Grading NL Central Offseason- Right Now

Pittsburgh Pirates: D

It was a quiet winter in the steel city adding just outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall whom you would think is just competing for a bench spot. The loss of Josh Harrison will hurt from a clubhouse perspective, while Ivan Nova’s movement will hurt from an innings eating perspective.

The Pirates would have a much higher grade if you considered the work they did at the trade deadline.  Having a full year of Chris Archer will make a difference for a team that was a surprising contender for a large part of 2018. Archer adds to their rotation that also features young stars in the making Jameson Taillon and Trevor Williams, making as solid top three.   The depth of the rotation takes a little plunge after that.

Cincinnati Reds: B+

The Reds got a B+ mainly for unloading the contract of Homer Bailey.  Getting rid of Bailey seemed like only a dream at the beginning of the offseason but they were able to do it while bringing in a potential steal of talent in Yasiel Puig.  While Puig has not lived up to the original hype he still brings some excitement to a Red’s organization that needed to show their fans that they are still trying to win.

The Reds were able to add some nice pieces to their rotation with former Dodger lefty Alex Wood and former Nationals righty Tanner Roark.  Both add depth to a very thin rotation.  These players both come from winning organizations which can only help the young starters during a season the season.

While trades were the main story the resigning of hard throwing closer Raisel Iglesias is an underappreciated move.  The Reds are not going to be frontrunners for the division next season, but their moves have made them no longer a push over.

Chicago Cubs: D-

Not that there was much expectation in the Chicago offseason with a cash strapped team but making virtually no improvements is never going to grade out well.  The Cubs should be getting back the services of last season’s big acquisition Yu Darvish. They will also have a full season of Cole Hamels.  The Cubs are hoping reclamation project Kendall Graverman still has something in the tank.

The rotation will be stronger to start the season. But the bullpen will still be a problem in the back end.  Uncertainty of the injury to Brandon Morrow and thee losses of Justin Wilson and Jesse Chavez leave the Cubs very vulnerable if there are any further injuries. 

Replacing Tommy La Stella with Daniel Descalso is a nice upgrade but other than that not much to say here.

Milwaukee Brewers: C+

We you have a team with very few holes you would think they would look to fill those holes.  Added another starter was a sensible move for the defending division champs.  Instead the added to the opposite end by adding the best catcher on the market Yasmani Grandal.  An already potent lineup made themselves even more dangerous.  Grandal whose offense has always been the story of his career, but his defense has been an underrated aspect of his career for a long time.  Grandal ranked first in the league pitch framing ahead of defensive juggernauts Yadier Molina and Jeff Mathis

The Brewers chose to nontender their two lefties opening up a spot for former Rangers closer Alex Claudio.  Claudio will have to pick up the slack of a few different lost relievers. He’s held opposing lefties to a .194/.220/.278 line in 315 total plate appearances over his five-year career, thanks in part to a deceptive delivery.

The Brewers getting a C+ is based off of their previous work.  The 2018 offseason and trade deadline were clearly an A+.  I would have liked to see the Brewers bring back a second baseman that is more proven rather than have Cory Spangenberg play hold over for top prospect Keston Huira. 

Bonus points for trading away Domingo Santana, he deserved a shot to play every day.

St. Louis Cardinals- A-

The Cardinals needed a corner infield and a reliver.  They added the best first baseman in the majors for a group of players that were not going to be a part of their plans in the 2019 season. Luke Weaver had fallen out of favor, Carson Kelly was quietly becoming too old to be a prospect and I couldn’t remember the other guy’s name, but he was a 26-year old infielder. 


The Cardinals didn’t stop at Goldschmidt adding long time reliver Andrew Miller to the fold, while he is not considered a closer he gives the Cardinals a lot of options at the backend.

St. Louis gets an A- because they still have a need for a bonifide closer and there is a gap in right field.  Still the Cardinal had a very successful winter.

Five MLB Signings that are affecting the market.

The last two off seasons have a been a nightmare for MLB free agents.  In a time of big revenue for top market teams you would think that money would not be an issue and we would see the spending wars of the mid 2000’s.  What was once an arms race has turned into nothing more than a pity party.  Just ask Mike Moustakas and Greg Holland last season. The value of prospects, international money and draft picks has changed the way a lot of team construct their rosters. While there has been a culture change for most front offices, mistakes of others are also a factor in longer term deals.  These are the worst five contracts that have affected the current market.

