Atlanta Braves, MLB

Braves ink veteran backstop Suzuki to a one-year deal

The Atlanta Braves biggest priority coming to the off-season was finding a catcher to go along with Tyler Flowers. On Saturday they filled that need signing veteran backstop Kurt Suzuki to a one-year 2.5 million dollar deal. This isn’t a sexy move for one of the big names we either weren’t comfortable signing or someone just beats us out, but I really like this signing for us at this point.

Suzuki 33 hit .258 with nine home runs and 49 RBIs in 106 games with the Minnesota Twins last season. Those numbers don’t jump off the page, but decent considering the catching position has become being good at defense or offense not both. Those are serviceable offensive numbers for a backup catcher, which is likely the role he will have with the Braves.

Most importantly, he is very durable since the 2014 season Suzuki is one of six catches to make 2,900 appearances behind the plate. A remarkable stat considering the amount of punishment a catcher takes from foul tips and blocking balls in the dirt. He definitely provides a reliable option if Tyler Flowers were to go down with an injury or needs a day off. Who knows? Suzuki could revert back to his All-Star form he had in 2014 with the Oakland Athletics, but regardless he is a great cost friendly option for the Braves.

Additionally, Suzuki is a great clubhouse addition, especially with all the young guys in this organization. They will be able to pick his brain and watch how he goes about his business on a daily basis. The Braves pride themselves on having a great clubhouse and cohesiveness between players and personnel Suzuki is a great in that regard as well.

The Braves have done an excellent job this off-season adding veteran players that will help this young nucleus develop both on and off the field. The best part about it is most of the deals we have done this off-season are 1 to 2 years, which means they’re not blocking our top prospects they are just great stop gaps until the young guys are ready.

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MLB, NBA

This Year in Sports: Year of Firsts

As 2016 winds down the time where we all reflect on the year the good the bad and what we can improve on in the years to come. There is one thing I think we can all agree on sports got back to being great again there was not a scandal that distracted us from the game being played! It once again became the great escape that we all need at one time or another every year.

The best part of this year and sports was the fact that championship starved teams and cities finally got to celebrate. The Chicago Cubs, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Coastal Carolina Chanticleer’s become the sports darlings of 2016, it was fun to see these teams finally break their long title droughts.

ap-cubs-win-world-series-jc-161103_12x5_1600The Chicago Cubs 

The longest sports drought in history was finally put to bed after 108 years the Chicago Cubs have reached the mountaintop as World Series champions. They did it in style coming back from a 3-1 deficit and being part of the most-watched baseball game and 25 years. It’s one of those sporting event you are going to remember exactly where you were when the Cubs broke the curse.

Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and Joe Madden will probably have children named after them because they were able to band together and make a champion out of what was previously the laughingstock of baseball. It’s absolutely amazing the transformation this team underwent in such a short period of time to reach this point.

First of all, they were able to take advantage of multiple high draft picks when the selected this year’s MVP Kris Bryant’s second overall in the 2013 draft, Kyle Schwarber fourth overall in the 2014 draft. Schwarber remarkably came back from a torn ACL the third game of the season and became the biggest X factor of the World Series. He started the rally that ultimately claimed the World Series for the Cubs. Lastly, they selected second baseman Javier Baez ninth overall in the 2011 draft. He had multiple clutch hits and home runs not to mention his gold glove defense and tagging ability.

It’s one thing to get the high draft picks it’s another thing to pick the right guy and to say the least the Chicago Cubs have hit the jackpot on their last few selections. They have also orchestrated keen trades that have helped the team reach this point. The biggest trade was when they swindled second baseman Addison Russell away from the Oakland A’s in July 2014. Russell has turned into a young stud and a part of the young nucleus that Theo Epstein has pieced together.

To all the other rebuilding teams in baseball it will be smart to take a page from the Cubs playbook because 2016 looks like the beginning of a dynasty out in the Windy City. They are poised to become one and more annoying teams in baseball because of all the winning they are going to do for years to come!

