Category Archives: Around the Majors

2016 MLB Predictions

Crystal Ball

Over the past week and a half, 500 Level Fan has posted a preview of each of MLB’s six divisions.  Now it’s time to up the ante.  No more “previewing”.  It’s now time to “predict”.

As always, my predictions should not be wagered upon by anybody, because they will likely all be wrong.

The 500 Level Fan predictions will be split over two columns.  The first covers MLB predictions, including final standings, playoff results, award winners, and some miscellaneous categories.  The second will focus on the Blue Jays, with some individual and team predictions.

So sit back, read on, try not to laugh, and get ready to comment.

American League Predictions

East

1. Toronto

2. Boston

3. Tampa Bay

4. New York

5. Baltimore

Thoughts: Defending champs come back with the offense intact, a stronger bullpen, and a deeper rotation – what’s not to like?…..If David Price could make 60 starts I might go with Boston, but he only makes 30.  Not enough to overcome still employing Pablo and Hanley…..The big question in Tampa is can the Rays score enough?  With their rotation, they might not need many runs.…..The bullpen is great and there are intriguing arms in the rotation.  But how much longer can A-Rod, Beltran, Teixeira, Gardner and co. keep going?…..The best part about Baltimore will be seeing how many times Buck “Blanche” Showalter complains about the new dirt infield in Toronto.

Central

1. Cleveland

2. Kansas City

3. Detroit

4. Chicago

5. Minnesota

Thoughts: Cleveland could legitimately have four starters exceed 200 strikeouts, and with Kipnis, Lindor, and Gomes, the offense is underrated…..Kansas City can’t do it again can they?  With reclamation project Ian Kennedy in the rotation, and a bullpen that will be asked to throw a lot of innings again, it’s safer to say no.…..I think Detroit can still win the division, but they need a return to full health from a lot of key players, which might be too much to ask…..I was tempted to pick Chicago to finish first, but then I remembered what happened the last time Melky, Lawrie, and Navarro were teammates in Toronto…..Minnesota surprised last year, and will likely take a step back this year.  But the team is very good, and only a year away.

West

1. Texas

2. Houston

3. Seattle

4. Los Angeles

5. Oakland

Thoughts: If Darvish can come back and be a force, pairing

him with Cole Hamels will be the difference maker.  Rougned Odor is the real deal at 2B.…..I don’t foresee much of a regression in Houston, especially with Carlos Correa poised to become one of baseball’s best, but the rotation behind Keuchel might be shaky…..Seattle can contend for a Wild Card, but they need a lot of the black holes in the lineup to go away.  Above average years for Iannetta and Lind are crucial……They have the best player in the world now (Trout) and the best player in the world from 10-years ago (Pujols) but unfortunately not enough of a supporting cast.…..Oakland, as always, is a mystery.  Would anybody be surprised if they lost 100 or won 100?

Wildcards

Royals and Astros

Stat Leaders

HR – Jose Bautista, TOR

RBI – Chris Davis, BAL

Average – Jose Altuve, HOU

SB – Billy Burns, OAK

Wins – Marcus Stroman, TOR

ERA – Chris Sale, CHW

K – Chris Sale, CHW

Sv – Craig Kimbrel, BOS

Awards & Miscellany

MVP – Mike Trout, LAA

Cy Young – Chris Sale, CHW

Rookie – Byron Buxton, MIN

Manager – John Gibbons, TOR

Bounceback Player – Matt Wieters, BAL

Most Disappointing Player – Justin Upton, DET

First Major Player Traded – Sonny Gray, OAK

National League Predictions

East

1. Washington

2. NY Mets

3. Miami

4. Atlanta

5. Philadelphia

Thoughts: It’s a rebound year for the Nats.  Expect another huge year from Bryce Harper, and with Strasburg in a walk year, I think he dominates with Scherzer to form a potent 1-2 tandem…..Expect the Mets to battle for first right down to the wire.  With Cespedes back and a magical rotation, they are poised to do some October magic again……The Marlins aren’t as good as the top-2 and not as bad as the bottom-2.  There also might be a player revolt due to their asinine no facial hair policy…..They got a huge haul for Shelby Miller, but the Braves are still several years away……Philly has some nice pieces, but they haven’t quite finished tearing everything down.  The rebuild is still in progress.

Central

1. Chicago

2. Pittsburgh

3. St. Louis

4. Cincinnati

5. Milwaukee

Thoughts: The Cubs are the best team in baseball on paper, which is often hard to replicate on the field.  But they have a great mix of youth and veteran talent, and the right manager to guide them.  Cubs win!…..I fully believe in Gerrit Cole, and the Pirate outfield is arguably the best in baseball.  They are desperate to avoid another Wild Card appearance…..St. Louis is still good and will have Wainwright back for a full season.  But Molina is wearing down and the losses of Heyward and Lackey will hurt……Joey Votto is still Joey Votto, and the rotation has a lot of good looking young arms.  Sadly there isn’t a whole lot else…..The Brewers still have the best mascot in the game, so there’s that!

West

1. Los Angeles

2. San Francisco

3. Arizona

4. San Diego

5. Colorado

Thoughts: The Dodgers rotation is already decimated.  But they still have Clayton Kershaw, the lineup is solid, and they have a potential rookie of the year in Corey Seager.  They have enough for one more run……It’s an even numbered year, so the Giants will be good, but I’m not sold on either Cueto or Samardzija……Arizona was a busy team and will be much improved.  It will be a real battle between the top three teams…..The Padres are a mess….The Rockies are a bigger mess.

Wildcards

Mets and Pirates

Stat Leaders

HR – Bryce Harper, WAS

RBI – Paul Goldschmidt, ARI

Average – Paul Goldschmidt, ARI

SB – Dee Gordon, MIA

Wins – Stephen Starsburg, WAS

ERA – Clayton Kershaw, LAD

K – Clayton Kershaw, LAD

Sv – Jeurys Familia, NYM

Awards

MVP – Bryce Harper, WAS

Cy Young – Clayton Kershaw, LAD

Rookie – Corey Seager, LAD

Manager – Dusty Baker, WAS

Bounceback Player – Giancarlo Stanton, MIA

Most Disappointing Player – Johnny Cueto, SF

First Major Player Traded – Carlos Gonzalez, COL

Playoffs

American League

Wildcard Round – Royals over Astros

ALDS – Rangers over Royals, Jays over Indians

ALCS – Jays over Rangers

National League

Wild Card Round – Pirates over Mets

NLDS – Cubs over Pirates, Nationals over Dodgers

NLCS – Cubs over Nationals

World Series

In what might be the final year for both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion they leave the fans of Toronto with the best possible parting gift: a World Series title.

Halfway Home: Revisiting My 2015 Predictions

Crystal Ball

The 2015 MLB mid-season lull is in full effect.  The Blue Jays are off until Friday night, meaning we still have one more night of dead air ahead of us.  To help fill the empty space, today I will take a look at just how bad my 2015 predictions look so far.

American League Predictions

East 2015 AL East

Thoughts: This is the tightest division in baseball.  Only 6.5 games separate first and last, so anything can still happen.  I don’t think Boston will finish in second anymore, but I still have faith the Jays will figure things out, go on a second half surge and win the division.  It’s also not out of the question that the Rays sag to the basement.