5. Jordan Zimmermann, Detroit Tigers, 5-year $110 Million

Zimmerman was a hot commodity when he hit free agency after the 2015 season. All Star appearances in 2013 and 2014, winning 13 games in 2015, Zimmerman was arguably the biggest free agent starting pitcher name on the market.  The Tigers bit on the hype and signed Zimmerman to a hefty contract. At the time it looked like a great fit for a Tigers team that was looking to contend for a championship going into 2016.  The wheels feel of for Detroit and they feel into the bottom of their own division.  Zimmermann was not much help carrying a 5.13 ERA in three injury-plagued seasons in Detroit, and he’s still owed another $25 million in each of the next two seasons. 

Zimmerman’s poor play and massive contract have may him an impossible trade piece. Luckily for the Tigers Zimmerman should come off the books around the same time that the young pieces they have assembled can take form.

4. Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels, 10-year $240 Million

Albert is not higher on this list because he has been able to produce some over his seven seasons with the Angels. Producing two seasons of +4 WAR and one season hitting 40 HR.  Overall though this contract has put the Angels in a tough position.  Currently having the best player in the world on your roster you would hope to add something around him.  The Pujols contract and inability to play a position has hamstrung the organization.

Pujols was able to give the fans some memorable moments hitting his 500th and 600th homeruns as a member of the Halos.  Other than that, he has primarily been a burden. He is also due another $87 million over the next three seasons. Hopefully, it was all worth it for the Angels, who have gone just 576-551 with one playoff appearance since signing him.

3. Jacoby Ellsbury, New York Yankees, 7-year $153 Million

Second place in MVP voting in 2011, 52 steals in 2013.  Speed, power and defense, Ellsbury seemed to have it all going into the offseason of 2013.  The New York Yankees made an offer to the 29-year-old that seemed like a smart move on a great player in his prime.  Fast forward to 2019.  Ellsbury is entering the 5th year of his massive deal, still due another $42 million over the next two seasons not including the buyout of another $5 million in 2022 the Yankees have basically considered him a wash.

Jacoby didn’t play a single game in 2018 and has already been considered an afterthought in the stacked Yankee outfield.  If he is healthy enough to play, would they really even play him? His first season in pinstripes was solid with an OPS of .747 adding 39 steals, that’s basically all they got or their $153 million.

2. Pablo Sandoval, Boston Red Sox, 5-year $90 Million (2014)

In 2015 Pablo Sandoval cashed in on his Giants playoff heroics.  The Red Sox signed Pablo to a 5-year, $90 million-dollar contract.  The most memorable moment in his Red Sox career was when he took a swing and broke his belt in the process.  That belt took a bigger beating then the ball ever did off his bat while in Boston. Three seasons in Boston Sandoval played a total of 161 games.  That’s right a five-year contract got the Red Sox the equivalent of one season. In those games Sandoval hit .237 with 14 homers.  Not much more to say about this one.  His time in Boston effectively ended the legend of the Kung Fu Panda.

1. Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles, 7-year $161 Million

Chris Davis was always boom or bust player. When Davis signed his “mega deal” homeruns were not at a premium. From 2013 to 2015 the MLB average for homeruns per game was only .94.  Not realizing that the change in MLB culture was coming the Orioles thought they had a unique and mesmerizing player.  At the time of the deal it made sense, looking at it now makes Orioles fans sick to their stomach. 

Davis hasn’t just been bad, he has been historically awful. Hitting just .168 in 2018 Davis found himself out of the lineup for the last place Orioles.  This team was in last place and still couldn’t find a way to play him!  Oh, and he’s still owed another $94 million over the next four seasons. There are no signs that this is going to get any better for him — or for the team.

Dexter Fowler- 2019’s Most Important Player?

The saga of Dexter Fowler is sickening to pretty much all Cardinals fans.  His 2018 regression was historically awful, his perceived love of the Chicago Cubs is inexcusable.  Nevertheless, entering into the 2019 season, he may be the most important piece to a team that seems primed to get back to the playoffs. 

