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

Welcome to Article #3 of my 2019 MLB preseason power rankings.  In this article, I will be covering teams in the middle of the pack, and determine whether or not they will contend.  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!

18. cincinnati_reds_logo Cincinnati Reds

The Case for the Reds

The Reds began to gear up for contention this off-season by acquiring OF Yasiel Puig and multiple starting pitchers including Tanner Roark, Alex Wood, and Sonny Gray. This team is still headlined by 1B star Joey Votto as well. The NL Central is a really tough division, so that may hold the Reds back this year unless one of last year’s top three in Milwaukee, Chicago, and St. Louis takes a step back.  When Cincy last made the playoffs in 2013, there were two other teams ahead of them in the NL Central standings, so they may just need a few more pieces and one team to crack in order to contend. However, I can’t see that happening this year.  Expect a sub-.500 season in the meantime.

Contenders or Pretenders?

Pretenders: The Reds are definitely closer to contention after making some big moves this off-season.  But I wasn’t so crazy about some of the moves they made.  The Puig trade was a steal, but they could have done a better job fine-tuning the rotation.  Getting rid of Homer Bailey was not smart, as he is a consistent mid-tier starter when healthy.  Sonny Gray, one of the pitchers who replaced Bailey, is far less consistent.  They made some good moves, but it’s not enough for a playoff run.

Projected Finish: 80-82, 4th in NL Central

 

17. minnesota-twins Minnesota Twins

The Case for the Twins

The Twins didn’t quite live up to expectations in 2018. They were expected to chase the Indians for the AL Central for the 2nd straight year. But they ended up a few games below .500, dragged down by the struggles of Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton.  Those two were expected to lead this team when they first made the majors. This off-season, the Twins did add Nelson Cruz, but at his age, I don’t know how much longer he can produce at an elite level. Michael Pineda’s return will also boost them, but I don’t know how much they can improve with Sano and Buxton both remaining question marks. A Jose Berrios breakout could help, but I still can’t see them being a legitimate 2019 playoff contender.

Contenders or Pretenders?

Pretenders: The Twins made some nice moves to add to a roster that was already intriguing.  They added Cruz, Jonathan Schoop, and others.  But the lingering questions surrounding Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano remain, and the bullpen is also a question mark.

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

 

16. chicago-white-sox Chicago White Sox

The Case for the White Sox

The White Sox may have lost out in the Manny Machado sweepstakes despite adding Yonder Alonso and Jon Jay to intrigue Machado. But their off-season is not a full failure. They added some nice pieces in Jay, Alonso, and SP Ervin Santana while still allowing their young core to receive playing time. Yoan Moncada (once he breaks out), Adam Engel, and Eloy Jimenez give me optimism about the future in Chicago. As they start to develop, Chicago will jump into the mix in a weak AL Central. But they may have to add a few more pieces and wait till 2020, or maybe even 2021 for legitimate playoff contention. They could have won the division and done it in 2019 with Machado.

Contenders or Pretenders?

Contenders: I don’t expect the White Sox to win the AL Central this year, but this next wave of talent may begin to make the White Sox appear capable of contending.  Moncada, Engel, Jimenez, Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease, and others should significantly boost the roster and allow this team to show flashes of greatness in a weak division.

Projected Finish: 81-81, 2nd in AL Central

 

15. new-york-mets New York Mets

The Case for the Mets

Brodie Van Wagenen made things very interesting in his first off-season with the Mets. After refusing to trade Jacob deGrom and/or Noah Syndergaard and instead acquiring Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz from Seattle, he made it clear that the Mets were hoping to contend for one more season. He proceeded by continuing to beef up the roster, adding Jed Lowrie, Wilson Ramos, Carlos Gomez, and others. The Mets will at least be competitive this season, but I can’t see them standing out in the league’s best division, the NL East. They will not be able to keep up with the Braves, Phillies, and Nationals. Maybe it’s time to rebuild if this season is indeed another failure.

Contenders or Pretenders?

