Monthly Archives: October 2016

Time for some hardware…

…now that the Major League Baseball regular season has concluded.  Let’s get right to it, starting here with the American League:

Most Valuable Player:

  1. Mookie Betts, Boston
  2. Mike Trout, LA Angels
  3. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
  4. David Ortiz, Boston
  5. Adrian Beltre, Texas
  6. Josh Donaldson, Toronto
  7. Jose Altuve, Houston
  8. Manny Machado, Baltimore
  9. Robinson Cano, Seattle
  10. Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto

10 guys seems a little steep here, but that’s what the official ballot holds.  So I only do what I’m told.  Anyway, these ten all had pretty good years, how do you decide?  I just went with the guy from the home team.  Ok, that’s not exactly true.  The way I see it, the award probably comes down to Betts or Trout.  Trout is probably still the best player in the league, probably in the majors.  But his team was awful.  I have trouble giving MVP awards to guys on bad teams.  I know that many feel differently, simply because how can one guy make a team playoff caliber essentially by himself?  Fair enough point, but it’s my ballot, so that’s what I’m going with.

Trout’s OPS was almost 100 points higher than Betts’ and if you believe in sabermetric stats like WAR, then you would see Trout was better than Mookie there as well.  Both are good defensive players.  Betts had about 40 more hits, but Trout had about 70 more walks.  Many of their other statistics were similar.  Betts had a deeper lineup of course.  Trout power dropped from 2015 and he walked more this year, likely because of what was around him.  If you choose Trout, I won’t hold it against you.  I just went with the guy on the playoff team.

So as you can see, other than Trout, all of the players listed are from playoff or near playoff teams.  Though I am not sure there were many other legitimate candidates.  Brian Dozier?  Nah.  Khris Davis?  Ummmm…

I would’ve loved to have given this to Big Papi, being that it is his last year and I am a homer.  But I have to say not playing the field has to hurt him a bit.  I am not opposed to giving DH’s the award, but a DH would have to be clearly separated from the pack for me to do so.  Kind of like when Ortiz finished 2nd in the voting in 2005 to Alex Rodriguez.  That year, I would have given the MVP to Papi.  He had sick numbers, but also a slew of clutch hits that for me put him over the top.  Oh well.  As for this year, Papi falls behind Miggy here because Miggy had an insane 2nd half to help keep his team in the mix.  And he played the field all year.  If you wanted to flip-flop them, I wouldn’t argue there either.

5-8 is probably the next tier.  Beltre finished strong, Altuve and Machado did not and Donaldson was basically in between.  That explains that order.  Cano and Edwin seemed like solid choices for the last 2 spots.  But if you stuck Nelson Cruz or someone else in there, it doesn’t matter to me.  Even Dozier, if it makes you happy.

Pitchers?  I’m not opposed to it.  But it would have to be another case in which one would have to be extremely dominant.  I mean, how can you justify voting for a starting pitcher that pitches maybe 35 games over an everyday player that plays over 150?  Or a closer that pitches like 70 innings over that same everyday player?  I could, but only in extreme cases.  And none fit that bill this year.

Cy Young:

  1. Justin Verlander, Detroit
  2. Corey Kluber, Cleveland
  3. Rick Porcello, Boston
  4. Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox
  5. Zach Britton, Baltimore

In reality, Verlander is 1, Kluber is 1A and Porcello is 1B.  It was that close.  Then Sale is a distant 4th.  As far as pure numbers, Verlander made more starts, pitched more innings, had way more strikeouts and had the better WHIP and ERA than both Kluber and Porcello.  He also gave up only 4 unearned runs this year, where the other two gave up 7 apiece.  Hey, that counts.  Again, sabermetrics tells us that Verlander was better there too (6.6 WAR to 6.5 for Kluber and 5.0 for Porcello).  Verlander “only” won 16, compared to Kluber’s 18 and Porcello’s major league leading 22.  But what sealed it for me was Verlander’s 2nd half 8-3, 1.96, .180 batting average against, which topped the 2nd halves of the other two by a decent amount (Kluber, 9-1, 2.52, .215; Porcello, 11-2, 2.62, .203).  More importantly, Justin got only 3.97 runs a game for support.  Kluber got 5.16 and Porcello 6.61.  Seems like he was working with less margin for error.

