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American League Awards

Major League Baseball will start handing out the hardware for the 2018 season next week.  The Gold Glove awards have already been announced.  Doesn’t seem right that Ian Kinsler won one after that ridiculous throw set the Red Sox up to eventually lose Game Three of the World Series.  Or at least didn’t seal up the win for the Sox.  But since that was the only game of the Series that the Sox lost and it kind of was an epic game to boot, I suppose we can let him enjoy that award as he tries to find another team to employ him in 2019.

The finalists for all the major awards have also been announced.  The Blowhard has his opinions, and the finalists in real life won’t necessarily be the finalists in this “vote”.  We will list out our picks like it was a real ballot.  Meaning, 10 choices for MVP, 5 for Cy Young, etc.  And let’s please remember, the postseason results don’t count.  Real life ballots are finalized once the regular season ends.  This will be important to remember when we look at Manager of the Year (spoiler?!).  Anyway, let’s get on with it:

Most Valuable Player:

  1. Mookie Betts, Boston
  2. J.D. Martinez, Boston
  3. Mike Trout, LA Angels
  4. Alex Bregman, Houston
  5. Jose Ramirez, Cleveland
  6. Francisco Lindor, Cleveland
  7. Khris Davis, Oakland
  8. Blake Snell, Tampa Bay
  9. Justin Verlander, Houston
  10. Blake Treinen, Oakland

Now, it looks like I am a homer here, but how J.D. wasn’t a finalist in real life is beyond me.  Sticking his big bat in the middle of the Red Sox lineup clearly made a colossal difference this year.  They didn’t have that bat there in 2017 after the retirement of David Ortiz at the end of the 2016 season and the whole lineup seemed to suffer.  Ask Betts himself, who had a huge 2016 and 2018 and a subpar 2017.  I’ve been tempted to give Martinez the award, but I can’t overlook Mookie’s defense, nor his superior OPS and general all-around season.  I know, it’s not J.D.’s fault he’s a DH…well, I guess it is since he ain’t that great defensively.  But he WANTED to play more outfield, so I guess there’s that.

There will be at least one person upset that I put Trout third.  Mikey may still yet be the best player in baseball.  But again, for those who don’t remember, I am an advocate for giving the MVP award to the “most valuable” instead of the “best player”.  You will see from the list above that there are no players from bad teams and only one (Trout) from a mediocre team.  I know, these guys are only one of nine on the field at the same time.  And it’s hard to “carry” a baseball team by yourself.  But look at the difference J.D. seemed to make in the Boston lineup and maybe one player can?

Bregman was the best everyday player on a 103 win team this year.  Seems like fourth is a good spot for him.  Especially when considering the rest of his lineup.  Last year’s MVP, Jose Altuve, did not have the same year.  Carlos Correa, George Springer and Marwin Gonzalez’s numbers were way down in 2018 as well.  Ramirez is a finalist in real life.  But he was putrid the last six weeks.  So he’s no better than fifth here.  Almost put him behind Lindor as well.  Davis’ average was subpar, but his other numbers were all pretty damn good.  Think someone from the A’s should be recognized.  After all, it’s only seventh in my vote.

Pitchers round out the Top Ten for me.  As you know, I don’t love pitchers in the MVP vote, unless they are extremely dominant.  But I did not have a good feeling about putting any more hitters in here.  Jed Lowrie?  Nelson Cruz?  Mitch Haniger?  Xander Bogaerts?  Nope, nope, nope and…nope.

Went with Snell eighth.  Wished he threw a few more innings, but he was quite dominant for a surprising Rays team.  Verlander seemed like a good choice next.  More on these two later.  Treinen?  You know my general disdain for relief pitchers.  But his numbers are hard to ignore.  9 wins as a closer too.  That tells me that he wasn’t just coming in for a ninth inning with a three-run lead and an easy save all the time.  He must have entered more than a few tie games.  I could be wrong.  But that’s what it tells me anyway.  Plus we like having two guys named Blake in the mix.

