All posts by seanbiagiotti

MLB Trade Deadline Moves that Won’t Happen but Should Happen

With the trade deadline right around the corner, we are going to be seeing a lot of faces in new places (as ESPN likes to say). Even though many players are going to have new homes come August 1st, there will still be players who won’t move but definitely should go to new teams; but they won’t, due to their superstar status, their astronomical salary, or due to the price that must be given up to get them. Here is a list of players (and one team) that I would like to see traded but most likely won’t move a muscle:

Manny Machado (BAL)

The young superstar is having a lackluster season for the O’s, hitting only .238 with 18 HR and 47 RBI. His homerun and RBI numbers aren’t really that far off from his normal self, but his average is what’s killing him. Machado has become a star in this league due to his ability to not only hit 35 HR and 90 RBI, but to do so while also being a career .284 hitter. To have both that power and consistency at the plate is something that very few in this league can accomplish. But the Orioles are currently in selling mode, showing that they are most likely trying to rebuild the franchise with youth. The problem with this is that Machado only has one year left on his current contract before he hits free agency, and chances are, he isn’t going to be resigning with Baltimore. If the Orioles were smart, they would trade him and get something in return while they still can. They can do this next Summer too, but his value would amount to less because he would only be a rental. Comparable to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ predicament with Kyrie Irving.

manny-machado-brandon-guyer-mlb-tampa-bay-rays-baltimore-orioles.jpg

Marcus Stroman (TOR)

The Blue Jays have been to the ALCS in each of the past two seasons, carried by extremely offensive-minded teams. Marcus Stroman, though, has been a very good pitcher for this team since coming up in 2014. His career ERA might not be easy on the eyes (3.91), but it’s only due to a down season in 2016. He has come back this season strong with a 3.10 ERA and shown the league that he is a top-of-the-rotation starter in the majors. He is under team control until 2020, which enhances his value even more. The Blue Jays are getting old and are showing that age this season. Toronto had its chances at the championship for two seasons and failed to capitalize. Now, they need to sell off their pieces and rebuild this team – starting with Stroman. His performance, along with the fact that he is under team control for another three seasons makes his value extremely high and would get the Blue Jays a haul of talented, young prospects who they can use to start rejuvenating this franchise.

Roberto Osuna (TOR)

Another young pitcher for Toronto, this closer has been absolutely dominating since coming into this league in 2015 as a 20-year-old. To say the youngster is a stud is an understatement. He has a career 2.51 ERA and .885 WHIP. Like Stroman, Osuna is under team control until 2021 but is eligible for arbitration this season, where he is likely to command a huge salary. It doesn’t make sense for the Blue Jays to pay him this large salary when they are a last place team. They need to trade Osuna when his value is astronomically high (like it is now) and get a plethora of prospects to help replace the aging players on this team in return.

roberto-osuna-mlb-toronto-blue-jays-spring-training-interleague-game-850x560.jpg

Jose Abreu (CHW)

The White Sox have made it clear that they are sellers by trading away Jose Quintana, Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle. Abreu should be next on their roster to move. He is their third-oldest position player in a franchise that wants to get younger. Moving the 30 year-old who is having a stellar hitting year with .294 with 16 HR and 59 RBI, would get Chicago more prospects to go alongside Yoan Moncada and the prospects they received from the Yankees. To make him even more valuable, he is under team control for another two seasons, which is a big bonus for a player of his caliber. His name isn’t being thrown around very much right now, but he would certainly help most contenders this year.

Giancarlo Stanton (MIA)

I know. His name is all over the papers as the Marlins are trying to get rid of his exorbitant contract. The issue is that no other team in the majors wants it either. Stanton is making at least $25 million between now and 2028 (when he is 38 years old). To put that into perspective, that’s the same deal A-Rod took with the Yankees, and by the end of it, every Yankee fan was cursing his name. It makes no sense for any team to want to take on that deal and pay Stanton that much money for the next decade. Yes, right now, he is worth it. Stanton is an incredible player and a physical specimen. But think about this deal in five years. Stanton will be 33 and making $32 million. I can guarantee that he will not be putting up the numbers he is now when he is 33. Nobody does. He is in the prime of his career right now and he was smart. He saw a chance to make an obscene amount of money and he took it. But no team will take on this contract unless they get a lot of help from the Marlins, and I don’t see that happening. At least not this year.