Central 2015 AL Central

Thoughts: Hmmm…I guess I was a bit off here!  I didn’t like KC’s staying power and I thought the Twins were at least a year away.  Looks like I might have been wrong on both.  I still think there is a chance that Detroit and Cleveland have huge second halves, but I can’t see anybody overtaking the Royals at this point.

West 2015 AL West

Thoughts: Most people were fooled by the Mariners, so I don’t feel too bad here.  Pretty much everybody not named Felix is struggling in Seattle, and I just can’t see a division title in the cards this year.  Actually, the more I look at it I was also way off on Houston, Texas, and Oakland.  Let’s just move on…

Wildcards

I predicted the Indians and Angels.  LA looks to be a good bet to either take the division or a WC spot, so not a bad choice.  Cleveland is currently 5.5 out, so still within striking distance of Minnesota and Houston.

Stat Leaders

2015 AL Stat Leaders

Thoughts:  Of all the years I have been making these predictions, this is so far my best year yet at picking the league leaders.  At the halfway point I have nailed Altuve for SB, and my picks for the RBI, W, K, and Save leaders are all in the top-10, with Hernandez barely missing for ERA.  Jose Abreu hasn’t gone deep as much as I thought, but he’s not too far off the lead.  I badly whiffed on Cano though.  Badly.

Awards & Miscellany

MVP – Robinson Cano, SEA

– Told you I whiffed badly on Cano…

Cy Young – Felix Hernandez, SEA

– He is still in the conversation, but the clubhouse leader has to be one of Chris Sale, Sonny Gray, or Dallas Keuchel

Rookie – Daniel Norris, TOR

– I had faith, but I think it would be a surprise to even see him back in Toronto this year.  His teammate Devon Travis does have a chance, though it might be tough to hold off Carlos Correa.

Manager – John Gibbons, TOR

– If the Jays win the East, I think Gibbons deserves it.  It would mean he has navigated successfully through a pitching nightmare.

Bounceback Player – Jason Kipnis, CLE

– An All-Star birth and tied for second in the AL with a 4.8 WAR.  I think I nailed this one.

Most Disappointing Player – Pablo Sandoval, BOS

– 7 HR, .691 OPS, terrible defensive play, a -0.3 WAR, and one benching for using Instagram during a game.  I might have got this one right too.

First Major Player Traded – Chris Davis, BAL

– Josh Hamilton was dealt in April, so no.

National League Predictions

East 2015 NL East

Thoughts: Not bad at all.  Washington and Philadelphia are looking good for the top and bottom.  I thought a little too highly of the Marlins, however, as you’ll soon find out.

Central 2015 NL Central

Thoughts: For some reason, each and every year I love the Brewers and pick them to finish higher than they do.  After a red hot start, the Cardinals massive Central lead is down to only a couple of games over the Pirates.  I still might get that right.

West  2015 NL West

Thoughts: This is my best performance.  I wasn’t sold on the Padres, and hated the Rockies.  So far so good in the West.

Wildcards

I predicted St. Louis and Miami.  I would think one of St. Louis and Pittsburgh will win the Central and the other will get a WC spot.  Miami?  Not a chance.

Stat Leaders

2015 NL Stat Leaders

Thoughts: Fantastic!  At the halfway point I have fully nailed four categories, and all eight picks are currently in the top-10.  Stanton’s injury might make it tough for him to take the HR crown, but I look pretty good everywhere else.

Awards

MVP – Andrew McCutchen, PIT

– It’s currently Bryce Harper’s award to lose, but McCutchen has to be at least in the top-3 right now.

Cy Young – Clayton Kershaw, LAD

– Zack Greinke and Max Scherzer have a pretty good lead right now, but never count out Kershaw.

Rookie – Gregory Polanco, PIT

– No way.  Joc Pederson and Kris Bryant will battle to the wire.

Manager – Clint Hurdle, PIT

– Very much in the running.

Bounceback Player – Joey Votto, CIN

– Currently sits 17th in the NL with a 2.8 WAR, after slugging 15 HR with a .876 OPS in the first half.  Pretty good pick.

Most Disappointing Player – Nick Markakis, ATL

– He’s put up a 1.1 WAR, with a .293 average, but his power numbers are way down: 0 HR at the break.  Still, others have been worse (hello Matt Kemp).

First Major Player Traded – Chase Utley, PHI

– Mark Trumbo went from Arizona to Seattle, so no – but he might still be moved.

500 Level Fan’s 2015 All-Stars and No-Stars

allstar

The 2015 MLB All-Star game has come and gone, with Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson teaming up with Mike Trout and co. to help the AL secure home field advantage in the World Series.  Even though the game is over, it’s never too late to unveil my All-Star teams.  And just for fun, I’ll also be announcing the fifth annual 500 Level Fan No-Star teams, a list of players who are really, truly, and brutally awful.

So sit back and enjoy 500 Level Fan’s All-Star and No-Stars for 2015:

Catcher

All-Stars: – Stephen Vogt (Oakland, AL) and Buster Posey (San Francisco, NL)

– Vogt has seemingly come out of nowhere to lead AL catchers with a .287 AVG, .872 OPS, 3.3 WAR, and 14 HR.  Posey is the exact opposite, continuing to provide the Giants with amazing production year after year.  So far, with 14 HR and a 4.2 WAR, 2015 might be his best year yet.

No-Stars – Mike Zunino (Seattle, AL) and Carlos Ruiz (Philadelphia, NL)

– There are AL catchers with a lower WAR than Zunino’s 0.4, but it’s hard to overlook 100 strikeouts to only 17 walks with a .515 OPS in 250 AB.  Brutal.  Things are falling apart in Philly, and Ruiz’s -0.4 WAR is definitely not helping.

First Base

All-Stars: – Miguel Cabrera (Detroit, AL) and Paul Goldschmidt (Arizona, NL)

– Two of the best hitters in the game are picking up right where they left off last year.  Miggy’s injury is a shame as he was enjoying one of the best starts of his illustrious career (.350 AVG, 1.034 OPS), while Goldy is already nearly in the 20/20 club…in July.

No-Stars – Mike Napoli (Boston, AL) and Ryan Howard (Philadelphia, NL)

– Nothing has gone right for Napoli as he is lingering under the Mendoza line, but even less has gone right for Howard.  This is the second year in a row he has been named a No-Star, and this year his -0.8 WAR and untradeable contract make him one of the least valuable players in the league.

Second Base

All-Stars – Brian Dozier (Minnesota, AL) and Dee Gordon (Miami, NL)

– Kipnis has a better WAR and slightly higher rate stats, but I like Dozier’s AL best 67 runs, not to mention his 19 HR and 50 RBI.  You could make an argument for a bunch of NL guys (Joe Panik, Kolten Wong, DJ LeMahieu), but Gordon has maintained a high average and relatively high slugging percentage while adding 33 steals.

No-Stars – Stephen Drew (New York, AL) and Chase Utley (Philadelphia, NL)

– It’s been a tough fall from grace for former All-Star Drew, now languishing in the Bronx with a -0.4 WAR.  Utley gives the Phillies yet another member on the No-Star squad.  He has been having one of the worst seasons in the entire league, with a miniscule .275 SLG and .532 OPS.