Cy Young:

  1. Justin Verlander, Houston
  2. Blake Snell, Tampa Bay
  3. Corey Kluber, Cleveland
  4. Chris Sale, Boston
  5. Blake Treinen, Oakland

Why Verlander over Snell here, after having the reverse in the MVP race?  Welp, for one, the Cy Young is not intended to be the “Most Valuable Pitcher”.  This award is generally given to the best pitcher, period.  And Verlander made 3 more starts than Snell, pitched 33 1/3 more innings, had 69 more strikeouts and had a better WHIP (.902 vs. .974).  That offset Snell’s ERA advantage (1.89 to 2.52) for me.  Snell was probably more “valuable”, simply because Verlander also had Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Lance McCullers, etc. on his staff to help carry the load while Snell had…Ryan Yarborough?

Kluber was once again a horse for the Indians.  His numbers were also up there all around, though his ERA (2.89) was a full run worse than Snell’s.  So that puts him third.  Sale had this thing wrapped up in July…then pitched like 20 innings the rest of the year.  Unfortunately had to penalize him for that.  We talked about Treinen already.  Again, when there are deserving starters with great numbers, it’s hard to recognize a reliever in this voting.  But again, his numbers can’t be ignored.  Similar to why we had Craig Kimbrel fifth last year.  Have to recognize dominance when it’s out there.

I liked Treinen’s overall game better than Edwin Diaz’ 57 saves, but Diaz would be in the “second five” if we had one.  Cole, Luis Severino, Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco may have been part of that group as well.

Rookie of the Year:

  1. Miguel Andujar, NY Yankees
  2. Gleyber Torres, NY Yankees
  3. Shohei Ohtani, LA Angels

These were the three choices this year, with all due respect to Daniel Palka and his 27 dingers and the aforementioned Yarborough and his 16 wins.  Andujar was the one with the full season and the better overall numbers so he gets the nod for me.  Torres came up like a whirlwind and then cooled as the season went on.  He played about 75% of the games so that gives him second.

Ohtani may have been the most EXCITING rookie…not to mention the one with the most hype in years.  But he simply didn’t play enough.  He DH’d almost exactly half the games (82) on a normal regular season schedule.  And threw up some pretty impressive numbers for that time…including 22 pinch-hitting appearances.  Throw in the 10 games he pitched and you could probably make a case for him to win the award.  And if he did, I wouldn’t argue.  But as much as I hate the Yankees, I can’t penalize those guys for playing more…and also playing important positions in the field.

Manager of the Year:

  1. Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay
  2. Bob Melvin, Oakland
  3. Alex Cora, Boston

I will be the first to admit that I underrated Cora this year.  I thought he was just a “clubhouse” manager.  Meaning, the Sox’ talent won the games and that Cora just had to manage a clubhouse full of egos.  As the year went on, I realized he was more than that.  Then in the postseason, that like we said above, does not count toward this award, he pulled ALL the right strings.  Literally ALL of them.  Starting with the construction of the rosters for each round, down to every in-game decision.

But although he had the 108 wins and gained more appreciation from me (and most assuredly many others) throughout the year, how can anyone not vote for Cash?  The Rays won 90 games.  Think about that for a second.  Sure, they didn’t make the playoffs.  But they were behind two 100 win teams IN THEIR OWN DIVISION.  Look at that roster.  They had Blake Snell and…Wilson Ramos?  Mallex Smith?  Ummmmm…no one really of relevance.  Even a guy that usually is a key piece to their team, Kevin Kiermaier, had a putrid year.  The team traded guys like Chris Archer at the trade deadline, per usual.  And they won 90 friggin’ games.  Plus, don’t overlook the new trend “Cashie” started…the “opener”.  Yarborough won 16 games and only started 6.  Lot’s of second and third inning entrances.  At the beginning of the year, teams and players laughed at Cash for doing this.  By the end, many teams were copying him.  Ask Craig Counsell and the Milwaukee Brewers, who worked some of that all the way to Game 7 of the National League Championship Series.