636209900451303291-sw25-Giancarlo-Stanton-0104.jpg

Miami Marlins

I wanted to put Stanton in his own category because he is a vey special case compared to the rest of this team. The Marlins have made it known that much of their team is up for sale – and I would love to see them go. Miami has a lot of young talent that can go to other teams and make a big difference. Marcel Ozuna (26) is having an amazing year, hitting .315 with 23 HR and 70 RBI. His teammate Christian Yellich (25) is a great young hitter and can develop power if he were to bulk up at bit. Dee Gordon (29) could also have a huge impact with his speed and defensive range for a contender. Finally, Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto has already established himself in the majors despite his age. He is a career .285 hitter; you don’t see that every day from a catcher. I don’t think many of these guys are going to move, but look out for Yellich as he has had his name thrown around quite a bit the past few days.

Matt Harvey (NYM)

As a Mets fan, I have to put this in here. I know he is not going to be traded due to his terrible trade value right now, but it needs to be said that he needs to get out of the Mets organization. Harvey had two very good seasons for the Mets where he helped lead them to the World Series in 2015 as an ace of the staff (alongside Jacob DeGrom). Since then, he has been nothing but trouble for the Mets including the time where he lied about not coming to the ballpark because of “migraines”.

2-matt-harvey-e14464352377441.jpg

Joey Votto (CIN)

I feel bad for Joey Votto, I really do. The guy has been an amazing baseball player since he came up with the Reds in 2007. But since that year, the Reds have only had a winning record three times, with only have two division titles in the last ten years. I understand that he is the face of their franchise and the guy who nobody in Cincinnati wants to see go, but you can’t help but feel bad for such a talented player being wasted on such a poor team.

Mike Trout (LAA)

Speaking of wasting a player’s talent, that is exactly what’s going on in Los Angeles. If only one of the players on this list could be traded, I would want it to be Mike Trout. Trout has been the best player in the MLB since his rookie year in 2012 – plain and simple. The outfielder has finished in the top two for MVP every single year he has been in the majors (winning the award twice), been an All-Star every season and has won a Silver Slugger every year. Add to that very good defense and you have the best player we have seen in a long time in the majors. The only issue with Mike Trout is that he is on the Angels. The Angels have been very inconsistent since Trout has entered the league, only making the playoffs once (2014). I understand that it would take a mountain of talented prospects in order to get Trout from the Angels, but this is a player who has put up stats similar to Mickey Mantle, Mel Ott and Willie Mays through this point in his career. To have that great of a player on a team as inconsistent as the Angels is a crime. He has carried this team, and even Trout can’t take them to the playoffs. It’s time for the Angels to understand that they are wasting the career of a player who will become one of the all-time greats if he keeps up this pace (and at 25 he shows no signs of slowing down). They need to let Trout join a team where he has the chance to lead a team to a championship.

010316_Mike_Trout_1280_wsg93mqs_sf3kr04t.jpg

Midseason MLB Award Predictions

AL MVP:

Sean Biagiotti: Aaron Judge

With Mike Trout out of the race for MVP (as of right now) due to injury, the MVP title is now Judge’s to lose. He ranks in the top two for home runs (30), RBI (66), and batting average (.329). The trio of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer all are having terrific years, but it’s hard to ignore what Judge has done in his rookie year in New York. But keep an eye out for Trout, because he is baseball’s best player and may make a run at Judge for the award.

Charles Lian: Aaron Judge

I really didn’t want to do this (the Mets fan in me), but it’s hard to ignore what Judge has done. Currently leading in two out of the three Triple Crown categories, I think he has a legit shot at getting it, and would be the first since Miguel Cabrera in 2012 to do so – and yes, Miggy won the MVP that year. I could go on with the accolades; not only has he lit up the stat sheet, he has also reinvigorated a Yankees fan base searching for an icon post-Jeter. I can personally attest to this, given the sheer number of Judge shirts I’ve seen around Yankee Stadium. Mike Trout was terribly unlucky not to pull the MVP and ROY double in 2012, but Judge is definitely the favorite to do so. Trout (when he returns from injury) will still be a presence just because he’s Trout and it’s hard to ignore the accomplishments of the Red Sox’s Mookie Betts and the Astros’ trio. The MVP is still Judge’s to lose.

