2017 American League Preview

Box scores – albeit Spring Training box scores – are officially  back, which makes it time for BBRT’s predictions for the coming season.  I’ll start with the American League.  You can see projected standings, won-lost records and award winners immediately below and go deeper into this long post for a review of each team, some “stat facts” and a couple of “players to watch” for each squad.  Coming soon: A look at the National League.

PREDICTED STANDINGS

EAST

Boston Red Sox (93-69)

Toronto Blue Jays (89-73) – Wild Card

New York Yankees (83-79)

Baltimore Orioles (80-82)

Tampa Bay Rays (75-87)

CENTRAL

Cleveland Indians (97-65)

Detroit Tigers (83-79)

Kansas City Royals (81-81)

Chicago White Sox (70-92)

Minnesota Twins (65-95)

WEST

Houston Astros (92-70)

Texas Rangers (88-74) – Wild Card

Seattle Mariners (83-79)

Los Angeles Angels (75-89)

Oakland A’s (72-90)

LEAGUE CHAMPION – Boston Red Sox

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PREDICTED AWARD WINNERS

MVP

  1. Mookie Betts – Red Sox (RF) … Five-tool player (.318-31-113, with 26 steals and a Gold Glove in 2016) will lead Red Sox to the Division title (and be out from David Ortiz’ big shadow). At just 24, he’s the new Mike Trout – and just getting better. Besides, he’s 5’9” and named “Mookie” – gotta like that.
  1. Jose Altuve – Astros (2B) …. Another young dynamo who does it all (.338-24-96, 30 steals in 2016 and a 2015 Gold Glove), Altuve will be recognized as the sparkplug behind and Astros’ division title.
  1. Mike Trout – Angels (CF) … In first five full seasons never finished lower than second in MVP voting (won his second MVP award last season with a .315-29-100, 30 steal line). Angels’ overall performance may cost him ballots this season.

Other likely candidates: Josh Donaldson (Blue Jays); Francisco Lindor (Indians); Miguel Cabrera (Tiges).

CY YOUNG AWARD

  1. Chris Sale (Red Sox) … Could lead the AL in wins and strikeouts. Has notched 200+ whiffs and finished in the top five in CYA balloting in four straight seasons. Won 17 games with the White Sox last season, should do better with the Red Sox.
  1. Corey Kluber (Indians) … 2014 Cy Young winner should not be counted out. (Has fanned 741 batters over the past four seasons and won 18 games in 2016.
  1. Cole Hamels (Rangers) … A dark horse candidate, but went 15-5, 3.22 with 200 strikeouts in 2016. Since joining the Rangers mid-season 2015 is 22-6.

Other likely candidates: David Price (Red Sox); Rick Porcello (Red Sox); Justin Verlander (Tigers).

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

  1. Lucas Giolito – White Sox (RHP) … Considered one of – if not the – top pitching prospects in baseball, the 22-year-old (acquired from the Nationals in the Adam Eaton trade) already has five minor league seasonS under his belt – with a 25-15, 2.73 record and 397 strikeouts in 369 innings.
  2. Andrew Benintendi – Red Sox (LF) … Probably the pre-season consensus pick for ROY, the 22-year-old hit .312-20-107 in 151 minor league games (two seasons) and then .295-2-14 in 24 games after the Red Sox brought him up  lasta season.
  3. Jharel Cotton – A’s (RHP) … The 25-year-old righty (acquired by the A’s from the Dodgers in the Rich Hill/Josh Reddick trade) went 11-6, 4.31 at AAA before being called up to the A’s, where he went 2-0, 2.15 in five starts, fanning 23 batters in 29 1/3 innings. He showed good poise and a great changeup and a developing cutter to complement a 92-94 mph fastball.  Could surprise a lot of people.

Other likely candidates:  Yoan Moncada (White Sox); Michael Kopech (White Sox); Aaron Judge (Yankees).

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Now, for those in detail,  here’s a team-by-team rundown.  (Based on rosters as this post is written.)

EAST DIVISION

First Place – Boston Red Sox (93-69)

Mookie Betts photo

Mookie Betts will lead BoSox to AL East title. Photo by Dennis Heller

Despite the fact that the Red Sox scored the most runs in MLB last season (878), they secured their spot at the top of the East for 2017 when they acquired potential Cy Young Award winner Chris Sale (17-10, 3.34 for the White Sox). Sale will head a rotation that also includes last year’s AL CYA winner Rick Porcello (22-4, 3.15) and 2012 AL CYA winner lefty David Price (17-9, 3.99 for 2016). There are solid arms competing for the four and five spots – Eduardo Rodriguez, Drew Pomeranz and Steven Wright.

Red Sox Stat Fact

The Red Sox scored 878 runs last season – the most in MLB. Just as important, they outpaced the second-highest AL total (Toronto) by 101 runs.

While David Ortiz  and his .315-38-127 bat are gone from the offense, there is still plenty from a combination of young stars like MVP candidate RF Mookie Betts (.318-31-113, with 26 steals) and SS Xander Bogaerts (.294-21-89, with 13 steals) – and veterans like former AL MVP 2B Dustin Pedroia (.318-15-74) and 1B/DH Hanley Ramirez (.286-30-111). Rounding out the lineup are newcomer (free agent) 1B/DH Mitch Moreland (who popped 22 home runs for the Rangers last year); CF Jackie Bradley Jr. (.267-26-87); and potential Rookie of the Year Andrew Benintendi in LF.  Pablo Sandoval is back at 3B after shoulder surgery, with the Red Sox hoping he can return to his form of a couple years ago. Catching will be handled by a combination Sandy Leon (.310-7-35 as a rookie) and defensive wiz Christian Vazquez.

The only question mark seems to be the bullpen. Craig Kimbrel (2-6, 3.40, 31 saves) is one of the best closers in the business, but there are some other spots to sort out among newcomer Tyler Thornburg (8-5, 2.15, 13 saves with the Brewers); Joe Kelly; Matt Barnes and Robbie Ross.

A Couple of Players to Watch

RF Mookie Betts (.318-31-113, with 26 steals) was an All Star, Gold Glover, Silver Slugger and number-two finisher in last season’s AL MVP voting – all at age 24. He’ll be an MVP favorite this year.

LF Andrew Benintendi was called up in August and the 21-year-old hit .295, with two home runs and 14 RBI over 34 games.  He should be a leading Rookie of the Year Candidate.

Second Place – Toronto Blue Jays (89-73)

Josh Donaldson photo

Josh Donaldson, 2015 MVP, three-tiem All Star leads Toronto offense. Photo by Terry Foote

Okay, the Blue Jays lost Edwin Encarnacion and his 42 homers and 127 RBI, but there is still plenty of power left with returnees 3B Josh Donaldson (.284-37-99), SS Troy Tulowitzki (.254-24-79); RF Joey Bautista (.234-22-69 in 116 games, but capable of a 35-40 home run season) and new comer (DH) Kendrys Morales (.263-30-93 for the Royals).  The Blue Jays do have some lineup questions – LF and 1B in particular, where candidates include Justin Smoak, Steve Pearce, Melvin Upton, Jr., Ezequiel Carrera and prospect Dalton Pompey. Watch for platooning as this sorts itself out.

Ultimately, the Jays’ pitching (which boasted the AL’s lowest overall ERA – 3.78 – last season) is what will keep them in contention. The team’s starting rotation had the lowest ERA in the AL last season (3.64) – and most of it is back – led by right-hander Aaron Sanchez (15-2, 3.00) and southpaw J.A. Happ (20-4, 3.18). Marco Estrada (9-9, 3.48) and Marcus Stroman (9-10, 4.37) should hold down the three and four spots.  Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey is gone (free agency) and the Blue Jays would like Francisco Liriano (8-13, 4.60 with the Pirates and Jays) to deliver one of his trademark comeback seasons in the number-five spot.

Blue Jays Stat Fact 

The Blue Jays 22 blown saves and 4.11 bullpen ERA last season were both the fourth-worst in the AL.  Blue Jays starters, however, logged the AL’s lowest ERA (3.64). 

Roberto Osuna is only 22-years-old, but he’s a proven closer (4-3, 2.68, 36 saves).  With Brett Cecil and Joaquin Benoit gone (free agency), the Jays may look to Jason Grilli (7-6. 4.12) and 2016 Rule 5 pickup Joe Biagini (4-3. 3.06) to play key roles in getting to the ninth inning.

A Couple of Players to Watch

Joey Bautista is coming off an injury-interrupted season (.234-22-69 in 116 games). The Blue Jays need him to bounce back to his 35-home run, 100-RBI form. Bautista is 36-years-old – in his 14th MLB season – so he bears watching.

After 101 games at the MLB level in 2016 (and 163 games over the past two seasons), Devon Travis is probably beyond the “prospect” stage.  The 26-year-old 2B, however, could be an emerging star – a .317 hitter in five minor league seasons, Travis hit .300-11-50 in 101 games for the Blue Jays last season.  Keep an eye on him, he looks like the real deal.

Third Place – New York Yankees (83-79)

Aroldis chapman photo

Aroldis Chapman returns to fire up the Yankee bullpen. Photo by Keith Allison

Lots of folks slotted the Orioles in third place, but BBRT likes the Yankees’ off-season additions – fire baller Aroldis Chapman (MLB’s hardest thrower), Chris Carter (last season’s NL home run champ) and veteran OF/1B Matt Holliday (.246-20-62 in 110 games for the Cardinals last season). BBRT also likes the Yankees’ balance of rising youngsters like catcher Gary Sanchez (.299-20-42 in just 53 games in 2016), 1B Greg Bird (.261-11-31 in 46 games after putting up solid power numbers at AA and AAA) and OF prospect Aaron Judge – playing alongside proven veterans like Holliday, CF Jacob Ellsbury (.263-9-56, with 20 steals, in an off-year) and LF Brett Gardner (.261-7-41, with 16 stolen bases).  There is also plenty of offensive support from 2B Starlin Castro (.270-21-70) and SS Didi Gregorius (.276-20-70, with seven steals).

The bullpen – led by Chapman (4-1, 1.55 ERA, with 36 saves and 90 strikeouts in 58 innings for the Yankees and Cubs), Dellin Betances (3.08, with 12 saves and 126 strikeouts in 73 innings) and Tyler Clippard (3.57 ERA and 72 whiffs in 63 innings for the Diamondbacks and Yankees) should be one of the best.

Yankee Stat Fact

Masahiro Tanaka just  missed the 200-innings pitched mark last season (199 2/3 IP). If he had reached 200, he would have been the first Yankee pitcher to reach that figure since 2013 (when both C.C. Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda topped 200 innings).

The starting rotation (Masahiro Tanaka, C.C. Sabathia, Michael Pineda and more) poses a range questions related to age, injury and performance. Tanaka will again lead the staff, after a 14-3, 3.07 record in 2016. If his past elbow issues are truly behind him, 2017 could be a career year for the 28-year-old.  C.C. Sabathia, at 36-years-old, is starting to show signs of wearing down (even beyond the knee brace). He’ll likely be the only southpaw in the rotation and the Yankees need more than last season’s 9-12, 3.91 record.  Michael Pineda absolutely has to improve on last season’s 6-12, 4.82.  He’s shown the potential to be better, but it’s no given. Leading candidates for the final two spots include Chad Green (204, 4.73); Luis Severino 3-8, 5.83); Luis Cessa (4-4, 4.35).

I think the Yankees will surprise a few people in 2017, but finish just shy of a Wild Card sport.

A Couple of Players to Watch

Catcher Gary Sanchez (24-years-old) stormed the American League late last season – and went .299-20-42 in just 53 games. He’s a .275 hitter with 99 home runs in seven minor league seasons.  What will 2017 hold – stardom or regression?

1B prospect Greg Bird (24-years-old) hit .261-11-31 in 46 games after a 2015 call up. He missed the entire 2016 season after shoulder surgery, but is back to earn the starting role at 1B.  The Yanks need him to replace Mark Teixeira.

Fourth Place – Baltimore Orioles (80-82)

Mark Trumbo Orioles photo

Mark Trumbo, the AL HR leader is back for the Orioles. Photo by Keith Allison

If you can bully your way into the playoff, the Orioles could be back in a Wild Card spot in 2017.   No team hit more home runs than the Birds last season (253), but they still finished seventh in the AL in runs scored.  The re-signing of AL home run leader Mark Trumbo (.256-47-108) to serve as primary DH (he can also handle some OF) was key to the Orioles’ chance to compete 2017. Also bringing power to this long ball-dependent offense are 1B Chris Davis (.221-38-84, with 219 strikeouts in 566) at bats; 3B Manny Machado (.29-37-96 and a two-time Gold Glover); CF Adam Jones (.265-29-83 and a four-time Gold Glover); and 2B Jonathon Schoop (.267-25-82).  Veteran SS J.J. Hardy, at 34-years-old, may be losing a step, but the three-time gold Glover is steady in the field and still has some pop in his bat.  Behind the plate, free-agent signee Wellington Castilllo (.264-14-68 for Arizona) appears to be the Orioles’ choice at backstop. What this line-up has in power, however, it lacks in “table-setting” and speed on the bases.

Orioles Stat Fact

The Orioles’ 19 stolen bases were the fewest by any team last season. No other team stole less than 35. Joey Rickard led the team with four stolen bases.

The Orioles’ rotation had the third-worst ERA in the AL last season (4.72), although Camden Yards contributed to that figure.  Still, the Birds have not done much to improve.  The number-one slot in the rotation belongs to Chris Tillman (16-6, 3.71.) Kevin Gausman (9-12, 3.61) and Dylan Bundy (10-6, 4.02) seem set at two and three. At the end of the rotation, it looks like Ubaldo Jimenez and Wade Miley will be back, although there could be competition from the likes of Tyler Wilson or Mike Wright. Notably, all four of the hurlers mentioned for the four and five spots had ERAs over 5.00 in 2016.

The Birds do have one of the best bullpens in baseball, with closer Zach Britton (2-1, 0.54 ERA) saving 47 games in 47 opportunities. He’s backed by Darren O’Day (3-1, 3.77); Brad Brach (10-4, 2.05); Mychal Givens (8-2, 3.13); and Donnie Hart (0-0, 0.49). This group looks to get plenty of work in 2017.

The real question is whether power, solid defense and a great bullpen can compensate for a suspect starting rotation, too many empty swings and a lack of speed.  BBRT’s guess is no.

A Couple of Players to Watch

Southpaw closer Zach Britton is a saves machine (47 saves in 47 opportunities), who posted a 0.54 ERA in 67 innings pitched (74 strikeouts) last season. Over the past three seasons (all with the O’s), he’s notched 120 saves and a 1.38 ERA in 209 innings pitched. It’s worth the price of admission to watch him work.  Britton has now recorded 49 consecutive saves (in save opportunity situations). Eric Gagne holds the record at a whopping 84.

Given the Orioles’ starting pitching issues, you might want to keep an eye on Corey Sedlock – the Orioles’ 2016 first-round draft pick. The 21-year-old, 6’ 3”, 200-pound right hander was the Big Ten Pitcher of the year in 2016 and notched a 3.00 ERA in nine starts at Class A Aberdeen. He’s reported to have a four-pitch repertoire, topped by a four-seam fastball that reaches the mid-90s.  While Sedlock is likely to open the season in the minors, he has the potential to move up the ladder quickly.

Fifth Place – Tampa Bay Rays (75-87)

It looks like another difficult year for the Rays, who have to compete in the tough AL East. Still, the potential of their starting rotation makes them a sleeper pick to move up in the standings.  The key word, however, is potential.

Chris Archer Tampa Bay Rays photo

Chris Archer, a dark horse Cy Young candidate, will lead the Rays’ pitching staff. Photo by rrescot

Righty Chris Archer (28-years-old) leads the staff and has “ace” stuff – fanning 233 in 201 1/3 innings.  However, gopher balls (30 on the season, seventh highest in the AL) and a lack of run support relegated him to a 9-19, 4.02 season. Still, Archer’s 3.25 ERA after the All Star break offers promise for 2017. Likely to join Archer in the rotation are 26-year-old Jake Ordozzi (10-6, 3.69); 29-year-old Alex Cobb (coming back from an injury, but a 10-game winner in 2014); 24-year-old Blake Snell (6-8, 3.54); and 27-year-old Mark Andriese (8-8, 4.37).  Waiting in the wings is prospect Jose De Leon, acquired from the Dodgers in the Logan Forsythe trade. De Leon went 7-1, 2.61 for the Dodgers’ Triple A club (Oklahoma City) last season.

The bullpen is led by closer Alex Colome (2-4, 1.91, with 37 saves in 40 opportunities). The bullpen cast should include Brad Boxberger (4-3, 4.81 – the AL saves leader with 41 in 2015, but coming off an injury-derailed 2016); Xavier Cedeno (3-4, 3.70); and Erasmo Ramirez (7-11, 3.77).

Rays Stat Fact

Tampa Bay has finished last in attendance for five consecutive seasons.

Tampa Bay scored the second fewest runs in the AL last season – and gave up a chunk off offense (Logan Forsythe – .264 with 20 home runs) to acquire top pitching prospect De Leon. The offense – what there is – will again be led by right-handed hitter 3B Evan Longoria (.273-36-98); left-handed batter 1B/DH Brad Miller (.243-30-81); and switch-hitting OF/DH Corey Dickerson (.245-24-70). In the OF, CF Kevin Kiermaier put up a line of  .246-12-37, with 21 steals in 105 games, and is one of the best defensive CF in the game.  He likely will be flanked by newcomer Colby Rasmus (.206-15-54 in 107 games for the Astros) and Steven Souza Jr. (.247-17-49). Matt Duffy, who hit .276 after coming over from San Francisco in the Matt Moore trade, should be back at short, but the Rays do have a lot of options in the infield – Duffy can play 3B/2B/SS; Norm Franklin can fill in at 1B/2B/3B; and even Brad Miller has played every position expect pitcher and catcher in the major leagues (four seasons). Catcher is a question mark. The Rays did sign Wilson Ramos (.307-22-80 for the Nationals), who is coming off a career year – but also coming off knee surgery and opening the season on the Disabled List.

Overall, the East is just too tough, and the offense too scarce, for the Rays to escape the cellar.

A Couple of Players to Watch

As 3B Evan Longoria goes, so goes the Rays’ offense.  Last season, Longoria led the team in batting average (.273); home runs (36), RBI (98), runs scored (81) and base hits (173).  The Rays have to see similar results from Longoria to have any chance of moving up in the standings.  2016, however, was Longoria’s strongest season since his last All Star year (2010).

RHP Jose De Leon – acquired from the Dodgers in the Logan Forsythe trade – brings another young (24-years-old) gun into the Rays’ pitching stable. In four minor league seasons, De Leon is 23-13, 3.35, with 446 strikeouts in 330 2/3 innings. Last season, at Triple A, he was 7-1, 2.61. He earned a call up to the Dodgers (2-0, 6.35.) De Leon will likely start the season at AAA, but could move up quickly – giving the Rays’ some trading options (a young starting pitcher for a bat or two). Stay tuned.

CENTRAL DIVISION

Cleveland Indians  (97-65)

Corey Kluber photo

Corey Kluber heads a stellar mound staff. Photo by apardavila

The Cleveland Indians are heavy favorites to retain their Central Division title – and may very well return to the World Series (only the Red Sox starting rotation seems to stand in their way). Think about it. The Indians made it to the World Series despite losing two members of the starting rotation in September, as well as their top bat – Michael Brantley – for nearly all of the season.

The Indians expected dominance all starts with pitching.  Cleveland had the AL’s second-lowest ERA last season (and second-best among starters as well as relievers) and topped the AL in strikeouts. Not only are the Indians bringing this stellar pitching staff back, they’ve added free-agent signee Edwin Encarnacion (.263-42-127 for the Blue Jays) to an offense that scored the AL’s second-most runs in 2016.

Let’s look at the pitching first. The rotation starts with 2014 CYA winner Corey Kluber (18-9, 3.14 with 227 strikeouts in 2016). He’s followed by Carlos Carrasco (11-8, 3.32); Danny Salazar (11-6, 3.87); Trevor Bauer (12-8, 4.26); and Josh Tomlin (13-9, 4.40). This is a solid rotation (although with the addition of Chris Sale, the Red Sox have the edge).

The bullpen is headed by closer Cody Allen (3-5, 32 saves, 2.51 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 68 innings); Andrew Miller (10-1, 12 saves, 1.45 ERA and 123 strikeouts in 74 1/3 innings); and Bryan Shaw (2-5, 3.24 and 60 whiffs in 66 2/3 innings). The final three innings should belong to the Indians with this trio.  Having Miller for the whole season – he came over from the Yankees at the end of July – will make the Indian’s pen even more effective.

Indians Stat Fact

Cleveland’s home record of 53-28 tied the Rangers for the best in the AL. They were, however, only two games over .500 on the road (41-39).

The Indians’ lineup, with Encarnacion now in the middle, looks strong – particularly if Brantley is ready to resume left field duties. You’ve got 2B Jason Kipnis (.275-23-82, with 15 steals) and young and improving (already a star) shortstop Francisco Lindor (.301-15-78, with 19 steals) at the top. In the middle you have Encarnacion and Carlos Santana (.259-34-87), likely to share 1B/DH and LF Brantley. Even the bottom of the lineup shows some pop with 3B Jose Ramirez (.312-11-76, 22 steals – entering his fifth MLB season at age 24); RF Lonnie Chisenhall (.286-8-57); and CF Tyler Naquin (.296-14-43 in 116 games). Catching could be a question mark. Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez both missed significant time due to injury last season.

Ultimately, the Indians are the class of the Central. .

A Couple of Players to Watch

SS Francisco Lindor, just 23 and entering his third MLB season, may very well be the best player on this roster. Last season, he was an All Star, a Gold Glover and put up a .301-15-78 line, with 19 steals.  This season, he’s likely to be a 30-30 (HR/SB) player and be the catalyst for the Cleveland offense.

I would also keep an eye on CF Tyler Naquin – entering just his second MLB season (at age 25). Naquin, a .287 hitter in five minor league seasons, hit .296, with 14 home runs and 43 RBI in 116 games for the Indians last season.  Right now, it looks like he’ll platoon with Abraham Almonte in center, but Naquin could win the full-time spot. (Besides, he’s on my fantasy squad.)

Detroit Tigers – Second Place (83-79)

Miguel Cabrera photo

Miguel Cabrera – hard to argue with a former MVP and Triple Crown winner in the middle of your lineup. Photo by Keith Allison

The Tigers finished eight games off the pace in the AL Central (behind Cleveland and out of the playoffs for the second straight season). The team is in a process of rebuilding with young players like SPs Mike Fulmer and Daniel Norris and OF JaCoby Jones – but they still have enough solid veterans to remain competitive (and hold on to second place) while these players develop.

