Category Archives: MLB

Where do the Red Sox stack up against recent 100 win teams?

Last night the Boston Red Sox won their 100th game of the season. This is Boston’s fourth 100 win season in franchise history. The next best team in the MLB this year is the Astros with 92 wins (who also will likely eclipse 100 wins). Boston is tearing up the league and they still have 16 games to play. We are witnessing one of the best regular seasons of all time. That’s why I’ve decided to take a look at where the Sox place in among the last ten teams to win 100 games in the regular season.

10. 2008 Los Angeles Angels (100-62)

This team benefited immensely from playing the bulk of their schedule against a weak AL West division where the 79-83 Texas Rangers were the next best team. Of the last ten 100 game winning squads, the 2008 Angels had the worst run differential of +68 and only made it to the AL Divisional series in the 2008 playoffs. Read more

Top 10 Biggest Blunders in Sports History

Professional athletes are the embodiment of power, grace, and skill. They are the peak of physical fitness and perform at the highest level for the world’s enjoyment. Likewise, they are also human and are prone to the same mistakes and lapses of judgment that us mere mortals face on a daily basis. The thing is: when I fall down the stairs at the Wizmer House, spilling three drinks I had just purchased all over myself, only the select few individuals who happened to be looking will remember my dignified tumble. For professional athletes, their mistakes are broadcasted on live television and will live in infamy for the rest of their lives. This article is going to look at some of the biggest blunders that sport has ever seen. The way these are ranked is based on how egregious the mistake was, and the severity of the situation. If there are any that you think I missed, do not hesitate to let me know. Without further ado, let us dive right in.

10. Patrik Stefan and the empty net whiff.

It is impossible to have a list of the biggest sports blunders without including this dandy from former first-overall pick Patrik Stefan. I mean, you know your career was bad when the biggest highlight is you not scoring. Stefan is one of the worst busts in draft history and this clip is a perfect illustration of his tumultuous career. The fact that he woefully misses the empty net only to see Ales Hemsky tie the game with seconds remaining is just perfect poetic penance for Stefan as he retired 13 games later. Thankfully, the Stars still won the game 6-5 in a shootout but this remains one of the most embarrassing moments in NHL history.

9. Jose Canseco and the header home run.

Jose Canseco will always get the last laugh about this video. After all, he is a two-time World Series champion, former American League MVP, six-time All-Star, and four-time Silver Slugger winner. REGARDLESS, the sheer improbability and hilarity of this clip make it one of the all-time best baseball bloopers. The saving grace is that this was during a meaningless regular season game in May. It was the 25th anniversary of this clip just last week.

8. Patrick Roy and the Statue of Liberty.

The Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings had one of the best rivals in NHL history during the 1990s and early 2000s. With a blood feud and multiple hall-of-famers on both sides, it was always must-see TV when these two squads were playing. Entering the 2002 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the two teams were tied at two cups a piece in the past decade before matching up in the Conference Finals. The Avalanche jumped out to a 3-2 series lead and had a chance to finish the series off at home in Game 6. Instead, Patrick Roy tried to showboat after robbing Steve Yzerman in close and Shanahan buried what turned out to be the game-winning goal. The Red Wings went on to win Game 7 by a score of 7-0 and defeated the Carolina Hurricanes in five games to win their third cup in six years.

7. Leon Lett’s Super Bowl fumble.

See, if the Cowboys went on to lose this game then this could perhaps be the biggest blunder ever; but, they were playing the Buffalo Bills so obviously they were up by 35 points at this time in the game. Lett could realistically make another appearance on this list for his Thanksgiving Day debacle against the Miami Dolphins, but since it was in the regular season I decided to leave it out. Instead, we are blessed with this tasty gem that looks like it is straight out of Madden 18. Lett, being the showman that he is, decided to start celebrating his forthcoming touchdown at the ten-yard-line. Unfortunately, Don Beebe definitely had the Bills covering +40 as he hustled his butt and stripped Lett right before the goal line. The Cowboys still won the Super Bowl, handing the Bills their third consecutive loss in the big game, but Lett delivered another web gem to go into the archives.

6. JR Smith is off the henny again.

This is what inspired me to do this list in the first place. JR Smith has always been a bit of a wildcard on the court. The man will hit a half-court heave with a hand in his face but brick the most open jumper the world has ever seen. Furthermore, he has many fantastic off court hits such as his shirtless appearance during the World Series, and everyone’s favourite DM – “you trying to get the pipe?”. All these things aside, Smith has proven to be a serviceable player over the course of his NBA career and he played a big role during the Cavaliers 3-1 comeback in the 2016 NBA Finals.

WELL.. last night he had one of the biggest blunders in NBA history and it could not come at a more costly time for his team. The Warriors opened the game as 13 point favourites over the Cavs and many people thought that the Dubs would steamroll their way to another championship. Instead, LeBron James did what LeBron James does and put up 49 points during regulation which gave the Cavs a chance to win Game 1. George Hill went to the foul line with 4.7 seconds left and hit his first free throw to tie the game at 107. He bricked the second, but thankfully JR Smith was there to collect the rebound and kick it to LeBron for a game-winning shot opportunity. Oh, sorry. Wait a second. JR, a man who has played 13 seasons in the NBA and makes an annual salary of $12.8 million USD actually thought that the Cavs were in the lead and tried to dribble the clock out. I have coached Grade 6 kids in minor league basketball who had better late game awareness than JR did in this situation. Alas, the Warriors went on to decimate the Cavs in OT winning the game 124-114 and wasting LeBron’s historic 51 point effort. Thanks, Henny god.

