried to put out a winner in the last few years but have come up short in a big way. Ever since the team moved to PETCO Park the offense has been a very weak point and people have not taken the Padres seriously. Machado is a great hitter who doesn’t necessarily needs to rake it out all the time. He can hit them in the gaps and elsewhere. Put him with a crew of Hosmer and Myers, and you have a pretty good crew there. It may be another year before we really see how legit San Diego is, but they will be pretty exciting nonetheless.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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Cursed Sports Cities in America: San Diego

When we think of the California teams, we think of the ones in the Bay Area (Oakland, San Francisco), and we obviously think of Los Angeles in all sports.  But we do often forget about the one just slightly south of Los Angeles and just right at the US/Mexico border and that’s San Diego.

We think of San Diego is more of the tourist haven, from the lovely weather to the beaches to their history to the San Diego Zoo & Sea World, to their great culinary scene.  And of course, we think of Ron Burgundy, where he has famously or infamously said “Stay classy, San Diego” or the other phrase besides stay classy.  San Diego is the 8th largest city in the nation (though 17th in the metropolitan area) and 2nd only to Los Angeles in the state.  So how come San Diego only has one professional sports team?

Cursed?  Perhaps.

I don’t do cities with only one current team, but San Diego is the exception.  From 1969-1984 San Diego boasted of having three professional sports teams, the Padres, the Chargers, and the San Diego Clippers (as before that the Rockets resided in San Diego for four seasons from 1967-1971).  Exits to the Rockets, Clippers, and then just 2 years ago, the Chargers gut-punched the town’s sports scene.  Unfortunately, the town has endured the two major teams that resided the longest, the Padres and Chargers heartache and just being snakebit.  So San Diego most definitely has that cursed mantra.

SAN DIEGO: SAN DIEGO PADRES (2 WORLD SERIES APPEARANCES), SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (1 SUPER BOWL APPEARANCE), SAN DIEGO ROCKETS, SAN DIEGO CLIPPERS: 0 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS.

Padres

SAN DIEGO PADRES (2 WORLD SERIES APPEARANCES):  I think of the Padres as the party-poopers of the baseball world on a few issues. But first off, the Padres were just horrendous as an expansion team, not having a winning season from 1969-1981 and then the next two years of being right at .500, so really the Padres hold one of the worst runs to begin a franchise in any sport at that.  The one year San Diego finally breaks through was 1984, winning the NL West with a veteran group like Steve Garvey, Craig Nettles, Goose Gossage, and Ed Whitson while having youngsters like Tony Gwynn, Kevin McReynolds.  They stunned the Cubs after being down 2-0 in the NLCS before being taken down by the 1984 Tigers, who many consider as one of the best teams in the modern baseball period.  However, fans were a bit disappointed in the World Series (save for fans of the Padres) as a Cubs/Tigers 84 World Series would have been bigger and some would say more competitive as Detroit took down San Diego in 5.  However, one of the highlights (and not for San Diego) was hearing Gossage tell manager Dick Williams he wanted to pitch to Gibson with a base open and runners on with one out, which led to Sparky Anderson screaming at Gibson that Gossage “didn’t want to walk you!” Two pitches later, Gibson smashed one into the upper deck at Tiger Stadium, thus building his October reputation.

After the World Series in 1984, San Diego fell back, being around a .500 or less team for most of their run from 85-97 including having one of the first fire sales (even before the Marlins made it famous), trading the likes of Fred McGriff, Gary Sheffield, Greg Harris, all of whom were key contributors, but San Diego was screaming of financial issues and a rebuild was needed.  However, they made some key moves later, notably trading for Ken Caminiti, who would help the Padres win the NL West in 96, and then trading for Kevin Brown, who helped San Diego win in the NL in 98.  And much like the Padres in 1984, the 1998 Padres were bit of an unexpected bunch though they had a good team.  They won 98 games, beat the heavily favored Astros and Braves in the NLDS and NLCS respectively, before getting crushed by the Yankees, who like the 84 Tigers has been widely regarded as one of the best teams ever in modern times.  However, fans were disappointed that it was San Diego and not the Braves (which would have been a 1996 World Series rematch and a duel to see who was the team of the 90’s and had won 106 games) or even the Astros (who won 101 games and had traded for Randy Johnson while fans hoped to see the Killer B’s against the Bronx Bombers).  However, the next 5 years San Diego was in constant rebuild mode and finishing dead last in the West in four of the next five seasons.  After the Padres left Jack Murphy/Qualcomm Stadium in 2003 and went into Petco Park, they experienced success of winning seasons from 04 to 07 including back-to-back division titles in 05 and 06.  However, the Padres failed to get out of the NLDS, losing to the Cardinals both years and just not competitive against St. Louis.