Parth Thakkar: Carlos Correa

Along with the talents of Jose Altuve and George Springer, Correa has seemed like a natural leader for the Houston Astros. His numbers reflect this, too, as he’s hitting .320 with 18 HR and 60 RBI and leading the Astros to 59-28 record. For these reasons, he should be the 2017 AL midseason MVP over a certain Aaron Judge.

31KEPNERweb1-master675.jpg

Shravan Balaji: Aaron Judge

This guy has been phenomenal, hitting for both power and contact, leading the way for a revived Yankees team (albeit one that has been struggling as of late). Judge is the most celebrated Yankee rookie since Derek Jeter, and he is part of a uniquely young, rising Yankee squad that is still in playoff contention. Judge himself has a shot at the elusive Triple Crown, being only the second player to achieve that since 1967. He’s the MVP, no doubt.

NL MVP:

Sean Biagiotti: Paul Goldschmidt

Goldschmidt has been playing like an MVP for the past five seasons, and this is the year that he will finally win it. He is in the Top 10 in batting average (.312), home runs (20), and RBI’s (67). Add that to a golden glove and he is an all-around stud. With the Diamondbacks finally being a good team, Goldschmidt will take home his first MVP.

Charles Lian: Paul Goldschmidt

Yes, I understand Justin Turner is leading the league with an insane .377 batting average, but he also missed 2 weeks because of injury and just barely qualified for the batting title. If he maintains that for the rest of the season (doubtful), it’ll be hard NOT to reward that, especially on a Dodgers team that should be in the NLCS. Joey Votto is having his usual above-average season (leading the league in offensive WAR, OBP and SLG) but being on a really bad Reds team hurts his chances. I still wanted to give him a shout out though. Same for Arenado, who led the league the last two seasons in RBIs (130+) and is once again on track to do that, albeit he plays at Coors. I think that hurts him (even though I personally think the Coors effect is overrated), but he is still incredibly underrated because he plays for the Rockies who were irrelevant until this year (I think they’re for real). Anybody on the Nationals could win it – Harper, Murphy, Rendon, Zimmerman (and I think they’ll all finish in the top ten), but I think they’ll end up taking away votes from each other. This is the most dangerous lineup from the top down in the NL and as much as it pains me, I think they finally break through to the WS, especially if they fix their bullpen issues.

Now the real pick: Goldy. Similar to Votto in his track record of consistency, but the D’Backs are actually good this year (after last season’s disaster)! Currently tied with Justin Turner for highest WAR amongst position players, Goldschmidt plays every game, ranks top ten in every offensive category you can think of and plays a golden glove-caliber first base- and he steals, too! Pull up any advanced metric and Goldschmidt doesn’t have a negative next to any of his stats. Best player on a contending team, and I’ll admit that this pick is a little nod to his exemplary contributions over the years.

PaulGoldschmidt_2014_4.jpg

Parth Thakkar: Bryce Harper

Much like Correa, Harper has shined along with teammates Daniel Murphy and Ryan Zimmerman, and carries a natural leadership talent. Harper is hitting .321 with 20 HR and 64 RBI, and is leading the Nationals to a 51-35 record, and yet again, another potential playoff run. For these reasons, Bryce Harper should win the 2017 NL midseason MVP award.

Shravan Balaji: Justin Turner

An odd pick, but between his advanced stats and his insane batting average (.377!), he’s the guy. A leader for the red-hot Los Angeles Dodgers, it’s hard to think of many players who deserve this award more than he does. Paul Goldschmidt, Joey Votto, and even Daniel Murphy deserve consideration for the award, and it’s certainly not as clear-cut as the AL race, but Turner’s phenomenal season deserves the credit that it is due.

AL CY Young

Sean Biagiotti: Chris Sale

Sale has been absolutely dominant for the Red Sox this year. His is 11-4 record with a 2.75 ERA and .90 WHIP is incredible. Jason Vargas may be leading the AL in wins and ERA, but Sale’s league-leading 178 Ks and WHIP show how deadly he has been on the mound this year.

c01_chris_sale_82932134.jpg

Charles Lian: Chris Sale

Probably the second easiest choice behind ROY (we’ll get to that but we all know who it is), Sale has not regressed at all since his headlining offseason move. He has pitched like the ace he was advertised to be and is single-handedly keeping the Red Sox in the thick of the playoff race (no matter how little run support they give him). He’s also at 178 strikeouts, which is just absurd if it wasn’t for Scherzer. I don’t think anybody’s even close to the caliber of Sale for the Cy, but special shoutout to Jason Vargas and Ervin Santana for having solid seasons themselves –  longtime journeymen-turned All Stars who could still be moving at the deadline.