Melvin gets second for winning 97 games with a team that had loads of power (and strikeouts), good defense a great closer, a good bullpen, yet only one real starter himself (Sean Manaea).  He had to roll Edwin Jackson out there for 17 starts for Chrissakes!  Jackson actually pitched well, but what was this, Jackson’s 20th MLB team?  Being in a division with a 103 win Houston team, as well as a Seattle Mariner team that was right in the mix until late in the year.  Seems to me he earned second for this one.

Next:  The National League

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Drew Pomeranz…

…since we are on the theme of making a Boston Red Sox pitcher the title of our blog posts before each postseason series…but more on him later…reluctantly…

So the 2018 World Series begins in a mere few hours and the Sox are of course in it…can you believe it?!  I know, hard to fathom that anyone can say that they don’t believe a 108 win team made the World Series.  But it’s true.  After all, the Blowhard picked them to lose both rounds in their American League run.

And that alone makes me kind of afraid.  We feel like the Sox can beat the Los Angeles Dodgers.  But do we go against the grain and pick them here after predicting losses in the first two rounds?  I don’t know, sounds like a jinx.

In any event, the Red Sox should indeed win this series.  The feeling here is that the Houston Astros, New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians all had real legit chances to beat the Sox leading up to the World Series.  But we never thought anyone from the National League had a real chance.  Even if the Chicago Cubs made it out of the NL, which we thought would be the one to make it.

And, as you well know, this Sox team has never inspired championship confidence in the Blowhard, that much has been pretty obvious.  Despite the stellar record, we just never had that feeling.  Sure, sometimes the Sox really do feel like the proverbial “team of destiny”, or that “this is their year”.  But we always thought the other shoe would fall and they would leave the playoffs with a whimper.

Now?  Hmmmmmm…perhaps the Dodgers are that “team of destiny” too?  Maybe “this is their year” too?  They have been in the playoffs six straight years.  Last year was the closest they have come to winning it all during that stretch, losing in seven games to the Astros.  This year is the 30th anniversary of their last World Series win.  Kind of a long gap for a storied franchise, no?  And doesn’t the underdog sometimes win the Series?

Look, although we have long felt the National League is the inferior league, they are 9-9 against the American League in the World Series since 2000.  (Yup, I just figured that out).  Sure, sometimes they do actually have the better team.  But it almost always feels like they don’t.  To me anyway.

The Dodgers appear to have a pretty good team.  A lot of pop in their lineup.  Adding another bat as the DH for the four potential games at Fenway won’t help the Sox there.  Some flexibility in the field with guys playing all over the place and all their lefty/righty platooning.  And their pitching is solid.  Clayton Kershaw is one of the best ever.  Hyun-Jin Ryu had a great half-year.  Walker Buehler?  I don’t know.  But he’s a kid with good numbers.  Rich Hill has been pretty good too…as long as he doesn’t have any blisters.  And we know what Kenley Jansen can do.  Who really knows about their bullpen, though they have pitched well in the postseason.  The staff’s ERA is a mere 2.79 overall.  And, I don’t know why, but I have a funny feeling that 22-year-old Julio Urias will have a say in this Series.  Despite only pitching 7 1/3 major league innings this season (11 2/3 more in the minors, due to recovery from injury).  Just a hunch.

The Dodgers bats have not been good in the postseason though.  Hitting .218 as a team with a .691 OPS.  And that’s helped slightly by Ryu going 2-5.  Cody Bellinger is a putrid 5-36.  And 35 home run surprise Max Muncy hasn’t been much better at 6-33.  Can’t even talk about their catchers at 5-44, since look at the Sox’.  But Yasmani Grandal, in particular, apparently has been a disaster behind the plate as well.

We are not going to do a full-blown analysis as we did last round since we can’t say we’ve actually watched a ton of Dodger baseball this season.  But the Blowhard’s take is that the Dodgers have the edge in pitching.  Because again, which Chris Sale and David Price will show up?  Rick Porcello too, for that matter?  And can Nathan Eovaldi do it again?  And what the hell are we going to get from Craig Kimbrel?  Not sure.  Adding Pomeranz to the bullpen adds actually…nothing.  But I guess he can’t be as bad as Brandon Workman was in the playoffs.