2007 stung at the end however. The Rockies got scorching hot, winning 12 of their final 13 games while San Diego didn’t do anything really wrong as they kept pace, but not as strong as the Rockies.  A one-game tiebreak between the Rockies and Padres in Colorado happened as it was a classic.  It was a back-and-forth game that went into 13 innings.  San Diego got a 2-run home run by Brian Giles in the 13th and then brought in the ever-so-reliable closer and Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman, only to give up 3 runs, which the last one was controversial as many thought Matt Holliday did not touch the plate on the game-winning run, but was still ruled safe (truth be told, it is hard to see if he did).

The next two seasons San Diego went into full futility mode, losing 99 games in 08 and 87 games in 09.  The Padres stunned many when they had a big 2010 season and held the division in September, (and at one point in late August had a 6.5 game lead in the NL West) but a mini-collapse happened as the offense wasn’t consistent enough to score runs and the Padres were eliminated from the division on the final game of the season to the Giants.  Ever since, San Diego’s presence in baseball has been irrelevant, as they’ve been at the bottom of the NL West.

So from a historical side, of the Padres, they just have not mustered many successful seasons and the ones that are memorable, end with a resounding thud.  Then you have the logos: we remember the swinging friar, which was a little comical and hokey, but it was their thing.  I guess because it was too comical and the Padres struggled so badly during that major time period, they changed it to a generic one where it just said the team name on it.  First in brown and orange and then blue and orange.  Then the Padres experimented with a logo where it said the team name inside home plate with ocean waves also inside it.  They went back and just kept it simple with the SD interlocking, but still, the logos somewhat kept the identity of the team: bland.  The uniforms while today’s fans have gone into nostalgia, were pretty rough to see.  The brown and yellow jerseys were a bit of a mess while having a reminiscent look of what fast food places wore.  Also, bland.

Petco

The Padres venues have been ridiculed as well.  Jack Murphy/Qualcomm Stadium as when the Padres were playing there was regarded as one of the worst ballparks for its cavernous feel (multi-purpose stadium) and just a large slab of concrete as many pointed out.  When the Padres moved to Petco Park, fans were happy with the move as it was a gem of a park, but one problem: they had massive dimensions.  Players the Padres acquired to net offense saw their numbers drop tremendously.  Brian Giles, who was a constant 30 HR threat with the Pirates came over saw his power numbers take a decline (though his first season at Petco was good).  The same could have been said for Ryan Klesko, Carlos Quentin (though his was more of injury), and others.  Many viewed Petco as a place where offense goes to die and a 3-2 game would be considered a slugfest.  It also meant the Padres would have trouble attracting players as free agents and the only way to bring hitters in was to make trades (like they did for Matt Kemp and Justin Upton).  However, the Padres did push in the fences, but many view it as not as strong and remain as one of the most offensively inept teams in all of baseball.  Some credit Petco Park for that.

CURSED MOVE:  Oh boy.  I don’t remember any major move that the Padres have done where they gave up somebody big and then have that somebody just flat-out produce.  But it may be what the Padres did before the 2015 season as they opted to go “all-in,” trading for Dodgers star Matt Kemp, Braves slugger Justin Upton and lights out closer Craig Kimbrel, young star Wil Myers from Tampa Bay, and then signing durable starter (and as my friend calls him a bulldog) James Shields to a 4-year contract.  San Diego hoped the moves as well as seeing Yonder Alonso and Jedd Gyorko would come into their own would increase fan interest, where it was near the bottom in 2014 and also be a competitive squad.  However, it never panned out.  While Kemp and Upton had good years for the Padres but Myers was injured a good bit, Shields didn’t live up to the lofty expectations, and Alonso/Gyorko never got over that hump.  The Padres lost 90 and save for Myers, most of that team is long gone.

