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

Welcome to Article #2 of my 2019 MLB preseason power rankings.  In this article, though I am covering teams that are unlikely to contend, all of these teams have something to look forward to, and I will be discussing that.  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!

Let’s jump right back into the rankings:

24. seattle-mariners-logo Seattle Mariners

The Case for the Mariners

There were rumors that the Mariners would finally rebuild this off-season after Jerry Dipoto’s roster retooling has failed the Mariners time and time again. But Dipoto was back at it this winter. He did make the roster a bit younger, but there were no blatant signs of a full rebuild. The Mariners did, however, trade away Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz, two of the team’s best players. He also let Nelson Cruz walk. That will lead to some regression this season. Most teams regress after losing their best player or two. Look at what happened to the Tigers without Justin Verlander. Adding Edwin Encarnacion gives them a new centerpiece for now, but how long will he remain elite, and how long will Dipoto keep him around for?

Something to Look Forward to

The Mariners haven’t really found an identity yet this season.  But by the end of the year, I think they will be known as a power-hitting team.  Encarnacion and Jay Bruce add power to a lineup that already has Mitch Haniger, Dee Gordon, and other big hitters.  Maybe Kyle Seager will even bounce back this year.  Dipoto seems to have confidence in Seager.  The rotation may struggle, but this lineup could be a nightmare at times for opposing pitchers.

Projected Finish: 71-91, 5th in AL West

23. san diego-padres San Diego Padres

The Case for the Padres

The Padres are taking small steps back towards contention after a rebuild before 2017. They signed 1B Eric Hosmer before 2018 to enhance their lineup, and they enhanced it further by signing 26-year old free agent 3B Manny Machado, one of the top two free agents on the market. They also added 2B Ian Kinsler for the year as well and are targeting top remaining SPs like Dallas Keuchel. They should continue to gradually add pieces to the puzzle as their incoming prospects develop and make their way up. Top prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. will likely make his way up this year. Though the Padres won’t contend in 2019, the future is bright in San Diego, and maybe Tatis’ first full season in 2020 will spark something alongside a few more veterans.

Something to Look Forward to

I think the #1 thing to look forward to here is what’s ahead in San Diego.  Padres fans might be disappointed in the team right now, but that will all change in the years to come.  After attempting to rush to contention in 2016, the Padres have tried to take things slow this time around.  It has made for a painful few years in San Diego, but the Padres are more likely to succeed now that they have a mix of veteran talent (Machado, Hosmer, Myers) and intriguing prospects like Tatis.  The rotation is still a major issue though.  That will have to be fixed before the Padres even think about contention.

Projected Finish: 71-91, 4th in NL West

22. texas-rangers Texas Rangers

The Case for the Rangers

The Rangers may not be what they used to be, especially with 3B Adrian Beltre retiring. But they won’t be as bad as people think. People don’t give enough credit to the non-roster invites Texas handed out this off-season. A lot of the players they added deserved major league deals, but waited too long and missed out. This group includes OF Hunter Pence, two-way player Matt Davidson, 2B Logan Forsythe, and UT Danny Santana. They also added Asdrubal Cabrera on an MLB deal. These veterans could add to the lineup’s core of Joey Gallo, Elvis Andrus, and Nomar Mazara. The rotation has some nice veteran pieces as well, but there is no true ace – most of the starters are about equally talented. The bullpen could also be better, but this team should still avoid last place in the AL West.

Something to Look Forward to

The Rangers may not be ready for contention yet, and the future is uncertain.  But their lineup could be pretty powerful considering the veterans they added this off-season like Pence and Cabrera.  Andrus,  Gallo, and Mazara already made for a pretty powerful trio.

Projected Finish: 73-89, 4th in AL West

21. Related image Tampa Bay Rays

The Case for the Rays

The Rays were on the verge of contention in 2018 despite making numerous subtractions in the 2017-18 off-season and at the 2018 Trade Deadline. They lost more of their players in 2018 free agency, and they didn’t bring in replacements. I think that their money-saving tactics will get to them in 2019. It will be hard to maintain a viable rotation even with the opener.  This is especially true when you consider the fact that #3 starter Tyler Glasnow has minimal experience as a starting pitcher. The lineup lacks a true centerpiece as it has since Evan Longoria left. Playoff contention is not sustainable for the second year in a row as the Rays continue to subtract. What they are doing is starting a rebuild. The 2018 team was never supposed to contend, and I expect the same here.

Something to Look Forward to

Though I see the team taking a step back after dumping away some of their veterans, young talent has already began to populate the roster, and it could mean good things for the future of this team.  Yandy Diaz is an underrated player, and Matt Duffy, Willy Adames, Austin Meadows, Joey Wendle, Glasnow, Brent Honeywell, Christian Arroyo, and others will also make a significant impact in the long run if they don’t in 2019.

Projected Finish: 75-87, 4th in AL East

20. Toronto_Blue_Jays Toronto Blue Jays

The Case for the Blue Jays

The Blue Jays are beginning a rebuild after trading away Josh Donaldson and Curtis Granderson and releasing Troy Tulowitzki. Yet they are in the same spot as last year. This is because their next wave of prospects, headlined by future All-Star Vladimir Guerrero Jr., is on their way up. I believe that if these prospects live up to expectations, the team will not regress so much from last year. If things work out, the Jays might be a couple starting pitchers away from contention by 2020. But for now, the Blue Jays will sit around .500 as they struggle to keep up with their AL East rivals, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.

Something to Look Forward to

The Jays could contend very soon, as they were able to get rid of declining players without suffering from the holes they left.  Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, and others give me confidence in the future of the team.  This year, they’ll look to replace the players the Blue Jays moved on from.

Projected Finish: 79-83, 3rd in AL East

19. Related image Oakland Athletics

The Case for the Athletics

The A’s are coming off a surprise playoff appearance. But though they did add SP Marco Estrada and INF Jurickson Profar to replace 2B Jed Lowrie (left in free agency) and Sean Manaea (injured), expect regression in 2019. Their miraculous playoff run will not be repeated. The rotation lacks the same depth is had in 2018 with Jharel Cotton and Manaea injured. The bullpen could make up for that, especially if the A’s use the opener again, but a playoff contender needs a good rotation and multiple power hitters in the lineup. You could argue the A’s already have the latter in Matt Chapman and Khris Davis, but the rotation is definitely a problem, and the A’s could have used another power hitter.

