Sunday, September 29, 2013

Playoff Preview

The MLB postseason will start on Tuesday with the Reds going to Pittsburgh to play the Pirates in the NL wild card game. In the American League, the Indians have clinched the first wild card spot. The second spot has yet to be decided. The Rays and Rangers finished with identical 91-71 records and will play a pre-playoff tiebreaker in Texas to break the tie. The Division Series starts on Thursday. The League Championship Series will open up 2 weeks from now, and the World Series will start on Wednesday, October 23rd in the city of the American League champion.

NL Wild Card Game: Cincinnati at Pittsburgh

Season Record: Pit 11, Cin 8
Previous Playoff Meetings: 1970, 1972, 1975, 1979, 1990

The Pirates will be appearing in their first postseason in 21 years Tuesday. Pittsburgh hopes that it isn't a one and done. Andrew McCutchen had a MVP type season, and new additions like Russell Martin, Francisco Liriano, Mark Melancon, and Marlon Byrd have helped with the team's improvement this year. The Reds had big years from Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips, and Shin Soo Choo. Liriano will take the start for Pittsburgh, and the lefty has given the Reds fits this year. Rookie Gerrit Cole will back him up if Liriano falters. Mat Latos has been the Reds ace this year, but is dealing with injuries right now. Dusty Baker has announced that Johnny Cueto will tow the rubber for Cincinnati Tuesday. Should be an interesting NL Central battle in the wild card game.

AL Wild Card Game: Tampa Bay/Texas at Cleveland

Season Record: Cle 4, TB 2/ Cle 5, Tex 1
Previous Playoff Matchups: None for either potential matchup

Monday, the Rays and Rangers will play a tiebreaker in Texas to see who will advance to the wild card game. The Rangers knocked the Rays out of the playoffs in 2010 and 2011. Nelson Cruz has been activated for Game 163 after serving his Biogenesis suspension. Texas will start rookie lefty Martin Perez and Tampa Bay will counter with 2012 Cy Young Award winner David Price. Yu Darvish started on Sunday's crucial game for Texas and will be unavailable until the Division Series. If Texas advances to the wild card game, Derek Holland or Matt Garza will likely start it. For Tampa Bay, Alex Cobb would likely start the wild card game if they advance.

The Indians made a dramatic turnaround this year under new manager Terry Francona. This will be Cleveland's first playoff appearance since 2007. They lost 96 games last year and improved their record 26 games this year. Scott Kazmir resurrected his career this season and would likely start the wild card game. Justin Masterson wore down late in the year, but will pitch out of the bullpen in the postseason. Masterson could be a Tim Lincecum type weapon for Cleveland. The Indians won the season series vs. both the Rays and Rangers. Cleveland is also riding a 10 game winning streak coming into the playoffs, so they are hot right now.

National League Division Series

Pittsburgh/Cincinnati vs. St. Louis

Season Record: Pit 10, StL 9, StL 11, Cin 8
Previous Playoff Matchups: None for either matchup

For the first time ever, 3 teams from the same division made the postseason. The Cardinals will host the winner of Tuesday's Pirates/Reds game. The Cardinals have played deep into the postseason the last two years and won the 2011 World Series. Not bad for a team that went in as a wild card both times. This year, the Cardinals won the NL Central title for the first time since 2009. The Redbirds have had major contributions from rookie this year, especially from Matt Adams, Shelby Miller, Kevin Siegrist, Trevor Rosenthal, and Michael Wacha. Allen Craig is not available for the Division Series, but should be back if the Cardinals advance further. However, the Cardinals haven't missed a beat with Adams filling in. Adams has hit 17 home runs in limited playing time, 3rd most on the Cardinals.

Liriano has dominated the Cardinals this year, beating them 3 times. However, Liriano is starting the wild card game and will only start 1 time in the NLDS. AJ Burnett has also pitched well against the Cardinals. The Reds would likely open up with Homer Bailey since Cueto starts the wild card game and Latos is hurt. Adam Wainwright will start the opener for St. Louis, with Miller, Joe Kelly, Lance Lynn, and possibly Wacha in the conversation for the rest of the starting spots. Edward Mujica has struggled in September and it looks like flamethrowing Rosenthal will be the closer in the postseason.

Los Angeles vs. Atlanta

Season Series: Atl 5, LAD 2
Previous Playoff Matchups: 1996

The Dodgers will travel to Atlanta to play the Braves this Thursday. The Braves won the season series, but they played before the Dodgers caught fire. The Dodgers will be without Matt Kemp for the entire postseason and Andre Ethier is also banged up. They still have plenty of offense with Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, and Yasiel Puig. That been said, the Dodgers strength is pitching. Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu will be tough to beat in a short series.

