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Boston Red Sox Playoff Preview

So we are finally here.  Took the Sox forever to clinch the division but they got it done.  Does anyone give them a chance in the playoffs however?

I’m not too excited about their chances, to be honest.  But in the playoffs, I suppose anything is possible.  We all know I have been down on this team since early in the year.  How I feel about Manager John Farrell is quite obvious.  But the team itself?  They won 93 games and the division.  How can you feel bad about that?  Well, to me, this team has actually underachieved this year.  I mean, how many of the players actually improved from last year?  Out of the position players, maybe one…and it was Christian Vazquez.  He only played 99 games.  Of course, I am not counting Rafael Devers and Andrew Benintendi, who obviously improved from last year, since both were essentially minor leaguers.

But the guys that were supposed to be the centerpieces of the offense…Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Hanley Ramirez and I suppose even Jackie Bradley Jr…all regressed this year.  Dustin Pedroia probably was about as good as he can be these days.  But he missed 57 games this season.  Very frustrating.

The pitching staff?  Drew Pomeranz and Craig Kimbrel took a step up.  And of course Chris Sale came over and dominated.  But the rest?  Meh.  We don’t even need to talk about Rick Porcello’s pathetic year.  Well…at least he will have one great year under his belt to look back on.

In my opinion, the Sox have been an unlikable bunch all year and we’ve hashed through a lot of that…the David Price and Dennis Eckersley thing, the Pedroia/Manny Machado thing, just about everything Farrell does…and all that other off the field stuff.  Add it all up and it can be tough to root for them.  But of course I will…

So now they go up against a 101 win Houston Astro team in the American League Division Series.  How do they matchup?  Glad you asked!  Let’s have a brief look at how the rosters should stack up and see if we can come up with any way the Sox can win this series.  Only a 5-gamer, so as noted above, anything can happen.  Rosters have not been announced, so a little bit of guesswork involved here…especially for the ‘Stros:

*Catcher:  Bos:  Vazquez, Sandy Leon.  Hou:  Brian McCann, Evan Gattis.

I think we can sum this matchup as “defense vs. offense”.  I know, Vasky hit .290 this year, but let’s be real.  Anyway, not that percentage of base stealers caught is the “be all, end all” here.  But Vazquez was 42% and Leon 37%.  The Astros?  McCann 13%, Gattis 10%…and if they end up keeping a 3rd catcher, it will likely be Juan Centeno…who tossed out 8%, though admittedly in few opportunities.  I don’t think Houston cares as long as their guys hit a little and don’t have too many passed balls.  I’ve already written enough here.

Edge:  Even, believe it or not.

*Infield:  Bos:  Mitch Moreland (1B), Pedroia (2B), Bogaerts (SS), Devers (3B).  Hou:  Yuli Gurriel (1B), Jose Altuve (2B), Carlos Correa (SS), Alex Bregman (3B).

Pedey is still hobbling, X has been painfully average all year, Devers has slowed down a bit since his electric debut and Mitch Moreland is…Mitch Moreland.  Compare that to two studs who will get MVP votes in Altuve and Correa (who may have been a top candidate if he hadn’t missed over 40 games), a potential future star in Bregman, who got better as the year went on, and a solid first sacker in Gurriel…need I say more?

Edge:  Houston, by a landslide.

*Outfield:  Bos:  Benintendi (LF), Bradley (CF), Betts (RF).  Hou:  Marwin Gonzalez (LF), George Springer (CF), Josh Reddick (RF).

Josh Reddick?  Does anyone know he was .314/13/82 this year?  .314?  Springer had an awesome year.  Gonzalez was a sort of super utility guy until he started playing more left down the stretch.  Lot of offense here and the defense is not all that bad either.  Reddick did win a Gold Glove in 2012…though that also may have been because he hit 32 homers that year…you know, because that’s sometimes (often) how Gold Glove voting goes.  Bradley and Betts are true Gold Glovers, though I know JBJ hasn’t actually won one.  And offensively, the Sox OF’s are pretty good too, though the feeling is they could be better.  This is a close one.

Edge:  Houston, by a smidge.

*Designated Hitter:  Bos:  Ramirez.  Hou:  Carlos Beltran.

Hanley is infuriating, but can still hit a little.  Beltran looks done.  He may not be in this spot this series, but I’m putting him here for now.