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Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron James fulfilled his promise to the city of Cleveland as they overcame 3-1 deficit against the record-breaking Gold State Warriors. This was a heck of a way to break through considering Cleveland professional sports hasn’t been celebrated since Jim Brown donned a Browns uniform that’s saying a lot.

The road to the championship was a bit tumultuous not just because they were the first team in NBA history to overcome 3-1 deficit as I said, but they also fired their head coach David Blatt midseason and had to implement an entire new offensive scheme that was much faster and it took time to get used to. They also played the majority of the season without All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, who was recovering from knee surgery.

It was a year full of obstacles, but lucky for they had Cleveland’s favorite son LeBron James to lead them to victory. He did everything and more averaging 27.1 points per game, 7.6 assists per game, and 9.5 rebounds per game. He put his team, the city, and his legacy on his back and brought that elusive title back to Cleveland.

This title could potentially open up the floodgates for Cleveland as they are once again the best team in the Eastern conference and last time I checked still have LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, who has quickly become a Golden State warrior killer, which bodes well for the team’s success in the future. This season title might have been the first since 1964, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re sick and tired of congratulating them in the near future because both the Cavaliers and Indians are poised for many playoff runs in the years to come.

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Coastal Carolina 

The championship  that came out of nowhere from the unlikeliest of places as Coastal Carolina shocked the college baseball world as they won their first championship in program history. It’s something all sports fans root for a magical Cinderella run that will be remembered forever and everyone on that team will be coastal Carolina royalty forever. They brought this small school a taste of glory that will last a lifetime.

This also proves that anything can happen as long as you get in the tournament Coastal Carolina entered the tournament as a fifth seed and a virtual afterthought. Despite that, they played their game and took advantage of every opportunity and misstep by their opponents and turned it into a national championship that will give hope to all small schools no matter what position they are in.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention head coach Gary Gilmore and his long journey with this university. Gilmore joined the coastal Carolina staff way back in 1979 and has held the head coaching position since 1996. I love these stories of passion and love Gilmore has shown to this university  and all the lives he touched and lesson he’s passed on during his tenure is worth  much more than this championship. That being said,it’s awesome to see Gilmore and his players experience a dream come true and reach  the mountaintop. I hope to see other small schools follow suit and crash the party in years to come.

Conclusion

This is what sports all about no one game no one season are the same anything can happen, underdogs rise, dynasties are born, and celebrations happen in unexpected places that is what 2016 has brought us. I hope that continues in the seasons to come because it just makes it a whole lot more fun to be a sports fan. Bring it on 2017!!!

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MLB

Rest in Peace Jose Fernandez

Honestly, yesterday sucked so bad on so many levels for everyone in the sports world. As we mourn the loss of Marlins ace José Fernandez, who was tragically killed in a boating accident Sunday morning Fernandez was just 24 years old. 

I have no words to explain how much my heart breaks knowing we won’t get to see him on the mound again. It goes without saying that he was one of the best pitchers in the game he had a career record of 38-17 with 2.58 ERA and a two time all-star putting his stamp on the game of baseball quickly, unfortunately he won’t be able to add to these incredible numbers.

I tuned  into almost every one of his starts because it was a no hitter waiting to happen, but also because of his incredible attitude and an infectious smile he brought to every day he lived. It just made me feel better every time I saw him on TV in the dugout or on the mound. He was a guy that was living the American dream he defected from Cuba was successful in his fifth attempt at the age of 15 showing perseverance and bravery from the very beginning.

He lived every day to the fullest and never took anything for granted and just positively influenced every life that he came across in person or through baseball and the millions of fans that were able to watch him pitch will never forget what a treat it was to watch number 16 take the mound.

Every death has an impact, but this is felt across the world, baseball, and Cuba there will be a lifelong void that will never be filled with the passing of Fernandez. He just meant so much to so many people, especially the Marlins community as many of are Cuban and had an idol to look up to and a centerpiece to the Marlins organization and he will never be replaced.