5. Fred Brown forgets who he plays for.

Poor Fred Brown. After some guy named Michael Jordon knocked down a 17-footer to give UNC a late 63-62 lead in the 1982 National Championship, Brown brought the ball up the court for a last gasp attempt at stealing a victory. After faking a pass to teammate Eric ‘Sleepy’ Floyd, Brown thought he had Eric Smith open at the top of the key. Instead, Brown made a worse visual decision than I did the last time I took a girl home from the bar and passed the ball straight to UNC’s James Worthy which effectively ended the game. Brown and Georgetown would avenge their demons in 1984 as they knocked off Houston to win their first National Championship but this blunder still lives large in the minds of the Hoyas faithful.

4. Steve Bartman becomes the most hated man in Illinois.

We all know the Bartman story. The Chicago Cubs, a team seemingly cursed from ever winning the World Series again, were up 3-2 in the 2003 National League Championship Series against the Florida Marlins. They were searching for their first title since 1908 and were up 3-0 in the 8th inning of Game 6. Pan in, Luis Castillo hits a fly ball towards foul ground as outfielder Moisés Alou starts to track it. Instead of Alou catching it for the second out of the inning, this odd looking fellow wearing headphones reaches over the wall and interferes with the catch. As (bad) luck would have it, the Cubs went on to surrender eight runs in the inning before losing Game 7 by a score of 9-6. Bartman instantly became the most hated person in the stadium, and eventually in the city, as he was sent a multitude of death threats during the whole situation. Thankfully, the Cubs ended the curse in 2016 after defeating the Cleveland Indians in seven games and they attempted to rectify the Bartman incident by sending him a World Series ring of his own.

3. Chris Webber tries to be the Prince of Persia.

First off, for those uncultured swine who do not know what the Prince of Persia is – it is an older video game series where the protagonist has the ability to rewind time and correct his mistakes. Chris Webber certainly wishes he had that capability after this colossal choke job. It was the 1993 National Championship game. Michigan had made it all the way back to the finals after being manhandled by Duke in the championship the year before. Webber hauls in the rebound with 20 seconds left in a 73-71 game. He clearly walks with the ball but the officials do not call the travel. He proceeds past half-court, gets cornered with the ball, and looks at the official to reset and call timeout so they can draw up a play to tie the game. Except, Michigan had no timeouts remaining which meant UNC automatically got to shoot two technical foul shots effectively ending the game. It was a painful loss for Wolverine fans and haunted Webber for the entirety of his playing career.

2. Bill’s Buck Up.

We’ve talked about the Cubs curse already, but the Red Sox endured a lengthy World Series drought of their own. The Red Sox were up 3-2 in the 1986 World Series against the New York Mets. Game 6 was tied 5-5 in the bottom of the 10th inning. Mets left fielder Mookie Wilson hit a slow roller towards Buckner on the first base line which should have been the third out of the frame. Unbelievably, Bucker fails to get his glove under the ball and it rolls past him, bringing in the winning run and sending the series to a deciding Game 7. The Red Sox ended up blowing a 3-0 lead in that game and ultimately lost 8-5 as the Mets won their second World Series in franchise history. The curse continued for 18 more years before the Red Sox finally won in 2004 to end the 86-year drought.

1. Pete Carroll and the worst play call ever.

Yes, the worst blunder on my list is actually a coaches decision. With just 26 seconds remaining, the Seahawks are two yards away from winning back-to-back Super Bowls. For some inexplicable reason, Pete Carroll decided to throw the ball even with bruising running back Marshawn Lynch lined up on Russell Wilson’s left. Lynch was arguably the best goal-line back in the entire league, and the Seahawks were in their 94 Buck formation which was a running formation. Still, Carroll changed the play to a pass and the rest is history. Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler jumped Jermaine Kearse and picked the ball off at the goal line to give the Patriots the unlikeliest of wins. It is one of the most mind-boggling decisions ever made at such a high level and prevented the Seahawks from becoming a possible dynasty.

Baseball Breakouts – One Player to Watch for Every MLB Team

One of the best parts of a new baseball season is trying to project which players are going to come out of nowhere and surprise everyone (à la Scooter Gennett last year). In this article, there is going to be a wide array of players ranging from everyday MLBers to deep sleepers looking to get a shot at the big leagues. There are obviously multiple breakout candidates for every team so feel free to comment and tell me which guys I missed. Rejoice for the return of baseball!

AL Central

Chicago White Sox – Michael Kopech (SP)

All due respect to Yoan Moncada, who I think is going to be a stud this year, the Sox desperately need some talent on the mound. The rotation is currently headlined by the 36-year-old James Shields who went 6-19 over the course of last season. Enter Kopech, a flame-throwing righty who consistently hits triple digits on the radar and has been clocked as high as 105 mph. Kopech, who was acquired in the Chris Sale deal, looks primed to make his big league debut at some point in 2018. Over the course of last season (split between AA and AAA) Kopech registered a monstrous 11.5 K/9. Although he endured a rough spring training, Kopech looks like he has the makings of a potential ace as he continues to diversify the pitches he has in his repertoire.

Cleveland Indians – Yandy Díaz (3B)

Díaz is as physically imposing as baseball players come and his biceps are bigger than my love for Busch. No seriously, look.

yandy-diaz-indians-jacked-1280

Picture credit to Diaz’s Instagram.