Fowler is not what Cardinals fans want, he’s not Bryce Harper. It’s time to accept the fact that most likely the Cardinals will enter the season with Fowler as the projected starting right fielder. He will play the role of either #2 hitter setting up for offseason pickup Paul Goldschmidt or he will be batting in the 6th spot protecting the bigger bats.  .180/.278/.298 are numbers you expect to see from a Starting Pitcher rather than your $16.5 million per year starting outfielder.  But to say that he repeats those numbers is almost unfathomable. In Fowler’s worst season outside of 2018 the lowest OBP he recorded was .364 in 2015, his lowest OPS .757 also in 2015. Whether it was the reported depression, injury or who knows what else, regression of that level is unheard of in major league history. 

While the Cardinals may never have the man to live up the contract that was signed in the offseason of 2016 realistically they don’t need the Fowler that posted an .840 and .851 OPS in 2016 and 2017.  They need a Fowler that can be at his career average at best to be successful. Despite his dreadful 2018 Fowler still has a career OPS of .780 nearly 60 points higher than the MLB average was in 2018.  Looking at the 2018 playoff teams worst OPS player you can see that all the Cardinals would need is a below average season from Fowler to get what they need.

Rockies, Ian Desmond, 160 games, .729 OPS

Brewers, Ryan Braun, 125 games, .782 OPS

Dodgers, Chris Taylor, 155 games, .775 OPS

Braves, Ender Inciarte, 156 games, .705 OPS

Combined average = .747 OPS

Fowler would need to be at just a .747 OPS to be where the Cardinals would need him to be. As previously stated only one time in his career has he posted an OPS below that mark (last season). While they were small, Fowler did show signs of life before his foot injury raising his OPS to .659 when compared to his June .412.  He added three homeruns in 64 at-bats in July compared to the zero he had in 55 at-bats in June.  Signs of life were there but quickly faded after getting hit by a pitch in early August. 

His defense has been the subject of criticism as well last season, but he was never touted as a Gold Glover before being signed.  With the addition of Paul Goldschmidt the Cardinals now have at least four potential Gold Glove winners, Bader, Wong, Yadi, Goldy and a past winner in Marcell Ozuna.  Any issues Fowler has in the field should be covered by the play of those around him.  He isn’t worse than Jose Martinez and the Cardinals were fine with risking their defense for the bigger bat. 

I want Bryce Harper, I want Tyler O’Neil to get more at bats.  But seemingly that is not going to be a guaranteed option unless the Cardinals are willing to eat $41 million over the next two seasons.  The Cardinals are not going to do that, they are going to ride with Fowler until they are forced to realize that he has nothing left.  This team now has its cornerstone bat in the middle of the order, they have the pitching staff that can give them a chance to win every night. All they need is a small piece of the player they believed they had signed to be successful.  It’s there, hopefully we see it.

@italksportsti

NL Wildcard Game Preview

Colorado Rockies at Chicago Cubs

The Colorado Rockies entered the 2018 NL Wildcard Game with a pretty large disadvantage.  Losing a tough game to division rival LA in the afternoon and having to jump on a plan and go half way around the country to face one of the best playoff pitchers of the last ten year in Jon Lester.  Not only are they facing Lester but they are facing a team that has found themselves in the NLCS the last three years.  Let’s look compare and pick the NL Wildcard Game.

Starting Pitcher- Advantage Cubs or maybe not.

Jon Lester stands out when you compare the two lefties, but is his experience really enough.  Lester has faced the Rockies hitters an astonishing 138 times in his career. The most being veteran Matt Holliday who has crushed Lester to a .467 career batting average.  I don’t know if Bud Black has the confidence to start the veteran in this do or die game but if he did it would make sense when looking at the numbers.  Playing Holiday would most likely mean red hot youngster David Dahl would be taking a seat.  If Holiday does get the start it would not be long before he is replaced for defense or base running.

Rockies starter Kyle Freeland has had a breakout season, the 25 year old lefty went 18-8 with a 2.85ERA.  Quietly establishing himself as a go to starter for Bud Black.  Surprsingly Freeland actually has better numbers at Coors Field then he does on the road sporting a prolific 2.40ERA in the historically hitter friendly park.  Freeland was no slouch on the road either posting just 3.23ERA.  Freeland’s most intriguing stat line is just giving up 6 homers in 103 innings on the road.  Against a powerful Cubs lineup he will need to make sure and limit the damage that can come in bunches.  Kris Bryant has the best numbers against Freeland but the sample size is to small to overreact.