Third Base

All-Stars: – Josh Donaldson (Toronto, AL) and Nolan Arenado (Colorado, NL)

– You can make a case for Machado as well, but Donaldson edges him in R, HR, and RBI, with OPS, WAR, and defensive metrics basically a wash.  Plus he’s a Jay – what do you expect?  Nolan Arenado’s bat has caught up with his glove in a big way, as he has posted 24 HR, 70 RBI, and a huge .926 OPS.

No-Stars – Lonnie Chisenhall (Cleveland, AL) and Casey McGehee (San Francisco, NL)

– It’s been a huge step back for Chisenhall in Cleveland, evidenced by his struggles to stay above the Mendoza line with very little power.  McGehee was brought into replace Pablo Sandoval, but after hitting only 2 HR with a sub .605 OPS he finds himself back in Miami after being DFA’d by SF.

Shortstop

All-Stars: – Carlos Correa (Houston, AL) and Jhonny Peralta (St. Louis, NL)

– He only has 134 AB, but Correa has made the most of them with a .820 OPS.  His 1.6 WAR is near the top for all SS, despite having less than half the at bats as everybody else.  Peralta has been magnificent for the first place Cardinals, leading all NL SS with 13 HR.

No-Stars – Alexei Ramirez (Chicago, AL) and Ian Desmond (Washington, NL)

– A huge ugh for these two.  Ramirez is supplementing his .541 OPS with a glove that is 15 runs below average, while Desmond is balancing his .589 OPS with an NL leading 20 errors.

Outfield

All-Stars: – Mike Trout (LA Angels, AL), J.D. Martinez (Detroit, AL), Lorenzo Cain (Kansas City, AL), and Bryce Harper (Washington, NL), Giancarlo Stanton (Miami, NL), Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh, NL)

– Just another MVP caliber season for Trout, while Martinez and Cain and proving that their breakouts in 2014 were no fluke.  Speaking of breakouts, looks like Bryce Harper is finally living up to the hype, with a massive 6.2 WAR.  McCutchen and Stanton continue to destroy opposing pitching, with Giancarlo’s 27 HR still leading the league despite missing time with a broken hand.

No-Stars – Mark Trumbo (Seattle, AL) and Andrew Lambo (Pittsburgh, NL)

– Acquired to improve Seattle’s lackluster offense, Trumbo has instead become part of the problem, with a .559 OPS.  Is it bad to put a guy with only 25 AB on the No-Star team?  Maybe.  But what a sample of 25 AB it was for Lambo: 1 for 25, .040 AVG, .191 OPS, -0.6 WAR.  Yikes.

Starting Pitcher

All-Stars: – Chris Sale (Chicago, AL) and Max Scherzer (Washington, NL)

– As always, a number of deserving candidates in both leagues, but nobody can quite touch Sale and Scherzer.  Sale edges out Sonny Gray and Dallas Keuchel with a league leading 157 K and 0.95 WHIP.  Meanwhile Scherzer gets the nod over Zack Greinke even with a higher ERA due his 150 K and miniscule 0.78 WHIP.  Oh, and the no-hitter helps too.

No-Stars – Rick Porcello (Boston, AL) and Kyle Lohse (Milwaukee, NL)

– 100.2 IP, 119 hits allowed, and a 5.90 ERA.  Yikes Rick Porcello.  But believe it or not, Lohse has actually been even worse: 108 IP, 128 hits allowed, 6.27 ERA.

Non-Closing Reliever

All-Stars: – Dellin Betances (New York, AL) and Carter Capps (Miami, NL)

– Apologies to Wade Davis, who is also deserving, but Betances has thrown eight more innings and posted a 1.53 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, and a whopping 77 K (14.74 K/9)!!!  Carter who?  He might not remain a mystery long if this production keeps up: 25.1 IP, 48 K to 6 BB, 1.42 ERA, and a 0.79 WHIP.

No-Stars – Tom Gorzelanny (Detroit, AL) and Dustin McGowan (Philadelphia, NL)

– The poor Tigers can’t buy a break in the bullpen.  Gorzelanny has been terrible this year, with 17 ER and 15 BB in only 24 IP.  Former Jay McGowan gives the Phillies yet another member of the No-Star squad, with 26 H and 16 BB allowed in only 20 IP.

Closer

All-Stars: – Glen Perkins (Minnesota, AL) and Mark Melancon (Pittsburgh, NL)

– Perkins leads all AL closers in saves (28), and ERA (1.28) and is second in WHIP (0.83) for the surprising Twins.  Melancon has been lights out for the Pirates with 29 saves and a 1.47 ERA, with only 8 walks allowed in 43 IP.

No-Stars – Fernando Rodney (Seattle, AL) and Steve Cishek (Miami, NL)

– After a dominant 2014, Rodney has been anything but in 2015, with 4 blown saves, a 5.50 ERA, and only 28 K to 17 BB.  Cishek didn’t last as the Marlins closer for long, not after blowing 4 of 7 save attempts with a 5.92 ERA.

Fun With Early Season WAR

doc4fede34c4864d7455968181

It’s hard to believe, but the 2015 regular season is already over 15% finished.  That means it’s time for an annual post here on 500 Level Fan where we take a few minutes to have fun with early season stats.

We are approaching mid-May, so some teams are establishing themselves as legit (Detroit, KC, the Dodgers), and some look to be already playing for next year (poor, poor Milwaukee).  But a large majority of teams have fans scratching their heads, wondering if down is up or if up is down.

Houston and the Mets are in first?  Washington, Boston, Cleveland, Seattle, and Pittsburgh are a combined 18 games under .500?  The Yankees are actually good???

But the one thing we keep hearing, the one universal caution about assessing performance at this time of year is this: it’s still early.

But it’s never too early to have some fun with stats. Let’s take a look at some early season WAR stats and assess which players may have staying power (both good and bad).

Player WAR

Player WAR - BEST

 

The above tables show the best players in baseball in terms of WAR, and in all of the years that I have been writing this early season post, this looks the most normal.  For the most part, the names above seem to make sense, and one would expect to see them at the top in September.  Paul Goldschmidt, Adrian Gonzalez, Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, and Anthony Rizzo are all superstars.  Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer are carrying over their playoff success, and Joc Pederson is a highly touted rookie for the Dodgers.  The two truly surprising names are Gordon and Vogt.  I wouldn’t expect to see Vogt remain in the top-10, but for a player with Gordon’s speed and baserunning ability, who knows?  For Jays fans, the fact that Donaldson, Encarnacion, Reyes, and Bautista are nowhere to be found goes hand-in-hand with the sub-.500 record.  Good to see Martin and Pillar up high though.

Offensively, some of the biggest bats in the game are off to great starts.  Gonzalez, Cruz, Goldschmidt, Trout, Rizzo, and Cabrera are all over the top-10.  If I was a betting man, I would lay a few quarters down on each of them remaining there.  In terms of dWAR, it’s great to see Pillar translating some of those incredible catches into a nice overall rating.  He might be the real deal, at least in the field.

Most Likely to Stick in Top-10: Goldschmidt, Gonzalez, Trout, Cabrera

Most Likely to Drop Out: Vogt

Player WAR - WORST

 The first thing any Blue Jays fan will notice is that Edwin Encarnacion is the worst Blue Jay across the board.  With a .216 average, .631 OPS, 4 HR, and 24 strikeouts, it’s hard to disagree.  Overall, there are some surprising names in the worst list, ones that really make me feel old.  It wasn’t long ago that Michael Bourn, Carlos Beltran, Torii Hunter, and Chase Utley were perennial All-Stars.  Now?  Ugh.

