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2017 MLB American League All-Stars

Yup, the All-Star Game was this past Tuesday.  But…close enough.  And a nice topic to get back in the swing of things.  So here is my team.  Only 32 players this year, down from 34 in recent years.  21 position players, 11 pitchers, with each team represented (Again, I don’t necessarily love this rule…but…it is the rule).  (S) for starter.  Comments below each position.

C:  Salvador Perez, KC (S), Gary Sanchez, NYY

Three catchers are usually selected for the actual game.  This year thankfully there were only two…for both leagues.  Not sure why this changed, but it’s absolutely for the better.  Two is about the max that deserve to be there.  Last year I took only one on my team (Perez).  If I took a third this year, it would’ve been either Brian McCann or Alex Avila.  No thanks.  Anyway, I’ve said pretty much enough on catchers.  Sanchez may be the future, but not giving him the starting gig over Big Sal…this year.

1B:  Justin Smoak, Tor (S), Logan Morrison, TB, Jose Abreu, CWS, Yonder Alonso, Oak

Just…yuck.  Just feels really strange with no Miguel Cabrera anywhere to be found here.  These guys are simply having better years though.  And thanks to the “every team has to be represented” rule, here are each of these 4 teams’ representatives!  Smoak started the real game and, sadly enough, he was the right choice.  Morrison had a similar OPS (.931 to Smoaks’ .936), so if you wanted him to start, you won’t get an argument from me.  Not sure how he didn’t even make the real team.  I’m all set with Corey Dickerson.  Actually, I’m all set with Morrison too, but his numbers are there this year.  Avisail Garcia was the real life ChiSox rep, but I prefer Abreu.  Probably doesn’t matter either way.  It was either Alonso, Khris Davis or Ryon Healy for the A’s.  Alonso’s .934 OPS was also right with Morrison and Smoak.  The other A’s were in the .800’s.  Plus Davis and Healy DH a fair amount.  But still…these 4 guys are All-Stars?

2B:  Jose Altuve, Hou (S), Jonathan Schoop, Bal, Robinson Cano, Sea, Starlin Castro, NYY

It’s Altuve and then everyone else once again.  Not enough superlatives out there for that guy.  Schoop is shockingly enough the Orioles rep.  If you wanted to put Manny Machado on the team because he’s Manny Machado, I’d probably be ok with it though.  I’m not putting Robby Cano here because he was the MVP of the real game.  No, seriously.  He is kind of quietly having a pretty good year.  As is Castro.

3B:  Jose Ramirez, Cle (S), Miguel Sano, Min, Mike Moustakas, KC

Jose Ramirez is 3rd in the AL in OPS, .005 behind 2nd place.  Jose Ramirez!  Let that one sink in for a while.  Sure he had a pretty good year last year.  But was abysmal two years ago.  Of course he was only 22 then, so…but still.  Pretty impressive.  Sano is another guy breaking out this year.  His 120 K’s already are pretty unsightly though.  Having second thoughts about “Moose” as I write this…but I guess 25 bombs and good defense should count for something.

SS:  Carlos Correa, Hou (S), Elvis Andrus, Tex

You may be able to pencil in Correa’s name here for years to come.  Francisco Lindor may have something to say about it eventually, but not this year.  Correa has been filthy this season.  I will also say Lindor was on the edge of my team and if you wanted to find space for him, it wouldn’t upset me.  Andrus was going to be my sole Rangers player, though that did change.  Still deserving of a place on my squad however.  And please Red Sox fans…admittedly, I am a total homer.  But the fact that Xander Bogaerts was in the Final Five voting was an absolute joke, I’m sorry.  Disappointing year for X, to put it mildly.

OF:  Mike Trout, LAA (S), Aaron Judge, NYY (S), George Springer, Hou (S), Mookie Betts, Bos

This is what I wrote last year: “Just copy and paste Trout here for at least the next decade…unless he switches leagues at some point.”  His injury this year changes nothing.  There really is not much to say about Judge and Springer.  Monster years from the both of them.  Now here is where I become a little of that Boston homer I just referred to.  In my opinion, Betts hasn’t necessarily been “All-Star-ish” this year.  Just hasn’t seemed it.  Comparatively speaking to last year anyway.  But maybe we were spoiled last year.  However, when you review the numbers as a whole, you can justify a spot for him.  And I did.