Something to Look Forward to

If Chapman, Matt Olson, and Davis produce like they did last year, this lineup could lead the Athletics to exceed expectations.  This lineup also gives me confidence that though the Athletics don’t have much money, they are capable of crafting contending teams that are mostly homegrown.

Projected Finish: 80-82, 3rd in AL West


That’s all for this 2nd article in my MLB 2019 preseason power rankings.  Stay tuned for more MLB and Red Sox coverage soon.  In my next power ranking article, I’ll be looking at the teams in the middle of the pack, #18-13.

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Baseball Bits #11: How Much are Harper, Machado, Really Worth?

Welcome to the final article of my initial 2018-19 MLB free agency coverage.  Bryce Harper and Manny Machado may be the Top 2 free agents of the off-season, but how much money are they really worth?  Keep reading to find out my take.  If you haven’t seen them yet, you can also check out my previous MLB free agency articles at the links below.  In February, I may also have some updated predictions on where the final remaining free agents will sign, so stay tuned.

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MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Coverage – Tentative Schedule

Week of November 19: MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Pitchers

Week of November 26: MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Catchers & Infielders

Week of December 3: MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Outfielders & Trade Ideas

Week of January 21: Baseball Bits #11: How Much Money are Harper, Machado Really Worth?

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It’s been a crazy off-season so far.  The Mariners have completely refreshed their roster, and the Dodgers dealt away Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp in one trade.  Winter Meetings were not only full of trades, but also free agent signings.  Many of the top free agents, including Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Brantley, Josh Donaldson, Wilson Ramos, Yasmani Grandal, and Andrew McCutchen have been signed.

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But the top two free agents of the off-season, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, remain unsigned.  Harper and Machado are regarded as a couple of the league’s best offensive players, and among free agent batters, Harper and Machado were the Top 2 in oWAR.  Both Harper and Machado are capable of making a mediocre team a contender, or making a team that’s already a borderline playoff contender a relevant World Series contender.  

Machado met with three teams in December: the White Sox, Yankees, and Phillies.  He is likely going to sign with one of those three teams, but he has not made his decision yet, though he has reportedly narrowed it down to the White Sox and Phillies.  Originally, I had predicted that Machado would go to the Phillies.  But after their acquistion of Jean Segura, I see the White Sox as the best fit.  There could be mystery teams in on Machado though, according to several newer reports.

Harper has not met with any teams yet, but the Dodgers, Cubs, Nationals, and Phillies among others have shown interest.  After trading away two of their outfielders and more to the Reds for next to nothing, it would not be smart for the Dodgers to pass on Harper.  But I think there’s a chance he’ll sign with the White Sox or Phillies as well.

Although they have some different suitors, one thing Harper and Machado have in common is their demand for a big contract.  Harper turned down a 10 year, $300 million contract offered by the Nationals back in September. Machado could also reportedly sign for $250-300 million or more.  But are Harper and Machado, let alone any free agent batter worth that much money?

I did some research on some free agents throughout the last 12 years.  I looked at free agent batters and pitchers who were Top 50 in oWAR or pWAR the season before they hit the open market who ended up signing for at least $12 million/year and at least $45 million total.  I researched their stats the following year. Did their WAR improve or decline? I looked at other stats too, like OPS for batters, and ERA for pitchers. The goal is to gauge how much Harper and Machado are really worth based on how big an impact they could realistically make right off the bat.  Keep reading to see my research and some interesting “Baseball Bits” that I found through my research.

The Research

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The “Baseball Bits”

  • Of the 23 free agent batters since 2006 who were Top 50 in oWAR and signed for at least $12 million/year and $45 million total:
    • Only 2, or 8.7%  (Lorenzo Cain and Nelson Cruz) saw an increase in oWAR AND OPS throughout their contract, and only 1 of the 2 saw an increase in oWAR of 1.0 or more (Cruz, 4.2 → 6.0)
    • Only 4, or 17.4%, saw an increase in oWAR OR OPS throughout their contract:
      • Cain, 2017-2018
      • Justin Upton, 2016-2017
      • Cruz, 2014-2015
      • Victor Martinez, 2010-2011
    • 19 of the 23 (82.6%) saw a decrease in both oWAR AND OPS, and 14 of those 19 (60.9% of all the free agents, 73.7% of the 19), saw an decrease by 2.0 or more in WAR or 0.2 or more in OPS
    • Only 7 of the 23, or 30.4% were under 30 as a free agent
      Of those 7, 6 saw a decrease in OPS AND oWAR
    • Only Justin Upton saw an increase in OPS, while none of the 7 saw an increase in WAR
    • Harper and Machado both had an oWAR between 4.0 and 5.0 in 2018.  12 of these 23 free agents also had an oWAR between 4.0 and 5.0. Of the 12:
      • 2 saw an increase in both oWAR and OPS
      • 1 saw an increase in OPS
      • 9 saw a decrease in both
    • Harper and Machado both apparently want over $250 million.  Only 1 free agent hitter since 2006 (Alex Rodriguez, 10 years, $275 million) received that much, and he saw a significant decrease in both oWAR and OPS the next year.  Robinson Cano (10 years, $240 million) made almost that much and saw a mild to moderate decrease.
  • Of the 17 free agent pitchers since 2006 who were Top 50 in pWAR and signed for at least $12 million/year and $45 million total:
    • Only 1 (Max Scherzer) saw an improvement in pWAR AND ERA the next year
    • Only 2, or 11.8%, saw an improvement in pWAR OR ERA the next year:
      • Scherzer, 2014-2015
      • Jon Lester, 2014-2015
    • 15 of the 17 (88.2%) saw a decline in pWAR AND ERA.  12 of them (80% of the 15, 70.6% of of all the free agents) saw a decrease in ERA or pWAR by 2.0+
    • Only 5 of the 17 were under 30 at the end of their first year of the new contract (Barry Zito, CC Sabathia, Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, Johnny Cueto).  Only 2 of the 5 (Scherzer and Lester) saw an increase in pWAR or ERA
    • None of these free agent pitchers were paid anything close to $250 million.  The largest of their contracts went to:
      • David Price, 2015-2016 (7 years, $217 million)
      • Max Scherzer, 2014-2015 (7 years, $210 million)
      • Zack Greinke, 2015-2016 (6 years, $206.5 million)
      • Of these 3, only Scherzer saw an improvement in pWAR OR ERA

