Our 2015 Postseason Team and Award Predictions

How most of us made our picks.

How most of us made our picks.

Now that our all of our previews have been written in a (somewhat) timely fashion, it is time to unveil our predictions for playoff teams and hardware. Without further ado.

Playoff and Award PredictionsAs you can see all four of us have picked our six division winners, four Wild Card winners, and how the playoffs will progress. Some interesting notes, Dan is the only one to have Oakland in the playoffs and San Diego out. Dan also believes every division champion will be back to back year winners. He does have two new NL Wild Card winners in the Cubs and Miami. Bryce will look for Seattle to win the division and actually make the ALCS this year as will Brett. Bryce is the only writer to have the Tigers out of the postseason. Matt looks for the Padres to make the playoffs and has four teams who didn’t make it in last year in this year (Cle, Bos, Sea, SD). Brett has three new division winners with Sea, SD, and Pit. He also is the only one to have the Cardinals not make it. Washington is the popular pick to make the World Series and two of us have them winning. Baltimore and St. Louis are the other two predicted World Series winners.

Turning over to the award winners, there is much more parody than our playoff picks. Kershaw is the only repeat pick in any category. Some of the more intriguing picks are Bryce’s with Fernandez and Ortiz. Ortiz is a DH so will likely have to have an outstanding season at the plate and lead the Red Sox back to the playoffs to be in serious contention. Fernandez meanwhile will have to probably turn in a historical half of a season coming off Tommy John surgery. Brett believes Kluber’s season was no fluke although his MVP picks are shaky as both teams are unlikely to make the playoffs. It is generally tough to generate MVP momentum on a losing team. Matt has a couple of interesting Cy Young picks. Harvey is maybe the most talented pitcher in the game, but he is coming off injury and maybe will have an innings cap. Also Clayton Kershaw is in his league, but Harvey is certainly capable of winning. David Price has the stuff to do it, and is just one year removed from a Cy Young, but did not put up award winning numbers last year. Dan has a couple of Chicago stars on his list with Sale and Rizzo. Rizzo broke out last season and if he puts up the same numbers, while leading the Cubs to the playoffs, it might be enough to win. Sale is incredible and if he would’ve had a few more starts last season it might have been the greatest three man Cy Young race in history. Comment below to give us your picks!

Around the MLB in 30 Days: The Forgotten Teams

A Brewers picture, because Dan posted this.

Milwaukee Brewers (Day 14- Matt)

2014 record & finish: 82-80, 3rd in NL Central

On 2014: The Brewers were 70-55 on August 17 after sweeping the Dodgers. They finished the year 12-25 and 9-17 in September before finishing 8 games behind the Cardinals. Choke job.

Key subtractions: LHP Zach Duke,​ RHP Marco Estrada, ​RHP Yovani Gallardo, 1B Lyle Overbay, 1B/3B Mark Reynolds

Key additions: 1B Adam Lind, SS Luis Sardinas

Dan’s take: I doubt they can match their 20-8 start this season after losing quite a few pieces. Lind will (hopefully) play every day at 1B, replacing the horrid offensive splits they got last season. Their pitching won’t be as good, but people didn’t expect them to start as well as they did last season either. Hopefully for my sake they can do the same things as early last season and avoid falling apart down the stretch.

Bretts Take: This team is basically the same team as they had last year. Last year they had a good team, but did not step up when it mattered most. They lost a couple of starters in Gallardo and Estrada, but Fiers and Nelson are capable replacements. What will be interesting to see is if Ryan Braun returns to form after a thumb injury sapped his power last year. This is a good team, and they are capable of winning a Wild Card. But then again so is most of the NL so it probably will be another season of 162 games for the Brewers.

Toronto Blue Jays (Day 17- Bryce)

2014 record & finish: 83-79, 3rd in AL East

Key subtractions: RF Melky Cabrera, 3B/1B Juan Francisco, ​LHP J.A. Happ, RHP Casey Janssen, 3B/2B Brett Lawrie, ​1B/DH Adam Lind,​ RHP Brandon Morrow, CF Colby Rasmus

Key additions: 1B/OF Chris Colabello, ​3B Josh Donaldson, RHP Marco Estrada, C Russell Martin, LF Michael Saunders, 1B Justin Smoak

Dan’s take: A busy off-season doesn’t usually mean in-season success, remember the last time the Blue Jays tried that? This time feels different because of all the trades, but the Orioles will be very tough to beat in the East. There’s no reason this team shouldn’t be the second best in the division and compete for a WC spot.

Brett’s Take: The Blue Jays were the second best team in the AL East despite finishing 3rd last year. This year a first place finish is possible in a division that is as wide open as it has ever been. The lineup once again is stacked, and probably is more so with Josh Donaldson coming over from Oakland. The middle of the lineup will be treacherous to navigate with Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Donaldson. Don’t forget about incumbent SS Jose Reyes and another newcomer in Russell Martin. The lineup is stacked the only question is if they can get the pitching. Stroman going down is a killer. Before that injury I had them winning a Wild Card, which they still can, but only if Martin can guide an up and coming staff.

Baltimore Orioles (Day 21- Matt)

2014 record & finish: 96-66, 1st in AL East

Key subtractions: DH Nelson Cruz, RF Nick Markakis, C Nick Hundley, IF Kelly Johnson, LHP Andrew Miller, LHP Joe Saunders, LHP Johan Santana

Key additions: C J.P. Arencibia, C/1B Ryan Lavarnway, RF Travis Snider, LHP Wesley Wright

Dan’s take: Best team in the AL East, but not the best by as many games as they were last year. Injuries, injuries, and more injuries couldn’t even derail the O’s in 2014 and people should be scared of this team down the stretch in 2015 (my WS pick).

Brett’s Take: The O’s absolutely ran away with the AL East last season, winning by 12 games. They did so without an ace on the staff, and 2015 will have to be more of the same. Many people are saying the offseason was a huge failure. When looking at the team in a vacuum… maybe. You have to understand though that Manny Machado is coming back, Matter Wieters is coming back, and Chris Davis should have a bounce back year. Those three guys coming back will more than make up for Cruz and Markakis. This team is still the best in the AL East. The reports of their demise were greatly exaggerated.