DH: Nelson Cruz, Sea (S)

1 DH is enough.  One of the jamokes selected at 1B can handle DH in my game if they need to.  I would nominate Abreu.

UT:  Marwin Gonzalez, Hou

How can a guy who doesn’t even start for his own team be an All-Star?  Well, let me introduce you to this year’s Brock Holt!!  Except…way better.  .967 OPS.  He actually has been playing every day for a while now.  I mean, Norichika Aoki?  Please.  But Marwin plays all over the place too.  If you play fantasy baseball, and I do, he is pretty much eligible at every position no matter what type of league you are in.  That’s worth something if you can create offense along with the defensive flexibility.  Oh, and the Astros are 10 games better than everyone else in the American League.  Take as many guys as you want from that team and put them here.  Although, I will draw the line at Josh Reddick.

P:  Chris Sale, CWS (S), Jason Vargas, KC, Dallas Keuchel, Hou, Corey Kluber, Cle, Carlos Carrasco, Cle, Michael Fulmer, Det, Ervin Santana, Min, Yu Darvish, Tex, Luis Severino, NYY, Andrew Miller, Cle, Craig Kimbrel, Bos

I will probably cut and paste this preamble every year, in case there are any new readers that may give a crap.  I know, fat chance.  Anyway, here it is:  As I’ve explained in the past, my inclination is to take way more starting pitchers than closers and certainly middle relievers.  Great starters are infinitely more important to their team and that is why they get the big bucks, as they say.  Closers historically get hot for a year or three, but unless they are Mariano Rivera or Trevor Hoffman, they inevitably fail and fall back into middle relief or the minors or out of baseball.  Very few of the elite ones that can do it for 10 years plus.  Middle relievers are usually failed starters AND closers.  So even though they can be dominant, it usually doesn’t last.  And if it does, they will go back to another key role.

Last year, I picked 3 closers and 2 part middle relievers, part closers and only 8 starters.  Kind of made me sick to my stomach.  This year we get back to normal…9 starters, 1 middle man, 1 closer.  Sale is the relatively easy choice to start, though if Kuechel or even Kluber didn’t miss time in the first half, they would have certainly made it closer.  Specifically Kluber, with his playoff performance last year, as well as the fact that his own Indian coaching staff were the coaches for this years’ All-Star Game.  Journeyman 34-year-old Vargas leads the league in wins and ERA, as well as WAR, if that’s a statistic that floats your boat.  Good for him for making his first All-Star team.

I’m surprised that Carrasco wasn’t on the real squad.  He got hammered in one start in late June that jacked up his ERA a bit.  But even so, 3.44 ain’t bad.  Combined with his other numbers, he seemed like an easy pick to me.  Fulmer was my Detroit pick…as he was in reality (until they added Justin Upton to the squad as well).  Can’t ignore Ervin’s contributions to the surprising Twins this year (as surprising as 2 games over .500 is…but they are only 2.5 games out…and I’m not sure anyone saw that coming).  Darvish and Severino have high-ish ERA’s, but they are still in the top 10 and have good numbers otherwise.  Maybe Lance McCullers Jr. and Marcus Stroman deserve some consideration as well.  But they get squeezed out on my team.

Kimbrel is a no-brainer…the guy has been virtually untouchable this year.  As has been Miller.  Even though Miller doesn’t close, it’s hard to ignore his dominance.  As for relievers that missed the cut, maybe a case for Roberto Osuna could have been made.  But Alex Colome, Brandon Kintzler, Kelvin Herrera, Kenny Giles?  Nah.  Justin Wilson & Dellin Betances?  Perhaps.  But I’m comfortable with just Miller and Kimbrel.

