Category Archives: Around the Majors

2017 Division Previews – National League Central

Welcome to part two of 500 Level Fan’s season preview series. Today we focus on the National League Central.

Defending Champion

Chicago Cubs

Past Five Champions

2016 – Chicago

2015 – St. Louis

2014 – St. Louis

2013 – St. Louis

2012 – Cincinnati

Average Wins of Past Five Champions: 97.4

Best Player

Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs

Kris Bryant has now played two complete MLB seasons and has already been named an All-Star twice, won two individual awards, and won the World Series.  In 2016 Bryant became only the fourth player in history to win the Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards in back-to-back seasons, joining Cal Ripken Jr. (1982/83), Ryan Howard (2005/06), and Dustin Pedroia (2007/08).  The Cubs 3B/LF improved his already stellar offensive numbers in every category finishing in the top-10 in the NL in WAR (7.7), OBP (.385), SLG (.554), OPS (.939), Runs (121), Hits (176), HR (39), and RBI (102).  What’s scarier for the rest of baseball is that Bryant just turned 25 meaning he probably has yet to reach his prime.  He is the lynchpin of a Cubs team that is positioned to be a force for years to come.

Honourable Mention: Joey Votto, Reds; Anthony Rizzo, Cubs

Best Pitcher

Kyle Hendricks, Chicago Cubs

Though Bryant won the MVP, and Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, and John Lackey were bigger names, an argument can be made that the real hero behind Chicago’s World Series triumph last year was Kyle Hendricks.  The 26-year old righty came into his own in his third big league season, posting a 16-8 record with 170 strikeouts in 190 IP, and leading the league with a 2.13 ERA.  He kept up his dominance in the playoffs, pitching to a 1.42 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in five starts, including a 2-hit, 0-run masterpiece in the NLCS clinching Game 6 vs. the Dodgers.  Hendricks finished 3rd in Cy Young voting and will look to build on his 2016 success as one of a trio of Cubs aces.

Honourable Mention: Jon Lester, Cub; Carlos Martinez, Cardinals

Three Storylines For 2017

1. Beginning of a Dynasty?

It was one of the greatest stories of the sports year: the Chicago Cubs ended 108 years of futility and heartbreak by winning the 2016 World Series.  But instead of simply resting on their laurels and basking in the glory of ending sports longest title drought, Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and co. got straight to work towards winning another title.  Yes, the Cubs lost several significant pieces over the offseason.  Gone are leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler, fireball closer Aroldis Chapman, clubhouse leader David Ross, and pitchers Travis Wood, Trevor Cahill, and Jason Hammel.  But Chicago replaced Chapman with former KC closer Wade Davis, signed former highly rated prospect Jon Jay, and brought in Brett Anderson and Koji Uehara to solidify the bullpen.  Oh, and they also return many of baseball’s best (and youngest) position players in Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Wilson Contreras, Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo, and Jason Heyward, not to mention Lester, Hendricks, and Arrieta in the rotation.  Add to that one of baseball’s best managers, a still loaded farm system, and a ton of resources, and you have the recipe for a potential dynasty.

2. The Saga of Andrew McCutchen 

Entering 2016, Andrew McCutchen was riding four consecutive stellar seasons in which he earned four Silver Slugger awards, four All-Star appearances, a Gold Glove, an NL MVP, three playoff appearances, and a 26.4 WAR.  But things went downhill in a hurry.  McCutchen posted a career worst batting average and OPS, and was awful in the field (-28 DRS), leading to a -0.7 WAR and a disappointing sub-.500 record for the Pirates.  Then came the offseason and the seemingly daily rumours that he would be traded to give top prospect Austin Meadows a chance to play.  Despite all the turmoil, McCutchen begins 2017 as a member of the Pirates, albeit with a new position (LF).  However, all eyes will be on Pittsburgh: a rough start by the Pirates will likely bring a lineup of suitors hoping to acquire the former MVP.

