Biggest Disappointment in Baseball

It would be really hard for anyone to find a national media outlet that did not think the Chicago White Sox would run away with the AL Central this season.  Chicago was supposed to be a World Series contender.  A loaded lineup, a rotation led by Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease and Lance Lynn, one of the games best closers in the league in Liam Hendricks.  We sit here in late September, currently the Sox are five games back of the Cleveland Guardians and have no signs of making any sort of surge. Where did it go wrong?  Here are three reasons why the White Sox stink in 2022. 

Rotation was a mess

The White Sox let Carlos Rodon walk heading into 2022.  Rodon was coming off of his best season in the majors but his injury problems made him tough to sign for a longterm deal.  But losing Rodon wasn’t a big deal because the White Sox were prepared.  They planned to bring longtime prospect Michael Kopech into the rotation. They signed veterans to fill in the gaps- Johnny Cueto and Vincent Velasquez.  They also had the always reliable Dallas Keuchel, oh wait he was an abomination. 

Keuchel’s downfall was unexpected but the real surprise came from the regression of ace Lucas Giolito. Giolito’s career has been a roller coaster of performance regression – progression and now back to regression. A lot could be attributed to bad luck, his BABIP during the 2022 season is currently at .350. It has been the walks and poor defense that led to the downfall of the season.   Giolito is walking another batter per game compared to 2021, those runners are scoring at a higher rate compared to his previous stellar seasons.  

With Giolito regressing, Michael Kopech’s inconsistency, outside of Dylan Cease Chicago had no pitcher they could rely on on a weekly basis. 

Offensive decline of Yasmani Grandal

Yasmani Grandal had a remarkable season in 2021.  His OBP was .420, with a 23% walk rate, he was also able to add some power popping 23 dingers.  2022 was a completely different story for the Sox backstop, his 71 WRC+ is an astronomical 81 point drop from last season.  His OBP dropped 120 points which could be due to his walk rate dropping so drastically.

Grandal was the guy that forced opposing pitchers to throw to the power bats in the middle of the White Sox lineup.  Without his ability to get on base and injuries to Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada limiting their production the line wasn’t able to get consistency.

Defense matters

Simple fact, defnese may be the most underappreciated element in baseball. The White Sox have been a complete disaster all season.  They rank 24th overall in defensive runs saved and currently are second to last in the league in errors. 

Chicago took the little league approach, it was more important for them to get their young developing bats in the lineup rather than put out solid defensive players.  Gavin Sheets and Andrew Vaughn are both exciting offensive players, but they both profile as first baseman rather than corner outfielders.  First baseman is a position that is currently occupied by former AL MVP Jose Abreu and the DH spot was occupied by slugger Eloy Jimenez (not an upgrade defensively).  Sheets and Vaughn have combined for a total of 8 errors in the outfield and more than a couple blooper videos on youtube that will live on forever.  

The Sox infield defense has not been much better, shortstop Tim Anderson has been a defensive liability most of his career and despite an injury riddled season he still had ten errors, Jose Abreu accompanied him with 12 errors and third baseman Jake Burger added another 12 errors.  The best offense in the world is not going to help you win games when you are handing over runs every inning.  

AL Teams that benefit from expanded playoffs

Detroit Tigers

Most overlooked the Tigers in 2021.  After a brutal start to the season the young Tigers squad actually put together a respectable season finishing 77-85, finishing third in the division.  Detroit went into the offseason looking to fill out their rotation with some veteran arms and find some pop to add to the middle of the lineup.  They were successful in both. 

The Tigers added veterans Micheal Pineda and Eduardo Rodriguez to a rotation that was highlighted with young arms.  Former first overall pick Casey Mize should still be looked at as the ace of the staff but the addition of Rodriguez is an under the radar move that could make the Tigers a serious threat in the Central Division.  Rodriguez was 13-8 last year with an ERA of 4.74, his expected ERA was actually just 3.50, he was a victim of the short porches of Fenway Park on multiple occasions.  He should thrive in a much more pitcher friendly park in Detroit.  The Tigers also feature two young arms, Matt Manning and Tarik Skubal, both project to make huge strides in 2022.  The rotation will also get a huge boost with the addition of gold glover Tucker Barnhart behind the plate.  