So there you go…NL to follow..at some point…first I have to celebrate the fact that the Fat Panda is finally out of Boston…good riddance…

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Boston Bruins Mid-Season Report Card

Slightly more than mid-season, actually.  53 games in by the time this is finished.  But the All-Star Game just happened…or whatever the All-Star nonsense was this year anyway.  So…it is what it is…

Full disclosure, the Blowhard has not watched every minute of every game.  Far from it.  No way anyone can tolerate Jack Edwards that much, can they?  But we feel like we can fire some grades out based on game action, reports, opinions and box scores, among other sources.  We may just make up some bogus grades just to see if any of the three readers of this blog vehemently disagree (Keo?).

Grades are completely arbitrary in these cases anyway, so what difference does it make?  Whatever…let’s get to it:

Jeremy Jacobs, Charlie Jacobs, any other Jacobs associated with ownership: D.  For the better part of my lifetime, these jamokes really just care about putting a team on the ice that gets them a round or two of playoff gates and aren’t necessarily chasing championships.  I’m not the only one who thinks this.  And you know what?  They’ve been pretty successful at it.  This year is more of the same.  It’s really as simple as that.

Cam Neely, Don Sweeney and I suppose the rest of the front office: D-.  Maybe I should give Cam some more credit, since I believe he has wanted to fire Claude Julien for years but ownership won’t let him.  Maybe I should give Sweens more time, since many of his draft picks seem to be highly regarded.  But Cam has been around a while and the team has regressed.  And Donnie Hockey’s major league moves have been below average, at best.  So I’m not budging.

Claude Julien: D+.  Sense a theme here?  Yeah, leadership has been disappointing, to put it mildly.  Everyone knows how I feel about Claude, so I won’t re-hash that here.  He gets the “plus” though since his personnel isn’t awesome these days.  And technically, they are in the playoffs as of today…though the games in hand they own currently will obviously not be “in hand” at the end.  Let’s move on…

Brad Marchand: B+.  All-Star.  Point a game almost.  So why a B and not an A?  Cuz of those stupid things he still does.  Like the trip on Niklas Kronwall last week.  Infuriating.

David Pastrnak: B.  20 goals is nice.  So is the team high plus/minus of 14.  But he has tailed off in recent weeks.

David Krejci: C.  Too much dough for not much production and a minus 11.  Yikes!

Torey Krug: B-.  Not his fault they overpaid him.  But the minus 8?  No thanks.

Patrice Bergeron: C.  Something is not right.  Has he been hurt since the World Cup of Hockey?  Half a point a game and only a plus 3?  Too good for that.  At least he is still winning a good chunk of his faceoffs.

Ryan Spooner: C.  Claude is never going to trust him.  Spooner is never going to be a defensive whiz.  But he’s been disappointing either way.

David Backes: B-.  Seems to be what was about expected.  Again, not his fault he was overpaid.

Dominic Moore/Tim Schaller/Riley Nash: B.  Why not?  I didn’t expect anything from these dudes.

Austin Czarnik: B-.  Didn’t expect much from him either.  One of the young guys that actually stuck…for a while anyway.  Looks like with the recent stretch of healthy scratches he will end up in Providence soon.

Brandon Carlo: B.  Probably the only young guy that will stick the whole year here.  Seems to have tailed off lately, but nevertheless pretty impressive for a 20-year-old defenseman.

Zdeno Chara: C.  Thanks for your many years of service Big Z.  But…

Frank Vatrano: B-.  Kid looks like he can score at the NHL level.  We will see what happens with the rest of his game going forward though.  Let’s hope Claude continues to play him also.

Matt Beleskey: F.  Ok, maybe that is a bit harsh with time he has missed due to injury.  But looks as if he has been less than impressive thus far.

Colin Miller/Kevan Miller: C.  We’re the Millers was a pretty damn good movie.  I don’t really have anything else to say here.

John-Michael Liles: C.  If he keeps being the 7th defenseman, we can raise this up to an “A”.

Adam McQuaid: C+.  Fights on occasion.  Plus 2 is best on the D corps.  C+?  What the hell!

Jimmy Hayes/Anton Khudobin: G? Z? FF? F—–?  Useless.  The both of them.