The Verdict

Very few of the free agents since 2006 saw their WAR, OPS, or ERA improve on their new contract.  You have to take into consideration that Harper and Machado are younger than any of these free agents.  However, 3 of the 4 free agent batters who saw an increase in WAR or OPS were actually 30 or older.  This may be due to the fact that it’s easier to judge an older free agent.  But both Harper and Machado entered the league as teenagers and have proven themselves throughout the years.  Finding the right young free agent is hard, as it’s not everyday that two proven 26-year old sluggers hit the open market in one off-season.  I also saw different results among free agent pitchers, as both pitchers who saw either their ERA or WAR improve on their new contract were under 30.  Plus, both of the free agent batters who saw their stats improve had an oWAR between 4.0 and 5.0 the year before signing, just like Harper and Machado did in 2018.  However, it’s not like the teams in the market for Harper and Machado necessarily expect better stats throughout their new contract, especially if they’re looking to sign 8-12 year deals.  Some might not even expect improvement from 2018 to 2019.  But you should expect your $300 million dollar free agent to improve the next year.

The real question is, should anyone (even the Dodgers) pay Harper or Machado $300 million?  Similar contracts that have been signed in the last 10-12 years have not ended up working out so well.  Alex Rodriguez signed a 10-year, $275 million deal with the Yankees in 2008 (the most among the free agents I researched).  He was a star player for the Yankees early on in the contract, but his stats saw a decline in Year 1 of the contract, and by 2015, his stats had declined significantly.  Maybe the steroids had something to do with it (2014 was the year he missed for steroids), but he was no longer the same A-Rod when he returned from his suspension, and he ended up retiring the year before his contract expired.

The only other free agent batter who even came close to receiving that kind of contract was 2B Robinson Cano, who signed for 10 years, $240 million with the Mariners in 2014.  Things have worked out in the first half of his contract, but he didn’t quite play at the level he did with the Yankees.  Who knows, maybe he will improve after being traded to the Mets and returning to New York City, but so far, he has begun to slowly decline during his new contract.  He’s still a key piece in the lineup, but he made even more of an impact with the Yanks.

Harper and Machado are a unique situation, but it would be silly to give them $300 million only for them to decline significantly.  I can’t see any team giving Harper or Machado much more than A-Rod without regretting it later.  They are younger and Harper nearly won the Triple Crown in 2015, so maybe they’re worth a little more, but not $300 million.  I don’t think Machado is worth more than A-Rod, and his attitude has turned some teams off.  I think he goes to the White Sox, but it would be ridiculous to give him much more than $25 million/year.  A 10 year, $260 million deal could work.  As for Harper, he may be worth a little more due to his MVP season, and the Dodgers should be willing to bid a little more after their trade with Cincinnati.  But he’s still not worth $300 million or more.  9 years, $288 million would be more reasonable.  The Dodgers may end up giving him over $300 million, but I don’t think it’s worth it.

That’s all for this edition of Baseball Bits.  Stay tuned for more MLB coverage soon, including my MLB 2019 Season Predictions (which will come after the NFL season ends and Harper and Machado finally sign).

 

 

Ranking The Teams 6-1, My Version: The Dominant

Welcome to the 5th and final day of my MLB preseason power rankings.  We have finally made it to the top of the list.  The most dominant teams are here.  However, each of them had one Achilles Heel.  That will be revealed today.  Last time, we looked at some other contenders that had problems that were really holding them back.  This time, the problems aren’t as big, and because of that, these 6 teams will dominate.  Let’s get started with #6.

Missed a previous article?  Check below:

Ranking The Teams 30-25, My Version: The Ugly

Ranking The Teams 24-19, My Version: The Bad

Ranking The Teams 18-13, My Version: The Mediocre

Ranking The Teams 12-7, My Version: The Contending

 

Now that the series is over, you will be able to view all the articles under the “Ranking The Teams” tag.

6. cleveland-indians Cleveland Indians

Off-season Review

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The Indians had a very brief off-season, but the moves they did make made a big impact.  They signed Austin Jackson, Edwin Encarnacion, and Boone Logan.  Each of these players will help the team in a different way.  Jackson is a veteran mentor in the outfield that will rotate with the younger players.  His bat will be helpful for the Indians.  Edwin Encarnacion will play DH or first base, and his big bat will lead the Indians lineup.  Logan will be a late inning reliever and helps this bullpen’s depth.  These moves make the Indians look better than before and give them that last little push that makes them AL Central favorites.

The Case for the Indians

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The Indians are in store for another strong season.  Despite small holes, the Indians’ lineup is looking better than before.  With Michael Brantley healthy, they could kick but.  The rotation’s top three will still kick butt, but there are problems in the 4 and 5 spots.  Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin aren’t the greatest options out there.  The Indians have always had bullpen depth issues as well, but helped resolve them by signing Boone Logan and claiming Tim Cooney off waivers.  The Indians made some big moves this off-season and will hope that leads to a bigger season.

The Achilles Heel

It’s hard to point out one singular Achilles Heel for the Indians.  The problems they have are all pretty small, but all together, they cause bigger problems.  If there was one clear weakness on this team to point out, it would probably be the outfield.  The rotation and bullpen aren’t that bad and have gotten better in recent years.  Most of the lineup is good, but the outfield could be a problem.  Michael Brantley should be good to go, but there aren’t many significant players around him.  This wouldn’t be a problem if Brantley was 100%.  But the Indians don’t have a good outfielder fully healthy.  Austin Jackson is getting older, and the Indians don’t have another significant outfielder to fill the last slot. The last slot will have to be filled by players who aren’t quite ready yet.  The choices are limited.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation thrives and a strong lineup leads the Indians back to the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation struggles and the lineup can’t really do that much better as the Indians fail to win the AL Central.