3. MVP Exile

Andrew McCutchen isn’t the only former MVP from the NL Central seemingly poised to be on the move in 2017.  The 2010 and 2011 winners could also find themselves in new uniforms at some point during the season.  The Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers are both undergoing rebuilds/retools and are in the process of compiling young, controllable assets and turning their rosters over.  Cincinnati has already shipped out Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips, Mike Leake, and Aroldis Chapman over the past few years, while Milwaukee has bid adieu to Jonathan Lucroy, Chris Carter, Jeremy Jeffress, and Carlos Gomez.  With neither team expected to contend in 2017 and with prospects seemingly set to take over the starting lineups, it seems odd that Ryan Braun and Joey Votto still remain.  Both men’s names have been involved in trade rumours for more than a year, and with the Brewers and Reds seemingly buried by the still solid Pirates, always competitive Cardinals, and champion Cubs in the division, 2017 seems like the time when those rumours may finally become reality.

Interesting Stat

No teams in baseball stole more bases in 2016 than Milwaukee (181) and Cincinnati (139).  The Brewers’ Jonathan Villar led all of basebal with 62 SB, followed closely by Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton with 58, and Villar’s teammate Hernan Perez with 34.  But the teams also featured two other speedsters who racked up SB: Milwaukee’s Keon Broxton (23 SB in only 75 games) and Cincinnati’s Jose Peraza (21 SB in 72 games).  No major league team has reached the 200 SB plateau since the 2007 New York Mets.  But with Hamilton, Peraza, Villar, Perez, and Broxton running wild, it’s not inconceivable that two teams top that mark in 2017.

Who Should Win


Who Will Win

Find out in my season prediction column at the end of March

2017 Division Previews – National League West

It’s that time of year again, time for 500 Level Fan to start embarrassing himself with futile, sad, and mind-blowingly awful predictions.  Before we get to my annual predictions, let’s go division by division to get a glimpse of what is in store for baseball fans in 2017.  These preview posts should be seen as a division primer, so we can get to know the best players and teams, along with some interesting storylines, in each.  These won’t have my actual predicted order of finish – just a quick snapshot.  The predictions come later.

We’ll begin today with the NL West.

Defending Champion

Los Angeles Dodgers

Past Five Champions

2016 – Los Angeles

2015 – Los Angeles

2014 – Los Angeles

2013 – Los Angeles

2012 – San Francisco

Average Wins of Past Five Champions: 92.6

Best Player

Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies

The 2016 season was only the fourth full year of Arenado’s big league career yet he has already developed into one of baseball’s most elite stars.  For the second year in a row, Arenado reached the 40 HR, 130 RBI, and 350 Total Bases plateaus, topping the National League in HR, and all of baseball in RBI.  He also maintained his title as MLB’s best defensive third baseman, leading all 3B with a +20 Defensive Runs Saved rating, and earning his fourth consecutive Gold Glove award.  Arenado is becoming a perennial MVP candidate and is the key reason why many are pegging the Rockies as sleeper contenders in 2017.

Honourable Mention: Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks, Corey Seager, Dodgers

Best Pitcher

Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

If last season taught as anything it’s that Kershaw is mortal, as the Dodgers All-Star missed significant time due to injury for the first time in his career.  Unfortunately for the rest of the NL West, it also confirmed one thing: when healthy Kershaw is an untouchable machine.  Limited to 21 starts, Kershaw still put up unworldly numbers: a 12-4 record, 1.69 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, and an incredible 15.64 strikeout to walk ratio.  That last number is not a typo: Kershaw surrendered only 10 unintentional walks in 149 innings.  While the injury robbed him of what was going to be a certain Cy Young win, he still finished in the top-5 in voting for the sixth straight year and led the Dodgers to their fourth straight NL West crown.

Honourable Mention: Madison Bumgarner, Giants; Johnny Cueto, Giants

Three Storylines For 2017

1. World Series or Bust

The LA Dodgers have reached the postseason four years in a row and eight times since the 2004 season, but have yet to reach the World Series since winning it all back in 1988.  If there ever is a year for them to finally get over that hump it might be 2017.  LA has an elite starting rotation after re-signing Rich Hill to slot in after perennial Cy Young candidate Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda, Scott Kazmir, and young sensation Julio Urias.  They broke the bank to bring back closer Kenley Jansen, added former World Series winner Sergio Romo from the Giants, then acquired super-utility infielder Logan Forsythe from Tampa Bay to add to a loaded offense that already boasts Adrian Gonzalez, Yasmani Grandal, Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig, Justin Turner, and 2016 ROY Corey Seager.  With that kind of roster, anything short of a World Series will be considered a major disappointment.