St. Louis Cardinals (Day 22- Bryce)

2014 record & finish: 90-72, 1st in NL Central

Key subtractions: IF Daniel Descalso, IF Mark Ellis, RHP Justin Masterson, RHP Shelby Miller, RHP Jason Motte, RHP Pat Neshek, C A.J. Pierzynski, OF Shane Robinson, OF Oscar Tavares (RIP)

Key additions: RHP Matt Belisle, OF Jason Heyward, 1B/3B Mark Reynolds, RHP Carlos Villanueva, RHP Jordan Walden

Dan’s take: They did some un-Cardinal things this off-season and signed/traded for a couple pieces instead of working within the system. Either way, the Cardinal way will be strong with this group and they can be the best team in the Central. They came on strong at the end of last season, but it would be crazy for them to play like that for any kind of extended stretch. I sound like I’m contradicting myself, but this team wins the Central.

Brett’s Take: Last season the Cardinals won 90 games despite a run differential that should have probably ended their season with 83. They were able to hold off the rising Pirates for at least one more season, but it could be a different story in 2015. The terrible disaster of Oscar Tavares was quickly addressed with the acquisition of Jason Heyward, the perennial breakout candidate. It is hard to pick against the team that has been the class of the MLB, but a down year for Adam Wainwright (start of the decline) will coincide with missing the playoffs for the first time in four years.

Los Angeles Dodgers (Day 24- Matt)

2014 record & finish: 94-68, 1st in NL West

Key subtractions: RHP Josh Beckett, ​C Drew Butera, ​2B Dee Gordon, ​RHP Dan Haren, ​RHP Roberto Hernandez/Fausto Carmona​, RF Matt Kemp, LHP Paul Maholm, RHP Chris Perez, SS Hanley Ramirez, SS Miguel Rojas

Key additions: LHP Brett Anderson, C Yasmani Grandal, ​RHP Chris Hatcher, OF Chris Heisey, ​UT Kike Hernandez, ​2B Howie Kendrick, RHP Brandon McCarthy, SS Jimmy Rollins, RHP Joel Peralta

Dan’s take: I can’t see anyone making a run for these guys at the top of the division, not even the upstart Friars. This doesn’t mean that the Dodger will win as many games as they did in 2014 because they almost certainly will take a step back, but still hold the division crown.

Brett’s Take: This is a whole lot of roster turnover for a team that won 94 games. The moves coincide with executive Andrew Freidman coming over from Tampa Bay. The focus turned to improving the defense. The jury is still out on how much the losses of Kemp and Ramirez will hurt, but my concerns aren’t so much with the offense. The Dodgers have the best pitcher on the planet in The Left Arm of God 2.0 aka Clayton Kershaw. Along with him comes Zack Greinke making for one of the best one-two punches in the MLB. After that there are questions though. Hyun-Jin Ryu is a great third starter, but he is starting the year hurt. The rest of the depth is questionable in Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson. The bullpen too will be in question with closer Kenley Jansen’s opening day status in question. The Dodgers will be fine for a Wild Card, but the Padres may make a run for the division.

New York Yankees (Day 25- Bryce)

The new Captain

2014 record & finish: 84-78, 2nd in AL East

Key subtractions: C Francisco Cervelli, RHP Preston Claiborne, RHP Shane Greene, LHP Rich Hill, LHP David Huff, SS Derek Jeter, RHP Shawn Kelley, RHP Hiroki Kuroda, RHP Brandon McCarthy, RHP David Phelps, UT Martin Prado, RHP David Robertson, OF Ichiro Suzuki

Key additions: RHP David Carpenter, RHP Nathan Eovaldi, SS Didi Gregorius, 1B/OF Garrett Jones, RHP Chris Martin, LHP Andrew Miller, RHP Chasen Shreve, LHP Justin Wilson

Dan’s take: I know Brett likes the change at SS. I don’t like the changes overall and this team won’t make 2015 look pretty. I do love the Justin Wilson signing though.

Brett’s Take: Derek Jeter isn’t playing anymore so I can only assume the New York Yankees won’t be playing baseball anymore… oh wait nevermind he was never bigger than baseball. Didi Gregorius will likely never amount to much more than being the answer to the trivia question “Who replaced Derek Jeter?” but will be a much better defensive option. The key to the season will be Masahiro Tanaka’s health. I am not in the group that anticipates a full season of health. If he goes down, the team just doesn’t have enough to compete in the East or for the AL wildcard. At least we get the entertainment of watching how they handle the A-Rod situation.

Washington Nationals (Day 26- Matt)

2014 record & finish: 86-76, 2nd in NL East

Key subtractions: LHP Fernando Abad, RHP Dan Haren, MGR Davey Johnson, LHP Ian Krol, IF Steve Lombardozzi, IF Chad Tracy

Key additions: LHP Jerry Blevins, IF Jamey Carroll, RHP Doug Fister, OF Nate McLouth, MGR Matt Williams

Dan’s take: The favorites to win it all this fall switched managers and feel like they are well on their way. Didn’t lose a whole lot, didn’t gain a whole lot but they are in a great position to compete here.

Brett’s Take: There isn’t a whole lot to dislike about the Nationals heading into this season and to no surprise they are very popular pick to win the World Series. The staff is so loaded that a sub 3.00 ERA starter from 2014 probably will be the odd man out this year. This rotation is absolutely loaded. They have a strong offensive and defensive team to go with it, although injuries are starting to pile up. This is the year Bryce Harper breaks out as well. First place finish in the NL East and they are my pick to win the World Series. Sorry for the boring (ahem… smart) pick.