The only thing we learn from this tragic situation is life makes no sense and I wish we could turn back time to prevent this unthinkable tragedy. My condolences to his family, friends and Marlins teammate’s! Rest in peace José Fernandez God got their Ace just a Way too soon!

 

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Atlanta Braves, MLB

The Swanson Era has officially began in Atlanta

The Atlanta Braves took a huge step forward in the rebuilding process tonight as they called up 22-year-old shortstop Dansby Swanson to begin his career as a Brave. This is a rapid rise for the Marietta native as you recall Swanson was selected number one overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2015 draft. Then was acquired by his hometown team in December for Shelby Miller a trade that was widely criticized by many from the Diamondbacks perspective, but they were in win- now mode and were looking for an established arm to be paired with Zach Greinke.

This was a trade that gave the Atlanta Braves fan base some hope of returning to the glory days because this rebuild has been very painful seeing a lot of favorites walk out the door. This trade added a five-tool player and helped an offensive starved organization. Swanson’s arrival may be sooner than anticipated as just 26 months ago, he was in 2015 College World Series with the Vanderbilt Commodores. That being said, the team felt it was time for Swanson’s journey to begin in the majors as the team started playing respectable baseball and would be a good environment for him to walk into.

The dream come true happened yesterday against the Minnesota Twins Swanson went 2-4 both of them solid singles against Kyle Gibson. Gibson ended up with the last laugh as he threw a complete game, but I honestly don’t think anyone cared about the result they just wanted to see how the Swanson era would begin. He made a pretty good first impression I hope to see many multi-hit games and great success for many years with that Tomahawk across his chest. This is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

From a fan’s perspective, it’s like a ray of sunshine in a season that has been lost from the very beginning. It’s a breath of fresh air because we get to go on this journey with Swanson from the very beginning and see how he continues to grow as a baseball player. His abilities as a baseball player have been well documented, but more than that he’s humble and gets it how to carry himself in whatever situation gets thrown at him. He’s what you want in a player and a person he’s a great addition to Braves Country!

Congratulations Dansby

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MLB

Goodbye A-Rod for now

 

The biggest story this week is today marks the final Major League Baseball game for Alex Rodriguez in a Yankee uniform and hopefully his career.  The first thing I thought of was people are going to have to find someone new to hate, not how easy he made the game of baseball look in his 22 year career. Rodriguez has immense talent that has never been questioned, but the amount of baggage accumulated throughout his career is sadly the bigger storyline for me.

As much as we are celebrating what Alex Rodriguez did on a baseball field many are also popping the champagne because that era of controversy will be out of baseball. The thing that angers me most is the fact that he got his hand caught in the cookie jar and he still decided to lie about his performance-enhancing drug use from 01-03 with the Rangers, which I might add were three of his most productive seasons. If that wasn’t enough, he got wrapped up in the biogenesis scandal of 2013 that once again tarnished the authenticity of his illustrious career.

The annoying reality of Alex Rodriguez he is just like Barry Bonds one of the two best hitters in major league history and we don’t know which years were PED aided and which ones were clean bringing shame to not only their credibility as players, but  America’s National Pastime as well.

That being said, as a baseball fanatic I still marvel at the numbers Rodriguez has put up tainted or not. He is 4th all time in home runs (696), 3 MVP’S, 14- Time all-star and a 10 time silver slugger. He also helped lead the Yankees to their last World Series championship in 09 with an all world postseason. The numbers are insane and unthinkable for any player to achieve no matter the baggage that comes with this career.

How will I remember A-Rod at least for now? His career and life have been like a soap opera that had a lot of bright spots and controversy. I will say through all the missteps and animosity he has faced, he kept taking every punch and criticism in stride in trying to mend the relationships that were strained during the dark points of his career.

The sickening reality, I think he loves the game of baseball so much as Ken Rosenthal put it, he wanted to be too great and that resulted in very poor choices that have tainted a legacy that was already going to be one for the ages. I’ll end with this A-Rod is the most polarizing athlete love him or  hate him, he brought something to the game of baseball that will be talked about for years to come both the good and the bad!