Projected Finish: 92-70, 1st in AL Central

 

5. boston-red-sox Boston Red Sox

Off-season Review

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Much like the Indians, the Red Sox had a very brief off-season but made the most of the moves they made.  With Big Papi retired, the Red Sox added Mitch Moreland to preserve the dominant status of their lineup.  They also traded away Yoan Moncada and three other prospects to the White Sox but got ace Chris Sale in return. Lastly, they traded Travis Shaw away for Tyler Thornburg.  Hopefully, a slimmed-down Pablo Sandoval will fill Shaw’s role.  Now, the lineup, rotation, and bullpen are better.

The Case for the Red Sox

The Red Sox are my team, so it’s hard not to be biased, but this is a very talented team.  The rotation is one of the best in the league now, led by three ace level pitchers who are all Cy Young candidates.  The lineup is still overpowered even without Big Papi, and if the back of the rotation struggles, the bullpen is improved as well.  This is a strong all-around team but could they have a weak spot?

The Achilles Heel

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Yes, even teams like this have an Achilles Heel.  Without David Ortiz, there is a strain put on the lineup.  Travis Shaw and Aaron Hill are also gone.  Hanley Ramirez will move to DH. Mitch Moreland will fill in at first.  But who plays third?  Pablo Sandoval has not proved himself worthy since he joined the Red Sox.  Maybe now that he lost some weight, he will have a bounce back year.  But it is pretty risky putting him in the full-time starting job at third.

Best Case Scenario: The lineup continues to do well, the rotation kicks butt, and the Red Sox win their fourth World Series since breaking the curse.

Worst Case Scenario: The lineup struggles without Big Papi, the rotation can’t find a rhythm, and the Red Sox struggle to make the playoffs.

Projected Finish: 92-70, 1st in AL East

 

4. St_Louis_Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals

Off-season Review

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Like many good teams, the Cardinals didn’t go all out this off-season but made a couple bold moves to improve.  They got the Cubs back and picked up Dexter Fowler, who will be a leader in a young outfield.  Now there’s competition in a tight NL Central.  They also signed Brett Cecil to add to a strong bullpen.  The Cardinals are in good shape.

The Case for the Cardinals

The Cardinals couldn’t compete with the Cubs in 2016, but they have gained on the Cubs.  The addition of Dexter Fowler has helped.  The bullpen is also better.  The rotation should improve most of all.  Lance Lynn is coming back, and I could see Mike Leake bouncing back.  That fills a strong rotation that will help lead the Cardinals.  The lineup is also better and after this off-season’s changes, the Cardinals will compete with the Cubs.

The Achilles Heel

The one problem with this team is that there’s too much pressure on the young guys to do well.  Consistency is tough for young players, and parts of their lineup include younger players like Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk. and Aldemys Diaz.  You never know with these younger players.  Until players reach their prime, it’s hard to foresee how they will do.  That’s where the Cardinals are at, and they’ve been facing that problem since they decided to let their younger players take over.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation dominates, the lineup looks better and the Cardinals win the NL Central with ease.

Worst Case Scenario: The young team is inconsistent and struggles, leading them to miss the playoffs for a second straight year.

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

 

3. washington-nats Washington Nationals

Off-season Review

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Unlike most good teams, the Nationals were super busy this off-season.  They got two new catchers, Derek Norris and Matt Wieters.  They also signed Adam Lind and traded Lucas Giolito to Chicago for Adam Eaton.  They also upgraded their bullpen, signing several guys including Joe Nathan.  Will these moves be enough to finally win the Nats a World Series?

The Case for the Nationals

The Nationals are in good shape for 2017.  The rotation still looks pretty good and is led by the best duo of starters in the league.  The bullpen did have depth issues, but after this off-season, that shouldn’t be a problem.  The lineup is also looking a little bit better after an active off-season.  There could be a hole at shortstop if Trea Turner can’t play there, but Turner is the likely starter.  The Nats are looking better in 2017 and could run for a championship.

The Achilles Heel

The one problem with this team is the infield.  When Danny Espinosa left for LA, he left a hole.  Now, there are questions remaining.  Can Trea Turner adjust smoothly?  How will the lineup and infield fare without Espinosa?  Those questions must be answered, and if the Nats can say “yes” and “good” to those questions, they will do very well.

Best Case Scenario: The lineup looks better, the pitching dominates the league, and the Nationals go on to win the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: The off-season’s lineup changes don’t work out, the rotation fails to stay healthy and the Nats fail to win the NL East.

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

 

2. texas-rangers Texas Rangers

Off-season Review

The Rangers are looking good after their off-season moves.  I know a lot of people think they’ll flop, but this team can be dominant, I can’t see them missing the playoffs.  They improved their rotation.  They signed former Padres pitchers Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross to add to a strong top of the rotation.  The bullpen isn’t as good after losing Shawn Tolleson.  The Rangers also signed James Loney and Mike Napoli to fill the gaps that Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland left.  They also resigned most of their key free agents, which preserved most of what they had last year.

The Case for the Rangers

This team is better than it looks.  You may think this lineup is getting older, but young stars are actually taking up a good part of it.  The lineup will dominate.  Meanwhile, the rotation has continued to improve.  After boosting the top of the rotation the last two years, they signed two more starters to fill out the rest of the rotation with Derek Holland gone.  The bullpen is looking better, but does it still need work.