Oakland Athletics (Day 27- Bryce)

2014 record & finish: 88-74, 2nd in AL West

Key subtractions: 1B Daric Barton, 1B/OF Kyle Blanks, IF Alberto Callaspo, 3B Josh Donaldson, DH Adam Dunn, OF Jonny Gomes, RHP Luke Gregerson, RHP Jason Hammel, C/DH John Jaso, LHP Jon Lester, SS Jed Lowrie, 1B/OF Brandon Moss, C Derek Norris, IF Nick Punto, RHP Jeff Samardzija, C Geovany Soto

Key additions: RHP R.J. Alvarez, DH Billy Butler, RHP Tyler Clippard, 1B Ike Davis, RHP Jesse Hahn, 3B Brett Lawrie, LHP Sean Nolin, C Josh Phegley, IF Marcus Semien, 2B/OF Ben Zobrist

Dan’s take: The A’s will be the third, yes third, playoff team from the AL West. I have no idea how that makes sense or if it’s even remotely possible, but it’s gonna happen. They’re blowing the whole thing up once again in the name of saving a couple bucks, and we’ll see how it all ends.

Brett’s Take: General Manager Billy Beane tore it down once again. People are definitely questioning whether that will lead to a drop in win totals or maybe he just proves once again how much smarter he is than all of us. You can definitely see the reason behind some of the moves this winter. A lot of guys he brought in fit the bill for what the Athletics like to do. Losing Josh Donaldson was certainly the biggest headscratcher, but Lawrie is still an intriguing project. Their division though has two stacked teams, so unless the AL West can land two wild card spots the A’s will be on the outside looking in.

Around the MLB in 30 Days, Day 30: San Francisco Giants

2014 Record and Finish ———— 88-74 2nd in AL West, World Series Champions

The Giants are hoping a quiet offseason doens't cost them a moment like this.

The Giants are hoping a quiet offseason doens’t cost them a moment like this.

Last Season:    There isn’t a whole lot more to say about last season that hasn’t already been said for the San Francisco Giants. It was an even year, so that means it was a World Series win. San Francisco raced out to a 43-21 start to the season. They finished 45-53 the rest of the way “limping” into the playoffs, but they had no problems once they got there. San Fran cruised to an 8-0 win in the Wild Card game, went 3-1 against the Nationals, 4-1 against St. Louis, before an epic seven game series with the Royals. They can thank Madison Bumgarner for the playoffs success. He threw 52.2 innings with a 1.03

The hero of the 2014 post-season, and current driver of the overrated bus.

The hero of the 2014 post-season, and current driver of the overrated bus.

ERA and a .65 WHIP. He accounted for about of third of their postseason innings, but only game up 11% of the team’s earned runs. Talk about heroics. All in all he had 270 innings to his name on the year. He anchored a staff that had couple solid starters but no standouts outside of Bumgarner. His battery-mate Buster Posey was the leader of an offense that scored the eleventh most runs in the majors. Now the Giants are hoping another odd year doesn’t mean another down year.

Departures: Michael Morse OF, Pablo Sandoval 3B

Acquisitions: Jake Peavy*, Casey McGehee 3B, Nori Aoki OF

*Moved in 2014 season

Outlook:          What a quiet offseason for the Giants. With all the commotion being made by NL West rivals Dodgers and Padres, I thought I missed the moves San Francisco made. Turns out I didn’t miss them they just really didn’t happen. Nori Aoki was the only major free agent signing. Casey McGehee was traded from the Marlins. The two Giants moving on are Michael Morse and Pablo Sandoval. While Sandoval has made waves in playoffs for a couple of post-seasons his regular season accomplishments probably won’t be worth the money the Red Sox gave him. He also isn’t making any friends in his departure. (http://espn.go.com/espnw/news-commentary/article/12478380/pablo-sandoval-boston-red-sox-fires-back-former-san-francisco-giants-teammate-aubrey-huff)

Apparently he does know who he is.

Apparently he does know who he is.

McGehee does not present an upgrade though that is for sure. Nori Aoki brings a solid defender who can get on base can set the table for the middle of the lineup, that middle isn’t quite as formidable any more though. That being said Buster Posey is one of the better hitters in baseball and Brandon Belt might finally come around this year. Joe Panik had a breakout year, and he might be able to continue his upward trend about being drafted in the first round. All in all this team really isn’t a whole lot different than last year. The division (and NL in general) though despite having the Rockies and the Diamondbacks is improved. San Fran really sat back and watched as the Padres put themselves in a spot to contend. The humongous inning load from last season is somewhat of a concern for MadBum too. I’m hoping those don’t come back to haunt him this season.

Prediction:       Middle of the NL West. Most of the NL has a chance to compete for the Wild Card as well, so I have them missing the playoffs. If you’re keeping track that means both who played in the last game of the season in 2014 will be missing extra baseball this year.

Around the MLB in 30 Days, Day 29: Kansas City Royals

Royals are hoping for a return of this.

Royals are hoping for a return of this.

2014 Record and Finish ———— 89-73 2nd in AL Central, Lost in World Series

Last Season:    The Royals have made a pretty meteoric rise in the MLB in the last couple

The right decision to hold him?

The right decision to hold him?

of seasons. It was only a few years ago when they were wrapping up nearly two decades of being the laughing stock of the AL Central. Then in 2013 they managed to win 86 games. Last year they made even more noise. Kansas City got to the postseason for the first time since 1985 and came within a couple of runs of being crowned World Series Champions. Maybe within 90 feet of hoisting the trophy… (full disclosure I think he would’ve got hosed) Either way it was a long time coming for the Royals to be true contenders. Looking at the numbers you might be surprised to hear about all the accolades from KC. They were outside of the top ten in both pitching and hitting. They were twelve in runs allowed and fourteenth in runs scored. Neither of those numbers really jumps out as truly outstanding. What does jump out for the Kings is the backend of the bullpen and the athleticism of the team. Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera, and Greg Holland all had ERA’s at 1.44 or below, which is truly remarkable. The defense and running game benefitted from the athletes they have. Four outfielders for Kansas City and Alcides Escobar had double digit stolen bases. All of those guys as well contributed significantly with their gloves. I’m talking about Alex Gordon, Jarrod Dyson, Lorenzo Cain, and to a much lesser extent Nori Aoki although he did lead the team in batting average. Eric Hosmer suffered through another season of not living up to expectations, and for some reason Mike Moustakas got 457 AB’s. We haven’t mentioned the starting rotation yet either but four of them turned in fantastic seasons. Really this was a team that surprised a lot of people and they might have to do more of the same in 2015.

