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Just a kid trying to make it big in the baseball world.

Welcome MLB fans!

This page will give mlb scores, statistics, analysis by me, signs, and so much more fun stuff for any baseball fan like me! Please, anyone who can, read my blogs as this is what i want to do as a future! I will try my hardest to post about all of my opinions theories and amuse people. Please contact me on my email, danny25mar42@aol.com if you have any advice or want to put me on the spot with questions!

Trade Deadline Update 7/24/15

  

As we approach the final week before the MLB Trade Deadline, GMs are in business all day and night trying to make mutually beneficial trades or make the best trade offer to achieve the best fitting players for their team on the trading block. In the past 24 hours, the first wave of noteworthy moves hit the surface.

Astros Acquire Scott Kazmir from Oakland for RHP Daniel Medgen and C Jason Nottingham

In the first blockbuster trade of the season, Scott Kazmir has been dealt to Houston (his hometown), where he will join an already-solid rotation led by Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh, alongside impressive 2015 breakout pitcher, Lance McCullers. 

The Oakland Athletics will receive pitching prospect Daniel Mengden and catcher Jason Nottingham in return. I think the Astros are going to really benefit from this trade, as Kazmir will add much needed depth to that pitching rotation. 

This is a significant trade for the Athletics because it serves as an indicator that Billy Beane wants to get younger and rebuild. Mengden is a 22 year old righthanded pitcher who has struggled thus far at the A-ball level, but has a lot of upside. 

Here’s what Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs had to say about the young right-hander: 

“He isn’t big and doesn’t have a plus pitch, but has good feel, three solid average pitches and athleticism.”    

I don’t think he will be lights-out, but Mengden can potentially eat up a lot of innings for Oakland in the future. I wasn’t surprised to hear that Beane and the A’s are mostly excited about Nottingham in this deal though. He will most likely stay behind the plate when he enters the Bigs, which is interesting, as his strong suits are hitting for power and getting on base, not saving runs defensively.

I honestly think the Astros got a bargain for Kazmir, a veteran swing-and-miss pitcher, and the A’s undervalued him here. Kazmir has a 2.38 ERA in 2015, which is good for 5th in the AL this year. 

Pirates acquire Aramis Ramirez from the Brewers for RHP Yhonathan Barrios

With infielders Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison on the shelf for a good portion of the second half, the contending Pittsburgh Pirates desperately needed a third basemen. Stepping up and trading for Aramis Ramirez is surely a risk, but they didn’t really have much of a choice. 

I’m aware that Aramis Ramirez has been red hot in the month of May, but he is 37 years old now. His hitting metrics have been on a steep decline ever since his MVP-candidate-worthy 2012 season. His Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) has dropped from 139 to 131 to 109 to 94. He has been a below average hitter in 2015. 

On the brightside, this deal could really pan out for the Pirates. Aramis Ramirez is retiring at the end of the 2015 season, or at least that’s what he says, players of his caliber, more often than not, finish off their careers gracefully. Ramirez is now on a good team with a chance to win a World Series before his legacy concludes.

One other reason he could be valuable is the fact that he has a dWAR of 7 this season, when he usually is worse than a replacement player when it comes to fielding his corner. He also can platoon for Alvarez when the opposition is a left-handed hurler. 

Knowing that they won’t be contenders this season, the Brewers gave the Pirates Aramis Ramirez because they’re in win-now mode, and they won’t have lost Ramirez for any more years than this one. Therefore, there was no reason for the Brewers to keep him, because he is never again going to make a difference concerning whether they make the playoffs or not.

This is a smart deal for Milwaukee, as the Brewers receive a minor league relief pitcher who can help them in the future for what is equivalent to no expense. This trade is good for both the Pirates and the Brew Crew. 

Angels acquire Conor Gillaspie from the White Sox 

The Halos were much in need of a third baseman other than David Freese, so they signed Connor Gillaspie. Gillaspie started this year off as the starting third baseman for the Sox, but was designated for assignment after struggling horribly. His walk percentage in 2015 has been below 4%, showing that he hasn’t seen the ball well at all this year, and he has never been a good fielder. 

I don’t think this is a bad signing by GM Jerry Dipoto. I get that David Freese (who also is a very poor third baseman) is out until mid-August with a right index finger injury, and that the Angels needed a third baseman. But why get another below average player who will hardly outplay the other backup third basemen on the team, Kyle Kubitza and Taylor Featherson?

Cardinals acquire Steve Cishek from the Marlins for RHP Kyle Barraclough

This afternoon, the Cardinals  added another arm to their bullpen in Steve Cishek. Steve Cishek had three consecutive awesome years with the Marlins in 2012, 2013, and 2014, but 2015 has been a little disastrous. He has a 4.50 ERA this season with a 9.7% strikeout to walk ratio. 

All in all though, the Marlins don’t have any incentive to pay him that bulky contract right now, when they aren’t competitors this year. It’s a simple principle that teams that know they’re bad shouldn’t be spending big money on their setup man or closer. 

The Cardinals don’t know what they will get out of Cishek, but they’re hoping his fastball and slider mix will fare well in St. Louis. I think he will be better than he was in Miami, as his BABIP was at .350, but bad luck could continue for him when he makes the location switch.

Meanwhile, the Marlins received AA pitcher Kyle Barraclough from the Cardinals. Here’s what Michael Hurcomb of CBS Sports has to say about Barraclough:

“The 25-year-old Barraclough is 3-0 with a 2.27 ERA and 12 saves in 34 appearances between Class A and Double-A in 2015. The 2012 seventh-round pick is 5-6 with a 2.83 ERA and 25 saves in four minor-league seasons. He is also striking out 11.0 batters per nine innings.”

Latest News: Mets acquire Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson from the Braves for RHP John Gant and RHP Rob Whalen!