Perhaps the most surprising name on the oWAR list is Victor Martinez, currently one of the 10-worst offensive players in the game.  Considering his pedigree and his tremendous season in 2014, I can’t imagine him sticking around that list for long.

Most Likely to Stick in Bottom-10: Morse, Ianneetta, Rivera

Most Likely to Climb Out: Martinez (oWAR), Werth

Pitcher WAR

Pitcher WAR

 

Dallas Keuchel is for real.  He finished 2014 as one of baseball’s best, and is once again topping the list in 2015.  Also no surprise to see powerhouses like King Felix, Scherzer, and Greinke up there.  Sonny Gray, Shelby Miller, and Jake Odorizzi are all talented youngsters who are starting to harness their immense talent, and Nick Martinez is just 24.  But can somebody explain Aaron Harang and Colby Lewis?  In terms of Jays, all you need to know about the pitching thus far, is that the best starter in terms of WAR who is still with the team (i.e. not Daniel Norris), is Dickey, the 330th best pitcher in baseball at -0.1.  Similarly, our opening day starter, staff ace, and player most likely to take a huge step forward in 2015 is currently tied for the second worst WAR in baseball.  I guess that’s what a 7.47 ERA, and 1.60 WHIP will get you.

Most Likely to Stick in Top-10 / Bottom-10: Hernandez, Scherzer / Ramirez, Norris

Most Likely to Drop Out / Climb Out: Harang, Lewis / Walker, Hutchison

As always, we’ll check back on these lists later in the season to see if things become “more normal”.  By then, if Hutchison is still in the bottom-10, I’ll be worried.

2015 MLB Season Predictions

Crystal Ball

Over the past week and a half, 500 Level Fan has posted a preview of each of MLB’s six divisions.  Now it’s time to up the ante.  No more “previewing”.  It’s now time to “predict”.

As always, my predictions should not be wagered upon by anybody, because they will likely all be wrong.

Like last year, the 500 Level Fan predictions column will be split over two days.  Today I’m going to cover MLB predictions, including final standings, playoff results, award winners, and some miscellaneous categories.  Next, I’ll put my focus on the Blue Jays, with some individual and team predictions.

So sit back, read on, try not to laugh, and get ready to comment.

American League Predictions

East

1. Toronto

2. Boston

3. Baltimore

4. New York

5. Tampa Bay

Thoughts: They burned me two years ago, but I’m going all in once again.  Donaldson and Martin will boost the offense just enough to offset the loss of Stroman, and the young pitchers will come through…..Boston will be better than last year, but I’m not at all sold on Sandoval or Ramirez…..The loss of Cruz will really hurt the offense, and the injury clouds continue to hover over both Wieters and Machado.  That will prevent a repeat.…..No Jeter will take a while to get used to, as will the sight of a declining and unwanted A-Rod.  There are far too many question marks in New York this year…..If any team can surprise, it can be Tampa.  They have a great collection of young arms, but not a lot of help for Longoria.

Central

1. Detroit

2. Cleveland

3. Chicago

4. Kansas City

5. Minnesota

Thoughts: They are aging, hurting, and showing some rust, but Price, Cespedes, Miggy and co. will keep the Tigers at the top…barely…..I believe in Cleveland.  A lot of young talent in the field, at the plate, and in the rotation.  Plus they have the defending Cy Young winner in Corey  Kluber.…..It was a huge offseason in Chicago.  Expect the new bullpen, Samardzija, and Abreu to make the White Sox a contender…..The Royals were magical last year, but expect a step back.  Alex Rios is never the answer…..The future is coming in Minnesota, just not in 2015.

West

1. Seattle

2. Los Angeles

3. Oakland

4. Houston

5. Texas

Thoughts: They were close last year and the addition of Nelson Cruz should be just enough to push the Mariners into the playoffs as division champs.…..The Angels look good on paper but a lot of their players look to be on the wrong side of the career arc, and that will keep them behind Seattle…..The gap between the top 2 and the rest of the division is huge.  Even after a crazy winter, Oakland is still the best of the rest (even with Lawrie).…..Houston, at long last, is on the way up.  Their win total should be higher that last year.…..The Darvish injury is crushing for Texas.  They’re done.

Wildcards

Indians and Angels

Stat Leaders

HR – Jose Abreu, CHW

RBI – Jose Bautista, TOR

Average – Robinson Cano, SEA

SB – Jose Altuve, HOU

Wins – David Price, DET

ERA – Felix Hernandez, SEA

K – David Price, DET

Sv – Greg Holland, KC

Awards & Miscellany

MVP – Robinson Cano, SEA

Cy Young – Felix Hernandez, SEA

Rookie – Daniel Norris, TOR

Manager – John Gibbons, TOR

Bounceback Player – Jason Kipnis, CLE

Most Disappointing Player – Pablo Sandoval, BOS

First Major Player Traded – Chris Davis, BAL

National League Predictions

East

1. Washington

2. Miami

3. NY Mets

4. Atlanta

5. Philadelphia

Thoughts: With that rotation I don’t see how Washington misses the playoffs.  100 wins is a real possibility…..Giancarlo Stanton is the real deal, and sadly for Jays fans it looks like Henderson Alvarez might be as well……The Wheeler injury hurts, but the return of Matt Harvey might be enough to push the Mets over .500…..The Heyward trade still puzzles me.  Atlanta looks to be a team on the way down……It’s going to be a long, long year in Philly.  Will Utley and/or Howard be dealt?

Central

1. Pittsburgh

2. St. Louis

3. Milwaukee

4. Chicago

5. Cincinnati

Thoughts: If anybody is going to knock of the Cardinals it’s the Pirates.  McCutchen is a perennial MVP candidate, and the return of A.J. Burnett is more important than you think……They are always in contention and this year will be no different.  The addition of Heyward will keep the Cards right near the top of the division…..With Gomez, Braun, Lucroy and co., the Brewers should score runs.  If they can prevent them they might surprise a few people……I buy the Cubs as baseball’s next super power, but not until 2016.  This year will be about discovering just how good some of the young guys can be…..The Reds need huge years from Votto and Bruce to avoid the basement.

West

1. Los Angeles

2. San Francisco

3. San Diego

4. Arizona

5. Colorado

Thoughts: The Dodgers have the best roster top to bottom in the West, and even if they didn’t Kershaw would still pitch them into the playoffs……The loss of Sandoval won’t be crushing, but the pitching looks thin behind Bumgarner……The Padres were very active and should be much better, but where will everybody play?…..The Archie Bradley watch is on in Arizona….If Tulowitzki and Gonzalez can both stay healthy the Rockies can surprise.  But that was also said last year, and the year before that, and the year before that, and on and on.

