Ranking The Teams #6-1, My Version: Super Six?

I understand, this a little late, as Opening Day was Thursday, and the Red Sox didn’t look so great Thursday even though they are a part of this Top 6.  But I figured I’d finish this series since there’s only one article left.

Welcome to the final article of my 2019 MLB preseason power rankings.  This season, you could argue the Super Seven that was discussed a few years back still exists, except with different teams.  The Red Sox, Cubs, Astros, and Yankees have remained elite, and despite declines by the Nationals, Indians, and Dodgers (probably) , new powerhouses in this league have arised.  The Braves should be regular contenders now, the Cardinals could make a run with 1B Paul Goldschmidt here for the long run, and the Phillies should be competitive with Bryce Harper.  But Philadelphia isn’t quite on the level of these other teams.  So unless the Dodgers do stay elite after all, I think the Super Seven will become a Super Six.  I will be discussing those six today and pointing out the Achilles Heel of each team. Click the links below for other articles in the series (I will add them as I post them):

 

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2019 MLB Preseason Power Rankings Series:

Ranking The Teams #30-25, My Version: The Bottom of the Barrel

Ranking The Teams #24-19, My Version: Who will have to Wait till Next Year?

Ranking The Teams #18-13, My Version: Who else Misses out on Playoff Contention?

Ranking The Teams #12-7, My Version: Who has Playoff Chances?

Ranking The Teams #6-1, My Version: Super Six?

I also released my 3rd annual preseason Baseball Bits!

 

6. St_Louis_Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals

The Case for the Cardinals

The Cardinals haven’t made the playoffs in a few years, sure. But the veterans they kept around from their last playoff run, like Matt Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, and Yadier Molina, are still reliable contributors. They have also boosted the team with younger talent, including SP Jack Flaherty, OFs Harrison Bader and UT Jose Martinez, and SS Paul DeJong. After adding star in Goldy, the Cardinals have the tools they need for contention. But how far can they go in such a tough division? They will have to get past their division rivals that are also contending, the Cubs and Brewers.

The Achilles Heel

The Cards’ rotation looks alright and its young core will keep the rotation elite for a long time.  But right now they lack an ace.  I don’t believe they can be a World Series contender without one.  Whether they need a trade to find an ace or someone steps up as time passes, this could hold them back from serious contention and should be priority #1 for GM Steve Keim.  Maybe Martinez could be a good trade piece now that 1B Paul Goldschmidt is on board.

Projected Finish: 93-69, 2nd in NL Central

5. boston-red-sox Boston Red Sox

The Case for the Red Sox

The defending World Series champions had a relatively quiet off-season. They did retain most of the team from 2018 that won 108 games. But the bullpen has been their biggest issue, even with Craig Kimbrel. Without Craig Kimbrel, there is even more pressure on the rotation to succeed. This is especially true regarding Chris Sale and David Price. After Sale’s extension, both will be expected to to shine every start in order to be worth the money. Each start costs about $1 million dollars. Regardless of this pressure, the Red Sox should at least secure a Wild Card spot if they can’t beat out the Yankees in the AL East. They are still one of several powerhouses in the league.

The Achilles Heel

With Craig Kimbrel on the way out, the closer role is up for grabs.  But if you look at the active pitchers on the roster, it’s hard to imagine any of them as a consistent closer.  If the Red Sox wanted to repeat, they would’ve invested more in this bullpen rather than focusing so much on the rotation.  They need to add a closer unless Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, or someone else steps up soon.

Projected Finish: 93-69, 2nd in AL East

 

4. atlanta-braves Atlanta Braves

The Case for the Braves

The Braves’ rebuild began to pay off last season as their younger players broke through. This off-season seemed quiet, but they filled a gaping hole at third by adding Josh Donaldson. They also brought back OF Nick Markakis, and they have reportedly been targeting a reunion with CL Craig Kimbrel. This small series of moves could make a big difference in Atlanta. These moves, alongside development of OF Ronald Acuna Jr. and 2B Ozzie Albies among other should transform the Braves from solely a division contender into a World Series contender. The Braves are my World Series winner this year. I expect 1B Freddie Freeman, Albies, Donaldson, and others to combine to make for one of the best lineups in the league.

The Achilles Heel

Health is definitely a concern, especially considering the fact that Atlanta will start the 2019 season with two starting pitchers on the IL.  Donaldson is also injury prone, and if he goes down, Johan Camargo is the next best option at third base.  I don’t trust Camargo as a starter.  If the team stays healthy in the long run, they could be serious contenders.  Otherwise, they could be in a bit of trouble.

Projected Finish: 93-69, 1st in NL East

 

3. Chicago_Cubs Chicago Cubs

The Case for the Cubs

The Cubs may have been quiet this off-season, but a healthy Yu Darvish will boost the rotation, the bullpen has plenty of depth despite questions at closer, and the lineup is looking pretty solid. Their decision to move Javier Baez to shortstop full time and put Ben Zobrist at second is very smart, as SS Addison Russell was inconsistent and had some character issues. The Cubs have dominated in the National League ever since their World Series winning year in 2016, but with a health a concern and the division getting tougher, will the Cubs be able to keep up the good work?

The Achilles Heel

The Cubs were unable to do much this off-season, and they could have used another outfielder.  LF Kyle Schwarber and RF Jason Heyward are viable starters, but they are very streaky and inconsistent.  Albert Almora Jr. is the best option in center field.  Chicago should have added another center fielder to start over Almora some days and fill in for Heyward and Schwarber during slumps.

Projected Finish: 94-68, 1st in NL Central

 

2. new-york-yankees New York Yankees

The Case for the Yankees

After pairing new slugger Aaron Judge with Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees underperformed in 2018. Yes, they made the playoffs and won 100 games. But they were overshadowed and eliminated by their bitter rival, the Boston Red Sox. This year, the Red Sox will be without their star closer, while the Yankees fixed up a problematic rotation and built one of the most stacked bullpens in history. This will allow the Yankees to propel past the Red Sox and win the AL East. But in Boston and New York, it’s all about championships, and the Yankees aren’t will have to work for a World Series victory, even with the stacked roster.

The Achilles Heel

The Yanks have some nice pieces in their infield.  But if Troy Tulowitzki and Greg Bird fail to stay healthy, they are left with D.J. LeMahieu as their best infielder.  Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar have not reached their prime yet, and Luke Voit must still prove that 2018 was not a fluke.  So I’m a bit concerned in terms of infield depth for the Yankees.

Projected Finish: 94-68, 1st in AL East

 

1. houston-astros Houston Astros

The Case for the Astros

The Astros are two years removed from their World Series victory, a result of a 5-year rebuild that made the Astros one of the MLB’s worst for a good 2-3 year span. Now, the Astros are still one of the league’s elite teams, but they lost some of their starting rotation depth this off-season, forcing two starter-turned-relievers back into the rotation. They did bring in OF Michael Brantley and UT Aledmys Diaz, filling the hole UT Marwin Gonzalez left. Though Houston took a slight step back this off-season, I still have them as my AL West winners and the team with the best regular season record. Considering the young core they have put together in the last several years, they should be elite for a long, long, time now.

The Achilles Heel

Evan Gattis is no longer on the team, which means Tyler White must be trusted as Houston’s regular DH.  This could be a prove-it situation for White, but if White struggles, what then?  They could bring Gattis back, or they could just put Diaz back there.  They could even call up Kyle Tucker to play DH.  This one’s an easy fix, just something to keep an eye on.

Projected Finish: 96-66, 1st in AL West

That’s all for this year’s preseason MLB power rankings.  Come back at the end of April  for my first 2019 set of monthly power rankings.