This is a great trade for the Mets! They got two players who have proven themselves in the MLB. The Mets’ offense has been so brutal, that Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson could be two of their better hitters. 

I read something that made me laugh on Twitter. Kelly Johnson’s statistics on the Braves this year have proven that he has been a better hitter than every single Metropolitan this year. 

According to Adam Rubin of ESPN, Kelly Johnson has a better batting average, OPS, and more homers per at bat than any player on the Mets this year. These are the roles the two new additions to the Mets will play, according to Aaron Yorke of Amazin Avenue: 

“As the Mets are currently constructed, it looks like Uribe can play third base every day while Johnson fills in wherever the Mets need him. Like the recently promoted Michael Conforto, Johnson is left-handed.”

John Gant is a 22-year old pitcher and Rob Whalen is 21, so it’s evident that the Mets were willing to trade away some of their young developing pitchers. 

This trade works out well for the Braves, because they needed some more young pitching hope. If even one of the two makes it big with the Braves, they will have made a good trade. But the important news is that the Mets could actually compete this year with these little batting additions. They shouldn’t be done making moves just yet though. Their lineup is still horrid with the two of them, but it has taken a step in the right direction. 

Why MLB Bullpens Have Improved, Are Improving, and Will Keep on Improving

In the last decade, the value of MLB bullpens has soared off, entering a whole new dimension of importance. Managers have found a new way to pitch their relief pitchers and GMs have figured out how to organize their team’s bullpen in a much more effective way.

In 2006, the league’s bullpen Earned Run Average was 4.22. Ever since, that bullpen ERA has improved at least a small amount each and every year. In 2014, the league’s ERA for relief pitchers was 3.58! Now this year thus far, that number is at 3.52.

The biggest factor to all of this success is that general managers are finally noticing how valuable mid-inning relief pitchers are. It used to be a punishment not to start the game or finish the game, but now in some cases, it’s not a bad role to be a setup man. Still I was somewhat shocked when I read this article on therichest.com of the ten highest paid relief pitchers entering the 2014 season. (This, of course,was before Kimbrel received his four-year $42M contract).

1. Jonathan Papelbon, 4 years, $50M, Philadelphia Phillies

2. Rafael Soriano, 2 years, $28M, Washington Nationals

3. Heath Bell, 3 years, $27M, Tampa Bay Rays

4. Brandon League, 3 years, $22.5M, Los Angeles Dodgers

5. Jonathan Broxton, 3 years, $21M, Cincinnati Reds

6. Joe Nathan, 2 years, $20M, Detroit Tigers

7. Brian Wilson, 2 years, $19M, Los Angeles Dodgers

8. Jeremy Affeldt, 3 years, $18M, San Francisco Giants

9. Boone Logan, 3 years, $16.5M, Colorado Rockies

10. Sean Marshall, 3 years, $16.5M, Cincinnati Reds

The mindblowing concept of all of this is the fact that only three of the ten pitchers listed above were payed to close out ballgames. Seven of these pricy contracts went to mid-inning relief pitchers. It goes to show how much teams value their entire bullpen rather than just their closer.

According to Wins Above Replacement, managers aren’t mistaken by valuing middle inning relief pitchers so highly. More than half (16 of 30) of the relief pitcher WAR leaders have less than 10 saves in the 2015 season.

Dellin Betances leads the pack as the setup man for the New York Yankees. He has been good for two wins above a replacement player thus far. In today’s game, having two relief pitchers as great as Miller and Betances is becoming the norm. In fact, the Yankees are one of the teams in the hunt for Cincinatti’s closer (with that wild 103 miles per hour bullet that makes every opposing hitter feel the urge to wet their pants), Aroldis Chapman.

Here, Aroldis Chapman breaks his own record for fastest pitch ever thrown, at 106 mph.

 Another reason bullpens are improving each and every year is because the way managers use early-inning relief pitchers has changed a lot. MLB managers have been using long relievers for years, but lately coaches have been smarter when it comes to picking who should pitch in this role.

The new strategy is to put young, unexperienced pitchers in that long reliever role. This works so well because there is a countless amount of phenom hurlers who usually spend a few years in the minors working on a “third pitch”.

Now, MLB teams no longer have to wait for their player to develop in the minors. Instead, they can throw them in the bullpen first, where you can easily get by with a lousy repertoire of two pitches, as long as you have a blazing heater. Some pitchers never seem to develop a good third pitch, and find a home in the bullpen. An example of this is Liam Hendriks, of the Blue Jays.

Hendriks has been hammered in the MLB, with a 5.20 ERA in his five year pitching career. This year, John Gibbons experimented him in the bullpen as a long relief pitcher, and he has been excellent.

According to Fangraphs’ pitch charts, 94.5% of the pitches Hendriks has pitched in 2015 have been either a fastball or slider. His fastball velocity has gone up three miles per hour since last year (now at 94.3 mph). In 39 innings in 2015, Hendriks is having his best year in the MLB. He has put up career-best numbers in K/9, BB/9, ERA, and WHIP. He currently has a 3.00 ERA this year, which is better than league average.

Usually relief pitchers begin their careers as starters. The switch is so effective because when a pitcher loses effect of a pitch, they can either be a hassle to get through in the rotation every five games, or they can be dominant in the bullpen. Managers are doing this more and more in this era, which is a huge reason for the drop in bullpen ERA. ‘

Zach Britton, Mariano Rivera, and Wade Davis are just three examples of mediocre starting pitchers who became three untouchable relief pitchers. Let’s talk about Wade Davis. He was an All-Star this year, striking out Nolan Arenado and Adrian Gonzalez in a scoreless inning. He has an astonishing, 0.44 ERA so far this season as a setup man for Greg Holland and the Kansas City Royals.