Departures: James Shields SP, Billy Butler DH, Josh Willingham OF, Raul Ibanez OF, Nori Aoki OF, Aaron Crow RHP

Acquisitions: Edinson Volquez RHP, Alex Rios OF, Kendrys Morales 1B, Kris Medlan RHP

Outlook:          After making the playoffs for the first time in over a quarter century and nearly coming away with a World Series title it probably would be an aggressive winter to plug some final holes right? Well that wasn’t the case for the Royals. They had some keys walk and cme up with less than impressive solutions to replace them. Let’s start with the loss of James Shields. Shields has been in a tier just below a full-fledged ace for his career, but has been the model of consistency outside of two off seasons. He has eight straight seasons of 200+ innings, the majority of those innings coming with an ERA of 3.50 or under. I know he got himself a sizeable contract, but he felt like a guy the Royals needed to hang on to. Set to take his spot will be Edinson Volquez or Kris Medlan. We touched on Volquez a bit in the Pirates write-up, basically that he will be back over 4.00 for his ERA. Medlan is intriguing but he is coming off his second Tommy John surgery so he is no sure thing. The progression of Yordano Ventura will be interesting. I’m expecting a little bit of a sophomore slump, but if he continues to develop his secondary pitches to go with that fastball he could easily proof me wrong. The bullpen trio will be good, but no way they can match their performance from last year. All of their ERA’s will balloon to somewhere above the 2.00 range. How the heck can Kansas City manage to survive that??

Turning things over to the lineup, once again we see some losses that are tough, albeit not impossible to overcome. The two major losses are Billy Butler and Nori Aoki. That doesn’t sound right since Butler was actually a below replacement level player last season. His track record though suggests that he is a valuable guy. His homerun and power numbers dropped last season, but I think I’d rather have him DHing at this point than Kendry Morales.  That one admittedly could be a wash and we might see the return of a 20+ HR season from Morales, but it looks as though his injuries and age are starting to show. Aoki represents the bigger loss for the Royals. He was batting at the top of the lineup consistently for Ned Yost and the faith was rewarding hitting a team leading .285. His contact rate is fantastic as well striking out just 8.9% of the time. He is a very effective table setter for the big boys. Alex Rios is a much different player than Aoki, he had himself a very down season in 2014 hitting only 4 HR’s after nine straight years of double digit deep flies. That is due to normalize a bit, but probably not to the point that Kansas City needs. The lineup will still have the speed and the defense that they boasted last year which can carry you somewhat, but likely not back to where they were last year.

Quick note of concern from me is manager Ned Yost. Yost makes questionable decisions with his lineup, fails to maximize the opportunity his stacked bullpen presents, and plays a little too much small ball for my liking. Let’s not forget they he was fired mid-season from a team that he was leading to the playoffs. I think the success from last year was in spite of Yost and not because of him. Maybe we’ll see another mid-season firing for Yost? It is certainly possible. This article highlights some frustrating things about Yost. http://www.royalsreview.com/2014/9/15/6150833/the-needful-end-of-ned-yost

Prediction:       I think it is fairly clear from the tone of the article that I am not high on the Royals. Middle to bottom of the AL Central, maybe finishing above only the Minnesota Twins.

Around the MLB in 30 Days – Day 28: Pittsburgh Pirates

Why we need playoff fever in Pittsburgh.

Why we need another year of playoff fever in Pittsburgh.

2014 Record and Finish ———— 88-74 2nd in NL Central, Lost in WC game

Last season: Two years ago the Pirates made the playoffs for the first time in living

New year, new look, same Cutch.

New year, new look, same Cutch.

memory for a lot of us. They followed it up last season with another winning effort and a Wild Card appearance. Unfortunately #Buctober was short-lived as they were bounced from the postseason by the eventual champions San Francisco. It was a long road just to get there though as Pittsburg was just one game over .500 halfway through the season. They even survived a mid-August seven game losing streak by reeling off seventeen September wins. The Buccos did a little bit of everything finishing top ten in both runs scored and runs allowed. Andrew McCutchen had an MVP caliber season at the plate and with the glove unfortunately did not bring home any hardware because he shares a league with the Left Arm of God 2.0. He raked though hitting .315 with 25 HRs and 83 RBI’s. Most impressive though was his otherworldly .410 OBP. No less impressive were breakout seasons from Josh Harrison, Neil Walker, and Starling Marte. The much anticipated prospect Gregory Polanco struggled in his first go round with the big boys, but in a lineup in which all nine starters hit double digit dingers, a bad rookie year can be overshadowed. As for the pitching the best numbers came from… drum roll please… Edinson Volquez. That’s right the Pirates with their quality coaching and savy defensive shifts resurrected the career of another starter. Following 7 straight 4.00+ ERA seasons Volquez plummeted to 3.04 in 192 innings of work. The rest of the rotation as well performed admirably all churning out ERA’s under four. The bullpen was fantastic as well led by the trio of Tony Watson, Mark Melancon, and Jared Hughes. While the season didn’t end in a win, I think Pirates fans can live with consistent trips to the second season for now.

Departures: Edinson Volquez RHP, Gaby Sanchez 1B, Russell Martin C, Clint Barmes SS, Justin Wilson LHP, Travis Snider OF

Acquisitions: Francisco Cerevilli C, Justin Sellers SS, Rob Scahill RHP, Antonio Bastardo LHP, Clayton Richard LHP, Corey Hart OF, Jung-ho Kang SS, Steve Lombardozzi UTIL, AJ Burnett RHP

Outlook:          I think it is fair to say that Pittsburgh would generally not be considered the

Every fifth day we'll have an all Francisco battery.