Edge:  Boston, as much as it pains me to say.

*Bench:  Bos:  Eduardo Nunez (IF), Brock Holt (INF/OF), Chris Young (OF), Rajai Davis (OF/PR).  Hou:  Tyler White (IF), Derek Fisher (OF), Cameron Maybin (OF/PR).

Seemingly a wasteland on both sides.  Sure, Nunez made a difference when he got to Boston.  But he got hurt, then came back for a couple of innings and got hurt again.  Do we really think he will all of a sudden ready to go this week?  Holt should be replaced by Deven Marrero on the roster.  Neither one can hit, but Marrero has the better glove.  Young stinks and Rajai should only be a runner.  The Astros bench may be worse.  Maybin can still play a bit (at least run) and Fisher has some promise.  But nothing impressive here.  Only three bench guys for Houston because of Marwin’s versatility.  And because they need as many bullpen arms as possible…since most of them are not necessarily good.

Edge:  Boston, simply because of Nunez, if he’s even somewhat healthy.  If not, even, since they then both stink.

*Starting Pitchers:  Bos:  Chris Sale, Drew Pomeranz, Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez.  Hou:  Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, Lance McCullers.

Sale alternated good and bad starts through September.  Pomeranz pitched well Saturday, but was hammered his previous start.  Always have to wonder when his bubble will burst.  We don’t need to go through Porcello again.  E-Rod?  You just don’t know.  Porcello and E-Rod are probably the right choices for Games 3 and 4, if indeed those are the choices.  I really can’t do Doug Fister.  You know Farrell will not go away from Porcello in this series too.  If that is the case, and it would be hard to do, but it may be worth considering starting him in Game 2.  His ERA was about a run and a half better on the road than at Fenway.  Would take some serious stones to push Pomeranz back to Game 3.  I don’t think anyone thinks Farrell has those stones though.  In all seriousness, I doubt I would have the stones to do that either.

The Astros will start with 2 studs in Verlander and Keuchel.  Then they have like 12 guys that could start the rest of the games.  Morton, McCullers, Collin McHugh, Brad Peacock…they have options.  And some pretty good ones.

Edge:  Houston, and it’s not as close as one may think.

*Relief Pitchers:  Bos:  David Price, Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly, Brandon Workman, Carson Smith, Addison Reed, Craig Kimbrel.  Hou:  Peacock, James Hoyt, Michael Feliz, Francisco Liriano, Chris Devenski, Luke Gregerson, Will Harris, Ken Giles.

I’m not sure Price can be “this year’s Andrew Miller”.  But you have to like the way he has responded to his bullpen role.  Guys like Barnes, Kelly and Workman have pitched better than expected this year.  But I’m not sold on them for the playoffs.  As long as they are 6th inning guys, maybe 7th, I suppose I can accept it.  Who else do you want?  Heath Hembree?  Fernando Abad?  Blaine Boyer?  Austin Maddox?  Nah.  I’m not sure Smith is ready, but when your next option is Robby Scott, I suppose we can see what Carson has to offer.  I think they will put him on the roster and pick spots with him.  Reed and Kimbrel are pretty stout at the end.

Total stab on the Houston bullpen.  Peacock was in the rotation and did very well the latter half of the year.  But he’s used to coming out of the pen, whereas it doesn’t appear Morton or McCullers are, so it’s easy to shift him back there.  He’s about 16 innings away from his career high in innings too, so you know managers like to protect those guys.  Devenski, Harris, Gregerson and Giles are decent enough, but are we afraid?  Liriano hasn’t been great, but he is a lefty you know.  Feliz, Hoyt, Mike Fiers, Tony Sipp, Joe Musgrove, Tyler Clippard?  Take your pick.  McHugh could actually be here too.

Edge:  Boston, primarily due to Reed and Kimbrel at the back end.

So who wins the series?  Houston, 3-1.  Sox win one of the first two.  Then some combination of Porcello, E-Rod, Fister and Hector Velasquez get blasted out of Fenway in Games 3 and 4.

 

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What to do…

…as far as what moves the Boston Red Sox should make coming up to the Major League Baseball non-waiver trading deadline on Monday.

What, you thought Eduardo Nunez was enough?