Parth Thakkar: Chris Sale

Sale has been undeniably lethal for the first half of the 2017 season. Sure, his record and ERA may not be as good as Jason Vargas’, but his nasty fastball-slider combination has absolutely stifled hitters this season, earning him a league leading 178 SO, .90 WHIP, .200 BAA, and thus, the AL midseason Cy Young award.

Shravan Balaji: Chris Sale

As much as this Yankee fan hates to say it, Sale is one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball and has had a terrific season for the AL East leading Boston Red Sox. With a 2.59 ERA, Sale has anchored one of the most dominant rotations in the game.

NL CY Young:

Sean Biagiotti: Max Scherzer

The winner of this award is going to be Kershaw or Scherzer. These two are in a different league from the rest of the pitchers in the NL. How do you choose which one deserves the award? Simple. If you were playing in game seven of the World Series, which one would you want to start for your team? Right now, for me, it’s Scherzer. He has been lights out for Washington this year with a 2.10 ERA and .78 WHIP. And he has the second most strikeouts in the majors behind Sale. I’m not saying Kershaw wouldn’t win you the game; he probably would. But right now, Max Scherzer is the pitcher you would want in a winner-take-all game – and that’s why he gets it over Kershaw.

Charles Lian: Max Scherzer

Two horse race and I don’t even think anybody else is close to touching Scherzer and Kershaw. The front runner is currently Scherzer just for his pure dominance. I hope you were paying attention to the ticker at the ASG where Scherzer has managed to have a better ERA (2.61), WHIP (0.78), and K/9 (12.1) rate at the break than this point last year. AND he won the Cy Young last year. He’s also 27 Ks away from 200 for the season, and realistically he’ll have that before July ends. Kershaw’s got somewhat of a leg up in some advanced metrics but the argument could even be made that Scherzer’s a solid MVP candidate with his league leading WAR. Back to back Cys for Max and it should be an easy ride to get there.

scherzer1280_d67kv43w_uqlq8hqd.jpg

Parth Thakkar: Clayton Kershaw

Consistency has been the name of the game for Kershaw. Once again, the southpaw has produced amazing numbers (13-2, 2.19 ERA), earning him, in my opinion, the NL CY Young midseason award. Don’t be surprised, however, if other people go with Max Scherzer for this accolade.

Shravan Balaji: Max Scherzer

I first saw him pitch as a Tiger against my Yankees in 2012, and this guy is the real deal. Scherzer has pitched phenomenally for the NL East-leading Nationals, who hope to finally break out of their playoff rut and win the Pennant this year. Behind his arm, they certainly have a fighting chance.

AL Rookie of the Year:

Sean Biagiotti: Aaron Judge

He could get hurt for the rest of the year and still win this award. That’s how far ahead of every other rookie this young man is.

Charles Lian: Aaron Judge

Easiest choice, if it’s not unanimous then I question the voters. Same reasons as above, and not even close for this one. Benintendi came into the year as the favorite and has had a decent season, but Judge could win the season award based on just his first half alone.

Parth Thakkar: Aaron Judge

25 years old. 6’7”, 282 lbs; a massive physical stature. A .330 BA, with 30 HR, and 66 RBI. On top of that, he leads the MLB in runs scored, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS. Oh, and he just broke Joe Dimaggio’s franchise record for home runs hit by a rookie. ‘Nuff said.

image.jpeg

Shravan Balaji: Aaron Judge

See Above.

NL Rookie of the Year:

Sean Biagiotti: Cody Bellinger

This race is a little closer than its AL counterpart, but not by much. The Dodger rookie is killing pitchers this season. He was called up in May and still has 25 home runs this season, which is good for second in the National League. Bellinger, like Judge, doesn’t have much competition for the award this year.

Charles Lian: Cody Bellinger

Only knock against Bellinger is he didn’t get called up until a month into the season, but the kid’s already got 25 HRs and even came up with a decent showing in the derby. He’s so good that Adrian Gonzalez went down with an injury and can realistically just take the regular season off and come back as a lethal postseason pinch-hitter. Or just slot Bellinger in RF because he can play there too. I don’t think anybody’s close to touching him, but you can make a strong case for the Rockies’ trio of arms and I sincerely hope they don’t burn out (they remind me of the Mets just a couple years ago). Speaking of the Mets, I just want to give a quick shout out to T.J. Rivera for finally being able to lock down a place on the Mets roster and filling in wherever he’s needed. He’s got relatively no shot at ROY, but with all the injuries the Mets have had, I appreciate unknown role players contributing. This was my one way of sneaking the Mets in. While we’re on the subject, I think Conforto and Gsellman should get some credit too (okay I’m done).

Parth Thakkar: Cody Bellinger

Bellinger is only 21 years of age, and in just 68 games, he’s hit 24 homers and drove in 56, helping lead the Dodgers to a 59-29 record. He’s the only rookie that seems to be standing out in the NL, making him a ‘no-brainer’ for the NL ROTY mid-season award.

Shravan Balaji: Cody Bellinger

A power hitter leading the NL in HRs coming into the All-Star Break, he’s a bright young talent who is a valuable contributor for the Dodgers. The question for him is not whether he will win ROY, but in what fashion he’ll do so.

10049152-mlb-los-angeles-dodgers-at-san-diego-padres-850x560.jpeg

AL Manager of the Year:

Sean Biagiotti: A.J. Hinch

Hinch has done an incredible job of managing this young Astros team. He has been able to develop players such as Springer, Correa and Bregman into great MLB players. Along with the veterans he has on this roster, Hinch has done a terrific job of leading this team to first place in the division.

Charles Lian: Paul Molitor

Incredibly, the Twins were the worst team in baseball only a year ago and now they’re competing for a playoff spot. I eventually think they’ll fade and start selling off some assets, but the long-term future is very bright, particularly with the developments of possible MVP candidates Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton. Much credit goes to Paul Molitor who went into this season with no expectations and has already performed as well as anybody can imagine. We can’t ignore A.J. Hinch’s contributions with the league leading Astros (who have just blown everybody out of the water), but I attribute that much more to their offseason acquisitions. Not to discount what Hinch has done (they did make the playoffs last year too), but people often undervalue the importance of veteran leadership. Yes, the kids are great (and they will only get better), but Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Josh Reddick have brought a clubhouse-changing winning culture and I think that’s the reason the Astros can go all the way.

Parth Thakkar: A.J. Hinch

Hinch has been with the Astros organization for about two years now, and has had to deal with turning a young, inexperienced squad into a playoff-contending team. After two mediocre seasons, Hinch has been able to transform players such as Jose Altuve, George Springer and Carlos Correa, as well the whole Astros roster into an AL best 60-28 team.

AJ Hinch.jpg

Shravan Balaji: A.J. Hinch

Though it might be corny to take the league leading team’s manager, there’s no doubt that he deserves it. With the way the Astros have been playing (historically great), he deserves massive credit for turning around the fortunes of this perennially bad team, and his team poses a serious threat to whomever they might play.

NL Manager of the Year:

Sean Biagiotti: Torey Lovullo

Lovullo has done an amazing job in leading this Diamondbacks team to a winning record. Last year, the D’backs were a disappointing team for the talent that they had, and Lovullo has turned them around into the team many thought they could be. Obviously, he has the magic touch with this team because they haven’t had a winning record since 2011 and were just 69-93 last season, with a very similar roster to what they have this season.

Charles Lian: Torey Lovullo

Realistically, most years this award is just given to the man leading the most surprising team, and this year is no different. Stolen from the Red Sox, Lovullo has turned around a disappointing D’backs team into legitimate playoff contenders. Managing expectations was part of that (for a team with a big payroll, and bigger aspirations), and getting the best out of the rotation is arguably his most important contribution.

lovullo_1280_txkour62_w7a7ufaf.jpg

Parth Thakkar: Torey Lovullo

The D’backs have not had a winning record since 2011, so being 53-34, and having potential MVP candidate in Paul Goldschmidt in the mix is definitely the works of Torey Lovullo’s outstanding management and development.

Shravan Balaji: Bud Black

Seriously, the Rockies and the NL West are legit. What Black has done in turning around this franchise deserves massive acclaim, and Black’s work here is MOY worthy.