Anton Blidh/Noel Acciari/Joe Morrow:  Incomplete, kind of.  These three have played almost 20 games apiece.  But I haven’t seen them much.  And it really doesn’t feel like they actually play.  Maybe they should get a D or something since they have been around for a while.  But I’m pretty fair.  They can thank me later.

Danton Heinen/Rob O’Gara/Malcolm Subban/Zane McIntyre/Matt Grzelcyk/Sean Kuraly: True incompletes here.

Last but not least…Tuukka Rask: B+.  Most know my feelings about “Tuuks” as well.  Don’t love paying goalies 7 mil a year, especially when they very rarely steal games.  That being said, Rask has played pretty well this season.  Sure, the requisite amount of softies have gone past him over the course of the year.  But he has gotten it done for the most part.  And he has needed to, with the fact that his backups have one win all year.  Guess I have to give him some credit…

Boston Red Sox first half review…kind of?

I suppose we really don’t need to rehash the first half of the Major League Baseball season, as far as the Red Sox are concerned.  We all know the deal.  They are a better than expected 49-38, 2 games out of first place.  The offense has been largely good.  The pitching has been largely a disappointment, to be kind.  Young everyday players, like Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. are blossoming right in front of our eyes.  David Ortiz is having a monster farewell season at the age of 40.  David Price and Craig Kimbrel have not made the difference their profile would suggest.  Clay Buchholz and Eduardo Rodriguez have been abject disasters.  Steven Wright has been a revelation.  Fat Panda is, well…still fat.  And for his 19 mil the team got an 0 for the season.  Ok, in only six at bats before his injury…but the point remains the same.  Blah, blah, blah…

We know all that.  Let’s focus on what one man thinks they SHOULD do in the 2nd half of this year.  Before we get to that, my thinking is that Dave Dombrowski has gotten off to a pretty good start with the minor deals he has made thus far.  Well, I am not sure why he felt the need to get a 33-year-old utility man who has a .199 career average in Michael Martinez.  I mean, don’t we have a guy like that already in Brock Holt?  And what was Marco Hernandez doing wrong?  I guess the move was made because those two both bat from the left side and Martinez is a switch hitter.  And they still plan to play Holt a ton in left field it would seem.  Whatever.

But I like the move for Aaron Hill.  I don’t mind Travis Shaw.  But despite the hot start, I never considered him an everyday player…at third or at first.  A bunch of at-bats off the bench at both positions?  Sure.  And it appears that this will be the case going forward.  Hill isn’t going to hit 36 bombs like he did in 2009 with Toronto.  But he will be a useful addition.  At what appears to be a minimal cost…with 2 “prospects” going the other way.  Wendell Rijo is only 20, so maybe he will be something.  But he was hitting .186 in AA.  Doesn’t look good.  Aaron Wilkerson was pitching well in Pawtucket.  But he’s 27 years old himself and has never made the majors.  Doesn’t look like a big loss.

I also like the move for Brad Ziegler.  Not a prototypical closer, but he wasn’t supposed to come here as a closer anyway.  But hopefully he will close here with Kimbrel now out.  As much as I love Koji Uehara, this year he has been…shaky (done?).  Junichi Tazawa has apparently been battling a shoulder ailment (and is now on the DL)…but he’s never been considered a closer anyway.  Robbie Ross Jr. had some saves down the stretch last year…but on a bad team.  Plus John Farrell forgets he has him in his bullpen half the time.  So that won’t work.  The end result is that Ziegler may now be currently the best reliever in the bullpen.  Yikes!  But it’s a good move regardless.  It doesn’t appear that Ziegler’s cost was much, though maybe a bit more than Hill’s.  Jose Almonte, a 20-year-old pitcher that was in Single-A, and Luis Alejandro Basabe, a 19-year-old middle infielder that was in the same location.  Young, yes.  But I don’t ever recall seeing them on any “Top Prospect” lists.

After all that preamble, let’s get to the Blowhard’s suggestions.  Once again, in no particular order.