That guy could deadlift Bartolo Colon. Interestingly enough, Díaz’s muscular prowess has not resulted in home run power at the plate. There is a fantastic piece done by Travis Sawchik on The Athletic which goes over the issue surrounding Díaz.

Among all major-league batters who put at least 30 balls in play last season, Díaz ranked eighth in average exit velocity (91.5 mph), according to Statcast data. The names who ranked ahead of Díaz? Aaron Judge, Nelson Cruz, Joey Gallo, Miguel Sano, Efren Navarro, Khris Davis and Giancarlo Stanton.

At issue? Among hitters with at least 100 batted ball results last season, Díaz ranked 387th out of 388 batters in average launch angle (0.0 degrees).

You obviously cannot hit bombs if every ball you put in play is a wormburner but Díaz is so tantalizingly close to becoming a full-time big leaguer because all of his other numbers are fantastic. The big man slashed .350 last year in AAA and had a .352 OBP in a 49 game audition with the Tribe last season. The Indians are one of the best teams in baseball and it shows with depth at every position but I am wholly excited to see what Yandy can do if given the opportunity this season.

Detroit Tigers – Miguel Cabrera (1B)

Put down your pitchforks. I understand that this is a bit of an obscure pick and more of a bounce-back than a breakout, but hear me out. Last year was unquestionably the worst year of Miggy’s career (thanks to two herniated disks in his back) and at 34 with an injury-riddled history, it seems some of the media had begun to write his swan song. I, however, am on quite the opposite side of things and if the way he looked in the Grapefruit League is any indication, Cabrera is hitting like his old self again. In 57 at-bats the veteran recorded a batting average of .368 with 3 dingers, and 13 RBIs. The Tigers are poised to have a dismal season, but Cabrera says he’s healthier and fitter than he’s been in almost half a decade. Those words should terrify AL pitchers and I’m fully expecting another 30 HR, 90 RBI season with a possible Comeback Player of the Year award.

Kansas City Royals – Cheslor Cuthbert (DH/3B)

The Royals lost two big bats in Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain this offseason. While those subtractions obviously put a glaring hole in their lineup, it also opens the door for younger players to make a name for themselves. Enter Cuthbert, a guy who hit .274 over 128 games in 2016, but sported a shoddy .231 average over 58 games in 2017. The 25-year-old has shown he can hang at the big league level but his bat was invisible last season. It seems that Cuthbert will handle most of the DH duties throughout the year as Moustakas has taken over his regular 3B spot. With a guaranteed spot in the heart of the Royals order I expect Cuthbert to provide some excitment in what looks like a disappointing season for Kansas City.

Minnesota Twins – Byron Buxton (OF)

The speedy Buxton was a trendy breakout pick coming into last season. The former #1 ranked prospect struggled early on in the year but ultimately put up half-decent numbers. I think he can do even more in 2018. He already looks like one of the league’s best defenders as he added a Gold Glove to his mantle and his bat only got better as the season progressed. If you look at last season’s stats prior to June 30th, Buxton had a dismal .195 BA with only 4 dingers and 14 RBIs. After June 30th? A .309 BA with 12 bombs and 37 RBIs. Couple that with the 29 stolen bags he had in 2017 and Buxton could become a valuable offensive weapon if he finds his consistency. He could be one of the bigger breakouts of the year.

NL Central

Chicago Cubs – Tyler Chatwood (SP)

It is somewhat hard to pick a breakout for a team that has such little turnover. The Cubs have the exact same starting lineup they had last year so I am looking at the pitching staff for this breakout. Although spring results should be taken with a grain of salt, Chatwood looked fantastic on the mound (2.91 ERA over 6 starts). He projects to be the Cubs No.5 starter in the rotation and now that he’s out of the homerun haven called Coors Field he should see a dramatic increase in his numbers. With one of the best lineups in the league supporting him every five days he should easily improve on his 8-15 record from last season.

Cinncinnati Reds – Luis Castillo (SP)

I think this guy is on a lot of people’s breakouts board because his talent is so damn tantalizing. A firey fastball, wicked changeup, and treacherous slider coupled with the .198 BA opponents had against the righty last season is a deadly combination. So why are we not hailing this guy as a frontrunner ace? Due to the fact that he only pitched 89 innings last year. With such a small sample size it is hard to predict what Castillo pundits will see this season. He was never a highly touted prospect but Reds fans are ecstatic to see what Castillo will do with a full season’s work. He could become the biggest breakout pitcher of 2018.

Milwaukee Brewers – Brandon Woodruff (SP)

Damn, this was a hard team to pick someone for. There are no real suprises in their starting lineup so Woodruff was the next logical conclusion. The 6’4 lefty has a grinder mentality on the mound and bodes a fearsome duo of pitches with his fastball and slider. The Brewers #3 prospect is primed to join the starters after a primer in the bullpen.  I think his ceiling by season’s end is third in the rotation.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Jameson Taillon (SP)

The pitcher trend continues. The 26-year-old compiled an 8-7 record last season and figures to be the headliner of the rotation with the departure of Gerrit Cole. Taillon has dealt with a multitude of injuries throughout his young career but his talent is undeniable. The #2 pick from the 2010 draft has never really lived up to expectations but with a clean bill of health anything is possible. He had a solid 8.4 K/9 last season so cutting down on the walks (3.1BB/9) will be the biggest factor for Taillon this year. He has a 95+ MPH fastball, a filthy curve, and is excellent at keeping the ball in the park. 14+ wins is not out of the question as the Pirates playoff hopes lie firmly in his glove.

St. Louis Cardinals – Jose Martinez (1B)

Martinez had a mini breakout last season and he looks poised to improve on his numbers this year. He’s batting in the heart of the Cardinals order attempting to show that the power he displayed in 2017 was no fluke. He batted a scintillating .308 over 272 plate appearances and now he seems to be locked in to a starting role. Screw you Brendan Ballantyne for already picking him up in our fantasy league. Martinez will thrive in the improved Cardinals lineup.

AL East

Baltimore Orioles – Chance Sisco (C)

One of the best prospects in the O’s system has made the opening day roster. After the departure of Welington Castillo, Sisco grabbed the opportunity behind the plate and looks like he’s going to run with it. He had a spectacular spring batting .419 with eight extra-base hits and 10 RBIs. The 23-year-old has hit at every level he’s played at and adds his left-handed stroke to an already powerful Orioles team. His defense is what holds him back and will be the reason why Caleb Joseph gets his fair share of starts, but there is no denying the offensive talent Sisco has in his possesion. I would not be suprised if he won the starting job outright by season’s end.

Boston Red Sox – Rafael Devers (3B)

Devers might be the consensus breakout pick for the year. The rookie shined for the Red Sox last season after being called up at the end of July. He slashed .284 with 10 bombs and 30 RBIs. Now in his sophmore season and starting at 3B, the sky is the limit for Devers. He should be able to rake in one of the more talented lineups in the AL. Plus, the man definitley lands Tilted Towers.

New York Yankees – Gleyber Torres (SS/2B)

Considered a top-five prospect by many around baseball, Torres should get his first taste of the big leagues this season. He torched AAA over 23 games last year carrying a .309 BA. Tyler Wade is currently serving as the Yankees primary 2B but Torres is undeniably the future for the Bronx Bombers at that position. If he starts the year hot down Wilkes-Barre he could see a promotion in the very near future.

Tampa Bay Rays – Blake Snell (SP)

Brent Honeywell is the Rays top prospect and looked to be one of the brighter spots for Tampa’s year, but a spring injury derailed all those hopes as the 22-year-old will now have Tommy John surgery and miss the entire 2018 season. Due to that, Snell becomes the next logical choice. After the All-Star break in 2017, Snell compiled a 5-2 record with a 3.49 ERA and continuously increased his fastball velocity. His first start of the season saw him go 5.2 innings giving up 3 hits and no earned. If that is a sign of things to come the Tampa faithul should be in for a treat of a season.

Toronto Blue Jays – Randal Grichuk (OF)

The Jays have a multitude of possible breakouts in the organization. Teoscar Hernadez was a sensation after they acquired him at the trade deadline last season and Vladdy Guerrero Jr. is one of the most promising prospects in baseball. While those two could impress, I believe Grichuk is the most likely to post a solid statline. The former Cardinals outfielder has displayed prominent power over the past two seasons totaling a combined 46 homeruns. Those came in the pitcher-friendly confines of Busch Stadium so it is not unreasonable to suggest Grichuk could reach close to 30 in the Rogers Centre. The biggest issue for the 2009 1st round pick are his high strikeout totals and mediocre OBP. If he can combine some discipline with the already evident power Grichuk could be a prominent source of offense in the anemic Jays lineup.

NL East

Atlanta Braves – Ronald Acuña (OF)

He is the consensus best prospect in baseball for a reason. The only reason he isn’t on the Braves current roster is due to service time. If Acuña was part of 172 service days in a season that would burn a year of his contract so the Braves are simply waiting a few weeks before bringing him up. Once he reaches the majors he should immediately impress. He is a defensive wizard in the outfield, a speedster on the base path, and possesses a heavy swing. He was one of the best players in the league during spring training and I’m sure Braves fans are itching to see him in the everyday lineup.

Miami Marlins – Braxton Lee (OF)

The 24-year-old was just recalled by the Marlins and could become a regular in the outfield for the team this season. He was a force in AA during 2017 batting .309 with 20 stolen bags. After Jeter’s teardown of the team this offseason there are a plethora of opportunities for young players to impress and Lee looks like he’s off to a good start. He has a servicable glove with speed to burn so fans should be expecting to see Lee on a consistent basis in 2018.

New York Mets – Amed Rosario (SS)

Rosario was a bit of a disappointment during his 2017 rookie campaign so expectations are high for a rebound. Fellow Bench Lifer, Thomas Waind, also picked him to breakout in our 2018 MLB Predictions article which can be found here. He torched AAA last year with a .328 BA, 58 RBIs, and 19 stolen bases but instantly struggled once he came to the majors. He obviously has a talented bat so it is hard to determine why he has had such difficulty taking the next step. Thankfully, he is an absolute burner on the basepath and capable at the hot corner so he has some current positives. If he finds his confidence at the plate he can reclaim his title as one of the game’s most promising young shortstops.

Philadelphia Phillies – Scott Kingery (2B/SS)

Kingery was expected to get the same treatment that the aforementioned Acuña recieved; however, he made the Phillies opening day roster and for good reason. Kingery was a stalwart in the minors last season registering a combined 26 home runs, 29 stolen bags and a .530 slugging average between AA and AAA. He was also one of the best Phillies players in spring training tallying 5 bombs and a .411 BA. The Philly infield is a little crowded with other young talent but Kingery looks like he’s an everyday player. He could realistically hit 20 homeruns and 30 stolen bags if he sticks around for the full season.

Washington Nationals – Michael Taylor (OF)

Washington is another team that really did not see much turnover coming into 2018 so a breakout was hard to decide on. Taylor had a postseason to remember in 2017 and the Nats are hoping the October productivity that saw him hit .333 with 2 dingers and 8 RBIs carries over into 2018. Taylor is a solid defensive outfielder and has shown he has some pop in his bat. He belted 19 homeruns last year in only 118 games, but he projects to improve on that total this season. He will be the starting centerfielder on most days for the Nationals so he should surpass the total games played he had a year ago.

AL West

Houston Astros – Alex Bregman (3B)

Bregman was good last season, but I think his ceiling is even higher. On such a loaded Astros team he put up 19 HRs, 71 RBIs, and 17 stolen bases which are impressive in their own right, although a majority of those stats were garnered in the second half after a dismal start to the campaign. Bregman is a former 2nd overall pick and his talent is undeniable. If he can find his consistency for an entire season, the 23-year-old is poised to be one of the best players in the MLB.

Los Angeles Angels – Shohei Ohtani (SP/DH)

While fellow Bench Lifer Brendan Ballantyne would like to see C.J. Cron in this spot, I have to give it to the newest Japanese sensation to hit the MLB. If his first week of big league action is any indication, Ohtani is going to be an absolute gem to watch this year. The 23-year-old already has a pitcher win under his belt along with 2 HRs in 14 at-bats. The hype was real coming into this season and Ohtani is currently delivering on every bit of it.

Oakland Athletics – Marcus Semien (SS)

I feel like taking Matt Olson in this spot is an illegal pick because most pundits would agree his scorching run last year was his true breakout. With that in mind, I struggled to find someone for the A’s and the Semien pick is more of a re-breakout selection due to how poor his 2017 was. He had an awesome 2016 with 27 bombs and 75 RBIs but insted of improving on these stats his numbers fell hard across the board as he battled injury. He looks to be the A’s leadoff guy and should put up decent numbers for a lineup with suprising pop. I expect him to get back to where he left off two years ago.

Seattle Mariners – Mitch Haniger (OF)

Before injuries derailed his 2017 campaign it looked like Haniger was breaking out before our very eyes. He had 16 HRs, 47 RBIs, and a .282 BA through 96 games before being shutdown for the rest of the year. He hits the ball ridiculously hard which is potent when coupled with his above-average launch angle. Similar to last season, he’s started the season on a tear with 2 dingers, 6 RBIs, and a .700 SLG%. As a baseball fan I’m hoping Haniger can stay healthy because I’m truly excited to see what he can do over a full campaign. A lineup with Cruz, Cano, Haniger, and Seager would be a scary proposition for other AL West teams.

Texas Rangers – Willie Calhoun (2B/OF)

Calhoun is also getting the Acuña service time treatment this season even though the Rangers could really use his talents in the outfield after the injury to Delino DeShields. With that being said, Calhoun should be up around the end of April and he’ll be bringing his big bat with him. He belted 31 HRs and 93 RBIs last year in AAA which has the Texas faithful ecstatic to see him. He is my AL ROTY pick and I’m expecting 25+ dingers from the pride of Vallejo, California.

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks – Ketel Marte (SS)

This is a guy who seems like he’s right on the cusp of putting it all together. Marte is an athletic speedster with great plate discipline. Michael McDermott from Arizona’s SBNation blog has some interesting statistics which bode well for Marte’s breakout candidacy:

At the plate, Marte took a major step forward [in 2017]. Marte’s overall batting line doesn’t look impressive with a .260/.345/.395 slash (89 wRC+), but the numbers beyond the surface suggest he’s easily capable of more. His ground ball rate dropped from 50% to 45%, hard hit rate spiked from 21% to 28%.

The K-BB% improved 12.0% with a 4.5% reduction in strikeouts and a 7.5% improvement with walks.

It seems apparent that Marte is getting better at the plate. He may never be a power hitter persay, but he has flatline speed that make extra bases routine. With that in mind, another thing to look forward to is his ability to swipe bags. Although he’s had two seasons of 20+ stolen bases in AAA it has not yet translated to the MLB level. He is unquestionably the fastest player on the D’Backs, who are already one of the more aggresive base-stealing teams in the majors, so it is only a matter of time before the basepath results come.

Colorado Rockies – Ryan McMahon (1B/2B/3B)

The Rockies infield is a little cluttered this season so a regular spot for McMahon could be difficult to come by; however, he deserves an opportunity to show what he can do against big league pitching. He raked in AAA Albuquerque last season batting .374 over 314 plate appearances while also tallying 14 HRs and 56 RBIs. He is easily one of the Rockies top-three prospects and probably a top-fifty prospect league wide. The biggest key for him at the next level is to work on reducing his strikeout rate. He has the luxury of playing in Coors Field which is a scary proposition when coupled with his prevalent bat speed and power.

Los Angeles Dodgers – Kenta Maeda (SP)

Maeda had an up-and-down season last year with some stretches of greatness followed by bouts of ineptitude. He had a solid 13-6 record but his ERA reached 8.05 at one point during the campaign before settling at a mediocre 4.22. While the regular season was inconsistent he was an absolute dynamo coming out of the bullpen in the playoffs. He had a 0.88 ERA over nine postseason appearances while oozing confidence and aggresiveness. He has always been talented but it seems there are times where he lacks trust in his pitches. Maeda is primed to rack up fantastic numbers on a solid Dodger squad if he can perform like the October version of himself.

San Diego Padres – Manuel Margot (OF)

Margot had a rookie season to remember for the Padres in 2017. He slashed .263/.313/.409 with 17 steals, even after dealing with a calf injury that cost him some time. It looks like he is the future of the Padres outfield for years to come. He improved on his launch angle which led a suprising 13 HRs – the most he has hit at any level of professional ball. He’s only 23 so we can assume he’ll only continue to get better. On an offensively starved Padres team, Margot will be the one beacon of hope.

San Fransisco Giants – Joe Panik (2B)

The Giants have the 2nd oldest roster in the MLB so finding a player that had not already broke out is a task in itself. With the additions of Longoria and McCutchen, Panik finds himself playing in a much deeper lineup with more protection from high-pressure situations. Tyler Wilson from Lifestyle Sports figures Panik could be the next Scooter Gennett, who had a massive breakout last season. He went on to compare each player’s numbers through the first four years of their careers and the results were eeriely similar:

Gennett (456 G, 1,637 PA): .279/.318/.420, 90 2B, 10 3B, 35 HR, 82 BB, 291 SO, 99 OPS+

Panik (438 G, 1,818 PA): .282/.345/.408, 86 2B, 16 3B, 29 HR, 150 BB, 176 SO, 105 OPS+

Two things stand out to me when comparing Panik and Gennett side-by-side. First, Panik’s walk rate (8.3 percent) is considerably higher than Gennett’s (5.0 percent). Second, Panik’s strikeout rate (9.7 percent) is considerably lower than Gennett’s (17.8 percent).

I know these stats oftentimes go hand-in-hand, but the fact that Joe Panik has put up very Gennett-esque numbers with better non-contact result rates shows that he’s got the potential to not only do what Gennett did in 2017, but possibly take the next step past that level of play and become one of the game’s true stars.

Panik is only 27 and he’s been a servicable player throughout his young career. He already has 3 HRs in just 6 games this season which makes it seem likely he will crush his previous career high of 10. The Giants were absolutely pathetic last season but with the additions they made and an improvement from Panik they should be miles better.

 

Bench Life Sports: 2018 MLB Predictions

Ahhh, baseball season is upon us once again. With Major League Baseball clubs opening up their season’s this past Thursday, those of us on the bench figured it was time to dust off our crystal ball (or dartboard) and fire away with a blog packed full of a variety of our predictions for the upcoming season. What follows is a collection of our picks for division winners, World Series champions and a variety of individual awards. Each of which can all very easily be used as ammunition to completely dismantle our credibility for being completely off in about 7 months time. So without further ado, our 2018 MLB predictions: Read more

Free Agent Stock Market Crash: Mike Moustakas

This has been a weird offseason for the free agent market. I can’t remember a year with this much Major League talent left unsigned at this point in Spring Training. Among the headliners are Cy Young winner Jake Arietta, quality pitchers in Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb, and two time All-Star third baseman Mike Moustakas.

Moustakas was a key bat for the 2015 World Series winning Royals team and has been a pretty steady power bat at the hot corner for a few years now. “The Moose” peaked with a 4.4 bWAR in 2015, but cranked 38 home runs just last year. Despite his power, Moustakas’ bWAR was only 1.8 last year because of his incredibly troubling .314 OBP. At age 29 his defense has started to regress and he missed almost all of 2016 with a torn ACL which almost certainly has restricted his range. But any other year in the past there would have been an all out bidding war for this type of bat. Which begs the question: why is he still available? Below I’ll give a breakdown on which teams he would fit on and what teams just don’t have room.

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Making sense of Toronto’s offseason so far

Last week the Jays made a couple of moves that gave off a flicker on heat in an otherwise dormant hot stove. First they signed 36 year old outfielder Curtis Granderson to a one year $5 mil deal and followed up that huge pickup by trading for Randal Grichuk by sending reliever Dominic Leon and prospect Connor Greene to the St. Louis Cardinals. Old Man Granderson still has some life in his bat and his 2017 splits versus right handers (21 home runs and a 114 OPS+) should at the very least make him a good platoon guy in a corner outfield spot. The 26 year-old Grichuk is under team control through 2020, plays all three outfield spots well and makes up for a low .285 OBP with some 20+ home run pop.

In a vacuum both moves are smart seeing as they didn’t cost the Blue Jays a lot and improve the Jays incrementally by bolstering their big league depth. In spite of that both moves have been surprisingly divisive among the fan base. While I’d like to think there’s a large group of fans that understand that these moves are low risk, medium reward moves, a lot of fans are waiting for the Blue Jays answer to the Giancarlo signing (or to blow the team up with a Josh Donaldson trade). As is stands right now, assuming the Jays carry a typical seven man bullpen, here’s how their lineup looks:

C: Russel Martin
1B: Justin Smoak
2B: Devon Travis
SS: Troy Tulowitski
3B: Josh Donaldson
LF: Curtis Granderson
CF: Kevin Pillar
RF: Randal Grichuk
DH: Kendrys Morales
C2: Luke Maile
IF: Yangervis Solarte
OF: Ezequiel Carrera
OF: Steve Pearce

(Bold indicates new acquisition)

After the moves last week the Jays have an estimated $10-15 mil left in their budget to acquire a fifth starter and upgrade the backup catcher and bullpen. This team is not a finished product right now and there are good moves to be had. But all of Jays Nation seems to have the same question that I have: what’s the end game here?