DEFINING CURSED MOMENT:  I’m debating the Gossage/Gibson encounter in the 1984 World Series or the Holliday slide/no slide against the Rockies in 2007 were the two ones that really stick out in Padres history.  I have to lean towards the Holliday slide given it was controversial and the Padres were still in one of their strongest runs.

CURSED RATING: 5/5 (VERY CURSED)

Chargers

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (1961-2016; 1 SUPER BOWL):  The Chargers actually started in Los Angeles in 1960 but moved in 61.  They were always considered a threat from their early days and the 60’s were one of the tops of the AFL (champions in 1963).  However the 70’s weren’t as nice until the end of it.  San Diego was a common team at the bottom of the standings in the AFC.  However, in the late 70’s thanks to the likes of Dan Fouts and Kellen Winslow the Chargers were near the front of the AFC, alongside the likes of the Steelers and Raiders.  They also had a classic game against Miami in the Orange Bowl and the famed moment of seeing Winslow, exhausted after a monster day for the Chargers as they stunned Miami.   However, despite that great moment a week later the Chargers got blistered in Cincinnati (nicknamed the Freezer Bowl where the game started in sub zero temperatures and wind chills of negative 30 degrees and worse) in the AFC Championship game.  So in other words the Chargers had a nearly 130 degree flip from one week to the next.  The loss was the 2nd straight year of the Chargers coming up one game short of the Super Bowl.

After that run, the Chargers went into futility, being near the bottom of the AFC West from 83-91.  However they had another small run with Stan Humphries, Natrone Means, and Junior Seau from 92-95 where 1994 was the pinnacle moment, stunning Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship only to get obliterated by the 49ers in the Super Bowl XXIX.  And much like the Padres in 84 and 98, fans were disappointed to see them and not their counterpart as it would have been a 49ers/Steelers Super Bowl (and it would have been big as both teams at that point had won 4 Super Bowls out of 4 tries and it would have been a debate to see who was the greatest NFL franchise in Super Bowl history).

However, after the run, San Diego fell off fast and was plagued by having drafted Ryan Leaf in the 1998 Draft.  As San Diego hoped he’d be the answer at quarterback, similar to Dan Fouts and Stan Humphries, he was anything but.  Leaf underperformed, got into it with the local media, teammates, and everything under the sun it seemed.  It would haunt the Chargers for a good while.  However when the dust was settled, the Chargers did get back to the playoffs with the likes of Drew Brees, LaDanian Tomlinson, and others in 2004, but a 40-yard FG miss by kicker Nate Kaeding in OT cost the Chargers a win.  2 years later, Tomlinson won MVP and the Chargers were considered favorites in the AFC for the Super Bowl.  However, after having an early lead on the Patriots and having an 8-point lead the Chargers had one of the craziest things happen as Marlon McCree picked Tom Brady off on a 4th down play (Brady threw three INT’s in that game) but Troy Brown stripped McCree and the Patriots recovered.  The Pats scored and converted a 2-point conversion to tie the game.  San Diego couldn’t move the ball on their next drive and ended up allowing New England to kick the game-winning FG.  They had one more chance but Kaeding’s FG came up short and the Chargers blew it.

San Diego had homefield in 2009 for the AFC, as they had now Philip Rivers at quarterback and Tomlinson in his last year with the Chargers as they saw the young and arrogant New York Jets squad.  The Chargers had a strong offense, and a solid defense while the Jets had a strong run game and a stronger defense.  The Chargers mustered to get on New York’s field on numerous chances, but Kaeding missed three FG’s and some shrewd moves by Rex Ryan in that game gave another Chargers heartbreaking loss.  It would also be the last playoff home game San Diego saw.  The next few years the Chargers remained hovering around the .500 mark but no playoff appearances and the last two seasons saw stinkers, including 2016 where they went 5-11 and probably saw numerous ways to lose a game in the 4th (whether it was 4 INT’s in the 4th by Rivers, a 63-yard bomb with a minute left, blowing a 24-10 lead, etc.)