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Atlanta Braves, MLB

Braves future even brighter following deadline

The Atlanta Braves season has been hard to stomach as they continue to rebuild for the new ballpark in 2017. They currently sit with the worst record in major league baseball at 37-69 and for a while there I questioned if they would get to the 20-win mark. However, the team has done a remarkable job restocking the pipeline with many top-flight prospects that will hopefully return us to the glory days.

As we wait for those prospects to get the call to the show I think this year’s deadline was a great turning point for this organization as they were finally able to add offense to both our system and the big-league club. John Coppola and John Hart were able to work magic first trading Lucas Harrell and Darío Alvarez to the Texas Rangers for their 20th best prospect Travis Demeritte.

Demeritte just 21 years of age hitting .272 with 25 home runs and 13 stolen bases. It’s incredible that the team was able to acquire such a high upside prospect with the average power combination that is pretty rare in baseball today. The fact that the team was able to take two guys basically off the trash heap and turn them into a bat.

Next the John’s did the impossible and traded Hector Olivera to the San Diego Padres for Matt Kemp. The Braves were not only able to get out of a bad contract and the situation with Olivera whom struggled on the field and off with domestic abuse, but they were able to get a proven major league bat in return.

Kemp is hitting .260 with 23 home runs and 69 RBIs he brings a veteran presence and hopefully some protection to first baseman Freddie Freeman lengthening our lineup putting pressure on opposing pitchers. Not only that, we have him for the next three years at a very respectable 18.5 million per year. Which seems like a lot,but we got out from under a bad situation and got a player that can help on the field daly.This move also gives us options this off-season as we now have a surplus of outfielders we may be able to address another area of weakness in a trade this off-season.

As you can see, the organization has turned a corner finally able to add pieces that will right away help the major league club. Also through this rebuild process the team has been able to create financial flexibility so we will be able to be pretty active this off-season looking to upgrade the catching and third base positions.

It’s been a tough process to watch, but it seems we will be contenders sooner rather than later. When that happens, I believe we will be able to sustain it with the bevy of prospects we’ve amassed. Stay patient Braves country we aren’t that far off!

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MLB, Top 10 List

Top Ten Starting Pitchers Right Now

Starting pitching is like gold in baseball can’t ever have enough of it. It’s the most important aspect of a team because while the goal is to score more runs than the opponent run prevention is just as key so your offense has a chance to put runs on the board. Today major league baseball has a ton of quality starting pitcher’s littered from coast-to-coast.

Pitchers that hitters may ask out of the lineup because they have a slight soreness or “cold” when in reality they just don’t want to have to face the nasty stuff of that night’s starter. In 2016 baseballs ace pitchers have stepped up to another level. Who knows where some of these teams would be if they didn’t have the ace stopper on the team. There are many great choices, but here are my top 10 starting pitchers right now!

  1. Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw is not only the best pitcher currently in the game, but he has become a once in a generation type player that will be talked about for decades. Kershaw is already in the Hall of Fame discussion just eight years into his illustrious career. He has put unthinkable numbers making baseball look way too easy.

He has a career record of 125-57 with a microscopic 2.37 ERA, numbers that will be hard to duplicate on a videogame. Absolutely incredible he is a magician on the mound continuously making his opponents look silly start after start. It’s hard to believe that Kershaw a five-time All-Star, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, and an NL MVP can improve but that’s the case for Kershaw in 2016.

The season he has taken his game to another level he has had 11-1 record with 1.82 ERA! To put this historic season in perspective here some numbers he has walked just eight batters the entire season. Additionally, he has six starts with 10+ strikeouts and no walks. The Dodgers would be sunk this season and many others without the dominance of Kershaw the team is 14-2 with him on the mound.

Unfortunately, Kershaw has been sidelined with a herniated disc in his back since June 30 and it’s unknown if he will return in 2016. Which is a massive blow to the Dodgers playoff hopes, however the team has stayed afloat with an 18-10 record and currently hold the top wild card spot.