The offense needed to add more pop in the offseason, they ranked in the bottom of baseball in isolated power. They added power hitter Javy Baez as well as announced that Spencer Torkelson will start the season on the MLB roster.  Baez brings some baggage, he is a strikeout machine that can be his own worst enemy at times but his speed and gap power should play well in Comerica Park.  Detroit still has the veteran presence of Miggy Cabrera and Jonathon Schoop in the middle of the lineup and a litany of speed throughout the lineup that puts pressure on the opposing defense.  AJ Hinch allows his team to play to their strengths and it paid off last year and should help them get to the next level in 2022.

Seattle Mariners

The Mariners were supposed to be a few years away from contention.  Top level prospects Logan Gilbert, Julio Rodriguez and Jared Kelenic were “eventually” going to find their way to the show. Rather than wait the Mariners exceeded expectations and put together an unfathomable 90 win season. Now the prospects are ready and the expectations are as high as they have ever been in Seattle.  

The Mariners won 90 games with one of the worst offenses in all of baseball, they were 30th in batting average, 28th in OBP and 22nd in isolated power.  Basically the offense needed improvement.  For the on-base percentage, they added Adam Frazier, coming off an all-star season where he featured an OBP of .368. For the power they added Jesse Winker, coming off a season where he slugged .558 and a .251 ISO, Winker can also get on base a little big with a .398 OBP.  A fully healthy Mitch Haniger will be huge for the middle of the order.  Seattle will rely on their youth to take a step forward but they have done more than enough to fill in a lineup that was loaded with holes. 

The Mariners also bolstered their rotation by adding Cy Young award winner Robbie Ray.  Ray was lights out for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2021, he will now have been playing in a much more pitcher friendly ballpark.  Despite his success last season Robbie Ray still has question marks about consistency.  Ray’s overall success can be attributed to his ability to finally throw strikes consistently.  In the disaster that was 2020, Ray’s BB/9 reached as high as 7, in 2021 he had a career best 2.42.  Behind Ray the Mariners feature the top prospect Logan Gilbert, Marco Gonzalez and Chris Flexen who are as solid as any 3-4 starters in the entire league.  They have question marks for the 5th spot but overall this is a solid rotation that can compete with any inside of the division.

The Mariner’s bullpen has Paul Sewald, Ken Giles, Drew Steckenrider and Diego Castillo.  All interchangeable parts that can close, go multiple innings or maybe even start if needed.  It’s solid and I didn’t even name everyone.

Erasing a Legend

There are always going to be strong feelings one way or the other about the “steroid” era in baseball.  While some say the boost of power saved baseball, others will tell you that it is a .  Every player will forever be followed by a question, Did you cheat?  It’s like their shadow, always following them.  They will never be able to escape it.  Yesterday the greatest star of that era felt the effects of the mistakes of many.  Barry Bonds will officially be removed from the Hall of Fame ballot.  His legacy will not be enshrined with the greatest the sport has ever seen.  Time will erase him from America’s pastime.  He is now just a name in the records books that the greats of the future will be chasing. 

Barry Bonds Resume

14-time all-star

Single season homerun champion

All time homerun champion

8-time gold glover

12-time silver slugger

2-time batting champion

7-time NL MVP

Bonds resume speaks for itself.  He could do anything on a baseball field, run, hit, throw, defend.  The definition of a  five tool player.  In a time where power was king he wore the crown and there was no one that could challenge him.  Even in his final season at the age of 43 Bonds was able to make an impact by leading the league in walks (132).  When his career ended there was little doubt that he was in the argument to be the greatest baseball player of all time.  The decision to leave him out of the hall of fame is not only wrong but it continues baseball’s unwillingness to grow.  Baseball would rather hide its history than face it.  By leaving him out they are hoping that he will be forgotten.  They cast aside the Black Sox in 1919, they cut all ties they could with Pete Rose and now they are dismissing their home run champion.  

I am not here to say Barry Bonds is a model citizen. He was disliked by the media and his teammates throughout his career. He rubbed the fanbase the wrong way on more than one occasion.  He was found guilty of perjury by a grand jury. Did he take steroids?  Yes, I think he did, but he was playing in a time where that was the norm.  He did what he had to do to stay on top of the game.  It was wrong and he was punished by the court of public opinion as well as the actual courts.  If you want to put an asterix on his plaque then do it, but to leave him out is wrong. Cooperstown is supposed to be the place where legends are immortalized.  Baseball’s entire history is supposed to be enshrined there.  If you leave out Bonds you are ignoring a whole decade of dominance. 