Pretenders: The Mets added some nice pieces, such as Cano, Diaz, Ramos, and Lowrie.  But they did not address their direct positional needs.  Sure, they added a catcher, and an outfielder.  But until they get the infield situation figured out, this team will have trouble finding an identity and jump-starting back into contention.  Lowrie and Cano are nice pieces, but where do they fit, and will 1B Peter Alonso be on the roster come Opening Day?

Projected Finish: 83-79, 4th in NL East

 

14. sanfran-giants San Francisco Giants

The Case for the Giants

In Bruce Bochy’s last season, I expect the Giants to exceed expectations. Though injuries have held them back the last couple of years, they still have a very strong roster on paper. Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija lead a rotation that now contains more depth. So long as Buster Posey can bounce back at the plate in 2019, the lineup should be set as well. Who knows, maybe Evan Longoria could be a bounce back candidate as well. Behind Posey and Longoria, they have new additions Yangervis Solarte and Gerardo Parra, SS Brandon Crawford, 1B Brandon Belt, and others. The Giants have not done very well in these last two seasons. But assuming they are healthy, 2019 contention isn’t too farfetched.

Contenders or Pretenders?

Contenders: The Giants will at least be closer to the playoffs this season than most people expect.  It’s injuries that has held them back over the last couple of years.  Neither MadBum nor Posey had been healthy in 2017 and 2018.  With those two feeling alright, the rotation beginning to come together after Dereck Rodriguez’s emergence, and the lineup looking okay despite outfield depth issues, the Giants could come close to the playoffs if they don’t make it.

Projected Finish: 84-78, 3rd in NL West

 

13. los-angeles-dodgers Los Angeles Dodgers

The Case for the Dodgers

The Dodgers have now lost two World Series’ in a row. Expect a hangover this time around. The loss of Brian Dozier to free agency hurts their infield depth significantly, and it was a rough off-season. They traded Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood, and Matt Kemp to the Reds for Homer Bailey, who they ended up releasing. It did clear up crowding in the outfield, and they signed A.J. Pollock to maintain depth out there, but it’s still a waste of a trade. The rotation has plenty of depth, but Clayton Kershaw’s health and Walker Buehler’s ability to replace him remain question marks. Bullpen depth could also be problematic. Expect the Dodgers to try to contend, but fail to make the playoffs in a weak NL West.

Contenders or Pretenders?

Pretenders: The Dodgers should finish with a fairly strong win-loss record as usual.  But I think the team will take a step back after a rough off-season, and despite their strong record, they may have a hard time getting into the mix for the Wild Card.  Even in a weak division, the Dodgers will have trouble relying on repeat performances from two older 2018 breakouts, Max Muncy and Chris Taylor.

Projected Finish: 85-77, 2nd in NL West

 

That’s all for this portion of my MLB preseason power rankings.  Stay tuned for my next set later today.

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).

 

 

Back to their Roots: Pats Dynasty Continues after OT Thriller

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It was 31-31 in overtime.  After winning the toss, the New England Patriots had the ball on 3rd down at the Kansas City 30 yard line.  QB Tom Brady had made two straight third down conversions going to WR Julian Edelman, but this time, he looked in the direction of TE Rob Gronkowski.  Gronk had not been himself for most of the season.  But after stating that he would ‘seriously consider’ retirement with the conclusion of the season, he had stepped it up so far in this game, with 5 receptions for 64 yards.  He was tightly covered by S Eric Berry, but it didn’t matter.  He reached up and caught it, keeping the Patriots’ drive alive with a clean set of downs.  After that, Brady handed it off to RB Rex Burkhead three times, and he finished the job.  Touchdown.  37-31, Patriots win!