Wildcards

Cardinals and Marlins

Stat Leaders

HR – Giancarlo Stanton, MIA

RBI – Paul Goldschmidt, ARI

Average – Buster Posey, SF

SB – Billy Hamilton, CIN

Wins – Max Scherzer, WAS

ERA – Clayton Kershaw, LAD

K – Clayton Kershaw, LAD

Sv – Craig Kimbrel, ATL

Awards

MVP – Andrew McCutchen, PIT

Cy Young – Clayton Kershaw, LAD

Rookie – Gregory Polanco, PIT

Manager – Clint Hurdle, PIT

Bounceback Player – Joey Votto, CIN

Most Disappointing Player – Nick Markakis, ATL

First Major Player Traded – Chase Utley, PHI

Playoffs

American League

Wildcard Round – Indians over Angels

ALDS – Tigers over Mariners, Jays over Indians

ALCS – Jays over Tigers

National League

Wild Card Round – Cardinals over Marlins

NLDS – Nationals over Cardinals, Pirates over Dodgers

NLCS – Pirates over Nationals

World Series

The playoff drought will end.  Why not pick the Jays to win the whole thing?  After all, this is a Jays blog – did you expect anything else?

Announcing the Winners: 500 Level Fan’s 2014 Awards Ballot

With the 2014 postseason well underway, it is once again time to unveil my picks for baseball’s best.  The Baseball Bloggers Alliance has asked members to submit a ballot for the annual BBA Awards, which are a little bit different from the traditional ones.  There are five awards up for grabs – one each for top rookie, manager, reliever, pitcher, and player (notice the award is for TOP player, not most VALUABLE player).  While some of the awards are brutally obvious (Mr. Kershaw for best pitcher?), the others are very, very tight.

So without further ado, I present to you the 2014 500 Level Fan BBA Award Ballot!

Connie Mack Award – Top Manager

American League

Mike+Scioscia+Los+Angeles+Angels+Anaheim+v+QqxTQKG8enDl

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Mike Scioscia – LA Angels

After badly disappointing in 2013, Scioscia guided the Angels to the best record in the American League in 2014.  Having baseball’s best player certainly helps, but Scioscia had to navigate through a terrible bullpen early on, a major injury to Josh Hamilton, and the loss of 2/5 of the starting rotation (Skaggs and Richards).  He gets my vote.

2. Buck Showalter – Baltimore Orioles

Played most of the season without Machado, Davis, and Wieters, and re-jigged the bullpen on the fly to coast to an AL East title.

3. Ned Yost – Kansas City Royals

Seemed to make questionable moves quite often, and often infuriated fans with his love of bunting.  But there’s something to be said about a manager who leads the worst power hitting team in baseball to its first playoff birth in 29 years.

National League

don-mattingly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Don Mattingly – Los Angeles Dodgers

Yes the Dodgers had the biggest payroll in the game, but it’s tough to actually deliver when much is expected of you.  Add the fact that Kershaw missed a month, Puig being Puig, and having to fit four premium outfielders into three spots, and Mattingly did a great job.

2. Clint Hurdle – Pittsburgh Pirates

For a good part of the year the Pirates made last year’s playoff run look like a fluke.  But Hurdle kept fighting and led the Bucs to a second straight Wild Card spot.

3. Matt Williams – Washington Nationals

Rookie manager took over a talented team that badly disappointed last year.  Result?  A runaway NL East crown.

Willie Mays Award – Top Rookie

American League

images

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Jose Abreu – Chicago White Sox

The numbers were staggering for any player, let alone a rookie: 36 HR, 107 RBI, 35 2B, .964 OPS.  And he missed 17 games too!  No brainer.

2. Masahiro Tanaka – New York  Yankees

It was his award to lose early on, but an elbow injury limited him to only 20 starts.  Those starts were memorable however: 13-5, 2.77 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and 141 Ks while playing in pressure packed Yankee Stadium.

3. Matt Shoemaker – Los Angeles Angels

Came out of nowhere to put up a 16-4 record with a 3.26 ERA for the AL West champions – massive after the injuries to Tyler Skaggs and Garrett Richards.

National League

030814_Jacob_deGrom_1280_bda5d5mi_kqbhelwt

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Jacob deGrom – New York Mets

Made just 22 starts, but had a dynamite year for the surprising Mets with a 2.69 ERA and 144 strikeouts.  Will be part of a terrific young rotation in 2015.

2. Billy Hamilton – Cincinnati Reds

The Reds badly disappointed in 2014, but Hamilton certainly didn’t.  A .250 average was much better than anticipated, and he added 56 stolen bases.  He might have to do something about the 23 times caught stealing, however.

3. Ken Giles – Philadelphia Phillies

The 23-year old looks like a closer-of-the-future for Philadelphia.  Posted a 1.18 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, and 64 Ks in 45.2 IP.

Goose Gossage Award – Top Reliever

American League

518813

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Greg Holland – Kansas City Royals

The bullpen was one of the key reasons why KC ended its long playoff drought, and the anchor of that ‘pen was Holland.  He saved 46 games and put up a 1.44 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and 90 K in 62.1 IP.

2. Wade Davis – Kansas City Royals

Acting as Holland’s setup man, Davis was unbelievable.  In 72 IP he struck out 109 batters and posted a 1.00 ERA and 0.85 WHIP.  Perhaps the Royals didn’t lose the Wil Myers trade after all….

3. Dellin Betances – New York Yankees

That’s right – two non-closers make my top-3.  Betances was unreal for the Yankees in 2014 with a 5-0 record, 1.40 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, and a staggering 135 K in 90 IP.

National League

Awards - Kimbrel

1. Craig Kimbrel – Atlanta Braves

Kimbrel takes this award for the fourth straight year on my ballot after leading the NL in saves yet again with 47.  He actually put up his worst numbers since 2011, but when your worst numbers are a 1.61 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and 95 K in 61.2 IP, you’re pretty solid.

2. Aroldis Chapman – Cincinnati Reds

He just keeps dominating: 36 saves, a 2.00 ERA, and an absolutely ridiculous 17.7 K/9 (106 K in 54 IP).

3. Kenley Jansen – Los Angeles Dodgers

Jansen anchored a sometimes shaky Dodgers bullpen with 44 saves, 101 Ks, and a 2.76 ERA.

Walter Johnson Award – Top Pitcher

American League

felix hernandez

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Felix Hernandez – Seattle Mariners

Unquestionably the best pitcher in the American League.  King Felix was absolutely dominant and nearly led the Mariners to the postseason.  He topped the league in ERA (2.14), Starts (34), WHIP (0.92), and Hits/9 (6.5), finishing with a 15-6 record, 248 strikeouts, and his seventh straight 200+ IP season.

2. Corey Kluber – Cleveland Indians

In just his second full big league season, Kluber came from seemingly out of nowhere to destroy opposing hitters.  With an 18-9 record, 2.44 ERA, and 269 strikeouts, Kluber kept the Indians in contention long after they should have been eliminated, especially in September.  In his final five starts he went 5-0, with a 1.12 ERA and 54 Ks.

3. Chris Sale – Chicago White Sox

Sale took his incredible 2013 numbers and nearly bettered them across the board, finishing with a 2.17 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and a league leading 178 ERA+ and 10.8 K/9.

4. Jon Lester – Boston Red Sox / Oakland A’s

Lester started the season in Boston where he was one of the few bright lights on a dismal Red Sox team.  After being swapped to Oakland at the deadline, and faced with the immense pressure of trying to lead a collapsing team to the playoffs, Lester delivered big time: 2.35 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, with a complete game shutout in 76.2 IP.

5. David Price – Tampa Bay Rays / Detroit Tigers

Dealt just hours after Lester, Price wasn’t the difference maker that many expected him to be in Detroit.  But he finished the season as the AL leader in IP (248.1), and strikeouts (271).