The feeling is the Sox have the edge in the lineup.  Again, the Dodgers have some pretty good hitters so they could prove us wrong.  But the Sox have some good ones too.  And I’m not counting Jackie Bradley Jr., who hopefully spends the majority of the games in LA firmly stapled to the bench.  Side note:  Mookie at second base sounds really cute, but I can’t say I love it.  If they were keeping a better bat in the lineup besides JBJ by making that move…maybe.  But I’d rather stick with Brock Holt and even Ian Kinsler at second and leaving Betts in the outfield with Andrew Benintendi and J.D. Martinez.  Then bringing JBJ in for defense late.  Speaking of Mookie, he is 8-39 in the playoffs for a .205 average.  You think that will stay like that?  I don’t think so.  I hope not anyway.

One last variable:  Does the weather make any difference to the road team?  Meaning, in particular, 40-degree night games in Boston for a warm weather team from California?  Perhaps.  Can’t rule it out for sure.

Oh, and one other thing we can’t rule out?  Manny Machado intentionally trying to injure someone.  But I digress…

Adding it all up?  Despite the 16 wins regular season gap in wins between the two teams, this series on paper seems a little closer than we would like to think.  The initial thought is Red Sox in seven.  Hesitant, as mentioned earlier because we picked the Sox to lose in each of the first two rounds.  Let’s hope we are not wrong again…

 

David Price…

…simple as that.

Nope, I am not just copying the post from right before the previous series against the New York Yankees, though this may seem to be the case.

It’s just that this time a different starting pitcher may now be the key to the Boston Red Sox’ success in the American League Championship Series.

Last round, we talked about Chris Sale.  Though Sale wasn’t quite at the level we know he can get to, he was pretty good in Game One.  We all likely wondered how he would look the second time around in Game Five, but I think we are also all glad it didn’t get to that point.  Most importantly, the fact that Sale was able to come out in the eighth inning of Game Four and mow the side down on 13 pitches was hopefully pretty telling.  That he was able to bounce back nicely in between starts and would be even more good to go for his next one.  Hopefully.

That leaves us with the Sox’ other “ace”, David Price.  A disaster in Game Two at Fenway against the Yanks, he is now again slated for Game Two against the Houston Astros.  Mistake?  Perhaps.

We all know the postseason numbers, 0-9 in 10 starts, ERA over 6.00…yada, yada, yada.  Embarrassing for a pitcher of his caliber…and of course at his current salary level.

Can it change?  Can Price finally do something right in a start and be a “hero”?  Get the hometown fans on his side for once?

I deem that unlikely.  I would say most others do as well.

In addition to the poor career postseason stats, Price himself came up with some other beauties this year.  He can’t pitch in the cold…his fingers get tingly.  Or do they get tingly because of the carpal tunnel, from which he laughably says playing video games don’t affect that?  Sure buddy.  Then there was some stuff about being allergic to dogs or grass or something.  Honestly, the guy is such an arseclown that I’ve lost track of all the excuses.

Let’s face it, Price has to take a start in this series.  Because if he doesn’t, are you giving that one to Brian Johnson, Hector Velasquez or Drew Pomeranz?  No thanks.  Eduardo Rodriguez perhaps, but are we at the point where he can’t really give you a ton of innings now since he hasn’t started much in recent weeks?  I don’t know, but something to think about.  Either way, wouldn’t it be better to give Price only ONE start, say Game Four?  That way, since he actually has a good track record of pitching well in relief in the postseason, maybe he can throw a few innings in Game Seven, should the series get there.  Also, Houston will be warmer for him, though admittedly the dimensions of that field, as opposed to Fenway, may be a worse scenario for him.  But still…

This is not to say that Nathan Eovaldi or Rick Porcello are better pitchers than Price.  They are not, though they both pitched well against New York in the Division Series.  But Porcello doesn’t necessarily have a sterling postseason career record either.  And Eovaldi has only that one playoff start to his credit.  A great one, but just that one nonetheless.  But they maybe should have priority in the ALCS because they are quite simply pitching better NOW.