From what I can tell the 2018 Toronto Blue Jays are going to field the best team possible within their budget, without mortgaging their future in their last season of the Donaldson contract. While these moves aren’t sexy the Jays  manage to win 76 games last year with a team despite some major setbacks. Donaldson was either on the DL or playing hurt for the majority of the year, 2016 Cy Young candidate Aaron Sanchez only pitched 36 innings, and the team had to hand 1,507 at bats to the dreadful trio of Darwin Barney, Ryan Goins and Jose Bautista (sporting OPS+ of 57, 68 and 76 and a combined WAR of -2.6). Even if Granderson, Grichuk and Solarte provide replacement-level production, which to be clear would be wildly disappointing, the Jays would be nearly 3 wins better than last year almost through addition by subtraction. Barring catastrophic injuries the Jays will be in the Wild Card hunt in 2018. But even given this, the Toronto offseason has been one of the most bleak in recent memory.

It’s easy to mock the ranting mouth breathers that light up the lines of Wilner’s Jays Talk. They generally don’t look at any numbers, they think everyone on the team is trash, but they feel that they can package the previously mentioned trash for a package including Mike Trout, a re-animated Babe Ruth, and left-handed pitcher Jésus Christ. But lost among the easily brushed off silly-talk is the backbone of sports: passion.

At the end of the day sports is an entertainment industry and is supposed to be an escape from from the daily grind of real life. Sports are nothing without the fans. But I feel as though the cold-calculating analytical thinking that runs front offices has started to bleed too much into fandom. I personally love to dive into the numbers and read up on nuanced numbers that go deeper than what we’re seeing on the field. But I feel like baseball has turned into a big game of math where the geniuses scoff at baseball fans who are simply looking to be entertained.

I actually like the Atkins and Shapiro front office. But I wouldn’t trade that last season of Alex Anthopolous for anything. Alex thought he had a winning hand, pushed the chips into the middle of the table and took his best shot at the World Series. Huge trades or signings can energize a fanbase like no other. Whether sincere or not it gives the basic appearance that ownership and management care about the product on the field. That 2015 Blue Jays season was the most exciting time I’ve had as a sports fan period.

Now after the fact there is a narrative among “smarter” Jays fans that, “Well Anthopolous jeopardized the team’s future. While the Blue Jays were at .500 when they made those trades, they had one of the best run differentials in the league and would’ve likely went on that stretch whether they had Price or not. Now they’re locked into a terrible Tulowitzki contract and a depleted farm system for one playoff run.” This is a real take that I’ve read multiple time over the past year and to that I say: baseball games aren’t played on a spreadsheet poindexter.

Fan perception does matter. Fans watch the games. Fans buy the tickets. Fans buy the merch. I do think the current Blue Jays front office has actually done a ton of good things to build a better organization from the big club down to Blue Field Blue Jays in rookie ball. But even they would have to admit that, what might be unfair because of the heat of the Anthopolous departure on day one of the job, Shapiro has not been received well by the majority of the fanbase,

The purpose of this piece is not to rip Blue Jays ownership for not spending more. The team had the fifth highest payroll in the league last year. Without the crazy lucrative television deals and sponsorships that the big American markets have, you can’t truly expect Rogers to shovel even more money at the roster. My biggest gripe is the million dollar nickel-and-diming economics lesson that baseball has turned into while the MLB has a handful of teams have unlimited budgets. It’s tough when you see the fun that Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers fans have every offseason while I cling to my Al Alburquerque minor-league deals. You’re always reminded that baseball is a business and that has never been more evident than this offseason.

What’s Left of the Toronto Boo Jays Season? September Call-Ups, I Guess

In a season mired by injuries that started off with a deflating and horrendous 2-11 start, the Toronto Blue Jays season of 2017 has felt like a constant, steep climb back to relevancy. With every game they’re trying to chip away and get back to where they’ve found themselves these past two exciting seasons: postseason contention.

As the Blue Jays have gotten deeper into this season, I’ve had to keep a realistic view on the chances they had at digging themselves out of this hole. The recent optimist in me would argue that there’s an opportunity to gain ground on some of the teams they’re chasing in head to head matchups down the stretch. It’s also a weak wildcard race and they have had a recent surge of good play that had pulled them within just three games of the second wildcard spot as recently as last weekend. These games left just enough hope that I thought, “you know what? Maybe they can pull this off.” But a three game sweep at the hands of the defending World Series champs and a split with the Rays going into a rubber match tonight (EDIT: They lost this one too) has the Jays looking at a 1-4 stretch that has just about spelled the end of the 2017 playoff push. Since the All-Star break, I’ve kept in mind a philosophy that I wouldn’t totally give up on the Jays’ postseason chances until they are more games back of the final wildcard spot than there are weeks remaining in the season. Well, there’s about five and a half weeks left, and they’re now five and a half games out. That’s cutting it pretty close with just 36 games remaining and seven teams to pass. I’d say it’s basically over.