The Braves hit for a lot of power, but led the NL in strikeouts this year. BJ Upton and Dan Uggla both batted under the Mendoza line this year. They will likely open the series with Kris Medlen starting. Mike Minor, Paul Maholm, Freddy Garcia, and Julio Teheran will vie for the other spots. Closer Craig Kimbrel had another dominant year for Atlanta and is one of the best in the business. The Braves are a way better team at home than the road, so it's a good thing they have home field advantage.

American League Division Series

Texas/Tampa Bay/Cleveland vs. Boston

Season Series: Tex 4, Bos 2/Bos 12, TB 7/Bos 6, Cle 1
Previous Playoff Matchups: Tex/Bos-none, TB/Bos-2008, Cle/Bos-1995, 1998, 1999, 2007

Boston can't plan for Friday's opponent just quite yet. It could be one of three different teams, Texas, Tampa Bay, or Cleveland. The Red Sox finished with the best record in the American League this season after two straight disappointing years. The Sox re-tooled last offseason, adding Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes, and Ryan Dempster. 2007 championship holdovers Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, David Ortiz, and Jon Lester had big years this season for Boston. New manager John Farrell has done a great job this season, with Boston going worst to first in the AL East.

The most intriguing matchup for the Red Sox would be facing former manager Francona's Indians ballclub. Francona was let go as manager after the 2011 collapse and replaced by Bobby Valentine, who was disastrous in his one season as manager. Tampa Bay and Texas would have burned their best starters by the opening game of the Division Series, since they are playing a tiebreaker Monday. The Sox will have an advantage in being able to set up their ALDS rotation with their best starters. Farrell hasn't decided if Lester, Clay Buchholz, or Jake Peavy will start Game 1. Boston had suffered numerous injuries in the bullpen with former All Stars Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey going down for the season. Luckily, Koji Uehara has filled to void and has been dominant in the closer role.

Detroit vs. Oakland

Season Series: Oak 4, Det 3
Previous Playoff Matchups: 1972, 2006, 2012

Bob Melvin and the Athletics proved they were not a fluke this year, winning their second straight AL West title. Oakland was able to beat out their big spending division rivals, like the Angels and Rangers. The A's will have homefield advantage in the first round, but will have to play the team that eliminated them last season, Detroit. The Tigers will be tough to beat and are favored in this series. Still, the A's are a hard team to play despite the lack of star power. Josh Donaldson, Coco Crisp, Brandon Moss, and Jed Lowrie had big years for Oakland this year, and their pitching has been good.

The Tigers have arguably the best rotation of all playoff teams, although the Dodgers might argue about that. Detroit will open with 21 game winner Max Scherzer, followed by Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, and Doug Fister. Joaquin Benoit settled in as Detroit's closer after early season uncertainty in the bullpen. Oakland will counter with 40 year old Bartolo Colon, followed by youngsters like Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, and AJ Griffin. The A's have one of the league's best bullpens with Grant Balfour, Ryan Cook, and Sean Doolittle. Last year, these two teams went the full five games in the ALDS; and this year's matchup should be hard fought as well.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Predicting the Award Winners

                           Clayton Kershaw: Likely to Win 2nd CYA in 3 Years

The season is winding down in it's final week, and the playoffs will start next week. There should be some interesting discussions on who wins the MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year. The awards won't be announced until after the season in November, but the writers vote on them at the season's end before the playoffs. Today, I will predict who will win these awards and how I would vote.

AL Manager of the Year

1) John Farrell, Red Sox
2) Terry Francona, Indians
3) Bob Melvin, Athletics

The Red Sox were a mess last year in Bobby Valentine's only season as manager and finished in last place. The year before, they collapsed in the final week and missed the postseason, leading to Francona's demise. Boston hired Farrell to be their 3rd manager in 3 years and overhauled their roster. It worked out and the Sox have the best record in the AL. Francona took over the Tribe this year and has the team in position to make the final wild card spot. The A's weren't expected to repeat last year's success, but have won the AL West again with one of the league's lowest payrolls. The Yankees Joe Girardi might get some votes for keeping them in contention despite numerous injuries.