I suppose, either way, manager Alex Cora is going to do plenty of mixing and matching with his pitching staff all series long.  Starters pitching in relief and all that.  Anything to get outs.  Unless you want to see Joe Kelly in a close game, that is.  Which absolutely no one wants.  Except for the opposition.

So maybe it all doesn’t matter?  We’ll see…but with Price having to potentially make two starts in this series is concerning.  And he better not lay two more eggs.  That makes him a huge key to the series.

Since it seems that all we do in this space is make predictions, let’s see how things stack up on paper for the teams:

Lineup:

The Red Sox top four of Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts are pretty damn good.  But are the Astros’ top four of George Springer, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel even better?  Could be.  But let’s call it a wash.  The rest of the lineup?  Astros all the way.  Looks like 5-7 is some combination of Marwin Gonzalez, Carlos Correa and Josh Reddick.  None of those guys have performed like they did in 2017 when the Astros won the World Series.  Correa has been hurt of course.  But wouldn’t you still take these guys over the Sox’ 5-7 of Steve Pearce/Mitch Moreland, Eduardo Nunez/Rafael Devers and Ian Kinsler/Brock Holt?  I would.  Top it off with anyone the Astros throw out there at 8-9 will be better offensively than Jackie Bradley Jr. and whoever the catcher is.  Looks to me like the Astros have the edge here top to bottom.

Defense:

Not going to spend a lot of time here because I have to admit I don’t watch a lot of Houston Astros games to know specific defensive skill sets.  But on a macro level…at catcher, while Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez can certainly handle the defense for the Sox, Martin Maldonado won a Gold Glove last year, for whatever that’s worth.  If Pearce, Holt and Devers are out there, the Sox infield defense probably pales in comparison to the ‘Stros.  Though, I know, Holt is good enough at second.  The outfield most certainly goes to the Sox.  Sssssooo…an edge here either way?  I’m not sure there is one.

Starting pitching:

Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton against Sale, Price, Eovaldi and Porcello.  Can’t be any debate here.  At first, I was thinking Astros by a mile.  But at a deeper glance, it’s probably closer than we think.  Sale and Verlander are probably a wash.  Cole a huge gap over Price.  But the other four could go either way.  Though Morton was sensational last year in the playoffs.  So you kind of have to give the edge to Houston here, no doubt.

Relief pitching:

We have written (and spoken) ad nauseam about the Red Sox’ bullpen woes.  And now their closer has had problems getting people out.  With Lance McCullers likely in the ‘pen for the ‘Stros, along with Collin McHugh and Ryan Pressly, who seemed to have been lights out, there are some strong middle guys right off the top.  Add in some other useful pieces such as Hector Rondon, Tony Sipp and Joe Smith before you get to Roberto Osuna, now you’re talking.  Although Osuna is apparently a piece of crap in real life and the Sox have had success against him in the past, how does he look compared to Craig Kimbrel at this very moment?  Shoot, it looks like the Astros don’t even have Chris Devenski, Will Harris and Brad Peacock on their active roster for this series.  And those guys have been pretty valuable over the years.  Landslide here for Houston.

Coaching:  

People locally have been acting like Cora and A.J. Hinch are equals.  But didn’t Hinch’s team win the World Series last year?  Yes, with Cora’s help of course.  But still.  And though Cora has done a great job with the Sox this year, this is still his first year managing anywhere, so also we need to remember it is his first foray into the postseason.  We all saw first-time manager Aaron Boone puke on himself in the ALDS.  Who is to say Cora doesn’t do the same in the ALCS?  I’m not saying he will, but we have to consider the possibility for sure.  Hinch has been there.  Cora has not…as a head guy.  That counts.

Adding it all up?  What it says “on paper” to me is Houston in five.  That’s what the Blowhard is going with.  Hope the Sox make it closer of course.  And if they can get it back to Fenway for Games Six and/or Seven, maybe things go their way.  And that’s why they play the games…

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