Wouldn’t it surprise you to hear that same guy, who you all might know as WD-40, was once a below-average starting pitcher? Well, he was for the bulk of his career, even in a very pitcher-friendly ballpark, Tropicana Field, until Joe Maddon made the ultimate move that would save his career. When he entered the bullpen, he stopped struggling with the longball, and was unhittable.

Then, of course, when the Royals purchased Wade Davis, Ned Yost moved him back into the rotation, and he was a big reason for the Royals’ failure in 2013. One of many reasons I believe Ned Yost is the most overrated manager in all of baseball. In 2013, Wade Davis had a 5.32 ERA in 135.1 innings, which is an ultimate gamechanger!

After all of 2013 went by, Ned Yost finally realized that Davis is meant to be in the bullpen, and in 2014, the Royals made it to the World Series, thanks to a 3.0 WAR and a 1.00 ERA from their best relief pitcher.

A team that has particularly thrived at making a great bullpen out of failing starters has been the Washington Nationals. The Nats have done an awesome job at moving starting pitchers to the bullpen, including Craig Stammen and Tanner Roark. According to the Washington Times, in April, manager Matt Williams said,

“Most relievers have been starters. That’s just the way it all happens. That’s the way they train guys. Coming out of the bullpen, we want those guys to go after the hitters and make sure that they’re throwing strikes early and often. So with all of those guys, they all have the ability to do that.”

Let’s face it though. The main reason bullpen ERA has dropped is because offenses are getting worse and worse. They have been ever since we left the steroid era and it has become more of a pitcher’s game. League OPS has dipped from the .750-.770 range in between 1996 and 2006 to the .700-.720 range since 2011.

Ultimately, the reasons for improvement in bullpen ERA is because….

A. Managers have started to value middle relief pitchers more, and give them a greater incentive with more expensie contracts

B. Managers have vitalized the idea of placing young unexperienced starting pitchers in the bullpen to begin with, and eventually transfer them to the rotation once they master a third pitch.

C. Managers have been trying struggling starting pitchers to find more and more of them succeed.

D. We are entering a pitcher-friendly era, so it only makes sense that relief pitchers play better.

I’m American League 2015 Predictions

 

 Here we go. It’s time for Danny Blomster’s 2015 predictions for the AL. These have been the toughest predictions to make in a long time, as most people have the Orioles, Indians, and Mariners winning their divisions, and not one of those teams seem like a division winner to me. Let’s get started with my standings predictions for the end of the season. On the right, I have one player on each team who I believe will be their 2015 success story, bust, and ace.

AL East               Success          Bust         Ace

1. Red Sox: 85-77    Pedroia      Napoli      Miley 

2. Jays: 84-78  Donaldson   Martin  Hutchinson

3. Yankees: 83-79   Rodriguez  Drew  Pineda

4. Orioles: 82-78 Machado Hardy Chen

5. Rays: 75-87     Souza      Cabrera      Archer

AL Central                                                                       

1. Tigers: 88-74    J.Martinez   V. Martinez  Price

2. Royals: 87-75        Hosmer    Ventura   Duffy

3. White Sox: 83-79 Abreu Samardzija Sale

4. Indians: 82-80 Carrasco    Bourn   Kluber

5. Twins: 78-84        Dozier    Hughes  Hughes

AL West

1. Mariners: 87-75  Seager   Walker Hernandez

2. Angels: 86-76    Pujols    Weaver   Santiago

3. Astros: 84-78     Carter  Rasmus      Keuchel

4. Athletics: 69-93     Zobrist    Davis     Gray     

5. Rangers: 68-94  Fielder   Andrus   Gallardo                  

Angels defeat Royals in Wild Card Game.

Angels defeat Tigers in ALDS.

Red Sox defeat Mariners in ALDS.

Red Sox defeat Angels in ALCS.

Red Sox lose the World Series to the  Cardinals.
Biggest 2015 AL surprises:
1. Mariners actually live up to their hype for the first time in what seems like FOREVER!

2. Cleveland Indians aren’t actually as good as people think they will be, and the Royals actually have a bigger shot at a Wild Card. 

3. The Astros aren’t horrendous anymore, finishing within 5 games over .500, even with a rotation that has been looked at as one of the worst in the AL. It will improve though.

4. Red Sox get by with a mediocre pitching staff thanks to a huge boost in offense from additions of Ramirez and Sandoval as well as big impact rookies Castillo and Betts contributing significantly to all that success in the lineup.

5. The American League is much worse than the National League in 2015, but Mike Trout is the best player in baseball, even though Harper might just have a breakout season.

American League Award Winners:

Cy Young: Felix Hernandez

MVP: Mike Trout

Rookie of the year: Mookie Betts

Gold gloves: Perez, Hosmer, Cano, Iglesias, Machado, Gordon, Cain, Betts.

Quick analysis:

The AL East is that division in which any of the five teams can take it all. I have the Boston Red Sox winning the division because of that dominant batting lineup. I mean, facing a lineup with a bunch of experienced baseball greats like Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, and David Ortiz is intimidating right from the get-go. And they don’t have to worry about their two admirable rookie outfielders (Castillo and Betts) not performing admirably; they have a lot of team depth in the outfield, with Victorino, Craig, and Nava sitting on the bench. The pitching rotation is a huge concern for the Sox though, overloaded with uncertainties. Who knows how Porcello will fare in Fenway Park when he hasn’t quite proven himself a reliable starter in the MLB? Should we put a lot of weight on Wade Miley’s rough 2014 season, or should we expect him to improve and return to 2012-2013 form? Bucholtz and Masterson are both hit-or-miss pitchers, so the question is, will they HIT, or will they MISS?  