2. Rockies Revival

With 75 wins, last year’s version of the Colorado Rockies finished below the .500 mark for the 6th consecutive year.  But after years spent seemingly spinning their tires without an identity, the Rockies took several steps forward last year and seem poised to contend, at least for a Wild Card spot.  Hotshot rookie Trevor Story was lighting the league on fire (27 HR in only 97 games) before succumbing to injury, and the team signed Ian Desmond to a huge deal to join Nolan Arenado, Carlos Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon, and DJ Lemahieu.  And for the first time in forever the Rockies might actually have pitching to get excited about, with Jon Gray, Tyler Anderson, Tyler Chatwood, and former Blue Jay prospect Jeff Hoffman.  The signing of former Royals closer Greg Holland could also prove to be a huge boost to the bullpen.  As currently constructed the Rockies have a surplus of outfielders, but if they can figure out a way to all co-exist, there is nowhere to go but up.

3. Can San Francisco Hang Around?

For the first time since 2008 a team other than the Giants won an even-year World Series, and it’s not hard to figure out why.  San Francisco’s bullpen blew a staggering 30 saves in 2016, so the Giants threw $62-million at former Pirate closer Mark Melancon to fortify the late innings.  The problem, however, is that the rest of the bullpen remains either weak or unproven, meaning there might be an issue bridging the gap between the rotation and Melancon.  But there are more problems: the team is still missing a starting LF, many of its core players are approaching the wrong side of 30 (including Buster Posey, Denard Span, and Hunter Pence) and aside from Bumgarner and Cueto there are question marks in the rotation.  Does this squad as currently constructed have another run left in them or does the decline start now?

Interesting Stat

Clayton Kershaw was utterly dominant in 2016, but the injury that shelved him for 11 starts forever robbed us of a chance to see him make history.  Kershaw walked a total of 11 batters (1 intentional) in 149 IP, for a BB/9 ratio of 0.6644.  That rate would have been good enough for 35th on the all-time single season list, but 3rd all-time in the modern era behind only Carlos Silva (0.4301 in 2005) and Bret Saberhagen (0.6598 in 1994).  But what really made Kershaw special last season was his strikeout totals.  With 172 strikeouts, his K/BB ratio was a staggering 15.64.  MLB’s single season record is currently held by Phil Hughes, who posted an 11.63 mark in 2014.  Kershaw was on pace to obliterate that record but ultimately fell short of the required number of innings pitched.  Can he pick up where he left off and make another run at history in 2017?

Who Should Win

Los Angeles

Who Will Win

Find out in my season prediction column at the end of March.

Halfway Home: Revisiting My 2016 Predictions

Crystal Ball

The 2016 MLB mid-season lull

is in full effect.  The Blue Jays are off until Friday night, meaning we have two straight nights of dead air ahead of us.  To help fill the empty space, today I will take a look at just how bad my 2016 predictions look so far.  It’s a good thing that I didn’t make a wager on any of these and I hope that nobody out there made bets at the best sportsbook.  If so, my apologies.

On with the show!

American League Predictions

East 2016 AL East

Thoughts: This is the tightest division in baseball – only 2 games separate Baltimore, Boston, and Toronto.  Call me a homer, but I think the Jays might be in the best position heading into the second half.  Tampa Bay will definitely not finish third as they look completely lost.  The most interesting story will be if the Yankees sell at the deadline or attempt one last charge at a playoff spot.

Central 2016 AL Central

Thoughts: Almost completely nailed this one at the break.  In a very top and bottom heavy division, Cleveland is comfortably ahead and Minnesota is miles behind.  The middle is very tight, with only 0.5 games separating Detroit, KC, and Chicago.  It’s not out of the realm of possibility that I actually sweep this division.  Shocking!

West 2016 AL West

Thoughts: Maybe I should have made a wager after all.  Texas, Houston, and Seattle as the top-3?  Perfect!  In reality, this division is not nearly as settled as it appears.  With the Astros charging and the Rangers hitting a bit of a rough patch, Houston is suddenly only 5.5 games back after a brutal April.  Oakland and LA look like afterthoughts at this point.


I predicted the Royals and Astros.  As it stands now the Red Sox and Blue Jays hold the two slots, but KC (4.5 GB) and Houston (2 GB) are lurking.