NL Manager of the Year

1) Clint Hurdle, Pirates
2) Don Mattingly, Dodgers
3) Mike Matheny, Cardinals

After two straight second half collapses, the Pirates have changed their luck this year. Hurdle has led the club to their first postseason appearance since 1992. Mattingly's job was thought to be in danger in May, but the Dodgers went on a tear this summer. At one point, they went 42-8 in a 50 game stretch. The Cardinals have played 20 rookies this season, but have the lead in the NL Central.

AL Comeback Player of the Year

Mariano Rivera, Yankees

Even with Rivera retiring after the season, he still had a deserved All Star selection this year. He fully came back from tearing his ACL in Kansas City last season. The Yankees will miss the postseason this year, but at least Rivera was able to go out in his own terms.

NL Comeback Player of the Year

Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies

Last season, Tulo was limited to 47 games due to injury. He's missed some time this year, but has played in 122 games so far and put up his usual big numbers. He's batting .315 with 25 home runs, and playing terrific defense.

AL Rookie of the Year

1) Wil Myers, Rays
2) Chris Archer, Rays
3) Martin Perez, Rangers
4) Leonys Martin, Rangers
5) Matt Dominguez, Astros

Myers was the big piece in the James Shields trade with the Royals last year. The trade helped both teams and Myers has been a big bat for Tampa Bay. Archer has also been a solid starter for the Rays. Lefty starter Perez and center fielder Martin have helped out the Rangers quite a bit this year.

NL Rookie of the Year

1) Jose Fernandez, Marlins
2) Shelby Miller, Cardinals
3) Yasiel Puig, Dodgers
4) Julio Teheran, Braves
5) Hyun-Ji Ryu, Dodgers

The NL rookie class is deep, and I left out the Pirates Jeff Locke and Gerrit Cole, the Diamondbacks AJ Pollock and Didi Gregorius, the Cardinals Matt Adams, Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist, and Michael Wacha, and the Padres Jedd Gyorko. Matt Harvey, Patrick Corbin, and Jean Segura just missed being rookies this year. I think the most impressive rookie is the Marlins Jose Fernandez. Fernandez went 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA and 187 strikeouts on a 100 loss team.

AL Cy Young Award

1) Max Scherzer, Tigers
2) Yu Darvish, Rangers
3) Bartolo Colon, Athletics
4) Anibal Sanchez, Tigers
5) Felix Hernandez, Mariners

Scherzer has had a career year with Detroit and is the AL's only 20 game winner. He also is second in strikeouts and first in WHIP. Sanchez has also had a great season, with Justin Verlander having a relative off year(although most pitchers would love to have that kind of off-year). 40 year old Colon has been the A's ace this year. Chris Sale, Hisashi Iwakuma, and CJ Wilson will probably also get a few votes.

NL Cy Young Award

1) Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
2) Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
3) Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals
4) Cliff Lee, Phillies
5) Jose Fernandez, Marlins

Kershaw has had a dominant season, leading the NL in ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts. Kershaw has a 1.88 ERA. There were a lot of good pitching performances in the NL this year. Wainwright and Zimmermann should get some 2nd and 3rd place votes, but I think Kershaw will be a unaminous winner. Other pitchers who will get votes should include Madison Bumgarner, Patrick Corbin, Zack Greinke, Matt Harvey, and Francisco Liriano.


1) Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
2) Chris Davis, Orioles
3) Mike Trout, Angels
4) Robinson Cano, Yankees
5) Adrian Beltre, Rangers
6) Josh Donaldson, Athletics
7) Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
8) Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays
9) Manny Machado, Orioles
10) Evan Longoria, Rays

Cabrera won't win the Triple Crown again this year, but he should win the MVP. The sabermetrics crowd was upset that Cabrera beat out Trout last year, and might be upset again this year. Trout does have the advantage in defense and baserunning, but not hitting. Plus, Trout's Angels are below .500 at a distant third place this season. Davis became the first player since Jose Bautista in 2010 to hit 50 home runs in a season this year. I think Cano deserves some votes for keeping the Yankees in contention while surrounded by castoffs this year.


1) Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
2) Yadier Molina, Cardinals
3) Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks
4) Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
5) Matt Carpenter, Cardinals
6) Freddie Freeman, Braves
7) Joey Votto, Reds
8) Michael Cuddyer, Rockies
9) Jayson Werth, Nationals
10) Shin-Soo Choo, Reds

I think McCutchen is the obvious pick for NL MVP. He is a five tool player who's having a terrific season, and the Pirates wouldn't sniff the playoffs without him. The Cardinals have Molina, Carpenter, and Allen Craig as possible candidates, but I left Craig off because of time missed. Goldschmidt has had a monster year, leading the NL in home runs and RBI's. There are a few other players who will receive votes that I didn't mention, including Carlos Gomez, Chris Johnson, and Adrian Gonzalez.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Rivera, Helton Winding Down Careers


 A couple of big names will be playing their final games this September, and I'm not talking about Mark Kotsay(who recently announced his retirement). Mariano Rivera had said before the season that this year will be his last. The Yankees are still fighting for a wild card spot, so Rivera may be able to stretch it out until October. Todd Helton announced that he is going to retire at the end of the season at age 40. The Rockies won't be playing in October, so Helton's career will end in a couple of weeks. Both Rivera and Helton have spent their entire careers with the same organization, a rarity in today's game. Rivera is still on top of his game, making the All Star team this year, deservedly. Joe Girardi has tried to get him to come back one more year, but the 43 year old Rivera said his mind is made up about retiring.

Rivera will certainly be a Hall of Famer come 2019. There is no doubt that Rivera is the best closer of all time. He has surpassed great closers like Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter, Dennis Eckersley, and Trevor Hoffman. Mo's cutter broke many of bats throughout the years and has been his signature pitch like the split finger was Sutter's and the change up was Hoffman's. A lot of closers in today's game only have a run of dominance for 3-4 seasons, but Rivera has been dominant every season. He holds the all time saves lead with 651, which is almost twice as much as the next active player, Joe Nathan. Rivera has made 13 All Star teams in 19 seasons with the Yankees. He never won a Cy Young Award, but received votes in 6 different seasons.

In the postseason, Rivera was even better. His regular season ERA and WHIP was 2.22 and 1.00, while his postseason ERA and WHIP was 0.70 and 0.76. That is through 141 innings pitched in 96 games during 16 different postseasons. Mo is 8-1 and has only blown 4 postseason saves. Rivera has a MLB record 42 saves, which matches his uniform number. When the Sandman enters, the game is almost always over. With his retirement at season's end, Rivera will be the last player in MLB history to wear #42; which was retired league wide in 1997 to honor Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier.

The Yankees have won 5 World Series championships during Rivera's tenure with the club. In 1996, he was the set up man to then closer John Wetteland. Wetteland left as a free agent after that season, and Joe Torre put Mo in as closer. He would soon make Yankee fans forget about Wetteland. In fact, Rivera was one of the most important players(if, not the most important) of the Yankees dynasty during 1996-2001. Rivera is one of the last links of that dynasty still with New York. With Rivera retiring, Derek Jeter's status uncertain because of injury, and Andy Pettitte's career in his twilight, the Yankees will soon enter a new era.

Todd Helton played baseball and football at the University of Tennessee, and was once Peyton Manning's backup quarterback. He made his debut with the Rockies in 1997, and became the team's regular first baseman in 1998 after Andres Gallaraga left as a free agent. He would finish 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting in 1998. Helton has been on the Rockies for so long that he was once teammates with manager Walt Weiss. The Rockies have never retired a number, but Helton's #17 will likely be their first. Helton played his first 10 seasons without making the postseason, but in 2007 he finally got a taste of it. The Rockies caught fire that September and catapulted themselves to the World Series, which they would lose to Boston. He returned to the postseason in 2009, but the Rockies lost in the Division Series.

Helton had his finest season in 2000, when he won the batting title with a .372 average. It would be the first of five consecutive All Star appearances. Helton was also a very good defensive player, winning 3 Gold Gloves. He ranked among the best first baseman in the league for a ten year period, but Helton would never finish higher than fifth in MVP voting. Some people say that Helton padded his numbers in the pre-humidor Coors Field. It's true that his power numbers went down after the humidor and he hasn't hit over 20 home runs since 2005. However, Helton was always a good hitter throughout his career, as his .317 career average and .415 career OBP can attest.

At age 40, Helton's skills aren't what they used to be and haven't in several seasons. In his prime, he was a similar hitter to Joey Votto. Helton finished in the top ten in batting average in the NL 9 different occasions. He has compiled over 2,500 hits, 367 home runs, and 1397 RBI's. Still, Helton's chances at the Hall of Fame are slim and he is a borderline candidate. That's considering the backlog of really good first baseman who haven't made it. The list includes Jeff Bagwell, Fred McGriff, John Olerud, Keith Hernandez, Steve Garvey, and Don Mattingly. The list also includes PED users Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro. Helton has had a terrific career and might be the best Rockies player ever, but will have a tough chance at making the Hall anytime soon. Maybe, a Veteran's Committee case.

Mariano Rivera's career stats;

Todd Helton's career stats:

Friday, September 13, 2013

Carpenter Having One of the Best Seasons by a Card's Leadoff Hitter

Matt Carpenter has had a breakout season in his first season as a starter. Last year, in Carpenter's solid rookie campaign, he was a utilityman. Carpenter played first base, third base, left field, and right field. He even played a couple games at second base last year. The Cardinals management decided to try Carpenter out at second for the 2013 season. Jose Oquendo worked with Carpenter in the offseason and spring training to help him adapt to the second base position. Carpenter is a natural third baseman. in 2009, the Cardinals made a similar move with Skip Schumaker, moving him from the outfield to second. In spring training, Carpenter beat out Daniel Descalso to win the second base job.

Carpenter has been solid defensively, although he's not going to be in the Gold Glove conversation. He has turned out to be better defensively than Schumaker was. Carpenter has made 8 errors at second, but leads NL second baseman with 91 double plays turned. Carpenter is also 5th in the NL with 326 assists at second base, despite making 23 starts at third, with 40 games total at third. He doesn't embarrass himself on defense.

Early in the season, Jon Jay was slumping, so Mike Matheny moved Carpenter to the leadoff spot. Carpenter lacks the speed of a prototypical leadoff hitter, but gets on base frequently. The move worked and the Cardinals offense ignited with Carpenter at the top. The Redbirds lead the National League with 700 runs scored. Carpenter leads the NL in runs(114), hits(178), doubles(48), and in multi hit games. Carpenter is sixth in average, 8th in on base pct., and 5th in total bases. He also has 70 RBI's this season, mostly as a leadoff hitter. Only Lou Brock in 1967 and Pepper Martin in 1936 have more RBI's in a season, both having 76.

Here's a list of great leadoff seasons by a Cardinals hitters and were Carpenter ranks:

Player                  Year   AVG OBP SLG   R     H    2B  3B  HR  RBI  SB   TB
Pepper Martin      1933  .316   .387  .456  122  189  36  12    8     57    26   277
Pepper Martin      1936  .309   .373  .469  121  177  36  11   11    76    23   268
Curt Flood            1963  .302   .345  .403  112  200  34   9     5     63   17    267
Lou Brock            1967   .299  .327  .472  113  206  32  12    21   76   52    325 
Lou Brock            1970   .313  .361  .422  114  202  29   5     13   57   51    280
Lou Brock            1971   .313  .385  .425  126  200  37   7     7     61   64    272
Lou Brock            1974   .306  .368  .381  105  194  25   7     3     48   118  242
Garry Templeton 1979   .314   .331  .458  105  211  32  11    9     62   25   308
Lonnie Smith       1982   .307   .381  .434  120  182  35   8     8     69   68   257
Vince Coleman    1987   .289   .363  .358  121  180  14  10    3     43  109  223
Fernando Vina     2001   .303   .357  .418   95   191  30   8     9     56   17   264
Matt Carpenter     2013   .317  .386  .480  114  178  48    7    10   70    3    270

I probably could of put up several more of Brock's seasons, as he was the best leadoff hitter in Cardinals history. Despite the lack of stolen bases, Carpenter's 2013 season ranks up there with any season of any leadoff hitter in Cardinals history. Carpenter is not a player like Brock or Coleman. He does have the highest average of all these players in a single season. His on base pct. for this season is only behind Martin's 1933 season. Carpenter's slugging pct. out of the leadoff spot is the highest in team history. With one more double, Carpenter will tie Scott Rolen's 2004 season of 49 doubles for 10th place in team history. That's a pretty prestigious list that includes Stan Musial, Joe Medwick, Enos Slaughter, and Albert Pujols. Carpenter has already broke Pujols record of most hits at the new Busch Stadium in a season last Sunday.

I would still say that Yadier Molina is the team's MVP this season because of his all around play and his great defense at catcher. That been said, Carpenter has a solid case as the team's most important player this season. Without Carpenter being the sparkplug out of the leadoff spot, this team wouldn't be as good this year. I doubt Carpenter wins the NL MVP, but I think he will get plenty of votes this fall. He has exceeded the wildest of expectations for this season. I thought he would be pretty good as an everyday player, but I didn't expect him to be a MVP candidate. Carpenter made his first All Star team this year as well. If the Cardinals win another championship this October, Carpenter will be a big reason why.