We cannot forget how great the Orioles were last year, winning 96 games and hitting the most home runs in all of baseball. They make it to the postseason in my predictions because they haven’t gotten THAT much worse. Dan Duquette didn’t partake in any action this offseason though, maybe because he is interested in leaving the ball club. If not, he did terrible this offseason, and made the Orioles no longer the dominant team they once were. But even without Cruz and Markakis, the Orioles still are good enough to win the wild card and possibly the division. Manny Machado will be back, and he’ll continue right where he left off. After losing so much for so many years though, I guess I assumed the Orioles would anxiously make huge signings to keep their fans from going through years of adversity again, but I guess not.

The Toronto Blue Jays have had some upside for the past few years, but keep falling short of the playoffs nonetheless. I think they’ll fall short again in 2015. The Blue Jays have an incredible heart of the order. I mean, is there a better 3,4,5 than Bautista, Encarnacion, Donaldson? Probably not. Bautista and Encarnacion both have hit 40+ HR in their careers and Donaldson hit 29 last season for the Athletics (not even in Rogers Centre). However, this may be the only upside for the Jays. Jose Reyes is injury-prone, making him less reliable than he seems. Also, Russell Martin had a great season offensively in 2014, but he hasn’t had any other seasons quite as good since who knows when (2007?) and I can’t say I like any of the bottom half of the Blue Jays lineup. Devon Travis, Kevin Pillar, Dalton Pompey. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of these guys had a breakout season in 2015, but all 3 of these bats in the starting lineup could be a nightmare for Toronto. Then there’s the pitching staff. First off, Anthropolous has done nothing to improve that lackluster bullpen led by Brett Cecil (only 6 career saves). Also, Stroman’s torn ACL blindsided the Jays, and now the back end of their rotation consists of two youngsters (Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris). Before the Stroman injury, I had them making the playoffs by a game or two, but now considering all of their weaknesses, they should be a .500 team or only slightly better. 

I frequently rant about how awful of a GM Brian Cashman is. I won’t go off on that tangent today, but he has really screwed the Yankees over for years to come. He has been far too careless and prodigal with their surplus money, putting it to terrible use. Instead of investing in a future, he has given out huge contracts to dying out baseball players. This year, the Yankees could rank anywhere from first to last in this division, but I put them 4th because the odds of them having the opportunity of pulling off a great season is slim. Players need to be healthy for them to pull off this incredible feat, and so many players on this Yankees team are injury-prone.  Tanaka is a Tommy John scare, and Pineda was out for two seasons with an anterior labral tear in his right shoulder so there’s no way of knowing what he’ll do this year. Sabathia hasn’t recovered completely from that hamstring strain. Basically, the first three pitchers in the rotation are all extremely injury-prone! Then the back end of the rotation has some potential, but Eovaldi hasn’t proven himself yet in the MLB. The offense is extraordinarily talented. The starting nine have been in 32 combined all-star games, and this lineup includes  ex-superstars, Beltran, Teixeira, Rodriguez, Ellsbury, and McCann. In a dream-come-true season, this team could take the division. Let’s assume A-rod comes back and hits 25 homers, Ellsbury steals 30 bags/ hits 20 HR, Teixeira stays healthy all season and returns to being a dominant 1st baseman, Tanaka stays on the field and comes through with his Cy Young potential, Pineda has a breakout year, Eovaldi thrives with his intimidating fastball, and Robert Refsnyder gets called up for a few games. If this all happened, the Yankees would win the division. But I don’t know how many of these feats will actually happen. The concerns outweigh that slim chance of everything going right. There are just way too many question marks although it is a division where anything can happen.

The Tampa Bay Rays, just like the Yankees, could rank anywhere in this division. Good pitching wins games, and the Rays have the best rotation in the AL East. Matt Moore is coming back, and he could be a huge asset for the Rays in 2015. The Rays’ biggest weakness is their batting lineup. It is horrific. Evan Longoria is due for a solid season and I think Steven Souza will have a breakout year, but the other seven batters are all so-so. These seven guys are going to make it or break it for the Rays in 2015. If they can score more than last year’s 612 runs, along with that solid pitching staff, they can contend.

I have the Tigers winning the AL Central again in 2015. I could go with the flow and pick the Cleveland Indians to win the division, but a gut feeling won’t allow me to do that. And I don’t feel any guilt about my decision, as the Tigers still have plenty of threatening hitters. Miguel Cabrera didn’t even have an off-year in 2014. He hit a career-low 25 home runs, but led the MLB with 52 doubles, and still had an outstanding .895 OPS. I think an offense with Kinsler, Cabrera, Victor and J.D. Martinez, and Cespedes is otherworldly. I think they will be one of the best hitting ball clubs in baseball, if not the best. Also, Verlander and Price can’t perform much worse than last year, so things are looking up for that rotation. Anibal Sanchez has been a Cy Young candidate in the past, and he could definitely be back at it again. Losing Scherzer won’t quite knock them out of the postseason in 2015.

The Royals really looked good last year when they made the World Series. I had the Royals making the playoffs last year in my predictions because a lot of their players were in their prime years. Now a year later, that’s not the case anymore. A perfect example of the Royals this year is the 1970 Mets. In 1969, a bunch of decent Mets like Tommie Agie and Cleon Jones were in their prime years, leading the Mets to victory. In 1970, the Mets only won 83 games because they had a “lucky year”. Outlier seasons from Cain, Perez, and Ventura make me believe that the same thing will happen to the 2015 Royals. Also, they lost their ace, James Shields, and their rotation won’t be any good without him. But they still are clearly a playoff team. Just not a division winner in my mind, at least without an ace. With an ace, the sky is the limit.