I like the matchup of Freeland vs the Cubs lefties but you can’t ignore the experience of the veteran Lester.  Slight advantage in starting pitching to the Cubbies.  Very slight.

Batting Order- Advantage Rockies

Colorado has pop and speed from 1-7 in their order.  Tony Wolters (assuming he starts) may also quietly have an advantage over Lester, going 2-4 with a walk in 5 career AB’s versus the veteran.  Nolan Arenado is a better hitter the Javy Baez and the Rockies have multiple threats to deal with including a surging Trevor Story and an always dangerous Charlie Blackmon.  I think it is the potential of the bench bats like Gerardo Parra and Matt Holliday that set the Rockies a part from the Cubbies.

The Cubs are no slouches.  Kris Bryant, Javy Baez and Anthony Rizzo are as good a middle of the order that you will have in the league but Baez can be inconsistent and over anxious at times. Bryant will be the key to this game, I can see him being in big spots and coming through against Freeland.  Albert Almora will also play a big factor if he gets the start.

Both lineup are potent but with the lefty on the mound I am giving a slight edge to the Rockies.  Their depth is just a little better, I can also see them trying to take advantage of Lester on the base paths.

Bullpen- Advantage, who knows.

The Rockies spent money in the off season trying to rebuild a bullpen that was not good to say the least.  Wade Davis and Bryan Shaw have not lived up to the money they were paid but they still have the experience in a big game atmosphere to be effective.  With all hands on deck for an elimination game I would not be surprised to see Jon Gray and Adam Ottavino very early in this game.

The Cubs have made it work with their bullpen despite injuries to Pedro Strop and Brandin Morrow.  With the season on the line we could see a quick trigger from Joe Maddon.  Steve Cishek and Justin Wilson will be assets that an be targeted at any point of the game.

Both of these teams have their issues in the bullpen but I have to lean to the Rockies in this situation.  Wade Davis has been bad this year, but he is the most sure thing in a closing roll that either team has.  So advantage Rockies.

Who will win?

This game is tough.  Everything points to the Cubs winning.  They are better rested, have the more proven starter and a veteran lineup.  So, I am going to go with the Rockies.  Colorado will make life hell for Lester on the basepaths and force mistakes.  Joe Maddon is the best hope for Chicago.  His history of making the right decisions in a pinch will make it a great game.

Rockies upset Cubs 6-3.

MLB DFS Lineup- Sept 18

Haven’t posted a DFS Lineup in awhile, but I like a few matchups tonight that I think can be exploited.  May make a few changes once official Lineups come out.  All prices are based off of Draftkings.

P: Jake Odorizzi vs Detroit  ($8,000)

P: Joey Lucchessi vs San Francisco ($7,600)

C: Danny Jansen, Toronto Blue Jays ($3,600)

1B: Ji-Man Choi, Tampa Bay Rays ($4,500)

2B: Joey Wendle, Tampa Bay Rays ($4,200)

3B: Eugenio Suarez, Cincinnati Reds ($4,400)

SS: Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians ($5,500)

OF: Lorenzo Cain, Milwaukee Brewers ($4,500)

OF: Kiki Hernandez, Los Angeles Dodgers ($3,900)

OF: Billy Mckinney, Toronto Blue Jays ($3,700)

I like the matchup of Lucchessi vs a depleted Giants lineup.  He has had success against them along with some serious strikeout potential.  Teaming him up with Jake Odorizzi could be great low level cost pitchers allowing you to grab some bigger bats.

The bigger bats I went with wer Francisco Lindor, Lorenzo Cain and Ji Man Choi.  Choi has been crushing the ball especially vs righties this season.  The Rays should be a popular stack playing in Texas and facing the explodable Yovanni Gallardo.

Good luck!