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The Patriots are now headed to their 4th Super Bowl in 5 years, as Brady looks to ‘Blitz for Six’ and Gronk looks to potentially end his career with a bang.  The best part is, as intriguing as a Brady vs. Drew Brees match-up would be, they’re playing the Los Angeles Rams, taking the Brady-Belichick dynasty back to their roots.  Back in 2001, Brady led the Patriots to their first Super Bowl victory over the QB Kurt Warner-led St. Louis (now Los Angeles) Rams.  You could also compare that victory to tonight’s when Brady and co. took down QB Patrick Mahomes II and an explosive Chiefs offense after coming in as 3 point underdogs.

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The Pats set themselves up for success with a strong start to the game where they showcased complimentary football.  The Pats were in no rush in the 1st quarter, so they took their time, running the ball and eating clock on their first scoring drive of the game.  It was important to get into a rhythm early on to keep up with the Kansas City, but keeping the ball for 80% of the first quarter works.  Their opening drive was the longest playoff opening drive in the history of the Brady-Belichick Patriots.  The Pats held Kansas City to under 3 minutes of 1st quarter possession time by sacking Mahomes and shutting down the Chiefs offense quickly.  Preventing the Chiefs from developing a rhythm of their own also works.  In fact, while the Pats had 100+ total yards after one quarter, the Chiefs had negative yardage.

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New England had another drive going that continued into the 2nd quarter, but things went south when Brady threw an end zone pick to LB Reggie Ragland.  The Chiefs had just successfully pressured TB12 and taken control of the turnover battle in one measly play.  Many people say this was a blatant mistake by Brady, but I saw it as a job well done by an underrated, young Chiefs D.  Though the Pats had lost their rhythm after marching down the field, they did shut down the Chiefs easily after the interception, forcing 3 and out.  With just about 7 minutes left in the 1st half, the Pats had 155 total yards, and the Chiefs still had just -2.

It took a bit for the Pats to get back into the swing of things after the pick, but on a deep throw to WR Phillip Dorsett, they scored again two drives later.  Utilized as a receiver, White led them through majority of the drive, but it was the deep throw to  Dorsett that scored the TD for New England.  After their defense’s big showing in the first half, the Pats held a 14-0 lead at halftime.  The defense had held the Chiefs to just 32 total yards in the half, and this was the first time the Chiefs had been shutout in the first half at home in 51 games

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However, the Chiefs figured out New England’s formula in their first drive after halftime, marching down the field in 4 plays for a TD thanks to a huge catch by WR Sammy Watkins and a quality TD by TE Travis Kelce in tight coverage.  Preventing big plays is a definitive weakness of the Pats D.  The Patriots needed to extend their lead so they didn’t have to press the panic button when Mahomes and co. started dominating.  They failed to score another TD in the 3rd quarter, but they did add a field goal to their lead, making it 17-7 Pats.  However, Mahomes and RB Damien Williams led the Chiefs on a huge drive to end the 3rd quarter.  This one did end in a touchdown, narrowing New England’s lead to just 3 points after a somewhat questionable pass interference call.  It had been 14-0 at half, but the Chiefs offense had just taken control of the game, outscoring New England 14-3 in the 3rd quarter.

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The Pats tried again to score a TD at the beginning of the 4th quarter, but they couldn’t convert on 4th down.  They forced the Chiefs to punt on the next drive, but initially, the refs called the punt muffed by Edelman when the Chiefs picked up the ball.  However, the call was overturned after instant replay showed that Edelman never touched it.  Edelman ended up costing the Pats the following drive though, as he bobbled a pass, allowing the Chiefs to intercept it and go on to take the lead with a TD the following drive.

The 4th quarter was a back and forth battle with several lead changes.  The Pats and Chiefs each scored a touchdown on their next drives, making it 28-24 Chiefs.  With two minutes to go, the Pats had the ball in what was still a one possession game.  The Pats marched down the field and Burkhead scored the TD, but they scored a little too fast.  They left enough time for the Chiefs to add a field goal to tie it up and force overtime.  It was 31-31.

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After that the Pats won the toss, and though it was a nail biter with many close calls and 3rd downs, the Pats made their way down the field for the TD, winning the game!  This was Brady’s third OT victory in a postseason game, making him the first player to do so.  This was also the first time two playoff games had gone into overtime in one day.