Sale went 3-7 in the second half, but his ERA was actually better (3.28 to 3.38 in the first half).  His innings, WHIP, K’s and everything else were much better than the remaining candidates, so he was an easy pick for 4th.  I don’t love taking relievers.  But Britton had an ERA well under one and didn’t blow any of his 47 save chances.  So there is something to be said for that.  In reality, Andrew Miller probably had a more dominant year.  But he wasn’t asked to close many games, so I have to give Britton the nod here.

Aaron Sanchez, Masahiro Tanaka, Cole Hamels, Jose Quintana and JA Happ with his 20 wins will get some love.  I saw them a step or more below all of the above however.

Rookie of the Year:

  1. Michael Fulmer, Detroit
  2. Nomar Mazara, Texas
  3. Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees

Fulmer runs away with this one.  He was 3 innings shy of qualifying for the ERA title, where he was leading for a stretch and would have finished third at 3.06, behind Sanchez at 3.00 and Verlander at 3.04.  Mazara was one of only two rookies who had enough plate appearances to qualify for a full season (Cheslor Cuthbert being the other).  Mazara started strong and cooled off a bit, but seemed like the best bet for 2nd.  Only 53 games and 201 at-bats for Sanchez and he gets 3rd?  Yup.  20 homers in those 53 games.  Among an otherwise quite barren Yankee lineup.  Good enough for me.  Cuthbert?  Nope.  Tim Anderson?  A shortstop, so maybe.  Max Kepler?  Meh.  Tyler Naquin or Ryon Healy?  Not today.

Manager of the Year:

  1. Terry Francona, Cleveland
  2. Scott Servais, Seattle
  3. Buck Showalter, Baltimore

TIIIITTTTOOOOO!!!  Yup.  Love Tito, but not being nostalgic here at all.  The Indians improved 13 wins from 2015, though their best player, Michael Brantley, totaled a mere 43 plate appearances during the 2016 season.  The lineup is clearly improved from 2015, but other than Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor and Carlos Santana, the rest of them are probably really platoon players on good teams.  Sure, Mike Napoli and Jose Ramirez had pretty good years out of nowhere.  But they also gave almost 250 plate appearances to an old and fat Jose Uribe.  Yan Gomes hit a solid .167 in about the same amount of chances.  The pitching is of course the strength, bullpen with Cody Allen and a dominant 2 months from Andrew Miller leading that charge.  The rotation was solid, with Kluber in the Cy mix as noted above.  But behind him, Carlos Carrasco battled injuries and after Danny Salazar had an All-Star start, he had his problem with injuries as well.  Some challenges there that Tito had to navigate as well.

Servais took over the Mariners this year and led them to 10 more wins.  It helped that Cano had a rebound year.  And Cruz is Cruz.  Kyle Seager is pretty good.  Not much else to write home about in that lineup.  As for the staff, Felix Hernandez made only 25 seemingly “un-King Felix” like starts.  Hisashi Iwakuma won 16, but with an ERA over 4.  Tijuan Walker never took that “next step”.  And after Steve Cishek became shaky at closer, they went to a young Edwin Diaz, who got the saves, but whose ERA did spike as well.  I’m not sure how Seattle improved so much actually.  Side note:  JA Happ went 4-6, 4.64 and Mark Trumbo hit 13 homers in 96 games for the 2015 Mariners.  Then Happ won 20 for the Jays and Trumbo hit 47 bombs for the O’s in 2016.  What?