I didn’t.  Actually, I don’t even really want Nunez here.  It’s not like he’s going to make a huge difference, for one.  I don’t care how hot the Sox brass tells me he has been in recent weeks.  There’s a bigger reason I don’t particularly want him here…and we will get to that.  Since the Sox didn’t give up really anything for him (Gregory Santos?  Shaun Anderson?), I suppose it can’t hurt to have him around though.  I mean, with Brock Holt, Josh Rutledge, Tzu-Wei Lin and Deven Marrero still hanging around on the team or close down the road in Pawtucket, it can’t ever hurt to have more utility infielders than you can handle, right?  Oh wait, Nunez and Holt are All-Stars…nevermind…

Anyway, my view of what the Red Sox should do prior to the trading deadline will be much different from what actually happens.  Why?  Because I’d actually consider selling.  And with the Sox in first place, there is no way the organization will do that.  They will be buyers.

But this team is more than another 1B/DH bat and a reliever or two away from winning a championship.  In my opinion anyway.  Sure, the American League is mediocre.  Apparently it is Houston and everyone else at this point.  So the Sox brass will surely say, “we get in the playoffs and anything can happen”.  And they are probably right.

However, they won’t be the only team trying to improve themselves before Monday.  In fact, the Yankees, Twins, Royals, Mariners and Rays have themselves made deals already.  None of them would probably considered blockbusters, but those players should help all those clubs.  In addition, I don’t believe the Indians have hit their stride as of yet.  Maybe the Royals too, though their pitching is suspect, to be kind.

Then you have the National League.  Which looks like the Dodgers and Nationals.  Oh, and the Cubs.  The Cubbies have been heating up and I expect them to continue to.

So you’ve got the competition being one reason I don’t believe the Sox are winning anything.  Then you have the team itself.  Which, other than a select few, is underachieving.  Or are they?  We think Xander Bogaerts is underachieving.  But maybe he is what he is…a decent shortstop with little power, but will hit around .300 every year.  Seems to me the way he is trending.  Mookie Betts has some numbers, but it feels like he should be more.  Jackie Bradley Jr. is definitely what he is and no more…great defensive outfielder with some power.  But not really feared when he has the bat in his hands.  Andrew Benintendi has had a fairly good year…but he ain’t there yet.  You could do worse for catchers but they aren’t world beaters.  Etc.

Bottom line is that this lineup isn’t scaring anyone.  Hard to believe basically just subtracting David Ortiz from the equation caused this much of a drop off, but…

Now, the pitching.  Chris Sale has been otherworldly.  But he has faded down the stretch in his career.  And does anyone really expect him to keep up this pace?  David Price?  Ugh…more on him in a moment.  Rick Porcello apologists like to point to the fact that the Sox offense hasn’t scored while he was on the mound in like 10 of his starts.  But they conveniently forget his mid 4 ERA.  And the fact he won a lot of games in 2016 because he got like 16 runs a game to support him…therefore always pitching with a huge lead and…no pressure.  And…how many bombs has he given up this year?  Eduardo Rodriguez…can he be trusted?  Drew Pomeranz has been better than expected.  But does anyone expect him to have continued good health the rest of the way?

By the way, the rest of the starters behind them?  Some combination of Brian Johnson, Doug Fister, Kyle Kendrick or Hector Velasquez.  Yikes!  Wait, no Henry Owens?  Nope.  He walked 60 guys in 69 innings in Pawtucket before getting DEMOTED to Portland (AA).  He’s walked 23 in 20.2 innings down there.  With a 5.23 ERA.  In 5 starts.  Yup, about 4 innings a start.  A former can’t miss prospect…that clearly missed.  Par for the course it seems with the Sox organization.  Sure guys have come up and played well.  But they have seemingly had so many “can’t miss” guys over they years that they refuse to trade and then they just suck in the end.  Subject for a different day.

Lastly, the bullpen.  Craig Kimbrel has been as awesome in his role as Sale has been in his.  But that’s about it as far as bullpen arms that inspire confidence.  I’m not even going through the rest of the jamokes that have rotated out there all year.  The bullpen has been surprisingly good this season, I will admit, even with Joe Kelly and Matt Barnes being your other late inning guys.  And sometimes Heath Hembree.  But…c’mon.  I don’t want those guys anywhere near the mound late in games when the pressure mounts as the playoff race heats up.  Maybe Carson Smith is coming back…wait, I doubt that.  Tyler Thorn…nevermind.

So combine all of the above with what I wrote yesterday…about clubhouse turmoil and an inept manager…and I’m selling at the deadline.  It’s really hard for me to root for this team now.  They are pretty much unlikable from top to bottom.  A big part of me doesn’t even care what happens the rest of this year.  I’m almost onto the Patriots already and they just opened camp.  Depressing, but true.

In any event, once again, they will not sell and probably none of what is proposed here will happen in real life.  But just for sh%ts and giggles, this is what has been going through my mind this week on the moves I would like to make.  If not at the deadline, then maybe the offseason.  In no particular order:

*Trade David Price.  Yes because he is an arseclown, whiner and all of that.  But also because his elbow may well explode at some point.  We all know he may need Tommy John surgery at some point.  If he blows out his elbow here in September and isn’t around the club all of 2018 and then opts out of his contract and gets out of Dodge, that may be a win-win situation as well.  But perhaps they can cut all that off and get something for him now.

Impossible you say?  Maybe not.  If teams treat him like he has one year and change left on his contract and is sure to opt out when he can, maybe someone will jump.  Maybe a team with World Series aspirations and deep pockets will do it anyway.  Perhaps the Dodgers will bail the Sox out again?  Clayton Kershaw is out for several weeks now.  Hmmmmmm…the Nationals with Stephen Strasburg out, supposedly only for one start, but…the Cubs, with their rotation struggling a bit (and knowing Jake Arrieta is probably coming off the books after this year).

Price wants to be moved, that much is clear.  Would the Sox consider it?  Would anyone bite?  I do not think it will happen.  But it IS certainly possible to move that contract.  More than people think.  That’s what I believe anyway.

*Keep Rafael Devers in the majors and give him the majority of starts at 3B.  With Nunez here I doubt he plays much and I believe he will be shipped back to Pawtucket soon enough.  Too bad.  What have they got to lose by playing him?  Well, if he produces like Yoan Moncada did last year, maybe it’s a mistake.  But you know who was absolutely putrid in 95 plate appearances in 2016 down the stretch?  Aaron Judge.  .179 average, .608 OPS and 42 of his 69 outs were K’s.  I’m not saying Devers will be Judge next year if he gets major league experience this year.  But it may be in the teams’ best interest long-term if Devers takes his lumps in the majors the rest of 2017.

*Release Mitch Moreland and Chris Young.  Recall Sam Travis and…gulp…Rusney Castillo.  Maybe you can trade Moreland and/or Young to a contender for some fungo bats and used baseballs.  And if Moreland has truly sucked the last month or so because his toe is broken, then maybe just put him on the DL.  But I have no use for these two really.  Young’s contract is up after this year, and he isn’t really good.  Add to the fact that this veteran was apparently one of Price’s biggest backers in the Eck thing…see ya.  Let’s see if Travis can hit in the bigs.  Let’s also see if Rusney can be salvaged.  He seems to have been playing well in AAA and supposedly can play all the OF positions still.  Why the hell not?

*Release Allen Craig, Jhonny Peralta and Pablo Sandoval.  Oops…already done.  So there are a few positives.

*Release Doug Fister.  Kind of obvious.  But I’m covering everything.

*Give Brian Johnson Price’s rotation spot through the rest of the year.  This guy throws junk and I’m not convinced he will ever make it.  But he has shown some flashes.  Not sure what he has left to prove in the minors.  He’s 26 years old.  Let’s see what he can do.  And if he’s truly part of the future.

*Fire John Farrell.  Another obvious one.  Nothing more needs to be said here.

*Trade Hanley Ramirez.  Good luck.  A guy that really doesn’t care.  Or that cares once in a blue moon.  Maybe they can sell his contract to Japan or something.  Or to Manny’s Korean team.

*Trade Xander Bogaerts.  WHAT?!  Ok, it’s not that simple.  And it’s something that should be investigated in the offseason and not over the next few days.

I have no real particular issue with X.  Disappointed with his progress, or lack thereof.  Maybe the reason for his poor performance lately is the ball he took off the hand.  But how do we explain before that?  His numbers are down across the board this year…since the All-Star Game in 2016, to be exact.

