Marlins OF Giancarlo Stanton is murdering baseballs

Photo via Warwick Saint/ESPN

Since the All-Star Break, Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton has been the hottest player in baseball.  On the flip side, his American League home run leading counterpart, Aaron Judge, has been one of the coldest. Judge’s struggles have sparked and enabled the “why do guys still compete in the HR Derby when it ruins their swing” argument to resurface.

While Judge has been this year’s poster child for the anti-Derby argument, for some reason Giancarlo Stanton has not been for the other side of the argument. Stanton competed in the same HR Derby as Judge yet his performance since the break has been historic.

Stanton did compete in two fewer rounds than Judge this year, but to claim the amount of swings a hitter takes in the derby impacts their post ASG performance would be even crazier than suggesting the Derby itself ruins swings.

In the last 34 games and 149 plate appearances, Stanton is hitting .311/.436/.836 good for a 1.272 OPS, to go along with 19 HR and 39 RBI. In that stretch, Stanton has also posted a 213 wRC+, a statistic that measures offensive ability vs the league average. The league average is 100, so a score of 213 says that Stanton has been 113% better than a league-average hitter.

One of the most incredible aspects of Stanton’s torrid pace right now is that he’s done it while having just a .268 BABIP compared to his career average of .319 and season average of .293.  This means that Stanton has been unlucky on balls he has hit in play and would have been even more dominant over this stretch if he’d just been average on balls in play.

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Stanton hits homer out of Dodger Stadium Via Houston Mitchell/LA Times

From August 10-15, Stanton homered in 6 straight games and had done so in two of the three games prior. Overall, he has 12 homers in his last 16 games.

Stanton now has 45 home runs on the season. If he keeps hitting at this pace, he has a great chance to challenge and beat Roger Maris single-season record of 60 HR which some people believe to be the true HR record based on steroid allegations against all those who have hit over 60.

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Via Mike Nudelman/Business Insider

While the Marlins playoff hopes are all but gone with a mediocre 60-62 record, Stanton’s chase for 60 will continue to put butts in seats and eyeballs on screens.

With most of the MLB’s playoff picture decided, Stanton’s pursuit of 61 might be the most exciting thing left in the regular season.

Moreover, Stanton’s incredible run could be great for baseball as the sport needs stars and individual performances to rally behind to compete with the NBA and NFL.

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Indians’ Corey Kluber making under the radar case for Cy Young

On May 2, 2017, Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians had finished his No. 6 start of the season, lasting just three innings while allowing 5 ER, bumping his ERA up to an uncharacteristic 5.06.  The next day Kluber was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a back injury.  Since his return on June 1, Kluber has been arguably the best pitcher in all of baseball.

In his 13 starts since returning from the DL, Kluber has been unhittable and has nearly cut his ERA in half to 2.65. Over that same stretch, he has had double-digit strikeouts in 11 starts, including at least 11 Ks in his last five.  Altogether he leads the MLB by a significant margin with 142 Ks in that time frame.

Via Jason Miller/Getty Images

The man closest to Kluber in the K department since his return just so happens to be the same man who has overshadowed his ridiculous season, Chris Sale.  While Kluber was struggling through April and was hurt for basically all of May, Sale was dominating his competition.  Through his first 11 starts, Sale had racked up 110 Ks, a 6-2 record, a 2.77 ERA, and had gone less than seven innings in just two starts.

Sale was a strong, early Cy Young candidate, and has remained the leader in a seemingly one-horse race as his performance has only improved in his last 12 starts.  The problem is that while Sale still deserves to be the leader in the Cy Young race, Corey Kluber has pitched his way into the conversation but is getting limited recognition.

Via Getty Images

Since June 1st, Kluber has outpitched Sale and every other pitcher in the MLB. Kluber leads baseball in strikeouts, IP, OBP against, SLG against, wOBA against and is No. 2 to only Clayton Kershaw with a 1.70 ERA.  He recently passed Kershaw and Max Scherzer into second place behind Sale for pitchers WAR according to FanGraphs with a 4.9.

While Kluber did struggle to start the season, his season long stats still nearly mirror Sale’s.  What helps put Sale ahead of Kluber is the 28.2 extra innings he’s pitched along with his incredible 1.98 FIP.  A couple of the two aces important rate statistics, K/9, BB/9, HR/9, and ERA, are all nearly the same showing that Sale’s strong WAR lead comes down to more playing time.

If not for Kluber’s DL time it would be interesting to see how close the gap would be between the two.  Kluber and Sale are the only two SPs averaging more than seven IP per start this season so it seems to follow that Kluber would have made up the 28-inning gap over his four missed starts.

Last night Sale went eight innings with 13 Ks allowing no runs on two hits and one walk, following up his worst outing of the season in which he allowed seven ER against Kluber’s Indians. Kluber kept pace with Boston’s ace by going the distance for the second game in a row with eerily identical pitching lines. In both games he fanned 11, allowed 1 ER on a solo HR and held the opposing lineup to just three hits.

It’s impossible to correctly answer which guy is pitching better right now but the consistency of Sale rightly keeps him atop the Cy Young and WAR leaderboards. With another 7-8 weeks in the season there is plenty of time for Kluber to gain ground if Sale sputters because despite what the mainstream media has said, this is not a one-horse race.