National League

Awards - Kershaw

1. Clayton Kershaw – Los Angeles Dodgers

While there is debate about who is the best player in the game, Kershaw is hands down baseball’s best pitcher.  His 2014 season was one for the ages.  Despite missing all of April, he still topped the league in wins (21), ERA (1.77), Complete Games (6), ERA+ (197), FIP (1.81), WHIP (0.86), K/9 (10.8), and K/BB (7.71).  A masterpiece.

2. Johnny Cueto – Cincinnati Reds

Cueto had been knocking on the door of stardom for a while, but he finally broke through in 2014.  After injuries limited him to only 11 starts last season, the righty went 20-9, with a 2.25 ERA, and a league leading 242 strikeouts.

3. Adam Wainwright – St. Louis Cardinals

He is emerging as one of baseball’s most dependable starters, after finishing the year with a 20-9 record, 2.38 ERA, and 1.03 WHIP for the division winning Cardinals.

4. Madison Bumgarner – San Francisco Giants

Arguably the least recognizable name on the Giants staff after Cain, Lincecum, Hudson and mid-season acquisition Jake Peavy.  But Bumgarner has supplanted them all after his breakout 2014.

5. Cole Hamels – Philadelphia Phillies

Nice bounce back year for the lefty, in an otherwise dismal year for the Phillies.  Despite earning only 9 wins, Hamels put up a 2.46 ERA and 1.15 WHIP, and fell just short of 200 Ks.

Stan Musial Award – Top Player

American League

miketrout

1. Mike Trout – Los Angeles Angels

There should be no debate this year about who wins this award, whether it be Top Player, Most Outstanding Player, or Most Valuable Player.  Trout is simply on another planet right now compared to the rest of the league.  In a season where he struck out more than ever before (league leading 184), and stole significantly fewer bases (16), Trout still managed to light up the league.  He topped the AL in WAR (7.9), Runs (115), RBI (111), and Total Bases (338), and finished in the top-10 in OBP, SLG, OPS, 2B, 3B, and HR.  His success also finally turned into team success as he led the Angels to the AL West crown. Oh – and he’s still only 23.

2. Josh Donaldson – Oakland A’s

Second to Trout in WAR at 7.4, Donaldson might have topped him if not for a September swoon.  Still, the Oakland 3B maintained his status as one of the best overall players in the game, with a rock solid 2.7 dWAR to go along with 29 HR and a .798 OPS.

3. Victor Martinez – Detroit Tigers

In a relatively down year for Miguel Cabrera, it was Martinez who became the offensive catalyst for Detroit.  He led the league in OBP and OPS, and set a career high with 32 HR.  He also hit an insane .337 with two strikes.

4. Jose Bautista – Toronto Blue Jays

Kept the Jays on the fringes of the playoffs all year long, as he put up his best season in years.  Bautista finished in the top-10 in WAR, OBP, SLG, OPS, Runs, HR, RBI, and Walks.

5. Jose Altuve – Houston Astros

Houston’s sparkplug had a career year, leading the league with 56 stolen bases, 225 hits, and a .341 average.

The rest:

6. Jose Abreu – Chicago White Sox

7. Nelson Cruz – Baltimore Orioles

8. Michael Brantley – Cleveland Indians

9. Robinson Cano – Seattle Mariners

10. Adrian Beltre – Texas Rangers

National League

Clayton Kershaw

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Clayton Kershaw – Los Angeles Dodgers

I’m not normally a fan of pitchers winning MVP, or in this case Top Player, awards but I think this year qualifies as a special circumstance.  Kershaw was just utterly and thoroughly dominant in a season when no position players were utterly and thoroughly dominant.  Kershaw topped the entire NL with a 8.0 WAR – miles ahead of second place.  He deserves it.

2. Giancarlo Stanton – Miami Marlins

MIght have been his award had a beanball not ended his season in early September.  As it is, Stanton led the league in HR with 37, SLG at .555, and total bases with 299.  He also finished in the top-3 in WAR, OPS, RBI, and BB.

3. Andrew McCutchen – Pittsburgh Pirates

Another outstanding year for the Pirates CF, and another postseason appearance for the Pirates.  McCutchen’s .952 OPS, 7.8 oWAR, and .410 OBP all topped the NL.

4. Jonathan Lucroy – Milwaukee Brewers

The unheralded Brewers catcher quietly put up a terrific year for Milwaukee.  He actually led all position players with a 6.7 WAR and 53 doubles, and put up an .837 OPS, all while playing 136 games at baseball’s toughest position.

5. Buster Posey – San Francisco Giants

The former NL MVP, Posey had an excellent year in 2014 (22 HR, .854 OPS, 5.2 WAR).  But he really came into his own by hitting .393 with a 1.043 OPS during the heat of the pennant race in September, helping the Giants clinch a Wild Card spot.

The rest:

6. Russell Martin – Pittsburgh Pirates

7. Anthony Rendon – Washington Nationals

8. Adrian Gonzalez – Los Angeles Dodgers

9. Carlos Gomez – Milwaukee Brewers

10. Justin Morneau – Colorado Rockies

500 Level Fan’s 2014 Playoff Predictions

playoffs

The MLB postseason is underway after a so-so Wild Card round.  We were treated to an absolute classic between KC and Oakland and then an absolute, old-fashioned blow-out between Pittsburgh and San Fran.

With 8 teams left, there really isn’t one true favourite. Things are wide open. So who will win?

American League Divisional Series

Detroit Tigers vs. Baltimore Orioles

Baseball is a funny game, one that I don’t understand.  On paper, the Orioles are a terrible baseball team.  Their three best players are all out for the playoffs – Machado, Davis, and Wieters.  Their lineup is stocked with no-names and scrubs, like Ryan Flaherty, Steve Pearce, and Caleb Joseph.  Their big offseason signing, Ubaldo Jimenez, was a bust.  Their power hitting shortstop J.J. Hardy hit only 9 HR.

On paper, Detroit is a juggernaut.  They have a huge offense with Cabrera, Victor and J.D. Martinez, Kinsler, Hunter, and Castellanos.  They have a rotation with three Cy Young winners, and two other All-Stars, and a potential hall of fame closer.

Yet it was Baltimore who romped to a division title and Detroit who clinched on the final day of the season.  It’s Baltimore who comes into this series as the favourite, and Detroit who is the underdog.  Never-the-less, I think the Tigers, despite a shaky bullpen, have what it takes to pull out the upset.

Prediction:  Detroit in 5.

Kansas City Royals  vs. LA Angels

After squeaking past Oakland in a game for the ages, the Royals reward is a trip to LA to face the best team in the American League, who are led by the best player in baseball.  Good luck!

But if the Royals proved anything this year, is that they can never be counted out.  Despite a weak offence and a mediocre starting rotation, Kansas City kept finding ways to win.  They used speed, bunts, and an outstanding bullpen to sneak past teams who relied on power.

But can they do it again?  Can they get by a team that has tons of thump and pop, with Trout, Pujols, Hamilton, Kendrick, and Calhoun?  There are serious questions about the Angels pitching, and there may be questions about how Trout fares in the playoffs for the first time.

Says here he will be fine.

Prediction:  LA in 4.