2018 Nationals: What went wrong?

The 2018 Washington Nationals entered the seasons as clear favorites in the National League East race, potentially favorites for the National League Championship.  They would be at the forefront of the baseball world as they were set to host the 2018 All Star Game. With a rotation that featured Stephen Strasburg Gio Gonzalez and Cy Young winner Max Scherzer that Nationals had a rotation that screamed NL crown.  Impending free agent superstar Bryce Harper was going to lead this team to the next level, potentially convincing him to stay in Washington after rather then hit free agency in 2019.  As it so often happens in sports though projections and hype are tough to live up to.The Nationals currently sit one game under .500 at 69-70 a shocking 7.5 games back of the first place Atlanta Braves and 4.5 games behind the second place Philadelphia Phillies. A team projected to win their division by most sits in third and is showing no signs of progression.  We are left to ask, What went wrong?

There have been multiple players that have underperformed for the Nationals in 2018 but we have to point the finger at the guy looking to cash in over the winter of 2019. After a strong start to the year, he’s all but collapsed. Harper posted a .986 April OPS, followed by an .856 May and a .675 June, one of the worst monthly performances of his career. By Baseball-Reference’s numbers, he’s only barely classified as a productive player for the season, with 0.1 WAR. That puts him below the batting value of two of the team’s pitchers. (Scherzer, with 0.3 offensive wins above replacement, and A.J. Cole, with 0.2.) While Harper struggled the team struggled as the Nationals fell below .500 for the first time in the season on July 4th.

Blaming Harper is the easiest route especially for those who believe he is a bit overvalued in today’s baseball standards (I am one of those people).  Injuries plagued this team as well.  Injuries that included former #1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg led to a decline in a starting rotation that seemed to be carrying a sluggish offense. Strasburg’s injury seemed to be the final unravelling of a team that was on the brink of falling a part.  The Washington rotation outside of Max Scherzer fell a part to a tune of 5.36 ERA during the time he was absent. Despite the tailspin Nationals management was not giving up on the season, picking up long time Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera to sure up the back end of the bullpen that has been in question for multiple years.  This signified the commitment to try and make one last run for the playoffs that was quickly dwindling away.

The pick up had little effect on a team that seemed to have all but given up.  As the trade deadline approached Washington saw no hope in continuing its efforts.  Announcing that for the right price Bryce Harper would be up for grabs.  There were no takers for the 25 year old soon to be free agent.  Washington was stuck, a season going no where a star that is sure to leave.  It was team to unload what they could.  Daniel Murphy, Matt Adams, Ryan Madson were all sent packing to teams that were truly contending.  The Nationals 2018 season was all but done.

Moving on from Dusty Baker and solidifying the bullpen was suppose to make this team the better. They followed all the prototypes of a contender, deciding not to resign aging veteran Jayson Werth, calling up phenom Juan Soto, returning Adam Eaton to the lineup.  Everything made sense for them.  But there is something that this team has had trouble with since their move to Washington.  Team chemistry has been an issue.  Fights in the dugout and lack of true leadership has always been an issue.  Bryce Harper is a once in a generation talent, but from the start of his career he has been thrust to a position that only mature players can make work.  He is not a leader, he is just a great player.  Losing Jayson Werth, an under appreciated voice of the locker room with experience as long as his grizzly beard was a lose that people did not take into account.  An inexperienced manager that has never had to make big decisions cost them games down the stretch.  Injuries to a bullpen that was suppose to be “fixed” put them in a situation where they currently only have two players that were on the opening day bullpen.

I am a believer in great talent but sometimes you have to have the veterans around them to make it work.  Anthony Rendon, Bryce Harper, Trea Turner and Juan Soto are great talents that you can build around, but they are not leaders.  This team still has a bright future even without Harper in 2019.  Victor Robles would most likely assume his role with the team next year and the return of a strong rotation will put them in the race with the Braves and the Phillies.   This team’s 2018 was a bust but they can have a fresh start next year with a huge shadow of Bryce Harper gone.  Nationals fans will miss their superstar but maybe its better that he is gone.

 

Each teams most important player down the stretch!

As the MLB season winds down it is time to find out which teams are prepared for a playoff push or just to get pushed.  There are five teams on the outside of the National League playoffs that will need contributions from players that can give them that push.  Who are they?

St. Louis Cardinals- Paul DeJong

The St. Louis Cardinals have lacked a power bat in their lineup since the departure of Albert Pujols.  Marcell Ozuna was supposed to be that player but has not shown the power of his previous season in Miami.  DeJong’s productions can be a huge contribution to a St. Louis order that tends to struggle to put runs on the board. During the month of August his contributions have been minimal despite the Cardinals beginning to show life winning nine straight games at one point.