Buck won 8 more games this year than last, with a lineup that seemingly only hit homers or struck out and a putrid rotation.  That’s good enough for 3rd for me.  And it doesn’t count him not pitching Britton in the wild card playoff game, which was inexcusable in my eyes.  People may ask, “where is John Farrell”?  After all, the Sox won 15 more games than 2015.  Farrell may well win the award in real life.  But when I spent all year trying to get him fired, I couldn’t put him in my top three.  They really should’ve won 5-10 more, but Farrell held them back.  I still believe that and still wouldn’t mind not seeing him back next year.  But I’ve beaten that like a dead horse.  I’d love to give Joe Girardi a vote.  I hate the guy and I hate the Yankees.  Another secret, I know.  But how he has kept that team in the playoff race until the last week or so the last few years, I have no idea.  Old team, half the pitching staff I’ve never heard of, his 2 best relievers were traded at the deadline this year, A-Rod circus, etc.  But they lost 3 wins from 2015, so it would be hard to justify a vote for him all that being said.  Texas won 7 more games for Jeff Banister this year, but he won the award last year and…that team is pretty good anyway.

Next:  The National League

Gross…

…and it is still leaving a bad taste in my mouth two days later.  The New England Patriots’ performance on Sunday was just atrocious.  I guess it was worse since I saw it live.  And it wasn’t exactly a gorgeous autumn day to boot.  All in all, not a whole lot to be excited about.

The Buffalo Bills essentially had one player to stop, LeSean McCoy, and the Pats couldn’t do it.  Yeah, McCoy’s final numbers weren’t otherworldly (19 rushes for 70 yards plus 6 catches for 38 yards and a TD), he seemed to always get the job done when it needed to be done.  As did Tyrod Taylor.  A decidedly average quarterback, he seemed to accomplish what he wanted to as well.

You can say whatever you want about the offense.  And they seemed bad.  But…were they really that bad?  I’d call it moreso just conservative.  How much can you really accomplish when you play extremely conservative?

Granted, the Patriots had a third string QB at the helm.  One with a bum thumb on his throwing hand.  And the team once again played with only one legitimate QB active.  They still were clearly babying Rob Gronkowski.  Danny Amendola seems to be working his way back as well and he is not playing much at this time.  Etc.

But I thought Jacoby Brissett looked…competent…out there.  I thought he showed well for someone with his experience, not to mention with the limitations the coaching staff placed on him.  Sure, the fumble inside the 20 was inexcusable.  And he missed a wide-open Amendola on one third down.  But he also dropped one right into Brandon Bolden’s hands for a potential TD, only to have Bolden drop it.  He probably held onto the ball too long most of the time and did other things that rookies are prone to do.   But to me, he didn’t look out-of-place like a lot of rookies do.

They let him throw 3 passes in the first half.  THREE!!  Not counting the 90 yarder to Edelman on the first play of the game due to penalties.  Ok, it was a screen pass that Edelman turned into 90 yards, but a pass nonetheless.  Once the coaches saw what direction the game was going in, couldn’t they have opened it up more earlier?  Yeah, they did a bit in the second half, but still…not quite enough in my eyes.

I thought the game plan and the adjustments from the coaching staff left a lot to be desired.  Especially with 10 days to prepare.  But I have to say, I kind of don’t blame them for at least the offensive plans.  Guys are banged up, as I said, including your only real QB.  The Bills are terrible.  LeGarrette Blount had been running well and was just named the AFC Player of the Month for September.  And all that.  With the game at home, they probably thought they could sneak out of there with like a 20-10 win or something.  Even 14-10 or 14-7.  Something along those lines.

The other units just didn’t hold up their end of the bargain.  Special teams…returns in particular…not good.  Cyrus Jones is supposed to be a dynamic returner.  That quality supposedly separated him from other players in the 2nd round the Patriots thought were about equal where they drafted Jones.  But since the lights have come on in the regular season, Jones has been dropping the ball a lot and has been indecisive when he holds onto it.  Stephen Gostkowski missed a field goal as well.  Ryan Allen punted well, but, not a banner day overall.

My ire is mostly with the defense.  16 points against looks good in the box score.  Making the Bills attempt 5 field goals and allowing only 1 touchdown may look like a positive as well.  But not really.  No pass rush, terrible coverage, couldn’t get off the field on third down.  Ugly.