Stat Leaders

2016 AL Stat Leaders

Thoughts:  Of all the years I have been making these predictions, this year looks particularly ugly.  I (among many) was expecting a big year from Bautista in his contract year, but his power numbers are down across the board and now he is battling injury.  Jose Altuve as batting champ seems to be nearly automatic these days, and Kimbrel as saves leader has always been as well – except for this year.  Trailing Britton by 10 saves and now out for 4-6 weeks with a knee injury pretty much seals the deal there.  Not my finest effort.

Awards & Miscellany

MVP – Mike Trout, LAA

– Leads all

of baseball in WAR, so has as good a shot as any.

Cy Young – Chris Sale, CHW

– He started the All-Star game so that is a pretty good endorsement.  Seems to be in good shape for a Cy run.

Rookie – Byron Buxton, MIN

– No.  Oh no.  He has nearly twice the number of strikeouts as he has hits.  That is not good.

Manager – John Gibbons, TOR

– He will never get enough credit, even if the Jays do win the East.

Bounceback Player – Matt Wieters, BAL

– A .728 OPS and an All-Star birth are both good signs.

Most Disappointing Player – Justin Upton, DET

– Others may have worse numbers, but considering the expectations and the big contract, Upton’s .235 average, .670 OPS, -0.2 WAR, and 112 strikeouts takes the cake.

First Major Player Traded – Sonny Gray, OAK

– Unless you count Oswaldo Arcia, there hasn’t been a major American League player dealt yet.  Gray still seems like a good bet.

National League Predictions

East 2016 NL East

Thoughts: Again, not bad at all.  The Mets and Marlins are currently tied in the standings, and with NY’s injury woes and Miami maybe getting a second half boost from Giancarlo Stanton’s HR barrage in the Derby, there may be a chance the Mets slip to third.  I was much too high on Atlanta.

Central 2016 NL Central

Thoughts: The Cubs were an across the board favourite and haven’t disappointed.  I still think the Pirates will emerge over St. Louis for second.  The Reds are just plain awful…..

West  2016 NL West

Thoughts: I decided not to believe in the even year magic, and maybe I should have.  The Giants look strong again.  Arizona has been one of the biggest flops in baseball.


I predicted New York and Pittsburgh, and both teams are definitely in the mix.  It might be tough to keep the Dodgers out, but I still have a chance!

Stat Leaders

2016 NL Stat Leaders

Thoughts: Fantastic on the pitching side, though let’s be honest – picking Kershaw across the board would have been just as easy.  On the offensive side?  Not great.  It has been a bit of a down year for Bryce Harper, especially in comparison to his 2015 season, but he is only six HR back of Bryant.  Goldschmidt still has a shot in the RBI and AVG categories as well.  But unless Gordon comes back from his PED suspension running wild, he is done.


MVP – Bryce Harper, WAS

– At this point I don’t think he is in the top-5.  Kershaw, Bryant, and Bumgarner all have better shots.

Cy Young – Clayton Kershaw, LAD

– No-brainer #1.

Rookie – Corey Seager, LAD

– No-brainer #2.

Manager – Dusty Baker, WAS

– Tempted to say no-brainer #3, but you can make a case for Maddon, Bochy, or even Mattingly in Miami.

Bounceback Player – Giancarlo Stanton, MIA

– Unless his impressive home run derby performance triggers a huge resurgence, then I don’t think he wins – not with a .233 average and 107 Ks.

Most Disappointing Player – Johnny Cueto, SF

– Not even close.  He has been outstanding as a Giant, earning the start for the NL in the All-Star game.  A huge whiff.

First Major Player Traded – Carlos Gonzalez, COL

– CarGo is still a Rockie.  James Shields wins this prize.

500 Level Fan’s 2016 All-Stars and No-Stars


The rosters for the 2016 MLB All-Star game in San Diego have been named, and the Blue Jays are well represented.  With Estrada, Donaldson, and Encarnacion already declared All-Stars, and with Michael Saunders currently leading the battle for the Final Vote, Toronto might wind up with four players on the AL team.  But how many will make my team?  Today I announce the sixth annual 500 Level Fan All-Star and 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 2016:


All-Stars: – Salvador Perez (Kansas City, AL) and Buster Posey (San Francisco, NL)

– Believe it or not, Perez is the top hitting catcher in the AL with a .771 OPS, leads in WAR at 2.3, and has thrown out 54.5% of all stolen base attempts.  Posey sports an OPS 100 points lower than Washington’s Wilson Ramos, but trumps him on the defensive side of the ball (MLB leading 58.6% caught stealing compared to 34.6% for Ramos).  Also has a 2.6 WAR.