The middle of the Tiger batting order belongs to veterans 1B/DH Miguel Cabrera (.316-38-108),  DH/1B Victor Martinez (.289-27-86) and RF J.D. Martinez (.307-22-68). The key plate-setters at the top will be 2B Ian Kinsler (.288-28-83, with 14 steals) and LF Justin Upton (.246-31-87). Keep in mind, Cabrera is 33-years-old; Victor Martinez is 38; and Kinsler is 34.  The Tigers can ill afford an off-season from any of these veterans.  The remainder of the infield consists of Jose Eglesias at SS (.255-4-32) and Nick Costellanos at 3B (.285-18-58).  Costellanos seems to be finding his stroke (career highs in home runs and batting average lasts season), but needs to cut down on the strikeouts.  CF looks like a battle between JaCoby Jones, Matt Mahtook and possibly Tyler Collins (who could slot in better as a versatile fourth outfielder). Overall, OF defense could be an issue again in 2016. The Fielding Bible rated the Tigers garden the second worst defenders in MLB last season.  At catcher, James McCann and his plus-arm should hold sway, but he needs to improve on his .221-12-48 stat line. .

Tigers Stat Fact

Handling Cleveland may be the key to the Tigers’ season. They finished eight games behind the Indians a year ago – and went 4-14 against the Tribe.

The rotation starts with Justin Verlander, who was revitalized in 2016 (16-9, 3.04 with a league-leading 254 strikeouts in 227 2/3 innings – his best totals in since 2012).  The question is: At 34-years-old, and with nearly 2,500 innings on his right arm, can he do it again?  From Verlander, the rotation goes to Michael Fulmer (11-7, 3.06 as a rookie); Jordan Zimmerman (a disappointment last season at 9-7, 4.87); southpaw Daniel Norris (4-2, 3.38 in 13 starts – with lots of upside); and Matt Boyd (6-5, 4.53). In the wings are past starters Anibel Sanchez and Mike Pelfrey. Key for the Tigers will be Verlander’s ability to match last year’s performance (at age 34), Zimmerman’s ability to bounce back from last season’s injury issues (neck) and the development of Norris.  Very simply, there are some questions here. Still, this group put up the fourth-best ERA among AL starting rotations in 2016, so they should be able to get the job done.

Francisco Rodriguez (at 35-years-old) returns as the Tigers’ closer – after a 3-4, 3.24, 44-save record in 2016.  Among the key relievers getting the ball to Rodriguez, expect Bruce Rondon (5-2, 2.97 in 37 games) and Alex Wilson (4-0, 2.96 in 62 games).

Despite some aging in the lineup and question marks in the rotation, the Tiger appear to have enough to hold onto second place, but not enough to catch the Indians.

A Couple of Players to Watch

Miguel Cabrera is a hitting machine, a former Triple Crown winner and two-time MVP, who shows little sign of slowing down in the batter’s box after 14 MLB seasons (four batting titles, two HR crowns). It will be interesting to see if Cabrera, who will turn 34 in April, shows any signs of wear and tear. I’m betting he rakes again.

Michael Fulmer was the AL Rookie of the Year in 2016, after going 11-7, 3.06 in 26 starts. However, there are some questions to be answered. Fulmer went 9-2, 2.11 in 13 first half starts – and then 2-5, 3.94 in 13 starts after the break.

Kansas City Royals – Third Place (81-81)

Danny Duffy photo

Danny Duffy – new staff ace? Photo by KellyK

The Royals were MLB’s darlings in 2014 and 2015, with two World Series appearances and one Championship. Then, last season, they slipped to third place, .500 and 13 ½ games behind the Indians. The Royals look to be a .500 club again in 2016 – despite the tragic loss of key starter Yordano Ventura in an off-season accident. The fact is, pitching and defense will still be strengths for Kansas City – which scored the third-fewest runs in 2016 and lost DH Kendrys Morales’ 30 home runs and 93 RBI to free agency.

The rotation will be led by southpaw Danny Duffy, who didn’t make his first start until May 15 last year, and ended up 12-3, 3.51 with 188 strikeouts in 179 2/3 innings. The number-two spot (replacing Ventura) will likely go to free-agent signee veteran Jason Hammel (15-10, 3.83 for the Cubs last season).  Ian Kennedy will also be in the rotation, after going 11-11, 3.68 for the Royals a year ago. Competitors for the final spots are Jason Vargas (coming back from Tommy John surgery, but an 11-game winner in 2014); Six-foot-ten-inch Chris Young (who had off-season surgery after a 3-9, 6.19 season); free-agent signee Travis Wood (4-0, 2.95 in 75 relief appearances for the Cubs last year, but a starter as recently as 2014); hard-throwing Matt Strahm (2-2, 1.23 in 21 games in relief for the Royals); and Nate Karns (6-2, 5.15). Solid top of the rotation, somepretty good competition for the back end.

Royals Stat Fact

Kansas City finished at .500 a year ago, despite being outscored by 37 runs (712-675) and out-homered by 59 (206-147).

The bullpen has some question marks, particularly with closer Wade Davis (who did spend some time on the DL last season, but still logged 27 saves) gone to the Cubs (in the Jorge Soler trade),  Kevin Herrera will spend the full season as closer (2-6, 2.75, 12 saves and 86 strikeouts in 72 innings last season). He appears ready for that role, but that creates some issues in getting the ball to the ninth (Herrera’s previous role). Right now, it looks like Jaokim Soria; Brian Flynn; and whoever loses out in the battle for starting spots (Woods, Strahm, Young, free-agent Mark Minor).

They keys to the offense belong to 1B Eric Hosmer (.266-25-105 – and a three-time Gold Glover); CF Lorenzo Cain (.287-9-56, with 14 steals in 103 games): and possibly newcomer RF/DH Jorge Soler (.238-12-31 in 86 games for the Cubs). A couple of veterans should fill the top of the order: SS Alcides Escobar (.261-7-55, with 17 steals, who played in all 162 games a year ago – and was a 2015 Gold Glover) and 3B Mike Moustakas (.240-7-13 in 27 games in 2016), an All Star in 2015.  LF belongs to Alex Gordon, a four-time Gold Glover coming off a subpar offensive season.  Salvador Perez is one of the best catchers in the game (four consecutive Gold Gloves), as well as an offensive threat (.247-22-64). He should again slot in somewhere near the middle of the lineup. Second base may be up for grabs with Whit Merrifield, Raul Mondesi and Christian Colon in the mix – none played more than 81 games in 2016. Merrifield had the best season in 2016 (.283-2-29, eight steals in 81 games as a rookie), but the Royals reportedly still have high hopes for Mondesi. At DH, the Royals will be hard pressed to replace (free agent) Kendrys Morales’ 30 home runs and 93 RBI.  It looks like a revolving door with the competitors including Brandon Moss (.225-28-67), Soler (if he doesn’t earn a full-time outfield slot); Merrifield (if he doesn’t hold off Mondesi at 2B); Cheslor Cuthbert (.274-12-46); and Paul Orlando (.302-5-43, with 14 steals – and competition for Soler for the third OF spot).

Middle of the road pitching and a lack of offense hurt the Royals a year ago and, with the loss of DH Kendrys Morales and closer Wade Davis, they seem to have taken a step backward.  They look like a .500 club again.

A Couple of Players to Watch

Salvador Perez is simply the best defensive catcher in the AL – four seasons as the Royals’ full-time backstop and four Gold Gloves (last season he led the AL, tossing out 48 percent of potential base stealers).  He’s also turned into a solid offensive player (.247-22-64 last season). A pleasure to watch behind (and at) the plate.

LF Alex Gordon is a four-time Gold Glover who has fought through injuries (groin and wrist) over the past two seasons. In 2016, he hit just .220-17-40 in 128 games. In his last season of at least 150 games played, he hit .266-19-74 with 12 steals. The Royals need a return to those kinds of offensive numbers

Chicago White Sox – Fourth Place 70-92

dAVID ROBERTSON WHITE SOX photo

David Robertson will take the ninth inning for the ChiSox.Photo by Keith Allison

The White Sox are rebuilding – and doing it in a hurry.  They added some top prospects (at the cost of Chris Sale and Adam Eaton) over the past couple of years and the 2017 team has enough “potential” to be interesting, but not enough proven talent. The veterans may have to “hold the fort” a bit longer.

The middle of the lineup will feature 31-year-old 3B Todd Frazier (who hit 40 homers and drove in 98 runs, but put up only a .225 average) and 30-year-old 1B Jose Abreu (.293-25-100, who has driven in 100+ runs in each of his three MLB seasons). Other likely veterans in the lineup include 2B Brett Lawrie (.248-12-36); LF Melky Cabrera (.296-14-86).  Youth will be served at the top of the lineup with CF Charlie Tilson (a 24-year-old rookie), who hit .282 in 100 games at Triple A last season (but also suffered a foot injury early in Spring Training) and 23-year-old SS Tim Anderson, who hit .283-9-30 in 99 games as a rookie (but needs to cut down on his strikeouts – 117 K’s versus only 13 walks last season). Avisail Garcis is the likely starter in RF, but has still hasn’t lived up to his power potential (.245-12-51 in 120 games). DH is up for grabs – although Abreu and Garcia may spend some time there.  Prospect Matt Davidson (who has shown some power in the minors) may get a look and utility man Tony Saladino ( .282-8-38, 11 steals in 93 games) should see time around the infield and perhaps at DH. Omar Narvarez and Kevin Smith are the (inexperienced) options at catcher.

White Sox Stat Fact

The Sox 4.10 starters’ ERA was right in the middle of the AL (seventh) – with Chris Sale.  Take Sale out of the equation and that ERA jumps to 4.33 (twelfth). Sale had six of the White Sox seven complete games.  The current likely rotation had one complete game among them in 2016.  #BigShoesToFill.

Southpaw Jose Quintana takes over from Sale as the ace of the staff – he was 13-12, 3.20 last season and has the stuff for a number-one or number–two starter.  Still he has reached ten wins only once in five seasons.  The number-two spot will go to another lefty, Carlos Rodon (9-10. 4.04, but on the upswing – he was 7-3, 3.45 with 77 strikeouts in 73 innings over the second half).  At just 24-years-old, he should improve in his third MLB season.  After these two southpaws, however, things get a little rocky. The back of the rotation looks like 35-year-old James Shields (who had been a steady winner through 2015, but last season finished 6-19, 5.85); Miguel Gonzalez (5-8, 3.73); and free-agent signee Derek Holland (7-9, 4.95 with the Rangers), looking for a rebound after three injury-hampered seasons with the Rangers. Holland went 38-21 in 31 starts in 2011-12-13, but 13-12 in 35 starts in 2014-15-16.

David Robertson is back at closer after a 5-3, 3.47, 37-save season. He does need to improve on his walk rate.  In 2016, he walked 32 batters (75 strikeouts) in 62 1/3 innings – and his save percentage was 22nd among pitchers with at least ten saves.   Getting the ball to Robertson are Nate Jones with a high-90s fastball and a .2.29 ERA in 71 appearances (80 strikeouts in 70 2/3 innings); Dave Jennings (2.08 in 64 appearances); and Zach Putnam (2.30 in 25 appearances).  Mike Ynoa (24-years-old), who looked good in his rookie season (1-0, 3.00, 30 strikeouts in 30 innings) could also see more work this season. If Robertson can harness his control, this is a solid pen.

A Couple of Players to Watch

Okay, the White Sox are rebuilding, so keep an eye on a couple of recent “prospect” additions – acquired in the Sale and Eaton Trades.

Yoan Moncada, acquired from the Red Sox in the Chris Sale trade, is considered one of the top prospects in baseball.  He can play 2B and 3B and last season hit .294-16-62, with 45 steals in the minors. He’s just 21-years-old, but if the White Sox flounder early, he could be in the lineup sooner rather than later.

RHP Lucas Giolito (22-years-old), acquired from the Nationals in the Eaton trade, is a starter whose fastball has hit triple digits. He moved from A to Double A to Triple A last season – and even got a look-see at the major league level. In five minor league season, he is 25-15, 2.73, with 397 strikeouts in 369 innings. He may need a little more seasoning, but again, if the White Sox find themselves out of the race early, Giolito could see a major league mound before September.

Minnesota Twins – Fifth Place (65-95)

Only the Diamondbacks had a worse team ERA than the Twins in 2016 (5.09 to 5.08). Further, the Twins had the worst ERA among starters (5.39) and fifth worst out of the pen (4.63), as well as the third-worst save percentage (saves versus saver opportunities) at 57 percent.  They didn’t do much in the offseason to address these issues – other than signing free-agent catcher Jason Castro (an acknowledged accomplished pitch framer).  So, despite the fact that the Twins have a group of potentially exciting young position players, the team seems destined for another last-place finish,.

It all starts with pitching and, in Minnesota, that means Ervin Santana (7-11, 3.38 in 30 starts). Santana will likely be followed in the rotation by Hector Santiago (13-10, 4.48 for the Angels and Twins, but 3-6, 5.05 with Minnesota) and Phil Hughes (1-7, 5.68 in just 12 games – fractured knee). The Twins need Santiago to pitch more like he did for the Angels (10-4, 4.24) and for Hughes to comeback from the knee injury and off-season surgery to correct thoracic outlet syndrome. (Hughes was a 16-game winner for the Twins in 2014).  There’s likely to be competition for the final two spots, with candidates including: Kirk Gibson, Jose Berrios and Tyler Duffy – all with ERA’s north of 5.00 last season. A couple of outside possibilities for the rotation are starter-turned-reliever Trevor May and Twins’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year Stephen Gonsalves.

The bullpen also has question marks, but should be improved. It now appears Brandon Kintzler (0-2, 3.15. 17 saves in 20 opportunities) will be back at closer, as Glen Perkins (who saved 102 games for the Twins from 2013-15) works his way back from shoulder surgery.  The Twins added veteran Matt Bellisle (1.76 ERA in 40 games for the Nationals last season), and he should strengthen the pen. Ryan Pressley (3.70 with 67 whiffs in 75 1/3 innings) also should be assured of a role.  Michael Tonkin, J.T. Chargois, Taylor Rogers and newcomer Craig Breslow will be competing for spots.

Twins Stat Fact

Defense-Defense-Defense.  Twins pitchers gave up the most hits (1,617), earned runs (814), home runs (221) and the highest opponents’ batting average (.283) in the AL in 2016.  The defense behind them didn’t fare much better – leading the AL in errors (120) and unearned runs allowed (75). Pretty good insight into why the Twins finished with the AL’s worst record (59-103).

The Twins lineup has a bit more to offer – and looks to be on the upswing (pun intended).  The power comes from leadoff hitter 2B Brian Dozier (.268-42-99, with 18 steals); 23-year-old 3B Miguel Sano (.236-25-66 and a likely 40-HR candidate down the road); 24-year-old LF Max Kepler (.235-17-63 in 113) games; and likely DH Kennys Vargas .(230-10-20 in 47 games). The Twins like 23-yeaer-old Jorge Polanco at SS (.282 in 69 games), but he is a work in progress on defense. Joining Kepler in the outfield is CF Byron Buxton, who seems like he’s been a prospect forever, but is still only 23-years-old. Eddie Rosario (.269-10-32 in 92 games) or 2016 surprise Robbie Grossman (.280-11-37 in 99 games) should fill the final OF spot. Buxton, an elite defender, has had trouble adjusting to major league pitching (.224-10-38), but showed improvement at the end of 2016. 1B/DH Joe Mauer, a three-time batting champion, will be back at 1B (and some DH), but it’s been awhile since he’s shown the kind of offense you want out of a 1B/DH. (Mauer has a .308 career average, but has hit .277-.265-.261 over the past three seasons.) Newcomer Jason Castro, an accomplished pitch framer brought in to aid the pitching staff, will handle the catching.  Don’t expect a lot of offense, Castro was .210-11-32 in 113 games last season.  Still as Sano, Buxton, Polanco and Kepler mature, this offense should put runs on the board.

A Couple of Players to Watch

Twins’ 2B Brian Dozier hit 42 home runs last season, and an AL record 40 as a second baseman (two came as a DH). He finished as .268-42-99, with 19 steals.  Prior to last season, Dozier’s highest HR total was 28. However, he has increased his home run total every season since his 2012 MLB debut.  It will be interesting to see if the 42-HR season was an aberration, or if Dozier will continue as a major (30+ HR) power threat.  Also of interest, the Twins shopped Dozier in the off-season.  If things go badly, will they attempt to move him again before the trade deadline?

Byung-ho Park represents a significant investment for the Twins –  $12.85 million to the Korean Baseball Organization’s (KBO) Nexen Heroes for the right to negotiate with Park and another $12 million in the form of a four-year contract with the 1B/DH. Park, who hit .324 with 105 home runs and 270 RBI over his last two seasons in Korea (2014-2015), hit just .191 with 12 homers and 24 RBI in 62 games for the Twins. He didn’t fare much better at Triple A (.224-10-19 in 31 games). Park cleared Waivers and was moved from the 40-man MLB roster in the off-season. Twins’ fans will be watching to see if Park adjusts and the investment pays off – or if it goes the way of the Tsuyoshi Nashik signing (from Nippon Professional Baseball) in 2010.

WEST DIVISION

First Place – Houston Astros (92-70)

Jose altuve photo

Jose Altuve – Astros’ spark plug. Photo by roy.luck

What the Astro lacked last season, as they finished in third place, was a veteran presence to show the way for their youthful lineup.  They went out and got it with the signing of free-agent veteran DH Carlos Beltran (.295-29-98 for the Rangers and Yankees) and the trade of two minor league pitchers to the Yankees for catcher Brian McCann (.242-20-58). Their presence in the middle of the lineup and leadership in the dugout should keep the young Astros on course for a first-place finished

There is a lot to like about this lineup – from the top down. OF George Springer and 2B sparkplug Jose Altuve will top the order.  Springer (.261-29-92, nine steals) appears to be moving to center to make room for newcomer Josh Reddick (.281-10-53 in 115 games) in right.  (The Astros have plenty of outfield options with Springer, Reddick, Norichika Aoki and Jake Marisnick.)  Altuve is a potential MVP who does it all. Last season, he won his second batting title (.338) and chipped in 24 home runs, 96 RBI, 108 runs scored and 30 stolen bases.  The 5’6” dynamo makes this team go.  And there is plenty more. Carlos Correa – just 22-years-old – is one of today’s most exciting young shortstops (.274-20-96, with 13 steals) and may man the cleanup spot. 3B Alex Bregman (23-years-old) got off to a slow start (he had only one hit in his first 34 MLB at bats), but came on strong (hitting .311 the rest of the way and finishing at .264-8-34). Behind the plate, you have McCann, as well as veteran Evan Gattis (.251-32-72) – who could spell each other, as well as take a turn at DH. At first base, the Astros will look to Yulieski Gurriel – who defected from Cuba in February of 2016 – and signed with the Astros in July. Gurriel hit .262-3-15 in 36 games (3B/1B/LF) for Houston. (He had a .335 average over 15 seasons in Cuba and Japan).   In short, this lineup is stacked with solid hitters – and a combination of youth and experience.  They are going to score some runs.

Astros’ Stat Fact

In 2016, the Astros starting rotation’s ERA went from 2015’s 3.71 (second best in the AL) to 4.37 (eighth best). They need to turn that back around.

When it come to the starting rotation, the Astros are looking for significant rebounds up and down the staff.  It starts with southpaw Dallas Keuche,l who fell to 9-12, 4.25 in 2016 – after a 20-8, 2.48 Cy Young Award season in 2015.  Keuchel did have shoulder issues last season, and bears watching. Two and three in the rotation should go to 23-year-old Lance McCullers (a respectable 6-5, 3.22 – but coming off  shoulder and elbow issues that limited him to 14 starts); and Collin McHugh (13-10, 4.34 – after 19-7, 3.89 in 2015). The back of the rotation looks to be drawn from among Mike Fiers (11-8, 4.48), veteran Charlie Morton (coming off a hamstring injury – and surgery – that limited his 2016 season to four starts for the Phillies) , Brad Peacock and Joe Musgrove.  There are questions in this group – particularly related to durability.  The dark horse may be Musgrove.  The big (6’5”, 265-pound) righty is only 24-years-old and was 4-4, 4.06 in his rookie season – after going 7-4, 2.74 in two 2016 minor league stops.

The bullpen got off to a rocky start in 2016, but righted itself when Ken Giles moved into the closer role (2-5, 4.11 with 15 saves and 102 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings). Over the second half, Giles was 1-2, 3.77 with 14 saves and 52 whiffs in just 28 2/3 innings. Giles displaced Luke Gregerson at closer (4-3, 3.28 with 15 saves).  Gregerson should be a key set-up man.  Also in the pen are the bat-missing arms of Will Harris, James Hoyt, and Tony Sipp.  Plenty of live arms.

The Astros have a potent offense, solid defense (third-fewest errors and most defensive runs saved in the AL), some new veteran leadership and a solid bullpen.  The only question mark is the starting rotation, but if a couple of the key starters can bounce back, they should end up atop the AL West.

A Couple of  Players to watch

Second baseman Jose Altuve is THE player to watch on the Astros.  Just 5’6” and 165-pounds, he is the sparkplug that ignites the Astros’ offense. At 26-years-old and starting his sixth full season in the major leagues, Altuve is already a four-time All Star, Gold Glove Winner, two-time batting champion, three-time AL leader in hits (641 base hits over the past three seasons), two-time AL stolen base leader (124 steals over the past three seasons) – and he’s added power to his game (24 home runs in 2016). 

BBRT will give you two members of the pitching staff to watch.  First, Dallas Keuchel – to see if the assumed staff “ace” and 2015 Cy Young award winner can come back from shoulder issues and a 9-12, 4.55 season in 2016. The other is 24-year-old RHP Joe Musgrove, who started 2016 at Double A and ended up going 4-4 4.06 for the Astros (ten starts).  He has a minor league record of 28-11, 2.83, with 320 strikeouts in 337 1/3 innings. One more year of experience – and a full year at the MLB level – could make him a difference-maker for the Astros.

Second Place – Texas Rangers (88-74)

Adrian Beltre photo

Adrian Beltre continuing to build a Hall of Fame resume. Photo by Keith Allison

The Rangers basically won their division by going 15-4 against the rival Astros. BBRT doesn’t see that happening again – particularly since the Astros have added some veteran leadership in the off-season.

Thee Rangers scored the fourth-most runs in the AL last season, but they are going to miss the bats of Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond and Mitch Moreland (all lost to free agency). The Rangers did work to shore things up a bit, signing free-agent Mike Napoli earlier this month.  Napoli went .239-34-101 for Cleveland last season and will slot into 1B (replacing Moreland). The home run and RBI totals were career highs for Napoli – 35-years-old and going into his twelfth MLB campaign. The Ranger’ lineup will again key off of 3B Adrian Beltre and he’s got plenty of credentials.  In 2016, Beltre not only put up a .300-32-104 season, he also picked up his fifth Gold Glove. The five-time Gold Glover and  four-time All Star is a stud in the middle of the lineup, but he will turn 38-years-old in April and did suffer a calf injury this spring.  He has to hold off father time if the Rangers are to compete. Joining Beltre and Napoli in providing power will be 23-year-old 2B Rougned Odor (.271-33-88); veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy (.292-24-81); and 21-year-old LF Nomar Mazara (.266-20-64 in his rookie campaign).  Odor and Lucroy should be steady source of power, but Mazara cooled off after a strong start (hitting just .229 after August 1). Along with Mazara (who may see time at both corner OF spots), we’ll likely see Carlos Gomez in CF (.284-8-24 in 33 games for the Rangers, but only .210-5-29 in 85 games with the Astros).  Gomez is a career .257 hitter and is likely to finish in that range. Competing for time in the OF and at DH are Shin-Soo Choo (coming off an injury-marred season), Jurickson Profar  (.239-5-20 – and also available to fill in in the infield); Ryan Rau (.258-8-22  in 99 games and also available at 1B); and perhaps Delino DeShields (.209-7-13 in 74 games). The Rangers would prefer to move Choo’s glove (and bat) to DH, so we may see a Profar, Gomez, Mazara garden on a regular basis.  Finally, there is shortstop Elvis Andrus, coming off a career year (.302-8-69, with 24 steals). The Rangers should score runs again, but there are concerns.  Can Beltre and Napoli repeat their 2016 performances? Which Carlos Gomez will show up? Will Choo bounce back from injury?   Ultimately, the Rangers should have a solid lineup, just less stable than the rival Astros.