Despite 2 interceptions, Brady finished 30/46 with 348 passing yards and a TD.  Sony Michel rushed for 113 yards and scored two TDs, and Burkhead had two rush TDs of his own.  Edelman and Gronk each had 75+ receiving yards, and James White nearly had 50.

Mahomes threw 3 TDs and 0 interceptions as the Chiefs won the turnover battle despite losing, but Mahomes only threw for 295 yards, partly because the Pats had the ball for much longer.  Though Watkins had 114 receiving yards, Damien Williams caught 2 TDs as well as rushing in one.

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It’s hard to name one MVP for the Pats in this game, because everyone did their job.  The important thing is, the Pats will travel to Atlanta to take on QB Jared Goff, RB Todd Gurley, and the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII.  In Belichick terms, ‘We’re on to the Super Bowl’.  The Red Sox beat the LA Dodgers in the World Series just three months ago.  Can Boston teams not only win two championships in a year, but also beat the city of LA twice?

Price, Dingers, Lead Red Sox To 4th World Series of Century

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At the start of 2017, when the Red Sox signed Chris Sale, Red Sox reporter Tony Massarotti had said that the Red Sox had a three-year window to win the World Series.  If they didn’t win it in three years, it was a disappointment.  The Red Sox choked in the playoffs in 2017, similar to 2016.  Their choke was followed by a long expected firing of World Series-winning manager John Farrell.

The Red Sox hired Alex Cora, a former Red Sox player as their new manager and signed OF J.D. Martinez that off-season.  Cora and Martinez were two of our biggest factors this year.  Fast forward 8 months, and Cora, Martinez, and the rest of the team is celebrating a 4th World Series victory of the century thanks to Cora’s smart, proactive managing, the dominance of a streaky, explosive lineup, and David Price’s long-awaited playoff successes.

This season is one to remember.  The Sox finished with their best record in the 162-game era, dominated the playoffs and won the World Series.  Game 5 was extra special, as  Price performed better on the mound than he ever had in a playoff start.  Meanwhile, the Red Sox lineup backed him up with an explosive 4 homer day.  The Sox hit some of these home runs against Clayton Kershaw, who is regarded by many as the best active pitcher in the MLB.

To start the game, Andrew Benintendi, who has dominated against Kershaw, singled in his first at bat.  Steve Pearce, Boston’s unlikely hero this year, followed up with a 2-run homer.  This wouldn’t be the last the Dodgers see of Pearce, who was brought on board after the release of Hanley Ramirez.  Pearce outperformed Ramirez by far.

Dodgers infielder David Freese struck back with a leadoff solo shot of his own in the bottom of the 1st, making it 2-1 Red Sox.   Freese went on to have a 2-hit day and was the biggest threat to Boston’s victory.  But after giving up the homer, Price settled down, throwing just 89 pitches in a total of 7.0+ IP.  That’s the best we’ve seen his pitch count at in any start this season, regular season or playoffs.  Believe it or not, Price was out-pitching Kershaw.  That was a somewhat normal occurrence before 2016, but was a complete shocker to Dodger fans in this game.  Not only was Price out-pitching Kershaw, but he actually looked like a $31 million/year pitcher.

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Kershaw also settled down, but his pitch count was not as solid.  The Red Sox lineup quieted down until about the 6th inning.  To this point, Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez had been in World Series slumps.  But both hit a solo home run in Game 5, Betts in the 6th, and Martinez in the 7th.  Just like that, the lineup had awoken, and it was 4-1 Red Sox.  Pearce added to it with an 8th inning solo shot making it 5-1.  Now it was up to the Sox bullpen to secure the victory after 7 strong innings by Price.

Joe Kelly dominated in the 8th inning as he had been throughout the playoffs, striking out three consecutive batters after David Price walked Chris Taylor and left the game.

In the 9th, the Red Sox opted to bring in their ace, Chris Sale, in hopes he would finish the game off strong.  Sale proved himself, striking out the side and winning Boston the World Series.

The Red Sox paraded through the city on duck boats this past Wednesday and will look to defend their title in 2019.

October Sports Mania: A Busy Month in Boston Sports

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If you’re a Boston sports fan, you may have noticed an unusual amount of Boston teams playing lately.  Right now, Boston is the only city with an MLB, NFL, NBA, and NHL team that are all in season.  From October 16 to October 31, there could be 16 consecutive days of Boston sports (depending on how the Red Sox do in the World Series).  From October 3 to October 31, there could be as many as 39 Boston sports events.  If the Red Sox hadn’t defeated the Astros in 5, all four teams would have played in one weekend.  So far, it’s gone very well, as Boston sports teams have a 16-6-2 win-loss record this October.  I’m calling it October Sports Mania, and today, I will give an update on all 4 teams with my thoughts during this time of madness.

MLB: boston-red-sox Boston Red Sox

Regular Season Record: 108-54

Record in October: 7-2

Current Status: Won American League, Made World Series

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Context: For the first time in 5 years, the Red Sox have made the World Series!  They have made it three other times in the 21st century, and they haven’t lost in a 21st century World Series appearance.  This time, they take on the Dodgers in what could be one of the best World Series’ of the 21st century.  Game 1 went down October 23, as Chris Sale faced Clayton Kershaw and the Red Sox won in a surprising slugfest.  Who will win this exciting series?  I’m calling Red Sox in 6 or 7 games.  But considering that I have to get to school at 7:20 AM every day and the games start at 8:00 or 8:15 PM (some on school nights), I may not see every minute live like I would want to.

Note to commissioner: Please make World Series games start earlier.  A 6PM start, like the Super Bowl, would be nice.

October Schedule

Past Games

  • 10/5/2018 vs. new-york-yankees NYY: W, 5-4 (ALDS Game 1, BOS leads 1-0)
  • 10/6/2018 vs. new-york-yankees NYY: L, 6-2 (ALDS Game 2, series tied 1-1)
  • 10/8/2018 @ new-york-yankees NYY: W, 16-1 (ALDS Game 3, BOS leads 2-1)
  • 10/9/2018 @ new-york-yankees NYY: W, 4-3 (ALDS Game 4, BOS wins 3-1)
  • 10/13/2018 vs. houston-astros HOU, L, 7-2 (ALCS Game 1, HOU leads 1-0)
  • 10/14/2018 vs. houston-astros HOU, W, 7-5 (ALCS Game 2, series tied 1-1)
  • 10/16/2018 @ houston-astros HOU, W, 8-2 (ALCS Game 3, BOS leads 2-1)
  • 10/17/2018 @ houston-astros HOU, W, 8-6 (ALCS Game 4, BOS leads 3-1)
  • 10/18/2018 @ houston-astros HOU, W, 4-1 (ALCS Game 5, BOS wins 4-1)
  • 10/23/2018 vs. los-angeles-dodgers LAD, W, 8-4 (World Series Game 1, BOS leads 1-0)

Upcoming Games

  • 10/24/2018 vs. los-angeles-dodgers LAD (World Series Game 2)
  • 10/26/2018 @ los-angeles-dodgers LAD (World Series Game 3)
  • 10/30/2018 vs. los-angeles-dodgers LAD (World Series Game 6, if necessary)
  • 10/31/2018 vs. los-angeles-dodgers LAD (World Series Game 7, if necessary)

My Thoughts on Them So Far This Month

Image result for red sox-astros alcs

The Red Sox dominated all season after the addition of star hitter J.D. Martinez and manager Alex Cora.  But in both 2016 and 2017, they choked in the playoffs.  I had confidence in them against the Yankees in the ALDS, but that confidence was weaker due to these chokes and the fact that the Yankees were also a Top 3 MLB team this year.  The Sox also had regressed throughout the month of September.  But when they faced the Yankees in the ALDS, they returned to form.  The bullpen was clutch and the lineup had awoken.  They rode the momentum into the ALCS.  It wasn’t looking good after Game 1, but they easily defeated the stacked, defending champion Houston Astros in the final four games.  They have now advanced into an exciting World Series against the Dodgers.  This series could go either way.  Do you think the Sox take it all?