Erasing history is never the right decision. The MLB needs to step in and do something about this.  Bonds will forever be tarnished, but his impact on the game is undoubtable.  His legacy will be imprinted in their record books. He deserves to have his name imprinted on a plaque.  It would show growth, put him, use an asterix, just put him in.

Why the Mets stunk in 2021

It’s always hard to admit when you are wrong. It happens and this season it happened to me when I predicted that the New York Mets were going to win the NL East.  After watching a three game sweep at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals at home I realized that the New York Mets straight up stink.

On April 1st the New York Mets signed superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor to a ten-year deal.  The addition of Lindor to go along with Pete Alonso will be cornerstones of the offensive side of the ball.  The Mets organization has shown that they will do anything to get to the top of the NL East.  They continue to make moves to try and fill in their vacant spots by adding big names in the offseason.  They opened the season as one of the hottest teams in baseball, taking control of the division up until the midway point of the season.  New York went on a tailspin that they still have not gotten out of.  

Travel Issues

Teams have troubles on the road in every sport.  The best teams usually can be a few games over .500 or at the very least at .500.  If you want to compete for a playoff spot you have to be able to play on the road and the Mets are not able to do that.  Currently they are 29-44 on the road this season. In retrospect of how that has affected them in the playoff hunt, they are 5.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves who are 7 games above .500 on the road.  The difference has been the reason that they have fallen behind in the division and out of contention.

No replacements for Degrom

There is no way to replace the best pitcher in baseball. The goal of any team should be to improve the full pitching staff.  You have to find a way to mask the loss rather than look for one person to step into the role.  The Mets did their best, adding Rich Hill, Brad Hand and Trevor Williams to the pitching staff.  Unfortunately the Mets rotation saw second half regression from pitchers that they thought they could depend on.  

Tajuan Walker, Carlos Carrasco, and Tylor Megill were all supposed to be relied upon to help the Mets deal with the injury to their ace.  They all were unable to fill the hole left by the best pitcher in the game and it ultimately caved in their chances at the playoffs.

Walker over his last 15 starts is 1-8 with an ERA over 6.  Post All-Star break Walker has not won a single game.  

Carlos Carrasco was the second piece picked up in the Lindor trade.  Carrasco was not just a throw-in, in 2017 he led the league in wins and sports an impressive career ERA of just 3.82.  When healthy Carrasco was a formidable piece to any rotation.  The Met’s unfortunately did not get a healthy Carrasco, limited to just 10 starts in 2021, he has not been the pitcher of 2017 and 2018, currently he sports an unimpressive 5.82 ERA in just 44 innings.  

Tylor Megill began his 2021 season looking like a diamond in the rough for the Mets.  In July Megill was lights out, pitching 26 innings and giving up just 3 runs in his 5 starts.  Since July Megill seemed to lose his control, sporting an ERA of 7.66 over his last 5 starts.  

You can’t protect Alonso

The Mets have one of the most exciting players in baseball.  Alonso has had a solid season hitting 33 dingers and knocking in 89 runs.  The addition of Francisco Lindor was supposed to help be a table setter for the powerful Alonso, but injuries and inconsistencies at the plate hurt the entire Mets lineup.  Lindor has not been the $300 million spark plug that the Mets were hoping they got.  

Lindor has not been the only problem, an injury to Michael Conforto got him off to a slow start and lineup mainstays Jeff McNeil, Dominic Smith and JD Davis are all currently hitting well below their projected numbers.  The Mets as a team are slugging just .325, which ranks in the bottom five of the entire league. 

The Met’s did a great job in addressing this problem at the deadline by acquiring Javy Baez, despite my personal opinion of his abilities, Baez has put up more than solid numbers during his time with the organization.  His slash line of .301/.381/.565 is outstanding but his acquisition was too late for an offense that needed that spark from the start of the season. 

Why the Angels stink.

The Angels have Mike Trout and Shohei Otani.  One is currently the best baseball player alive, the other is a modern day Babe Ruth that is revolutionizing the game.  Those two player alone should make them a legit contender in any division in major league baseball.  At least, that’s what many baseball analysts believed at the start of 2021.  A popular pick to take the next step this season has been nothing but a disappointment.  They currently are 20-27 just dead last in their division.  The Angels have tons of talent but…they stink.  Why?