That being said I don’t see the Dodgers going very far in October even if they land a top-flight starter in the next 17 hours because Kershaw is on another planet from every other starter and is irreplaceable. Additionally, their starters just keep dropping like flies and I don’t think they have the depth and trust in their healthy pitchers. We’ll see what happens, I just don’t see the Dodgers making it very far without the best pitcher in baseball.

 

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2.    Madison Bumgarner

The San Francisco Giants are one of the most consistent teams in baseball in World Series contention year after year. A big reason why is the staff ace Madison Bumgarner since making his debut in 2009, he is a three-time World Series champion and has become one of the most reliable starters in the big league right now. In just seven seasons Bumgarner has become one of the best lefties to ever take the mound in the big leagues. He is 95-64 with 2.93 ERA. Those numbers prove he’s an amazing pitcher and is constantly baffling hitters.

However, the moment the baseball world really appreciated and understood how good Bumgarner is was the 2014 World Series when he put his team on his back and single-handedly won the championship. He a rubber armed bulldog on the mound pitching a record 52 2/3 innings posting a ridiculous 0.25 silencing the Kansas City Royals to win the teams third World Series in the last six years. This performance supplanted Bumgarner’s legacy no matter what the rest of his career holds.

He’s continued great success in 2016 with a 10-6 with a microscopic ERA of 2.25 ERA, which he continues to improve year after year. The mark of a legendary hurler is they are never satisfied with themselves and look to improve in every aspect of their game and that is Madison Bumgarner in a nutshell is a big reason I put him at number two on this list.

 

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3. Stephen Strasburg

The perceived Savior of the Washington Nationals has finally become what everyone expected him to be coming out of San Diego State in 2010. It made be a slight shock to people that he ranks this high because of his injury history. However, the reality is he’s having a breakout season and should be recognized for his historic work in 2016 and overall he’s been pretty darn good throughout his career.

A big reason for Strasburg’s success in 2016 I believe is the new leadership in the Nationals dugout. Manager Dusty Baker has brought a calming influence to everybody, including Strasburg telling him to smile more and enjoy going to the mound every fifth day. I think he’s taken that to heart he has a 15-1 record with a 2.63 ERA thus far in 2016.

It’s amazing, especially in baseball considering you might not have your A+ stuff every time you go out on the mound. Despite that Strasburg has given his team a chance to win every time out. Strasburg is proving the Nationals right and giving him the seven-year contract extension as he is finally reaching the potential everybody expected. I think he is finally trusting that he is fully healthy and can just focus on pitching without the fear of something flaring up.

His confidence is at all time high 2016 could be the start of something very special for Strasburg and the Washington Nationals. Strasburg looks to have figured it out and that is not a good thing for the rest of baseball.

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4.   Chris Sale

Chris Sale drafted 13th overall pick in the 2010 draft out of Florida Gulf Coast University. In his six years he has quickly become one of the most dominant left-handed pitchers in baseball. He is an astounding 71-43 with 2.95 ERA. What he has been able to do is absolutely amazing because the majority of his work has been done against the American League with the DH.

Additionally, he pitches in a bandbox of a home ballpark at US cellular Field making these numbers even more remarkable. He has continued his dominance in 2016 posting a 14-5 record with a 3.12 ERA witch makes him the leading candidate for the American League’s sister CY Young award despite the teams’ struggles.

The White Sox might have to sell this deadline, but Sale better stay put because he is a franchise player and they need someone to build around dominant lefties like him don’t grow on trees. As a baseball fan, I hope the White Sox will be able to contend soon so I can watch Sale in a position that he deserves because he is too talented not to experience postseason play.

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5  José Fernandez

Major league baseball has seen an influx of young flamethrowers that have made the game very exciting to watch. The Miami Marlins have one of those in 23-year-old José Fernandez. In his three years he has shown us what an ace looks like, but also how to have fun while doing your job. It’s refreshing to see a young guy have success and tip his cap when he gets beat.