Every fifth day we’ll have an all Francisco battery.

big shakers and movers of an off-season. It was no different this year. The departures list is relatively short, and the acquisitions were small moves to replace guys or add depth. On the pitching side of things losing Volquez may seem like a big loss, but I’ll refer to my previous paragraph as to why it is not. He will be back in his usual ERA range in 2015, as his success was due to some luck and the pitcher whispering of the Bucs. Left in the rotation will be Francisco Liriano, AJ Burnett, Gerrit Cole, and of course two others. Those spots are in question but I would expect Jeff Locke and Vance Worley to get the jobs. AJ Burnett returns to Pittsburgh for his age 38 season after a one year stint on the other side of the state. Reports were he came back to west PA for a discount although $12.75 million doesn’t sound like much of one. He is coming off hernia surgery so that will something to keep an eye on. Gerrit Cole hasn’t quite been the ace we were all expecting, but this may be the year he stays healthy and puts it all together. Regardless him and Liriano make for a formidable one-two punch at the top. The last two guys will be solid if not unspectacular and overall this should be one of the deeper staffs in the majors. Clayton Richard could be a sneaky good minor league contract pickup. Once again in the late innings they will be handing the ball over to a quality pen. Not as quality as we saw last year as I would expect regression from the three mentioned previously, but they are great options for manager Clint Hurdle to turn to.

On the offensive side of things the Pirates should pick up right where they left off. The void left by catcher Russell Martin will definitely be a tough one to fill. It isn’t quite as bad as it looks though as Martin will no way repeat his spectacular 2014 performance. We’ll probably see a fifty point drop in BA from him so the only real loss is the power he provides. Not the only loss as he provides outstanding defense behind the plate, but Francisco Cervelli will be above average in that regard. By the way don’t be excited about Cervelli’s .300 average last year, it was way inflated by his BABIP. Travis Snider represents a loss of nearly 400 plate appearances, but replacing them with Polanco will probably prove to be an upgrade once the young stud finds his way in The Show. The rest of the moves really were to add depth. Having guys like Corey Hart and Steve Lombardozzi to turn to on your bench though is truly a lift. The most intriguing signing is that of Jung-ho Kang. Kang earned himself $11 million dollars after putting up video game numbers for the Nexen Heroes in the Korean Baseball Organization. Those numbers would be .356/.459/.739 with 40 HR’s and 117 RBI’s. Obviously there are questions about how the raise in talent will affect his numbers, and he doesn’t have a guaranteed spot with the Bucs, but that kind of power potential from a middle infielder is worth taking a gamble on. If manages to crack into the lineup I would not be surprised to see yet another international success story. In the end I really like the offseason the Pirates had. They didn’t lose much at all even if they didn’t make a flashy move. This is a team that is close though and I don’t think a big move was necessary.

That leg kick.

That leg kick.

It looks even better from the side.

It looks even better from the side.

Prediction:       I’m going to peg the Pirates as the winner of the NL Central. Tough to pick against the Cardinals, but I think Pittsburgh is the better team and this is the year they finally end up on top. Great opportunity to make #Buctober last a little longer this year as well.

Around the MLB in 30 Days – Day 24: The Detroit Tigers

2014 Record and Finish ———— 90-72 1st in AL Central, Lost in ALDS

The two best hitters and biggest questions for Detroit.

The two best hitters and biggest questions for Detroit.

Last Season:    Heading into 2014 the Tigers were a fairly popular pick to win the World Series. This shouldn’t come as a surprise as Detroit had been the class of the AL the three previous years winning the AL Central every year during that stretch and advancing to the ALCS each time. Following a shaky and rainy first month of the season, they rattled off eight straight wins to start the month of May. For the most part this pattern held throughout the season, with long losing streaks being matches with a bit longer winning streaks. All in all it was enough to being crowned Central champions for the fourth straight season and another, albeit a short, postseason appearance. New manager Brad Ausmus set the MLB’s second highest scoring lineup. Detroit saw a career year from Victor Martinez and a break out from another Martinez, first name J.D. The man who everyone relates to the Tigers, Miguel Cabrera, battled through injuries and had a “down” year with a slash line of .313/.371/.524. There can really be no complaints from what the offense did, the major problems were seen in the pitching staff. Despite the big names on the rotation Detroit finished 24th in the majors in ERA. Justin Verlander was a main culprit having an awful season coming off of core muscle surgery. The majority of the blame though has the go to Ausmus’s management of the bullpen and the quality of pitchers afforded to him by GM Dave Dave Dombrowski. When Joba Chamberlain is a bright spot out of the pen you have issues… to the tune of 4.29 ERA from relievers and the second worst K/BB ratio. No lead was save for Detroit and ultimately cost the Tigers regular season wins and perhaps any chance at playoff success.

Departures: Drew Smyly LHP*, Austin Jackson OF*, Max Scherzer RHP, Torii Hunter RF, Phil Coke LHP, Jim Johnson RHP, Andy Dirks OF, Rick Porcello RHP, Eugenio Suarez SS, Robbie Ray LHP

Acquisitions: David Price LHP*, Joakim Soria RHP*, Anthony Gose OF, Yoenis Cespedes OF, Alfredo Simon RHP, Shane Green RHP,Tom Gorzelanny LHP, Alex Wilson RHP

*Moved in 2014

Outlook:         As is usually the case for DD and the Tigers it was a busy offseason. Winters are never dull for Detroit fans. Now whether you argue the moves helped or hurt the Tigers is up for discussion, but there is always discussion. The biggest losses are of course the two starting pitchers in Scherzer and Porcello. Scherzer got himself a huge pay day which was rightfully earned. However, I’m fine with the Tigers passing on this one. Two hundred and ten million is a whole lot of change for a starter who averages under 7 IP a start and is on the wrong side of thirty. Don’t get me wrong he is a fantastic starter who rarely gets hit hard, but he only has one complete game in his career as well. Looking at Porcello, Detroit is missing out on one more cheap year of quality pitching. As aggravating he has been at times he is a ground ball pitcher that had one of the worst infield defenses behind him for many years so it is tough to put all the blame on him. Rick may be on the cusp of breaking out, let’s not forget he is only 26 years old. The Tigers are trying to replace those two with a full season from David Price (yes please), and newcomers Shane Green and Alfredo Simon (ehhhhh). Green actually put up better numbers in 14 starts in the majors this year than he had in his minor league career. Fair to say that is a red flag. He has pretty good stuff though so maybe he continues the success of his 3.78 ERA last year. More likely he become a 4.00+ fifth starter type of guy. Simon transitioned to the rotation last year after a couple of quality seasons out of the pen. It was a tale of two halves for him, 2.70/4.52 ERA pre and post all-star break respectively. His true value lies somewhere in the middle, another 4.00+ fifth starter type guy. The top of the rotation will be strong with Price, not much to comment on there. Justin Verlander is an interesting case. The velocity decline has been well documented, but Verlander pitched far better than his numbers indicated last year posting a 3.74 FIP. A full year removed from major surgery as well points to a bounce back year. Anibal Sanchez meanwhile suffered through multiple DL stints last year. When he is on he can be an ace. Detroit is hoping to see that kind of performance out of him and it can certainly happen.