Biggest Surprise:

Sean Biagiotti: The Chicago Cubs

The Cubs are the biggest let-down this season for me. They should be at least 5 games up on the Brewers but are 5.5 back instead. They are young, have incredible talent, and a good rotation. Chicago should be destroying teams like they did last season. This franchise was set up for a dynasty with of all the young talent they accrued and displayed last season, but still seem hungover from their Championship.

r226246_1296x729_16-9.jpg

Charles Lian: Parity…and Disparity?

12 out of the 15 American League teams are five games within their division leaders, so as much as we want to lock things up, it’s still anybody’s game in the junior circuit. Even the three non-contenders (though Detroit still thinks they are) are still within reach at 5.5-6 games out even if they are “tanking” – looking at you, Oakland and Chicago. Consequently, more than half of the National League teams are out of the race and are already actively prepping for next year. The Nationals have a 7 game lead in the NL East which honestly should be double if their bullpen didn’t blow every lead they have. Once they acquire their closer, the regular season will be a cakewalk for them and they could conceivably take it off. Extra upsetting since the Mets were supposed to be neck-and-neck with the Nats for the division (and you thought I was done with my Mets plugs). The disparity between the two leagues isn’t as big an issue as, say the (ahem) NBA perhaps, given how long the MLB season is, but it’s worth looking at for the future. If the situation does get out of hand, I trust that new commissioner Rob Manfred (who has already made massive improvements to the game) will find a swift solution.

Parth Thakkar: Dismal Downfall of Popular Pitchers, Resurgence of Underdog Teams

Rick Porcello in 2016: 22-4, AL CY Young winner. In 2017, 4-10, 5.01 ERA. Masahiro Tanaka in 2016: 14-4, 3.07 ERA. In 2017, 7-7, 5.25 ERA. Johnny Cueto, Madison Bumgarner, and Dallas Keuchel: all injured. As a result of these pitchers’ poor performances, underdog teams, like the D’backs, Brewers and Rockies have been able to rise to the occasion, oust the popular teams, and enter their names in playoff contention.

Shravan Balaji: The Cubs

The Cubs’ struggles….and how they STILL might make the playoffs given how god-awful the NL Central is. This is a World Series-caliber team…but they need to play better than this.

Bold Prediction:

Sean Biagiotti: The Rockies will fall off a cliff

The Colorado Rockies currently have a 52-39 record which is good for the second wild-card spot. They have a 7.5 game-lead on the closest threat and are in striking distance of the Diamondbacks for the first wild-card spot. But they aren’t going to get it. They won’t even make the playoffs this year, because they are going to have a horrendous second half and miss out on the wild-card. The pitching has been a bit of a surprise for them, allowing them to stay in games and outscore their opponents – But I don’t see their pitching or hitting keeping up this pace, and I see them falling out of contention in September – opening up a spot for a team in the central or the east.

Charles Lian: The Most Active Trade Deadline in the last 5 years

Because of the aforementioned playoff situation, we are going to be looking at A LOT more buyers than sellers just because I think you can make the case that any of the teams in the AL could decide to stick around – many of them will still think they’re in it even though they’re not. Also, a lot of impending free agents will surely to be looking to get on playoff teams, and there are plenty of veterans available. In the past few years, we haven’t seen a flurry of activity with the number of big deals significantly lower. This year will be different – especially with the Jose Quintana acquisition by the Cubs; with everybody in an arms race, literally. There are tons of relievers available, and in a year where home runs are taking the stage, you can still never have enough pitching (hey prospective teams, Addison Reed and Jerry Blevins are very much available – last Mets pitch I promise). I think we see some more big names being moved (Robertson to the Nats is the most likely) – and I think that the Yankees eventually pull the trigger and take Sonny Grab/Yonder Alonso from the A’s. Honestly, what do they need Clint Frazier for when you can get Harper and Trout in a couple years? I’d put Verlander leaving the Tigers at 50/50 and there will definitely be a name that gets traded that NOBODY saw coming. Hmmm, just for fun, I’ll throw out Josh Donaldson. Enjoy the second half of the season, we’re in for a wild finish.