Corey Kluber pitches during 2016 ALDS at Fenway Park Via Jason Miler/Getty Images

 

For the fans, all we can do is hope that both stay healthy and dominant heading into the postseason.  The AL East leading Red Sox and Central leading Indians are slated to face each other in the ALDS of the 2017 Playoffs and if they hold their division leads we could be in for one of the greatest postseason pitching matchups of All-Time will Kluber and Sale both toeing the rubber for Game 1 and possibly games 4 or 5.

Dodgers, Nationals win NL trade deadline

Nationals Boost Bullpen by bringing in Brandon Kintzler

The weakest bullpen in baseball was greatly improved with the additions of Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle last week and now former Minnesota Twins closer Brandon Kintzler. Kintzler has had a very solid year so far for the Twins and is another piece of the puzzle for the loaded Nationals.

Via Brad Rempel/USA Today Sports

With a lineup and starting rotation as strong as the Nationals, there was absolutely no need to make a big splash at the deadline. The Nats did what they needed to do by building a bullpen strong enough to bring a World Series to DC.

Cubs add RP Justin Wilson and C Alex Avila from Detroit Tigers

After bringing in SP Jose Quintana, the Cubs filled their last few weaknesses by adding Wilson and Avila. Like their 2016 World Series opponent, the Cubs had an underperforming roster and didn’t need to make any bold moves after acquiring Quintana.

Chicago’s upgrades needed to come from within, and have as of late. The Cubs have been one of the best teams after the All-Star break and currently hold a 2.5 game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central.

Wilson helps the Cubs bullpen that has been good but not great this year.  He’ll likely slide into a No. 8 inning setup position before closer Wade Davis.  It’s not a very sexy addition, but any bullpen build up is very helpful for the final months of the regular and postseason.

Via Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Alex Avila comes will fill the backup catcher void left by Miguel Montero.

Montero was cut by the Cubs after bashing teammate Jake Arrieta for not holding runners on well enough. Avila has had a resurgent year and is hitting RHP very well, something the Cubs starting C Wilson Contreras hasn’t done very well.

Montero brings more versatility to the already deep lineup.

If the Cubs regulars like Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber can play as expected down the stretch, this team could be very dangerous again in October.

Rockies follow Cubs suit and bring in RP Pat Neshek and C Jonathan Lucroy

In similar fashion to Chicago, the Rockies addressed their biggest needs and upgraded their struggling bullpen and catcher position. Neshek has been phenomenal for the Philadelphia Phillies and will aid closer Greg Holland.

Via Icon SportsWire

Lucroy, on the other hand, has struggled mightily, but has been one of the best catchers in the past couple years.

Now, Lucroy comes to Colorado as a low-risk high-reward player. The Rockies have had the worst offensive production from the catcher position all year. If Lucroy is able to perform in the friendly confines of Coors Field, his addition will do wonders for the Rockies.

Colorado’s roster is loaded with young talent, especially in their starting pitching, so it makes sense that they didn’t go all in on the 2017 season for their almost inevitable Wild-Card matchup against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Dodgers Go All in on 2017 trading for Yu Darvish, Tony Cingrani, and Tony Watson

The Los Angeles Dodgers held out to the last minute of the trade deadline to bring in rental ace Yu Darvish.  While I don’t think this move was entirely necessary, mainly because the Dodgers roster is so incredibly talented, it definitely increases their chances of making a serious push in the playoffs.

Darvish has struggled as of late for the Rangers, notably surrendering 10 ER over 3.2 IP in his last start against the Miami Marlins.

The low demand on the market and the Rangers need to get some value for their Ace who is bound for free agency this summer, made it so the Dodgers did not have to give up a Top-50 prospect in the deal.

Via Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Despite his recent struggles though, Darvish has been one of MLB’s best starters since arriving in the US from Japan. He has been a strikeout machine and his K/9 (11.0) has been the best by a SP over the 5 seasons since he joined the MLB.

The four-time All-Star will undoubtedly be a part of the Dodgers postseason rotation that will most likely include Clayton Kershaw and Alex Wood.

The Dodgers have an incredible amount of starting pitching depth. As such, the fourth spot is up for grabs and could be for whoever is most effective towards the end of the season out of the pool of Brandon McCarthy, Kenta Maeda, and Hyun-jin Ryu.

If Darvish is able to return to his dominant form, Clayton Kershaw is 100 percent, and Alex Wood pitches like he has been this entire year, we could witness the most dominant postseason rotation of All-Time.

The additions of Cingrani and Watson help give an already solid bullpen plenty of depth on the left side. Both will be useful pieces for manager Dave Roberts to mix and match against some of the strongest left-handed hitters in baseball like Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Charlie Blackmon, Anthony Rizzo, and Jake Lamb, all of which the Dodgers are poised to face on their way to a World Series.

Los Angeles was the World Series favorite before the deadline and remain so. They should be the most exciting team to watch down the stretch and in the postseason.

American League Trade Deadline Recap: Yankees, Red Sox big winners

Red Sox acquire IF Eduardo Nunez and RP Addison Reed without giving up top prospects.

The Red Sox addressed their two biggest needs at the deadline by adding a solid bat in Eduardo Nunez who is capable of filling in at 3B which has been a nightmare spot for the Sox and adding Reed to the back of their bullpen that has been good, but shaky at times other than the dominant Craig Kimbrel.