I know Billy B. has his way of playing mobile QBs…not a ton of pass rush, contain the QB, some sort of zone D, etc.  I know Jabal Sheard and Dont’a Hightower are not 100%.  I know Vincent Valentine left the game somewhere in the middle of it, leaving the Pats essentially with only two defensive tackles in Malcolm Brown and Alan Branch, at a position where they like to rotate a bunch of guys to keep those big fellas fresh.  I know all that and more.  But a hugely disappointing effort all around on the defensive side.  Countless missed tackles.  A cornerback with an amazing 17 tackles (Logan Ryan…which is not actually a good stat for a CB, by the way).  Guys running around TOO wide open, even for zone defense.  As noted above, too many third down conversions against.  And on and on.

With all that negativity being said and as angry as I have been since the game, I am really here to tell you…it doesn’t matter!!  yes, the Pats really should be 4-0.  Sure, everyone figured they’d be 3-1, with the loss actually coming against Arizona.  Once they got to 3-0 and had a bad team at home, 4-0 really should have happened.

Now that it didn’t, it’s probably a good time to look at the big picture.  With their 3rd string QB playing two and a half games out of the four Tom Brady was suspended, the team went 3-1.  They still lead the putrid division by a game.  And now Brady comes back.  Rob Ninkovich is back as well.  Presumably, Gronk, Amendola, Sheard, Hightower et al will get healthier.  The offensive line will continue to gel (helped by quicker decisions and releases by Brady).  The defense should play better and round into some sort of form.  Gostkowski should return to his reliable self.  Even Jones may learn from his return mistakes.  Maybe we see more of Barkevious Mingo chasing the QB around as well.

The goal here is the end of the season, not September.  We know Belichick always treats the first month or so as an extended training camp.  Gets an idea of what they have.  How things can be adjusted.  The team should win the division going away still.  And be in the mix for home field advantage in the AFC for sure…let’s just hope they don’t blow it like last year.

Maybe an early loss is good for them?  No undefeated record to chase.  Early wakeup call.  Stuff like that.

That’s what I’m going with now anyway…

 

On to the second season…

…if the Big Papi tributes ever end, that is.  Hey, don’t get me wrong, David Ortiz has made a tremendous impact on the Boston sports scene over his career.  Big part of the Red Sox’ three World Series Championships…and hopefully soon a fourth.  Tremendous in the community.  Goodwill ambassador for the game.  And all that.  Can’t possibly say enough positive things about the man (“The Man”?).  I just hate “farewell tours”, that’s all.  My apologies.  This applies to everyone, in any sport.  It was silly to see these pregame charades going on in opposing cities during the season.  Especially in cities Papi barely played in (San Diego?  San Francisco?  Please).  Ortiz should absolutely be honored.  And it should be huge.  But do it some other time.  And then do it again when he gets in the Hall of Fame.

Let’s really just be thankful that Jeremy Giambi was, well, Jeremy Giambi and that Ortiz got a chance to be in the lineup every day.  Remember, the genius Theo Epstein loved him some Jeremy.  Most of the “Theo” apologists had forgotten this long ago though.

While we are at it, you know what’s worse than farewell tours for players?  Honoring broadcasters.  Holy Vin Scully!  Sure, Vin may have been great as what he did.  But he is an ANNOUNCER!  It’s not like he ever split the atom or cured cancer.  He didn’t even make a difference on the field in any of the games he covered.  Enough already.  I’m sure he did a lot of great things for the community as well and is generally a good man.  But he is just relaying what he sees on the field.  Maybe throwing some cute anecdotes or something in there as well.  Awesome.  Hopefully the 48-year-old Scully was better than the 88-year-old Scully I heard on ESPN doing the 4th inning of a game a week or so ago.  Wow.  Mistakes and non-stop rambling.  Kind of like all of the announcers who stay on too long…which is about every one of them actually.  Jealousy?  Maybe.  And I sure hope to be as active as Vin at 88.  But just how I feel.

I’ll definitely give the radio guys more props than the TV guys.  Radio voices have to paint a sort of picture for the listener.  Tougher job than just seeing what transpires on the field directly from the television set, where the viewer can already see the action.  But still…

I’ll also give some props to some of the classic calls, such as Al Michaels’ “Do you believe in Miracles?!”  Though nowadays when those calls are made they seem previously prepared and then when delivered therefore sound somewhat forced.  Especially Jack Edwards’ ridiculous flow of words after a Boston Bruin’s victory.  Half the time no one knows what the hell he is talking about.