Parth Thakkar: An Upsetting End to the Astros’ Season

The Astros may be 59-28, and may hold a serious playoff run in them under the wonderful management of A.J. Hinch at the end of the first half of the season, but that does not mean that they will continue this way. I see an upsetting end to the Astros’ season, mainly because they are still an inexperienced squad when it comes to playoff baseball and crunch-time situations. Don’t be surprised if the Astros’ playoffs are ended by a team like the Red Sox, the Indians, or the Dodgers.

9399540-jose-altuve-george-springer-carlos-correa-mlb-los-angeles-angels-houston-astros-783x560.jpg

Shravan Balaji: New Homerun King

Aaron Judge breaks the REAL home run record….Roger Maris’ record of 61 homers way back in ‘61.

 

 

 

Are the Cubs Contenders?

This season has not gone the way many fans and analysts thought it would go for the 2017 Chicago Cubs. A season removed from winning 103 games and the first World Series for the organization in 108 years, this year’s Cubs look lost on the diamond. Many did not see this coming as they have retained most of the team from last year and because of their continuous hard-working and nearly flawless performance from last season. The 2016 Cubs had a roster that simply dominated all season long. There were very few instances where the Cubs didn’t look like a team who were destined to win the World Series. Not only did they outscore their opponents, but they also held them to a league-low in runs allowed. Chicago led the league in run differential by having a potent offense which scored the third most runs per game (5.0), and an effective pitching staff that gave up the fewest runs per game (3.4).

Despite their unmatched success last season, halfway through this season, the Cubs are still struggling to show what everyone saw in 2016. Overall, they are down in runs scored per game by a half a run and are also allowing half a run more per game. They are also hitting an abysmal .234 with RISP (runners in scoring position), which is good for fifth worst in the Majors. The team batting average has also dropped 16 points from last year to .238, second worst in the league. The other problem with the lineup is that its stars also aren’t producing like they did last season. Kris Bryant is playing nowhere near his potential, Addison Russell is no longer coming up clutch in big situations, and Kyle Schwarber was struggling so much that they had to send him down to AAA. But the offense isn’t alone in its slow season. The pitching has had its fair share of problems as well. In 2016, the Cubs led the league with a 3.15 ERA. This season, they are almost a whole run above that with a 4.04 ERA, and no starter has sported an ERA below 3.69 – something four out of the five starters accomplished last season. Jon Lester has been the only consistent performer for the Cubbies, and that’s not saying a lot as his ERA and WHIP are both up considerable margins from last season.

9621725-jon-lester-mlb-nlcs-chicago-cubs-los-angeles-dodgers-1-850x560.jpg

From the stats alone, it is clear that the Cubs aren’t as good as they were last year, but what they are truly lacking are the intangibles that we all saw last year. In 2016, every game for the Cubs looked like fun, as though they were little kids just enjoying the game known as America’s pastime. This season, on the other hand, looks like actual work for the Cubs, from the bullpen to the dugout. They don’t have that same spark that they did last year, and they certainly aren’t coming up with the big hits that proved they were a serious contender as they are hitting .219 with 2 outs and RISP.

It is understandable that they haven’t met our expectations – it is extremely difficult to give an encore when you won 103 games the previous season. We were weren’t expecting a lackluster season to follow, though. We are 79 games into the season and Chicago has been hovering around .500 all season long. Just when it looks like the Cubs are back to their 2016 form, they lose a series or a game and go right back to .500. It seems like they can’t find that groove made them so good last season.

ct-kris-bryant-cubs-contract-spt-0314-20170313.jpg

It doesn’t help that the Cubs have been dealing with injuries to key players such as Kris Bryant (ankle), Ben Zobrist (wrist), Jason Heyward (hand) and Kyle Hendricks (hand). All of these players were vital to them in the 2016 campaign, especially Bryant who was last year’s MVP. Even with these guys in the lineup and rotation, it still hasn’t fared much better for the team.

Even though they are far below expectations halfway through this season, there is still hope. The Cubs, being as mediocre as they have been all season, are only one game out of the division lead thanks to a weak Central division this year. They are still very much in the thick of it. If the Cubs can find a way to keep their key players on the field and find the spark that they had last year, Chicago will certainly take this division as they have much more talent on this roster than any of the other four teams in the NL Central. Beyond that though, don’t expect them to go too far. The Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals have both been playing stellar baseball thus far, and both clubs have top-of-the-line rotations which could easily outduel Chicago at this point in the season. The Cubs need to find what they had last season sooner rather than later if they want any chance of repeating as World Series Champions in 2017.

anthonyrizzocubs.png

Are the Yankees (and Aaron Judge) the Real Deal?