*Trade for a young #1 or #2 starter using the systems’ supposed plethora of prospects.  I know, I know, I know.  Who wouldn’t do this?  But the point is, the Sox CAN make this happen more than most other teams.  According to many people around the game, the Sox have several “can’t miss” prospects.  Yoan Moncada, Andrew Benintendi, Anderson Espinoza, Rafael Devers, maybe even that knucklehead Michael Kopech…yup, you’ve heard all the names.

The Sox should pick their top 2 or 3 guys and keep them.  And unload anyone and everyone else.  After all, for how long have we heard guys like Will Middlebrooks, Garin Cecchini, Casey Kelly, Bryce Brentz (before he shot himself accidentally in the leg in 2013 maybe), Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, Brian Rose, Wilton Veras and countless others were “can’t miss”?  Exactly.  Some of these guys won’t make it.  Most of them actually.  So while their names are hot, get rid of them.

OR, if they decide they will pay Xander and Mookie and not Jackie eventually, deal JBJ.  Assuming Benintendi will come up and take his place at some point soon enough.  OR, if the thought of engaging with Scott Boras down the road will leave them with so much distaste, trade Xander (heresy!!).  Assuming Moncada will come up and take his place eventually.

Now, I am not advocating trading Xander, no, not at all.  I actually would still consider trading JBJ, for the record.  Still not 100% sold on him long-term.  Even though I may be getting there.  Anyway, ideally, I’d go with trading a boatload of prospects.  But I think you get my overall point.  You have things people want.  You have a big hole…throughout the entire organization…with starting pitcher depth.  Go get a stud.  Now.

After all, wouldn’t every single person do Carl Pavano and Tony Armas Jr. for Pedro Martinez again?

EDITOR’S NOTE:  I wrote the previous 900 or so words earlier, then put it aside for several hours.  In the interim, the Sox apparently traded Espinoza for “All-Star” Drew Pomeranz.  I use the word “All-Star” loosely of course.  Listen, Pomeranz has had a nice half-year…on a poor team with no pressure…in a pitcher’s park.  Not to mention that he was an injury replacement for the All-Star game this year.  He has been with 3 teams in his 6 year major league career.  He was essentially traded for the immortal Yonder Alonso after last season.  He has never pitched more than 147 1/3 innings in a full year professionally and stands at 102 right now.

In other words, not exactly the trade I was looking for when I mentioned packaging prospects…especially top ones.

But you know what?  I’ll take it.  Not that I have a choice.  But Pomeranz is only 27.  Under team control for a couple more years.  Showed some promise in 2014 with Oakland (I know, another pressure cooker!) before he punched a chair after a bad start.  Stupid, I know…but who knows, maybe if Kopech makes it to Boston someday they can hang out.  More importantly, Espinoza is 18 YEARS OLD.  Who the hell knows what he will be?  Some people were all worked up the Sox gave up 17-year-old Engel Beltre back in the Eric Gagne trade.  Who?  Exactly.

Espinoza could be the next Pedro Martinez, sure.  But the odds are way better that he becomes the next Casey Kelly…or Brian Rose.  Plus…anything can happen before he gets to the majors.  Specifically injury…like a major arm kind.  He’s a loooooooooooong ways away folks.  I’d rather bet on some of the positional prospects than the pitching prospects, if I had to.  In any event, maybe it works out, maybe it doesn’t.  We shall see.

I’m still going after the #1 or #2 type guy as well though…moving on…

*Release Clay Buchholz.  Goes without saying.  And I’ve still said it a ton.  But Farrell is making noise about putting him back in the rotation eventually.  Maybe the acquisition of Pomeranz changes that thinking.  Either way, it’s well past time.  Coincidentally, they need to make space on the 40-man roster for Pomeranz.  Someone has to go.  Maybe it is finally him?  I’m looking at the 40-man and the obvious choice to me is to DFA Sean O’Sullivan.  But he is on the 15 day DL, so I don’t know if they CAN make that move.  Maybe Josh Rutledge is transferred to the 60 day DL.  Or same for Chris Young.  But there aren’t many options at this point.  DFA Clay?  Let’s get everyone on board!!