The White Sox had an excellent offseason, where they bulked the pitching rotation with Samardzija and purchased an elite closer in David Robertson. They have something impressive going on with that pitching rotation. Quintana looks like a success to me, and when Chris Sale comes back, there’s no reason he won’t continue pitching like a savage. Now the offense is better but still brutal. I like the bats they have in Abreu, Cabrera, Ramirez, and Laroche. They do have a few weaknesses that concern me. The bottom of the rotation absolutely stinks and I don’t like the production I think they will get from their catcher, Tyler Flowers. My biggest problem with them is they don’t have players who can get on base. Overall, they are a solid team now, nothing too special, but could easily contend for a wild card or win the division. 

The Cleveland Indians truly deserve this division, at least on paper. I do think that this rotation will be stellar eventually, if not this year, the next. I like Carrasco and Bauer a lot, as well as Kluber, but I must say, they are a little too young for me to fully buy into them. I also think the offense is going to crumble down and not live up to all the hype. I think Jose Ramirez has a bright future, but this year won’t be a great one for him. Also, Michael Bourn will be a huge bust in 2015. But again, on paper, they look excellent. They have a load of big bats in Brantley, Santana, Moss, and Gomes. They also have Rookie of the Year candidate Francisco Lindor, who may win a starting role at some point this season. In 2016, I probably will predict the Indians to win the division, but first I need some proof that this rotation is legit. Until then, fourth place in this division is the best spot for them. 

The Twins are ranked last in the AL Central solely because they have a bunch of nobodies in their rotation. Phil Hughes is their ace, but there’s no way he will repeat his 2014 campaign, and as a Yankees fan, I can’t trust Phil Hughes. And there’s no way he is coming anywhere close to that 0.7 BB/9 he had last year (2.4 career BB/9). Also, Ervin Santana, their biggest 2015 offseason aquisition, just got suspended for 80 games. The rotation gets worse and worse. Mike Pelfrey. Kyle Gibson. Ricky Nolasco. What more can I say?

There will be change in the AL West. This year, I have every reason to pick the Seattle Mariners except for the fact that the Mariners always know how to disappoint. This year though, Felix Hernandez looks golden (my Cy Young winner) and Hisashi Iwakuma proved that 2013 was not a fluke, as he now has put up good numbers for two straight years. James Paxton has a lot of upside too, although we haven’t seen enough of him. That bullpen will be great in 2015, as they have 3 solid late inning relief pitchers. Even if closer Fernando Rodney fails miserably, Wilhelmsen and Farquhar are two great options to replace him. The offense will improve a ton; players like Zunino, Morrison, and Seager are in for career-best seasons. Austin Jackson won’t get worse than he was in 2014, so things are even looking up for him. And I like the Smith and Ruggiano platoon going on. Finally, they signed Nelson Cruz (aka 40 homers last year) to a four year $57M contract. 

The Angels will hang in there in 2015 and just snag a Wild Card spot. The Angels have star potential. I think Pujols will return to the days when he hit 40 homers and batted .300. I think Mike Trout is going to lead this Angels offense and win the MVP once again. The pitching is what will keep the Angels chasing tail with the Mariners all season long, until the unpromising starters eventually make it impossible for the Halos to catch up. After Weaver wins a game for the Angels, Wilson gives up five runs. Then, Shoemaker gets bombed. But then, Andrew Heaney and Hector Santiago both are awesome. Garrett Richards comes back from his injury and joins the rotation. He dominates and Shoemaker  exits the rotation. Now the rotation is half-decent.

I believe this will be the first time the Astros place third in the AL West. During their first year in the AL (2013), they had a franchise-worst 51-111 record, placing last in the division. In 2014, they jumped to 4th place. Now, this young and improving ballclub will move up to 3rd place not because the Astros are any good, moreso because the Rangers and Athletics are worse. The Astros have a solid batting lineup, led by Jose Altuve and big power hitters Evan Gattis and Chris Carter. The rotation could be phenomenal or brutal, as the young pitchers are unproven, but the Stros have a legit pitching coach in Brent Strom. I think Keuchel, McCullers, and Mchugh could have solid years, but I don’t feel the same way about Brett Oberholtzer and Roberto Hernandez. 

The Oakland Athletics lost EVERYBODY this offseason.  Their heart of the order has weakened drastically from Donaldson-Moss-Cespedes to Davis-Butler-Reddick. Ike Davis was a one-hit wonder for the Mets, and with the Pirates last year he only slugged .378. Butler was once good years ago, but he’s on a big decline, and already is a permanent DH, making it seem like he’s 38, not 28. Reddick has been struck by injuries the last couple years, and although he is a power threat whenever he steps up to the plate, he has produced a -0.5 oWAR over the last two seasons. The pitching rotation took a step down when Jon Lester departed. Sonny Gray won’t be enough to make them contenders. 

Finally, we have the Texas Rangers. Entering this offseason, I thought the Rangers were going to improve coming into 2015. But that was before I heard that Yu Darvish would be out all season. With him out, they have no chance at October baseball. They now have absolutely 0 good pitchers in their rotation. Holland and Gallardo are leading a rotation that follows with a few no-names. The Rangers have a future that they are investing in, with Rougned Odor and Jurickson Profar and all, but that is not ready yet. It is in the process of developing right now though. Soon enough, the Rangers will be competing the AL West once again.