No-Stars -Yan Gomes (Cleveland, AL) and A.J. Pierzynski (Atlanta, NL)

– It’s been a nightmare season for Gomes as the former Jay is hitting only .175 with a .207 OBP, and 63 strikeouts to 8 walks.  It might finally be time for A.J. to call it quits – he sports the worst WAR in baseball for catchers at -2.0.

First Base

All-Stars: – Miguel Cabrera (Detroit, AL) and Anthony Rizzo (Chicago, NL)

– Cabrera is showing no signs of slowing down, dominating the AL at age 33.  He has 18 HR, 53 RBI, and a .902 OPS, and has the Tigers in contention for a playoff spot.  In a loaded 1B class in the NL (Goldschmidt, Belt, Myers, Votto), it’s Rizzo who takes the cake thus far.  His .962 OPS, 3.3 WAR, and 20 HR lead all NL 1B, and the Cubs are running away with the Central because of it.

No-Stars – Chris Colabello (Toronto, AL) and Ryan Howard (Philadelphia, NL)

– Might seem a bit harsh putting Colabello here, but he might possibly have had the worst first half of all time.  He went 2 for 29 (.069 average, .225 OPS) in the short time he played before being suspended for 80 games for PEDs.  Awful.  Howard makes the No-Star team for the third straight year, as his performance is getting worse and worse.  A .151 average, .557 OPS, and -2.1 WAR are not what you expect for $25-million.

Second Base

All-Stars – Jose Altuve (Houston, AL) and Daniel Murphy (Washington, NL)

– What a year for second baseman, as a case can be made for 11 of them to make the All-Star team.  My vote goes to Altuve (tops in WAR, AVG, and SB) to edge Cano, Kinsler, and Pedroia in the AL, and Murphy (.957 OPS, 14 HR, 56 RBI) over Zobrist and Segura in the NL.

No-Stars – Ryan Goins (Toronto, AL) and Dee Gordon (Miami, NL)

– The second Jay on the No-Star team and Goins fully deserves it.  After a great finish to 2015 much was expected of him this year, but a .176 average is not getting it done.  Gordon won the NL batting title in 2015 and inked a huge contract extension, but started the year hitting .266 with 6 times as many strikeouts as walks, and then got busted for PEDs.

Third Base

All-Stars – Josh Donaldson (Toronto, AL) and Kris Bryant (Chicago, NL)

– The defending AL MVP is at it again with a slash line of .301 / .413 / .596 / 1.009, 22 HR, 60 RBI, 6 SB, and 19 2B.  Bryant is proving to everybody that the hype was worth it by putting up a banner year in Chicago.  His 25 HR and 4.2 WAR lead the entire National League.

No-Stars – Pablo Sandoval (Boston, AL) and Jordan Pacheco (Cincinnati, NL)

– What a season for the Panda.  He showed up overweight, fought with management, went 0 for 6 with 4 strikeouts, then went out for the season with injury, all for the bargain price of $17.6 million!  Pacheco received 51 AB for the Reds, managed 8 hits, 14 strikeouts, and a .392 OPS before being released.  Tough start.


All-Stars: – Xander Bogaerts (Boston, AL) and Corey Seager (Los Angeles, NL)

– It’s a new wave of shortstops in the AL, and Bogaerts, Correa, and Lindor are virtually even.  Xander has a slight lead in OPS, which earns him the nod.  In the NL, Seager is a 22-year old rookie with 17 HR, a .303 average, and a .900 OPS.  Incredible.

No-Stars – Alcides Escobar (Kansas City, AL) and Alexei Ramirez (San Diego, NL)

– A year after making the All-Star team, winning a Gold Glove, and being a huge sparkplug for the World Series champs, Escobar is struggling mightily both at the plate (.609 OPS) and in the field (10 errors).  Ramirez switched leagues but still finds himself on the No-Star team for the second year in a row with a -2.1 WAR and a glove that is an astonishing 16 runs below average.