The Sox also called up their top prospect Rafael Devers, who has been manning the hot corner while Nunez has been at 2B during a brief injury related absence of Dustin Pedroia.

Both of these guys have been swinging the stick really well for the Sox over the past few games and have brought life to this offense. However, it still is not an intimidating offense by any means, as it sits in last place in the AL in HR as it has done for most of the season.

The Red Sox hitters will all need to be clicking at once to keep up with the other AL powerhouses, and that’s a lot to ask of the young, powerless lineup.

AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

If the Red Sox are going to make any noise in the postseason it will be on the back of their starting pitching. The pitching has been great this year, but with the injury to Price and Pomeranz’s tendency to burnout towards the end of the season, it will remain to be seen whether or not the staff will be able to carry them.

While the Red Sox definitely got better at the deadline, their playoff chances took a hit due to what other AL teams did around them, mainly their heated rivals in the New York Yankees.

Yankees acquire SP Sonny Gray and SP Jaime Garcia

Between their pre-deadline trade with the White Sox and these two recent acquisitions, the New York Yankees are officially the winners of the 2017 trade deadline. They were able to boost their MLB roster while simultaneously not having to sacrifice the entire farm of prospects they have developed over the past few years.

With Sonny Gray and Jaime Garcia, the Yankees now have a formidable 5-man rotation that should be able to propel them to an AL East title. These two SPs also give the Yanks a much better-looking playoff rotation that will go four deep, featuring a dangerous 1-2 punch of Severino and Gray, followed by any combination of Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, and Jaime Garcia.

With the newly added depth and expected dominance of their bullpen, the starters will not face the same pressure to be lights out as those on other postseason teams.The Yankees acquisitions turned their biggest weakness, pitching, into arguably their biggest strength heading into the home stretch and makes them a much more likely candidate to win the Pennant and World Series.

The Yankees acquisitions turned their biggest weakness, pitching, into arguably their greatest strength improving their chances to win the Pennant and World Series.

Sonny Gray is controllable through 2020 and will be cheap while earning arbitration money. Moreover, the reactions to all their trades made it seem like everyone expected they would give up more than they did. While OF Blake Rutherford, OF Dustin Fowler, P James Kaprielian and IF Jorge Mateo are all solid prospects, the Yankees were able to keep SS Gleyber Torres, OF Clint Frazier, and other future MLB talent.

Cashman has done a marvelous job in the past two deadlines. He sold his assets, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman, for top dollar, and acquired impressive talent this season.

The Yankees are the winner of this year’s deadline bringing stability and success to the franchise for presumably many years to come.

Houston Astros acquire Francisco Liriano

Via Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

Houston desperately needed a top of the line SP and RP to go along with baseballs’ best offense, yet failed to address both of those needs. With Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers Jr. both coming off or going on the DL, Houston’s starting pitching is a major concern.

The addition of Gray, Darvish, or Verlander would’ve made the Astros the team to beat in the AL. Now, it looks like the clock might strike midnight on the Astros early in the 2017 postseason.

Houston still has the opportunity to potentially land Verlander before the waiver-trade deadline, but have seemed pretty firm on not relinquishing their top prospects to do so.

In regard to Liriano, he has struggled as a starter for Toronto this year, but is expected to move to the bullpen in Houston. He has dominated lefties this year and that will most likely be his primary focus out of the pen. However, he does not bring the amount of help the Astros’ staff needed.

It wouldn’t be smart to count Houston out yet. The team has been dominant to this point in the season, but their lack of a big acquisition certainly didn’t give any confidence that they’ll have the ability to roll through the postseason like they have done in the regular season. 

AL Central Teams Make Minor Adjustments

The Cleveland Indians added RP Joe Smith to further bolster their already excellent bullpen. The upgrades they needed were internal, and the emergence of Bradley Zimmer, combined with the improved play of Michael Brantley, Francisco Lindor, and Edwin Encarnacion has helped give the Tribe a major boost lately.

The Kansas City Royals decided to make one final push for a World Series and remain buyers at the deadline. With Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas all hitting free agency in the offseason, the future looks grim for the Royals, but their recent success led management to take one last shot at a World Series before the core of their 2015 Championship team hits free agency for a massive pay day.

Via Flickr/Keith Allison

The Royals added OF Melky Cabrera from the fire sale formerly known as the Chicago White Sox as well as SP Trevor Cahill and RP Brandon Maurer from the San Diego Padres. These moves did not cost the Royals much due to Cahill and Cabrera being rentals and they obviously don’t bring as much to KC as some of the more high-profile names on the market would have, but these moves make sense.

Kansas City was able to fill the few small holes the team had and while the roster may not look primed for a World Series, the Royals seem to have found the secret recipe for post season success making them an interesting competitor in the AL if they’re able to hold on to a Wild-Card spot or take over the division from the Indians.

Adrian Beltre Closes in on 3,000 career hits

Adrian Beltre made headlines for his on-field antics once again last night by getting ejected in the midst of a 22-10 blowout loss to the Miami Marlins.

The lightheartedness Beltre brings to the game of baseball is something we’ve all been accustomed to over the years. From his hatred of having his head touched to the cat and mouse game he plays with SS Elvis Andrus on infield pop-ups, Beltre has distinguished himself as one of the most entertaining stars in recent memory.