Going into the 2017 season, more hype surrounded this New York Yankees roster than any of their rosters of the past five years. This hype, however, was not the normal hype that follows the Yankees. Since the late 90s and the arrival of Derek Jeter, the Yankees and their fans have gone into each season with the expectation of making the playoffs with hopes of adding yet another World Series trophy to their collection. This year, the hype wasn’t about a run for a championship – or even making the playoffs: the hype was about the future of the Yankees. The Yankees have been in a “rebuild” phase for about a season and this was to be the year that the organization and its fan base were going to see a full season of the “baby bombers”, the young group of prospects who are going to lead the organization in a few years to another decade of championship runs. There is only one issue with that – they have already begun doing that. The organization thought it would take a year or two in order for its roster full of rookies and second-year players to find their footing and make an impact, but they wasted no time at all showing their potential. The Yankees are currently fighting for first place in the AL East and have the third-best record in the American League, only behind the Astros and the Red Sox (who are only half a game up).

USATSI_9529788-1.jpg

Leading them in this unexpected year is rookie sensation OF Aaron Judge. Judge has taken the league by storm with his play in every aspect of the game, from his diving catches in the outfield to 496ft home runs. He is currently among the leaders of the AL in each of the Triple Crown categories with 24 homeruns (first place), 54 RBIs (second place), and a .333 average (second place). The 6’7, 280lbs giant has been the biggest surprise of the season. Going into spring training, he was fighting for a spot on the Yankees’ roster and a job in the starting nine. Now, he is leading the MVP race and making the Yankees an exciting team to watch again. But can the rookie keep this up?

xScreen-Shot-2016-08-16-at-3.02.05-PM-450x270.png.pagespeed.ic.YYhfmnQPDz.jpg

The outfielder has power that people are comparing to that of Marlins superstar Giancarlo Stanton, which is quite the comparison. He is on pace for 58 home runs this year, which would crush Mark McGwire’s record of 49. However, rookies come with a learning curve, not only for them, but for opposing teams as well. It may take some time for teams to learn his weakness, because no matter how great one is, every rookie has his weakness at the plate. If he can adjust through teams starting to figure him out, or if teams struggle to find his weak spot, he may lead the Yankees to a playoff spot and possibly even more.

People saw this Yankees team as a middle-of-the-pack team with a promising future. Now, the Baby Bombers are making everyone wonder if they can keep this level of play up. The offense has certainly been given the credit behind this great start, as it leads the majors in runs, average, and OBP. The surprise, though, has been the pitching. Going into the season, the Yankees knew they had an Ace in Masahiro Tanaka, but beyond him, the rotation was a big question mark. C.C. Sabathia is 36 years old and hasn’t had a good season since 2012 where he went 15-6 with a 3.38 ERA, Luis Severino has been a high prospect in the Yankees system for years now but struggled last year to put it all together, and then there is Jordan Montgomery, who came into the year as an unproven rookie. Three months into the season, every pitcher on this staff has produced surprising results. Tanaka hasn’t been anywhere near an ace for the Yankees, Sabathia has turned back the clock six years to his former self, Severino is finally the pitcher who the Yankees thought they had, and Montgomery is showing a bright future for the organization. This rotation, one that many had big concerns about going into the season, has been the true reason that they are gunning for first place in the AL East.

They are second in the majors in ERA, WHIP, and opponent batting average – something nobody predicted. The Yankees have always been a good hitting team, but when they are able to combine that with a rotation that can hold teams to an average of three runs a game, they become a threat. The Bronx Bombers may have been on a losing skid recently, but if this this rotation can maintain its overall form and continue to keep runs off the scoreboard, the Yankees will be a scary team going into October.

chatsports.jpg
Masahiro Tanaka (pictured) has not nearly met expectations this season, but there is hope for their bullpen.

The New York Yankees have surprised every single analyst and baseball fan this year. They are in position to potentially lead their division and are showing no signs of stopping with their high octane offense and revived pitching staff. The only way they continue this incredible start and make the playoffs is if their pitching continues to perform. If they can maintain a top of the line rotation with the offensive firepower they have up and down the lineup, the Yankees will be a scary team going down the stretch.