The Achilles Heel

If you think that the lineup is the problem, you’re wrong.  The rotation isn’t perfect.  It can’t do everything.  The weak bullpen will be a problem.  It’s lacking depth, which can’t happen when the rotation is not completely solid.  This isn’t the best rotation in the MLB.  They can’t do the whole pitching job, and until they find some bullpen help in Texas, the pitching staff’s depth problems will be the Rangers Achilles Heel.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation is solid, the lineup is dominant, and the Rangers find themselves in the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: The pitching staff holds the Rangers back, the lineup declines, and the Rangers are led to finish 3rd in the AL West.

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

 

1. Chicago_Cubs Chicago Cubs

Off-season Review

The Cubs did lose Jason Hammel, but they improved their depth in the rotation and bullpen.  They signed Brett Anderson and claimed Eddie Butler of waivers to help their rotation.  In order to upgrade the bullpen, they also signed Koji Uehara and traded away Jorge Soler for closer Wade Davis.  In addition, with Dexter Fowler leaving they signed Jon Jay. The Cubs are looking like World Series contenders for the third year in a row, can they make what they have into a dynasty for years to come?

The Case for the Cubs

The lineup here is looking as good as last year.  The fifth spot in the rotation could be a problem, but this team has so many bullpen options, and a few of them could compete for that 5th starting job.  This team looks ready to dominate again in 2017.  Their depth everywhere else isn’t as good as last year, but the lineup is solid, the rotation could be great, and the bullpen will help fill in the pitching’s holes.

The Achilles Heel

For such a perfect team, it’s hard to find an Achilles Heel without nitpicking.  There is one problem, though.  The lineup should be fine, but despite good options in the bullpen, if the Cubs don’t have a solid 5th starter, then the bullpen will start to get overtired, and this will cause widespread pitching staff issues.  These problems will only occur if the rest of the rotation can’t pitch a lot of innings and the 5th spot isn’t filled well., which may or may not happen.  This team is spotless for the most part.

Best Case Scenario: The lineup is at its best, the rotation dominates, and the Cubs are a lasting championship winning dynasty in years to come.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation is problematic, depth of the lineup becomes a problem, and the Cubs lose in the ALDS.

Projected Finish: 96-66, 1st in NL Central

 

That’s it for my preseason power rankings.  Hope you enjoyed it.  Comment with your feedback and predictions.  Now, the first Baseball Bits of 2017 is coming soon, and be on the lookout for a Red Sox spring training article.

 

Ranking The Teams 12-7, My Version: The Contending

Welcome to Day 4 of my MLB preseason power rankings.  Last time, I broke down the middle of the pack and the pros and cons of each team there.  Now we’ve made it to the playoff contenders.  Each of these teams has something that’s holding them back from dominance, though.  Today, I will break down what that is for each team.  Now, let’s get started with #12.

Missed a previous article?  Check below:

Ranking The Teams 30-25, My Version: The Ugly

Ranking The Teams 24-19, My Version: The Bad

Ranking The Teams 18-13, My Version: The Mediocre

 

12. sanfran-giants San Francisco Giants

Off-season Review

The Giants definitely could’ve had a bigger off-season.  It’s an odd year, and the rotation is still good, and they did upgrade the bullpen with Mark Melancon among others, but the Giants could’ve done more to boost a mediocre lineup that lacks depth.  Sure, they did improve the depth of their lineup, by signing Gordon Beckham, Jimmy Rollins, Michael Morse and Nick Hundley, but if there wasn’t a gaping hole in the outfield, Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson would not be fighting for the left field job.  The Giants have other holes and weaknesses as well.

The Case for the Giants

The Giants have some of the best pitchers in the entire MLB.  The lineup is decent but lacks stars.  Their only superstar players in the lineup are Buster Posey and Hunter Pence.  Those guys are good, but there are other problems.  There’s a hole in the outfield, and I don’t know if Eduardo Nunez will repeat what he did last year, and before last year, Eduardo Nunez was a backup infielder that was moving from team to team frequently.

What’s Holding Them Back

It’s pretty clear that depth problems and holes in the lineup are holding this team back.  They need a left fielder and some other options in the infield and outfield.  The bullpen still lacks depth as well, despite adding several quality relievers, including star closer Mark Melancon.  The Giants could contend, but these problems will really hold them back, and the fact that the bottom end of the lineup is not great.

Best Case Scenario: The better pitching helps the Giants contend, and the lineup is better than expected, helping the Giants win the NL West.

Worst Case Scenario: Depth problems hold the Giants back, and they cannot contend.

Projected Finish: 88-74, 2nd in NL West

 

11. Toronto_Blue_Jays Toronto Blue Jays

Off-season Review

Image result for jose bautista

The Blue Jays didn’t do much this off-season, which might hurt them.  However, they were pretty situated where they were, so won’t be impacted that much, and the moves they did make really made up for it.  The Jays lost Josh Thole and Edwin Encarnacion but signed Kendrys Morales and Jarrod Saltalamacchia in their place.  They also resigned Jose Bautista, which was a big move for them that prevented them from having a big hole in the outfield.

The Case for the Blue Jays

The Blue Jays have a strong all-around team.  But they’re playing in a tough division, and have a lot of competition.  One thing they do lack is superstars.  I cannot name a single legitimate MVP or Cy Young candidate on the Blue Jays.  That wouldn’t be a problem if they didn’t have a lot of other teams with stars to compete with.  The Blue Jays would be a lot better if every team better than them didn’t have superstars.  But that’s the truth.

What’s Holding Them Back

Two things are holding this team back.  First of all, there’s too much competition in the wild card race and in the AL East.  Second, the best the Blue Jays have for a star player is Josh Donaldson.  They clearly lack a true star.

Best Case Scenario: The Blue Jays dominate the tough competition in the AL East, cruise through the playoffs, and win the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: The Blue Jays decline this season due to tough competition, and the Blue Jays finish around .500.

Projected Finish: 88-74, 2nd in AL East

 

10. detroit-tigers Detroit Tigers

Off-season Review

The Tigers didn’t do much this off-season.  They did sign Omar Infante to a minor league deal and got Alex Avila back, but they didn’t add any quality players.  Their lineup has some holes and weaknesses yet to be fixed, which they should’ve fixed in free agency.  Despite a better rotation, this team will face depth problems and lineup problems in 2017.

The Case for the Tigers

Image result for miguel cabrera

The Tigers have a young rotation that will look better in 2017.  Their bullpen is also loaded.  The lineup, led by Miguel Cabrera, is also pretty good but lacks one thing, depth.  After losing Cameron Maybin in a trade, the Tigers only have two good outfielders, and the best they’ve got as a reserve infielder is Omar Infante.  Some of this lineup is also very inconsistent, so the Tigers could completely flop, or they could have a great season.

What’s Holding Them Back

Depth problems and inconsistency in the lineup have held this team back.  The Tigers could be great, but inconsistency may get in the way.  They don’t have a consistently good lineup, and their rotation still needs work despite improvement.  The Tigers will be better, but because of this fact, they won’t quite dominate yet.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation gets better, the lineup has a strong year, and the Tigers dominate.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation continues to struggle, the lineup is inconsistent, and the Tigers finish under .500.

Projected Finish: 89-73, 2nd in AL Central (2nd Wild Card)

 

9. los-angeles-dodgers Los Angeles Dodgers

Off-season Review

Image result for logan forsythe welcome to dodgers

The Dodgers re-signed their key free agents and upgraded what was a weak bullpen to add to it.  They also traded Jose De Leon for Logan Forsythe.  The rotation is one of the league’s best, and the lineup is pretty good as well but is held back by a lack of veterans.  Andre Ethier’s a little too washed up, same with Chase Utley.  That leaves just Adrian Gonzalez for experience in the lineup.  However, the Dodgers are looking better for 2017.

The Case for the Dodgers

The Dodgers are looking good on paper, but have some hidden problems.  The pitching staff is looking a lot better, but with how many injury prone guys they have, it will be hard to keep that rotation the way it is.  The lineup is also good but isn’t as good as last year.  Guys are getting older, Howie Kendrick is gone, and the lineup just doesn’t look as good as it used to in LA.

What’s Holding Them Back

The Dodgers are being held back by several things.  Depth problems, aging players, and a whole bunch of stuff that’s not clear on paper.  The Dodgers may be the best team on paper, but realistically, they have a lot more issues than you’d think.  I mean, look at the Buffalo Bills from the last two years.  They looked like playoff teams on paper.  The result?  Two mediocre seasons and one fired head coach.  The Dodgers won’t be that bad, but they won’t necessarily make it very far in the playoffs.

Best Case Scenario: A strong, balanced Dodgers team stays healthy and at it’s best, and the Dodgers make it far in the playoffs.

Worst Case Scenario: Injuries leave an impact, and the whole team declines and regresses, finishing third in the NL West.

Projected Finish: 90-72, 1st in NL West

 

8. new-york-mets New York Mets

Off-season Review

The Mets did resign a lot of their key free agents, but couldn’t grab on to any from other teams.  They also lost some of the depth of their lineup and rotation.  However, it’s hard not to like this team.  They arguably have the best rotation in the league and their lineup is looking a lot better than it used to.  The Mets are in a good position to win, but could depth bite back and be a problem?

The Case for the Mets

The Mets have a good lineup and a good rotation, but they lack two things.  One thing they lack is bullpen options.  They have a good closer and set up man, but beyond that, the Mets’ bullpen needs some work.  The second thing they lack is depth.  Depth is a team-wide problem for the Mets.  The depth of the lineup isn’t great.  The depth of the rotation is a problem.  The bullpen is suffering from lack of depth, which is depriving the Mets of a good bullpen.

What’s Holding Them Back

Didn’t I make it clear about what’s holding this team back?  Things weren’t like this last year.  This is the one cost of their quiet off-season.  This team lost Alejandro De Aza, Jon Niese, Bartolo Colon, Logan Verrett, Justin Ruggiano and James Loney to free agency.  That was half the bench, and both of the Mets’ spot starters and fill-in starters, gone.  However, the Mets didn’t contend last season because the lineup was still a work in progress.

Best Case Scenario: The lineup thrives, the rotation kicks butt, and the Mets win the NL East by a longshot.

Worst Case Scenario: The lineup continues to struggle, the young rotation doesn’t do as well, and the Mets struggle to stay over .500.

Projected Finish: 90-72, 2nd in NL East

 

7. houston-astros Houston Astros

Off-season ReviewImage result for carlos beltran astros

The Astros had a very active off-season.  They still have some holes in the lineup and the rotation is just mediocre, but they really upgraded their lineup.  They signed Josh Reddick, Carlos Beltran, and Norichika Aoki.  They also traded for Brian McCann.  This lineup does lack depth and has holes in some spots, but its core just got a whole lot stronger.

The Case for the Astros

Image result for altuve and correa

The Astros have the upside to win a World Series.  Their lineup looks a whole lot better but has a hole at first base that’s been there since Jon Singleton’s decline.  The infield, led by Jose Altuve is young and intriguing but also still in development.  The outfield is full of experienced veterans who will help lead this team.  The rotation isn’t amazing, but is still good and has some good depth.  If the young players can continue to perform well consistently, the Astros could be in for a great season.

What’s Holding Them Back

It’s not one singular thing that’s holding the Astros back.  It’s multiple things.  Depth problems and holes in the infield are just two minor issues that will make a slightly bigger impact.  The bullpen could be better too, and the Astros are still developing a little bit.  If by the end of the season, the younger players are seasoned enough, the Astros could easily win the World Series.

Best Case Scenario: The young guns dominate and the Astros win the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: Depth and holes bite back, the young guns fail to perform well, and the rotation struggles as the Astros finish around .500, between many AL West contenders.

Projected Finish: 91-71, 2nd in AL West

 

So, that’s all for Day 4 of these rankings.  The final part is coming tomorrow, so stay tuned!

 

MLB 2017 Predictions: Baseball Will Be Fun Again

The Super Bowl is in the books, and spring training is around the corner.  It’s time to take a look at what’s in store for this baseball season.  As Bryce Harper stated in 2016, he wants baseball to be fun again.  Well, 2017 will bring that, and I’ll tell you how.  There will be competition, players will have better seasons, and the MLB will just be a little bit more interesting.  Who will win it all?  Keep reading to find out.