Beltre avoids his head being touched while celebrating a HR via YouTube

At the same time, however, Beltre has been the most underrated stars of this generation – and it’s not even close.

Somewhat overshadowed by his hilarious ejection, Beltre went 3-3 with a BB, 2 2B, and a HR and is now 7-10 in his last three games as he sits at 2,996 career hits, just four shy of the landmark 3,000.  Beltre will become just the No. 31 player in MLB history with 3,000 hits and will be the only active player beside Ichiro with 3,000 hits.

In a generation of baseball that has been lacking stars, Beltre has been one but hasn’t been treated or appreciated like the likes of Ichiro, Albert Pujols, or Miguel Cabrera. Beltre has been to only four All-Star games (all after the age of 30) and has been top 5 in the MVP voting only twice, and never won the award. He has racked up some pretty nice hardware in his 19 seasons, collecting four Silver Sluggers and five Gold Glove awards at the 3B position.

Via SportsDay Dallas

Beltre’s career has been a model of consistency and durability that is hard to come by in today’s MLB.  It’s a big reason why he currently ranks as the No. 7 best 3B of All-Time with a career 83.1 WAR and will likely be in the top 5 assuming he’s able to pass Hall of Famer George Brett and future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones who amassed 84.6 Wins Above Replacement over their careers.

At the age of 38, Beltre started his 2017 campaign on the DL dealing with a calf injury and since his return he’s shown no signs of slowing down and is following up his 2016 season very nicely, in which he posted a .300/.358/.521 slash line to go along with 32 HR and 104 RBI.

What’s been remarkable about his production is, unlike recent aging stars, his production has remained consistently great in his 30s.  In the past six seasons with the Texas Rangers, Beltre has been good for 33.7 WAR, an average of 5.6 per season. When considering 2 WAR is the standard for an average MLB player, Beltre has consistently been well above average in the years of his career in which his production should be experiencing a sharp decline.

Compare Beltre to Albert Pujols, the man many consider to be the best player of the mid 2000s, who in the past six seasons (age 31-36 years) has accrued 13.8 WAR, which translates to an average of 2.3 WAR per season. That 2.3 WAR means Pujols has been just above average recently, and it is not to take anything away from Pujols who put up incredible numbers through his 20s, but goes to show just how rare and incredible Beltre’s recent performance has been. Pujols still remains the active career WAR leader at 90.1 but there’s a chance Beltre could make up the 7 WAR difference that separates the top-two over the next few years.

His refusal to decline is a sign that he might be in line to become just the No. 6 MLB player to ever reach 500 HR and 3,000 hits, a group headlined by Hall of Fame greats Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.  He currently has 454 HR in his career so it’s no guarantee he’ll reach the 500 mark, but to doubt him at this point would be a mistake.

Beltre’s most unnoticed aspect of his game is his defense. While offense is what makes headlines and wins MVP trophies, Beltre’s career defensive performance, in which he’s accounted for 227.3 defensive runs at 3B is just second All-Time to Brooks Robinson at the position.

He has consistently been one of the best defenders in the league and, this should come as no shock to you at this point in the article, has been incredible defensively even in his 30s. But because defense is so hard to value, a large portion of Beltre’s success has gone underappreciated and undervalued.

Via Ken Jairay/USA Today Sports

The craziest part of Beltre’s climb to 3,000 hits has been the lack of coverage in mainstream media.

Once again, as many people have complained and will continue to complain, the MLB has done a poor job of marketing their stars, but here’s to hoping we can all enjoy the final few years of Beltre’s career and celebrate his greatness as he reaches 3,000 hits and chases the next milestone of 500 HR.

MLB Trade Deadline Tracker

The MLB trade deadline is still 12 days away but there have already been three key moves.

Jose Quintana Deal

The first was a deal made between the two clubs in the Windy City. The Chicago White Sox dealt SP Jose Quintana to the Cubs for prospects Eloy Jimenez (OF), Dylan Cease (RHP), Matt Rose (1B), and Bryant Flete (IF).

Quintana has been a known commodity for quite some time in the MLB, but has remained one of the most underrated starting pitchers in the game.  For the past four years Quintana has pitched 200+ innings with an ERA below 3.51 and over 160 K. His 20.6 WAR is good for 6th best by a pitcher from 2013-2017, beaten only by the likes of Kershaw, Scherzer, Sale, Kluber, and Price.

His 2017 campaign hasn’t gone as well as the previous four, but his production has picked up as of late.  In his last six starts he has dropped his ERA from 5.30 to 4.20 over 36.2 innings, which includes his first start with the Cubs in which he went 7 innings allowing only 3 hits, 0 ER, with 12 punch outs.

Quintana in his first start with the Cubs via Getty Images/Sporting News

His impact has already been made and the hope is he will help shore up the Cubs struggling rotation.  The best rotation in the MLB last year has performed nowhere near as well in 2017. Down years from Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jake Arrieta, and Kyle Hendricks have been one of the main reasons why the Cubs are so far from their 2016 Championship form.

The other reason Quintana was such a valuable trade piece for the White Sox is his contract. While many players shopped at the deadline are rentals with expiring contracts at the end of the season, Quintana is now controlled by the Cubs through 2020.  His salary is also pennies on the dollar compared to what his fair market value is as he will be making a measly $29.85 million over the next three years.