Southpaw Cole Hamels (15-5, 3.32).  is back at the top of the rotation, but needs to cut down on walks.  Yu Darvish (7-5, 3.14 in 17 starts after coming back from Tommy John surgery) could get back to his 2012-13-14 All Star form – if he stays healthy. Those two will be followed by lefty Martin Perez (10-11, 4.39), a solid innings eater and two likely drawn from among: free-agent signee Andrew Cashner; A.J. Griffin; and Tyson Ross (coming off thoracic outlet surgery). Ross was the Padres’ Opening Day starter in 2016 – the only game he pitched last season. Ross, however, was an All Star and 13-game winner as recently as 2015 and – if healthy – could boost the Rangers’ rotation.

Rangers Stat Fact

The Rangers were 36-11 in one-run ball games in 2016 (including 8-1 versus the rival Astros) – a modern-era MLB one-run game winning percentage of .766.

In the bullpen, Sam Dyson should return as the closer – after going 3-2, 2.43 with 38 saves a year ago. Dyson is not your typical “lights-out” closer (just 55 strikeouts in 70 1/3 innings).  He’s more of a groundball pitcher, but he gets the job done. Key arms behind Dyson include: Jeremy Jeffress; Matt Bush; Alex Claudio; and Tony Barnette – all with ERA’s under 3.00 last season.

Put it all together and the Rangers should be right on the Aatros’ heels in 2016. If Houston’s starting rotation falters, the Rangers could repeat as division champs.

A Couple of Players to Watch

Free-agent signee Tyson Ross – the San Diego Padres’ 2016 Opening Day starter – is coming off shoulder issues (pitched only on Opening Day last year). Ross, who will turn 30 in April – is a 2014 All Star and has a 3.64 ERA, with 633 strikeouts in 670 2/3 career innings.  If he’s back and healthy, he could put up solid numbers for the Rangers

No one means more to the Rangers’ squad than 3B Adrian Beltre – .300-32-104 in a resurgent 2016 campaign (he also picked up a Gold Glove). Beltre, however is 38, and is playing against father time.  He seems destined for the Hall of Fame (should pick up his 3,000th hit, 450th home run, 1,500th run scored, 1,600 the RBI and 120th stolen base thise season). BBRT will be watching his numbers in 2017.

Third Place – Seattle Mariners (83-79)

Edwin Diaz Mariners photo

Closer Edwin Diaz fanned more than 15 batters per nine innings for the Mariners. Photo by THE Laura Smith

Lots of new faces in Seattle this year, but the results will likely be pretty much the same as a year ago.

The rotation starts with Felix Hernandez (11-8, 3.82), who missed some time with a calf strain (had just 25 starts) and seems to be showing signs of wear (turning 31 in April and a veteran of 12 MLB seasons and more than 2,400 MLB innings). Last season saw Hernandez notch his fewest wins since 2008, highest ERA since 2006 and fewest innings pitched since his rookie campaign (2005). Still, he’s a six-time All Star and the Mariners are counting on a return to form. The number-two spot goes to Hihashi Iwakuma, a steady innings-eater who went 16-12, 4.12 – but will be 36 in April. Hard-throwing James Paxton showed signs of breaking out last season (6-7, 3.79 with 117 strikeouts in 121 innings), but made just 20 starts (bruised elbow).  A full year of Paxton would be a plus for Seattle. A couple of newcomers – Drew Smyly, acqujred in a trade with the Rays, and Yovani Gallordo, picked up in a trade with the Orioles, should round out the rotation. Smyly was 7-12, 4.88 in 30 starts with the Rays, while Gallardo was 6-8, 5.42 with the O’s. If either of those two falters in Spring Training, I’d bet on 28-year-old Cuban Ariel Miranda (5-2, 3.88 in ten starts) to take a spot.

Mariners’ Stat Fact

Seattle played a whopping 60 one-run games last season (30-30 record).  If they could have gone 33-27 in those contests, they would have been in the Wild Card picture.

Hard-throwing Edwin Diaz took over closer duties in July and finished 0-4, 2.79 with 18 saves.  Diaz looks to be the full-time closer. He fanned 88 batters in just 51 2/3 innings. Former closer Steve Cishek, coming off hip surgery could be the numer-one setup man (if healthy).  He was 4-6, 2.81 with 25 saves a year ago. Other key members of the pen are newcomer southpaw Mark Rzepczynski (great on a jersey); Nick Vincent; and youngster Dan Altavilla (considered to be a potential closer in waiting). Altavilla had a 0.73 ERA in 15 relief appearances for the Mariners last season, after going 7-3, 1.91, with 16 saves at Double A.  Overall, the Mariners pen looks solid.

The Mariners offense is powered by DH Nelson Cruz, 2B Robinson Cano and 3B Kyle Seager, and the numbers point to plenty of production. Cruz went .287-43-105 last season; Cano went .298-39-103; and Seager .278-30-99. However, the trio accounted for half of the Mariners’ 2017 home run output and 42 percent of the RBIs. They will look for some help from new leadoff  hitter (trade with the D-backs) SS Jean Segura (.319-20-64, with 33 steals) and 1B Danny Valencia (.287-17-51). Leonys Martin (.247-15-47, with 24 steals) appears set in CF and a spot near the top of the order.  However, Spring Training may see auditions for the other two spots among Jarrod Dyson (.278-1-25, with 30 steals for the Royals); prospect Ben Gamel (.308-6-51, with 19 steals at Triple A); and Mitch Haninger (.229-5-17 in 34 games with the D-backs).  At catcher, Mike Zunino should get most of the playing time, backed by newcomer veteran Carlos Ruiz.

The Mariners made a lot of moves in the off-season, but still face questions in the rotation and an offense that is too dependent on their big three. They have enough talent to finish above .500, but a playoff spot seems unlikely.

A Couple of Players to Watch

OF prospect Ben Gamel hit just .188 in 33 games at the MLB level (Yankees/Mariners), but hit .304, with 16 home runs, 155 RBI and 32 stolen bases at Triple A in 2015-16. Watch to see if Gamel to win a spot in the Mariner’ outfield.

Closer Edwin Diaz fanned 15.3 batters per nine inning last season, second only to the Yankees’ Dellin Betances (15.5).  Diaz and Betances, in fact, were the only pitches to fan more than15 batters per nine. (Aroldis Chapman was seventh at 14.)  Diaz is only 23-years-old, so this youngster bears watching.

Fourth Place – Los Angeles Angels (75-89)

Mike Trout photo

Mike Trout – Keeps putting smiles on the faces of Angels’ fans. Photo by Keith Allison

The Angels have been active in the free-agent market in the past – see Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson and Josh Hamilton – but played it fairly conservative this off-season. Unfortunately, that means it’s unlikely they will move up in the standings.

Still, there is star power in the Angels’ lineup – starting with a pair of future Hall of Famers: CF Mike Trout (.315-29-100, with 30 steals) – who is a perennial MVP candidate and (hard to believe) just 25-years-old – and 37-year-old DH Albert Pujols (.268-31-119), who should pole his 600th home run this season.  These two will likely hold down the three and four spots in the order. The question is, can Pujols, coming off foot surgery, deliver another solid year at age 37?  3B Yunel Escobar (.304-5-39 in 132 games will likely leadoff, but lacks the speed of a typical leadoff hitter (zero steals last season).  C.J. Cron at 1B (.278-16-69, despite missing 30+ games after being hit by a pitch, should provide some protection behind Pujols and Trout. Andrelton Simmons brings Gold Glove skills to the SS position, but his .281 average last year was a career high (career average .261),  He slots in somewhere near the  bottom of the lineup. Flanking Trout in the outfield expect to see newcomer free-agent Cameron Maybin (.315-4-43, 15 steals in 94 games for the Tigers) and Kole Calhoun (.271-18-75), who may be poised for a breakout year. All three offer solid defense. Free-agent Ben Revere, who joins the Angels after an off-year with the Nationals (.217 average versus a career .285 mark) may also see some time in the OF. Free-agent signee Danny Espinosa, who hit just .209 last season for the Nationals, seems slated for 2B, while newcomer Martin Maldanado and returnee Carlos Perez should share catching duties (all three offer more on defense than offense.)  A year ago, the Angels finished tenth in runs scored and there are still too many offensive holes in the lineup to improve.

Angels’ Stat Fact

The Angels had the AL’s fourth-worst ERA a year ago, gave up the league’s fifth-most home runs and struck out the fewest batters.

The rotation is filled with question marks.  Gone from last year’s rotation are Jered Weaver (free agency); Nick Tropeano (Tommy John surgery); and Andrew Heaney (Tommy John surgery).  At the top of the rotation is Garrett Richards – who seems to have avoided Tommy John surgery with stem-cell therapy (key word “seems”) – and went 1-3, 2.34 before being shut down last season (six starts). Richards was a 15-game winner (15-12, 3.65) in 2015, and the Angels are hoping for a healthy 2017.  Matt Shoemaker could deliver quality innings in the number-two slot (9-13, 3.88 last season, with a 3.75 ERA over four seasons). Shoemaker, however, suffered a small/minor skull fracture (Is there such a thing?) when hit by a line drive last September. He will be watched carefully in spring.  It’ll take Spring Training to sort out the remainder of the staff.  Among the leading candidates: Tyler Skaggs (3-4, 4.17), who recorded only ten starts last year, coming back from Tommy John surgery; veteran Rickey Nolasco (8-14, 4.42 for the Twins and Angels); free-agent Jesse Chavez (2-2, 4.43 in 62 relief appearances for the Blue Jays and Dodgers), who has bounced between starter and reliever; and a couple of prospects –  6’9” Alex Meyer (1-3, 6.75 with the Twins and Angels) and Brooks Pounders (2-1, 9.74 with the Royals, but 5-3, 3.14 at Triple A).  Starting pitching may be an issue in LA.

In the pen, it looks like a race between experienced closer Huston Street (at 33-years-old, coming off an injury-shortened season and knee surgery) and closer-in-waiting Cam Bedrosian (2-0, 1.12 in 45 games, with 51 strikeouts in 40 1/3 innings).  Either Street or Bedrosian could serve in a setup role, along with Andrew Baily (3-1, 5.36, but with a 2.38 ERA in 12 appearances after coming over from the Phillies). Other likely occupants of the Angels’ pen include Deolis Guerra (3-0, 3.21 in 44 games); Jose Alvarez (1-3, 3.45 in 64 games): Mike Morin (2-2, 4.37 in 60 games); and J.C, Ramirez (3-4, 4.35 in 70 games).  The bullpen could be a plus for the Halos.

When you look at the holes in the lineup and the questions in the starting rotation, its hard to see the Angels finishing ina top-three spot this season..

A Couple of Players to Watch

People will show up just to see Mike Trout – just 25-years-old and after five full seasons, he’s a: five-time All Star; two-time MVP (including last year); skilled CF; intimidating base runner (30 steals last year, a league-leading 49 in 2012); and a power threat (.306 career average, three seasons of 30 or more home runs). Worth the price of a ticket.

Matt Shoemaker has a solid fastball, good control and a split-finger out pitch. As a rookie, in 2014, he went 16-4, 3.04. He’s been up and down since, but seemed to right himself after a slow start in 2016 – before suffering a head injury (that required surgery) after being hit by a line drive. In the six starts before the injury, he went 4-2, 3.15.  It will be interesting to see how Shoemaker responds after that injury.  If he bounces back, he can make a significant impact on the Angel’s rotation.

Fifth Place – Oakland A’s (72-90)

Ryon Healy photo

Ryon Healy – Angels need his bat in the lineup. Photo by Keith Allison

Oakland scored the fewest runs in the AL last season – and gave up the second-most. They didn’t make enough changes in the off-season to make a big enough difference.

LF Khris Davis was the brightest bulb in the A’s lineup last season, delivering a .247-42-102 season. Unfortunately, the only other current “A” to reach 15 home runs was SS Marcus Semien (.238-27-75).  (Danny Valancia hit 17 dingers for the A’s, but was traded to the Mariners for prospect RHP Paul Blackburn.)  The A’s will look for offense from free-agent 3B Trevor Plouffe (.260-12-47 with Minnesota, but with two 20+ HR campaigns under his belt).  The Plouffe pickup likely will result in Ryon Healy moving over to 1B (he could also see time at 3B and DH). The A’s need the 25-year-old Healy’s bat in the lineup every day. Last season the 25-year-old went .305-13-37 for the A’s, after going .326-14-64 in two minor league stops. When Healy is not at 1B, look for Yonder Alonso (.253-7-56). The OF looks like Khris Davis in left, with free-agent signees Rajai Davis (.249-12-48, 43 steals) in center and Matt Joyce (.242- 13-42) in right.  Mark Canha, who missed most of last season due to a hip injury, may see time in RF as well. In his 2015 rookie season, Canha hit .254, with 16 home runs and 70 RBI.  Canha can also fill in at 1B and DH. Second base sees Jed Lowrie (.263-2-27) returning, but don’t be surprised if the A’s look for ways to squeeze more offense out of the position. Finally, Stephen Vogt should be the number-one catcher.  He hit .251 with decent power (14 home runs) last season.

Three spots seem assured in the A’s rotation, Sonny Gray, Kendall Graveman and Sean Manaea. Gray is the key pitcher.  The former first-round pick suffered through an injury-plagued 2016, going 5-11, 5.69 – as compared to 33-20, 2.88 over his first three seasons.  The A’s need Gray to return to form. Graveman went 10-11, 4.11 in 31 starts and was a steady presence in the rotation. Southpaw Seth Manaea went 7-9, 3.86 for the A’s and has a 16-9, 2.85 ERA record in three minor league seasons.  He may be ready to break out. Over his last six starts of 2016, Manaea went 34 1/3 innings, struck out 32 and gave up only four earned runs.  There’ll be lot of competition for the final two spots. Best bets appear to be Jharel Cotton (2-0, 2.15 in five starts after a September call up) and Andrew Triggs (1-1, 4.31). Others in the mix include Daniel Mengden, Raul Alcantara and Jesse Hahn.  Should be an interesting Spring Training. If things work out, the rotation could be considerably improved.

A’s Stat Facts

Statistics sometimes tell the story.  The A’s scored the fewest runs in the AL last season (653) – and gave up the second most (761) – for a negative 108-run differential (the AL’s second worst). In the AL, only the Twins had a more negative run differential at -167. In the NL, the largest negatives were the Phillies (-186); Reds (–138); Diamondbacks (-138); and Braves (-138). The Cubs, by the way, had the greatest positive run differential at +270. The Red Sox were second at +176,

Ryan Madson (6-7, 3.62, 30 saves) returns as closer – but needs to improve his strikeout rate (his lowest since 2006) and his save percentage (81.1 percent – 13th among the 16 AL pitchers with at least 15 saves). Ryan Dull should be anything but dull as a key setup man. Last season, he went 5-5, 2.42 in 70 appearances, with 73 whiffs in 74 1/3 innings. The A’s will also be counting on two  former closers: Sean Doolittle (2-3, 3.23 in 44 games) and Santiago Casilla (2-5, 3.57 in 62 appearances).  Liam Hendriks and John Axford are also in the picture.

A Couple of Players to Watch

RHP Jharel Cotton looked good after coming over from the Dodgers in the Josh Reddick/Rich Hill trade. He went 2-0, 2.15 in five starts, He was also 3-1, 2.82 at Triple A and 8-5, 4.90 at Double A. Could be a sleeper in the A’s rotation. Side note: At Triple A, in an August 9 game last season – Cotton’s Nashville Sounds versus the Round Rock Express – Cotton came within one out of a nine-inning perfect game. Cotton struck out 12 in the effort.

If he gets the call, watch for Matt Chapman. The 23-year-old infielder (3B) hit only .237 at two minor league stops last season, but delivered 36 home runs and 96 RBI.  If he can develop a bit more plate discipline (173 K’s last year), he could move up.

Coming Soon:  NL Preview

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Baseball and Beer – Clemson Baseball and Seth Beer – A Winning Combination

Robin Ventura, Jason Varitek, Todd Helton, Mark Teixeira, Jered Weaver, Alex Gordon. David Price, Buster Posey, Stephen Strasburg, Kris Bryant.  What ballplayer wouldn’t want to be mentioned in the same breath as these stars?  Well, a young outfielder with a perfect baseball name – Seth Michael Beer – and tremendous baseball potential already is.

Seth Beer - first rfeshman Dick Howser Trophy winner - helped lead the Clemson Tigers to thr 2016 ACC Title.

Seth Beer – first freshman Dick Howser Trophy winner – helped lead the Clemson Tigers to the 2016 ACC title.  Photo: Courtesy Clemson University.

Playing right field and batting in the three-spot for 2016 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Champion Clemson University, the 6’3”, 200-pound Beer joined the previously noted MLB All Stars in earning the Dick Howser Trophy as the national college baseball player of the year.  And, he did it in dramatic fashion. Not only did Beer become the first freshman to earn the recognition, he did it after leaving high school early to attend Clemson.  Basically, he earned collegiate player of the year honors when he very well could have been playing his senior season at Lambert (GA) High School.

Now, as regular followers of Baseball Roundtable know, during the off-season, this blog has a tendency to look back nostalgically at what some members of my family call “antique baseball.” Witness recent posts on Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn (click here) and 1957 Braves’ hero Bob “Hurricane” Hazle (click here). In this post, however, I’d like to look toward the future – and share with readers a little bit about an individual who is truly a player to follow as he continues his college – and moves on to a major league – career.

THE NUMBERS

A lot of BBRT readers are deep into statistics, so let’s start our look at Seth Beer with a few numbers.

As a college freshman, Beer played in 62 games – hitting .369, with 13 doubles, 18 home runs, 70 RBI, 57 runs scored, 62 walks (versus 27 strikeouts) and 15 hit-by-pitches. He led Clemson to the Atlantic Coast Conference title, being selected team MVP – after leading the squad in batting average, home runs, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and outfield assists.  Can I say it again – as a freshman.

High School – A Precursor

Seth Beer’s performance on the diamond for the Clemson Tigers should be no surprise. In two seasons of high school baseball, Beer hit .537, with 12 home runs, 61 RBI, 44 runs scored, 30 walks (15 strikeouts) in 48 games.  As a pitcher, he went 3-1, with a 1.80 ERA, striking out more than a batter an inning. (High school stats from maxpreps.com.) Beer earned six high school athletic letters (three in baseball, two in football and two in swimming) and was a national high school All American in baseball as a sophomore and a junior.

THE CHARACTER

Seth Beer. Photo: Courtsy of Clemson University.

Seth Beer. Photo: Courtsy of Clemson University.

Then, of course, there is character.  Majoring in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, Beer was an Atlantic Coast Conference Academic Honor Roll Member and All-ACC Academic selection.

And, while he definitely has his sights set on a major league career (and cites his parents as the biggest influence in his life and baseball), Beer told BBRT that “After my playing career, I want to be involved in helping others, specifically with homeless shelters.”

Beer’s coach at Clemson, who has called Beer the best freshman he’s ever seen, also praised the young star’s work ethic and quiet leadership.

“Seth is more of a quiet leader and leader by example,” Clemson Coach Monte Lee said. “As he gets older, he will become more of a vocal leader. Players really look up to him because of his work ethic.”

Character is also reflected in Beer’s Dick Howser Trophy selection.  In presenting the Award, DH Trophy Chair David Feaster said “Seth Beer truly deserves this national honor.  His status as a national player of the year as a freshman is a history-making moment. In just a short time, he has exhibited the Dick Howser traits of excellent performance on the field, leadership, moral character and courage.”

ADDITIONAL RECOGNITION

I should emphasize here that the Dick Howser Trophy was not the only recognition Seth Beer earned as a college freshman.  Here are just a few of the additional honors Beer received in his first season at Clemson:

  • College Sports Madness Player of the Year (first freshman winner);
  • First Team All American by American Baseball Coaches Association, Baseball America, College Sports Madness, D1Baseball, National College Baseball Writers Association, and Perfect Game;
  • Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year (first freshman winner); and, of course;
  • A host of awards reserved for college freshman, including National Freshman Player of the Year by Baseball America, College Sports Madness, D1Baseball and Perfect game, as well as several freshman All-American honors.

Baseball Roundtable is introducing readers to Seth Beer in this post because I believe he is a player and young man to watch – and that, some day, you will be able to see his baseball skills, leadership and positive character on a major league field near you.  I might add (see the box below), the odds seem to be in his favor.

The Dick Howser Award

The Dick Howser Trophy was established in 1987 to honor the national college baseball player of the year. The Award is named after Dick Howser – twice an All American shortstop at Florida State University, an eight-season major league player (1961 All Star) and eight-season major league manager (1985 World Series Champion) – who passed away in 1987, at age 51, of brain cancer. From 1987-1998 the winner were selected by the American Baseball Coaches Association.  Since 1999, the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association has made the selection.

How much of an indicator of future success is this honor?  Of the 28 winners (Brooks Kieschnick of the University of Texas is the only two-time winner):

         24 became MLB First-Round draft picks;

         24 went on to play in the major leagues;

         13 became MLB All Stars;

         Three became Rookies of the Year – Jason Jennings, Buster Posey,          Kris Bryant;

         Two were selected first overall in the MLB draft – David Price,                  Stephen Strasburg;

         One went on to win a league MVP Award – Buster Posey; and

         One captured a Cy Young Award – David Price.

BBRT’s advice?  Track Seth Beer’s sophomore season – and beyond. If you are in a fantasy league with “reserve keepers,” consider drafting him now.  Start saving now for an MLB jersey with “Beer” and his number proudly displayed on the back.

In the meantime, BBRT says congratulations to Clemson and Seth Beer on a tremendous 2016 season – and the best of luck for the coming campaign.

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Baseball Hall of Fame – Today’s Game Era Ballot

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Baseball Hall of Fame photo

Photo by candyschwartz

In addition to the traditional Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) Hall of Fame voting, each year a group of candidates is considered by one of the Hall’s “Era” Committees, which include: Today’s Game (1988-present); Modern Baseball (1970-87); Golden Days (1950-69); and Early Baseball (1871-1949). This year, the Today’s Game Era Committee is considering a group of five players, three managers and two executives for membership in the Hallof Fame.