Predictions for the Rest of the Month

Image result for chris sale red sox-dodgers

This World Series will not be smooth sailing.  I didn’t even expect the ALCS to end in 5 games.  But I have confidence that the Red Sox will win.  As long as Chris Sale is good to go and the lineup keeps making fireworks, we should take this series in 6 or 7 games.

NFL: new_england_patriots New England Patriots

Regular Season Record: 5-2

Record in October: 3-0

Current Status: Riding Four Game Win Streak into MNF Division Duel

Image result for josh gordon patriots

Context: The Pats are riding a 4 game win streak, and they’ve scored at least 30 points in every game since WR Josh Gordon was activated.  They beat the Kansas City Chiefs, who arguably have the best offense in the league, 43-40.  Will they ride the momentum to a Super Bowl victory?  This dominant offensive performance will serve them well, but they nearly lost to the Chicago Bears because of bad defense.  Their defense is going to need to step up their game for a win on the big stage.

October Schedule

Past Games

  • 10/4/2018 vs. indianapolis-colts IND: W, 38-24
  • 10/14/2018 vs. kansas-city-chiefs-logo KC: W, 43-40
  • 10/21/2018 @ chicago-bears-logo CHI: W, 38-31

Upcoming Games

  • 10/29/2018 @ Buffalo_Bills BUF

My Thoughts on Them so far This Month

Image result for patriots-chiefs 2018

I was very impressed by the win against Kansas City.  The Chiefs may have one of the worst defenses in the league.  But the fact that the Pats also scored 30+ against the Chicago Bears and the Miami Dolphins shows that this offense is here to play.  They took down the 5-0 Chiefs, who had averaged 35 points per game and were riding the momentum to dominance.

Predictions for the Rest of the Month

The Patriots should be able to take down the 1-6 Bills easily with QB Josh Allen and RB LeSean McCoy banged-up.  But their next major test will come in Week 9 when they host QB Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.  They will need their best defense in that game.

NBA: Related image Boston Celtics

Regular Season Record: 2-2

October Record: 2-2

Current Status: Off to Slow Start, Hoping to Rebound for Big Year

Image result for celtics-76ers 2018

Context: The Celtics are off to a slow start.  They did take down the 76ers and Knicks, but they fell to the Kawhi Leonard-led Raptors in Toronto and suffered an embarrassing loss when hosting the Orlando Magic on Monday.  Will they pick up the pace and contend for a championship?

October Schedule

Past Games

  • 10/16/2018 vs. Image result for 76ers logo PHI, W, 105-87
  • 10/19/2018 @ Image result for raptors logo TOR, L, 113-101
  • 10/20/2018 @ Image result for knicks logo NYK, W, 103-101
  • 10/22/2018 vs. Image result for orlando magic logo blue ORL, L, 93-90

Upcoming Games

  • 10/25/2018 @ Image result for thunder logo OKC
  • 10/27/2018 @ Related image DET
  • 10/30/2018 vs. Related image DET

My Thoughts on Them so far This Month

Image result for celtics-76ers 2018

I’m not so worried about the Celtics despite a rough start.  They topped the 76ers (told you they would regress) by almost 20 and got past the Knicks in New York.  Their loss to Toronto is understandable.  The Raptors have only improved after the Kawhi Leonard trade and I did not expect the Celts to come to Toronto and win easily.  As for the loss to Orlando, it was a little disappointing.  But the Magic have a strong young core that could surprise a lot of people this year.  I would not be concerned if they struggle in Oklahoma City and Detroit, both of whom I see contending.  (Note: I’m pretty sure I was right about the Pistons in my NBA Predictions, Blake Griffin put up 50 against the Sixers).