As the Cardinals continue to fight their way to a potential wildcard they will need the productions from one of their most powerful forces in the lineup.  Being a player that put his name on the map in 2017 with a ridiculous .333 ISO he has the potential to make a serious impact in the middle of the St. Louis order.   If he can’t pickup the power statistics St. Louis will have a problem scoring runs down the stretch, especially if MVP candidate eventually comes back down to earth.

Milwaukee Brewers- Cory Knebel

The Milwaukee Brewers added a lot of power during the trade deadline.  They didn’t however address one of the needs many thought they would, their starting rotation.  Instead the Brewers will look to get what they can from the rotation and have their strong bullpen figure out the backend.  All-Stars Josh Hader and the reborn Jeremy Jefferess have done their part to keep the Brewers in the race.

2017 breakout Corey Knebel has not found his form during the second half of the season.  He currently holds a second half ERA of 6.75 and has become a liability on the mound.  Knebel has not only had issues with walks but players are have been hitting him hard with a hard hit percentage 11% higher then 2017.  For the Brewers to find their way into the playoffs they will have to rely on their bullpen for 3+ inning most nights.  Knebel returning to his All Star form is the key to their success.

Colorado Rockies- Wade Davis

Positive, Wade Davis has 35 saves in 2018.  Negative, Wade Davis has a 4.99ERA.  The biggest off season signing for the Rockies has had an up and down first season with Colorado but his playoff experience is going to be huge for the young club over the final few weeks of the season.

Davis has seemed to find his way over his last five appearances picking up 3 saves and not giving up a single run in that span.  Those appearances brought his August ERA down to 9.82.  He has to build off of those games as the Rockies have little to no room for late inning blow ups down the stretch.  Davis and the other Rockies bullpen arms have to hold on to leads in order to make them a real threat in the both the wild card and the division hunt.

Los Angeles Dodgers- Walker Buehler

With the lose of Kenley Jansen for an unknown amount of time the Dodgers will have need someone to step up at the backend of the bullpen.  They will also need their starters to step up for more innings down the stretch.  With four veterans Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda and Alex Wood in the rotation the one guy that will need to give them a little more length is star prospect Walker Buehler.

Over his last three August starts Buehler has shown the promise that Dodgers brass have banked on coming into the season going 2-0 with a 1.47ERA.  He has also given six innings per start which is all you can ask of a young pitcher down the stretch.  If Buehler can continue to produce solid outings the Dodgers could be in a great spot to overtake the unproven Arizona Diamondbacks in the West.

Philadelphia Phillies- Carlos Santana

Carlos Santana was a surprise offseason signing from the young and thought to be rebuilding Philadelphia Phillies.  His defense and power seemed like a perfect fit for a time on the rise in the NL East.  To the surprise of many in the baseball world the Phillies have been in the thick of the race the entire season.

Santana will have to be the force in the order that the fighting Phils thought they had signed in order to make the playoff push.  With Rhys Hoskins taking on the role of offensive leader, it will be up to Santana to produce enough to force pitchers to throw to Hoskins or pay the consequences.  While Santana has provided some power with 18 homers on the season, the Phillies need to have more consistency day to day.  A .218 average from your four hole hitter will not scare teams enough to pitch to the hotter bats in the lineup.  If Santana can’t find a way to produce the lineup depth for the Phillies ends very quickly.

 

 

Matt Carpenter the best at the top.

Matt Carpenter has entered himself into the National League MVP race over the last two months of the 2018 season after many wrote him off, including yours truly.   I went so far as to write an article about the Cardinals moving Tommy Pham into the leadoff position was what was best for the St. Louis Cardinals.  Just like Carpenter and his salsa I am ready to eat my words.  Carpenter has found himself in this situation while being primarily in the lead off role. His potential MVP status has opened my eyes to the evolution of the lead off hitter as a force in MLB lineups.

Traditionalist have a predetermined idea that a leadoff hitter should be someone with speed. A player that can turn a single into a double or even triple by being on the move. But today’s MLB doesn’t work that way anymore.  Baseball is a game of statistics as well as ever changing dynamics.  Players like Billy Hamilton and Dee Gordon can change the game with their speed, but they are the leadoff hitters of the past.   The new form of leadoff hitters are players that force a pitcher to be on their game right away or be down by one run.