In this post, BBRT will look at the Today’s Game candidates, commenting on how BBRT would vote (if I had a ballot) and speculating (predicting) on the Committee’s likely action.  If you would like BBRT’s detailed take on this year’s traditional ballot (34 players), click here.  

First, the Election Process—

Before getting into the Today’s Game nominees – a bit of background on the process.  The BBWAA Historical Overview Committee is responsible for identifying the ten candidates on each ballot and election requires that the candidate be name on 75 percent of the ballots cast by the 16 members of the Today’s Game Era Committee –  To be eligible for consideration by the Today’s Game Era Committee, candidates must have made their greatest contribution to the national pastime between 1988 and 2016.  In addition:

  • Players must have played in at least ten major league seasons and no longer be eligible for the traditional BBWAA ballot;
  • Managers and umpires must have served at least ten years in MLB and be retired for at least five years or over the age of 64 and retired for at least six months; and 
  • Executives must be retired from MLB for at least five years, although active executive over age 69 are also eligible.

Nominees for consideration by the Today’s Era Committee are:

  • Players … Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, Mark McGwire.
  • Managers … Davey Johnson, Lou Piniella.
  • Executives … John Scheurholz, Bud Selig and George Steinbrenner.

Now, let’s look at each candidate and how BBRT sees thier chances.  Spoiler Alert:  If BBRT had a ballot, I’d vote for: Lou Piniella, John Scheurholz and (as a Minnesotan, reluctantly) Bud Selig.  I anticipate the same results in the Comittee vote,with Harold Baines as a possible dark horse candidate.

PLAYERS—–

Harold Baines (OF/DH) – 1980-2001

Harold Baines photo

BBRT would love to see a HOF Class that included Baines (Harold Baines, above) and (Tim) Raines. Photo by Keith Allison

Harold Baines had a 22-season MLB career. He was a six-time All Star and two-time winner of the Designated Hitter of the Year Award. He is in the top 50 players all time in hits with 2,866 (45th) and RBI with 1,628 (32nd). Baines, with a .289 career average, hit .300 or better in nine seasons. He was a steady source of power with 384 home runs, never reaching 30 in a season, but hitting 20-29 home runs in ten campaigns.  He drove in 100+ runs in three seasons and scored 1,299 runs in his career. Baines hit .324, with five home runs, 16 RBI and 14 runs scored in 31 post-season contests.  Harold Baines played for the White Sox (1980-1989, 1996-1997, 2000-2001); Rangers (1989-1990); A’s (1990-1992); Orioles (1993-1995, 1997-2000); and Indians (1999).

Tough call here.  I’d like to see a year in which (Tim) Raines and Baines made the Hall of Fame – and Baines has some strong overall numbers.  However, the fact that he played more than half his games at DH works against him.  (To be elected as a DH, BBRT contends you to be more than a very good hitter, you have to be an exception batsman.) Close call, but BBRT would pass on Baines this year. I believe future Era Committees – after more DH’s (like, perhaps, Edgar Martinez) make the Hall – may give Baines stronger consideration. Still, Baines is my dark horse candidate.  If the Committee is inclined to select a player, I believe it will be Baines – it’s hard to ignore 22 seasons and nearly 2,900 hits.

Harold Baines’ best season:  Baines’ best MLB campaign may have been 1999, when – at age 40 – he made his final All Star team and hit .312, with 25 home runs and 103 RBI, playing for the Orioles and Indians. That season, Baines also hit .357 (5-for-16), with one home run and four RBI in four post-season (ALDS) games. 

Albert Belle (OF) – 1989-2000  Nickname: Joey

Albert Belle was a five-time All Star in a 12-season MLB career.  Belle was a power hitter who could also put the ball in play (381 career homers, .295 average). He led his league in runs scored once, doubles once, home runs once, RBI three times, total bases three times and slugging percentage twice.  He is the only player to hit 50 doubles and 50 home runs in the same seasons (1995 – 52 doubles and 50 homers, both league-leasing). He hit 30 or more home runs and drove in 100+ runs in eight straight seasons. He retired with 1,239 RBI and 974 runs scored. Belle also hit .405-6-14 in 18 post-season games.  Belle played for the Indians (1989-1996); White Sox (1997-1998); and Orioles (1999-2000).

A degenerative hip condition cut Belle’s career and chances on the traditional Hall of Fame ballot short (not to mention corked bat and issues with the media).  Those same factors would keep BBRT from voting for Belle and I also believe are likely to preclude his getting the 75 percent vote he needs from the Committee. Two or three more solid seasons (getting to the 1,500 RBI or 450 home run mark) would have been helpful.

Albert Belle’s best season:  In 1995, Belle hit .317 and led the AL in home runs (50); RBI (126); runs scored (121); doubles (50); total bases (377); and slugging percentage (.690). Note:  The following season Belle went .311-48-148, with 124 runs scored – but only led the league in RBI.  But what a pair of powerful campaigns.

Will Clark (1B) –  1985-2000  Nickname: Will the Thrill

Will Clark was a six-time all Star and one-time Gold Glover in 15 MLB seasons.  He was a career .303 hitter, with 2,176 hits, 284 home runs and 1,205 RBI.  He led his league in runs and RBI once each.  Clark hit a career high 35 home runs in 1987 and topped 20 home runs six times and 100 RBI four times.  He hit .300 or better ten times, including .301 in his final season (130 games split between the Orioles and Cardinals). In that final campaign, he hit .344-2-6 in eight post season games for the Cardinals. Overall, Clark played in 31 post season games, hitting .333-5-16.Clark played for the Giants (1986-1993); Rangers (1994-1998); Orioles (1999-2000); and Cardinals (2000).

Clark had a fine career, but BBRT thinks he’ll fall short of the 75 percent mark.

Will Clark’s best season: In 1989, with the Giants, Clark hit .333, with 23 home runs, 111 RBI and a league-leading 104 runs scored – finishing second in the NL MVP balloting. He was also MVP of the NL Championship Series, hitting .650, with two home runs and eight RBI in five games.

Orel Hershiser (SP) – 1983-2000   Nickname:  Bulldog

Orel Hershiser logged 18 season on the MLB mound – winning 204 games (150) losses, with a 3.48 ERA and 2,014 strikeouts in 3,130 1/3 innings.  Hershiser capturing the 1988 Cy Young Award (23-8, 2.26). He led his league in wins once, winning percentage once, complete games once, shutouts twice and inning pitched three times. Hershiser also won a Gold Glove in 1988 and a Silver Slugger Award in 1993 (when he hit .356 in 34 games for the Dodgers).  Hershiser was a 20+ game winner once and won 15 or more games in six seasons. He was a strong 8-3, 2.59 in 22 post-season games (18 starts).

BBRT does not see Hershiser getting 75-percent support. From 1985-1989,Hershiser was one of the top pitchers in  the game. Over those five seasons, he was 87-56, with a 2.69 ERA. He was, indeed, a “Bulldog” or, maybe more accurately, a workhorse. He pitched more than 230 innings in each of those seasons,  leading the league in innings pitched in 1987, 1988 ansd 1989.  All that work may have contributed to his 1990 shoulder surgery.  Then, from 1990-2000, Hershiser went 106-86, 4.17.  Note: Hershiser also led his league in losses twice and was above .500 in just nine of his 18 seasons. Hershiser played for the Dodgers (1983-1994, 2000); Indians (1995-1997); Giants (1998); ansd Mets (1999).

Hershiser may fall a handful of victories short of the Hall.

Orel Hershiser’s best season:  In 1988, Hershiser led the NL in wins with 23 (eight losses), complete games (15), shutouts (8), innings pitched (267), while recording a 2.26 ER and 178 strikeouts. That season he also set an MLB record, throwing 59 consecutive scoreless innings and earned the NL Championship Series and World Series MVP Awards.

Mark McGwire (1B) –  1985-2001  Nickname: Big Mac

No doubt about McGwire’s numbers: 583 home runs, 1,414 RBI, 1,167 runs scored (.263 average).  McGwire was the 1987 Al Rookie of the Year, a 12-time All Star, a three-time HR champ (a high of 70 in 1998, followed by 65 in 1999). He also led his league in slugging percentage four times, total bases four times, on base percentage twice – and even won a Gold Glove in 1990.  Yes, the numbers are there – but so is the PED controversy.  BBRT doesn’t think the voters are yet ready to forgive and forget.  McGwire played for the A’s (1986-1997) and Cardinals (1997-2001).

Mark McGwire’s best season: In 1998, McGwire hit .299, with a league-leading 70 home runs and 147 RBI.  He also led the NL in walks (162); on-base-percentage (.470) and slugging percentage .752).

MANAGERS —–

Davey Johnson (1984-2013 … 17 seasons) 

After a 13-season playing career, Davey Johns managed 17 seasons in the majors. He put up a 1,372-1,071 won-lost record and his .588 winning percentage is 12th among managers with at least ten seasons at the helm. Johnson led the Mets to the 1986 World Series Championship – and made the post-season a total of six times.  He was name NL Manager of the Year in 1972 and 2012.  He finished in the top three in Manager of the Year voting seven times. During his playing career, Johnson was a four-time All Star and athree-time Gold Glover (2B). He finished with a .261 average, 136 home runs and 609 RBI. In 1973, Johnson hit 43 home runs, 42 as a second baseman (the single season record for the position).

I think the presence of Lou Piniella on the ballot (with nearly 500 more managerial victories than Johnson) dampens Johnson’s chances for election.

Lou Piniella (1986-2010 … 23 seasons)   Nickname: Sweet Lou

Lou Piniella photo

Photo by mikelachance816

Lou Piniella managed (Yankees, Reds, Mariners, Devil Rays, Cubs) for 23 seasons.  His 1,835 wins (1,713 losses) are the 14th most wins by a manager in MLB history. He led the Reds to the 1990 World Series Championship and his teams made seven post-season appearances.  He also managed the Mariners to an AL record 116 wins in the 2001 season.  Piniella was named AL Manager of the year in 1995 and 2001 (with the Mariners) and the NL Manager of the Year in 2008 (Cubs). He finished in the top three in Manager of the Year voting six times.

Piniella also had an 18-season MLB career as a player, hitting .291, with 1,705 hits, 102 home runs and 766 RBI. He was the 1969 Rookie of the Year with the Royals and made the post-season five times with the Yankees (two WS Championships). Piniella hit .305-3-19 in 44 post-season games.

Adding Piniella on-the-field career to his 1,835 wins and three Manage of the Year Awards and BBRT would vote him in.  (Actually, he’d get my vote on his managerial record alone).  I believe the Committee will also vote him in, but it will be close.

EXECUTIVES—–

John Schuerholz

jOHN sCHUERHOLZ BRAVES photo

John Schuerholz built winners in Kansas City and Atlanta. Photo by The SABR Office

John Schuerholz began his MLB front office career with the Baltimore Orioles in 1967 as an Administrate Assistant to Minor League Clubs. He later spent 22 years in the Kansas City Royals’ operation: Farm Director (1967); Scouting Director (1977-1980); Assistant General Manager (1981); and General Manager (1982-1990).   While he was GM in Kansas City, the Royals became the first AL expansion team to win the World Series (1987).  Scheurholz went to the Atlanta Braves as General Manager in 1990 and held that position until 2007.  From 2008-2016 (when he became Vice Chairman of the team), he held the position of Braves’ President.  While Schuerholz was GM of the Braves, the team won 14 Division titles and the 1995 World Series Championship (making Schuerholz the first GM to win the WS title in both the American and National Leagues).

Schuerholz built consistent winners – and he would get BBRT’s vote for the Hall.  I predict the Today’s Game Era Committee will agree.

Bud Selig

Allan “Bud Selig” was MLB’s ninth Commissioner – serving as Acting Commissioner from 1992-1998 and Commissioner from 1998-2015.  Selig presided over two rounds of expansion, the establishment of interleague play, the creation of the Wild Card, strong increases in MLB revenues and attendance, and the development of the World Baseball Classic.  He also headed MLB during the 1994 baseball strike, had to deal with the PED issue, and introduced revenue sharing.

Selig’s tenure was not without controversy. The 1994 players strike led to the cancelling of the World Series for the first time since 1904. In 2001, Selig also voiced support for the contraction of two teams.  Selig also was criticized for declaring the 2002 All Star Game a “tie” after 11 innings and for not being proactive enough, early enough on the PED issue.

Other notable changes in MLB during Selig’s tenure as Commissioner: World Series home field advantage going to the league that wins the All Star Game (2003); introduction and expansion of instant replay (2008/2014); and the transfer of the Milwaukee Brewers from the American League to the National League (1998) and the Houston Astros from the National League to the American League (2013).

Before becoming Commissioner, Selig was team owner and president of the Milwaukee Brewers. (In 1970, he purchased the failing Seattle Pilots and moved them to Milwaukee.)  Under Selig’s leadership, the Brewers won seven Organization of the Year Awards.

BBRT predicts Bud Selig will get voted into the Hall – his years as Commissioner were truly historic.  BBRT, however, would cast my vote for Selig with reluctance.  (As a Minnesotan, I still have not forgiven Selig for that “contraction” episode.)

George Steinbrenner

George Steinbrenner purchased the New York Yankees in 1973 – and led the team until his death in 2010.  Under his ownership the vaunted Yankee franchise won 11 American League Pennants and seven World Series Championships.  Steinbrenner, known as a “hands-on” owner, was no stranger to controversy.  He  changed managers twenty times in his first 23 seasons as owner; he was a free-spender, credited (or criticized) by many for driving up the free agent market; he was quick to criticize players publicly if they did not live up to his expectations; he was suspended from baseball twice. How controversial was Steinbrenner?  In the summer of 1990, Steinbrenner was featured on the cover of NEWSWEEK magazine, heralded as the “most hated man in baseball.”

You cannot argue with Steinbrenner’s success on the field.  As an owner, he did what it took to buiild winning teams.  However, his leadership style and the controversies that surrounded him will likely keep him from getting 75 percent of the Committee’s votes.

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Member: The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance. 

BBRT Looks at the 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot

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It’s official – the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) Hall of Fame ballots are out and the debate(s) can begin.  This year’s traditional ballot includes 15 holdovers from last year, along with 19 newcomers.  The basic rules for eligibility are that a player must have played at least ten seasons and be retired for at least five years. A player can remain on the ballot for up to ten years, but must receive at least five percent of the vote in the preceding year’s ballot to  remain eligible after the first year on the ballot.  Each voter can vote for up to ten candidates.  Election requires that a player be named on at least 75 percent of the ballots cast.

In this post, we’ll take a look at how BBRT would vote – if I had a ballot – as well at whom BBRT expects the BBWA to vote in.  Notably, BBRT tends to be less stingy then the BBWAA voters.  I’ll list a full roster of ten candidates (in order of my preference) who would receive my vote.

Spoiler Alert:  BBRT anticipates that four players will be elected.   I’m fairly confident about one first-timer (catcher Ivan Rodriguez) and two returnees (pitcher Trevor Hoffman, outfielder Tim Raines).  I also think 1B Jeff Bagwell has a very good chance to get the 75 percent necessary (he reached 71.6 percent a year ago), but he may be hurt by the fact that Tim Raines is in his last year on the ballot. Some of the more conservative voters may feel a need to choose between the two.  However, I’m including Bagwell on my list of projected inductees.  First-timer Vlad Guerrero is my dark horse for 2017.   I believe is is HOF-worthy, but BBWAA voters are notoriously tough on ballot newcomers.  BBRT note:  Last year, BBRT correctly predicted Ken Griffey, Jr. and Mike Piazza would be elected.  However, I also incorrectly predicted a third inductee – Trevor Hoffman. 

BBRT’s Halll of Fame Ballot – If I Had One – With the Players Listed in BBRT’s Order of Preference.

Group One – Should Be No Doubt

Ivan Rodriguez (C – 1991-2011) – First year on the ballot.  Nicknames:  Pudge/I-Rod.

Ivan Rodriguez baseball photo

BBRT’s top choice on this year HOF ballot. Photo by Keith Allison

Ivan Rodriguez played 21 MLB seasons, putting up 2,844 hits, a .296 average, 311 home runs and 1,332 RBI. He was a 14-time All Star, 13-time Gold Glove Winner and won the AL MVP Award in 1999. Notably, his 2,749 hits as a catcher are the MLB record for the position. If any of the first-timers on the ballot capture the necessary votes, it’s likely to be I-Rod – with his combination of leather (13 Gold Gloves) and lumber (seven Silver Slugger Awards).  The BBWAA has, in the past, shown a tendency to demand more of “First-Ballot” candidates, but BBRT thinks Rodriguez has the goods and that the BBWAA will agree.  Rodriguez played for the Rangers (19991-2002 and 2009); Marlins (2003); Tigers (2004-2008); Yankees (2008); Astros (2009); and Nationals (2010-2011).

Ivan Rodriguez’ best season:  In 1999, as a Ranger, Rodriguez hit .332, with 35 home runs, 113 RBI and 116 runs scored in 144 games – earning a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger Award and the AL MVP Award. 

Trevor Hoffman (Relief Pitcher, 1993-2010) – Second year on the ballot, 68.3 percent support last year.

Trevor Hoffman baseball photo

His 601 saves should open the doors to the Hall this year. Photo by SD Dirk

In BBRT’s opinion, Trevor Hoffman should have been elected in his first year on the ballot. He is one of only two relievers in MLB history to reach 600 saves (601) – trailing only Mariano Rivera (652) all time. Hoffman and Rivera, in fact, are the only closers to reach 500 saves. (Note: Hoffman was also the first pitcher to reach the 500- and 600-save mark.)

Hoffman led the NL in saves twice and reached 30 or more saves 14 times (with a high of 53 in 1998). He had a career record of 61-75, with a 2.87 ERA over 1,089 1/3 innings in 1,035 games – averaging 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings. Hoffman, by the way, made his final All Star team at the age of 41, in a season in which he recorded 37 saves for the Brewers.  Hoffman pitched for the Marlins (1993); Padres (1993-2008); and Brewers (2009-10).  Hoffman’s 600 saves should be enough for the Hall..

Trevor Hoffman’s best season: In 1998, Hoffman appeared in 66 games for the Padres, converting 53 of 54 save opportunities.  On the season, he was 4-2 with a 1.48 ERA, striking out 86 hitters in 73 innings, while walking just 21. He was selected to the NL All Star team, finished second in the Cy Young Award voting and seventh in the MVP race.

Group Two – Debatable, But Clearly Deserving Support (and would have BBRT’s vote)

Lee Smith (Relief Pitcher, 1980-970) – 15th and final year on the ballot, 34.1 percent last year. Note:  When the HOF election rules changed from 15-year eligibility to 10-year eligibility, Smith was one of the players already on the ballot to be grandfathered in at the 15-year limit.

BBRT firmly believes Lee Smith has earned his place in the “Hall.”  However, last year, Smith got only 34.1 percent of the vote, just a slight increase over his 30.2 percent of the previous year.  While BBRT feels Smith has a strong case for the Hall, he’s not likely to make the 40-point leap it will take to get in. But consider his case.

Smith’s 478 saves put him third on the all-time list (he was number-one when he retired after the 1997 season). Smith led his league in saves four times and made seven All Star teams.  He recorded ten seasons of 30 or more saves and three campaigns of 40-plus saves.  Smith reached 30 or more saves in a season with four different teams (Cubs, Cardinals, Orioles, Angels). He had a 3.03 lifetime ERA and 1,251 strikeouts in 1,289 innings pitched.  Smith is also one of only three pitchers with more than 800 games finished lifetime (Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman are the others).  Couple all of this with the third most saves all time and Smith gets BBRT’s vote.

Smith pitched for the Cubs (1980-1987); Red Sox (1988-1990); Cardinals (1990-1993); Yankees (1993); Orioles (1994); Angels (1995-1996); Reds (1996); and Expos (1997).

Lee Smith’s best season:  In 1991, as a Cardinal, Smith went 6-3, with a 2.34 ERA, 47 saves, 73 innings pitched, 67 strikeouts and just 13 walks (five intentional). He was an All Star, finished second in the Cy Young Award voting and eighth in the MVP balloting.

Mike Mussina (Starting Pitcher, 1991-2008) – Fourth year on the ballot 43.0% last year. Nickname: Moose.

Mike Mussina built a 270-153 record, with a career 3.68 ERA and 2,813 strikeouts over 18 seasons. While only a 20-game winner once (in his final season, at age 39), Mussina won 18 or 19 games five times, leading the AL with 19 wins in 1995. In his first three full seasons  in the major leagues (1992-94), Mussina put up a .700 or better winning percentage each year (.783, .700, .762). His record over that span – for the Orioles – was 48-16.

Mussina was a five-time All Star and a seven-time Gold Glove winner. He recorded a .650 or better winning percentage in nine seasons, with a career (and league-leading) high of .783 in 1992. While the lack of a Cy Young Award on his resume may hurt him, he finished his career 117 games over .500 – and history says 100 or more wins than losses should be good for a ticket to the Hall. Mussina appeared in 23 post-season games, with a 7-8 record and a 3.42 ERA. He pitched for the Orioles (1991-2000) and Yankees (2000-2008). BBRT believes Mussina deserves (and will eventually be awarded) a spot in Cooperstown, but is unlikely to close the gap between 43 percent and the necessary 75 percent in this year’s voting.

Mike Mussina’s best season:  Mussina may have saved his best for last.  In his final season (as a Yankee), at age 39, he recorded his first twenty-win campaign.  That year, Mussina went 20-9, 3.37 – and proved his durability by leading the AL in starts with 34, logging his 11th season of 200 or  more innings pitched and earning his fifth Gold Glove

Jeff Bagwell (First Base, 1991-2005) – Seventh year on the ballot, 71.6 percent last year.

bagwell

BBRT thinks it should be “Baggy’s” year.

In his 15-season MLB career, Bagwell collected 2,314 hits; smashed 449 home runs; stole 202 bases; and put up a .297 average. He also earned a Rookie of the Year Award (1991); a Most Valuable Player Award (1994); one Gold Glove; and four All Star selections.  He twice recorded seasons of 40 or more homers and 30 or more steals.  Bagwell drove in 100 or more runs in eight seasons, leading the league with 116 RBI in 1994 and reaching a high of 135 in 1997. He led the NL in runs scored three times, with a high of 152 in 2000. His .297 career average was bolstered by six seasons over .300. Bagwell was also one of MLB’s most durable and dedicated stars, playing in all 162 of the Astros’ games in four seasons and in at least 155 games in ten of his fifteen MLB campaigns.  Bagwell, who played his entire career with the Houston Astros, stands a good chance of reaching the 75 percent threshold in 2017.

Jeff Bagwell’s best season: Bagwell won the NL MVP Award, a Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove in 1994, when he hit .368, with 39 home runs and 15 steals.  He also led the NL in RBI (118) and runs scored (104) in the strike-shortend campaign. (The Astros played 115 games.)

Tim Raines (Outfield, 1979-2001) – Tenth and final year on the ballot, 69.8 percent last year. Nickname: Rock.

BBRT is predicting (hoping) Tim Raines makes it in his last year on the ballot.

BBRT is predicting (hoping) Tim Raines makes it in his last year on the ballot.