He is getting the last laugh the majority of the time. He is 34-14 with a 2.52 ERA with a remarkable 25-2 record at Marlins Park. It’s crazy that Fernandez has just three years of experience he  looks like a grizzled veteran. If he’s able to stay healthy many records will get broken by Fernandez while on the mound.

The great success has continued in 2016 he is 12-6 with 2.87 ERA making it a very long day for opponents in the batters box. He is a strikeout machine recording over 500 strikeouts in just a little over 400 innings. I know strikeouts are just another out and don’t matter in the game of baseball anymore to hitters, but it’s insane the pace that Fernandez is on. He is also the first pitcher to record multiple 14 strikeout games. Putting that in perspective that is 4 1/2 innings without contact and no contact means no runs, giving Fernandez and the team an amazing chance to win every time he toes the mound.

The Marlins are very lucky to have found him, but they better take advantage of this playoff situation that they currently find themselves in because I honestly doubt Fernandez will be a Marlin for life because he is a client of Scott Boras and that usually means testing the free-agent market.

That being said, the Marlins need to do everything they can to reach the playoffs while they have this horse on their staff because it might not last. Fernandez is an incredible pitcher and starting pitching is like gold and every team would welcome a pitcher of his caliber. I’m saying the marlins better not waste this chance and talent. Fernandez has brought new energy to the pitcher’s mound and he is fun to watch.

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6. Jake Arrieta

The Chicago Cubs are relevant again because of their young studs and their staff ace Jake Arrieta. The journey to the top Arrieta was a roller coaster ride. Prior to finding the magic in the Windy City he pitched for the Baltimore Orioles, whom he struggled to find consistency because they tried to change his mechanics and take away his cutter, which made his performance mediocre.

This resulted in a trade to the Cubs where Arrieta found his footing becoming an NL CY Young award winner and the leader of the staff as they try to break the curse that is Chicago Cubs baseball. Last year’s second half was historic as he posted 0.82 ERA and was compared to greats like Bob Gibson and Greg Maddux. He ended 2015 with 22-6, record with an untouchable 1.77 ERA a feat that is hard to accomplish in video games let alone real life with the best baseball players in the world.

He’s backed it up quite nicely in 2016 with a 12-5 record with a 2.75 and a no hitter thrown in. He is a little farther down than he would’ve been except he’s struggled a little bit in the second half with consistency and sometimes throwing too many strikes and some opponents have taken advantage.

However, I think he and the team have righted the ship and are best equipped for a long postseason run in October so long as they stay healthy. Arrieta is a story of perseverance and a lesson for teams if a guy has talent don’t try to change them, let them show you what got them to that position in the first place. Be patient you might be able to mold Cy Young winner and a perennial All-Star.

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7. Johnny Cueto

Once again the San Francisco Giants struck gold with the off-season signing of Johnny Cueto to a six-year $130 million contract. Which to this point looks like one of the biggest steals because the Giants have formed a deadly one-two punch at the top of the rotation that has them poised to make another World Series run in an even year.

Cueto is just coming off the World Series championship with the Kansas City Royals. He was the brilliant ace they needed to put them over the top as he threw two complete games to help them secure their first World Series title since 1985. He’s carried that momentum out West posting a 13-3 record with a 2.73 ERA. Cueto is one of the most imaginative pitchers in baseball with an array of wind ups constantly keeping opponents off balance.

That is a unique quality in a pitcher because traditionally a pitcher has one set of mechanics and if they get out of wack struggles will likely happen. That is not an issue for Cueto because he changes his approach mid hitter depending on situation giving him an edge against opponents.

I believe the trade to the Royals was a great thing for Cueto to experience postseason pressure and success because I think he got in a bit of a rut with the Reds. Now with renewed confidence he has once again become one of the most reliable pitchers in baseball. Setting up the Giants for a long postseason run as they try to continue the even year magic.