On the White Sox side of things, this trade is another step in their complete system overhaul and rebuild that has taken place over the past couple of years.  While the Sox have been struggling to contend for a while, the Chris Sale trade seemed to signal their commitment to a true rebuild, and so far, it is going well.

In this trade they picked up the Cubs top two prospects in Jimenez and Cease.  Jimenez is ranked 8th  , according to MLB.com’s top 100 prospects, and Cease comes in at 63rd on the same list.

Jimenez is power-bat that has drawn comparisons to Jorge Soler with upside potential to the likes of Giancarlo Stanton.  He has a smooth swing and has demonstrated the ability to hit HRs without selling out for power. He recently made headlines and followed in the footsteps of Roy Hobbs of The Natural by destroying a light fixture beyond the LF wall in a minor league HR Derby.

Cease is a hard throwing right-hander who has been able to touch 100 MPH on the radar gun at times while consistently sitting at 94-98.  He has potential to be a top of the rotation starter, with a plus curveball in his repertoire, but is still only in his first professional season so there is much to be seen.

J.D. Martinez Trade

The two other pre-deadline deals that made waves throughout the league took place yesterday. This first went down in the afternoon when the Detroit Tigers shipped J.D. Martinez to the Arizona Diamondbacks for three prospects.

With Martinez, the Dbacks filled out their outfield and now their trio of David Peralta, A.J. Pollock, and Martinez is up there with the best in the league along with the likes of the Miami Marlins and Boston Red Sox.

Via Getty Images/MLB Daily Dish

His contract is up at the end of the season, so Martinez is a rental due for a big pay-day this offseason whether it be from the Diamondbacks or another team around the league. What this means for the Dbacks is that they are going all in on the 2017 season.

Their record (54-39 good for 4th best in the MLB) and roster make this seem like an obvious conclusion and move, but being stuck behind the surging and MLB-best Los Angeles Dodgers makes it somewhat questionable. They are now 10.5 games behind the Dodgers who have won 30 of their last 34 games including all of their last 10.

It seems incredibly unlikely that they’ll be able to catch LA, and with the new wild card format, they’re basically going all in for a one game playoff to get into the actual playoffs. If the Dbacks are able to win the wild card game this move certainly helps them throughout the rest of the postseason.

What makes the deal for the Dbacks even more reasonable is that Arizona didn’t have to give up all that much for J.D. The Tigers brought in three young IF prospects, Dawel Lugo, Sergio Alcantara, and Jose King. All three seem to have big league potential but none standout as having future All-Star potential.

More significant than the haul the Tigers got in the deal is the signaling that they are officially sellers and believe time has run out on the core they’ve been riding since acquiring Miguel Cabrera from the Marlins in 2007. It will be interesting to see what’s next from the Tigers as rumors have already swirled about the possibility of Cabrera and Justin Verlander being on the block.

Todd Frazier, David Robertson, and Tommy Kahnle to the Yankees

The White Sox unloaded more veteran talent in a deal with the Bronx Bombers who sacrificed three prospects and struggling relief pitcher Tyler Clippard in the deal.

The deal shakes up the balance of power in the AL and AL East especially. When Frazier was removed from the lineup Tuesday night speculation was that he was getting ready to be sent to Yankees rival, the Boston Red Sox who also desperately needed and still need corner infield help.

The Yankees not only upgraded their roster, but in preventing the Red Sox from doing so have also hurt their rivals’ chances at both winning the division and the World Series.

The Yanks added another power bat to their lineup who will surely thrive in the HR friendly Yankee stadium, but the most important and under appreciated part of this trade was the bullpen upgrades New York received.

Via Stan Szeto/USA Today

Both Kahnle and Robertson are hard throwing righties with plus secondary pitches having very good seasons for the White Sox. Both hold sub 3.00 ERAs and have more strikeouts than innings pitched.  Both of these guys would contend to be closers on many MLB teams and now give the Yankees one of the best, if not the best bullpen in all of baseball.

Similar to when they were running out the three-headed monster of Betances, Miller, and Chapman, the Yanks now have four closer caliber relievers that can almost guarantee victory when holding a lead past the 5th inning.  This luxury will help immensely in the postseason as starting pitchers generally have a shorter leash and will especially in the Bronx due to their lack of talent behind Luis Severino.

For the White Sox, similar to the Quintana deal, it is another move to build their already MLB-best farm system. The big piece they bring in this deal is OF Blake Rutherford who ranks as the 30th best prospect in baseball.  Rutherford has bright upside potential and holds all the tools to be a potential future all-star on the south of Chicago. He excelled in Rookie ball in 2016 after being drafted 18th overall by NYY and has continued to produce in a competition this year.

The future is very bright for the White Sox who now hold nine of the top 68 prospects, per MLB.com.  Their rebuild has been incredible since the Sale deal and they now are primed to be a force to be reckoned with in the near future.

They may have given up a bit too much in this deal, especially in Kahnle who has a controllable and cheap contract, but their continued commitment to add depth and talent to their farm system should eventually pay off.

2017 MLB All-Star Game Preview

The All-Star game, something every baseball fan looks forward to, is finally here. The NL holds an All-Time advantage with a 43-42 record against the AL, but has struggled in the last couple decades. The American League has won the last four ASGs, and 16 of the last 19, including a 12-game win streak from 1997-2009.