All-Stars: – Mike Trout (LA Angels, AL), Mookie Betts (Boston, AL), Ian Desmond (Texas, AL), and Starling Marte (Pittsburgh, NL), Carlos Gonzalez (Colorado, NL), Ryan Braun (Milwaukee, NL)

– Trout just keeps getting better (18 HR, 1.000 OPS), and Betts is delivering on his pre-season hype (18 HR, .866 OPS), but the real surprise is Desmond.  Signed on a one-year deal and playing out of position he has put up 15 HR, 15 SB, and a 3.5 WAR.  With McCutchen and Polanco sharing an outfield, Marte is often overlooked but he shouldn’t be (25 SB, .318 average).  CarGo and Braun are dialing back the clock a few years with a combined 31 HR, 95 RBI, and .918 OPS.

No-Stars – Justin Upton (Detroit, AL) and Ben Revere (Washington, NL)

– After signing a 6-year, $132-million deal with the Tigers, Upton has been a massive disappointment thus far: .230 average, .653 OPS, 8 HR, 106 strikeouts.  Revere looks nothing like the guy that hit leadoff in Toronto last year.  He isn’t hitting (.225 avg), getting on base (.273 OBP), or running (10/14 in SB).

Starting Pitcher

All-Stars: – Chris Sale (Chicago, AL) and Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles, NL)

– Danny Salazar has a better ERA, a higher K/9 ratio, better WAR, and has allowed 25 fewer hits than Sale.  So why Sale?  He pitches deeper into games (7.05 IP/start vs. 6.18 for Salazar), has a much better WHIP (0.98 to 1.14), and walks far fewer batters (24 to 44).  Either are worthy, however.  The NL is much more top heavy (Arrieta, Cueto, Bumgarner, Teheran, Syndergaard) but there is no debate: Kershaw is the man.  He leads the league in ERA (1.79), Shutouts (3), ERA+ (220), FIP (1.69), WHIP (0.73), Hits/9 (5.9), and K/W (an astounding 16.11).  He has 8 unintentional walks in 121 innings!

No-Stars – Ubaldo Jimenez (Baltimore, AL) and Shelby Miller (Arizona, NL)

– That Jimenez somehow has 5 wins despite a 6.95 ERA, 1.92 WHIP, and 48 walks shows just how strong Baltimore’s offense is.  Miller has been a huge bust in Arizona with his 7.14 ERA almost single handedly crushing the D-Backs playoff hopes.

Non-Closing Reliever

All-Stars: – Brad Brach (Baltimore, AL) and Seung Hwan Oh (St. Louis, NL)

– Betances and Miller are striking out everybody for the Yankees but it’s hard to ignore Brach’s 0.95 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, and 56 K in 47.1 IP.  Oh is now technically the closer for the Cardinals, but he still counts here.  He has been lights out: 58 K, 0.88 WHIP, 1.67 ERA in 43 IP.

No-Stars – Mark Lowe (Detroit, AL) and Jose Urena (Miami, NL)

– I don’t know what is crazier: the fact that Lowe has a 10.33 ERA and 1.89 WHIP, or the fact that he has appeared in 31 games, meaning the Tigers keep putting him out there!  Urena was awful in 16 appearances for the Marlins, putting up a 7.52 ERA.


All-Stars: – Zach Britton (Baltimore, AL) and Kenley Jansen (Los Angeles, NL)

– Britton is 25 for 25 in save chances, and sports a crazy looking 0.76 ERA and 0.84 WHIP.  Jansen’s WHIP is even lower, however, at 0.64 thanks to only 5 walks allowed 35.2 innings, compared with 47 strikeouts.

No-Stars – Shawn Tolleson (Texas, AL) and J.J. Hoover (Cincinnati, NL)

– Tolleson came out of nowhere in 2015 and seemingly was in a hurry to get back there in 2016, blowing four saves with an ERA of 9.20 before finally losing the closer job in late May.  Hoover blew his very first chance as Reds closer, and had an ERA of 19.50 on April 22.  That….is not good.

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


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.


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.


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?


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


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.


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!


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.


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


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


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…


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.


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.


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


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:


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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


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?


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.


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.


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


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


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








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









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








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








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








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


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