*Get one other 5th or 6th starter type.  This shouldn’t cost much.  If the Sox got a number #2 guy this month as I mentioned above, the rotation would look like this:  Price, #2, Porcello, Pomeranz, Wright.  Eduardo Rodriguez would theoretically be the #6 guy.  He’s been terrible, but no one should be giving him away or counting him out now.  Plenty of promise there.  And he has at least some positive major league history.  This other guy would actually be #7.  Better than Buchholz.  Or Joe Kelly.  Or Owens.  Good to have some more depth.

*Add another top-notch bullpen guy and a veteran “middle inning” guy.  As of right this second, with Taz and Kimbrel (Carson Smith too of course) on the DL, the bullpen consists of:  Buchholz, William Cuevas, Tommy Layne, Heath Hembree, Ross, Koji, Matt Barnes and Ziegler…Double Yikes!!  Matt Barnes may be your second best reliever now.  Ugh.

We’ve gone over Bucky.  Cuevas, (also Noe Ramirez, Pat Light, Roenis Elias)?  Not any kind of answer.  Layne has been ok, but is fungible.  No bigger Hembree guy than me.  But who knows with him?  He’s never been around long enough to know how he will hold up in a pennant race.  Ross is ok, but Koji may be done.  Barnes?  Not a fan myself.  Hopefully Ziegler can do something.  But…a lot of question marks as you can see.

Perhaps Joe Kelly is that “middle inning” guy?  Maybe.  Can’t be worse than some of the aforementioned dudes.  It appears he will get a chance.  I’m ok with it.

If they get the 2 bullpen guys, then the 7 they carry until either injured guys come back and/or September callups can be something like:  Kelly/vet, Ross, Barnes, Layne, Koji, Bullpen trade target, Ziegler…still questionable, but if the guy you get is awesome, then that will be a major boost.  Hate to leave Hembree out, but you can stash him in Pawtucket like Kelly for a few weeks if you have to.  The vet could be a 13th type of pitcher with experience and he could also be in AAA for now.  Maybe give Koji a “rest” on the DL.  Just mix and match arms until Taz and Kimbrel come back.  Then in September you have a lot of half decent arms out there.  Anchored by Kimbrel, Ziegler, Taz and trade guy.  With depth in Koji, Barnes, Ross, Kelly, other vet, Hembree, etc.  And no Noe’s or Light’s in sight either.

Bottom line?  Never hurts to have more than enough bullpen arms.  The Sox bullpen won’t become like the back-end of the Royals or Yankees…this year anyway.  But if they can just have more available options than what has sometimes paraded through the mound for them up to this point, it will help close the gap.

*Fire John Farrell.  Ok, that’s not going to happen.  He’s here for the season now I feel.  Like it or not.  And honestly, firing him at this point will probably not accomplish much.  Oh well.

What else?  Nothing actually.  Pitching, pitching, pitching.  That’s it.

The Sox can live with Sandy Leon/Ryan Hanigan/Christian Vazquez/Blake Swihart(?) behind the plate.  Especially if Leon continues to hit .455.  That’s possible, right?

They can also live with Holt/Brentz/Young/Swihart(?)/Shaw(?) in left field I believe.  Maybe Benintendi comes up in September and adds to that mix.  Pretty sure they wouldn’t want to add him to the 40-man roster before they have to.  But perhaps he forces the issue.

The biggest thing they have to do on offense I feel is to keep the Big Guy healthy.  Give him a day off a week if you have to.  They should be able to work their way around that with the bodies they have.  Big Papi’s sick numbers are bound to regress a little anyway.  So let’s keep him fresh for the stretch run.  I know, he’s only a DH and gets up 4-5 times a game.  How much can that affect him?  I would normally agree with that thinking.  And have argued that over the years.  But now he is 40…old for sports.  Let’s err on the side of caution in his final year.

There are a lot of teams in the mix all across baseball.  But, especially in the AL, I don’t believe one team stands head and shoulders above the rest.  The World Series is a realistic goal.  When World Series aspirations are realistic, you need to go for it.  Let’s leave no stone unturned in order to get there.

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