My Predictions

AL East

  1. boston-red-sox Boston Red Sox 92-70
  2. Toronto_Blue_Jays Toronto Blue Jays 88-74
  3. new-york-yankees New York Yankees 87-75
  4. image Baltimore Orioles 80-82
  5. Tampa_Bay_Rays Tampa Bay Rays 69-93

The Red Sox did lose David Ortiz, but they got Chris Sale in the off-season, and after this off season, the rotation looks better, the bullpen is alright, and their lineup is still good.  The Blue Jays are still going to be good, but after the loss of Edwin Encarnacion and Michael Saunders, they won’t be a playoff team.  Despite signing Kendrys Morales, this team doesn’t include a true superstar.  The Yankees went young and are looking better, but it will take time for them to return to the playoffs.  The Orioles rotation is falling apart again, and the Matt Wieters-less lineup isn’t enough.  Meanwhile, the Rays won’t get much better.  Despite a good rotation, they need big hitters to compete in the East.

AL Central

  1. cleveland-indians Cleveland Indians 92-70
  2. detroit-tigers Detroit Tigers 89-73
  3. kansas-city-royals Kansas City Royals 81-81
  4. chicago-white-sox Chicago White Sox 78-84
  5. minnesota-twins  Minnesota Twins 63-99

The Indians signed Edwin Encarnacion and will definitely stay on top because of that.    But what else did they do this off season?  Not much, that will hurt them in the playoffs.  The Tigers and Royals didn’t do much either, but one or both of them could have a bounce back seasons.  It won’t be enough to Top Cleveland though. The White Sox are depending on young talent, which isn’t a safe bet, and the Twins are still in the middle of a treacherous rebuild.  

AL West

  1. texas-rangers Texas Rangers 94-68
  2. houston-astros Houston Astros 91-71
  3. seattle-mariners-logo Seattle Mariners 86-76
  4. la-angels-of-anaheim Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 76-86
  5. oakland-a's Oakland Athletics 65-97

I don’t know why people are saying the Rangers are going to miss the playoffs.  Their lineup is almost as good as last year.  Despite losing Mitch Moreland and Ian Desmond, Josh Hamilton is working his way back and Jurickson Profar may contribute more in 2017.  The rotation is just as good if not better.  The Astros could also be a significant contender, with a better lineup and bullpen.  The Mariners and Angels also made some good moves and they both have gotten better overall. However, neither team is quite fit to contend yet.  Meanwhile, the Athletics are in a rebuild and will not contend either.  

NL East

  1. washington-nats Washington Nationals 93-69
  2. new-york-mets New York Mets 90-72
  3. miami-marlins Miami Marlins 87-75
  4. atlanta-braves Atlanta Braves 67-95
  5. philadelphia.phillies Philadelphia Phillies 65-97

The Nationals haven’t really done much this off-season, but they really haven’t lost much, and with a little fine-tuning, they could be as good as they have been.  The Mets should also be playoff material as they’ve put together a good lineup and still have one of the best rotations in the league.  The Marlins have also improved.  They have a good young lineup and the rotation has a lot of depth.  Although Jose Fernandez passed away, they added Jeff Locke and Edinson Volquez to maintain strength in their rotation.  Meanwhile, the Braves have a nice balance of old and young, but it will take a couple of years for them to rebuild.  Same with the Phillies.  Neither team will compete this year, but they are making smart moves for their future.  

 

NL Central

 

  1. Chicago_Cubs Chicago Cubs 96-66
  2. St_Louis_Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals 93-69
  3. pittsburgh-pirates Pittsburgh Pirates 85-77
  4. cincinnati_reds_logo Cincinnati Reds 74-88
  5. milwaukee-brewers Milwaukee Brewers 72-90

 

The Cubs made some nice finishing touches in the off-season, and despite losing Jason Hammel, their lineup’s still good, and they will still be a World Series contender.  The Cardinals should compete though.  Their lineup lacks a true star, but young talent should help them improve, along with new outfielder Dexter Fowler.  Their rotation is also looking a lot better for 2017 with Lance Lynn returning.  The Pirates lack a good rotation although their lineup is still good.  But without good pitching they will not be a playoff team.  The Reds are going to be alright but need to trade away the older guys and rebuild if they want any chance at a pennant in the near future, and the Brewers are already rebuilding.  For them, it will take a couple of years to be able to contend again.  

 

NL West

 

  1. los-angeles-dodgers Los Angeles Dodgers 90-72
  2. sanfran-giants San Francisco Giants 88-74
  3. colorado-rockies Colorado Rockies 85-77
  4. arizona-dbacks Arizona Diamondbacks 79-83
  5. san diego-padres San Diego Padres 63-99

The NL West will be a tight division with no clear leader.  The Dodgers are the favorites, but they have flaws, in the bullpen and in the lineup.  For the Giants, it’s an odd year.  The rotation looks good, but the lineup could struggle.  That gives the Rockies the chance to sneak into contention.  They have a powerful lineup and they play in a place where you need that.  Their rotation needs some work, but with a veteran mentor, the young rotation will look a lot better and the Rockies could contend.  They are one team that will help make baseball fun again, along with other teams like the Marlins, Astros, Mariners, Angels and Yankees to name a few.  Their unique experimental style is making the game interesting. Signing a guy like Jason Hammel, Jered Weaver or Doug Fister may help.  The D-Backs are a young team that I expect to improve in 2017.  In a few years, they could contend.  Meanwhile, the Padres are just, the Padres.  They’ve hit rock bottom in a horrific rebuild and may have one of their worst seasons ever.  Signing veterans short term back then didn’t work out, and it’s causing bigger problems now.

2017 MLB Playoffs

In the NL, the Cardinals will be a lot better. They will challenge the Cubs for the throne. Once the Cubs win that series though, they’ll have an easy path to the World Series, as the Nats, Mets and Dodgers are nowhere near as good as the NL Central rivals. In the World Series, I think the Cubs will be the favorite, but the best team doesn’t always win the World Series, and the Cubs won’t repeat. Instead, the Astros will surprise the Cubs, and their young talent will be enough to beat the Cubs. The Cubs are a good young team, but the Astros have more young talent, and that will help them win the World Series.