Predictions for the Rest of the Month

Image result for celtics-pistons blake griffin

Expect them to split in two games against an improved Detroit Pistons squad.  I think their next game against Oklahoma City could go either way.  But even if they start 3-4, I think they’ll pull it together and contend for a title in the long run.

NHL: Image result for boston bruins logo yellow background Boston Bruins

Regular Season Record: 5-2-2 (12 PTS)

October Record: 5-2-2 (12 PTS)

Current Status: So-So in Canada, Come Home Thursday

Context: After a shaky four game road trip across Canada, the Bruins come home to face the Flyers and Canadiens.  Montreal has been off to a strong start, and Philly has been alright as well, so wins won’t come easy over these next couple games either.

October Schedule

Past Games

  • 10/3/2018 @ Image result for capitals logo WSH, L, 7-0
  • 10/4/2018 @ Related image BUF, W, 4-0
  • 10/8/2018 vs. Related image OTT, W, 6-3
  • 10/11/2018 vs. Related image EDM, W, 4-1
  • 10/13/2018 vs. Image result for red wings logo DET, W, 8-2
  • 10/17/2018 @ Related image CGY, L, 5-2
  • 10/18/2018 @ Related image EDM, OTL, 3-2
  • 10/20/2018 @ Image result for canucks logo VAN, OTL, 2-1
  • 10/23/2018 @ Related image OTT, W, 4-1

Upcoming Games

  • 10/25/2018 vs. Image result for flyers logo PHI
  • 10/27/2018 vs. Image result for canadiens logo MTL
  • 10/30/2018 @ Related image CAR

My Thoughts on them so far This Month

Image result for canucks-bruins 2018

The Bruins might not be top Stanley Cup contenders, but it seems that this young, talented team has picked up where they left off last year.  They are still a playoff team for sure and have appeared to be one of the better teams in the league.  I’m a little concerned about their losses to the Oilers and Canucks, but it’s early in the season, and they’ve been doing fine otherwise.

Predictions for the Rest of the Month

Image result for hurricanes-bruins

Look for more of the same heading into the end of the month.  I could see them taking down Philly and Montreal in close home games, and I would expect them to give the Hurricanes a wake-up call after their surprisingly strong start.  I had anticipated that the Hurricanes would start like this given their schedule, but trust me, it will not last that much longer.

That’s all for today.  I hope you enjoy the rest of this crazy month in sports, and stay tuned for more articles on all four teams soon.

 

 

 

 

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 #8: What The Unusual Amount of No-Hitters Means for Jordan’s Furniture Customers

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As they do every year, Jordan’s Furniture, a major sponsor of the Red Sox, is having a big baseball sale.  This year, they offered to make any furniture bought between March 28 and today (May 20) free if a Red Sox pitcher or pitchers throw a no-hitter (games shorter than nine innings do not count) between July 17 and the end of the regular season.  Should you buy furniture? Will the Red Sox pitch a no-hitter after July 16?

 

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For those of you who are undecided on whether to give in and buy some new furniture, I have done some research about no-hitters based on the fact that there have already been 3 no-hitters in 2018.  Based on the data, I calculated the chance of a Red Sox no-hitter during the time that the Jordan’s Furniture sale counts towards (July 17-end of the regular season). You can also come to your own conclusions, as I have provided my official data below.  I looked at every regular season no-hitter since 1990 (according to ESPN) and tallied up all the no-hitters each year. I split it into no-hitters before July 17 and after July 16, and I also looked at how many were thrown by Red Sox pitchers.  