That’s enough for the starting rotation, let’s look at the everyday guys. The major losses are Hunter, Jackson, and Suarez. Truthfully though Hunter is well past his prime and at this point his defense isn’t worth his offensive contributions. Jackson was a solid defense centerfielder, but by all accounts Anthony Gose is better, though the Tigers may be losing here in the lineup. Yoenis Cespedes adds to the long list of big names on Detroit’s roster. He certainly does bring some pop even with a subpar OBP. Regardless the middle of the order with Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Yoenis Cespedes, and JD Martinez will be tough to get through unscathed. This lineup is formidable. That is if offseason injuries of V-Mart and Miggy were truly taken care of. While Martinez’s injury was much more recent, the nagging injury of Cabrera might be of greater concern. It might be slow in the early going for those two, but expect strong years from two of the game’s best hitters. Stepping in to fill Suarez’s role will be The Human Web Gem, Jose Iglesias. While he might as well head to the plate with a wiffleball bat, he can flash the leather with the best of them. Wrapping up the lineup with Nick Castellanos at third (breakout potential) and Alex Avila isn’t too shabby either.

NBSR 2NBSR 3

Washington Nationals v Detroit Tigers

Rondon packs some heat. Might be a late inning answer.

            As is always the case for Detroit big questions remain for the bullpen, particularly the back end. While Joe Nathan’s second half was much better than his first (5.61/3.70 ERA) it will be hard for Tiger faithful to put any faith in him. It is really hard to project what to expect out of him as he is only one season removed from a sub- 2.00 year. Detroit has a bit more cushion this time around with Soria being around for a whole year and Bruce Rondon returning from injury. I absolutely do not see a quality pen for them, but I’m not looking at a horrible one either. If they can finally close leads with above average effectiveness, it might be the key to making the next step.

Prediction:       No doubt the window for Detroit is closing, especially with the improvements in the division. I’m putting it off for at least one more season though. The lineup is stacked and the pitching will be good enough for a first place finish in the AL Central.

Friday Trifecta: Around the MLB in 30 Days- Padres, Angels, Braves

San Diego Padres

2014 Record and Finish: 77-85, 3rd in NL West

Last Year: I don’t throw around the word “literally” very often, but LITERALLY the only reason the 2014 San Diego Padres won 77 games was their pitching. They scored the fewest runs in the majors (535), had the lowest batting average and OBP (.226, .292) and had the lowest slugging percentages to cap off what was a terrible offensive season (.342). Their pitching numbers must have been terrific if they won 77 games with that kind of offensive production, right? Yes. 3.27 ERA (4th), 91 quality starts (9th), 1.22 WHIP (8th), .241 BA against (7th), so you could say it was a solid year from the mound. As you can imagine, allowing 577 total runs on the season is not bad, but only scoring 535 runs all year…that is bad.

Departures: RHP R.J. Alvarez, RHP Blaine Boyer, SS Everth Cabrera, C Yasmani Grandal, RHP Jesse Hahn, IF Jace Peterson, C Rene Rivera, RHP Donn Roach, RHP Keyvius Sampson, OF Seth Smith, RHP Tim Stauffer, LHP Eric Stults, RHP Joe Wieland

Acquisitions: SS Clint Barmes, C Tim Federowicz, RHP Shawn Kelley, OF Matt Kemp, RHP Brandon Maurer, 3B Will Middlebrooks, RHP Brandon Morrow, OF Wil Myers, C Derek Norris, OF Justin Upton, P James Shields

Outlook: It was GM AJ Preller’s first off-season with the club, and he was not playin’. The Padres were perhaps the busiest team in the MLB this offseason, and landed many pieces that will make an immediate impact. They revamped their entire outfield with the additions of Matt Kemp, Wil Myers and Justin Upton, who’ll fight over who doesn’t want to play CF. But they weren’t done…they waited on James Shields to finally decide he did want to play for the Padres and signed him for five years. Four of the top seven guys who appeared at the plate most for San Diego are gone as are five of the top 10 organizational prospects. The 2015 pitching staff should be just as good, if not better, than their 2014 counterparts. Shields looks to be the Opening Day starter, followed by Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, Ian Kennedy and Brandon Morrow. So, maybe the pitchers overachieved last season. Yeah, maybe, but now with a solid #1 on the bump, the Padres made it clear that they were tired of being the NL West’s little brother. What I’m saying is that the pitching will be similar, but the hitting will be better, because it LITERALLY cannot be any worse. They flexed their off-season muscle and made deals that helped them out in the areas they need it, but how the pieces fit together remains to be seen.

Prediction: 2nd in the NL West, can definitely contend for a wild card spot

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

2014 Record and Finish: 98-64, 1st in NL West, lost in ALDS

Last Year: The best record in baseball and +20 wins from the previous year is what the Angels 2014 put up. It was a much improved year for the Halos, but they still couldn’t advance past the divisional round of the playoffs, despite being the best team in baseball.

Departures: C Hank Conger, ​RHP Jason Grilli, RHP Yoslan Herrera, ​RHP Kevin Jepsen, 2B Howie Kendrick, ​RHP Michael Kohn

Acquisitions: C Drew Butera, ​2B Taylor Featherston, LHP Andrew Heaney, OF Matt Joyce, 3B Kyle Kubitza, RHP Jeremy McBryde, IF Josh Rutledge, C Carlos Perez, LHP Cesar Ramos, ​RHP Nick Tropeano

Outlook: The Angels did not add a ton of guys who will come in and necessarily start, but they did add some nice bench pieces and good depth to their already-talented roster. Scoring more runs than they did last year is out of the questions, as they scored 773, good for first in the MLB. If there was a weak area of this team, it was the starting pitching. The starting five looks largely the same as it has: Jered Weaver, Garrett Richards (coming off a leg injury), CJ Wilson, Matt Shoemaker, Andrew Heaney. Those guys plus the bullpen will have to throw well because we’re not sure whether they can hit as well as they did as a team last season. Heaney just happens to be the top prospect in the system, a shallow system at that. The Josh Hamilton situation (drugs) will be decided before Opening Day, and their outfield platoon of guys will have to step up in his loss. The Angels didn’t necessarily have to do a whole lot in the off-season, but improved their farm system with 6 of the club’s top 10 prospects being fresh meat. The question for these guys will be if they can put it together like they did last season, or if there will be a significant drop-off after posting the best record in baseball (hint: probably).