HR Leaders                      BA leaders                     OPS leaders
Pujols-42                           Trout- .336                      Trout-.986

Trout-36                            Altuve- .328                    Encarnacion-.944

Bautista-36                        Brantley- .327                 Cabrera-.925

Davis-35                             Pedroia- .314                   Abreu-.918

Abreu-34                                Cabrera-.313                Bautista-.906

JD Martinez-34                        Fielder – .310                   Brantley-.896

Moss-33                              Martinez- .307                 Ramirez-.882

Encarnacion-32                     Beltre- .305                      Donaldson -.867

Cruz-32                               Abreu- .302                       Martinez-.867

Cabrera-30                        Kipnis – .300                    Fielder-.858

    

              

New York Yankees

2014 Record: 84-78

Batting lineup

  • LF Brett Gardner: Had a breakout year in 2014, with a strange burst of power. He hit 17 HR (8 of them were over the right field porch in Yankee Stadium). He led the team with a .749 OPS, a category usually not led by a speedy leadoff contact hitter.
  • 3B Chase Headley: There is a lot to like about Chase Headley, as he won a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger award in 2012. He can definitely hit for power; he proved this when hit 31 home runs in pitcher-friendly Petco Park. On the other end of the spectrum, Headley’s 2013 and 2014 season were disproportionate to his beautiful 2012 season. Nonetheless, Headley still has all the tools needed to be a 5-tool player.
  • CF Jacoby Ellsbury: One of the most successful base runners in all of baseball, with a career 84.6 % stolen base success rate, but just like Brett Gardner, his OBP dropped significantly last season; his dropped to .328. He made up for it with 16 dingers though.
  • 1B Mark Teixeira: He has won Gold Glove awards at first base year in, year out. This beefy switch-hitter might be the only true Bronx Bomber left on the Yankees. He has to stay healthy, as he missed practically the entire 2013 season with a wrist injury. Last season was brutal for Teixeira, but he still is the biggest power threat in the lineup.
  • C Brian McCann: McCann has been consistent, with 20+ HR in the last 7 seasons, but this Georgia native had the worst season of his career in 2014. His transition to the American League last year was rough, to say the least, as he had a career low OPS and OBP. This was another bad signing by Brian Cashman. Experts say his production was worth the $17M he was paid in 2014, but his .286 OBP last year should be a huge concern to the Yankees.
  • RF Carlos Beltran: Another batter in this lineup that was a top-notch superstar in his prime, but now Beltran is 37 years old and had his worst season ever in 2014. The Yankees hope Beltran will bounce back in 2015 after fully recovering from an elbow injury.
  • FACE OF THE FRANCHISE: DH Alex Rodriquez: When I say “face of the franchise”, I don’t mean best player on the team. Alex Rodriguez is the most risky player on this team, and his performance matters the most. He is turning 40 in July, but with 654 career home runs, it’s hard to count him out just yet. Still, most likely this 14-time All Star will have trouble returning to baseball, and will hardly produce in 2015.
  • SS Didi Gregorious: Signed this offseason to replace Derek Jeter, Gregorious is a stellar fielding shortstop, but hits well below the average shortstop does. Most likely won’t quite cut it for the Yanks.
  • 2B Stephen Drew: He isn’t guaranteed the starting job at second base yet, as Refsnyder and Pirela both hit the cover off the baseball the in minors; Refsnyder had a .318/.387/.497 slash line in 137 games last year.

Analysis: This lineup is falling apart due to old age. The first seven batters in this lineup are all over 30 years old, and all have been outstanding at some point in their careers, but all of them have passed their primes. Ellsbury, McCann, and Beltran all declined in their first year with the Yankees. Teixeira and Rodriguez are the veterans on this team, but both of them will probably fail to return to their old selves. The lineup has a ton of talent but the Yankees are still in a lot of trouble offensively.

  • Grade: C+

 

Pitching rotation

  • Masahiro Tanaka: Other than the elbow injury (which was a serious Tommy John scare), 2014 was a great year for Masahiro Tanaka. He struck out 141 batters and posted a 2.77 ERA in 20 starts.
  • C.C. Sabathia: Health is a red flag for this 6′ 7″, 285 pound beast. He used to be one of the most consistent pitchers in all of baseball until 2013, and it’s been a downhill road ever since.
  • Michael Pineda: Potentially the ace on this ballclub if he stops allowing so many flyballs in Yankees Stadium, but most importantly, he has to stay on the field. 
  • Nathan Eovaldi: Has a 95 mph fastball that makes every scout’s jaw drop in awe, but he got hammered in Miami last season, giving up the most hits in the NL.
  • Chris Capuano: At 36 years old, Capuano hardly has anything left in the tank. His stuff just isn’t there anymore. Hopefully they will take him out of the rotation at some point this season, as he is one of the least reliable starters in baseball. He will start the season on the DL with a quad strain.

Analysis: This rotation is the biggest concern for the Yankees, and it’s nearly impossible to win games after  your 1-3 all suffered injuries last season and the back end of your rotation consists of two of the worst starting pitchers on paper.

  • Grade: C

Bullpen

  • RHP Dellin Betances: Last season, Betances got his first real chance in the Majors, and he was incredible. He had a 1.40 ERA in 70 appearances last year, and deservedly got himself invited to his first All-star game. 
  • LHP Andrew Miller: The Yankees acquired this lefty relief pitcher as an 8th inning setup man. Also, if Betances fails to live up to Girardi’s expectations, Miller can take the closer role, coming off a monster year for the Red Sox and Orioles. He posted a 2.02 ERA last year and will try to repeat that success in the AL East, this time in Pinstripes.

Analysis: The closer role is still up for grabs, but Dellin Betances is the favorite after dominating in 2014. The only concern is that neither of these guys have experience as a closer, with only 1 career save each.

  • Grade: B-

The next team up is the….

MARLINS!