The Starting Pitcher’s for this year’s contest will be two of the top three arms in baseball, Max Scherzer (NL) and Chris Sale (AL). Clayton Kershaw, who is generally recognized as the best starter in baseball, will not be on the mound following a start this past Sunday.

Via Sporting New/Getty Images

The starting lineups and rosters for both teams can be found here.

When comparing the rosters, it seems as though the NL has a better starting lineup, bench, and pitching staff.  While they have more than enough star power to win, talent doesn’t always decide the All-Star Game. Both teams are loaded, and in what’s effectively a one game playoff, anything can happen.

That’s why we’ve seen pitchers at the top of their game like Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, and Roger Clemens taking the loss, and players like Melky Cabrera, Carl Crawford, and J.D. Drew taking home the MVP.

Look for relievers to dominate the ASG, too, as starters aren’t used to coming out of the bullpen. It wouldn’t surprise me if the losing pitcher is a starter who comes out of the bullpen.

To win, teams are going to have to score early. When fireballers start coming in toward the end of the game, runs are going to be hard to come by. Last year, there wasn’t a single run scored after the 4th inning.  Also, no more than nine runs has been scored in an ASG since 2005.

The unpredictability of this game lies in trying to figure out which starter is most likely to struggle in a shortened outing, and that’s something no one is capable of doing. So rather than trying to and convince you of why the NL will win, I hope to convince you to watch the game — especially the first few innings.

The brightest stars in baseball are on display tonight, and it’s a great chance for everyone to see them, including the casual fans.

My dad and I have been discussing lately how the MLB lacks “legacy” stars in today’s game. The likes of A-Rod, Jeter, Bonds, Griffey Jr, etc. are gone, and now most of the leagues headliners are in their early 20s. While it leaves the game lacking a bit of nostalgia, I encourage fans to be incredibly excited about this new wave of youngsters taking the league by storm.

Via the MLB’s official website

The amount of young talent in this game is exceptional. From Trout (who unfortunately won’t be playing due to injury) and Harper, to Judge and Seager, Major League Baseball is flooded with talented young players.  Tonight is a fantastic night to see these guys in action. Get to know their names, because they’ll be around for a while.

Bryce Harper and Mike Trout at 2010 All-Star Game in Kansas City via H. Darr Beiser/USA Today

Maybe 15 years from now, the ASG will be flooded with “legacy” stars.

2017 MLB Home Run Derby predictions: Giancarlo Stanton to repeat

Photo via Getty Images

It’s Monday, July 10 and before we launch face first into the two most boring days in the sports year, the MLB has blessed us with an incredible amount of exciting, youthful talent in the 2017 Home Run Derby and All-Star Game.

Via MLB

Speaking of exciting and youthful talent, the MiLB Futures All-Star Game was on the MLBN this Sunday.  I wish I had a chance to write about this before it happened and I hope you had a chance to catch some of the action.

Nevertheless, if you didn’t see it and are as interested as I am in the incredibly bright future of the MLB, I highly recommend perusing the rest of the internet for articles on the game.

The Futures All-Star Game is LOADED with talent this year and is brimming with stars that we’ll be dominating the MLB in the next few years. Some notable alumni currently dominating the MLB include Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, and in a great transition HR derby participants Gary Sánchez and Miguel Sano.

Home run derby

And now we’re on to the derby.  The HR Derby, ESPECIALLY under the new format is one of the most exciting displays of athletic talent every year. Overall, the MLB All-Star festivities put all the other major sports to shame and the HR Derby is the cornerstone of that.

The suspense that the clock brings in to the competition is incredible. It gives every round a Game 7 kind of intensity with buzzer-beater potential for every second hitter.  Although it may not seem like a long time, the three minutes allotted to each player allows for them to overcome early struggles by catching fire late.

Derby odds

The odds given to us by the Las Vegas Insider are as follows:

Giancarlo Stanton (MIA) 9/5

Aaron Judge (NYY) 9/5

Cody Bellinger (LAD) 5/1

Miguel Sano (MIN) 7/1

Mike Moustakas (KC) 14/1

Gary Sánchez (NYY) 16/1

Justin Bour (MIA) 16/1

Charlie Blackmon (COL) 20/1

As everyone expected, Stanton and Judge are the two favorites, but there are a couple other intriguing players in the field that could give them a run for their money.

Stanton proved last year that picking against raw power and strength may not be the best idea, but there have been winners in the past who have proved capable of winning the derby with a sweet and effortless swing (i.e. Todd Frazier, Robinson Cano, Bobby Abreu).

The guys who fit that bill this year are Blackmon, Moustakas, and Bellinger. Personally, Blackmon has almost no shot of winning and Moustakas is a long shot, so by process of elimination Bellinger is the one many have and will be keeping an eye on.

Via Sports lllustrated

Bellinger has one of the prettiest swings in the game with which he’s mashed 25 HRs in just 70 games. He draws a favorable matchup against Blackmon in the first round, but after that, he’ll presumably have to go through Judge and Stanton, and that is a tough task for anyone.

As for the raw power bats in the competition, there is a four-horse race between Stanton, Judge, Sano, and Sanchez. Once again, when looking at match-ups, Sanchez’s road to a championship is a nightmare. With his draw, he would presumably have to go through my three favorites, Stanton, Sano, and Judge en route to a title.