Prediction: 1st or 2nd in the AL West (or maybe 3rd)

Atlanta Braves

Don’t get used to seeing this, Braves fans.

2014 Record and Finish: 79-83, T-2nd in NL East

Last Year: A September collapse only Brewer fans can truly appreciate (4-16 record) helped this team finish with 17 fewer wins than the year before. Sure, they pitched well, but that’s about the only thing they did well.

Departures: RHP Brandon Beachy, ​UT Emilio Bonifacio, RHP David D. Carpenter, OF/C Ryan Doumit​, ​RHP Gavin Floyd, C Evan Gattis, RHP Aaron Harang, RF Jason Heyward, ​C Gerald Laird, ​2B Tommy La Stella, RHP Kris Medlen, ​IF Ramiro Peña, ​RHP Ervin Santana,  LHP Chasen Shreve, LF Justin Upton, ​RHP Anthony Varvaro, RHP Jordan Walden

Acquisitions: RHP Manny Banuelos, ​IF Alberto Callaspo, ​RHP Mike Fotynewicz, RHP Jason Grilli, OF Jonny Gomes, RHP Jim Johnson, ​RF Nick Markakis, RHP Shelby Miller, LHP Josh Outman, IF Jace Peterson, C A.J. Pierzynski, OF Dian Toscano

Outlook: Addition by…subtraction? Is that what the Braves are going for? Subtraction at the major league level, but addition of prospects headlined their off-season. All the Atlanta names you thought you knew are probably gone, save for Freddie Freeman. The Braves have no interest in winning now and probably won’t until they get closer to opening their new stadium/entertainment complex in 2017. You’ll have to wait it out until then Braves fans. If you’re looking into playing the lottery, start following Cuban OF Dian Toscano, who the Braves signed this off-season. He was about the cheapest defector you could find and has never played competitively outside of Cuba. The team posted the second-fewest runs in baseball and then traded away three of their top four contributors, so what do you want me to say? The 2015 Braves will not be good. Also, if you’re a fan of name changes, BJ Upton will now go by Melvin Upton Jr. That in itself might be the best 2015 storyline to follow with the Braves.

Prediction: Middle-to-bottom of the NL East (4th or 5th depending on who is less bad- them or Philly)

Around the MLB in 30 Days-Day 17, part 3: The Cincinnati Reds

2014 Record and Finish: 76-86, 4th in NL Central

LAST YEAR: Injuries are the first and easiest target to blame for the poor 2014 campaign. A playoff caliber team, partially proven by their faith in what is already there for the 2015 season. Breakout performances from Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco last year strengthen the idea that the pieces are already in place. The two combined for 54 homers, 160 RBI, and both hitting an identical .273. Billy Hamilton left room for the doubters, hitting only .250 while stealing 56 bases in 79 attempts.

C’ya Latos

This team was almost .500 while only having Votto appear in 60 some games and Jay Bruce not hitting his weight (compare .217 to 225lbs.). Ultimately the Reds were 28th in plating runs last year and that has to get better.

Departures: SP Matt Latos, SP Alfredo Simon

Acquisitions: OF Marlon Byrd, SP Anthony DeSclafani

Outlook: Marlon Byrd might be 37 years old, but maybe like a fine wine, he gets better with age. Twenty five homers and 87 RBI for the Phillies last year sounds more like 20+ and 90+ for the Reds. An excellent choice to supplement a further slipping Jay Bruce or injured Joey Votto again. Call it a safety net. On top of that, it’s safe to say not much happened in the Queen City this winter. Latos may be missed, though his oft injured nature won’t. Alfredo Simon supplied nearly 200 innings but his inflated win mark can be a product of run support and a hot first half more than anything. DeSclafani is a former Marlin, 24 years old, and has a shot as the 5th man in the rotation come April.

Mr. Byrd

 

Much like the offseason the Reds had, there’s not much sustenance to this report. Nearly no moves took place this offseason and for good reason; you can’t build a team in anticipation of injuries. To be prepared for injuries is one thing, anticipating is another. If the Reds signed Victor Martinez, they appear as if they have no faith in Votto, even when just trying to cover their bases. The Byrd signing is a semi-brilliant one all around. Letting both Latos and Simon go looks a little sketchy. The rotation has had success in its depth rather than top end talent in recent years and success. Replacing those two with a mostly unproven DeSclafani seems more like a roll of the dice than bags of confidence. Johnny Cueto will be the centerpiece for the rotation to work as it is. He had a dynamite year going for 20 wins and a 2.25 ERA in 240+ innings. He does that again and the Reds could be playing in October.

PREDICTION:: You can’t predict injuries so we have to assume full health here. Run production goes up, but so do the runs allowed. Top of the NL Central, circa 2013, and playoff bound.

 

Around the MLB in 30 Days- Day 17, part 2: Miami Marlins

2014 Record and Finish: 77-85, 4th in NL East

Last Year: Giancarlo Stanton broke his face but made $325 million. Jose Fernandez started just 8 games. Regardless of how the season went, it was probably better than their 2013 62-100 showing, and it was. The Marlins became one of just three National League teams since 1969 to win at least 77 games a year after a 100-loss campaign. In Fernandez’s final start before Tommy John surgery, the Marlins held a 20-16 record and a half-game lead in the division. When a fastball struck Stanton in the face in Milwaukee in early September, the Marlins were just 4.5 games back in the wild-card race and on a hot streak. Those injuries didn’t stop the team from remaining competitive as Miami went 35-28 in one-run games throughout the season. What the Marlins could take away from their 2014 season was that their outfield will be the building blocks for what’s to come for this franchise as you already knew about Stanton, but Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna both broke out last year. Not to be outdone, Adeiny Hechavarria upped his average to .276 and his fielding to .979, ahead of even Andrelton Simmons (!).