National League Divisional Series

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

How does St. Louis do it?  Year after year they find themselves in the postseason, despite having to overcome huge obstacles.  This year was no different as they faced a huge divisional deficit to the Brewers, and a late season push by the Pirates to emerge as NL Central champions – despite poor performances by many of the guys they were counting on (Tavares, Wong, Craig), and a severe injury to Yadier Molina.  Yet – here they are again.

They face the Dodgers in a rematch of last year’s NLCS.  LA is led by the best pitcher in the world in Clayton Kershaw.  But as good as he is, he always seems to struggle against the Cardinals.  If he continues to struggle against them, that makes the starts by Zack Greinke and Hyun Jin Ryu that much more important.

I can see St. Louis beating Kershaw once, but if Greinke and Ryu hold form, that means the Cards will have to beat him twice.  I can’t see that happening at all.

Prediction: LA in 5.

San Francisco Giants vs. Washington Nationals 

Of course the Giants are back in the playoffs – it’s an even numbered year!  After winning it all in 2010 and 2012 San Fran is hoping for some more even number magic in 2014.  With the Cy-worthy Madison Bumgarner taking over as team ace, and with a red hot Buster Posey, they have as good a chance as ever.

They will face Washington, a year removed from being one of the most disappointing teams in the game.  This year, behind a solid rotation and a dominant bullpen, they dominated the NL East and are poised for a deep playoff run.  A lot may rest on the shoulders of Bryce Harper, however.  He used to be compared to Mike Trout as one of the best players in the game, but injuries and struggles have dropped his stature significantly.  If the good Harper shows up, the Nats should win.  If not….

Prediction: Washington in 5.

American League Championship Series

Detroit Tigers vs. Los Angeles Angels

If the Tigers have actually made it this far, it is a good indication that the bullpen is righted itself and the starters are firing.  That is bad news for the Angels, who despite having great offensive players, struggle a bit against power pitchers.  The biggest difference maker may very well be Anibal Sanchez.  Bumped from the rotation, Sanchez has the ability to give the Tigers 3, 4, or 5 quality innings from the bullpen if necessary.  With injuries to their rotation, that is a luxury that LA simply doesn’t have.  Miggy vs. Trout will get the headlines, but  Sanchez will earn the accolades.  Detroit in 6.

National League Championship Series

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Washington Nationals

Clayton Kershaw against Stephen Strasburg.  Baseball fans everywhere salivate at the thought.  But there are more than just those two involved here, in what would be a series loaded with superstars.  Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig, Hanley Ramirez, Matt Kemp, Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Jordan Zimmermann, Zack Greinke, and on and on and on.  Washington won the season series 4-2, but I think there is something special about this Dodger team this year.  Kershaw dominates, and the Nationals can’t keep up. Dodgers in 7.

World Series

Detroit Tigers vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

Funny – I picked this exact same World Series last year, meaning there is likely no chance that it happens.  But if it does – imagine the pitching match ups!  Scherzer, Verlander, Price, Kershaw, Greinke, Ryu.  Then you have Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and Ian Kinsler vs. Puig, Gonzalez, Ramirez and co.  You have speed with Gordon and Rajai Davis.  You have shaky bullpens, which means the potential for crazy late inning drama.  Basically you have everything you’d want for a classic.  I picked the Tigers last year, and I think I’ll stand by them again  Miggy has to win once in Detroit right?

World Series Prediction: Detroit Tigers in 6.

The 500 Level Fan Guide to Playoff Rooting

Detroit-Tigers-Tiger-Logo-Design_9662f8d9-183f-462b-8e45-81432b69a110_1024x1024

The march to the 2014 World Series begins tonight as the Oakland A’s take on the Kansas City Royals, in Kansas City’s first playoff game since 1985.  The fact that the Royals made the postseason this year means that the crown of longest suffering fans has been passed to those of us who support the Blue Jays – a humiliating achievement.

Because our beloved team once again failed to play on past game 162, for the 20th consecutive playoffs we need to choose a new team to support.  After all, the playoffs make for great TV watching, but only if you go non-Swiss and actually pick a side to root for.

Normally the process of elimination is fairly straightforward as there is always a bitter rival to cheer against, like the Yankees or Red Sox.  But this year marks the first time since 1993 that neither Boston nor New York qualified, so things aren’t so simple.

But don’t worry – by following a simple step-by-step process, 500 Level Fan will have an October team picked out for you in no time.

Let’s do this.

Step 1 – The AL East

Just because the Red Sox and Yankees missed the cut, doesn’t mean it’s OK to support another AL East team.  It’s actually against the law to do that.

CUT – Baltimore Orioles

Step 2 – Recent Winners

Building dynasties can be fun if the dynasty plays in your city.  Otherwise, they suck and are not to be cheered for.  The Giants and the Cardinals have combined to win 4 of the past 8 World Series.  Enough is enough.

CUT – St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants

Step 3 – Teams that make you mad

Granted, this may be subjective, but tell me that you look at the roster of the Kansas City Royals and don’t get at least a little bit angry.  On paper the Jays should be able to crush a team that starts Omar Infante, Nori Aoki, Alcides Escobar, and brings Raul Ibanez off the bench.  Yes they are a nice story, but I can’t get behind them.

CUT – Kansas City Royals

Step 4 – Boring Teams

Aside from Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, tell me something exciting about the Nationals?  Harper’s regression this year makes him much less interesting than Trout or Puig, and there is no cinderella element to them.  They just do everything pretty well – and that’s boring.

CUT – Washington Nationals

So that leaves us with half the field: the Pirates, Dodgers, Angels, A’s, and Tigers.  The final step is to rate those teams in three categories: ex-Jays, best story, and most exciting.

Ex-Jays

5 points – Angels – Johnny Mac, John Buck

4 – Tigers – Rajai Davis

3 – Pirates – Travis Snider

2 – Dodgers – Brandon League

1 – A’s – Jesse Chavez

Best Story

5 – Tigers and A;s (tie) – I like it when teams go for it, so the aggressive trade deadlines for Oakland and Detroit give them a leg up.

3 – Pirates –  Back in the playoffs two years in a row.

1 – Dodgers and Angels (tie) – same expensive rosters as a year earlier.  Ho-hum.

Most Exciting

5 – Angels – Mike Trout in the playoffs, enough said

4 – Dodgers – Puig, Kershaw, Greinke, Brian Wilson’s beard…

3 – Tigers – Miggy, Victor, Kinsler, Price, Verlander, Scherzer, and on and on

2 – Pirates – McCutchen is worth watching all by himself

1 – A’s – Adam Dunn finally tastes the playoffs

Bottom Line

I can’t believe I’m saying this, what with bitter division battles in our history, but with a total of 12 points, give me the Tigers this October.  With a roster full of great players, a long series drought, an aggressive GM and owner, recent playoff failures, and ex-Jay representation, why not pull for them to bring the series back to Detroit?  They can keep it warm for us for 2015.

Fun With Mid-Season WAR

Today is officially the worst day on the baseball calendar.  There is literally nothing happening today – no games, no home run derby, no All-Star events.  Absolutely nothing.

So why not take advantage of this quiet time to have some fun looking at mid-season WARs!  I did this at the beginning of the season when sample sizes were incredibly small.  Now, with over half the season in the books, we should be getting a clearer indication of who has been good and who has been bad.

And who has been downright awful.