And then they moved to Los Angeles because San Diego didn’t want to pay for a new stadium.  A place that the fans wanted no part of the Chargers.  How bad is it when you relocate a team to a city that doesn’t want you and you still move them because the current city wasn’t an option anymore?

CURSED MOVE:  Obviously Ryan Leaf is it, though some Chargers fans probalby think drafting Kaeding is near there for all his playoff failures.  But Leaf set the tone of people not wanting to play in San Diego.  The Chargers had the top pick in 01 and 04 and had Michael Vick and Eli Manning on their sights.  Vick, while never coming out and saying he wanted to play or didn’t want to play for the Chargers, seemed lukewarm on going to San Diego and Manning pouted like a 3-year old and refusing to play a snap for San Diego if they drafted him.  That said, those drafts also netted Drew Brees in 2001 (though his career in San Diego was up and down), Tomlinson (part of the Vick trade) and Philip Rivers (who was traded for Eli).  But I guess when the Chargers believed they had the best QB in the 98 Draft in Leaf, even over Peyton Manning.  However, Leaf was a head case and severely hurt the team where instead of drafting players to build around him for a Super Bowl run, they had to find two franchise quarterbacks in six years.

DEFINING CURSED MOMENT:  Has to be the McCree INT/fumble, though Kaeding’s stinker game agianst the Jets ranks up there as it solidified the Chargers as being a truly snakebit team.

CURSED RATING: 5/5 (VERY CURSED)

Clippers

SAN DIEGO ROCKETS/SAN DIEGO CLIPPERS: I’ll sum it up easy on both of them: 10 seasons among them: 1 playoff.

Despite seeing the likes of future Hall of Famer Elvin Hayes, Calvin Murphy, and Rudy Tomjanovich, the Rockets didn’t amount to much, and the attendance dropped poorly.   And the Rockets were moved to Houston.  T

As for the Clippers, they were a 2nd chance as the Braves moved from Buffalo (also another cursed sports town).  However, they never made the playoffs in their time in San Diego.  The lone highlight was getting World B. Free, who could score.  And they brought in an aging Bill Walton on top of it, but was oft-injured.  Attendance dipped again as the Clippers played poorly and Donald Sterling bought them and moved them to Los Angeles.

CURSED MOVES: The only one to me and this is before my time was the Clippers trading Free to Golden State for Phil Smith (not a bad piece but no Free) and a first round draft pick (Lancaster Gordon).  Gordon never panned out for the Clippers, but by this time they had moved to Los Angeles.  Interesting note: The Sixers traded Free to the Clippers for a 1984 first round pick.  That pick?  Charles Barkley.

DEFINING CURSED MOMENT: I’ll admit, I wasn’t around to know what was the cursed on-court moment for the Clippers or Rockets.  So I’m going with Donald Sterling buying the Clippers.  And honestly, I don’t think the Clippers were cursed for moving to San Diego as San Diego is cursed for even having the Clippers.  Let’s face it, even with the Clippers leaving San Diego, they still remain a major joke in the NBA, even when they’ve had decent seasons.

CURSED RATING: 3/5 (RELATIVELY CURSED-despite the struggles and such, you lose two NBA teams, similar to Atlanta with NHL teams, but there was nothing really earth-shattering the Rockets or Clippers had happen to them while in San Diego).

San Diego is definitely a cursed spot for teams.  Most of them leave whether it is poor attendance (Rockets/Clippers) or stadium deals that don’t happen (Chargers).  It’s unfortunate a city has to go through that, but it is too much not to keep them from being cursed as a sports city.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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The Obstructed National League West Preview

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

Dodgers

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

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

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

Kershaw

1ST PLACE: LOS ANGELES DODGERS

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

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

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

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

 

Miami Marlins v Arizona Diamondbacks

2ND PLACE: ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

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

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

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

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

 

Buster

3RD PLACE: SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

2017: 64-98, 5th Place

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

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

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

 

Arenado

4TH PLACE: COLORADO ROCKIES

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

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

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

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

 

Hosmer

5TH PLACE: SAN DIEGO PADRES

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

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

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

That’s it for now.

 

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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