Seattle Mariners

2014 Record: 87-75

Batting lineup 

  • CF Austin Jackson: The Mariners acquired him towards the end of last season in a three-team trade, dealing Nick Franklin to Tampa.  He already struggled in the 100 games he played with Detroit, but the final 53 games with Seattle were brutal. He faced severe difficulty driving the baseball, with only 6 extra base hits in that span. The Mariners hope he can produce like he did in 2012 and 2013, because if so, he will serve as a solid lead-off hitter for a team that will be contenders in 2015.
  • RF PLATOON-Seth Smith and Justin Ruggiano: Seth Smith is coming off of a great season in San Diego with career-highs in OPS+ (135) and EOBP (at an astonishing  .101 mark). Seth Smith struggles with left-hand pitching, so Justin Ruggiano is a good platoon option for the Mariners, as he hit .305 vs. lefthanders last year. 
  • 2B Robinson Cano-FACE OF THE FRANCHISE: As we expected, Robinson Cano’s OPS last year dropped 50 points from 2013 in Yankees Stadium, one of the best hitters’ ballparks in baseball. But it is strange that his batting average was so great last year, hitting .314, in Safeco, the worst ballpark for hits in the MLB.  Now he has hit over .300 in six consecutive seasons. Pretty solid. He’s one of baseball’s elite players, for sure.
  • DH Nelson Cruz: Cruz led all of baseball in homers last year, with 40 moon-shots. That was in Camden Yards, and he has been accused of using PEDs. Nonetheless, the Mariners would be happy with 25 homers from Cruz in 2015. 
  • 3B Kyle Seager: This 27-year old North Carolina native is the total package. That’s why the Mariners just gave him a gorgeous $100M extension. He has displayed consistent power early on, with 20+ homers in each of his first three full seasons. He’s gotten better at the plate each year, and he really improved on his defense at third, winning the Gold Glove award last year. He used to be a mediocre fielder, but now he seems to have mastered fielding from the hot corner. 
  • C Mike Zunino: There’s a lot of upside for Mike Zunino, as in his first legit MLB baseball season, he led all catchers with 22 home runs. He clearly has some concerns as well. He hit .199 with a .254 OBP last season. Unacceptable, even in Safeco Field. Also, he struck out a lot, 158 times in 476 plate appearances.
  • LF Dustin Ackley: Things are looking downhill for Dustin Ackley, as he has failed to live up to his high expectations after his 2011 rookie campaign.
  • 1B Logan Morrison: Big red flag for me, to be honest. He has a big bat, and he showed that to us in 2011 when he hit 23 home runs in just 123 games. The problem is, he hasn’t been healthy. He has played in under 100 games in each of the last three seasons.  He had that knee surgery, and even on the field he hasn’t lived up to his potential. He was a top prospect when the Marlins got him, and now he’s looking for a fresh start. He still is the best option for the a Mariners at first base, for sure. 
  • SS Brad Miller: So far, Miller has been another disappointing prospect for the Mariners. He still is only 25, but that .288 OBP last year… Very unattractive.  Chris Taylor might be a better option at shortstop, as he can actually get on base. It Probably comes down to this spring training, as Brad Miller was scorching hot in 2014 spring training, with a 1.314 OPS. 

Analysis: This Seattle lineup has improved significantly with the offseason additions of Cruz, Smith, and Ruggiano (also the midseason addition of Austin Jackson). I really like how the 3-4-5 looks. I’d definitely feel intimidated as a pitcher facing that heart of the lineup. Cano, Cruz and Seager looks like trouble. And then they’ve got more power in the bottom of the lineup. Mike Zunino and Logan Morrison both can knock 20 out of the ballpark in 2015. This lineup was 25th in OPS last year,  It is hard to imagine the Mariners missing the postseason with a stellar pitching staff and now a solid batting lineup.

  • Grade: B-

Pitching Rotation

  • Felix Hernandez: Had a somewhat lucky year last year, with a remarkable .258 BABIP,  but there’s no concern. His ERA has been consistently incredible, and he should be a Cy Young contender in 2015.
  • Hisashi Iwakuma: My worry with Iwakuma is whether he will remain healthy in 2015. He is a ground ball pitcher, and pounds the zone, which is an asset. But we must remember he is 33, and he failed to repeat his 2013 campaign last year. 
  • James Paxton: This left-handed hurler took a 95 mph fastball with him to the big leagues. His fastball results in many ground balls because he throws it low in the zone, unlike most fastballs.
  • J.A. Happ: He is the opposite of Iwakuma and Paxton in a way, as he is more of a fly ball pitcher, but that hopefully won’t hurt him too bad in Safeco Field.
  • Taijuan Walker: He walks a lot of batters, but he’s one of the most exciting upcoming players in all of baseball. He’s been inconsistent in the minors, and has a bad shoulder, making him a risky player to rely on. He could be a complete bust for all we know.

Analysis: The rotation is by far the biggest strength in this Mariners ball club, as the pitching staff had a .230 BAA (1st) and a 3.17 ERA (2nd) last year. Hernandez and Iwakuma must be two of the top ten starting pitchers in the AL,  and the bottom of the rotation is one of the best in baseball. 

  • Grade: A

Bullpen

  • Fernando Rodney: He really did a fine job closing out games last year, with 48 saves in 51 tries. But a 1.34 WHIP and 6 losses are unacceptable statistics for a relief pitcher.
  • Danny Farquhar: Ever since this relief pitcher was drafted in 2008 by the Blue Jays, he has been traded all over the country, from Toronto to Oakland to Toronto to Oakland and then to the Yankees and finally to Seattle. Last year, he finally proved himself at the major league level; he posted a 2.66 ERA, and didn’t allow a run in 51 of his 66 appearances. 
  • Tom Wilhelmsen: He was their closer in 2012, and had an excellent season. But 2013 wasn’t the same, as he had a 4.12 ERA. But in 2014, when he moved to the set up man, he was was outstanding. If Rodney struggles, Lloyd McClendon won’t hesitate to give Wilhelmsen another shot in that closer role.

Analysis: The three relief pitchers mentioned all have great potential. Also they have Brandon Maurer, who was excellent in relief last season, with a 2.17 ERA in 31 appearances. Also, there are a bunch of other great relief guys on this team, including Furbush, Leone, and Medina. The biggest challenge will be deciding when it’s time to make a change in the closer role.