Departures: RHP Anthony DeSclafani, RHP Nathan Eovaldi, IF Rafael Furcal, RHP Kevin Gregg, RHP Chris Hatcher, RHP Andrew Heaney, IF Kiké Hernandez, OF Reed Johnson, 1B Garrett Jones, RHP Dan Jennings, 3B Casey McGehee, RHP Brad Penny, IF Jordany Valdespin

Acquisitions: RHP Preston Claiborne, RHP Aaron Crow, 2B Dee Gordon, RHP Dan Haren, RHP Mat Latos, 1B Michael Morse, 3B Martin Prado, RHP David Phelps, RHP Andre Rienzo, IF Miguel Rojas, OF Ichiro Suzuki

Outlook: Building on their 2014 momentum will be a key with the new acquisitions for this team. The front office clearly thinks that this is their window of opportunity and made moves to show that this off-season. Instead of signing big name free agents, the Marlins went about this off-season by trading their way to newcomers, including Dee Gordon, Dan Haren and Matt Latos, who all look to be big-impact players come summertime. Gordon is perhaps the biggest position-playing upgrade in the NL, over a group of Miami 2B that hit in the .230’s and didn’t get on base much more last season.  Michael Morse was their big free agent signing-he’ll step in at first base right away, as will Martin Prado at third. Henderson Alvarez took huge steps last season, but will have to take a back seat to Mat Latos, the Opening Day starter, and Fernandez once he comes back (sometime after June 1). The rotation looks like this: Latos, Alvarez, Jarred Cosart, Haren and Tom Koehler for a group that put up a 3.78 ERA last season. The catcher position looks to be a weak spot with Jarrod Saltalamacchia completing the battery. Ichiro coming to Miami makes for a nice story and a valuable veteran off the bench for a team that hasn’t seen the playoffs since they were the Florida Marlins. We hope and pray that the big money curse doesn’t take its toll on Giancarlo Stanton this season after getting a big payday and that he continues to be one of the most exciting players in the game. As for the rest of the roster, they’ll follow his lead to (possibly) a wild card berth.

Prediction: 2nd in the NL East (Not as good as the Nats)

Around the MLB in 30 Days – Day 17, part 1: Cleveland Indians

The Indians are the first part of a multiple-part series here on Day 17, otherwise known as St.Patrick’s Day. Today you can enjoy us attempting to catch up multiple pieces that may be aimed to help spur some conversation among the happy hour suds. 

2014 RECORD AND FINISH: 85-77, 3rd in AL Central, 3 GB in Wild Card

LAST YEAR: Nyjer Morgan starting in centerfield and brought optimism to a 2014 season that piggybacked a one-and-done postseason in 2013. The .500 start to the season was matched by a .500 record through July. Things heated up in August and the Indians looked like they were headed to the postseason. An even hotter Kansas City Royal team and cool Cleveland September ultimately left them on the outside looking in.

The biggest highlight of 2014 was undoubtedly Corey Kluber’s Cy Young win. His 2.44 ERA and 18 wins in 34 starts was among the top in baseball. An absolute work-horse of a season, as Kluber posted 269 strikeouts in 235 innings. The rest of the staff complimented Kluber

Brantley

as the Tribe finished first in baseball in strikeouts and a 3.56 team ERA. On the offensive side, Michael Brantley was far and away the key piece for the Indians. The .327 average, 97 RBI and 23 stolen bases were all team bests. The Indians as a team presented the 14th best batting average and 11th most bases in baseball. Through and through, the team numbers rank mildly above average and compliment the mildly above .500 record.

DEPARTURES: 1B Jason Giambi, 2B Joe Wendle, SS Asdrubal Cabrera*, RHP Justin Masterson*, RHP Vinnie Pestano*

ACQUISITIONS: OF Brandon Moss

*Moved during 2014 season

Joey Wendle

OUTLOOK: Giambi and Wendle are merely footnotes but as footnotes they do get mentioned. Giambi spent much of last year injured and mustered only 2 homers in 60 at bats with his .133 average. Maybe a sign his long career has come to an end. Joe Wendle is one of those mid-level prospects who has potential to be great but gets overshadowed. His power from the second base position is rare and I bet the A’s will look to hold onto him for as long as possible.

The other losses from 2014 were proven as replaceable in each’s regard. Masterson and Pestano didn’t prove as large voids, with Carlos Carrasco headlining that effort. The starter turned reliever, and then back again, isn’t always the most focused player on the field. Notably a very “headsy” player, when he is on, he can’t be touched; but too often he isn’t on, and leaves a propensity for short outings. However, last year’s rendezvous in the bullpen seemed to help straighten him out, and in 40 appearances (14 of those starts) Carrasco accomplished a 2.55 ERA. Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor are knocking down the door to the big leagues and are more than able to hold down the fort in the middle infield.

With Brandon Moss comes a some solid power from a corner outfield position. More importantly, Moss will provide some needed offensive help, but isn’t the ultimate answer to the Indians success in 2015. Let’s start with the rotation. Bauer and Carrasco need to provide top-end rotation help with Kluber serving as the Ace. All young and definitely unproven, if the three can avoid regression, the Indians may have a chance to sniff October.

Moss throwing his body at the baseball

On top of that, Michael Brantley needs to be the cornerstone of the offense. Kipnis broke in 2013 and reversed that story in 2014. Brantley needs to avoid repeating Kipnis history and bring him back to those 2013 numbers. Ramirez is MLB ready and an everyday starter role further strengthens the Indians.

PREDICTIONS: Don’t want to get too cliche, but the Indians have the pieces in place and just need production. On top of what was said earlier, Nick Swisher/the DH spot needs to add to the offense and not take away from it. With that they could go far. But to stay level-headed, the prediction puts Cleveland as a wild card team and playoff threat, top of the AL Central.