 8. J.A Happ

The Toronto Blue Jays are currently in a dogfight for the AL East crown as they sit ½ a game back of the Baltimore Orioles. The Blue Jays have relied heavily on their offense to get in their current position. However, this year they’ve had a little bit more consistency in their rotation with a breakout year for left-hander J.A Happ.

Happ has finally put it all together in his second tenure with the Blue Jays posting a 14-3 record with a 3.18 ERA putting Happ him right in the middle of CY Young award conversations. An amazing feat considering his home ballpark is a launching pad and normally a pitcher’s nightmare. However, that has not been the case for Happ in 2016, he is 9-1 with 3.02 ERA, proving you can have success in hitter friendly ballparks.

It’s really great to see a journeyman type player have great success after some mediocre seasons recently for Happ. As for the organization this is one of the biggest bargains of the off-season as they signed Happ to a three-year $36 million deal. He’s gone from a great veteran presence to deepen their rotation to a prime CY Young candidate.

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9. Cole Hamels

The Texas Rangers currently sit atop the AL West by 6 games over the Houston Astros led by the forgotten ace Cole Hamels. Hamels was dealt to the Rangers at the deadline last July and hasn’t missed a beat the former world champion has put together a quiet 12-2 record with a 2.84 ERA putting him in Cy Young conversation.

Hamels has been one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball for 10 years being the ace for two different clubs and helps lead the Phillies to a championship in 2008 as I mentioned. Since putting on the Rangers uniform he is 19-3 and amazingly he hasn’t been talked about as much as he should because he is out West.

I think that’s been a great benefit for Hamels because although he is the ace he is not “the guy” as he was in the latter part of his Phillies career. Therefore he is not putting as much pressure on himself and is just pitching free and easy. Additionally he is closer to his family, which is also a benefit for any athlete.

He looks very comfortable in a Ranger uniform and the production continues to get better just like a fine wine. A great quality Hamels possesses is the fact he is an innings eater averaging 195 innings per season preserving the bullpen a manager’s dream. Showing that he’s a bulldog on the mound and will fight tooth and nail to stay in the game.

Hamels helped lead the Rangers to a playoff berth in 2015 he looks to do the same this season with a ring at the end of this year. Also he still has two years left on his contract with an option in 2019. It’s a dream situation for both the Rangers and Hamels.

 

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10.                          Chris Tillman

The Baltimore Orioles are in a dogfight for the AL East crown they currently sit half a game of the Blue Jays with the Red Sox nipping at their heels as well. They’ve used the long ball and a breakout year from  right- hander Chris Tillman. This is another guy that has come out of nowhere and become the ace of the rotation. He is 14-3 with a 3.46 ERA.

This is an incredibly impressive season, Tillman is putting together considering he is pitching in what I think is the toughest division in baseball and a bandbox of a home ballpark in Camden Yards. I think Tillman has been the MVP of the Orioles this season, I struggle to imagine what their season would look like without him in the rotation because there is been quite a bit of inconsistency and injury that they’ve had to deal with. Tillman has saved the Orioles and the rest of the rotation as collectively the other four starters have amassed just 14 wins combined.

This breakout year from Tillman is exactly what the doctor ordered for the Orioles because without him I don’t think they are anywhere near the top of the division without the breakout year from Tillman. Tillman has spent his entire 9-year career in Baltimore and has had a pretty consistent career with 70-45 record with a respectable 4.06 ERA. He is a guy that you don’t hear much about because he’s not one of the big names in baseball, but in 2016 he is forcing people to notice him.

If the Baltimore Orioles want to have success in October Tillman must continue to pitch well and they must hit home runs if that happens, they will be a contender in the postseason as they have the best setup-closer combination in baseball with Brad Bach and Zach Britton if they are able to get the lead late in the game anything can happen in postseason baseball.

 

These are my top 10 starting pitchers right now! This list is one of the reasons I love baseball you can be an ace from the beginning of your career or you can go from mediocrity to greatness with perseverance and hard work. This list has a great mixture of those stories. Do you agree?

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