  • Grade: A

I know I haven’t really been doing a team every day, but that will hopefully change. Danny reaches in the black hat to randomly select the team he will be analyzing next. Here is what the slip reads the…

YANKEES! 

 

Chicago Cubs

2014 Record: 73-89

Batting lineup

  • CF Dexter Fowler: The Cubs just acquired a speedy switch-hitting 28-year old lead-off hitter in Fowler, which the Cubs are excited about, even though Fowler has been shaken up with injuries the first few years of his career.
  • SS Starlin Castro: He has had some personal issues lately, but has star potential, and had his best OPS mark in 2014, at .777. Now he actually is one of the most experienced players on this team. He might split time with youngster Addison Russell.
  • 1B Anthony Rizzo: FACE OF THE FRANCHISE- this heavy slugging lefty is only going to get better, and he’s going into his 25-26 age season.
  • RF Jorge Soler: big candidate for 2015 NL Rookie of the Year. Intimidating at the plate, but lacking durability.
  • C Miguel Montero: the Cubs have to hope for him to bounce back from his last season in Arizona if they want to win a pennant.
  • 3B Kris Bryant: Just recently named top prospect by Baseball America. Hit 43 homers in the minors last year!
  • 2B Javier Baez: another youngster in the infield, had a rough 2014 but things will turn around soon enough. He’s going to be a hit or miss player like Trumbo or Dunn, but he lacks plate discipline too. He has extreme power, and that doesn’t mix well with bad plate discipline.
  • LF Arismendy Alcantara: struggled big-time in his rookie season, but in a small sample size of 70 games. He is a very versatile baseball player; he may spend some time at 2nd and 3rd base.

Analysis: This lineup is so young! The average age of those eight players is 25! That is going to be the strongest asset for the Cubs as well as their biggest concern. The Cubs are definitely going to be a playoff contender in 2015 if the youngsters are ready. The biggest concern for this offense is whether Baez and Alcantara will play like they were projected to, not like their horrid rookie seasons. This is important because Jed Hoyer is putting his faith in these questionable performers; well, enough to play them on a regular daily basis. Nonetheless, with big bats in Castro, Rizzo, and Bryant, this offense should be a force to be reckoned with.

Grade: B+

Pitching Rotation

  • LHP Jon Lester: earlier this offseason, the Cubs offered this ace a monster 6 yrs/$155M contract. He is incredible, striking out over 200 batters and manages to stay healthy and on the field.
  • RHP Jake Arrieta: powerhouse right-handed hurler finally had his breakout year in 2014, with an incredible 2.53 ERA. His stuff is good, and he could easily continue to produce well in 2015.
  • RHP Jason Hammel: 2.98 ERA with the Cubs in 2014. He’s back in the NL, where he usually thrives.
  • RHP Kyle Hendricks: had an incredible first season, with a 2.9 WAR in 80.1 innings pitched.
  • LHP Travis Wood vs. LHP Tsuyoshi Wada: these two lefties will be fighting for the fifth spot, as Travis Wood was an All-star in 2013 and Wada had a better 2014. Wada doesn’t throw too hard, but his forkball will strike out a fair share of batters.

Analysis: Any rotation that has Jon Lester in it has an excellent chance of winning a fifth of their games just like that. Arrieta was phenomenal last season, and so was Hendricks. This rotation is a little shaky at the bottom, but it gets better and better each year.

Grade: B

Tomorrow’s team is the…..

MARINERS!

Arizona Diamondbacks

2014 record: 64-98

Batting lineup

  • CF A.J. Pollock: 2014 was supposed to be his big breakout year, before he fractured his right hand. His future remains bright, and we should see a great season from him in 2015.
  • 2B Aaron Hill: has suffered to injury ever since his incredible 5.1 oWAR 2012 season.
  • 1B Paul Goldschmidt: the face of this franchise, with 30-HR power and MVP potential.
  • RF Mark Trumbo: all-or-nothing power bat who had a left foot injury last season but could be serious danger for opposing pitchers at home.
  • 3B Yasmany Tomas: he will truly blossom in Chase Field with his intimidating heavy power bat.
  • LF David Peralta: probably will probably platoon with Cody Ross, as he struggles to hit lefties.
  • SS Chris Owings:  in his minor league career, this 23-year old has proven that he has some pop in his swing.
  • C Tuffy Gosewich: projected to be the replacement for Miguel Montero because new GM Dave Stewart says all other free agent/trade options are too expensive.

Analysis: This lineup is mediocre at best. They were 24th in OPS last year and haven’t improved significantly. They traded away two decent bats, Miguel Montero and Didi Gregorious. Also, they play in Chase Field, which is one of the top five hitter-friendly ballparks. All the injuries didn’t help though. And they did do one good thing this offseason. They shook things up with changes in their front office. They signed old veteran Athletics ace Dave Stewart as GM, De Jon Watson as senior vice president of baseball operations. They made a big move when they acquired Cuban top prospect, Yasmany Tomas. Still, this offense is certainly going to be brutal in 2015.

Grade: D+

Pitching Rotation:

  • RHP Jeremy Hellickson: has been knocked down with injuries and hasn’t performed like himself since 2011 when he won the Rookie of the Year Award.
  • RHP Josh Collmenter: actually made a great transition from the bullpen to the rotation with an incredible 2.63 ERA in Chase Field and he heated up in the second half
  • RHP Rubby De La Rosa: lacking experience, with less than 200 innings under his belt.
  • RHP Chase Anderson: had a solid rookie year in 2014, but still hasn’t proven himself.
  • LHP Vidal Nuno: his 0-7 record last year for the Diamondbacks may fool you into believing he had a much worse season than he really did, as he posted a 3.76 ERA.

Analysis: This rotation is horrendous. The majority of this rotation is terribly injury prone. The rotation lacks experience.

Grade: D-

Tomorrow’s team is the…….

CUBS!