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Baseball Bits #12: Can Sox Repeat like Few Teams have?

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Welcome to my annual preseason Baseball Bits article!

If you were unaware, today marks 5 years since I started my Boston Sports Mania blog!  The Red Sox were just about to begin their regular season when I started, and just like this year, they were coming off a World Series victory.  On my first day, I posted an article titled “MLB 2014 Preview”, which included my predictions for the 2014 MLB season. I still write these prediction articles every year, including this year

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I call March 25th my “blog-a-versary”, and this year is a big milestone.  All of my opportunities are a result of this blog.  Most recently, I delivered a motivational keynote speech about my story so far at the Visions of Community Conference hosted by the Federation for Children with Special Needs at the Boston Seaport World Trade Center (see below):

I started this blog to write about my favorite sports like baseball, which is what today’s post is about.

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Top: After the Red Sox’s 100th win                     Bottom: After the Red Sox’s World Series win

In 2018 the Red Sox became the 16th team in the 162-game era to win over 100 regular season games and then go on to win the World Series.  They were led by new manager Alex Cora and a new star in J.D. Martinez.  But what most Boston sports fans are wondering about now is how the Red Sox will do in 2019 and whether they will repeat.  I did some research on 100+ win World Series winners in the 162-game era and how they did in their next season below.  

The Research

Baseball Bits #12_ 100-Win World Series Winners – Sheet1

The “Baseball Bits”

Note: In the context of this article, a team who repeats for 2 years in a row is counted for 1 repeat, 3 years in a row is counted for 2 repeats, 4 years in a row is counted for 3 repeats, etc

  • Only 23 of 115 (20%) World Series winners have repeated
  • In the 162-game era, only 16 of 57 (28%) 100-win teams have won the World Series, including the 2018 Red Sox
  • In the 162-game era, only 9 of 56 (16%) World Series winners excluding the 2018 Red Sox have repeated, with 4 of the teams repeating after 100-win seasons
  • Of the 15 100 win World Series winners excluding the 2018 Red Sox:9 teams (60%) made the playoffs4 teams (26.67% of the 15) repeated2 of those teams reached 100 wins when they repeated:1976 Cincinnati Reds
    • 1978 New York Yankees
  • 2 of those teams failed to reach 100 wins again when they repeated:1962 New York Yankees
    • 1999 New York Yankees (repeated again in 2000
  • The Red Sox did not win the World Series in an 100 win season in the 162-game era until 2018
  • Another 2 of the 15 (13.33%) lost the World Series:1968 St. Louis Cardinals
    • 1978 Baltimore Orioles
  • 3 of the 15 (20%) lost in the LCS2010 New York Yankees
    • 2017 Chicago Cubs
    • 2018 Houston Astros
  • 6 of the 15 (40%) missed the playoffs entirely1969 Detroit Tigers
    • 1970 New York Mets
    • 1977 Cincinnati Reds
    • 1979 New York Yankees
    • 1985 Detroit Tigers
    • 1987 New York Mets
  • Each of the last 3 100-win World Series winners lost in the LCS the next year

The Verdict

Based on the research, I believe the Red Sox have a 20 to 25% chance to repeat.  I believe that there is still a select group of elite teams that could win the World Series this year.  World Series repeats are less common during the 162-game era as just 9 of 56 (16%) World Series winners repeated.  However, 4 of those teams were 100-win teams. World Series winners who did not reach 100 wins in this time frame only repeated 12.1% of the time since 1961.  That’s more like a 1 in 8 chance.  100-win World Series winners have repeated 26.67% of the time during the same time frame.  I think the significance of being a 100-win team helps improve the Sox chances to repeat. 

However, as much as I hate to admit it as a huge Boston fan, I am sticking with my prediction that the Sox will fail to reverse the trend of World Series winners.  I think they will lose in the ALCS to either the New York Yankees or Houston Astros.  The odds are stacked against the Sox reaching 100 wins as well since only 4 of the 15 100-win World Series winners even reached 100 wins again the next year.  I don’t think the Red Sox will reach the century mark but will come close at somewhere between 92 and 96 games. A bullpen with no proven closer to start the season helps support my prediction  A World Series repeat is unlikely to happen, though you shouldn’t rule it out yet.

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Alex Cora did wonders for this team last year, so maybe he’ll be able to recreate the magic of 2018.  If he can, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be 2019 AL Manager of the Year.

That’s all for today’s Baseball Bits.  After all I have accomplished in the last 5 years, I look forward to creating even better content over the next 5 years.  Stay tuned for more soon, including the next portion of my MLB Preseason Power Rankings.

My 2018 MLB Playoff Bracket/Predictions

The MLB Playoff Bracket is set after yesterday’s tiebreaker games, and the MLB playoffs begin tonight at 8:00 PM.  Above is my complete bracket for the MLB Playoff Challenge.  Below is a brief look at each match-up.  Feel free to comment with your thoughts.

American League

AL Wild Card Game

new-york-yankees (4) New York Yankees over Oakland Athletics (5) oakland-a's

Oakland’s pitching staff has been better this year, but I do not see their rotation as an elite playoff rotation.  The Yankees lineup will tear this pitching staff apart, led by the home run hitting duo of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.

ALDS

boston-red-sox (1) Boston Red Sox over New York Yankees (4) new-york-yankees, 3-2

The Yankees have given Boston a hard time, so I think this series will be close.  The Yankees have been able to dominate against certain Red Sox starters such as David Price.  But the Red Sox have the home-field advantage, and they have two MVP-caliber players in their lineup, Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez.  The Sox lineup has the depth and talent to outdo the Yankees pitching staff.

houston-astros (2) Houston Astros over Cleveland Indians (3) cleveland-indians, 3-0

The Astros have most of what they had in last year’s World Series: a stacked lineup filled with youth, power, and speed and a dominant playoff rotation.  They come in to this series with a weaker bullpen though.  Both of these lineups are playoff-caliber, but I see this series as a battle of two of the league’s top rotations, the Astros led by Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, and the Indians led by Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, and Carlos Carrasco.  These games will be low scoring, but I see the Astros sweeping as their lineup is able to manage the tough opposing pitching more easily.

ALCS

boston-red-sox (1) Boston Red Sox over Houston Astros (2) houston-astros, 4-3

The Astros have one of the best rotations in the league plus an amazing lineup.  But the Red Sox have one thing Houston doesn’t.  A strong closer in Craig Kimbrel.  If their rotation can hold up for a good portion of the series and their offense gets going like it has for a lot of the season, I think they can do something they haven’t done much of this year: beating the other elite teams.  The Red Sox have taken advantage of their easy match-ups, but it’s time for them to step it up when it matters.

National League

NL Wild Card Game

Chicago_Cubs (4) Chicago Cubs over Colorado Rockies (5) colorado-rockies 

The Rockies lineup is very talented, but despite improvement in 2018 that got them here, I don’t see their pitching holding up on the road against a well-rounded Cubs team.  Chicago will take advantage of the Rockies’ weak pitching staff, get out to an early lead, and their pitching staff will be able to help the Cubs hold it easily.

NLDS

Chicago_Cubs (4) Chicago Cubs over Milwaukee Brewers (1) milwaukee-brewers, 3-1

The Brewers rode their momentum to a division title.  They have a young, talented lineup that’s mostly a product of the 2017-18 off-season and a huge MLB Trade Deadline.  But I think this Brewers lineup is containable, and if there’s any pitching staff in the National League that can contain them, it’s the Cubs.  The Cubs should also thrive offensively against a young Brewers rotation that’s still developing.

los-angeles-dodgers (2) Los Angeles Dodgers over Atlanta Braves (3) atlanta-braves, 3-1

Led by young talent, the Braves pulled out an NL East victory.  However, I think they rode easy division competition to this victory.  Their rotation is okay, but I don’t see their lineup as playoff caliber. The Nationals would likely be here if they weren’t so hampered by injuries this season.  They may have won it all.  But the Dodgers can contain a young, developing team like the Braves.  Led by Trade Deadline acquisition Manny Machado, Their lineup has the power and talent to give this Atlanta rotation trouble, and their deep pitching staff will benefit them significantly.  I see this series as an easy win for the Dodgers.