Too much to take in? Here’s a video to sum it all up: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWliFjZ7C6k

 

 

Awards

Here are my Top 3 choices for the MVP and Cy Young awards.

AL MVP

  1. Alcides Escobar KC – Escobar will prove himself in a contract year.
  2. Manny Machado BAL – Machado will continue greatness, this time, it will be MVP-worthy.
  3. Matt Holliday NYY – Holliday will come up big with his new team

 

NL MVP

  1. Bryce Harper WSH – Harper won’t repeat last season’s struggles.  Besides, baseball will be fun again for him.
  2. Nolan Arenado COL – Arenado will have another good season, this time bringing the Rockies up with him.
  3. Jason Heyward CHC – Heyward among others will keep the Cubs good in 2017.  The Cubs are still arguably the best team in the MLB.

 

AL Cy Young

 

  1. Cole Hamels TEX – Hamels will have a strong 2017 and go at a Cy Young.
  2. Chris Sale BOS – Sale will be motivated to start strong in Boston.
  3. Derek Holland CWS – Who needs Sale?  In Chicago, they’ll have a new ace in town with a breakout year by Derek Holland.

 

NL Cy Young

  1. Stephen Strasburg WSH – Strasburg will finally get healthy and return to Cy Young level
  2. Zack Greinke ARZ – Greinke will really bounce back in 2017, bringing on memories of  his 2015 greatness.
  3. Jeff Samardzija SF – Samardzija will lead a good 2017 Giants rotation, although the lineup in San Francisco will struggle.

 

ROTY Predictions:

AL – Andrew Benintendi: He will continue greatness in 2017, and go on to win Rookie Of The Year and be one of the better Red Sox hitters.

NL – Dansby Swanson: This won’t be an easy choice for voters, but Swanson will have a great season.  However, other rookies like Tyler Glasnow could chase the award.

 

So, there you have it.  The MLB is worth watching in 2016.  Baseball will be fun again.

Porcello Keeps Control, Red Sox Top Blue Jays

Rick Porcello had a horrible 2015.  Despite giving up two minor homers to Edwin Encarnacion, Porcello kept control otherwise today, giving up no other hits besides those two and striking out 8.  The Red Sox went on to win 5-3 last night.  Porcello and the bullpen that backed him up had most of the control over the game for once, even though the entire lineup thrived.

In the 1st inning, the Red Sox already began to stockpile runs.  With two outs, Xander Bogaerts got a clean single up the middle.  David Ortiz drove him in with a bomb off the monster.  Man on 2nd, 1-0 Red Sox. It looked as if Papi was swinging for a home run, but it didn’t go high enough.  Hanley Ramirez then struck out, but reached first on a Josh Thole passed ball.  Travis Shaw then drove Big Papi and Ramirez in on an RBI double of his own. Shaw got out attempting to run to 3rd.

On the first at bat of the 2nd inning, Edwin Encarnacion hit his first of two homers, this one his solo bomb over the monster.  Porcello then hit Troy Tulowitzki, but he didn’t end up going anywhere.  In the bottom of the inning, after a challenge, the call stood for a Christian Vazquez double off the monster. It was right after an amazing throw to first, as my dad said, good defense sparks good offense.  Mookie Betts singled Vazquez in after advancing to third on JBJ’s ground out.

Pitching took control the next couple of innings.  Rick Porcello even had a period when he had 11 straight batters retired.  With a JBJ single and throwing error that made it first and third in the 4th though, R.A. Dickey was starting to get a bit tired out.  Pedey ended the inning on a double play.

Pat Venditte, the switch pitcher, came in.  Christian Vazquez and JBJ both singled, 1st and 2nd.  Then Mookie Betts grounded into a double play, but Vazquez was on third with two down.  Dustin Pedroia drove him in on an RBI single.  That’s an 8-game hitting streak 45 game 0n base streak against division rivals.  Porcello got pulled after 6.1 innings and giving up a two-run bomb to Edwin Encarnacion.  Jose Bautista was walked to get on base for him.

Pitching was back in control in the 7th and 8th inning after the homer, there were some walks, but no hits.  Craig Kimbrel got to first and second in the ninth on Edwin Encarnacion’s bloop single followed by a walk, but finished the game without another run. The Red Sox took down the Blue Jays, 5-3.  Sure, Rick Porcello has homer issues, but besides that, he pretty much had a perfect track record.

The Red Sox played again this afternoon.  That article should be out tomorrow morning.

Red Sox Pass Blue Jays, Estrada Collapses

The Red Sox defeated the Blue Jays 4-3 by pouncing on them early.  In the top of the 1st, Betts reached on an error by Devon Travis.  Then, after walking four batters with two outs, it was 2-0 Red Sox.  Swihart struck out to end the inning.  In the top of the 2nd, Jackie Bradley Jr. hit his first home run since May 31, 2014.  3-0 Sox.  And in the 3rd, David Ortiz crushed his 13th homer of the year high in to the right field stands of the Rogers Centre.  Jays pitcher Marco Estrada left the game after only 2.1 innings, giving up 2 homers, 4 walks and 4 runs, 2 of them earned.

Meanwhile, Eddie Rodriguez held the Blue Jays scoreless, until the 4th inning that is.  Edwin Encarnacion hit a ground rule double to center field.  Chris Colabello singled him in, advancing to second on the throw.  Rodriguez went six innings with only one earned run.  But when Tommy Layne came in on relief, there was trouble.

Kevin Pillar singled and advanced to second on the ground out that followed.  With two outs, Jose Reyes knocked a ball into the bullpen for a home run.  Alexi Ogando settle the Blue Jays down, and Koji Uehara finished the game, earning the save.  The Red Sox edged the Blue Jays 4-3.   They will play a day game today at 1:00 that I may cover in my free time at Multi-Media camp.