Tim Raines returns for his tenth – and final –  year on the ballot.  After getting 69.8 percent last year, Raines should gain enough votes for induction in 2017.

Raines hit .294 over his 23-season MLB career, collecting 2,605 hits, 1,571 runs scored, 170 home runs, 980 RBI and 808 stolen bases (fifth all time). He was a seven-time All Star; led the NL in stolen bases four consecutive years (1981-84); had a streak of six seasons with at least 70 steals; won the NL batting title in 1986 with a .334 average; led the league in runs scored twice and doubles once. How much of a threat was Raines on the bases?   Over 23 seasons, he averaged 35 steals a year (and that included six seasons in which he played in less than half his team’s games).  Over his MLB career – from age 19 to 42 – Raines averaged 52 stolen bases for every 162 games played. In 34 post-season games, The Rock hit .270 with one home run, six RBI, 18 runs scored and three steals. Raines played for the Expos (1979-1990 and 2001);White Sox (1991-1995); Yankees (1996-1998); A’s (1999); Orioles (2001); and Marlins (2002).

Tim Raines’ best season:  Despite his  1986 batting title (.334 average), BBRT thinks Raines’ top season was 1983 (Expos) – 156 games, 179 hits, .298 average, league-leading 133 runs scored, 11 homers, 71 RBI, league-leading 90 steals.

Group Three – Get BBRT’s Vote, but Possible BBWAA Reservations are More Understandable

Jeff Kent (Second Base/Third Base/First Base, 1992-2008) –  Fourth year on the ballot; 16.6 percent last year.

BBRT believes Jeff  Kent is a deserving candidate.  Kent holds the all-time MLB record for home runs by a second baseman (351 of his 377 career round trippers were hit while playing second base). He has a healthy .290 career batting average; his 1,518 RBI are 54th all time; and his 560 doubles 27th.  Kent, in fact, has nine more career RBI than Mickey Mantle.

Kent was a five-time All Star and the 2000 NL MVP.  As primarily a middle infielder, he hit 20 or more home runs in 12 seasons (a high of 37 in 2007) and topped 100 RBI eight times. He hit .276, with nine home runs and 23 RBI in 49 post-season games. Kent has the credentials, but BBRT has a hunch the writers will make keep him on the bench – a couple of Gold Gloves, at this traditionally defense-oriented position, would have really helped his case.  Kent played for the Blue Jays (1992); Mets (1992-1996); Indians (1996); Giants (1997-2002); Astros (2003-2004); and Dodgers (2005-2008).

Jeff Kent’s best season: With the Giants in 2000, Kent put up these stats:  159 games; 196 hits; .334 average; 33 home runs; 125 RBI; 114 runs; 12 steals. His performance earned him the NL MVP Award.

Vlad Guerrero (Outfield/Dedsignated Hitter – 1996-2011) – First time on the ballot. Nicknames: Vladdy/Vlad the Impaler. 

When your nickname is Vlad the Impaler, you better put up some solid offensive numbers – and Vlad Guerrora did. BBRT’s dark horse candidate for induction this year (the stinginess of the writers with votes for first-timers may hurt him), Guerrero put up a .318 career batting average (2,147 games over 16 seasons), 449 career home runs (including eight seasons of 30+ and a high of 44 for the 2000 Montreal Expos) and 1,496 career RBI.  Guerrero had 13 seasons with a batting average of .300 or better (a high of .345 in 2000), 10 seasons of 100+ RBI, six seasons of 100+ runs scored and four campaigns of at least 200 hits.  Known (sometimes criticized) as a free swinger, Guerrero actually never struck out 100 times in a season.

In 2002, Guerrero missed joining the 40/40 club by one home run – hitting .336, with 39 home runs, 111 RBI and 40 stolen bases. He led his league in hits once, runs once and total bases twice, while making nine All Star squads and earning eight Silver Slugger Awards – and the 2004 AL MVP Award.   Guerrero hit .263-2-20 in 44 post-season contests.  Guerrero played for the Expos (1966-2203); Angels (2004-2009); Rangers (2010); and Oriioles (2011).

Vlad Guerrero’s best season: In 2002, Guerrero his .336 for the Expos, leading the NL in hits (206), while bashing 39 home runs, stealing 40 bases, driving in 111, scoring 106 and drawing a career-high 84 walks (versus 70 strikeouts).  He also led the NL in total bases with 364.

Edgar Martinez (Designated Hitter/Third Base, 1987-2004) – Fifth year on the ballot, 43.4 percent last year.  Nickname: Papi.

We’ve seen some prejudice against designated hitters in past voting, but Edgar Martinez clearly, and expertly, defined the DH role. In fact, in 2004, MLB renamed the Outstanding Designated Hitter Award the Edgar Martinez Outstanding Designated Hitter Award.

In an 18-season MLB career, Martinez was named to seven All Star teams; won a pair of batting titles (hitting a high of .356 in 1995); topped 100 RBI in six seasons (leading the league with 145 in 2000); and scored 100 or more runs five times (leading the league with 121 in 1995). He finished his career with a .312 average; 2,247 hits; 1,219 runs; 1,261 RBI; 309 home runs; and 514 doubles.  Martinez played his entire career for the Mariners.

Edgar Martinez’ best season: One of two here, In 1995, Martinez led the league in batting average (.356), runs scored (121) and doubles (52 doubles), adding  29 home runs and 113 RBI.  In 2005, Martinez put up a .324 average, 37 home runs, league-leading 145 RBI and 100 runs scored.

Larry Walker (OF, 1989-2005) – Seventh Year on the Ballot, 15.5 percent last year.

BBRT’s tenth – and final – selection, came down to Larry Walker’s three batting titles versus Billy Wagner’s 422 career saves – and it was a tough call. Back to BBRT’s admiration for “lumber AND leather,” Walker’s seven Gold Gloves were the difference maker. If you could cast 11 votes, Wagner would also get a BBRT nod.

Walker played 17 MLB seasons and retired with 2,160 hits, a .313 average and three batting titles.  Between 1997 and 2001, he hit .350 or better in four of five seasons. The five-time All Star hit 383 home runs (a high of 49 in 1997) and stole 230 bases  (a high of 33 in 1997).  Walker’s years in hitter friendly Colorado may be hurting his vote totals, but BBRT believes if you add his Gold Glove defense to a trio of batting titles, you have a Hall of Famer. Walker played for the Expos (1989-1994); Rockies (1995-2004); and Cardinals (2004-2005).

Larry Walker’s best season: In his 1997 NL MVP year (Rockies), Walker hit .366, with a league-leading 49 home runs. He drove in 130 runs, scored 143, rapped 46 doubles (led the league in total bases at 409 and slugging percetage at .720) – and even threw in 33 stlolen bases and a Gold Glove.  

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So, there are BBRT’s ten choices.  Now, let’s look briefly at the remainder of the ballot – in alphabetical order – since just making it on the ballot deserves recognition.

Casey Blake (3B/1B/OF, 1999-2011) – First year on the ballot.

Blake had a .264 average, with 167 home runs and 616 RBI over 13 MLB seasons. A solid utility player, his best season was 2004, when he hit .271-28-88 for the Indians.  Blake played for the Blue Jays (1999); Twins (2000. 2001, 2002); Orioles (2001); Indians (2003-2008); Dodgers (2008-2011).

Barry Bonds (OF, 1986-2007) – Fifth year on the ballot, 44.3 percent a year ago.

No doubt about Bond’s credentials – .298 average, 2,935 hits, MLB-record 762 home runs, 1,996 RBI, MLB-record 2,558 walks. He was also a 14-time All Star, his league’s MVP a record seven times, and eight-time Gold Glove winner.  In 2001, Bonds hit .328, with an MLB-record 73 home runs and 177 RBI. And, I could go on.  Still, there are those PED’s – and elephant in the room that will keep Bonds out of the Hall.  We can expect him back on the ballot next year.  Bonds played for the Pirates (1986-1992) and the Giants (1993-2007).

Pat Burrell (OF, 2000-2011) – First time on the ballot.

Bureell hit .253 over 12 seasons, but showed some pop – 292 home runs and 976 RBI over 1,640 games. Burrell, whose nickname was “Pat the Bat,” hit .282, with 37 home runs and 116 RBI for the Phillies in 2002.  He had four seasons of 30+ home runs for the Phillies and finished seventh in the 2005 NL MVP balloting. Burrell played for the Phillies (2000-2008); Rays (2009-2010); and Giants (2010-2011).

Orlando Cabrera (SS/2B, 1997-2011) – First year on the ballot.

Cabrera was a two-time Gold Glover at shortstop, who could hold his own at the plate (.272 career average, with 123 home runs and 854 RBI).  He also flashed some speed, with 216 steals, including five seasons of twenty or more. His best year was 2003 (with the Expos), when he played in all 162 games and hit .297, with 17 home runs, 80 RBI, 95 runs scored and 24 steals.  He played for the Expos (1997-2004); Red Sox (2004); Angels (2005-2007); White Sox (2008); A’s (2009); Twins (2009); Reds (2010); Indians (2011); and Giants (2011).

Mike Cameron (OF, 1995-2011) – First time on ballot.

Cameron was a three-time Gold Glove centerfielder with a bit of speed and pop (278 career home runs and 297 stolen bases to go with a .249 average over 17 seasons). Cameron’s best season was 2011, when he was an All Star for the Mariners, hitting .267-25-110, with 38 steals and a Gold Glove. Cameron playeds for ther White Sox (1995-1998); Reds (1999); Mariners (2000-2003); Mets (2004-2005); Padres (2006-2007); Brewers (2008-2009); Red Sox (2010-2011); and Marlins (2011).

Roger Clemens (Starting Pitcher, 1984-2007) – Fifth time on the ballot, 45.2% last year.

Like Barry Bonds, Clemens has Hall-worthy stats:  354 wins, 4,672 strikeouts, seven Cy Young Awards, 1986 AL MVP. Clemens was a five-time 20-game winner (led the league in wins four times), seven-time ERA leader, five time league leader in strikeouts. Clemens also has 12 post-season wins, with 173 strikeouts in 199 post-season innings. His best season was 1986, when he went 24-4. 2.48 and won both the Cy Young and AL MVP Awards for the Red Sox.  Yes, he’s got the numbers, but the PED controversy stands between him and the Hall. Don’t think the BBWAA is ready yet, but he’ll continue on the ballot. Clemens pitched for the Red Sox (1984-1996); Blue Jays (1997-1998); Yankees (1999-2003, 2007); and Astros (2004-2006). .

Carlos Guillen (SS/2B/3B, 1998-2011) – First time on the ballot.

Guillen was a three-time All Star and put up a .285 average with 124 home runs and 660 RBI over 14 MLB seasons. His best season was 2007 (Tigers), when he hit .296, with 21 home runs and 102 RBI.   Notably, he was coming off a 2006 season, when he went .320-19-85 for Detroit. Guillen played for the Mariners (1998-2003) and Tigers (2004-1011).

Derek Lee (1B, 1997-2011) – First time on the ballot.

Derek was a first basemen who could flash leather (three Gold Gloves) and lumber (331 career home runs) and – in his prime – a little speed (from 2002 through 2005, he stole 67 bases). Led finished with a .281 career average (15 seasons), 331 home runs and 1,078 RBI. In his best season (2005, Cubs), he led the NL in hits (199), average (.335) doubles (50), slugging percentage .662) and total bases (393).  He also had 46 home runs, 107 RBI, 120 runs scored and 15 steals – and he earned a Gold Glove.  Lee has a good chance of returning for a second year on the ballot. Lee played for the Padres (1997); Marlins (1998-2003); Cubs (2004-2010); Braves (2010); Orioles (2011); and Pirates (2011).

Fred McGriff (1B, 1986-2004) Tenth- final year – on the ballot – 20.9 percent last year.

Known as “Crime Dog”, McGriff  was five-time All Star; who bashed 493 career home runs (led his league twice, hit 30 or more  home runs in a season ten times); topped 100 RBI eight times (career total 1,550); and put up a  .284 career average over 19 seasons.   In 2001, at age 37, he had perhaps his best season – splitting time betweeen the Rays (then Devil Rays) and Cubs – going .306-31-102.  McGriff is not likely to get in this time, despite his 493 round trippers (seven more certainly would have helped his case, as would a couple of 40+ HR seasons.  First base is just a highly competitive spot when it comes to the HOF.  McGriff was a top slugger at his peak (1988-93), but for most of his career more of a steady power source.  He played for the Blue Jays (1986-1990); Padres (1991-1993); Braves (1993-1997); Devil Rays (1998-2001, 2004); Cubs (2001-2002) and Dodgers (2003).

Melvin Mora (3B/OF/SS, 1999-2011) – First time on the ballot.

Mora was a two-time All Star, who surprised a lot of people with his .340-27-104 season for the 2004 Orioles.  Over 13 seasons, he averaged .277, hit 171 home runs and drove in 754.  Mora topped 25 home runs twice, 100 RBI twice and a .300 average twice.  His best campaign was the 2004 season already noted. He was also a .400 hitter (six-for fifteen) in nine post season games for the 1999 Mets .He played for the Mets (1999-2000); Orioles (2000-2009); Rockies (2010); and Diamondbacks (2011).

Magglio Ordonez (OF, 1997-2011) – First tie on the ballot.

I expect Ordonez, a five-time All Star, to stay on the ballot for more than one year.  Over his fifteen MLB season, Ordonez was a hitting machine – .309 career average, 294 home runs, 1,236 RBI. Further, in his best season (207 Tigers) he led the AL with a .363 average, hit 28 home runs, drove in 139, scored 117, collected 216 hits and smacked a league-leading 54 doubles.  Ordonez hit over .300 eleven times, launching 30 or more home runs four times, driving in 100+uins seven times and scoring at least 100 runs four times. He played for the White Sox (1997-2004) and Tigers (2005-2011).

Jorge Posada (C, 1995-2011) First time on the ballot.

Posada is a five-time All Star, who hit .273, with 275 home runs and 1,065 RBI in 17 seasons with the Yankees (solid numbers for a backstop). Perhaps more critical to Posada’s chances for the Hall are his 125 post-season games – .248-11-42 – and four World Series Championships. Then there is also that 2007 season, when he hit .338, with 20 home runs and 90 RBI.   I expect he will back on the ballot next year.  Posada played his entire MLB career for the Yankees.

Manny Ramirez (OF – 1993-2011) – First Year on the ballot.

Manny Ramirez played 19 MLB seasons, collecting 2,574 hits, a  .312 batting average, 555 home runs and 1,.831 RBI. Ramirez was a 12-time All Star and led the AL in average (2002), home runs (2004) and RBI (1999) once each.  Ramirez won nine Silver Slugger Awards, including eight consecutive (1999-2006), hit .285 with 29 home runs in 111 post season games and was the 2004 World Series MVP.  Ramirez clearly put up HOF-caliber numbers, but two PED-related suspensions will hurt his chances. Not this year, but he’ll be back.  Ramirez played for the Indians (1993-2000); Red Sox (2001-2008); Dodgers 2009-2010); and Rays (2011).

Edgar Renteria (SS, 1996-2011) – First time on ballot.

Renteria is a five-time All Star, three-time Silver Slugger winner and two-time Gold Glover. Over a 16-season MLB career, he hit a credible .286, with 140 home runs, 933 RBI and 1,200 runs scored. Renteria’s game also included speed on the base paths.  He stole 294 bases, including a high of 41 for the Marlins in 1998.  Renteria also hit .252, with three home runs, 23 RBI and nine steal in 66 post season games.  He was the MVP of the 2010 World Series (with the Giants), hitting .417 (seven-for-seventeen) with two home runs and six RBI.  He’s got a chance to return to the ballot. Renteria played for the Marlins (1996-1998); Cardinals (1999-2004); Red Sox (2005); Braves (2006-2007); Tigers (2008); Giants (2009-2010); and Reds (2011).

Arthur Rhodes (SP/RP, 1991-2011) – First time on the ballot.

If endurance were the key quality, Arthur Rhodes would have a shot at the Hall of Fame.  He lasted 20 years in the major leagues – running up an 87-80, 4.08 ERA record, with 33 saves. Rhodes was an All Star – for the first and only time – in 2010 (at age 40). That season, he went 4-4, 2.29, with 50 strikeouts in 55 innings (69 games) for the Reds.  His best season may have been 2001, when (as a Mariner) he appeared in 71 games, going 8-0 with a 1.72 ERA and three saves. That season he struck out 83 batters in 68 innings.Over his career, Rhodes took the mound for the Orioles (1991-1999); Mariners (2000-2003, 2008); A’s 2004); Indians (2005); Phillies (2006); Marlins (2008), Reds (2009-2010); Rangers (2011); and Cardinals (2011).

Freddy Sanchez (2B/3B/SS. 2002-2011) – First time on ballot.

Sanchez was a three-time All Star in his ten season MLB career, which was cut short by shoulder and back injuries. Sanchez’ chances to remain on the ballot will similarly cut short by injury.  However, it is notable that he retired with a .297 career average, three All Star Selections and the 2006 NL batting title (.344 for the Pirates).  His best year was 2004, when he hit an NL-leading .344, with six home runs, 85 RBI, 85 runs scored and 200 hits – as well as a league-leading 53 doubles. Sanchez played for the Red Sox (2002-2003); Pirates (2005-2009); and Giants (2010-2011).

Curt Schilling (Starting Pitcher , 1988-2007) – Fifth year on the ballot, 52.3 percent last year.

Schilling is a six-time All Star, with 216 career wins (three seasons of 20 or more wins) over a 20-season MLB career. He recorded 3,116 strikeouts (three seasons of 300 or more whiffs), led his league in wins twice, complete games four times, innings pitched twice and strikeouts twice. He was also the 2001 World Series co-MVP – and has an impressive 11-2, 2.23 ERA post-season record (19 starts). He is on the cusp for the HOF. However, his outspoken views, Mike Mussina’s 270-win total (likely he will gete in before Schilling) and the lack of a Cy Young Award may be working against Schilling’s vote-getting capacity. His best season was 2001, when he went 22-8 for the Diamondbacks (with a 2.98 ERA).  That year, he lead the league in wins, starts (5), complete games (6), innings pitched (256 2/3).  He’ll be back for another shot. Schilling pitched for the Orioles (1988-1990); Astros (1991); Phillies (1992-2000); Diamondbacks (2000-2003); and Red Sox (2004-2007).

Gary Sheffield (OF/DH/3B/SS, 1988-2009) – Third year on the ballot, 11.6 percent last year.

Sheffield is a nine-time All Star (in 22 MLB seasons) with 509 career home runs (topped 30 home runs in a season eight times , with a high of 43 in 2000); a 292 career average (hit .300+ in eight seasons); and 1,676 RBI.  He also won 1992 NL batting title (.330); topped 100 RBI eight times; topped 100 runs scored seven times. His best season was 1996 (Marlins), when he hit .314, with 42 home runs, 120 RBI, 188 runs scored and 16 steals.  Sheffield has the offensive numbers, but defensive questions and the shadow of PEDs are likely to keep him on the outside looking in.  He should return fo the ballot.  Sheffield played for the Brewers (1988-1991); Padres (1992-1993); Marlins (1993-19998); Dodgers (1998-2001); Braves (2002-2003); Yankees(2004-2006); Tigers (2008); and Mets (2009).

Sammy Sosa (OF, 1989-2007) – Fifth year on the ballot, 7.0 percent last year.

Sosa hit 609 home runs in 18 MLB seasons – winning two HR titles, topping sixty three times and also hitting 50 one year.  In the four seasons from 1998 to 2001, Sosa averaged 60 home runs and 149 RBI per season. His career numbers include a .273 average, 609 home runs, 1,667 RBI, 1,475 runs scored and 234 stolen bases (a high of 36 steals in 1993). Sosa was the 1998 NL MVP (Cubs), led his league in home runs twice, runs scored three times, RBI twice.    His best season was 1998 (Cubs), when he hit .308, with 66 home runs, a league-leading 158 RBI and league-leading 134 runs scored – and even tossed in 18 stolen bases. So, why is the seven-time All Star not in the Hall?  The PED shadow has darkened his chances.  He’s very close to being dropped from the ballot, but may gets a small boost this year. Sosa played for the Rangers (1989, 2007); White Sox (1989-1991); Cubs (1992-2004); and Orioles (2005).

Mike Stairs OF/1B, 1992-2011) – First year on the ballot.

Mike Stairs enjoyed a 19-year MLB career, hitting .262, with 265 home runs and 899 RBI.  His place on the ballot recognizes his ability to fill a role at the major league level. His best season was 1999 (A’s), when he hit .258, but slugged 38 home runs and drove in 102. In his career, Stairs hit 20 or more home runs six times and topped 100 RBI twice. Stairs played for the Expos (1992-1993); Red Sox (1995); A’s (1996-2000); Cubs (2001); Brewers (2002);  Pirates (2003); Royals (2004-2006); Rangers (2006); Tigers (2006); Blue Jays (2007-2008); Phillies (2008-2009); Padres (2010); and Nationals (2011).

Jason Varitek (C, 1997-2011) – First time on the ballot.

A three-time All Star, Varitek caught an MLB-record (tying) four no-hitters.  His resume also includes a Gold Glove and Silver slugger Award (both in 2005) and three All Star selections. For his 15-seasn MLB career – all with the Red Sox –  Varitek hit .256, with 193 home runs and 757 RBI. His best season was 2003, when he hit .273, with 25 home runs and 85 RBI. In his Silver Slugger/Gold Glove year, he hit .281, with 22 home runs and 70 RBI.

Billy Wagner (RP, 1995-2010) – Second year on the ballot, 10.5 percent last year.

Wagner is a seven-time All Star, who amassed 422 saves (fifth all-time) in a 16-season MLB career.  He had nine seasons of 30 or more saves; a career ERA of 2.31; 1,196 career strikeouts in 903 innings; and 47-40 won-lost record.  His best season was 2003, when he went 1-4, 1.78 for the Astros, saving 44 games amne fanning 105 batters in 86 inings.  BBRT thinks he belong in the Hall (based on his 400+ saves) – and hopes that momentum starts to build.  Wagner played for the Astros (1995-2003); Phillies (2004-2005); Mets (2006-2009); Red Sox (2009); and Braves (2010).

Tim Wakefield  (SP/RP, 1992-2011) – First Year on the ballot.

Wakefield didn’t make the majors until age 25, and still logged 19 MLB seasons. He finished with 200 wins (180 losses), a 4.41 ERA and 23 SAVES.  While those numbers are not likely to put Wakefiled in the Hall, a 19-year MLB career is to be celebrated.   His best year was 1995, when he went 16-8, 2.95 for the Red Sox and finished third in the Cy Young Award balloting. Wakefield pitched for the Pirates (1992-1993) and Red Sox (1995-2011)).

Coming Soon – A Look at the “Today’s Era” ballot.

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

Member: Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance.