Today’s leadoff hitters focus more about getting on base and provide much more power.  Look at the impact that George Springer had for the World Champion Astros during their great 2017 run in the playoffs.  Springer was able to jump on get me over fastballs to start the game and put an immediate run on the board.  Lead off hitters now rely on patience and launch angles to beat up on the opposition rather than using their speed.

Look at a list of impactful leadoff men in today’s game and see that there is a new trend in the game.  Joining George Springer are star caliber players like Charlie Blackmon, Mookie Betts, Anthony Rizzo, Corey Dickerson, and even Bryce Harper have spent time in the leadoff spot for their respective teams.  Managers are beginning to understand that their best hitters will not only be getting more at bats but they will also be in a position to see a few get me over fastballs that can be deposited in the seats.  Instead of pitchers trying to pitch around these players they are forced to pitch to them at least once rather than start a game with a runner on base.

Matt Carpenter is currently leading the National League in homeruns. While a large portion of those homeruns are solo shots he is still making an impact from the lead off position.  What is overlooked is that he has the protection of the middle of the order forcing pitchers to throw to him.  The worst thing a pitcher can do is to put a man on in front of the middle of the order.  Carpenter has to see strikes, he has to be challenged and he more you challenge him the better he has been.  This is the new idea of lead off hitters.  In a way its like a slow pitch softball approach, why not get your best player as many at bats as you possibly can?

All Star Snubs, Who they should replace.

All Star games are for the fans first and foremost.  Most of the time the fans make a wrong choice here and there to get a fan favorite in the game…Bryce Harper.  For the mot part the fans got the teams right.  Still there are times where even with the help of the coaches, players and fans the choice are wrong.  Let’s dive into the five biggest mistakes.

Eddie Rosario, OF, Twins.  Should replace: Michael Brantley

Eddie Rosario has struggled over the last few weeks when compared to the start of the season.  Still he owns nearly every statistical advantage over Indians left fielder Michael Brantley.

Brantley, 11HR, 49RBI, .306/.351/.490

Rosario, 18HR, 53RBI, .301/.342/.536

Brantley has the luxury of playing along side stars like Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez and Edwin Encarnacion.  He has protection all around him as well as many more chances to knock in runs on a team that is loaded with talent.  Rosario features a lineup with the minimal protection.  Currently hitting in front of career utility man Eduardo Escobar has made him target for pitching around.  I get that the Indians are a superior team, but rewarding their 4th best position player with a spot on the All Star team seems a bit ridiculous.



Blake Snell, P, Tampa Bay Rays.  Should Replace: Joe Jimenez

Blake Snell could be he best pitcher in the entire American League…right now.  Snell owns the American Leagues best ERA (2.09) as well as an impressive 12-4 record.    Despite his ideal numbers Snell has fallen victim to another player on his teams success.  With his catcher Wilson Ramos making the team it seemed as if it was decided that the Rays are only allowed one representative. Snell should not only consider this a snub, he should be asking why he isn’t starting the All Star game.

This injustice continues when you see a guy like Joe Jimenez on the roster.  The Tigers are a sinking ship that will be looking to unload every last bit of extra cargo at the trade deadline.  I have never been a proponent of every team should have an all star, but if you are going to have one, make sure they chose the right all star.  Joe Jimenez has had a fine season but a reliever with a solid but not overly impressive 2.45ERA should not be in the All Star game.



Yadier Molina, C, St. Louis Cardinal. Should replace: Buster Posey

Buster Posey is a future Hall of Famer.  He is a former MVP, no doubt he deserves a shot at the All Star game.  This year he should have fell short of that honor.  It has nothing to do with Posey’s abilities as a player.  This is all about the offensive output of the multi time Gold Glover Yadier Molina.  Despite missing time with an injury I choose not to speak of, Yadire Molina has put on one of his best offensive seasons in his storied career.

Molina’s 13HR 38RBI and .495Slug are all on pace to be career highs for the Cardinals backstop.  Molina’s responsibilities with a young pitching staff has made them one of the most effective staffs in years despite dealing with a flurry of injuries, including to mainstays like Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright and ace Carlos Martinez.  When you are dealing with two great players the debate can go on for a long time, this one I can live with.