Sssssssooooo…now that I have gone waaaaay off topic and likely pissed a lot of people off…let’s get to the upcoming matchup!

The Boston Red Sox will be playing the Cleveland Indians in one of the AL Division Series.  Will Terry Francona come back and haunt his former team?  One he won 2 World Series with?  He might.  And in reality a lot of people would love to see that due to how the team’s head honchos ran Tito out-of-town.  Thanks Tito for the 2 rings…but a bad month with some chicken, beer and pain killers…and possibly a rendezvous or two with Hazel Mae (& others?)…so get the hell out?  In truth, Tito had been here for 8 years and sometimes it is just time to move on.  But his departure did leave a bad taste in many people’s mouths.  They would love to see Tito stick it to John Henry and Tom Werner.  Too bad Larry Lucchino technically isn’t involved here anymore.  Because when you throw in the fact Uncle Larry essentially picked Francona’s successor doesn’t help.  Most people haven’t forgiven any of the brass for the Bobby Valentine disaster.

On to the matchups on the field:

*Starting pitching:

John Farrell can say what he wants about not knowing who is going Game 1 or Game 2.  But with Rick Porcello going yesterday and David Price tomorrow…it’s pretty obvious.  Cleveland will counter with Trevor Bauer in Game 1 and Corey Kluber in Game 2.  Conventional wisdom says Sox win Game 1 and the Tribe Game 2.  Trevor Bauer in Game 1???  Yikes!!  Kluber is a possible Cy Young winner (again) and Price is 2-7, 5.12 career in the playoffs.  BUT…Kluber hasn’t pitched since straining his quad a week or so ago and maybe Price finally finds postseason success with his 31 mil?  Your guess is as good as mine.

I’m guessing Clay Buchholz in Game 3 (another Yikes!!) and Eduardo Rodriguez in Game 4.  Looks like Josh Tomlin in Game 3 and no idea Game 4.  Mike Clevinger?  Ryan Merritt?  Bauer?  The Tribe suffers a lot here without Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar.  If those 2 guys were healthy, the Indians roll.  Then again, the Sox have a history of making no-names look like household names.  Wouldn’t surprise me if someone like Merritt blanks them.  Steven Wright is a no-go for the Sox and Drew Pomeranz is unlikely as well.  Despite Wright’s All-Star first half, these 2 guys don’t compare to the 2 injured Indian starters.  Any way you look at it, the pitchers available for this matchup look like a wash to me.

*Bullpen:

I would say the Sox carry 7 arms here for the first round.  One less than the regular season.  Craig Kimbrel, Koji Uehara, Brad Ziegler, Matt Barnes, Robbie Ross Jr., Joe Kelly (over Heath Hembree) and Robby Scott (over Fernando Abad) would seem the logical choices.  Though it would not shock me in the least if Farrell thought it was 2013 and kept Junichi Tazawa either as the 12th or at the expense of one of the above.  Scott is unproven, but lefty.  And since Abad has pitched only once since September 16th, looks like he is out.  Kelly still stinks.  But they do still like him…better than Hembree anyway.

I’m not going to pretend I know a ton about the Indian bullpen.  But what I do know is that Andrew Miller is better than anyone the Sox have.  And they aren’t even using him as closer.  2 walks and 43 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings since joining the team.  9/120 in 72 2/3 IP overall.  Wow.  From a guy that used to never be able to find the plate earlier in his career.  Compare him to Kimbrel, who this week has come in throwing gasoline on the fire and throwing the ball anywhere BUT over the plate.  Just lost the game again tonight.  Not encouraging.

Cody Allen is the closer.  Not a lot of fanfare nationally it appears.  But seems to be having a solid season.  After all, they kept him at closer after the arrival of Miller.  Koji has been getting the job done since his return from the DL.  But hasn’t necessarily been untouchable.  Farrell seems afraid to use Ziegler as much as he should.  I like the Indian late inning guys a whole hell of a lot better than ours.