Player WAR

 mid year WAR best

 The above tables show the best players in baseball in terms of WAR. For total WAR (which combines offense and defense to provide a full view of a player), most of the names in the top-10 are guys you’d expect: Troy Tulowitzki, Mike Trout, Stanton, McCutchen, Goldschmidt.  Josh Donaldson is proving that last year was no fluke, and guys like Seager, Lucroy and Brantley have blossomed.  Jason  Heyward is a bit of surprise.  Jose Bautista is the top Blue Jay, ranking 18th in the majors.

Offensively, there are no real surprises, aside from perhaps Brantley.  Two Jays rank in the top-10 which is great to see.  Likewise, there are no real surprises on the defensive side of the ball either, as baseball’s top defenders are well recognized.  The biggest disappointment has to be that Ryan Goins is still considered Toronto’s top defensive player, despite not playing in the big leagues for months.

 mid year WAR worst

 

This where things get interesting.  In terms of baseball’s worst total WAR, a few of those names jump right off the screen, namely Raul Ibanez, Matt Kemp, Domonic Brown, Jedd Gyorko, and Alfonso Soriano.  These are former All-Stars, former near-MVP’s, and guys who were still extremely useful to their teams as recently as 2013.  We knew they were having down years in 2014, but this has to be considered a heavy disappointment.  It’s also interesting to see that Brad Glenn put up a -0.4 WAR with Toronto in such limited playing time.  That’s rough.

Two other points to make.  1 – how bad of a fielder does Matt Kemp have to be to put up a -2.4 WAR?  That is abysmal, and much, much worse than Castellanos.  2 – I think Jays fans will agree that Melky Cabrera is MILES ahead of last year in terms of his defense – yet he is still ranked 1,042nd in the majors.  Imagine how his dWAR would have looked if he played a full season last year?  Yikes.

Pitcher WAR

 mid year WAR pitcher

 

You can’t argue the top-2 in terms of WAR.  Adam Wainwright and Felix Hernandez were the starting pitchers of last night’s All-Star game.  But how about Toronto’s Mark Buehrle slotting in at #3 in all of baseball, tied with the great Clayton Kershaw?  Very impressive.  The two biggest surprises for me are Jake Arrieta and Jason Hammel, one current and one former Cub.  Was not expecting that kind of performance from those two.

On the worst WAR list, it is no surprise to see Ernesto Frieri.  The former Angels closer was just horrendous early in 2014.  It also seems as if Edwin Jackson is on this list every year.  How he keeps finding pitching jobs is beyond me.  Finally, poor Sergio Santos ranks 595th in major league baseball.  It might be time to cut ties with him before he sinks any lower.

Halfway Home: Revisiting My 2014 Predictions

Crystal Ball

The 2014 MLB mid-season lull is in full effect.  The Blue Jays are off until Friday night, meaning we have four days of dead air ahead of us.  (No, the home run derby doesn’t count).  To help fill the empty space, today I will take a look at just how bad my 2014 predictions look so far. 

American League Predictions

East 2014 AL East

Thoughts: What can you say really.  Boston and Tampa Bay have been the biggest flops in baseball and the Jays have surprised everybody.  However, Tampa is starting to surge, and with the AL East actually being baseball’s weakest division (how weird does that sound), a crazy Rays comeback might not be out of the cards just yet.

Central 2014 AL Central

Thoughts: Absolutely, 100%, nailed it so far!  I expect the Tigers to maintain the lead the rest of the way, and the biggest battle to be between the Royals and Indians for second – and potentially a Wild Card spot. 

West 2014 AL West

Thoughts: If it wasn’t for Texas it would be two clean sweeps in a row.  Nothing has gone right for the Rangers this year and they might very well suffer the dubious distinction of finishing behind the Houston Astros.  Oakland, LA, and Seattle are making a serious case to have three playoff teams come out of the West.  

Wildcards

I predicted the A’s and Red Sox.  Oakland looks like a sure bet for the postseason, but maybe as the AL West champ.  The Red Sox look horrendous – and I couldn’t be happier!  Currently the Angels and Mariners lead the way. 

Stat Leaders 

2014 AL Stat Leaders

Thoughts:  Hey – I got Felix Hernandez for ERA leader right!  Unfortunately that’s about the only thing I’m even close on.  To be fair, Prince Fielder’s injury hampered that pick, and I’m not sure anybody could have predicted Justin Verlander’s regression.  I have a funny feeling that I might also nail the Mike Trout prediction by the end of the year. 

Awards & Miscellany

MVP – Mike Trout, LAA

– I think you’d have to consider him the favourite right now.

Cy Young – Justin Verlander, DET

– He has really fallen hard this year.  Probably not even in the top-10 right now.  This is currently King Felix’s award to lose.

Rookie – Jose Abreu, CHI

– He currently leads the majors with 29 HR, so he is the odds on favourite to win this award.

Manager – Brad Ausmus, DET

– This award is wide open right now.  Ausmus is right in the mix, along with Bob Melvin of Oakland and Lloyd McClendon of Seattle.  But a big second half could put a number of other guys in the mix (including John Gibbons).

Bounceback Player – Albert Pujols, LAA

– With 20 HR already, he has already eclipsed his 2013 total.  I’ll stick by him.

Most Disappointing Player – Carlos Beltran, NYY

– .216 average and .671 OPS and looking older by the day.  I think I nailed this one!

First Major Player Traded – Colby Rasmus, TOR

– Not yet…

National League Predictions

East 2014 NL East

Thoughts: If not for the Phillies I would have fully nailed this division.  As it stands, Philadelphia is awful, and it looks like the race for first is going to go right down to the wire.  Miami looked like a contender early on, but have since faded.

Central 2014 NL Central

Thoughts: At least I got the Cubs right.  Milwaukee has outperformed expectations to this point, but are currently really struggling and might drop back to fourth in a week or two.  I had high hopes for the Pirates, and they appear to have turned a corner, but still have a lot of work to do to reach a playoff spot.

West  2014 NL West

Thoughts: So far so good at the top, but I was way off on Arizona, and I expected much, much less from San Diego – though the bottom three are so tightly packed that anything can happen.  

Wildcards

I predicted San Francisco and Pittsburgh, and currently the Giants and Braves hold down the spots.  But the Pirates are only 3 games back, so still very much alive.

Stat Leaders 

2014 NL Stat Leaders

Thoughts: A much better performance here than in the AL.  My picks of Kimbrel, Kershaw, and Goldschmidt were all pretty good, and Marte is in the top-5 for steals.  Injuries derailed my picks of Gonzalez and Fernandez, but both were playing pretty well before they went down, so that makes me feel a bit better.

Awards

MVP – Bryce Harper, WAS

– Not looking too good right now as he has battled injuries this year.  This award is probably wide open right now.

Cy Young – Clayton Kershaw, LAD

– Looks like it will boil down to him or Adam Wainwright.  Both deserve it.

Rookie – Archie Bradley, ARI

– Yet to play a big league game. 

Manager – Matt Williams, WAS

– Very much in the running.

Bounceback Player – Justin Morneau, COL

– With a .312 average, .846 OPS, and 13 HR this one looks good!

Most Disappointing Player – Ryan Howard, PHI

– Second in the NL in strikeouts, batting .220 with a -0.5 WAR.  He is certainly in the running.

First Major Player Traded – Cliff Lee, PHI

– Still might go, but Jeff Samardzija beat him to it.