The Research

I have provided 5 PDFs with my research:

 

No-Hitters By Year After 7/16: Baseball Bits #8_ No-Hitters – After

No-Hitters By Year Before 7/17: Baseball Bits #8_ No-Hitters – Before

All No-Hitters By Year: Baseball Bits #8_ No-Hitters – All

Summary Pivot Table: Baseball Bits #8_ No-Hitters – Summary Pivot

List of All No-Hitters From ESPN (Cut out data from before 1990 and during the postseason) with data I added for this article: Baseball Bits #8_ No-Hitters – Master Data (Note: The “Count of No-Hitters” column was just used to help set up the pivot table)

 

The “Baseball Bits”

  • Since 1990, the average number of no-hitters per year is 2.79
    • There is an average of 1.03/year after July 16
    • There is an average of 1.76/year before July 17
    • Based on this data, not only are we ahead of the average pace for no-hitters before July 17, we are ahead of the average pace for no-hitters all season
    • However, in the last 10 years:
      • The average number of no-hitters/year is 3.6 (2.2 before July 17, 1.4 after July 16)
      • In the last 10 years, we are only a little ahead of average pace for # of no-hitters before July 17, and we are not quite at the average pace of no-hitters/year
  • Since 1990, there have been 5 other years when there have been 3 or more no-hitters before July 17 – in those years, the average number of no-hitters after July 16 is 2.2
    • We have not had 3 no-hitters by May 8th since 1969
    • Since 1990, there has only been one time (2010) where we have even had 3 no-hitters by June 1st
      • There were 5 no-hitters that year (1 was after July 16th)
  • The Red Sox have thrown 4 no-hitters since 1990
    • It has not happened since 2008
    • 3 were before 7/17 (thrown by Jon Lester (2008), Derek Lowe (2002), and Hideo Nomo (2001))
    • Only 1 was after 7/16, thrown by Clay Buchholz in 2007
  • Just a cool anomaly about this year’s no-hitters: They have all taken place in different countries (Paxton in Canada, Manaea in USA, Buehler/Garcia/Cingrani/Liberatore combined in Mexico)

 

The Verdict

Based on my research, my previous baseball knowledge, and WHIP of MLB starters in recent years, I have concluded that there is 60.5% (about 3 in 5 chance) of a no-hitter somewhere in the MLB after July 16.  The average of 2.2 no-hitters after July 16 when there has been 3+ before July 17 (data based on no-hitters since 1990) has had a big influence on these odds. But I couldn’t say there was a 100% chance of a no-hitter because I cannot tell the future.  You have to factor in the fact that although there has been an increase in recent years, no-hitters are still very rare and unpredictable. You really cannot be more than 75% confident that one will occur during that time. I have calculated the chances of a no-hitter by the Red Sox as a 2.82% chance.  This was influenced by the MLB odds because I divided those odds amongst all 30 MLB teams based on recent WHIP of starters and what I already knew before my research.

Image result for chris sale
If the Red Sox throw a no-hitter, it will likely be from one of two pitchers.  Chris Sale’s WHIP is extremely low, and if he gets into a good rhythm and limits his pitch count, he could toss a no-hitter.  However, you have to factor in late-season fatigue that is common for Sale as well as the fact that he often throws too many pitches to go deep into a game, even in the case of a no-hitter.  They will probably not keep him in for more than about 150 pitches even if he has a no-hitter, at least with Alex Cora managing. He could start off a combined no-no if he has thrown too many pitches by the 7th or 8th despite a dominant game.  He would need backup from an inconsistent bullpen for that though.

Image result for rick porcello

I think it is more likely that Rick Porcello throws a no-hitter.  His WHIP has been very low this season as it was in 2016, his Cy Young winning year.  Porcello is more of a ground-ball pitcher and is usually pretty consistent throughout the season.  These traits help increase his odds of a no-hitter, especially if he continues to dominate this season (he is 6-1 with a 3.39 ERA).

However, since it is extremely difficult to predict a no-hitter for any team, I would not recommend going all out buying furniture.  If you need furniture, go right ahead, but I wouldn’t spend much more than you normally would because I still think there is less than a 3% chance that the Red Sox pitch a no-hitter.

 

Sources

“MLB No-Hitters.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, http://www.espn.com/mlb/history/nohitters.