The rest of the Tribe bullpen?  Dan Otero, Bryan Shaw, Zach McAllister…possibly Salazar.  Looks like a pretty decent edge to the Indians here.

Starting bats:

We know the Sox lineup has put up some runs this year.  Looks like Brock Holt and Andrew Benintendi will be the primary 3B and LF, respectively.  Don’t need to say anything about Mookie Betts, Papi, Hanley and Dustin Pedroia.  JBJ had a surprisingly nice year of course.  Xander Bogaerts disappointed in the second half, but still needs to be considered a factor.  Sandy Leon rounds it out…in the middle of a .216 September.

Cleveland has some pop in Carlos Santana and Mike Napoli (34 homers and 101 RBI for Nap?  Wasn’t he DONE last year?).  Some speed and a little pop in Jason Kipnis, Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor.  Tremendous speed in Rajai Davis.  A couple of serviceable players in Lonnie Chisenhall and Tyler Naquin.  And a catcher worse than the Sox’ (Roberto Perez).  Yan Gomes is usually their catcher.  But he just came back from injury and was atrocious this year anyway.  Looks like it will be Perez.

The Red Sox SHOULD have a decided advantage here.  What with them scoring over a hundred more runs than Cleveland.  Just listing the opposing names really kind of covers the analysis here.  But, as noted, the Indians do have a little power and can impact some games with their legs.  Even Napoli and Santana have 5 stolen bases!  If the Sox can jump out early, they should be able to keep the Tribe at bay.  But any close games could result in Cleveland “stealing” games.  Get it!  Haha…I’m here all week…

Bench:

Chris Young, Aaron Hill and Travis Shaw are the main dudes.  Young and Hill specifically will play left and third, respectively, against lefties.  But only Merritt is a (potential) lefty starter in this series.  Backup catcher?  I’d take Christian Vazquez.  But guessing Farrell takes Bryan Holaday.  As long as it’s not Ryan Hanigan.  None of them really matter actually.  25th guy?  A perfect pinch runner would be Yoan Moncada.  But since he is nowhere near ready for the major leagues and made some baserunning mistakes when he did play in the final month to boot, I’m guessing Marco Hernandez takes this spot.  Not to mention that I just found out they shipped Moncada back to minor league camp yesterday anyway.  For what?  I don’t know.  I would’ve kept him along for the ride.  Along with Bryce Brentz.  But you already knew that.

Indians bench?  Gomes or Chris Giminez at catcher.  Brandon Guyer, Coco Crisp, Michael Martinez, Abraham Almonte, whoever.  Uninspiring.

I’d give the edge to the Sox here.  But if anyone makes any kind of contribution here on either side this series, with the possible exception of Young, I’d be a little surprised.  Hill may get into games late, but hasn’t done a whole lot in the AL.  Shaw has completely fallen off the map and out of the “rotation” altogether.  It’s possible the Indian’s bench makes some impact with their legs, but not likely their bats.  But who knows with postseason heroes coming from nowhere often.

Prediction:

As we speak, Cleveland has a half game lead for home field.  They have one of the best home records in the majors so you may think this is a concern.  The Sox have the 2nd best road record in the majors though, so it may not be.  Not liking the way the Sox are choking games down the stretch, especially Kimbrel.  But Farrell has been lifting Ortiz, batting Xander 6th, pitching Kelly in a save situation, etc.  So he may not be that concerned about it.  But speaking of Farrell, it is no secret that I don’t love him.  Seems as if the Sox should have a few more wins under their belt this year.  He could cost them a game in this series.  The Tribe will really be hurt by not having a healthy Carrasco and Salazar, not to mention Michael Brantley.  Though Brantley essentially hasn’t been there all year, so maybe his injury is irrelevant for these purposes.  Indian speed could cause problems.  And the bullpens could play a huge role.  If Kluber can’t go or is far less than 100%?  Not good.

That all being said, I’ll take the Sox in 5.  Praying that Farrell keeps the bonehead moves to a minimum…

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