 

 

 

Heavy Metal – A Gold Glove and Sliver Slugger in the Same Season

Ivan Rodriguez won the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove Awards in the same season a record six consecutive years. Photo by raisethejollyroger dot com

Ivan Rodriguez won the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove Awards in the same season a record six consecutive years.
Photo by raisethejollyroger dot com

It’s MLB’s awards seasons and we are all hearing a lot about the major awards like Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year, Cy Young Award and MVP.  In this post, I’d like to look at some of the recognitions that have garnered less publicity – the Silver Slugger (for the season’s best offensive performance at each position) and the Gold Glove (for the season’s best defensive performance at each position). If you follow BBRT, you know that I am particularly partial to players that can flash “leather and lumber.”  So, this post will focus primarily on players who, in 2016, captured what BBRT terms “MLB’s Heavy Metal Double Play” – winning a Silver Slugger and Gold Glove in the same season.

Note: If you’d like to see BBRT’s key award predictions (made in October before the finalists were announced), click here.

This past season, four players earned both a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger:  Rockies’ 3B Nolan Arenado; Cubs’ 1B Anthony Rizzo; Royals’ C Salvador Perez; and Red Sox’ RF Mookie Betts.  Let’s take a look at the performance of each of these well-rounded athletes – as well as players who have won a Sliver Sluggers and Gold Glove in the same season in the past.

Nolan Arenado – Third Base, Rockies

Nolan Arenado photo

Nolan Arenado – fourth consecutive Gold Glove, second straight Silver Slugger. Photo by jenniferlinneaphotography

Let me start off by saying that the Rockies’ 25-year-old 3B is my current favorite player.  I’ve always been partial to third base – Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews was my childhood hero and remains my favorite player of all-time – and nobody plays the hot corner better than Arenado.  This is his fourth MLB season and his fourth Gold Glove. This season, he led all 3B in assists (378) and Defensive Runs Saved (20). In addition, he won the Fielding Bible Award as the best defensive 3B in MLB and had the highest (very statistically driven) SABR Defensive Index (SBI) among National League 3B (only the Rangers’ Adrian Beltre had a higher SBI).

On offense, Arenado earned his second straight Silver Slugger Award by hitting .294, while leading the league (for the second season in a row) in both home runs (41) and RBI (133). He also finished second in the NL in runs scored (116).

 

 

Anthony Rizzo, First Base, Cubs

Anthony rizzo cubs photo

Anthony Rizzo joins the “Leather and Lumber” club. Photo by apardavila

The 27-year-old Cubs’ 1B picked up his first Gold Glove and first Silver Slugger in his sixth MLB season. In the field, he led all MLB 1B in assists (125) and Defensive Runs Saved (11). Like Arenado (see above), Rizzo also won the Fielding Bible Award as the game’s best defensive 1B in 2016 and had the highest SABR Defensive Index among first sackers.

At the plate, the left-handed hitting Rizzo hit .292, with 32 home runs and 109 RBI – making his third straight All Star squad.  It was Rizzo’s third straight year with 30+ home runs and second consecutive seasaon of 100+ RBI.

Salvador Perez, Catcher, Royals

Photo by Keith Allison

Sal;vado Perez – fourth Gold Glove, first Sliver Slugger. Photo by Keith Allison

In 2016, Royals’ backstop, 26-year-old, Salvador Perez picked up his fourth consecutive Gold Glove and made his fourth consecutive All Star team. Perez led all MLB C in assists (77), had the AL’s second-best caught stealing percentage 42.9%) and was second only to the Giants’ Buster Posey in Defensive Runs Saved (11 to Posey’s 12). He also had the highest Society for American Baseball Research Defensive Index among catchers (tied with the Tigers’ James McCann at 8.7).

At the plate, Perez earned his first Silver Slugger Award, hitting .247, with 22 home runs and 64 RBI.

 

 

 

 

 

Mookie Betts, Right Field, Red Sox

Mookie Betts photo

Mookie Betts – Does it all. Photo by Dennis Heller

Mookie Betts (now 24-years-old) won his first Gold Glove and his first Silver Slugger award in his third MLB season (second full season). Betts led all MLB RF in putouts with 346 and was second in assists with 14.   He led all of MLB in Defensive Runs Saved at 32, ten ahead of second-place finisher, White Sox’ RF Adam Eaton.

At the plate, Betts hit .318, with 31 home runs, 113 RBI, 122 runs scored and 26 steals – a true five-tool star.

 

 

 

 

 

So, there are your 2016 “Heavy Metal Double Play” winners.  Now, here’s an update on those who have won both awards in the same season in the past. (The past, by the way, goes back to 1980, when the Silver Slugger Award was established.  Since 1980, the combination of a Gold Glove/Silver Slugger has been achieved 178 times by 98 different players.  You’ll find a complete list of the players who have earned recognition as the offensive and defensive leader in their respective leagues later in this post. (I’m also including lists of 2016’s individual Silver Slugger and Gold Glove winners). Since the Silver Slugger is awarded to three outfielders annually regardless of their position (LF, CF, RF), the Silver Slugger and GG/SS combo lists in this post do not break outfielders out by position.

  • The fewest GG/SS combo winners in a single season is one – Dodgers’ 1B Adrian Gonzalez in 2014.
  • The most players to achieve the GG/SS combo in a season is nine – back in 1984: Lance Parrish, C, Tigers; Keith Hernandez, 1B, Mets; Eddie Murray, 1B, Orioles; Ryne Sandberg, 2B, Cubs; Lou Whitaker, 2B, Tigers; Mike Schmidt, 3B, Phillies; Buddy Bell, 3B, Rangers; Dave Winfield, OF, Yankees; Dale Murphy, OF, Braves.
  • Ivan Rodriguez (C), Ken Griffey, Jr. (OF) and Barry Bonds (OF) each won the double (Silver Slugger/Gold Glove) crown in a season an MLB-record seven times.
  • Ivan Rodriguez won the SS/GG combo for his position a record six consecutive seasons (1995-1999).
  • Roberto Alomar (2B) is the only player to win the single-season Gold Glove/Silver Slugger combo with three different teams (Blue Jays-1992; Orioles-1996; Indians-1999, 2000)
  • Mike Hampton is the only pitcher to win the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove in the same season (Braves – 2003).
  • Scott Rolen (3B) is the only player to win the SS/GG combo in a season in which he played for two different teams (2002, Phillies/Cardinals). Rolen was traded from the Phillies to the Cardinals on July 29. He played 100 games for the Phillies and 55 for the Cardinals in his only SS/GG combo season.
  • Adrian Gonzalez (1B) and Matt Williams (3B) are the only players to capture a SS/GG single-season combination in both the AL and NL. Gonzalez – Dodgers-2014; Red Sox-2011. Williams – Indians-1997; Giants-1993-1994.
  • The only team to have three SS/GG winners in the same season is the 1993 Giants (Robby Thompson (2B), Matt Williams (3B), Barry Bonds (OF).
  • Outfielders have achieved the SS/GG combo most often (66 times), but if you factor in the potential to outfielders to achieve three combos each season, second baseman have been most successful, putting up 28 SS/GG seasons.
  • The top team in terms of SS/GG seasons is the Yankees (13).
  • In the NL, the Rockies, Nationals/Expos, Giants, Cubs and Cards have each had a league leading nine SS/GG winners.
  • The White Sox are the only teams to never have a player win a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger in the same season.

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Full List of Same Year Gold Glove/Silver Slugger Winners by Season

2016

Nolan Arenado, 3B, Rockies

Mookie Betts, Of, Red Sox

Salvador Perez, C, Royals

Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs

2015

Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks

Dee Gordon, 2B, Marlins

Nolan Arenado, 3B, Rockies

Brandon Crawford, SS, Giants.

2014

Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Dodgers

2013

Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks

J.J. Hardy, SS, Orioles

Adam Jones, OF, Orioles

2012

Adam LaRoche, 1B, Nationals

Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees

Chase Headley, 3B, Padres

Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates

2011

Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Red Sox

Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds

Adrian Beltre, 3B, Rangers

Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies

Jacob Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox

Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers

2010

Joe Mauer, C, Twins

Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals

Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees

Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies

Carl Crawford, OF, Rays

Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Rockies

2009

Joe Mauer, C, Twins

Mark Tiexiera, 1B, Yankees

Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals

Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees

Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers

Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners

Torii Hunter, OF, Angels

2008

Joe Mauer, C, Twins

Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox

David Wright, 3B, Mets

Grady Sizemore, OF, Indians

2007

Russell Martin, C, Dodgers

Placido Polanco, 2B, Tigers

David Wright, 3B, Mets

Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies

Carlos Beltran, OF, Mets

Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners

2006

Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees

Carlos Beltran, OF, Mets

2005

Jason Veritek, C, Red Sox

Mark Tiexierea, 1B, Rangers

Derrek Lee, 1B, Cubs

Andruw Jones, OF, Braves

2004

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Tigers

Jim Edmonds, OF, Cardinals

2003

Brett Boone, 2B, Mariners

Edgar Renteria, SS, Cardinals

Alex Rodriguez, SS, Rangers

Mike Hampton, P, Braves

2002

Todd Helton, 1B, Rockies

Scott Rolen, 3B, Cardinals/Phillies

Eric Chavez, 3B, A’s

Edgar Renteria, SS, Cardinals

Alex Rodriguez, SS, Rangers

2001

Todd Helton, 1B, Rockies

Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners

2000

Roberto Alomar, 2B, Indians

Darin Erstad, OF, Angels

1999

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Rangers

Robert Alomar, 2B, Indians

Larry Walker, OF, Rockies

Ken Griffey, Jr., OF, Mariners

Shawn Green, OF, Blue Jays

1998

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Rangers

Rafael Palmeiro, 1B, Rangers

Ken Griffey, Jr. OF, Mariners

1997

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Rangers

Craig Biggio, 2B, Astros

Chuck Knoblauch, 2B, Twins

Matt Williams, 3B, Indians

Larry Walker, OF, Rockies

Barry Bonds, OF, Giants

Ken Griffey, Jr, OF, Mariners

1996

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Rangers

Roberto Alomar, 2B, Orioles

Ken Caminiti, 3B, Padres

Barry Larkin, SS, Reds

Barry Bonds, OF, Giants

Ken Griffey, Jr. OF, Mariners

1995

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Rangers

Craig, Biggio, 2B, Astros

Barry Larkin, SS, Reds

1994

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Rangers

Jeff Bagwell, 1B, Astros

Craig Biggio, 2B, Astros

Matt Williams, 3B, Giants

Wade Boggs, 3B, Yankees

Barry Bonds, OF, Giants

Ken Griffey, Jr., OF, Mariners

1993

Robby Thompson, 2B, Giants

Matt Williams, 3B, Giants

Jay Bell, SS, Pirates

Barry Bonds, OF, Giants

Ken Griffey, Jr, OF, Mariners

1992

Roberto Alomar, 2B, Blue Jays

Larry Walker, OF, Expos

Andy Van Slyke, OF, Pirates

Barry Bonds, OF, Pirates

Kirby Puckett, OF, Twins

1991

Will Clark, 1B, Giants

Ryne Sandberg, 2B, Cubs

Cal Ripken, Jr., SS, Orioles

Barry Bonds, OF, Pirates

Ken Griffey, Jr., OF, Mariners

1990

Benito Santiago, C, Padres

Ryne Sandberg, 2B, Cubs

Kelly Gruber, 3B, Blue Jays

Barry Bonds, OF, Pirates

Ellis Burks, OF, Red Sox

1989

Ryne Sandberg, 2B, Cubs

Eric Davis, OF, Reds

Kirby Puckett, OF, Twins

Tony Gwynn, OF, Padres

1988

Benito Santiago, C, Padres

Ryne Sandberg, 2B, Cubs

Andy Van Slyke, OF, Pirates

Kirby Puckett, OF, Twins

1987

Don Mattingly, 1B, Yankees

Ozzie Smith, SS, Cardinals

Tony Gwynn, OF, Padres

Eric Davis, OF, Reds

Kirby Puckett, OF, Twins

Andre Dawson, OF, Cubs

1986

Don Mattingly, 1B, Yankees

Frank White, 2B, Royals

Mike Schmidt, 3B, Phillies

Tony Gwynn, OF, Padres

Kirby Puckett, OF, Twins

1985

Don Mattingly, 1B, Yankees

Ryne Sandberg, 2B, Cubs

Lou Whitaker, 2B, Tigers

Tim Wallach, 3B, Expos

George Brett, 3B, Royals

Willie McGee, OF, Cardinals

Dale Murphy, OF, Braves

Dave Winfield, OF, Yankees

1984

Lance Parrish, C, Tigers

Keith Hernandez, 1B, Mets

Eddie Murray, 1B, Orioles

Ryne Sandberg, 2B, Cubs

Lou Whitaker, 2B, Tigers

Mike Schmidt, 3B, Phillies

Buddy Bell, 3B, Rangers

Dave Winfield, OF, Yankees

Dale Murphy, OF, Braves

1983

Lance Parrish, C, Tigers

Eddie Murray, 1B, Orioles

Lou Whitaker, 2B, Tigers

Mike Schmidt, 3B, Phillies

Dale Murphy, OF, Braves

Dave Winfield, OF, Yankees

Andre Dawson, OF, Expos

1982

Gary Carter, C, Expos

Mike Schmidt, 3B, Phillies

Robin Yount, SS, Brewers

Dale Murphy, OF, Braves

Dave Winfield, OF, Yankees

1981

Gary Carter, C, Expos

Manny Trillo, 2B, Phillies

Mike Schmidt, 3B, Phillies

Andre Dawson, OF, Expos

Rickey Henderson, OF, A’s

Dwight Evans, OF, Red Sox

Dusty Baker, OF, Dodgers

1980

Keith Hernandez, 1B, Cardinals

Cecil Cooper, 1B, Brewers

Andre Dawson, OF, Expos

Willie Wilson, OF, Royals

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Your  Gold Glove/Silver Slugger combo winners listed alphabetically:

Alomar, Roberto … 1992; 1996; 1999; 2000

Altuve, Jose … 2015

Arenado, Nolan … 2015; 2016

Baker, Dusty … 1981

Bagwell, Jeff … 1994

Bell, Buddy … 1984

Bell, Jay (SS) … 1993

Beltre, Adrian (3B) … 2011

Beltran, Carlos (OF) … 2006; 2007

Biggio, Craig (2B) … 1994; 1995; 1997

Mookie Betts (OF) … 2016

Boggs, Wade (3B) … 1994

Bonds, Barry … 1990; 1991; 1992; 1993; 1994; 1996; 1997

Boone, Brett … 2003

Brett, George … 1985\

Burks, Ellis … 1990

Caminiti, Ken … 1996

Cano, Robinson … 2010; 2012

Carter, Gary … 1981; 1982

Chavez, Eric … 2002

Clark, Will … 1991

Cooper, Cecil …1980

Crawford, Brandon … 2015

Crawford, Carl … 2010

Dawson, Andre … 1980; 1981; 1983; 1987

Davis, Eric … 1987; 1989

Edmonds, Jim … 2004

Ellsbury, Jacob … 2011

Erstad, Darin … 2000

Evans, Dwight … 1981

Goldschmidt, Paul … 2015

Gonzalez, Adrian … 2011; 2014

Gonzalez, Carlos … 2010

Gordon, Dee … 2015

Green, Shawn … 1999

Griffey, Ken Jr. … 1991; 1993; 1994; 1996; 1997; 1998; 1999

Gruber, Kelly … 1990

Gwynn, Tony … 1986; 1987; 1989

Hampton, Mike … 2003

Hardy, J.J. … 2013

Headley, Chase … 2012

Helton, Todd … 2002

Henderson, Rickey … 1981

Hernandez, Keith … 1980; 1984

Hunter, Torii … 2009

Jeter, Derek … 2006; 2009

Jones, Adam … 2013

Jones, Andruw … 2005

Kemp, Matt … 2009; 2011

Knoblauch, Chuck … 1997

Larkin, Barry … 1995; 1996

LaRoche, Adam  … 2012

Lee, Derrek … 2005

Martin, Russell … 2008

Mattingly, Don … 1985; 1986; 1987

Mauer, Joe … 2008; 2009; 2010

McCutchen, Andrew … 2012

McGee, Willie … 1985

Molina, Yadier … 2013\

Murphy, Dale … 1982; 1083; 1984; 1985

Murray, Eddie … 1983; 1984

Palanco, Placido … 2007

Palmeiro, Rafael … 1998

Parrish, Lance … 1983; 1984

Pedroia, Dustin … 2008

Salvador, Perez … 2016

Phillips, Brandon … 2011

Puckett, Kirby … 1986; 1987; 1988; 1989; 1992

Pujols, Albert … 2010

Renteria, Edgar … 2002

Ripken, Cal, Jr. … 1991

Anthony Rizzo … 2016

Rodriguez, Alex … 2002; 2003

Rodriguez, Ivan … 1994; 1995; 1996; 1997; 1998; 1999; 2004

Rolen, Scott … 2002

Rollins, Jimmy … 2007

Sandberg, Ryne … 1984; 1985; 1988; 1989; 1990; 1991

Santiago, Benito … 1988; 1990\

Schmidt, Mike … 1981; 1982; 1983; 1984; 1986

Sizemore, Grady … 2008

Smith, Ozzie … 1987\

Suzuki, Ichiro … 2001; 2007; 2009

Thompson, Robby … 1993

Tiexiera, Mark … 2005, 2009

Trillo, Manny … 1981

Tulowitzki, Troy … 2010; 2011

Van Slyke, Andy … 1988; 1992

Varitek, Jason … 2005

Walker, Larry … 1992; 1997; 1999

Wallach, Tim … 1985

White, Frank … 1986

Whitaker, Lou … 1983; 1984; 1985

Williams, Matt … 1993; 1994; 1997

Wilson, Willie … 1980

Winfield, Dave … 1982; 1983; 1984; 1985

Wright, David … 2007; 2008

Yount, Robin … 1982

Ryan Zimmerman … 200

 

2016 Silver Slugger Award Winners

Catcher:  Salvador Perez, Royals/Wilson Ramos, Nationals

First Base:  Miguel Cabrera, Tigers/Anthony Rizzo, Cubs

Second Base: Jose Altuve, Astros/Daniel Murphy, Nationals

Third Base:  Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays/Nolan Arenado, Rockies

Shortstop:  Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox/Corey Seager Dodgers

Outfield:

Mike Trout, Angels/Mark Trumbo, Orioles/Mookie Betts, Red Sox

Charlie Blackmon, Rockies/Christian Yelich, Marlins/Yeonis Cespedes, Mets

Pitcher:  Jake Arrieta, Cubs

DH:  David Ortiz, Red Sox

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2016 Gold Glove Winners

Catcher:  Salvador Perez, Royals/Buster Posey, Giants

1B:  Mitch Moreland, Rangers/Anthony Rizzo, Cubs

2B:  Ian Kinsler, Tigers/Joe Panik, Giants

3B:  Adrian Beltre, Rangers/Nolan Arenado, Rockies

SS:  Francisco Lindor, Indians/Brandon Crawford, Giants

LF:  Brett Gardner, Yankees/Starling Marte, Pirates

CF:  Kevin Kiermaier, Rays/Ender Inciarte, Braves

RF:  Mookie Betts, Red Sox/Jason Heyward, Cubs

Pitcher:  Dallas Keuchel, Astros/Zack Greinke, Diamondbacks

 

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Member: Society for American Baseball Research; The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance

ball Research (SABR); The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers

2016 World Series Game Seven – A Century of Heartache is Over

Roller coaster photoIt’s over, the Chicago Cubs 108-year World Championship drought has come to an end – in a Game Seven that had more twists and turns than a carnival ride.  The Cubs topped the Cleveland Indians (whose own World Series Championship drought now stretches to 69 seasons) 8-7 in ten innings.  Was it a “classic” Game Seven?  No, I’ll leave that designation for games like Jack Morris’ ten-inning complete game shutout that brought the 1991 World Series crown to Minnesota.  Was it one of the most exciting Game Seven’s ever?  Definitely – even without its historic significance for both teams.  Let’s look at just a few unexpected developments in this contest:

  • In a Game (and Series) considered a showcase for MLB’s best young talent, three of the four Game Seven home runs were hit by players in their thirties, including one by a 39-year-old retiring catcher (Cubs’ David Ross).
  • Two runs scored on a single wild pitch – by 2016’s likely NL Cy Young Award winner Jon Lester.
  • Indians’ ace Corey Kluber, who averaged better than a strikeout per inning in both the regular season and post season (up to Game Seven), lasted just four innings, giving up four runs and failing to get a single strikeout.
  • Neither starting pitcher was on the mound at the end of the fifth inning.  (Kluber, of course, was pitching – again – on short rest.  Insert “insert second guess” here.)
  • The Cubs’ seemingly untouchable closer – Aroldis Chapman – came into the game and quickly gave up a double and game-tying home run – but got the win in his least effective post-season appearance.
  • There were a handful of sparkling defensive plays, as well as four errors (three by the Cubs), a hit batter, a costly wild pitch and a flubbed safety squeeze.
  • The Indians came back from a 5-1 deficit after 4 ½ innings, to tie the game 6-6 in the eighth.
  • There was a 17-minute rain delay.
  • Both teams scored in the tenth.
  • The eventual winning run was scored by a player who was intentionally walked.

2016 World Series MVP

Cubs’ LF Ben Zobrist, who drove in the go-ahead run with a double in the tenth inning of Game Seven took home World Series MVP honors. (The Cubs ended up needing the insurance run driven in by C Miguel Montero.)  For the Series, Zobrist hit .357 (10-for-28), with two doubles, a triple and two RBI.

Old Guys Rule

The game and the Series were considered to be a showcase for some of MLB’s best young talent: Francisco Lindor (22-years-old); Jose Ramirez (24); Kyle Schwarber (23); Kris Bryant (24); Addison Russell (22) – to name just a few of the twenty-something stars on the two rosters. In Game Seven, however, there were four home runs – three by players in their thirties.

  • Thirty-year-old CF Dexter Fowler got the Cubs off to a good start – and an immediate lead – with a booming lead-off home run in the first inning.
  • In the sixth inning, Cubs’ 39-year-old catcher David “Grandpa Rossy” Ross, playing in his last major league game, homered to left off Indians’ relief ace Andrew Miller – giving the Cubs a 6-3 lead and becoming the oldest player to homer in Game Seven of a World Series.
  • In the bottom of the eighth, the Indians’ 36-year-old CF Rajai Davis took Cubs’ closer Aroldis Chapman deep – tying the game 6-6 on a two-run shot.
  • One of the youngsters did appear in the long ball parade. The Cubs’ 23-year-old 2B Javier Baez hit a solo shot off Indians starter Corey Kluber in the fifth.

Hope You Remember this Performance

The Indians’ Brandon Guyer did not get into the game until the sixth innning; pinch-hitting and taking over righ field from Lonnie Chisenhall. (He would later move to LF.)  All Guyer did was record a single, double and walk, along with two runs scored and an RBI, in three plate appearancs.