He will be 25 on October 1st.  Still plenty of time to tap into that talent he supposedly has.  But what do we have so far?  A .300ish hitter with doubles power who plays a decent, if unspectacular shortstop?  If that is what he ultimately is, will he be worth all the money that Scott Boras will want in his first big contract?  Nope.

I’d rather give a boatload of money to Betts.  Perhaps Andrew Benintendi earns some money down the road too.  And Devers…if he pans out of course.  Bradley Jr.?  Sure, but he should come cheaper.  If not?  Work on moving him and put either Betts or Benintendi in center.  That conversation can come later however.

One huge thing to consider is that the Sox need some power.  How will they get it?  Seems like a trade is the only way.  Have to give up something to get something.  If teams are still enamored by Bogaerts’ potential, doesn’t that make him a prime candidate to go?  Especially considering all of the above.

Taking a look at the current 40-man roster, who is untouchable?  Sale, Betts, Devers (for now), probably Benintendi and Kimbrel.  Who else?  Bogaerts is probably next on the list.  Someone like him may be able to be packaged with a little more to get that proven power bat…whoever that may be.  Everyone always points to Giancarlo Stanton, since Miami is always selling players off and he has a huge deal.  But there may be someone else available for the right price that we don’t know about.

I’m not trying to run X out-of-town.  But, you have to admit, something like that may make sense.

That’s about it on the suggestions.  What, nothing about Dustin Pedroia?  After yesterday’s piece?  Yeah, trouble is, I love him on the field.  Not to mention he will be 34 in August.  And is a 10/5 guy.  Not sure he will waive his rights to not be traded.  Or if the Sox can get any value for him anyway.  Looks like he is here to stay.  Maybe he will eventually grow up though…

 

2017 MLB National League All-Stars

As promised, NL squad below.   Only 32 players this year, down from 34 in recent years.  22 position players, 10 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:  Buster Posey, SF (S), Yadier Molina, StL

Sticking with the 2 catcher maximum here.  Kind of had to, with these two being their teams sole representatives.  So yup, that means I didn’t select Carlos Martinez for my team.  Oh well.  He’ll be here more than a few times in the future more than likely.  Anyway, the only other real option here was J.T. Realmuto.  I can’t believe Realmuto has been on the fringe of my team for two years running.  Maybe I should reevaluate him.

1B: Joey Votto, Cin (S), Paul Goldschmidt, AZ, Ryan Zimmerman, Was, Freddie Freeman, Atl

This is what I wrote last year, “You can probably pretty much pencil in (Anthony) Rizzo and Goldy every year for the forseeable future, barring injury or change in leagues.”  Oops.  No Rizzo this year.  He has rebounded nicely from his early season woes, but it wasn’t enough.  Check the water in Zim’s locker.  The last time he made an All-Star team was 1909…er, I mean, 2009.  But you get the point.  .218 in over 400 ABs last year and now at age 32 these numbers?  Ok, but he deserves to start.  And so does Goldschmidt.  But I picked Votto.  His numbers are a hair above both.  Freeman could probably start too, but he missed half the season.  And now he is playing third base.  But I couldn’t justify any other Atlanta player being on my team.  I don’t care how good Ender Inciarte is defensively.

2B:  Daniel Murphy, Was (S), Anthony Rendon, Was, Justin Turner, LAD

Ok, I clearly cheated here.  But I had to.  To me, Murphs was the only legit 2b I could really consider here.  Josh Harrison is a nice player, but not an All-Star.  DJ LeMahieu?  Nope.  Colorado, for one.  But secondly, I really don’t understand the infatuation.  Whatever.  So I am going with a couple of backups that play exclusively 3b now, but have played plenty of second base in the past.  And I picked Rendon before his 6 ribbies on Saturday.  Turner missed some time due to injury in the first half.  But hard to ignore his .377 average and 1.000 plus OPS at the break.

3B: Jake Lamb, AZ (S), Nolan Arenado, Col, Kris Bryant, ChC, Travis Shaw, Mil

Once again, Arenado gets penalized for playing in Colorado.  But once again he deserves to be on the team.  Just not starting.  I really should have started Bryant, but Lamb has the superior numbers this year.  By the end of the year that may be different.  Bryant didn’t make the real team.  That’s a crime.  Sure, he isn’t putting up the MVP numbers of last year, but it’s not like he’s hitting .220 either.  He has to be on the team, you know, being the reigning MVP and all.  Numbers this year are good enough, I say.  To boot, he is somehow my only Cub.  Little disappointing over there in ChiTown this year.  At least Wade Davis won’t blow my game like he did the real one.  Last, but certainly not least…Shaw HAS to be on the team.  First, Milwaukee is in first place and deserves more than the one rep they had in the real game.  Second?  What a stupid offseason trade by the Red Sox.  Listen, I wasn’t the biggest Travis Shaw fan.  He did fade as the year went on last year.  But did they have to basically throw him in the trade for Tyler Thornburg?  A middle reliever with apparent arm problems?  Just seemed like the prospects the Sox sent should have been enough there.  And now Thornburg will not pitch this year and the Sox are rotating between various minor leaguers at third base…after they finally pulled the plug on the Pablo Sandoval experiment.  Sigh…

SS:  Corey Seager, LAD (S), Trea Turner, Was

Thin yet again.  Seager is easy.  Turner should be easy…and yes, I know he is hurt.  Doesn’t matter.  Zack Cozart?  Really?

OF:  Giancarlo Stanton, Mia (S), Marcell Ozuna, Mia (S), Bryce Harper, Was (S), Cody Bellinger, LAD, Charlie Blackmon, Col, Wil Myers, SD, Aaron Altherr, Phi

Seven outfielders, four third basemen, four first basemen…of course some of those guys will fill the DH role.  Once again, the starters were no-brainers.  Though I suppose if Bellinger had been in the majors all year, he could have supplanted one of them.  Since he’s a rookie, he will have to defer this year, either way.  Blackmon has his Colorado numbers, but belongs on the team.  I suppose I should have listed Myers at first, since he actually plays there.  But I didn’t like the look of five first basemen for some reason.  And Myers came up as an outfielder.  So…who cares anyway?  Myers and Altherr represent the Padres and Phillies, respectively.  I don’t care how well Brad Hand pitches in the 6th-7th inning, I couldn’t stomach him being the Padres rep, as he was in reality.  He’s a middle reliever on a team that has a closer with a 5.30 ERA (Brandon Maurer).  If Hand can’t close over Maurer, he’s not an All-Star.  As much as we all love Pat Neshek, same deal in Philly.  If he can’t seize the closer role from any of the clowns that have closed for that squad this year (Hector Neris??!)…he is also not an All-Star.  I feel better about picking Altherr this year than I do about picking Odubel Herrera last year, I can tell you that much.

P:  Clayton Kershaw, LAD (S), Max Scherzer, Was, Zack Greinke, AZ, Robbie Ray, AZ, Gio Gonzalez, Was, Jacob deGrom, NYM, Ivan Nova, Pit, Corey Knebel, Mil, Greg Holland, Col, Kenley Jansen, LAD

Kershaw is a pretty good pitcher, eh?  Once again putting up video game numbers.  14 wins at the break.  Nice work.  Max and Zack doing what they do.  Robbie Ray coming out of nowhere.  Well, he was a top prospect, now it appears he has taken the next step at age 25.  I took Gio over Strasburg, but both could be here.  deGrom is the Mets rep.  Toyed with Jay Bruce, but had enough bats already.  Nova is the Pirates rep.  Underwhelming, I know.  The apparently resurrected Andrew McCutchen would probably have been a better choice.  But having to take Myers and Altherr and all those other bats left him off in favor of a pitcher.  Knebel has been absolutely filthy for the Brew Crew and what Holland is doing in his comeback in Colorado is nothing short of amazing.  Jansen has an ERA under 1.00 on that Dodger juggernaut, so he closes my game if it gets there.

There are a few pitchers that may have deserved better…Strasburg, Carlos Martinez, Alex Wood (10-0 at the break, but less innings than other starters), Wade Davis and gulp, Jimmy Nelson (??) could have arguments here.  If you like middle relievers, Hand, Neshek and Archie Bradley (1.10 ERA at the break) could be in the discussion as well.  Everyone can’t make it.  As usual though, I think I nailed both teams!

 

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