His incredible odds do make him an intriguing pick though because he does have the incredible power necessary to keep up with the other big names. However, it is unlikely that he’ll pull off the upset but he’s definitely a name to watch.

Via Getty Images

Judge, on the other side of the bracket has the easiest road to the finals, facing off first against hometown hero, Justin Bour, followed by another favorable matchup against Bellinger or Blackmon. He has the swing, the strength, and path to win this thing, but you never know what the bright lights and pressure can do to a player with such lofty expectations and such little experience.

Miguel Sano poses the most intrigue in the derby as I could see him hitting three in the first round and being a complete bust or on the flip side breaking records and taking home the crown.  He has such an aggressive swing that goes under the radar due to his underwhelming 2016 campaign and the fact that he plays in Minnesota. Sano should be really exciting to watch and a true threat to Stanton’s throne.

The favorite

Last but not least, brings me to the reigning champ and my pick to repeat, Giancarlo Stanton.

Stanton could not have gotten a worse draw in this years’ derby as he potentially has to go through Sánchez, Sano, and Judge. But if there’s one swinger in the MLB today that’s up for the challenge, it’s Giancarlo.

Although I’ve used match-ups to dissuade you from other players in this competition, the home crowd and atmosphere on Stanton’s side give him the boost he needs to repeat.  The home crowd’s impact was no joke in 2015 when it helped propel Todd Frazier to his championship and I think we’ll see a similar effect for Giancarlo.

Todd Frazier with support of Cincinnati crowd in 2015 Derby Via USATSI

Speaking of home field advantage, how exciting would it be to see Stanton vs Bour in the finals. Marlins Park would be buzzing with an electricity it hasn’t ever felt.

MLB: The Fourth of July provides exciting baseball

Photo via Sandlot (1993)


Although it’s not technically the fourth of July yet, or even July for that matter, everyone around the country is celebrating this weekend as if it is the fourth of July weekend – and rightfully so.

The fourth is a time to celebrate, reflect on and enjoy all the great things we are blessed with as Americans.  So we load up our coolers, fire up the grills and head for the beach to enjoy the fruits of our labor for a couple days.

In between the boozing, the fun in sun, the endless burgers, and the malicious hangovers, we’re all going to find some down time slumped on a couch in front of the television.

That’s where baseball comes in.  America’s favorite pastime and the fourth go together like Busch Light and more Busch Light.

The MLB has also played along nicely with the holiday and scheduled a bevy of afternoon ballgames as well as a couple nationally televised games in the evening.

A quick check of my TV listings shows that on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. ET ESPN will be showing PBA bowling while the MLB Network offers us an undisclosed game. My best guess for this one would be the Red Sox @ the Blue Jays.

This game should be an easy one to sell to a fan because the man on the mound for the Red Sox is the strikeout machine, Chris Sale.  Sale’s numbers speak for themselves and every time this guy steps on the mound it’s an absolute treat for viewers around the world as the man is almost a guarantee to K 10+ batters a night and will probably start the All-Star game for the AL this year.

Red Sox Pitcherr.jpg
Photo via Getty Images

The craziest number about Sale is his WAR (wins above replacement). Through 16 starts, Sale has a 4.7 WAR, almost a full win better than the second place Max Scherzer (3.8).

Amazingly, there are just FOUR pitchers with above a 3.0 WAR.  Sale has been so much better than not just opposing batters, but basically every other hurler to step on the hill this year.

Sunday offers another Nationally televised on MLBN starting at 2 p.m ET, which is expected to feature the New York Yankees visiting the AL-leading Houston Astros in a matchup of two probably playoff teams. The game will showcase one of the best young arms in the game in Luis Severino, who has come back after an awful 2016 campaign and has been the ace of the Yankees’ staff while Masahiro Tanaka has struggled.

The Astros’ lineup puts fear into opposing pitchers’ every night no matter who they are.  One of the deepest lineups in baseball is throttled by the three-headed monster of Jose Altuve, George Springer, and Carlos Correa. All three are in their early 20s, and all three will be in MVP discussions at the end of the season unless Aaron Judge and Mike Trout don’t come back down to earth.

Houston
Photo via Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

Lastly, don’t forget the luscious fourth of July inspired uniforms the boys will be sporting over the next few days (I saw the beauties the Nationals were wearing last night and almost bought one on the spot).

Enjoy the beers, boats, burgers and may everyone have a Happy 4th of July!

Why the Cleveland Indians are the favorite to win the AL Pennant

The Cleveland Indians just posted 13 unanswered runs to beat the resurgent Texas Rangers last night by a score of 15-9 after trailing 9-2 (Disclaimer: I wrote this three days ago but didn’t get the chance to publish it).

While coming into the 2017 season the general consensus was that it was Cleveland’s starting pitching that would carry them through the regular season and into the playoffs. Last night showcased the two aspects of their squad that get much less recognition and are the main reasons why they’re my AL favorite.

The two aspects are their depth and strength of their lineup and bullpen.

The headline grab from Monday’s game is obviously the 13 runs the offense put up after the third inning, but what goes unnoticed was the ability of the Indians bullpen to hold the Rangers offense scoreless after the No. 4 inning.

More times than not when a team goes down early by seven runs, the manager will turn to their long relief mop up guys hoping to collect outs and save the premier arms in the bullpen to fight another day.