Wild Thing, You Make My Heart Sing

Jon Lester cubs photo

Jon Lester – Wild pitch plated two runs, but he gave the Cubs three much-needed innings. Photo by apardavila

The Indians started the fifth with two quick outs against Cubs’ starter Kyle Hendricks, who appeared to be well in control.  Then DH Carlos Santana walked and Cubs’ Manager Joe Maddon – after just 63 pitches – pulled Hendricks in favor of 19-game winner and strong Cy Young Award candidate Jon Lester. (Before the game, Maddon had said he preferred to bring Lester in at the start of, rather than in the midst of, an inning.  Good place to second guess here.). Lester gave up a dribbling single toward the mound to Indians’ 2B Jason Kipnis. The ball was played by catcher David Ross, whose off target (error) throw to first let Kipnis move up to second and Santana to third. Then, with SS Francisco Lindor at the plate, Lester bounced a wild pitch in the dirt that allowed both Santana and Kipnis to come home – bringing the score to Cubs 5 – Indians 3. Lester got Lindor on a swinging strikeout and went on to pitch a scoreless sixth and the seventh.  He was replaced by closer Aroldis Chapman with two outs and one on in the eighth.

Turning Point

Hard to pick a turning point in a game with so many twists and turns, but I’ll take the 17-minute rain delay between the ninth and tenth innings.  The Cubs were reeling a bit.  The bottom of the eighth had seen the Indians rally to tie the game at six off Cubs’ (overworked) closer Aroldis Chapman (another chance to second guess), who came on with two outs and one on and gave up a run-scoring double to RF Brandon Guyer; a game-tying two-run homer to CF Rajai Davis; and a single to LF Ben Zobrist before striking out C Yan Gomes to end the inning.

Then, in the top of the ninth, with RF  Jason Heyward on third and one out, Cubs’ 2B Javier Baez fouled off a two-strike safety squeeze (bunt) attempt that could have scored the go-ahead run. CF Dexter Fowler followed with a short-to-first ground out and the scoring opportunity was lost.  Fortunately for the Cubs, Chapman settled down to record a 1-2-3 ninth – and then the rain delay gave the Cubs a chance to calm down, regroup (have a team meeting) and right the ship – sailing it into a two-run top of the tenth.

The game-tying home run given up by Aroldis Chapman in the eighth inning was the first round tripper he had surrendered since joining the Cubs on July 25.

Stars of the Game

Cubs’ CF Dexter Fowler started the game with a home run and collected three hits. Cubs’ DH Kyle Schwarber continued his remarkable comeback from surgey with three hits.  Despite initial difficulties, starter-turned-reliever Jon Lester gave the Cubs three solid – and much needed – innings; one run, on two hits and a walk, with four strikeouts. Kyle Hendricks gave up two runs (one earned) in 4 2.3 innings.

For the Indians, CF Rajai Davis had two hits – including a game-tying home run – and drove in three.  Brandon Guyer, who didn’t enter the game until the sixth inning, had a double, a single, a walk,  two runs scored and an RBI – in just three plate appearances. Cody Allen threw two scoreless innings – no hits, one walk, two strikeouts.

The Improbable Tenth –Both Teams Score

Cubs’ DH Kyle Schwarber led off the tenth (Bryan Shaw on the mound for the Indians) with a single to right – and was immediately replaced at first base by pinch runner Albert Almora. 3B Kris Bryant followed with a long drive to center caught by Rajia Davis.  Almora made a heads up running play – tagging and going to second to eliminate the force play. The Indians countered by walking 1B Anthony Rizzo intentionally.  Almora’s advance to second – which led to the Rizzo walk – would prove consequential. Next, LF Ben Zobrist cemented his World Series MVP Award with a run run-scoring double – Almora crossing the plate and Rizzo moving up to third. Shaw then intentionally walked SS Addison Russell to both set up the double play and get to Miguel Montero, the Cubs’ third catcher of the game.  Montero singled the intentionally walked Rizzo home with what would prove to be the winning run.  At this point, Trevor Bauer replaced Shaw and got RF Jason Heyward and 2B Javier Baez to end the inning. Cubs 8 – Indians 6.

The Indians, however, were not done yet.  Carl Edwards replaced Aroldis Chapman on the mound to start the tenth and got two quick outs (1B Mike Napoli on a swinging third strike and 3B Jose Ramirez on a groundout to short.) Victory seemed to be right there, but this ride wasn’t done spinning yet.  Brandon Guyer drew a walk and moved to second on defensive indifference.  He then scored on a single by CF Rajai Davis, cutting the lead to one.  At this point, Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon brought in Mike Montgomery, who got RF Micheal Martinez on a grounder – third to first.

Whew! It was finally over.

 

World Series Stats Leaders

Addison Russell cubs photo

Cubs’ SS Addison Russell drove in one-third (9 of 27) of the World Series runs scored by the Cubs. Photo by apardavila

AVERAGE

Cubs: Anthony Rizzo – .360

Indians:  – Jose Ramirez – .310

HITS

Cubs: Ben Zobrist – 10

Indians: Jason Kipnis – 9

HR

Cubs: Kris Bryant and Dexter Fowler – 2

Indians: Jason Kipnis and Roberto Perez – 2

RBI

Cubs: Anthony Russell – 9

Indians: Roberto Perez – 5

RUNS SCORED 

Cubs: Anthony Rizzo – 7

Indians: Jason Kipnis – 6

STOLEN BASES

Cubs: Jason Heyward – 4

Indians: Rajai Davis – 3

PITCHING WINS

Cubs: Jake Arrieta – 2

Indians: Corey Kluber  – 2

STRIKEOUTS

Cubs: Jon Lester – 16

Indians: Corey Kluber – 15

ERA (starters)

Cubs: Kyle Hendricks – 1.00

Indians: Corey Kluber – 2.81

INNINGS PITCHED

Indians: Corey Kluber – 16.0

Cubs: Jon Lester – 14.2

SAVES

Cubs: Aroldis Chapman and Mike Montgomery – 1

iNDIANS: Cody Allen – 1

 

I tweet baseball @David BBRT

Member: Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance.

2016 World Series Game Six – Next, It’s Heartbreak or Heaven

Game Six of the 2016 World Series was all Cubs – a 9-3 victory that fueled the anticipation of a Game Seven.  It seems appropriate, somehow, that two teams with a combined 176-year title drought would see the difference between continued heartbreak and hardball heaven go down to a Game Seven.  Game Six did have some highlights, mostly for the Cubs:

  • Cubs’ SS Addison Russell had a double and a home run (Grand Slam) in five at bats – tying a World Series Single-Game record with six RBI;
  • Cubs’ 3B Kris Bryant had four hits – including his second homer of the Series to start the Cubs’ scoring;
  • Cubs’ 1B Anthony Rizzo had three hits, including an “insurance” two-run home run in the top of the ninth;
  • Indians’ 2B Jason Kipnis had three hits, including his second home run of the Series; and.
  • Cubs’ starter Jake Arrieta went 5 2/3 innings, giving up two runs on three hits and three walks with nine strikeouts.

Looking to the Future

The Cubs’ starting offensive nine in Game Six included seven players under the age of 28. The Indians’ starting lineup had five players under 28.  Both teams seem to be looking toward a bright future,

Turning Point

Josh Tomlin Indians photo

Josh Tomlin was one pitch away from a 1-2-3 first. Photo by Keith Allison

The turning point in Game Six of the 2016 World Series came at a time that was both early and unexpected.  Indians’ starter Josh Tomlin got off to a good start, retiring Cubs’ CF Dexter Fowler on a liner to third, DH Kyle Schwarber on a grounder to second and then getting 3B Kris Bryant down no balls-two strikes.  Tomlin was one good pitch away from a 1-2-3 first.  He didn’t get it, as Bryant took the 0-2 offering deep to center to give the Cubs an early 1-0 lead.

But that wasn’t the turning point – one run was not likely to win this contest.  And, the Cubbies weren’t done.  1B Anthony Rizzo and LF Ben Zobrist followed with a pair of singles, putting runners on first and third (with Tomlin still one out away from a one-run inning).  Then – wait for it, wait for it – came the turning point.  SS Addison Russell hit what appeared to be an inning-ending soft fly ball to right center.  In an apparent bout of miscommunication, CF Tyler Naquin and RF Lonnie Chisenhall (both seemingly in hot pursuit) let the ball drop in between them for a two-run double. To add insult to injury, Russell took third base on a throwing error by 2B Jason Kipnis.  Cubs’ C Wilson Contreras then flied out to center to end the inning, but the damage was done: 3-0 Cubs and the Indians hadn’t batted.  That “turning point “ inning had several effects: It took the crowd out of the game; put the Indians “under pressure” in the field and at the plate; most likely dampened Cleveland’s aggressiveness on the bases; and impacted how Indians’ manager Terry Francona used his usually fierce bullpen.

Star of the Game

Addison Russell Cubs photo

Photo by apardavila

The star of Game Six was Cubs’ 22-year-old SS Addison Russell with a double, home run and World Series record (tying) six RBI.  Russell’s six runs driven in tied the Cardinals’ Albert Pujols (Game Three, 2011); Yankees’ Hideki Matsui (Game Six, 2009); and Yankees’ 2B Bobby Richardson (Game Three,1960).  Russell’s Grand Slam was the first by a shortstop in the World Series and made him the second-youngest player to hit a Grand Slam in the Fall Classic (only Mickey Mantle was younger).

 

 

Pitching Decisions Questioned

The depth of the Cubs’ rotation came into play as Cubs’ starter Jake Arrieta started on his usual rest (the Cubs used a four-man rotation in the Series), while Josh Tomlin (the Indians’ went with a three-man rotation) started on short rest (and gave up six runs in 2 1/3 innings).  The Indians’ Danny Salazar – who went 11-6, 3.87  in 25 starts, but came down with a right forearm strain late in the season – came in to pitch two scoreless innings (one hit and four strikeouts).  Salazar’s performance led to some speculation that a Salazar start and game-by-committee (given Cleveland’s sparkling relief corps) might have better served the Indians.  (Hindsight, however, is always 20/20 and Salazar was a big questins mark, while Tomlin has pitched well this post season.)  Now, the Indians have ace Corey Kluber going in Game Seven, like Tomlin, on short rest.

Still the Indians have the bull pen advantage, as Cleveland Manager Terry Francona did not use any of his “lights-out” bullpen trio of Andrew Miller, Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw in Game Six.  Five innings out of Kluber may be enough for the Tribe to take the finale.

Meanwhile, Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon surprised a lot of folks by using his two most trusted relievers – Mike Montgomery and closer Aroldis Chapman – in Game Six, despite a big lead.

The most engaging questions seem to be:  1) How effective will Kluber be pitching once again on short rest?  2) Has Maddon overused Chapman?.  One thing for sure, there will be some intrigue.

Game Seven Starters

Let’s look at the Game Seven starting pitchers.

Corey Kluber – Cleveland

Kluber has been the Indians’  “ace” all season and in the post season.  On the season he was 18-9, 3.14, with 227 strikeouts in 215 innings.  His home and away stats were relatively even:  10-5, 3.24 at home and 8-4, 3.03 on the road. In the post season, he is 4-1, 0.89. with 35 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings.  And, while Kluber is going on short rest for the second straight start, he has a well-rested bullpen (Andrew Miller, Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw) behind him.  This post season, that trio has pitched 38 innings, giving up just four runs (0.95 ERA), while fanning 62.  Five quality innings from Kluber may be enough.  BBRT will be watching Kluber’s early pitch count closely.

Kyle Hendricks – Chicago

The Cubs’ Kyle Kendricks wnet 16-8, with MLB’s lowest ERA (2.13) this season.  During the regualr season, he fanned 170 batters in 190 innings.  He was 9-2 1.32 at Wrigley and a still good, but less impressive, 7-6 2.95 on the road. Backing up Hendricks are likely a combination of starter Jon Lester and relievers Mike Montgomery and Aroldis Chapman.  Lester, with a 1.93 ERA in five 2016  post-season starts could come in if Hendricks should falter early. Montgomery and Chapman – who both pitched yesterday – have made 22 appearances this postseason (28 1/3 innings), with a 2.86 ERA and 30 strikeouts.  The Cubs need Hendricks to go deep in this game.  If he could get into the seventh, it would make Maddon’s job a lot easier.

 

World Series Flashback – My Favorite Game Seven 1960

Game Seven of the 1960 World Series is my favorite World Series contest – which is saying a lot since I was in the park for Jack Morris’ 10-inniing shutout win in Game Seven of the 1991 Fall Classic.  To understand why this is my favorite, it helps to set the stage:

  • There were only 16 major league teams. If you didn’t finish with the most victories in your league, you went home.
  • No one had ever heard of the designated hitter, the wild card, WAR or even WHIP.  
  • Home Run Derby was on TV – in black and white, with power hitters pairing off at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles.
  • Ted Williams finished his career with a home run in his last at bat that season and Brooks Robinson won his first Gold Glove.
  • MLB held two All Star Games.
  • The 1960 White Sox became the first team to put players’ names on uniforms.
  • Warren Spahn threw his first no-hitter taht season  and won a league-leading 21 games – at age 39.
  • Juan Marichal threw a one-hitter in his major league debut at age 22.
  • Roger Maris won his first MVP Award in his first year as a Yankee (after being traded from the Kansas City Athletics).

I was thirteen and an avid baseball fan.  The Game of the Week (in black and white), the radio – especially the radio – and an occasional trip to the ball park were my tickets to the national past time.

MIckey Mantle photo

Mickey Mantle and the Yankees were a baseball dynasty going into the 1960s. Photo by Tony Fischer Photography

At the time, the Yankees were baseball’s dynasty.  Since my birth in 1947, the Bronx Bombers had been to 11 World Series (including the 1960 Series, tied 3-3) and had won eight World Championships.  Fans from pretty much everywhere but New York had made Yankee-hating a tradition.  I was no exception.  Milwaukee-born, I was a steadfast Braves fan, still smarting from the Yankees’ 1958 World Series comeback, when they downed my Braves after trailing three games to one. 

The prognosticators had predicted a Yankee win in five or six games.  They pointed out that the Yankees, with a 97-57 record (the Pirates were 95-59-1) came into the Series with the momentum of a 15-game, season-closing winning streak, while the Pirates lost four of their final seven.  They also lauded the Yankees’ post-season experience and, they heralded the Yankees power (the Yankees led the AL with a record 193 home runs and 746 runs scored, while the Pirates led the NL with 734 runs scored, but only 120 round trippers) – the Yankees’ Game One starting lineup had belted 152 regular season homers to 98 for the Pirates’ starters.  When it came to mound work, things appeared more balanced, maybe even a shade in favor of the Pirates.  While the Yankees’ 3.52 ERA was the lowest in the AL, the Pirates’ NL third-best ERA (at 3.49) slightly bettered the Bomber mark.  The Pirates did have the clear advantage in strikeouts (811-712) and fewest walks allowed (an NL low of 386 to an AL worst 609 for the Yankees). They also boasted the Cy Young Award winner in Vernon Law (20-9, 3.08), backed up by Bob Friend (18-12, 3.00), while no Yankee starter had topped 15 wins.  The top relievers for the two teams were Elroy Face, with 24 saves for Pittsburgh and Bobby Shantz, who saved 11 for the Yanks.

YANKEE OFFENSE LEADING THE CARGE

To further set the stage, going into Game Seven (October 13 at Pittsburgh), the Series was tied 3-3, despite:

  • The Yankees outscoring the Pirates 46 to 17 over the first six games;
  • The Yankees out-hitting the Pirates 78 to 49 in the first six games; and
  • The Yankees out-homering  the Pirates eight to one in the first six games.

Still,  the Pirates were looking forward the  chance to win the Series at home behind Vernon Law (winner of Games One and Four.)  The Yankees countered with Bob Turley, who, despite winning Game Two, had given up 13 hits and three walks in 8 1/3 innings.  The Pirates also had their top left-handed hitter, Bob Skinner (injured in Game One), back at the number-three spot in the order, while the Yankees were missing Elston Howard (broken finger, Game Six).

PIRATE POWER TO THE LEAD

The Yanks went meekly in the top of the first inning (liner, popup, foul out), and the Pirates, homerless since 2B Bill Mazeroski’s blast in Game One, got a two-run homer from 1B Rocky Nelson (whom Murtaugh chose to start at first base over regular Dick Stuart).

In the second, Law set the heart of the Yankees down in order –CF Mickey Mantle, fly to center; LF Yogi Berra, grounder to third; 1B Bill Skowron, grounder to short.  Pirates’ C  Smoky Burgess started the bottom  inning with a single and Yankee manager Casey Stengel immediately pulled starter Bob Turley in favor of the rookie Bill Stafford (who had stifled the Pirates for five innings in Game Five).  The move, second-guessed by many, did not pay off.  Stafford walked 3B  Don Hoak and Mazeroski beat out a bunt single.  Vernon Law was now at the plate (the Pirates’ pitcher was two for four, with a double, run scored and RBI in Games One and Four).  Law hit back to Stafford for a pitcher-to home-to first double play, but CF/lead-off hitter Bill Virdon followed with a two-run single and a 4-0 Pirates lead.  The Yankees were on the ropes.

YANKEE BATS WARM UP

Law handcuffed the Yankees through four innings, giving up only two singles.  In the fifth, YankeeS’ 1bMoose Skowron made the score 3-1 with a lead-off homer just inside the right field foul pole.  Law did not let the round tripper upset him, retiring C Johnny Blanchard, 3B Clete Boyer and P Bobby Shantz (who came on to pitch for New York in the third) in order.

The Yankees closed the gap – and then some – in the top of the sixth.  Pesky New York 2B Bobby Richardson (who already had nine hits in the series) led off with a single to center, and SS Tony Kubek followed with a walk.  With the Bombers appearing on the verge of a rally, Murtaugh replaced Law (who, it turns out had been pitching on a sore ankle throughout the Series) with his top reliever Elroy Face.   Face got RF Roger Maris on a foul pop to 3B Don Hoak, but Mickey Mantle followed with a “seeing eye” single up the middle, scoring Richardson. Yogi Berra followed with a upper deck home run (like Skowron’s just inside the right field foul pole) to give New York a 5-4 lead in what was shaping up to be a nail biter.  Veteran Bobby Shantz, meanwhile, was baffling the Pirates – giving up only a single and a walk from the third to the seventh innings.

In the top of the eighth, the Yankees appeared to put the game away – using a walk, two  singles and a double to produce two more runs and a 7-4 lead.   Notably, Stengel’s  pitching decisions again came into play.  He let Shantz bat with two out and runners at second and third (Boyer and Skowron) and a chance to extend the Yankee lead.  Shantz flied out and the living-room and press-box managers were quick to point out:  1) The lost scoring opportunity; 2) The fact that Stengel left Shantz in for a sixth inning of work, despite the fact that Shantz had not gone more than four innings in the regular season.

A PEBBLE SENDS WAVES ACROSS THE DIAMOND

In the bottom of the eighth, things unraveled for the Yankees, thanks to a poorly placed pebble.  Gino Cimoli pinch hit for Face and stroked a single to right-center field.  Shantz, who had already induced two double plays appeared to have worked his magic again, as CF Bill Virdon hit a hard ground ball right at  Yankee SS, sure-handed Tony Kubek.  Just as Kubek was ready to field the ball, it appeared to hit a pebble (the Yankees had already been critical of the condition of the Forbes Field infield) and ricocheted into Kubek’s throat.  Kubek went down, gasping for air and spitting up blood, with his windpipe rapidly swelling (doctors on the scene at first thought an emergency tracheotomy might be necessary).  The end result?  Kubek sent to the hospital and replaced by Joe DeMaestri and the Pirates had two on and no outs, instead of none on and two outs.  (Read: Aha, the turning point.)

Pirates’ shortstop Dick Groat took advantage of Kubek’s mishap and lined singled to left, scoring Cimoli.  Stengel came to the mound and replaced Shantz with right-hander Jim Coates (despite the fact that lefty Bill Skinner was coming to the plate).  The righty-lefty matchup made little difference, as Skinner sacrificed the runners up one base.  Next was Rocky Nelson, who flied out to medium right, with the Pirates choosing not to test Roger Maris’ arm.   So, two outs, two on and the Yankees still in front 7-5.   That brought up the Pirates’ best hitter, RF Roberto Clemente, who had been held hitless in his first three at-bats. Coates made a good pitch, getting Clemente to hit a weak ground ball toward first.  A hustling Clemente beat both Coates and Skowron’s throw to the bag, while Virdon scored and Groat moved to third.  Now, 7-6 and the Pirates still had life. 

That brought up backup catcher Hall Smith (who had come into the game in the eighth after Joe Christopher ran for starting catcher Smoky Burgess in the bottom of the seventh).   Smith took a 2-2 Coates’ pitch over the left-field wall for a 9-7 Pittsburgh lead.  The Pirates, with only one round tripper in the first six games had homered twice for five runs in Game Seven.

YANKEES NEITHER GIVE IN NOR GIVE UP

To protect the lead  in the ninth (and with Elroy Face already out of the game), Pirate Manager Danny Murtaugh called on starter Bob Friend, who had lost Games Two and Six, giving up seven earned runs in six innings (and had pitched in relief only once all season).  Yankee lead-off hitter Bobby Richardson started off the ninth with a single to left.  Veteran and former-Pirate Dale Long, pinch hitting for Joe DeMaestri (who had replaced the injured Kubek) singled to right and Friend was gone, replaced by Game-Five starter Harvey Haddix.  Haddix got Roger Maris on a foul out, but Mickey Mantle drove in Richardson with a single to right center.   Yogi Berra followed with a ground ball down the first base line.  Rocky Nelson made a nice backhanded stop, but was out of position for a first-to second-to first, game-ending double play. Nelson took the sure out, stepping on the first base bag and retiring Berra, while Gil McDougald (pinch running for Long) headed toward home.  It was at this point that Nelson realized Mantle had not run to second.  Mantle, sizing up the situation, was returning to first (with the force at second now off). It was an unorthodox base-running move, but as Mantle dove head first back to the bag (avoiding Nelson’s desperate attempt to tag him), McDougald scored the tying run.  Skowron then grounded out to Mazeroski (forcing Mantle) to end the inning in a 9-9 tie. Still, Mantle’s heads up baserunning had kept the Yankees in the game.

THE FIRST WORLD SERIES-ENDING WALKOFF HOME RUN

bILL mAZEROSKI photo

Bill Mazeroski’s Series-winning home run has been immortalized in Pittsburgh. Photo by daveynin

Stengel, like Murtaugh, was now using starters in relief, bringing Game Four-loser Ralph Terry in to pitch the ninth.  Number-eight hitter Bill Mazeroski led off the inning.  Terry’s first pitch was a high and inside fastball.  The second pitch, another fastball, was in the strike zone and Mazeroski deposited it over the 406-foot marker in left center.  Not sure the ball would carry out in the deep part of the park, Mazeroski ran full speed with his head down to first and toward second, before seeing the umpire making the circular home run signal.  Mazeroski removed his helmet, waving his way to home plate where his team mates awaited the first player in major league history to end the World Series with a walk-off home run.

Trivia Tidbit:  The seventh game of the 1960 Series is the only World Series game in which neither team recorded a single strikeout.