Jesus Aguilar, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers. Should replace: Joey Votto

Reputation clearly matters, and before this season the Milwaukee first baseman didn’t have much of one. Aguilar is a destructive force in the middle of a first place lineup. 22 home runs and 63 RBI, and his 1.001 OPS is tops in the NL overall.  Yet he is hoping on the fans to vote him in on the last ballot.

Joey Votto is a great player with a great background.  He is one of the best players in the National League over the last five seasons, but the Reds have representatives at two different places on the infield, Votto should have not even been in the conversation of being an All Star.  It’s debatable whether he should be in over any other first baseman in the NL Central.

Hopefully the fans make the right decision and vote him in.  This selection should never have made it to this.  Shame on the MLB.

 

Eddie Rosario- The star we don’t talk about

In 2017 the Minnesota Twins would have been the best story in baseball if they had not been overshadowed by the brilliant run by the world champion Houston Astros.  The Twins made a huge step forward finishing second in the Central, finding themselves in the American League Wild Card game.  Minnesota fell short against the powerhouse Yankees but the statement was made, they have arrived on the scene and are ready to make the next step.  The baseball world has begun to see the Twins but they have yet to notice their developing star Eddie Rosario.

Rosario burst onto the scene in 2015 for the Twins hitting 13HR, stealing 11 bases  and hitting an astounding 15 triples.  Rosario finished 6th in the rookie of the year voting.  Rosario struggled to stay healthy in 2016 playing just 92 games. Without their young star the Twins suffered a tough season finishing just 59- 103, 35.5GB.  A healthy Rosario took the field in 2017 and began his accent to a leadership role on a young Twins roster looking for a star.  Rosario’s stats spoke for themselves, being placed in the middle of the Twins order Rosario blasted 27HR. Rosario also saw a huge progression in his advanced analytics. 2017 Stats (Increases from 2016)  OBP +33 – SLG  +86 – OPS +120 – XWOBA +59. The impact of having Rosario created a boast to the team as they finished 85-77 a ridiculous +26 in there win total.  While there are many different reasons for the increase in wins for the Twins it cannot be ignored that Rosario’s presence was huge for this team.

Rosario has continued his development in 2018 continuing to be a force.  The Twins struggled out of the gate mainly due to pitching issues.  But as we inch closer to the All Star break the twins currently sit 4.5 games back from the Central leading Indians.Eddie Rosario has been the reason why this team has been able to stay afloat in the division.  Over his last 15 games he has a Ruthian stat line .379BA 7HR 13RBI.  Eddie Rosario came into the league as a guy with a little pop but a lot of raw skills.  He used his speed and defensive ability to get into the lineup.  There has been a regression in his speed game, but I believe that is due to the fact that the Twins needed a guy that can hit for power.  Players like Byron Buxton can provide speed, Joe Mauer can provide more OBP. Rosario has changed his game to address the needs of his team.  He has found more value swinging for extra base hits and driving in runs.

Right now Eddie Rosario’s numbers should place him right in the middle of the MVP discussions.  His .323BA (5th), 16HR (10th), 46RBI (6th) put him in the same class as players like Mike Trout and Mookie Betts but he is still not looked at in the same light as these stars.  Rosario currently ranks 14th in AL All-Star voting behind players like Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner, Nick Castellanos and Michael Brantley.   While these players may be deserving they are not near the level of Eddie Rosario.   I live in realistic world, players in bigger markets are always going to be put in front of a player that plays in the midwest.  Rosario sits in a market that doesn’t receive the same level of coverage.  The baseball world has to open their eyes and see what is happening up in Minnesota.  The best way to make that happen is to win.  The Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau Minnesota Twins teams of the early 2000’s forced the sports world to pay attention.   If the Twins can get more consistency from their pitching and secondary players they can turn around what his been a disappointing season.

Eddie Rosario will most likely make the All- Star game, he may even find himself in the talks for MVP (Not Realistic to win).  What is certain though is that he is becoming a player that the league cannot ignore.  He hits both righties and lefties, he hits for power, he hits for average,  he has speed and he is only 26 years old! It is time to pay attention to this man and watch as he continues to be one of the best players in Major League Baseball.