They signed Jose Quintana.

Blaming Quintana is harsh but honestly what did they think they were getting.  The Angels had to do something to bolster their rotation but adding Quintana wasn’t putting a bandaid on a cut it was like pouring vinegar on it. Quintana is second on the team in starts and features a glorious 8.53 ERA.  The Angels should have seen this coming, the former White Sox All-Star was coming off of his worst season in the bigs with the Chicago Cubs.  The argument could have been made that it was a small sample size and Wrigley field is a nightmare for any pitcher, but if you take a deeper dive you see that he is giving up massive hard hit rates.  Currently Quintana has a HR/Flyball rate of 21%,  that is five point higher than what was the highest of his career when he gave up a 16% HR/Flyball rate.  He is giving up the long ball like he has a contract incentive.  

The Angels have long had issues with their pitching staff and relying on a veteran that was showing regression in every major category is a huge reason why they stink.  But it is not the only reason. 

Quintana isn’t even the worst.

Signing an regressing veteran to fill in a need in your rotation is dumb. What is even dumber is spending all your money on bats when your staff is throwing BP to the opposing offenses. As a staff, the Angels are ranked dead last in ERA, dead last in WHIP, 28th in isolated power and 28th in OPS.  This pitching staff is not only bad, it is historically pathetic. 

Dylan Bundy was a great story in 2020 but he has regressed to the underwhelming pitcher that was in Baltimore. 

Grffin Canning has potential.  At least that is what I keep hearing.  I have never actually seen it but I feel like the Angels keep telling themselves that Canning is good eventually they will be right.  

The bullpen is laughable.  Mike Mayers was closing for them at one point this season.  The same Mayers that had a historically bad MLB debut with the Cardinals back in 2016 (look it up if you haven’t seen it.) 

The Angels loaded their team with top of the order bats but that they could just fill some holes in the pen and rotation.  It hasn’t worked and unless they randomly strike pitching gold, this team is going to live in the poor house.

Where is Jo Adell?

Angels top prospect Jo Adell was not an immediate impact bat when he made his debut in 2020.  While he didn’t dazzle in his first taste of the bigs he has begun the minor league season showing the potential that he possesses.  The former 10th overall pick of the Angels in 2017 has already hit 10 homeruns in just 17 games this season at triple-A.  The Angels offense has found some hidden gems over the last two seasons with Jared Walsh and David Fletcher taking over major roles in the offense but injuries have depleted alot of the offense and as a team they could use some new blood to spark the team. Also David Fletcher is horrible right now.  

Adell isn’t a big need.  The offense has been productive despite losses of key contributors throughout the season. When a team is in a funk they need to find a way to inspire and the power and youth of Adell can help overcome the problems they are having with the pitching staff. 

Why the Twins stink.

The Minnesota Twins currently sit at 13-25 after a loss Sunday to the Oakland Athletics. Currently they are  in last place in the AL Central division, a division that they have won the last two seasons. Minnesota’s rapid decline is one that has shocked the baseball world. The Chicago White Sox entered the season projected as the favorite to dethrone the division champs but we are currently 38 games into the season Minnesota looks more like a team ready to begin a rebuild rather than make a run into the playoffs. In fact no team in the last 100 years has been able to overcome losing 25 of their first 38 games to eventually make the playoffs. This was a team that was looking to not only win their division but contend for a world series.  So, the question is, why do the Twins stink?  I have a few thoughts.

Jose Berrios is not a #1 starter. 

The Twins have been waiting for Jose Berrios to take the reins as the star we seem to perceive him to be at the top of the rotation. His numbers look decent, 3.74 ERA, 26.8% K percentage and a 3.38 xFIP. Numbers don’t always tell the full story for Berrios.  He has shown an inability to dominate an opposing offense when his team needs it. His team has gone 4-4 in his starts.  His 4 wins were against Seattle, Milwaukee, Kansas City and Oakland.  Outside of Oakland the other three offenses rank at the bottom of all of major league baseball. When he pitches he gets hit hard, his barrel % is the highest it has been in his entire MLB career sitting at 12% while he has also given up his highest hard hit percentage in his career.

Berrios has had pressure to be an ace since his original call up.  The Twins have made efforts to put pitchers around Berrios but they have continued to hope he would ascend into the role rather than understand the player he is.  He is a solid, potentially all-star level pitcher that doesn’t have the ability to be the ace of a staff. Guys like Kenta Maeda, JA Happ and Michael Pineda are all similar pitchers to Berrios and that is not enough to bring this team back from a terrible start. 

Struggling stars.  

Miguel Sano, .135/.297/.257

Jorge Polanco, .244/.311/.393

Mitch Garver, .189/.255/.422

Max Kepler, .212/.304/.414

The Twins bats haven’t been the biggest issue duing the season. Luis Arreaz, Nelson Cruz and Byron Buxton have been phenomenal to start the season but after the top four of the lineup the fall off is drastic.  Minnesota was starting to see the future as top prospect Alex Kiriloff seemed to be finding his stride in the bigs until an injury derailed his progress. The Twins have a top ten team batting average but rank 25th overall in runners left on base while in scoring position.  Their top heavy lineup is getting on but the bottom can’ pick them up. For the Twins to dig themselve out of this hole they will need someone to pick up the slack.  Max Kepler has now returned from the Covid list and Jorge Polanco has begun to pick up the pace over the last few weeks.  If they can get things going the Twins offense can take off to match the top dog of the division, the Chicago White Sox.

Bullpen issues were never addressed. 

Minnesota has a bottom five pitching staff.  The starters have struggled but the bullpen has been especially troublesome.  Offseason additions Hansel Robles and Alex Colome were supposed to fill in the gaps along with Taylor Rogers.  Colome, the former White Sox closer, has been a complete bust.   Colome’s struggles are just the beginning of the troubles in the Minnesota bullpen.  The bullpen ERA is over 4 and has given up leads like they aren’t sure what they are really supposed to be doing when they enter the game.  The Twins bullpen has a combined record of 2-12 as a team, so they are not only losing tough games but they are blowing leads.  

The Twins starters are just middle of the road and they are being forced to take up more innings due to the fact that Minnesota doesn’t have a single player they can rely on to eat up innings.  Minnesota doesn’t have a lot of options in the minors, their top pitching prospect is Jordan Balazovic has the power fastball that can be a good fit in the bullpen, but in a season that may already be lost it would be stupid to mess with his progression as a starter.  If Minnesota can make a run over the next month to get themselves into playoff position they will have to use their top ten farm system to get themselves some help in the backend.  The offense still has time to rebound and the starters are veterans.  This bullpen is a problem, the biggest problem for the Twins.  It is the may reason that they stink.

Braves vs Dodgers; NLCS Preview and Prediction

The matchup of the two best teams in the national league will culminate in an epic showdown in the NLCS.  Both teams have gone undefeated throughout the first two rounds, they both feature great offenses and marquee names.  These teams have a history of winning, but not a recent history of winning the big one.  What will be the difference?  Let’s break it down. 

Can Braves pitching face the challenge?

Atlanta took some blows to their pitching staff throughout the season.  Losing offseason signees Felix Hernandez and Cole Hamels, one to injury and one to Covid worry set the Braves back right away.  The rapid decline of Mike Foltynewicz took another name off the table almost immediately into 2020.  The final straw in the deterioration of the staff was losing ace Mike Soroka to an achilles injury. 

Max Fried stepped up during the regular season. Despite getting knocked around in the NLDS he is still the clear #1 for the Braves.  Fried has limited hard contact all season holding opposing lineups to just a 23% rate.  The Dodgers are not a heavy strikeout team so limiting the contact will be important.  

Rookie Ian Anderson has been overwhelming to start his career.  He has held opposing hitters power in check so far giving up just a .7% homerun rate.  That ranks #1 in the league for any pitcher that has faced at least 156 hitters.  Anderson’s changeup has kept hitters off balance, as long as he continues to hit the strike zone and avoid free passes he matches up well with the Dodgers front line starters.  

The depth of the Braves bullpen has bailed them out from their injuries. Tyler Matzek, Will Smith, Darren O’Day and Mark Melancon all have been great with sub 3.00 ERA’s in at least 18 appearances each.  They have to ride the bullpen arms to overcome their young rotation that will have problems with the Dodgers patience at the plate. 

The Dodgers offense is matchup proof.

Los Angeles has the best offense in the league in every advanced statistic.  They have a wRC+ of 122, along with the Mets as the best in the league.  What makes the Dodgers extremely dangerous is their ability to score without utilizing the homerun.  They showed in the Padres series they have multiple ways of manufacturing runs.  There is not one person on the team that beats you, it could be anyone. 

The Braves feature an extremely young pitching staff that will have to throw strikes. The Braves sit at the bottom five in steals allowed per game.  The Dodgers will have a chance to make things happen when they get on base. 

The Braves are in the bottom five in stolen bases against during the season. The Dodgers have multiple players that can take advantage of the Braves issues with runners on.  Mookie Betts, Corey Seager, and Cody Bellinger are just a few that can swip a bag at any moment.  LA will make it tough for Atlanta as they also feature a low strikeout rate.  The power is real, accompanied by the ability to use their contact ability speed to cause trouble.  

Who will win?

Both teams feature the best offenses in the National League.  The Braves however will feature a rotation that includes Kyle Wright….and nothing else.  The Dodgers feature a perfect matchup with the Braves bats Julio Urias and Dustin May both feature great movement on their pitches that will be a problem for Atlanta bats.  The depth of the Dodgers pitching will ultimately outmatch the Braves.  

Dodgers in 5

Preview and Predictions for AL first round.

Tampa Bay Rays vs. Toronto Blue Jays

The Tampa Bay Rays took the #1 seed in the American League by playing every matchup perfectly throughout the season.  Dealing with injuries up and down the lineup and rotation they seemed to find the right mixes to be successful no matter what.  They will face an opponent that knows them very well in the Toronto Blue Jays.  

The Blue Jays have a powerful lineup, seeing a surge from Lourdes Gourriel Jr. over the last month to go along with Bo Bichette, Vlad Guerrero and Teoscar Hernandez.  Toronto actually has the advantage on the offensive side, averaging 5 runs per game.  The Blue Jays offense will be the lone advantage they have in this series.

Tampa Bay marches out a rotation of Blake Snell in GM1, Tyler Glasnow in GM2 and Charlie Morton in GM3.  Their rotation along with the best bullpen in baseball will be enough to hold down the Toronto offense.  Tampa Bay’s offense plays the matchup game very well and will be too much for the Blue Jays. Toronto’s best chance will be in game two when they have off-season signing Hyun Jin Ryu who brings some experience in a playoff setting, but the Rays have some great right-handed bats that will thrive. Rays are built for this situation. 

Pick: Rays in 2

Cleveland Indians vs. New York Yankees

The Yankees narrowly avoided a matchup with their “daddys” in 2020 the Tampa Bay Rays.  Instead they get the Cleveland Indians and potential MVP and guaranteed Cy Young winner Shane Bieber in game one.  Bieber versus Cole in game one will be a classic matchup of two bulldog pitchers that will go deep in the game and the first one to miss a spot is going to likely give up the game. The big problem for the Indians is that their lineup doesn’t feature nearly the amount of hitters that can provide the big pop when needed. 

Cleveland’s pitching will give them a chance but their team batting average of .228 and a major lack of power ranking 27th in the league in team ISO.  Jose Ramirez has carried the offense of late but he will need help against the powerful Yankee bats.  New York is healthy again and has the horses in the bullpen to clean up any trouble the starters run into.  Indians don’t have enough to pull this one out. 

Pick: Yankees in 3

Minnesota Twins vs. Houston Astros

The Twins have not won a playoff game in a very long time, losing 16 straight playoff games dating back to 2004.  This series should give the Twins their first game win and series win.  The Astros have dealt with a loss of injuries in 2020, yet somehow found themselves in the playoff due the new expansion. Houston has been offensively challenged at times in 2020.  Recently seeing a resurgence of power with George Springer and Alex Bregman.  Still the Astros have a team ISO ranking 18th in the league and team batting average of .240 ranking 20th in the league.  

Minnesota has the advantage with their rotation for the first two games going with Kenta Maeda and Jose Berrios in the first two games.  At this point the Astros have only announced Zack Greinke as their game one starter with the other TBD.  Minnesota loves right handed pitching, as a team they are #1 in the league in overall home run percentage versus righties.  That is a big factor in the Minnesota offense as they are a team that thrives on scoring runs due to the long ball.  