We really shouldn’t be surprised. At this point in time they’re without their starting catcher (Martin), shortstop (Tulowitzki), second baseman (Travis) and best starting pitcher of last season (Sanchez). The likes of Raffy Lopez, Matt Dermody and Nick Tepesch, to name a few of many scrub replacements, simply won’t hold up for a stretch of wins the Blue Jays need. There’s a reason we hadn’t really heard of them before they were forced into their current roles. But with all of that said, it’s nearly September, so there may still be something to get excited about as a Jays fan (and no, it’s not that the season is almost over with). It’s the…September Call-Ups:

Ahhhhhh, roster expansion. The time of year where fresh faces get the call to the bigs with hopes of proving themselves under the bright lights and gaining some valuable developmental reps. It’s at this time where we as fans likely get our first real look at a potential Blue Jay piece of the future. Unfortunately we aren’t going to see the Jays legit young studs, Bo Bichette or Vladimir Guerrero Jr., just yet because they are still too early in their development. Below are some of the players we could be introduced/reintroduced to come call-up time. (Players Currently on the 40-man roster are in bold)

Anthony Alford (OF): The Blue Jays 2012 3rd round pick is considered the team’s #3 prospect behind only Guerrero Jr. and Bichette and is the #49 prospect in baseball according to MLB Pipeline. We had a very brief eight-at-bat look at him with the Blue Jays in 2017, so hopefully we can see some more of the 23 year-old who has a .399 OBP in the minors this season, most of which was with the AA New Hampshire Fisher-Cats. He could bring some much needed speed and defense to the corner outfield positions.

Brett Anderson (P): We’ll get a look at Tom Koehler – a 31 year-old veteran the Jays recently acquired in trade from the Miami Marlins last week – in his first chance to start with the team this Thursday. Anderson is another veteran starter the Jays took a flier on and, like Koehler, we could see in an appearance this season. Anderson is 29 years old and was signed to a minor-league deal last week after being released from the Cubs. He’s seen Major League rotation time with the Athletics, Rockies and Dodgers in the past, but injuries have been a major issue for him. His most recent success was in 2015 with the Dodgers where he went 10-9 with a 3.69 over 180.1 innings. This really wasn’t that long ago.

Ryan Borucki (P): Borucki was 15th round pick in 2012 and underwent Tommy John surgery in 2013. The 6’4”, 23 year-old left-handed starter has been able to return to form and is slotted as the #14 Blue Jays prospect. He began the year with the Class-A Dunedin Blue Jays but earned a promotion to the AA Fisher-Cats earlier this summer. He’s actually pitched better so far in AA than he did with Dunedin with a 2.29 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in just under 40 innings.

Roemon Fields (OF): It’s too bad the Jays aren’t going to be a playoff team this season, because it’d be very interesting to see how they’d utilize this guy. Fields has no power, but he has at least 44 stolen bases in all four of his pro seasons. He’d be the perfect pinch runner. He’s also managed to put up an impressive .362 OBP in his 319 AAA at-bats this season. He’d be exciting to watch as a Blue Jay.

Teoscar Hernandez (OF): The prized piece in return for Francisco Liriano in the trade with the Houston Astros at the non-waiver trade deadline. The 24 year-old from the Dominican Republic is the 5th ranked Jays prospect according to MLB.com. He’s actually had 42 games of MLB experience with the Astros (41 of which came in 2016) so the Blue Jays are sure to give him a big-league look in spite of a sluggish start since joining the AAA Buffalo Bisons.

Sean Reid-Foley (P): Another AA pitcher, but unlike Borucki, Reid-Foley has been much more hyped and written about. He was a 2nd round pick back in 2014 and possesses a fastball that can touch 97mph. He is currently the Blue Jays #7 ranked prospect via MLB.com. After a few years of looking like a prized pitching prospect he’s had quite a rough year with a 5.18 ERA in 24 starts with the New Hampshire Fisher-Cats. The clock hasn’t run out on Reid-Foley by any stretch, but maybe it’s time to just throw the kid in there and see if he’s got what it takes.

Michael Saunders (OF): Remember him? It was just last year Saunders was an All-Star for the Blue Jays before the wheels fell off in the second half of the season. As bad as last season’s second half was, he still  got a contract from the Phillies in the offseason, only to then be released within three months. The Jays scooped him up on a minor league deal back on June the 28th. In 120 at bats with the AAA Bisons he’s hitting an unimpressive (for a player with MLB experience) .267. But Saunders has a track record of big league success, and once again was an ALL-STAR just LAST YEAR. Maybe the Canadian gets another shot.

Dwight Smith Jr. (OF): Smith Jr. was up earlier this season with the Jays and the 24 year-old fared well with a .414 OBP in his 29 plate appearances. Obviously that’s an unsustainable number and small sample size, but he’s also posted an impressive .349 OBP in his first full season at the AAA level with the Bisons. The 2011 1st round pick may be the closest to a lock of the players on this list to get the call to the bigs.

Rowdy Tellez (1B): Tellez has received a lot of buzz since last season. He’s an intriguing story because back in 2013 he fell all the way to the Jays in the 30th round in the draft. He slid because teams feared he wouldn’t sign with them due to him already having accepted a scholarship to USC. He was the 59th ranked player entering that draft so the Jays took a chance, he ended up signing, and it has worked out perfectly as the 22 year-old power bat has become their 13th ranked prospect. He broke out in AA last year with 23 HR, 81 RBI and a .297/.387/.530 slash line. Unfortunately he hasn’t fared nearly as well this season with the AAA Bisons, but it’d still be nice to see if Rowdy can make the jump.

Happy soon-to-be-September everyone. Let’s hope we’re in a better position this time next season.

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