FINAL: Pirates 10 – Yankees 9; Pirates 4 games – Yankees 3 Games. M

When the Series was over, Pirate pitching made the difference, but you could never tell from the stats line:

  • The Yankees scored a Series’ record 55 runs to 27 for the Pirates,
  • The Yankees collected a Series’ record 91 hits to 60 for the Pirates.
  • The Yankees hit a Series’ record .338 to .256 for the Pirates
  • The Yankees collected a Series’ record 27 extra base hits to 15 for the Pirates.
  • The Yankees out-homered the Pirates 10-4.
  • The Yankees’ pitchers put up a 3.54 ERA to 7.11 for the Pirates.
  • Bobby Richardson of the Yankees won the Series MVP award, hitting .367 with a Series’ record 12 RBI. The only player on a losing team to ever win the Series MVP Award.
  • The Yankees’ Whitey Ford was the Series’ most effective pitcher, throwing two complete game shutout in two starts.

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

Member:  Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance.

2016 World Series Game Five – “High Anxiety” and Back to Cleveland

It’s back to Cleveland for Game Six – as the Cubs stayed alive with a classic 3-2 victory in Game Five at Wrigley field (and now trail the Indians three games-to-two). The tension-filled contest – described as “high anxiety” by Cubs’ first-sacker Anthony Rizzo had something for everyone:

  • 23 strikeouts for those who love power pitching;
  • Home runs by both teams’ third basemen – the Indians’ Jose Ramirez and Cubs’ Kris Bryant;
  • A measure of small ball – what proved to be the winning run moved to third on a bunt single and scored on a sacrifice fly;
  • A handful of great fielding plays (particularly on the Cubs’ side by David Ross, Anthony Rizzo, Jason Heyward and Kris Bryant);
  • Seven stolen bases;
  • Plenty of strategy – pitching changes, pinch hitters, double switches; and
  • Particularly rousing crowd renditions of Take Me Out to the Ball Game and Go, Cubs, Go!

Now it’s on to Cleveland, with the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta (18-8, 3.10 in the regular season) facing the Indians’ Josh Tomlin (13-9, 4.40).  Unfortunately for Chicago, even if they take Game Six, they still can’t win the Series without beating Cleveland ace Corey Kluber – slated to start Game Seven against NL Era champ Kyle Hendricks.  For now, it’s simply “Game on.”

Starting Pitchers Come Out Firing Bullets

Jon Lester cubs photo

Photo by apardavila

Jon Lester and Trevor Bauer were throwing bullet right from the start.  Lester struck out the side in order in the first inning, while Bauer fanned two in his 1-2-3 start.  In that first frame both starters threw 13 pitches, ten strikes.  Bauer ran low on ammo for a brief period in the bottom of the fourth, but it was a well-pitched game on both sides.  Lester’s final line in victory: six innings pitched, four hits, two runs, no walks and five strikeouts.

 

 

 

 

Turning Point

Kris Bryant Cubs photo

Kris Bryant hit a game-tying long ball to lead off the Cubs’ three-run inning. Photo by apardavila

Pretty easy call on the turning point in this one – the bottom of the fourth, when the Cubs finally put a few hits together and scored their only runs of the game. Down 1-0, Cub’s 3B Kris Bryant led off with a game-tying home run to left-center off Indians’ starter Trevor Howard. The second half of “Bryzzo” – 1B Anthony Rizzo – followed with a double off the ivy in right field. That hit seemed to rattle Bauer, who went to 3-0 on LF Ben Zobrist before giving up another single to right.  Then, with Rizzo on third and Zobrist on first, SS Addison Russell beat out a grounder to third, scoring Rizzo.  RF Jason Heyward then fanned (one of three strikeouts he would have on the day), before 2B Javier Baez loaded the bases with a bunt single. C David Ross (playing his last game ever at Wrigley – the 39-year-old is retiring after this season) then drove in what would prove to be the winning run with a sacrifice fly to left.  P Jon Lester, the eighth Cubs’ batter of the inning made the final out – and the Cubs led 3-1.

I would actually extend this turning point to the top of the fifth.  Once the Cubs put some runs on the board, it was important that they keep the momentum and hold the Indians at bay in the top of the fifth.  Cleveland LF Carlos Santana started the inning with a double off Lester and went to third on 3B Jose Ramirez’ groundout to short.  It looked like the Indians were going to come right back with a score. But Lester shut the door with a strikeout of RF Brandon Guyer and a ground out (short-to-first) buy C Roberto Perez.  That, to me, was a critical inning in this game.

Seven Stolen Bases

Rajai Davis photo

Rajai Davis- Three Steals. Photo by Keith Allison

Both teams brought their running game – totaling seven steals. AL regular-season stolen base leader (43 SB) CF Rajai Davis stole three bags, including second and third in the sixth (he would eventually score).  The Cubs stole four bases; one each by 3B Kris Bryant and CF Dexter Fowler and two by RF Jason Heyward (who nabbed second and third in the bottom of the eighth. Notably, the Indians’ sixth-inning rally was cut short when David Ross threw out Indians’ SS Francisco Lindor on an attempted steal of second.  

 

 

 

 

 

Both Managers All-In

Clearly both managers were all-in for this one – as both closers (Indians’ Cody Allen and Cubs’ Aroldis Chapman) were in the game by the seventh inning.  Allen struck out four in 1 2/3 scoreless innings, while Chapman fanned four in 2 2/3 innings for the save.  It was the first eight-out save of his career.

Cubs’ closer Aroldis Chapman three 42 pitches, 26 for strikes – including a World Series’ single-game record of 19 pitches of at least 100 mph,  During the regular season, Chapman (according to Statcast) threw MLB’s 30 fastest pitches – including one at 105.1 MPH.

David Ross’ Final Game at Wrigley

Thirty-Nine-Year-old Cubs’ catcher David Ross (Jon Lester’s designated catcher) – nicknamed “Grandpa Rossy” by the youngsters that man the Cubs lineup – is retiring after the Series (and after 15 MLB seasons, the last two with the Cubs).  In his last game at Wrigley, he drove in what proved to the winning run with a fourth inning sacrifice fly, called a great game for Jon Lester and cut short an Indians’ rally by throwing out the speedy Francisco Lindor on a steal attempt to end the sixth inning.  For his career, Ross played in 883 games, hitting .229 with 106 home runs and 314 RBI. For the Cubs this year, he hit .229-10-32 in 67 games.

Pearl Jam Front Man Salutes David Ross

Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder was called on to lead the seventh-inning rendition of Take Me Out to the Ball Game – and he dedicated his efforts to popular (and retiring) 39-year-old Cubs’ catcher David Ross.  “There’s one guy in particular I want to sing my *** off for. He’s number three.  He’s behind the plate. He may retire, but he’ll never quit.  Mr. David Ross, I’d like to belt this one out for you.  It’s his last game at Wrigley, let’s sing it for him.”

 

World Series Flashback

knowlesIn the 1973 World Series, as the Oakland A’s topped the New York Mets four games to three, Oakland reliever Darold Knowles set a record that can be tied, but will never be topped.  Knowles pitched in all seven games of the Series, picking up a pair of saves.

GAME ONE – Knowles came on in the top of the ninth with one on and one out and the A’s up 2-1. He retired PH Jim Beauchamp and 3B Wayne Garrett on fly outs for the save.

GAME TWO – Knowles took the mound in the top of the sixth with the bases loaded one out and the Mets up 4-3. Knowles got PH Jim Beauchamp to ground to the mound, but Knowles threw wildly to the plate, with two runs scoring on the error. He then struck out lead-off hitter 3B Wayne Garrett, intentionally walked 2B Felix Millan and got RF Rusty Staub on a fly out. (Staub hit .423 for the Series, with 11 hits in seven games.)  Knowles stayed in and pitched a scoreless seventh. The A’s eventually lost 10-7 in 12 innings.

GAME THREE – Knowles came in for Catfish Hunter in the seventh inning, with Oakland down 2-1. He pitched two scoreless innings in a game Oakland won 3-2 in 11 innings.

GAME FOUR – Knowles came on in the bottom of the fourth with two on, none out, and New York up 3-1. He struck out P Jon Matlack, then hit 3B Wayne Garrett with a pitch loading the bases. Then 2B Dick Green’s error allowed Mets’ 2B Felix Millan to reach, scoring CF Don Hahn. RF  Rusty Staub followed with a two-run singls and LF Cleon Jone walked before Knowles got 1B John Milner to hit into a 1-2-3 double play. The A’s eventually lost 6-1.

GAME FIVE – Knowles came in with two outs in the sixth inning, the A’s down 2-0, and a runner on third. He intentionally walked number-eight hitter SS Bud Harrelson and fanned P Jerry Koosman. The Mets won this one 2-0.

GAME SIX – Knowles took the mound with one out in the eighth, a runner on first and the A’s up 2-0. He gave up singles to 3B Wayne Garrett and 2B Felix Millan (scoring a run), before fanning RF Rustu Staub.  Rollile fingers then came in to get the last out of the inning. The A’s won 3-1.

GAME SEVEN – Knowles came in with two outs in the top of ninth, the A’s up 5-2, runners on first and third, and the top of the Mets’ batting order coming up.  He got 3B Wayne Garrett to pop up, ending the inning, giving the A’s the Series and earning the save.

For the Series, Knowles pitched in seven games – giving up four hits and five walks in 6 1/3 innings – but only one unearned run – while fanning five.  (ERA 0.00).  On the season, Knowles appeared in 52 games (five starts), going 6-8 with nine saves and a 3.09 ERA.

Side Note:  Willie Mays, then with the Mets, got his final at bat in the major leagues in the Series – grouding into a force out to end the tenth inning of Game Three.  Mays went two-for-seven in the Series, with one run and one RBI.  

 

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

Member:  Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance.

 

 

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2016 World Series Game Four – Indians Dominate Cubs and More

Cleveland dominated all phases of Game Four – winning 7-2, while out-hitting the Cubs 10-7; out-homering the Cubs 2-1; playing error-free ball to the Cubs’ two errors; getting six innings (just one earned run) out of their starter versus five innings (two earned runs) for the Cubs’ starter; and winning the battle of the bullpens.

The Cubs, now down three games-to-one face some tough, but not unsurmountable, odds.

Since the World Series took its AL/NL format in 1903, 45 teams have taken a 3-1 advantage in the Series and 39 of them have emerged as champions.  Still as a long-time Braves’ fan, I can remember when my Braves (who won the Series in 1957) took a three games-to-one lead in 1958 and the Yankees bounced back to take the Series 4-3. (It is still a painful memory.)

TEAMS TO WIN WORLD SERIES AFTER BEING DOWN 3-1

         1903 Boston Pilgrims (over Pittsburgh Pirates – best of nine)

          1925 Pirates (topped Washington Senators)

        1958 Yankees (beat the Braves)

         1968 Tigers (beat the Cardinals)

         1979 Pirates (beat the Orioles)

         1985 Royals (topped the Cardinals)

Turning Point

Carlos Santana MLB photo

Carlos Santana – got the Indians’ offense going. Photo by Keith Allison

There are those who will point to Cleveland 2B Jason Kipnis’ three-run homer in the top of the seventh (that put the game out of reach at 7-1) as the turning point.  I think it came much earlier – in the top of the second inning. The inning started with the Cubs’ John Lackey giving up a home run to 1B Carlos Santana. After 3B Jose Ramirez grounded out to first, RF Lonnie Chisenhall reached on a throwing error by Cubs’ third-sacker – and 2016 NL MVP candidate – Kris Bryant. C Roberto Perez then grounded out (Lackey to 1B Anthony Rizzo), with Chisenhall moving to second. The Cubs chose to intentionally walk CF  Tyler Naquin to get to pitcher Corey Kluber.  Kluber topped a high-hopper to Kris Bryant. The Cleveland pitcher beat Bryant’s throw (for a single). Bryant’s hurried toss went wide (for his second error of the inning), allowing Chisenahll to score.  LF Rajai Davis ended the inning by grounding out to second.  Still, Cleveland took the lead 2-1 in an inning that included a home run (into a stiff wind), a hit by an AL pitcher and two Cubs’ errors.  The mood was set.

 Kluber Continues to Shine

Staff ace Corey Kluber has been the key to the Indians’ post season and he continued to shine.  Kluber, pitching on three-days rest, went six innings – giving up five hits and one earned run, while fanning six. He threw only 81 pitches in winning his second game of the Series and should be ready if a Game Seven is needed.  In this post season, Kluber (18-9, 3.14 in the regular season) is 4-1, with an 0.89 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings pitched.

Relievers of the Year – Zach Britton and Kenley Jansen

MLB yesterday announced the winners of the  Mariano Rivera AL Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman NL Reliever of the Year Award – Zach Britton and Kenley Jansen.

Britton saved 47 games in 47 opportunities for the Orioles.  He also won two games (versus one loss) and struck out 74 batter in 67 innings (69 appearances), finishing with a 0.54 ERA.

Jansen saved 47 games (in 53 opportunities) for the Dodgers.  He fanned 104 hitters (versus just 11 walks) in 68 2/3 innings (71 appearances) and put up a 1.83 ERA.

Francona Strikes Again

Terry Francona photo

Photo by Keith Allison

Meeting the challenge of managing without the DH, Terry Francona once again (as I noted in the Game Three Wrap Up) pulled all the right levers.  In Game Three, he started the Indians’ usual DH Carlos Santana in LF.  Yesterday, he moved Santana to 1B, benching the popular Mike Napoli.  The result?  Santana delivered three hits in four at bats, including a second-inning home run that tied the game.

 

 

 

 

Tiny, Tiny Criticism

I’m still left wondering why Cleveland Manager Terry Francona brought Andrew Miller in to pitch with a 7-1 lead in the seventh (after using him for 1 1/3 innings the day before).  I expected he would “save” him for a closer game (perhaps in Game Five.).  Francona did give closer Cody Allen the night off, calling on Dan Otero to pitch the ninth.  Francona said he would feel confident using Miller in Game Five (even if it meant putting him out there three days in a row).  This post season, Miller has appeared in nine games, pitching 17 innings, picking up two wins and a save, giving up just one run (0.53 ERA) and fanning 29 hitters (a record for a reliever in a single post season.)

Stars of the Game

Cleveland 2B Jason Kipnis went three-for-five, with a double and a home run, driving in three and scoring two to lead the Indians’ offense, while Corey Kluber pitched another gem – just one run over six innings.  Cubs’ CF Dexter Fowler was a bright spot for Chicago, with a double and a home run in four at bats (two runs scored and one RBI).

World Series Flashback

Roger Peckinpaugh photo

Roger Peckinpaugh -1925 AL MVP committed a WS-record eight errors for the Senators. Photo by The Library of Congress

The first team to come back from a three games–to-one World Series deficit was the 1925 Pirates, who topped the Washington Senators. In that Series, Washington won Game One 4-1, behind Walter Johnson’s five-hit, ten-strikeout complete game. Pittsburgh came back to win Game two 3-2, with a pair of errors by the usually steady fielding Washington SS Roger Peckinpaugh (the 1925 AL MVP) contributing to a two-run eighth inning that broke open a 1-1 tie game.  Game Three was also close, with Washington winning 4-3 and Game Four saw Walter Johnson in peak form again, tossing a six-hit shutout as the Senators topped the Pirates 4-0, scoring all their runs on two home runs in the third inning (a three-run shot by LF Goose Goslin and a solo homer by RF  Joe Harris).The Pirate started their comeback with a 6-3 win in Game Five – in which every Pirate except pitcher Nick Aldredge had at least one hit and Senators’ SS Roger Peckinpaugh made his fifth error of the Series. Game Six went to Pittsburgh 3-2, with another Peckinpaugh error contributing to a two-run third inning for the Pirates. Pittsburgh’s Ray Kremer pitched a nifty six-hitter in that contest.  Game Seven also went to the Pirates.  Pittsburgh was down 6-3 after four innings, but came back to win by a 9-7 score. A dropped popup (by Peckinpaugh) contributed to a two-run Pittsburgh rally in the seventh, and a throwing error by Peckinpaugh contributed to two unearned runs in a three-run Pittsburgh eighth.If there was a goat in this historic comeback, it was Peckinpaugh.  The 1925 season MVP (who hit .294-4-69 in the regular season and made just 28 errors in 126 games) hit .250 for the Series and made a World Series record eight errors. The Senator committed only one other error in the Series.  (Note:  Weather did play a factor. The Series was postponed twice due to weather and Game Seven was played in the rain and fog.  Still, no other player, on either team, committed more than two errors.)

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

MEMBER: Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance.

2016 World Series Game Three – And More

Corey Kluber Cleveland Indians photo

Cubs now must beat Corey Kluber at least once to win the Series. Photo by apardavila

Game Three of the World Series is in the books – a nail-biting 1-0 victory for the Indians that, once again, illustrated Cleveland Manager Terry Francona’s ability to “pull all the right levers.”  The Indians now lead the Series two games to one, which means the Cubs will have to beat Cleveland “ace” Corey Kluber at least once to claim the title.  In Game Three, Francona:

  • successfully dealt with the absence of the DH, starting Carlos Santana in LF for the first time this year and using three players in LF, two in CF, two behind the plate, one pinch hitter and one pinch runner;
  • adeptly used his bullpen (a WIN for Andrew Miller, a HOLD for Bryan Shaw and a SAVE for Cody Allen) after squeezing 4 2/3 scoreless innings out of starter Josh Tomlin; and
  • got the game-winning hit out of pinch-hitter Coco Crisp (hitting just .211 for the post season, but with key hits along the way, including two home runs).

Read on for some BBRT observations on Game Three.

Apologies for Timing of this Post – and a Look at One of Baseball’s Greats

Peter Gorton tells the John Donaldson story.

Peter Gorton tells the John Donaldson story.

Baseball Roundtable’s World Series Game Three wrap is coming out a little later in the day than usual, but for good reason.  I spent the top half of the day at the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) Halsey Hall Chapter Meeting – where we listened to former Twins’ player, manager and broadcaster Frank Quilici and heard presentations on baseball behind bars, in France and in “Dodgerland.”  

We also head from Pete Gorton of the Donaldson Network on efforts to shine additional light on the career of John Donaldson – the African-American pitcher (early 1900s-1940) who amassed at least 399 documented wins and 4,995 strikeouts, while pitching in more than 500 cities.  Donaldson was, indeed, Satchel Paige before Satchel Paige.    As Baseball Hall of Famer Buck O’Neill said “John Donaldson showed Satchel Paige the way.”

BBRT will feature a post on Donaldson in the near future, but in the meantime, here’s a link to the Donaldson Network  (click here)  and one to a film of Donaldson in action (click here).

Real Relief. Win. Hold. Save.

Just one run scored in Game Three, by the Indians, on a Coco Crisp pinch hit bloop single in the top of the seventh.  The 1-0 win was Cleveland’s record-breaking fifth shutout of the 2016 post-season.  All five blankings were team efforts.  Yesterday, Cleveland got 4 2/3 scoreless innings from starter Josh Tomlin.  Then Andrew Miller came on for 1 1/3 innings (and the WIN); Bryan Shaw followed with 1 2/3 scoreless innings (for the HOLD); and Cody Allen tossed the last 1 1/3 (for the SAVE).  Win. Hold. Save. Game. Set. Match.

Note:  Staff ace Corey Kluber started three of the remaining four shutouts – going 7, 6 1/3 and 6 innings in those contests.  The fifth whitewashing was started by Ryan Merritt, who went 4 1/3 – followed by Shaw (1 inning for the WIN), Miller (2 2/3 for the HOLD) and Allen (1 inning for the SAVE).

Bryzzo versus Millallen

The Cubs are looking to Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo (affectionately referred to as Bryzzo) to provide the offense.  One the other side of the coin, Cleveland has the Millallen combination – relievers Andrew Miller and Cody Allen – who have thrown a combined 25 scoreless innings this post season, with 45 strikeouts, seven saves, six holds and two wins.

 

Sporting News Player of the Year – Astros’ 2B Jose Altuve

Jose Altuve photo

Photo by apardavila

Houston Astros’ 2B Jose Altuve – in a player vote – was selected as the Sporting News MLB Player of the Year. The 26-year-old Altuve, with six MLB seasons already under his belt, led the AL with a .338 batting average and 216 hits. He also hit 24 home runs, drove in 96 runs, scored 108 and stole 30 bases. 2016 marked Altuve’s second batting title, fourth All Star Selection, third consecutive season of 200 or more hits and fifth consecutive season of at least 30 stolen bases. Each of the past ten Player of the Year winners has also won his league’s MVP Award.  This season, Altuve’s competition for that honor is likely to come from Mookie Betts and David Ortiz of the Red Sox.  We’ll see if Altuve can keep the streak going.

On the Wild Side

Chicago fans not only filled Wrigley Field, but also filled the streets and bars in Wrigleyville, celebrating the first Cubs’ World Series game in 71 years. Meanwhile, more than 20,000 Cleveland fans were going wild watching the game on the video board in Cleveland’s Progressive Field.

World Series Flashback

1908 – Cubs versus Tigers

The 1908 World Series featured a rematch of 1907 – Tigers versus Cubs.  The Cubs were the defending World Champions (they had topped the Tigers in a sweep in 1907) and were in the Fall Classic for the third straight year (they lost to the White Sox in 1906, after a season in which the Cubs won a record 116 games). Cubs’ fans – after three straight World Series appearances – probably did not expect their next World Championship was at least 108 years away. 

The Cubs took the Series four games-to-one, but it was not without its “moments.” In Game One (at Detroit) Chicago trailed 6-5 going into the ninth,  but put five runs on the board in the top of the final inning to steal the victory (the inning included a double steal by CF Solly Hofman and 1B Frank Chance – Yes, the Chance of Tinker to Evers to Chance). The Cubs’ ninth-inning rally included six consecutive one-out singles, two stolen bases and a sacrifice.

Like the first game, Game Two (in Chicago) was close late – tied 0-0 until the eighth, when the Cubs scored six times to cement a 6-1 win. The major blow was a two-run home run by Cubs’ SS Joe Tinker – the only round tripper of the Series. Detroit rallied for an 8-3 win in Game Three and then the Cubs’ pitching took over. Chicago’s Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown (29-9, 1.47 in the regular season) shut out Detroit 3-0 on a complete game four-hitter in Game Four and Orvall Overall (15-11, 1.92)  pitched even more masterfully in Game Five, tossing a complete-game, three-hit shutout with ten strikeouts. Note: Overall fanned a World Series (and MLB) record four batters in the first inning of Game Five, in an inning that went: walk to Tigers’ LF Matty McIntyre; strike out of SS Charley O’Leary; single by 3B Bill Coughlin; strikeout of RF Ty Cobb; strikeout of 1B Claude Rossman, who reached on a wild pitch; strikeout of 2B Germany Schaefer.   The final game drew a crowd of only 6,210 – the smallest in World Series’ history.

Cubs stars’ of the Series were Overall (who won two games for the Cubs and gave up just two runs in 18 1/3 innings); 1B Chance (who hit .421 and stole five bases); Cubs’ SS Tinker (who drove in four); and CF Hofman (who hit .316 and also drove in four). Detroit was led by CF Ty Cobb, who hit .368 for the Series.

The Cubs have since gone to the World Series seven times (not including this season) – 1910, 1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938 and 1945 – losing each time.

I tweet baseball @David BBRT

Member: Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); The Baseball Relliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance.