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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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Offseason Chatter…Already?! Conclusion…

We’ve covered the pitching, let’s move on to the rest of the roster.  I promise, this one will be a lot shorter!

Catchers (3):

Here:  Sandy Leon, Blake Swihart, Christian Vazquez

None of these guys hit a lick this past season.  I think Swihart can hit a little, but it’s unlikely he will ever get enough at-bats here to prove it.  Leon was particularly putrid this year.  .177 average with a .511 OPS.  Wow.  That’s hard to do.  In almost 300 plate appearances no less.

But you know what?  I completely expect Vazquez and Leon to be the catching tandem next season.  They are good defensively, the pitchers love them, the manager loves them and with this overall lineup, the catchers do not really have to hit.

Swihart will most assuredly be dangled in trade talks once again.  But also once again there will likely be tepid interest.  I’m not sure the Sox will keep trying to groom him on the “super utility role”.  I suppose we will find out this winter.  If they want to truly make him that versatile, wouldn’t he play winter ball and play all over the diamond?  That would make too much sense though.

Infielders (9):

Here:  Xander Bogaerts (SS), Rafael Devers (3B), Marco Hernandez (UT), Brock Holt (UT), Tzu-Wei Lin (UT), Mitch Moreland (1B), Eduardo Nunez (UT), Dustin Pedroia (2B), Sam Travis (1B/LF)

Free agents:  Ian Kinsler (2B), Steve Pearce (1B), Brandon Phillips (2B)

Minors:  Tony Renda (UT)

The last of the World Series “heroes” to talk about?  Steve Pearce.  Love what he did.  But he’s Steve Pearce.  There are 1,000 guys that could play his role next year.  If he wants a one year deal for short money to match the one year left on Moreland’s contract, I would do it.  Then in 2020 maybe the team can get a real first baseman that can play every day instead of this platoon nonsense.

Who really thinks Dustin Pedroia will be ready to go Opening Day 2019?  Besides Dustin Pedroia, that is.  Pedey, you may be done.  That knee injury is supposed to be no joke.  He’s 35 years old.  At this point, I’d cut him loose.  But with 41 mil and 3 years left on his deal, that ain’t happening.  Not to mention that the manager loves him.  And he has some sort of untouchable status in the organization for whatever reason.  So he’s here…unless he really cannot play.  We will see.  At least Holt will be here to back him up, for whatever that is worth.

Hopefully Devers takes another step forward next year, especially defensively.  Nunez locked in his 5 mil player option, so he ain’t going anywhere and will likely take at-bats away from Raffy at third.

Marco missed the whole year and hopefully, he has minor league options so that he can get himself back up to speed and be organizational depth, along with Lin.  I can’t imagine Kinsler will be back, but congrats to him on the Gold Glove!  His career could be done, along with Phillips’.  I think we’ve seen the last of Sammy Travis.  Still only 25 years old, but had a poor year at AAA and his prospect days are essentially over.  Renda?  He was on the roster a few days this summer, scored the winning run as a pinch runner in a Sunday Night game against the Yankees as his only major league action this season.  And got himself a ring because of it.  Not bad.  But all of this and then being outrighted to the minors after the World Series does not bode well for any future major league prospects in Boston.

I’d say that a right-handed bat for first base, either Pearce or someone else, would be the only thing the Sox address this offseason.

Here’s another thing to consider as well:  Bogaerts is a free agent after the 2019 season.  He is coming off his best season.  26 years old, right in his prime.  He is going to want to get paid,  Several other Red Sox will want to get paid.  Scott Boras is his agent, so that means X will want to be unreasonably paid.

Would it shock anyone if Bogaerts is dangled in trade talks?

Not me.

Outfielders (4):

Here:  Andrew Benintendi (LF), Mookie Betts (RF), Jackie Bradley (CF), J.D. Martinez (OF/DH)

Speaking of guys that want to get paid, J.D. can opt out after 2019 and Mookie is a free agent after 2020.  So you have these two, Bogaerts, Sale and I suppose Porcello all looking for big money within the next two years.  Again, the Sox can pay them all if they want.  But they won’t.  So are there some trade talks this offseason?  I think there might be.

And out of all these guys, I’d start with…Bradley.  Jackie has two arbitration years left before free agency.  He will be looking for over 10 mil in arbitration this year for sure.  I’d try to snow some dumb teams into overvaluing the Gold Glove and the ALCS MVP.  If you don’t want to play Benny or Betts in center on a regular basis, you can find some other guy that can’t hit and play a decent center field for a fraction of the cost.

Sure, if we want the Sox to spend 500 mil on their payroll, we keep JBJ.  And everyone else.  But you know that just isn’t happening.

Good thing that they did win the World Series this year.  Because there’s going to be some tough decisions made over the next couple of years whether they have the money to spend or not or whether we like it or not.  Be ready for some of those decisions to be made as soon as this winter.  And when you have a barren farm system, letting some good players go at the major league level because of money and contracts…well, that might not be a good combination.

Rest assured, the Sox will remain competitive, maybe even for championships.  As noted previously, they have plenty of money to spend and will spend a great deal of it.  But there could be more bodies going out the door over the next few years than we care to accept…

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…

 

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