However, the Indians’ entire bullpen is comprised of premier arms.  Finishing the final five and two-thirds innings of last night’s game, surrendering just one ER on three H and two BB was the combination of Dan Otero, Boone Logan, Bryan Shaw, Cody Allen, and Nick Goody.

All of these guys may not be household names, but only one of them showcases an ERA above 3.00 (Otero – 3.48).  When you add in Zach McAllister (another sub 3.00 ERA) and, the man I believe to be the best reliever in baseball, Andrew Miller you get the most complete and dominant bullpen in baseball.

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Indians pitcher.jpg
Photo via Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

In total, there are seven quality arms in Cleveland’s pen who all have at least 26 appearances on the season. Out of those seven, the only guy averaging less than an inning per appearance is lefty specialist Logan.

During the 2016 postseason, we saw how effective Terry Francona’s strategic, heavy use of the bullpen was. Barring any significant injuries, it looks like he will have all the tools to do it again.

The bullpen as a whole ranks in the top-3 in almost every pitching category and leads in ERA (2.59), fewest blown saves (3), opponent SLG (.336), and opponent OPS (.621).

The other teams that hover around the top of these categories with the Indians are the Los Angeles Dodgers, Houston Astros, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Arizona Diamondbacks. Each team just so happens to be holding a spot in the playoffs right now.

With an increased importance on the health of starting pitching and limiting pitch counts in baseball, a strong bullpen carries value in many ways and is an underappreciated aspect of most successful MLB teams.

The main story of Monday’s 15-9 victory was the lineup of the Indians that put up a jaw-dropping 13 consecutive runs over a four-inning span.

This lineup was one that I thought, coming into the season, would undoubtedly be amongst the top 5 in the league. Unfortunately, everyone has underperformed this far except for Jose Ramirez and Lonnie Chisenhall.

Major offseason acquisition Edwin Encarnacion struggles at the plate have been most notable, but in the month of June, the Dominican slugger is slashing .333/.454/.654 with 23 R, 7 HR, and 18 RBI, and for the first time since June 2016, has more walks (17) than strikeouts (14).

In a lineup that has a lot of solid contact hitters, the power of Encarnacion can be the spark this lineup needs to catch fire for the second half of the season.

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Indians players.jpg
Photo via Tony Gutierrez/AP Photo

The other main disappoint from this lineup has been Francisco Lindor. Lindor’s power numbers have been impressive this year with 14 HR and 21 2B in just 330 PA whereas he had just 15 and 12 HR in 684 and 438 PA in 2016 and 2015 respectively, yet his ability to get on base and steal bags has been way down this year.

His AVG and OBP are down to .253 and .316 compared to .301 and .358 in 2016 and .313 and .353 in 2015.  This dip is mainly due to his .250 BABIP which is markedly lower than the .324 and .348 marks he had in 2016 and 2015, which means he is due for a positive regression over the final few months of the season.

While it may be over-optimistic to expect him to return to those levels, it is likely that number will regress towards the mean and bring his AVG up to around .270-.290 by the end of the season.

On top of these two all-star caliber players, the Indians lineup has depth and versatility across the board that allows them to matchup well against both righties and lefties. For example, Lonnie Chisenhall pinched hit against the Dodgers last week after the removal of Rich Hill, who posed an unfavorable lefty on lefty matchup, and finished the game 2-3 with a home run and five RBI against right-handed arms.

Chisenhall’s counterpart is Brandon Guyer who hits against left-handed pitchers well. Filling out the rest of the lineup are OF Bradley Zimmer, Michael Brantley, 2B Jason Kipnis, 1B Carlos Santana, and IF Jose Ramirez who have all shown the ability to go 4-4 with 2 HR on any given night. Don’t be surprised to see this lineup get hot and carry the team through the dog days of summer and into October.

This lineup reminds me of the one that carried the Royals to back-to-back World Series in 2014 and 15. On any night, the nine guys they trot out are tough outs and really make the pitcher work to get through six innings.

It has been well documented over the years that power pitching is what wins in the postseason. With a staff headed by Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Danny Salazar, the Indians have the potential to have the best starting rotation in the postseason.

While Salazar has been a disappointment this season and Carrasco got roughed up on Monday night, they’ve had stretches of dominance in the past and, if healthy, they can do so again in the playoffs. If Kluber gives the same level of production he did in the 2016 postseason (4-1, 1.83 ERA, 35 K, pitching on 3 days rest 3 times), the Indians will have a No. 1 Ace that can match up with the best of the MLB.

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Other Indian Pitcher.jpg
Photo via Jason Miller/Getty Images

Their rotation is finished out with Mike Clevinger, Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin, and Ryan Merrit, all of which have shown the potential to be postseason pitchers, especially with the prowess of the aforementioned bullpen behind them.

Most playoff rotations consist of three or four guys. With seven arms to pick from, everyone should have a lot of trust in Francona to put together the strongest postseason rotation in the AL.

The Indians have won 10 of their last 15 games and look to be righting the ship at the perfect time. They currently sit atop a wide open AL Central with a 41-36 record and look poised to run away with the division or at worst compete for a wild card spot. Especially when you consider the Tribe went 53-28 at Progressive Field in 2016 and are currently 16-20 at home this season.

There are numbers of ways in which the Indians can improve and will improve in the second half of this season.


Let’s #EmbraceDebate here.  Let me know why you guys think I’m wrong and who you see rolling through the AL this October.