The Astros haven’t announced who will start game 2 or game 3 yet, my money would go on Framber Valdez to offset Minnesota’s dominant numbers against right handed pitching. The Twins have more depth in the bullpen, rotation and lineup.  They have to get over the mental hump of consistent playoff losses.  They have the talent and should make quick work of the injury riddled Houston Astros. 

Pick: Twins in 2

Oakland Athletics vs Chicago White Sox

I’ve reviewed the Oakland Athletics numbers over and over again and still can’t figure out how the Athletics score runs.  Horrible seasons from Matt Olson, Khris Davis, Marcus Semien and Ramon Laureano, coupled with losing Matt Chapman for the season has left the lineup underwhelming. The pitching staff has stepped up to mask the offensive problems.  The Athletics bullpen has been impressive, leading to the Athletics having a record of 27-0 when leading after the 7th inning.  Liam Hendricks, Yusmeiro Petit, and Jake Diekmann have been lights out for the Athletics all season.  

The Athletics are going to go with Sean Manaea in game one despite the immaculate White Sox record against left-handed pitching. Breakout starter Chris Bassit will likely pitch game 2. Oakland is going to have to get a lead early and that will be tough against the White Sox top two starters Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel. 

The White Sox offense is better in nearly every single position bat for bat and if they are able to grab a lead I can’t see the Athletics offense being able to come back.   Chicago has found a niche in the back end with Alex Colome being set up by Matt Foster, Aaron Bummer and their new weapon rookie Garrett Crochet.  The White Sox have more talent and better pitching.  The Athletics have the experience.  The talent will win out in a short series.  

Who steps up for Mikolas?

The return of Carlos Martinez to the rotation should have been a celebration in the city featuring the best fans in baseball.  The eccentric “Tsunami” bringing his big personality and elite level stuff back into the rotation should have been a huge step in the right direction for a Cardinals rotation that is widely known for their depth. It did not go as planned, Martinez getting smacked around for six runs over two innings. The Cardinals will need better outings from their former ace and closer going forward with the news of the injury to Miles Mikolas, sidelining him for the remainder of 2020.  Martinez isn’t the only one that is going to have to step up for the Cardinals; there are multiple players that are going to need to take the next step fast.  

Austin Gomber 

Gomber played the role of long reliever and janitor, cleaning up the mess that Martinez made on the mound at Target Field.  Gomber pitched 1.2 innings striking out one and holding down the powerful Twins lineup long enough to attempt a comeback.  

Gomber’s immediate role looks like he will be in the mop up role for all starters that struggle out of the gate.  Rather than utilize him as a primarily left handed stopper he will be looked upon to eat up an average of two innings per appearance. He has two plus pitches he can utilize out of the pen, making him perfect for the current landscape of the MLB.   

The lengthy lefty brings a better pace to the game rather than Daniel Ponce de Leon.  He can come in and immediately throw strikes which has been an issue in the past for Ponce de Leon. 

Ryan Helsley

At one time he was considered a potential starter, coming into the season he was considered a possible closer.  Now he will be put into a premier setup role. Helsley will be looked at to pitch multiple innings in order to get to closer, Kwang Hyun Kim.  

If Kim is forced into the rotation Helsley is ready to slip straight into the closer role.  His ability to get out batters from both sides of the plate make him an instant successor based on the needs of the organization.  Helsley has the ability and poise to take the spot and run with it.  

Kodi Whitley

Whitley unexpectedly excelled in 2019 at both double-A and triple-A.  Whitley has the ability to miss bats averaging 10K/9 through both levels.  With Ryan Helsely and Giovanny Gallegos being forced into more multi-inning roles throughout the shortened season more opportunity could come Whitely’s way down the stretch in big moments.  

Whitley was utilized in relief against the Twins middle of the order that featured Josh Donaldson, Jorge Polanco and Nelson Cruz.  Whitley showed his mid-90s fastball and an exceptional change up that was able to keep the powerful bats off balance.  The Cardinals will be giving the 25-year old hurler a chance to become a more important factor earlier than planned but he has the stuff to be great.

The Cardinals bullpen has been stellar to start the season.  They have cleaned up the messes made by Carlos Martinez and Dakota Hudson.  In the format they will have to continue to be leaned on throughout the season.  Hudson and Martinez will improve but it will take more than a single person to overcome the loss of an innings eater like Mikolas.  The organization will need to continue to trust their young arms and they will be rewarded. 

Now if the offense could just get going….