NLCS

Chicago_Cubs (4) Chicago Cubs over Los Angeles Dodgers (2) los-angeles-dodgers, 4-3

This will be a very interesting series.  The 2016 World Series champion against the 2017 World Series runner-up.  The Dodgers still have a World Series-caliber roster.  Their rotation is more than capable, and they come in with a stronger offensive attack this year.  But the Cubs have a deep, young lineup, and although they might struggle against this solid Dodgers rotation, I could see them taking advantage of a weak Dodger bullpen.  The Dodgers will put up a serious fight, but I think the Cubs pitching staff can contain them for a good portion of the series.

World Series

boston-red-sox (1) Boston Red Sox over Chicago Cubs (4) Chicago_Cubs, 4-3

I think this is the year for the Red Sox.  Two of Boston’s last three World Series titles were partially due to momentum.  The Cubs have a World Series caliber roster.  They haven’t seen the Red Sox yet, and they may very well be a better team.  The NL was a very competitive league, while the AL was a league of extremes.  Chicago’s record may very well be an NL equivalent of the Red Sox’s record.  

But I think the Red Sox will ride the momentum they gather in the ALDS and ALCS to win the World Series. Their pitching will need to finally hold it together, but I think they are capable, as long as they can rely on the momentum this talented lineup gathers.  It won’t be easy against a strong, well-rounded Cubs team, but I don’t think Red Sox Nation should give up hope.

That’s all for my MLB Playoff Predictions.  Stay tuned for more baseball articles.

 

Baseball Bits #10: Not many 100 Win Teams win World Series

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As I publish this post, the Sox need only one win to reach 100 for the first time since 1946. Last year, 3 of the 6 division winners were 100-win teams. But what does this mean for the Red Sox hopes for the post season success?

The American League is a league of extremes. 3 teams in the AL are on pace to win 100 games this year and 1 more is on pace to be very close. But there are a lot of teams in the American League who are on pace for close to 100 losses. The Orioles have already lost 103 games and most teams have 15-20 games left! The 3 worst teams by record are in the American League, and 6 AL teams have already been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. The National League has only 3 teams that have been eliminated so far.

The American League playoff picture is practically locked up, while no National League team has even come close to clinching a playoff berth. It’s likely going to come down to the final week in the NL and tiebreakers may be a factor.

Even though the top AL teams will likely finish with a better record, does this mean they are better teams? I don’t think so. Due to the tough competition, talented National League teams have been challenged to reach win totals of some of the top AL teams. For example, the Washington Nationals aren’t even a .500 team. That being said, I think a National League team could win the World Series this year, giving a wake-up call to the AL because regular season wins won’t mean anything once the playoffs start.

I’ve done some research on every 100-win team in the 162-game era. I wrote down the team, the year they did it, their final record, and how they did in the playoffs. Based on 100-win teams of the past, what are the odds the Red Sox or one of the other 100-win teams to win the World Series? Will these teams choke early in the playoffs? (Note: Considering that there could be 3-4 from the American League, it is unlikely that all of them do). Check out my research below and keep reading to find out what the research says and how I interpreted it.

The Research

Baseball Bits #10_ 100-Win Teams – Sheet1

The “Baseball Bits”

  • There have been 57 100-win teams in the 162-game era
  • Only 15 of the 57 (26.3 %) went on to win the World Series, even though 30 of the 57 (52.6%) made it to the World Series.
  • Since the LDS began, there have only been 26 100-win teams. 12 of them (46.15%) lost in the LDS
  • 13 of the 57 100-win teams (22.8%) lost in the LCS
  • 2 of the 57 (3.5%) 100-win teams missed the playoffs entirely. These two teams both played in the era before any playoffs beyond the World Series
  • The Red Sox reached 100 wins three times before the 162-game era: they won the World Series in two of those years
  • However, the Red Sox have yet to have a 100-win season in the 162-game era
  • The Yankees have had 8 100-win seasons in the 162-game era, winning the World Series in 3 of them
  • The best team in 162-game MLB history (the 2001 Mariners) went 116-46 and went on to lose in the ALCS
  • The 2018 Red Sox are on pace to win 111 games, which would make them the third best team in the 162-game era by record behind the 2001 Mariners and 1998 Yankees (who lost in the ALDS)
  • Each of the last two World Series winners were 100-win teams
  • There have been 15 seasons in the 162-game era with multiple 100-win teams
  • 5 of these seasons had three 100-win teams – in only 2 of those years did one of the 3 100-win teams win the World Series
  • The Red Sox, Yankees (on pace for 101), and Astros (on pace for 102) are all on pace for 100 wins this year, and Athletics (98) are close
  • The best team in the 162-game era to win a World Series went 114-48 (The 1998 Yankees)
  • The best team in the 162-game era to miss out on the LCS went 103-59 (The 2002 Athletics)

The Verdict

The fact that an 100-win team won the World Series in each of the last 2 years is very promising. There were three 100-win teams last year and three on pace to do it this year, so I think one of them will pull off a World Series victory. But will it be the Red Sox? The Astros just outplayed the Red Sox in their most recent series and won the series 2-1, and the Yankees always give Boston a hard time in the playoffs. You also have to consider how easy the competition is in the American League compared to the National League. Who knows, there might have been no 100-win teams this year if the MLB’s leagues were more balanced.

However, I don’t think the Red Sox will choke in the ALDS, even though 12 of the 26 100-game winners in the ALDS era did. They are on pace for 110 wins. The winning-est team that missed the LCS was the 2002 Oakland Athletics, who were 103-59. But I do think there’s a good chance the Yankees come close to topping the Red Sox in the ALDS, and there’s an even better chance the Astros beat them in the ALCS to advance to the World Series. In the end, I think the World Series goes to one of these teams: the Astros, the Red Sox, the Cubs (best NL team), the Dodgers (always a contender), or the Rockies (a young team with a stacked lineup and drastically improving pitching).

I’ll be going to the game tonight against Toronto. Will David Price lead us to our 100th victory? We’ll all find out tonight.

UPDATE: I just witnessed Red Sox history! The Red Sox have reached 100 wins. Hopefully they become the 16th 100-win team in the 162-game era to win the World Series.

Ranking The Teams 6-1: My Version: How The Best of the Best Line Up

Welcome to the 5th and final part of my MLB pre-season power rankings.  Although the season has started, I am still finishing this series.  I will also have my first Red Sox Report article of 2018 coming soon, as well as coverage on NFL free agency and the upcoming Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins games.

Last time, I covered the teams that are true contenders but are not quite on the level of the MLB’s best.  That consisted of 5 wild card competitors and the Indians, the lowest ranked of what is known as the MLB Super Seven.  They just missed the Top 6, at #7.  I looked at how they did this off-season, how they’ll do this season, and what’s holding them back.  I also discussed best and worst case scenarios for each team and projected their records and division placements.  Today I will do the same for the for the Top 6 teams in the league.  What are their chances of winning it all, and what are their Achilles Heels?  Read below to find out how the best of the best line up.  Every team on this part of the list is part of the Super Seven I have been mentioning.

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Boston Sports Mania MLB Pre-Season Power Rankings

Friday, March 23: Ranking The Teams 30-25, My Version: Who’s In The Basement?

Sunday, March 25: Ranking The Teams 24-19, My Version: Teams That Will Struggle

Monday, March 26: Ranking The Teams 18-13, My Version: The Middle of the Pack

Monday, April 2: Ranking The Teams 12-7, My Version: Who Will Contend in 2018?

Thursday, April 5: Ranking The Teams 6-1, My Version: How The Best of the Best Line Up*

*My pre-season Baseball Bits are also up.

6. boston-red-sox Boston Red Sox

Off-Season Review

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The Red Sox were pretty quiet for much of the off-season despite the rumors that they were the front-runners to sign OF J.D. Martinez, and that it was near inevitable that the Red Sox signed him.  They did bring back 1B Mitch Moreland and 2B Eduardo Nunez.  With that, they had a pretty good roster.  But they had no home run hitter, which was crucial after the Yankees added Giancarlo Stanton and formed what has the potential to be a historic HR duo between Stanton and Aaron Judge.  Eventually, they did sign Martinez despite a lack of a position for him to play.  If there was an open position called “designated home run hitter (DHH)”, it might be fitting, but now he has to split his time between left field and DH, with Moreland, Hanley Ramirez, and Jackie Bradley Jr. losing at-bats to him.

The Case for the Red Sox

Image result for xander bogaerts

If the Red Sox are meeting their expectations, they will make the playoffs, and they will make it to at least the ALDS.  Red Sox reporter Tony Massarotti thinks we are a good team but can do a lot better, and I agree.  Sure, the Yankees had a great off-season and are now favorites to beat us out in the AL East.  But the Sox are capable of winning the division, and if they cannot win the division, they are definitely capable of making the playoffs.  Hopefully, Chris Sale and David Price will be able to lead the rotation together after Sale’s strong 2017 and Price’s strong Spring Training, and I’m hoping J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts can lead the lineup (with the help of Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers, who are off to a great start).

But if they cannot, we need someone else to step up their game.  In fact, no matter what, we need someone else to step it up.  Whether Bogey keeps going and breaks out, or Devers builds on his late 2017 success, or Andrew Benintendi has the season he was supposed to have one year ago, I will be satisfied.  They just need one more player to build on the consistency they have had and turn it into dominance.

The Achilles Heel

Like I said, the Red Sox have an ace, and they have a pretty strong lineup. But they just need some of their good players to achieve greatness. It would be nice if they could have the beastly rotation people were expecting of them, and so far, it’s looked pretty good. It would also be nice if the Red Sox had a couple more players who broke through and joined Betts and Martinez as the All-Stars of the lineup. World Series contenders aren’t led by a couple superstars and a bunch of other good, but not great players. They are led by a group of star players that work well and fit well together.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation dominates, several players in the lineup breakout and the Red Sox go on to win the World Series, which you will notice is the Best Case Scenario for all 6 of the top teams.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation continues to be inconsistent, the lineup is no more than good, and the Red Sox lose out to other teams like the Twins and Angels in the Wild Card race.

Projected Finish: 92-70, 2nd in AL East

 

5. Chicago_Cubs Chicago Cubs

Off-Season Review

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The Cubs lost star pitcher Jake Arrieta, but they made up for it by signing SP Yu Darvish and SP Tyler Chatwood.  They also added Brandon Morrow to a strong bullpen.  The Cubs appear to be pretty confident in their lineup, but does their lineup need an upgrade if the Cubs want to win another World Series ring?

The Case for the Cubs

About a year ago, the Cubs were viewed as the best team in the MLB.  But the competition has caught up with them, and the Cubs experienced a World Series hangover early in 2017.  The Dodgers, Yankees, and Astros have all caught up, and the Indians, Nationals, and Red Sox are close.  They have a nice young roster with a dominant rotation, and their lineup is great but could use a bit of a boost in the power department.

The Achilles Heel

The Cubs have a lot of good, consistent, hitters.  But they were hoping that they could get some power out of guys like Jason Heyward, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo that they have signed/kept around.  Bryant and Rizzo have done well at the plate, but are good hitters for average, not good hitters for power.  Heyward was signed to add some power to the lineup, and it would have been nice to see some power out of Ben Zobrist.  Who will emerge as a home run hitter for the Cubs?  If they cannot find one, then that means the league’s elite teams are one step ahead of them.

Best Case Scenario: The Cubs go on to win a World Series after Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward have dominant years at the plate and get help from Chicago’s younger players.  The rotation also continues to dominate.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation underperforms, the lineup cannot find their power hitter, and the Cubs just barely snag a Wild Card after losing their division to the Cardinals or Brewers.

Projected Finish: 92-70, 1st in NL Central\

 

4. los-angeles-dodgers Los Angeles Dodgers

Off-Season Review

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The Dodgers kept their roster at World Series level.  They did lose some of their starting pitchers, but they had at least eight viable starters on their World Series roster.  They added Tom Koehler to the bullpen, and he could even start in the case of an injury to another starter.  They also brought back Chase Utley and acquired Matt Kemp from the Braves in exchange for Adrian Gonzalez and a couple extra starters they had.  Gonzalez was no longer needed with Cody Bellinger ready to start at first base full time.

The Case for the Dodgers

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The Dodgers could still be a World Series contender, but other teams may beat them out.  The Astros are looking even better this year, the Nats have extra motivation to do well with many star players in contract years, and the Yankees have more power in their lineup than any other team in the league.  Their lineup and rotation still look great.  Clayton Kershaw has continued to dominate the league, and the lineup has done well despite the lack of a true leader.

The Achilles Heel

The Dodgers do not have any major holes.  But they need two smaller things.  The first thing is some bullpen help.  They need to find a reliable set up man for Kenley Jansen, and even Jansen has struggled so far.  They also need a leader for the lineup.  They have a lot of great hitters, but who is their true star?  Kershaw is the rotation leader.  Who will be the Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers lineup?

Best Case Scenario: Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, and Justin Turner will lead the Dodgers lineup to dominance, the rotation continues to thrive, and Kenley Jansen gets back on track as the Dodgers win the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: Kershaw, along with the rest of the rotation regresses, the lack of depth hurts them, and the lineup cannot quite dominate without a leader.  Jansen and the bullpen continue to struggle too, and the Dodgers are left to compete for a Wild Card.

Projected Finish: 95-67, 1st in NL West

 

3. new-york-yankees New York Yankees

Off-Season Review

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The Yankees already had a strong lineup, and they made a splash this off-season by adding to that.  They acquired Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins, and with that, they had the top two home run hitters in the league in Stanton and Aaron Judge.  They also added 2B Neil Walker late in the off-season to help out while Gleyber Torres recovers from his injury and continues to develop.  They acquired Brandon Drury to help out Miguel Andujar at third too.

The Case for the Yankees

The Yanks have a lineup that is stacked with home run hitters, but they are lacking depth, especially in the infield.  Judge and Stanton will balance things out though, making the lineup look dominant.  The rotation also looks good but is the one portion of their roster that does not quite match up with the Red Sox, who can rely on the combo of Chris Sale and David Price.  The good thing is, the rotation will be backed up by a strong bullpen, much stronger than the Red Sox bullpen.

The Achilles Heel

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The Yankees do have a bit of an infield depth problem, but their real depth problem is in the rotation.  Jordan Montgomery has been forced into the #5 starter role, while the Sox will have E-Rod and Steven Wright once everyone is healthy.  The Yankees have a nice group of starters, but they lack depth, and they lack a true ace.  Sonny Gray, Masahiro Tanaka, and Luis Severino are great but are not quite ace material.  The Red Sox have Chris Sale to lead their rotation, so they are ahead of the Yankees in that department.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation dominates the league with multiple #1 level starters, the bullpen backs them up, and the lineup hits the most home runs in the MLB by a long shot as the Yanks win the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: Depth problems come back to bite the Yankees, the Yanks must depend on their bullpen after rotation struggles, and the lineup cannot find much talent around Gary Sanchez, Stanton and Judge.  The Yankees are left with a Wild Card spot and do not make the ALDS.

Projected Finish: 96-66, 1st in AL East

 

2. houston-astros Houston Astros

Off-Season Review

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After winning the World Series (as I predicted) in 2017, the Astros only got better.  They acquired Gerrit Cole from the Pirates, and now they will have Justin Verlander for a full season.  They arguably have seven viable starters, and their first three starters were all #1 starters on different teams before this season.  They also added Joe Smith to a strong bullpen.

The Case for the Astros

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The Astros are coming off a World Series title, and I do not expect much of a hangover.  They have a dominant rotation, and a strong lineup led by Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, George Springer, and AL MVP Jose Altuve.  I don’t see much of a chance for them to regress.  But will they be beaten out by a motivated contender who was not won in recent years?

The Achilles Heel

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The Astros do not have any major weaknesses, but with DH Carlos Beltran gone, and 1B Yulieski Gurriel suspended, they will have some depth problems in the lineup.  They will have to rely on Marwin Gonzalez, Jake Marisnick, Derek Fisher, and J.D. Davis more this season.  Other than that, they do not have any other problems, at least major problems.  That will likely resolve itself as the season progresses.

Best Case Scenario: The stacked lineup dominates, the rotation is led by three aces, and the Astros dominate the league for the second consecutive year, winning the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation underperforms and struggles, depth and World Series hangover problems affect the lineup, and the Astros fail to make the ALCS after losing the division to the Angels surprisingly.

Projected Finish: 95-67, 1st in AL West

 

1. washington-nats Washington Nationals

Off-Season Review

The Nats did not make any big moves this off-season besides resigning Howie Kendrick, and I think their roster looks good as it is, although it could have used one more starting pitcher.  They should sign somebody who’s still available if A.J. Cole struggles in the rotation.  But the Nats have many star players, including Bryce Harper in contract years, so the Nationals are in win now mode, and for that reason, they are my favorite to win the World Series.

The Case for the Nationals

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Like I said, the Nats are in win-now mode.  The window is closing for this team to win a World Series with this era of players, but I think this could be the year.  With a great roster flooded with young talent and led by superstars in Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer, and Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals are in good position to take advantage of the fact that they have one more year to win it all before they lose Bryce Harper and other strong players on the roster to free agency.  But will they be motivated enough to lead themselves past other dominant teams like the Dodgers, Cubs, Astros, and Yankees?

The Achilles Heel

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The Nationals have a nice lineup that is still doing well early on, even with Daniel Murphy starting on the DL.  Later in the season, Murphy will help lead them.  But the rotation has a depth problem.  If A.J. Cole struggles, the Nationals have nobody to replace him with Joe Ross injured. There is no guarantee that any free agent pitcher will willingly sign here, but if Cole struggles, they will need to try, or it may hold them back from winning now like they are hoping to.

Best Case Scenario: Motivated to win it all before losing Harper, the Nats lineup dominates, carried by an MVP season by Bryce Harper where he nearly wins the Triple Crown.  The rotation also dominates as A.J. Cole does well and Strasburg and Scherzer dominate all year.  The Nationals win the World Series triumphantly.

Worst Case Scenario: Depth problems cause rotation struggles and injury problems add to it, Bryce Harper cannot carry the lineup alone in a contract year, and the Nats just edge out a division win and struggle in the NLDS.

Projected Finish: 97-65, 1st in NL East

 

That’s all for my MLB pre-season power rankings.  My next power rankings update will come at the end of April as I begin my Monthly Power Ranking series.  I will also have Red Sox recaps, more Baseball Bits, and my first Red Sox Report of 2018 coming soon (The Red Sox Report article will be up tomorrow and I will try to post them every Friday from here on out.)

Baseball Bits #3: Could Red Sox have 3rd MVP/Cy Young Pair?

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The regular season is over and it’s the perfect time to consider the MVP and Cy Young winners.  The Red Sox have some good candidates.  The Red Sox have several MVP candidates starting with Mookie Betts who showed he is an all around 5-tool player.  David Ortiz in his final season performed better than any player in his final season is also considered a frontrunner for the AL MVP.  Rick Porcello is my top choice to win the Cy Young.  He’s 22-4 with a 3.11 ERA!

 

The Sox have a good chance to have both the AL MVP and AL Cy Young winners this year, I decided to do some research on the MVP and Cy Young award winners.  How many teams had both the MVP and Cy Young award winners and what happened to their teams?  Read on to find out.  

 

The Research

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The “Baseball Bits”

 

  • Since 1956 when the Cy Young award began (it was split into 2 awards (AL and NL) in 1967), 28 teams have had an MVP and Cy Young winner in the same year (MVP/Cy Young pair)

 

  • From 1956 to 1966, there were 7 teams that had MVP/Cy Young pair in the same year

 

  • The last team to do it was the 2014 Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw won both awards)

 

  • 8 of the teams who had MVP/Cy Young pair in the same year had pitchers who won both

 

  • The last team to have different players who won MVP/Cy Young in the same year was the 2013 Tigers

 

  • 15 of the 28 Cy Young/MVP pairs came from the AL

 

  • The Red Sox only had a Cy Young and MVP Winner twice: in 1967 (Carl Yastrzemski & Jim Lonborg) and 1986 (Roger Clemens won both awards).  The Sox lost the World Series in both of those years

 

  • The Indians and Blue Jays, who could also achieve this in 2016, have never done it before

 

  • The Cubs, who are also candidates have done it once (1984, Ryne Sandberg & Rick Sutcliffe).  They lost in the NLCS.

 

  • Only one team who had an MVP/Cy Young pair in the same year missed the playoffs (the 1962 Dodgers)

 

  • 16 of the 27 (59%) who made the playoffs made the World Series, and 8 of the 16 teams won the World Series

 

  • 23 of the 27 teams (85%) made it past the ALDS/NLDS

 

The Verdict

 

One thing that this research proved is that MVP and Cy Young voters place value on players from playoff teams.  It’s not common (especially since 1968) for a team to have an MVP/Cy Young pair but it’s even less common to have that team not make the playoffs.  This year the Sox made the playoffs by winning the division so I think it increases the Red Sox’s chances to have their third MVP/Cy Young pair, especially since they dominated down the stretch to pull away from the pack.  

Below are my picks for who wins the AL and NL MVP and Cy Young:  

 

AL MVP Prediction: Mookie Betts

Mookie Betts has been on fire this year and the fact that he’s a 5 tool player just makes him more worthy of the award.  Betts and the Red Sox lineup have just been really impressive this year.  I also think even though guys like Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera would be good candidates, that the MVP and Cy Young should come from a playoff team and my research shows that voters do as well.  Betts is one of the best of this great Red Sox lineup and the Red Sox have been one of the best offensive teams in the league.  Betts has not only been a top offensive player but his defensive statistics show he’s a top gold glove candidate as well.  Big Papi may be a candidate too since it’s his last season but if voters focus purely on overall numbers, their vote will be for Betts.  

AL Cy Young Prediction: Rick Porcello

I really don’t think there are many good options besides Rick Porcello.  Corey Kluber could compete with him but I’m giving Porcello the edge.  Kluber has won before and was expected to do well this year.  He just won in 2014!  On the other hand, Rick Porcello was not expected to that well this year.  Instead, he’s top 5 in every key pitching category and first in wins so I don’t know how he does not win.  The fact that Porcello along with Hanley Ramirez, have had such great second seasons unexpectedly, vindicates Ben Cherington a bit.

NL MVP Prediction: Anthony Rizzo

Nolan Arenado would be a better candidate if team performance did not matter.  But have the Rockies done anything this season?  I was thinking of making an exception to picking MVPs and Cy Youngs from just playoff teams but there are other candidates that come from the 102-58 Chicago Cubs.  Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant would also make good candidates.  I picked Rizzo because he had a better average and more RBIs despite less home runs.

 

NL Cy Young Prediction: Max Scherzer

There are a lot of good NL pitchers that are worthy of this award.  But if anyone has proven all around excellence in pitching, it’s Max Scherzer.  Scherzer was a candidate last year but didn’t quite make it to the final 3 despite 2 no-hitters (1 that was almost a perfect game).  This year his ERA is good again (2.82) and he has a huge lead in strikeouts (277).  He also has an unbelieveable WHIP (0.94), and leads the NL in wins tied with Jon Lester.  All of those stats are Cy Young worthy.  

 

The Red Sox actually have a pretty good chance of an MVP/Cy Young pair.  I don’t see many players who can beat out Rick Porcello and the Sox have such a good lineup that I’m more than 50% sure a Red Sox player will win the MVP.  The chances are looking good but the winners would need to be really good because this has only happened 28 times.  Are the Red Sox a realistic candidate?  We’ll find out soon and hopefully that means they also have a good chance to win it all.

 

MLB Monthly Power Rankings: May

MLB Monthly Power Rankings: May

 

Welcome to my first MLB monthly ranks of the year.  I didn’t do these in April because it was too early in the season, but it’s better to start late than never.  My power rankings combine trends, records and predictions to rank all 30 teams.  Hope you enjoy!

 

Note: These power rankings are up to date as of May 31, 2016.

 

  1. Chicago Cubs (35-14)

 

I knew the off season would pay off.  This team has been on fire all season long!  The additions of Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist have made a big impact on an already strong team.  This team broke out last year and just keeps getting better.  Their lineup has become very powerful.  Young driving forces like Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler and Addison Russell are joined by powerful veterans like Anthony Rizzo.  But it’s not just the lineup.  The Cubbies pitching staff leads the league in ERA, wins, WHIP and average allowed.  I don’t see any reason why this team shouldn’t be #1.  They have the best record, they have the stats, they’re just having an amazing season.

 

  1. Boston Red Sox (31-20)

 

I’m very impressed by my Red Sox this month.  JBJ and Xander Bogaerts now have the two longest hitting streaks all season.  During those hitting streaks, the Red Sox offense took the league lead in batting average, runs, hits, slugging percentage and OPS.  Xander Bogaerts is batting a whopping .354, Big Papi is hitting .337 with 14 dingers and Jackie Bradley Jr. now has a .331 average.  JBJ barely hit over .200 last year!  In total, nearly half the Red Sox lineup is batting over .300.  Big Papi leads the league in RBI and is tied for 5th in home runs.  This lineup really took off in May, the Sox just need to make sure their rotation can save them when TE lineup has a rough day.  

 

  1. New York Mets (29-21)

 

This is another red hot team of May.  The young rotation have the Mets at a combined 3.19 ERA and 1.20 WHIP.  the lineup has been impressive as well.  Yoenis Cespedes has led the Mets to being tied for the league lead in homers.  Even with Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy (permanently) gone from the lineup, it has still thrived.  The Mets are in a tight race in the division with the Nationals, but no matter what, they look to be headed for the playoffs as this young team is consistently competitive.  

 

  1. Washington Nationals (31-21)

 

The Nats have finally lived up to their expectations this year.  An early tart definitely helps.  The rotation is doing very well.  They lead the league in strikeouts and are in the top 3 for WHIP, BAA and ERA.  Three Nats starters have an under 3.00 ERA.  Daniel Murphy also picked up right where he left off last October and now leads the league in batting average.  Bryce Harper also is in the competition for league leader in home runs, with 13 dingers so far.  They will have competition in the division with the Mets chasing them down every corner, but so far they have proven that they can keep up.  

 

  1. San Francisco Giants (32-21)

 

This is another hot team of late!  This team is led by a trio of amazing starters.  The Giants revamped the rotation in the off season, and it worked all right!  At 6-2, Madison Bumgarner is still leading the rotation well, but they now have extra depth with quality starters Johnny Cueto (8-1) and Jeff Samardzija (7-3).  All three of them have ERAs between 2.10 and 2.90, two of them under 2.50.  The lineup has also thrived, and not just Buster Posey.  Hunter Pence has had a strong year so far, batting .304, and Brandon Belt has also had some good stretches.  If this team can keep things up, they could have their fourth even year World Series in a row.  

 

  1. Seattle Mariners (30-21)

 

After all these years in the shadows, the Mariners have finally proven to be a playoff competitor.  King Felix and a young, revamped rotation with intriguing guys like Taijuan Walker have finally taken the leap.  The Mariners have a combined 3.36 ERA and 1.19 WHIP with a .232 BAA.  Robinson Cano has also been a deciding factor, and leads the league in homers (tied with 3 others) at 15.  He is behind only David Ortiz in RBI.  Cano is even batting .293/.345/.585, and average is not his specialty.  Nelson Cruz has also stayed strong and relevant.  The Mariners are finally in the competition this year as I predicted.  They have a young, balanced roster that can do great things.

 

  1. Baltimore Orioles (28-21)

 

This team had such a strong start, and even though they have tapered off a bit in May, you still can’t count them out.  In the Orioles unexpected strong start, Mark Trumbo and Manny Machado got started on amazing seasons, and they have thrived in May as well.  Surprise playmaker Joey Rickard has built off an amazing spring training.  Even with Trumbo and Rickard hot, Machado still leads the team in hitting, batting .311/.387/.611.  Machado has 13 dingers and Trumbo has 15, tied for the league lead.  Their rotation has been the issue in May.  Key starter Yovani Gallardo, added this off-season is hurt, making the rotation once again unstable.  Chris Tillman has bounced back well, but they have struggled otherwise.  However, in the end they have stayed competitive throughout the season and I believe they will continue to do that.  

 

  1. Texas Rangers (30-21)

 

Injuries and all, this team has still been able to keep things up.  Shin-Soo Choo and Josh Hamilton are still out, but young outfielders Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo have taken their places, and Mazara is hitting .309!  Yu Darvish just returned, and he looks good as ever.  Wins have been tough in Texas but as a team, they have been able to stay strong, keep up with the AL West and thrive. Usually, the Rangers have either a cold start or collapse late.  Right now, it looks like neither will happen as long as they continue getting healthier.  

 

  1. Chicago White Sox (28-25)

 

The White Sox have definitely been on a downtrend, but after such a good start, you can’t underestimate them.  The rotation is still strong, young Jose Quintana is in her prime and Chris Sale is still pitching at Cy Young level.  Todd Frazier is tied for league lead in homers at 15.  However, the rest of the lineup has began to slump this month.  They had a really good run in April, but now, their strength is starting to taper off.  Sure, Adam Eaton has kept a decent average, but nobody has hit well in this month particularly.  Still, you can’t count strong April teams out, even teams like the White Sox and Reds.  

 

  1. Cleveland Indians (26-24)

 

The Indians started slow, but have really kept up with the division this month.  Young hitters Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez have heated up.  Veterans like Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana and even Mike Napoli have had strong months. Each of them have a low average, but a good amount of dingers and RBIs, resulting in a decent slugging percentage.  Their rotation has also had a good month, even without Carlos Carrasco.  Danny Salazar has been pitching well consistently and Corey Kluber and Josh Tomlin have also contributed.  In the end, the Indians could be playoff-worthy if they keep up this level of play.  

 

  1. Pittsburgh Pirates (29-22)

 

This team has been surging forward lately after a rough start.  The lineup has been on fire.  Josh Harrison, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco are all hitting .310 or higher.  Polanco has 36 RBI, Andrew McCutchen has 9 dingers and Marte has a whopping 17 stolen bases!  Despite rotation struggles, this team has functioned due to a powerful lineup consisting of Josh Harrison and a great outfield in Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco.  

 

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers (28-25)

 

The Dodgers aren’t as sharp as usual, but they’re still doing alright.  The rotation is successful as ever.  Clayton Kershaw, tied with Jake Arrieta, leads the league in ERA.  He also leads in strikeouts, WHIP and innings pitched alone.  He is in a 4-way tie for most complete games.  Kenta Maeda as also been serviceable.  Between many ups and downs, Maeda has exactly a 3.00 ERA.  However, the bullpen has struggled, and besides Adrian Gonzalez and Corey Seager (neither has a .300 BA or 10 homers), they aren’t hitting.  

 

  1. Kansas City Royals (28-22)

 

The Royals aren’t in great shape.  Mike Moustakas is out for the season, Alex Gordon is hurt (again!) and the lineup has had a lot of general road blocks.  However, young risers Cheslor Cuthbert, Whit Merrifield, Paulo Orlando and Jarrod Dyson have stepped up, and the Royals still have Eric Hosmer, Alcides Escobar, Salvador Perez and Lorenzo Cain.  In fact, Hosmer has a .328 AVG, chasing the league best.  He also has 10 dingers and 35 RBIs.  Lorenzo Cain has stayed hot from the postseason as well, similarly to Daniel Murphy of the Washington Nationals. However, pitching has once again been a major problem.  The Royals have again struggled to find an ace with Johnny Cueto gone.  Yes, Yordano Ventura and Edinson Volquez have still shown the qualities, but are too inconsistent.  Right now, them along with Ian Kennedy and the rest of the rotation have seriously slumped, and we haven’t seen anything from Volquez or Ventura.  Ventura even has a whopping 5.17 ERA!  The Royals are lucky the bullpen has stayed strong and found a new dependable closer.  

 

  1. Houston Astros (23-29)

 

Sure, the Astros have been pretty sloppy this season, but they are a good team.  I’m sure they can come back, and they’ve already shown signs of surging forward.  Jose Altuve has been on fire, batting .329 and stealing 15 bases while scoring 42 runs.  George Springer also has 13 dingers, 34 RBI and a .290 average. Even Colby Rasmus has had some hot stretches, with 8 homers and 31 RBI. The lineup is still in shape, but the rotation has been a mess!  The lowest ERA in the rotation belongs to Doug Fister at 3.86, and nobody has more than 5 wins.  Despite 64 strikeouts, Dallas Keuchel has been terrible following a Cy Young award, the second straight Cy Young surprise to do so.  If this rotation doesn’t step it up, this team won’t be able to surge any further.  But if they pull it together, the ‘Stros could make a comeback.  

 

  1. Toronto Blue Jays (27-26)

 

At the start of the season, it was looking to be like last year.  Minimal pitching, strong hitting.  But analysts were wrong.  The rotation has been solid, while the lineup has been good, but inconsistent.  The best guys like Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion are still playing decent baseball, and Michael Saunders is warming up, but nobody is at their normal level of play.  The rotation on the other hand, has been surprisingly strong.  Marco Estrada (2.43 ERA) and Aaron Sanchez (2.99 ERA) have been spot-on, with ERAs under 3.00, and even with top guys Marcus Stroman and R.A. Dickey struggling, once borderline starter J.A. Happ has put up a whopping 3.06 ERA.  The Blue Jays could start to catch up with the top of the AL East, but they need their best lineup weapons back on track.  

 

  1. Detroit Tigers (24-26)

 

This team may be struggling, but they do have some impactful players.  Victor Martinez is on fire, batting .347/.390/.551.  Nick Castellanos, Ian Kinsler and Miguel Cabrera also have above .300 batting averages and J.D. Martinez and Miggy have 12 dingers apiece.  Plus, Jordan Zimmermann still has a 2.58 ERA after starting the year with an impressive stretch where he had a 0.00 ERA.  However, the rest of the rotation has also been in decline, for them more serious than J-Zimm.  Justin Verlander may have 77 strikeouts, but besides him and Zimmermann, the rotation has really fallen asleep this month.  Even the lineup saw more of its production in April.  Are this team’s best players only going to get less productive as the months go by?

 

  1. St. Louis Cardinals (27-25)

 

For so many seasons, the Cardinals were in playoff contention.  What happened this year?  Well, for starters, the rotation is a man down with Lance Lynn out for the season while recovering from off season Tommy John surgery.  Jaime Garcia wasn’t even expected to be at regular starter level.  But really, even though Garcia has a 3.48 ERA, the rest of the rotation was worse!  The rotation is worsening significantly!  The lineup is also led by surprising players.  Only Aledmys Diaz and Stephen Piscotty have averages over .300!  The reason that the Cards are struggling is that the only players are still performing are the unexpectedly good players, and they’ve only been slightly above replacement level!  They’re missing production from their best stars, and that’s making a huge impact, causing St. Louis to go from playoff contender to .500 team.  

 

  1. Miami Marlins (26-25)

 

The Marlins may have improved overall, but now they’re stuck in mediocrity.  Who has impacted the improvement?  For one thing, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna have hit as well as if not better than fellow outfielder Giancarlo Stanton.  Stanton still has 12 home runs, but Yelich is batting .328 with 5 dingers and Ozuna is batting .314 with 11 dingers.  Stanton has an average of just .202!  Even if the rest of the rotation has struggled, Jose Fernandez is right on his game!  Fernandez is 9-2 with a 2.29 ERA, 110 K, 74.2 IP and a 1.06 WHIP.  Those are some under the radar numbers.  However, nobody else in the rotation has an ERA below 3.50 or even 5 wins!  The rest of the rotation is doing even poorly than last year.  That never helps in a resurgence.  

 

  1. Colorado Rockies (23-27)

 

How is this team performing?  The rotation clearly isn’t doing anything to help.  Most likely, it’s a boost from the lineup.  After an unbelievable April, Trevor Story and Nolan Arenado are still on their game.  Carlos Gonzalez and Charlie Blackmon have upped their averages as additional help.  Even DJ LeMahieu and Mark Reynolds have boosted their power.  All of that plus 18 dingers from Arenado and 15 from Story.  What will even happen to Jose Reyes when he returns?  Story pretty much locked up the job for the season.  Arenado is tied for the best in the league in homers.  Arenado has 47 RBI and 42 runs to add to it.  Tyler Chatwood even has an under 3.00 ERA right now, even with the rest of the pitching staff doing foolishly bad.  

 

  1. Tampa Bay Rays (22-27)

 

They may be nearing the Yankees and Jays, but recovery from their slump will be tougher for them than the Blue Jays and Yankees.  With 14 homers and a .281 average, Evan Longoria is the only major power source in this lineup.  Like the rest of the division, even the once all-powerful league leading rotation is struggling!  Nobody has an ERA lower than 3.33, and only Drew Smyly has 70+ Ks.  So, between injuries, slumping players, an underperforming rotation and holes in the lineup, the Rays are stuck in a pretty ugly position.  

 

  1. Philadelphia Phillies (26-25)

 

I don’t know how the Phillies have kept up with the MLB this well, but what matters is they have.  This team is above .500 for the first time in 3-4 years!  Aaron Nola is suddenly a rotation leader.  He has a 2.65 ERA, 85 strikeouts and an 0.99 WHIP!  Some other pitchers have been on top of things as well.  Vincent Velasquez has been a quality starter even though he just transferred to the starter position, and Jeanmar Gomez has 18 saves as the new closer.  Even some hitters have performed, at least serviceably.  Odubel Herrera is hitting .317/.426/.436, and Maikel Franco has 10 dingers and 31 RBI.  

 

  1. Milwaukee Brewers (23-28)

 

The Brewers definitely look better this season.  For one thing, unexpected lineup sources have made the leap this season.  Jonathan Villar is hitting .307 with a league leading 21 stolen bases and 31 runs.  Chris Carter has bounced back with 14 dingers and 34 RBI.  Some lineup vets have also stayed on track.  Ryan Braun is hitting .337/.406/.552 with 9 homers and a .959 OPS.  Jonathan Lucroy is hitting just above .300.  However, the rotation is business as usual.  Only Jimmy Nelson has an ERA even below 4.00!  Nobody has 70 strikeouts, a 1.10 WHIP or more than 5 wins either.  This lineup may be turning it around, but the rotation’s bad reputation is holding this team back.  

 

  1. San Diego Padres (20-30)

 

Better roster, not going to cut it.  Better stats, not going to cut it.  What will at this point?  Some better overall team effort.  Matt Kemp may have his 14 homers and 41 RBI, Jon Jay and Wil Myers may be able to hit for average, but as a team, the Padres aren’t functioning.  Although the best Padres players are thriving, the rest of the team has failed to produce.  Piling  up on prospects after trading James Shields and James Loney may help for the future, but for now, the Padres need to find a different solution.  Everyone on the roster needs to find a way to contribute.  

 

  1. Arizona Diamondbacks (23-30)

 

It seems as if the Diamondbacks have bounced back.  Their stats are up, their young players are contributing as expected, and things look to be going as planned for the most part.  Then I saw their record and had no idea how they let that happen.  You might be wondering too after all that.  Well, I have answers.  Jean Segura may have been hot in May, but right now, it seems to be a quick moving fad, as he has seriously declined late in the month.  Robbie Ray may have 72 K and Zack Greinke may be 7-3 with 71 K, but otherwise, the rotation has severely struggled.  Again, it seems as if they’re fine, but really, they’re not producing consistently enough.  Also, A.J. Pollock is hurt, and besides well known veteran Paul Goldschmidt and Jake Lamb, the lineup has only been mediocre.  In fact, everyone on the team has an average between .200 and .300.  Now that really shows that when it comes to mediocrity, this  lineup is at rock bottom.  

 

  1. New York Yankees (25-26)

 

This team’s record is decent, but they aren’t in the best shape.  Carlos Beltran may have 14 home runs and 36 RBI, but nobody has a .300+ average and nobody else has more than 8 homers or 24 RBI.  This team hasn’t hit for power or average.  The rotation?  They’ve been alright, but inconsistent.  Some pitchers are by far more dependable than others.  Masahiro Tanaka and Nathan Eovaldi have stayed strong, but TE remainder of the rotation has not been good news.  This team has been decent has a team, but needs some players to make the leap or return to the star form they once held, or this team is going to fall apart.  

 

  1. Cincinnati Reds (17-34)

 

Not bad considering the Reds finished last year with most of their stars on the DL and as the 2nd worst team by record.  However, almost none of their new and improved performance took place in May.  One reason for that is injuries striking back.  The Reds lost Homer Bailey long term, and Raisel Iglesias got hurt.  The rotation is desperate for depth, there’s not many people left to replace who’s injured.  Nobody has an ERA under 3.00.  Nobody even had 60 strikeouts or 5 wins!  The lineup is gaining form at least.  Jay Bruce has 40 RBI and 35 runs and is hitting .279 with 13 dingers, Zack Cozart is hitting .301 with 8 dingers and Eugenio Suarez (13) and Joey Votto (11) each have piled up a good number of home runs.  Adam Duvall is chasing the top of the league in homers with 17 of them and 38 RBI. Joey Votto also has 34 RBI and Eugenio Suarez has 33.   Billy Hamilton even has 15 stolen bases.  So the lineup may be taking shape, but in order for this team to get back on track, the rotation needs to get healthy and get in shape!

 

  1. Atlanta Braves (15-35)

 

This team may have an ugly record, but  they aren’t as cold as some other teams, giving them a higher rank.  However, besides some good run totals, it seems as if the Braves lineup  has fallen asleep.  The highest average is Freddie Freeman’s measly .248.  In the rotation, nobody even has 3 wins and only Julio Teheran (2.92) has an under 3.00 ERA.  This team is still one of, if not the worst team in the league normally.  But believe it or not, there are teams that were cooler, have a worse record or put even less effort in this month.

 

  1. Oakland Athletics (23-29)

 

Okay, Khris Davis may have 14 dingers, but this team has sucked in May.  They started off alright in April, but have seriously flopped since.  Injuries are one problem.  Eric Sogard, Liam Hendriks, Sonny Gray, Jed Lowrie, Josh Reddick and Josh Phegley were hurt for a large portion of the month.  Chris Bassitt is out for the season in an already weak rotation and Rich Hill is the only pitcher with more than 3 wins and has a 2.25 ERA.  Currently, the A’s are down to just a 4 man rotation that looks like this:

 

  1. Sonny Gray
  2. Kendall Graveman
  3. Sean Manaea
  4. Jesse Hahn

 

Even with Sonny Gray back, Rich Hill now could be hurt.  Down goes the most valuable A’s pitcher too!  The A’s are down to the last straw.  If things don’t change fast, they’re done for.  

 

  1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (23-28)

 

Yes, I was expecting the Angels to go far downhill, but this is getting absolutely pathetic.  Mike Trout is still doing pretty well, hitting .309 with 13 homers and 43 RBI.  Yunel Escobar and Kole Calhoun have contributed too.  But I can’t bare watching the rotation!  Jered Weaver is a complete bust, and so is Hector Santiago.  With C.J. Wilson, Garrett Richards (out for Tommy John surgery) and Andrew Heaney hurt, the Angels are left with just Matt Shoemaker, Nick Tropeano (even he’s hurt now!) and Jhoulys Chacin behind them.  When they were at rock bottom, David Huff tried to step in.  That hasn’t worked either.  So the lineup is still in mediocrity but the rotation doesn’t have anything left to work with as of right now.  

 

  1. Minnesota Twins (15-35)

 

Alright, this team’s pitching staff still has most of its members healthy, but it’s still pathetic.  Nobody has even an ERA under 4.50 or 3 wins!  With Kyle Gibson only coming back in time to start June.  In May they were left with Ervin Santana, Tyler Duffey and Ricky Nolasco to create a 4-man rotation with one prospect.  The Twins had to rush their prospects up to MLB level to maintain a sustainable rotation.  The lineup is the only sign of slim hope for the Twins.  Eduardo Nunez is batting .332 with 30 RBI, and if Eduardo Escobar were healthy, he wouldn’t even be a starter most likely!  Miguel Sano and Byung-Ho Park may have low averages, however, they have 11 dingers apiece, and Sano has 27 RBI. Joe Mauer is hitting .281 with 7 dingers as well.  Those are respectable numbers, but compared to the rest of the MLB, come on!  Compared to MLB leaders, the Twins lineup is also a big disappointment.  If the lineup doesn’t take it up a notch or the rotation doesn’t recover, the Twins aren’t going anywhere.  They’ll be 30th best for the rest of the season, no higher, no lower.  

 

That wraps up May’s rankings.  Be on the lookout for June rankings later this month.