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!

160619230836-25-nba-finals-0619-super-169 

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.

dp-teel-time-coastal-carolina-baseball

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!!!

Standard
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.

 

082715-MLB-SF-Giants-Madison-Bumgarner-MM-PI.vresize.1200.675.high.89

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.

 

i

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.

hi-res-238d41b9f5ddbdc2393c9d47c7c74198_crop_north

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.

1447938042717

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.

chi_g_arrieta_600

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.

usa-today-9255622.0

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.

Texas+Rangers+v+Detroit+Tigers+_LE-A9EmyA1l

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.

 

IMG_0992

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?

Standard
MLB

The Seattle Mariners are not being talked about and they should be

The baseball world has been enamored by the Cubs historic start and what Bryce Harper does every at-bat and the Boston Red Sox offense. Those are storylines that jumped off the page to start the season, but people seem to be forgetting a little team out West the Seattle Mariners. It might be because they’ve underperformed when “experts” thought they should start winning, but in 2016 it seems they’ve taken that all-important step with the new regime and a healthy Robinson Cano. They are currently 28-19 first in the AL West.

A big key to the teams early success is that they are road warriors with an 18-7 record away from Safeco Field. Proving they are capable of winning anywhere. 

Another  key has been the return of Robinson Cano to his old self. He had been dealing with a virus most of the 2015 season that effected his play tremendously, but now he’s 100 percent healthy and it shows. He is hitting .294 with 14 home runs and 43 runs batted in! Fueling this Mariners offense along with his partner in crime Nelson Curz. Two all-stars back to back in a lineup is deadly! 

Lastly, the team made a change in the front office and it has paid of big time.

The “Dipoto” Effect

JerryDipoto

The person to thank for the 2016 Seattle Mariners roster is general manager Jerry Dipoto the former general manager of the Los Angeles Angels has taken his talents a little further west and has built a serious contender. He has made many savvy moves in constructing this roster one move that is really paying off early for the Mariners is the acquisition of Leonys Martin he has added speed, defense, and a little pop to the lineup that already had Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, and Nelson Cruz.

Martin is batting a respectable .262 with nine home runs in 20 runs batted in and has .336 on-base percentage helping set up the big boppers in the middle of the lineup. He also can go get them in the outfield helping his pitchers avoid bigger innings. Dipoto also was able to help the pitching staff with the acquisition of Wade Miley. He is 5-2 with 4.50 ERA, which isn’t great, but he has been a reliable innings eater that the Mariners were looking for.

Miley has pitched near or above 200 innings the last four seasons and that’s a rare quality for any pitcher in today’s version of baseball with bullpens being so dominant but it’s a luxury the Mariners are taking advantage of. Additionally, the reliever the team gave up in the trade Carson Smith underwent Tommy John surgery unfortunate for him and the Red Sox, but it makes this deal an even bigger win for the Mariners.

The most surprising part of the Mariners team for many is the consistency and success of their bullpen. They have been the sixth best bullpen in the big leagues, thus far in 2016 they have a 5-4 record with 2.62 ERA. Very impressive considering it’s the American League with the designated hitter and the powerful teams they face in in the American League West.

Dipoto shook things up at the back end of the game as well, signing closer Steve Cishek to a two-year $10 million contract this off-season. Cishek who struggled with the Marlins and Cardinals in 2015 has found his form again and has become one of the top closers in the American League and baseball. Converting 12 out of 15 save opportunities looking to have that confidence and swagger once again out on the mound. Dipoto also got Joaquin Benoit quality set up man that has experience as a closer creating depth with veteran guys that understand what it takes to come out of the bullpen in close games and shut the door.
Dipoto has tweaked every part of this Mariner team, but so far he’s gotten great production out of the moves he has made and seems to have a renewed confidence in himself after a messy departure from the Angels. Players aren’t the only ones that need  a fresh start, but sometimes management needs one as well. Dipoto has thrived with his new team.

469635860

The Seattle Mariners are poised to continue the chase for the division title and a deep postseason run. It might be a few years later than people anticipated, but they’re here and here to stay. Their offense is led by Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz and don’t forget their staff ace King Felix! Sleep on them if you want, but they are just going to keep winning so baseball I would start to take notice of the team out West.

Standard
MLB, Top 5 list

Top 3 Most Improved Teams this MLB Off-Season

Baseball is officially back! Spring training games are well underway  a fun time for all 30 teams. They all get a clean slate and have an equal opportunity to chase a division title and World Series title in the beginning of March. Every team had a different agenda this off-season to put their teams in the best situation possible.

Here are my top three most improved teams based on the off-season. All of them have championship aspirations and the moves they made are going to be a huge part of the chase for a World Series title.

chicago-cubs-2

1. The Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Cubs have quickly become the darlings of baseball with their magical playoff run last year. Theo Epstein is the mastermind of another historical organizational turnaround, he has taken the Cubs from the laughing stock of baseball to on the cusp of a World Series championship.

Theo

How it has happened 

 

Epstein has done it through the draft and keen trades since arriving in the Windy City. They have taken advantage of their high draft picks in recent years getting young sluggers Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, and Javier Baez whom all have quickly become opposing pitcher’s nightmare.

In addition, on July 5, 2014 Epstein was able to swindle Addison Russell from the Oakland A’s, who was the A’s top prospect at the time for pitchers Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija. The A’s were pushing for a deep playoff run, so it made sense at the time, but now they’re experiencing buyer’s remorse as Russell has become another key piece to the Cubs roster.

Epstein four-year plan is coming the other rather nicely because he was able to bolster the roster this off-season with veteran quality players to complement these young studs that have proven they can play and at times dominate.

This off-season they added outfielder Jason Heyward, veteran starter John Lackey, utility man, Ben Zobrist, and outfielder Dexter Fowler. These four moves on paper make the Cubs look unstoppable. Let’s take a look at why all four of these players are perfect for the Cubs in their quest for a championship.

gettyimages-5014721641-e1450225554523

Jason Heyward 8 years 184 Million

Jason Heyward was one of the most coveted free agents on the market this off-season. He cashed in big-time when he signed with the Chicago Cubs for eight years worth $184 million.

This is a great deal for both sides for many reasons. Hayward is just 26 years of age and still in the prime of his career. Hayward’s best asset is the fact that he is one of the elite defenders in the league. He is a three-time Gold Glover and since entering the league in 2010, he has the most defensive runs saved with 122 a pitcher’s best friend.

 

Hayward has been a tad inconsistent on offense throughout his career. However, in Chicago he has experienced great success batting .311 and a .376 on-base percentage. That prior success and being plugged into an already stacked lineup that will feature Dexter Fowler, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist the skies the limit for Jason Heyward who is comfortable in the friendly confines. He doesn’t have to put too much pressure on himself with the other quality players around him in the Windy City.

ben-zobrist

Ben Zobrist 4 years 56 Million

Zobrist was another highly coveted free agent by many because of his versatility chose to take less money to go to Chicago. This is a very comfortable situation for Zobrist as he is reunited with Joe Madden, who was his manager in Tampa. This is a good move for the Cubs because he gives great at-bats forcing the pitch counts up and just taking what teams give him.

That is key for a team that is full of guys that are not afraid to strike out a time or two. He might’ve been overpaid just a little bit because the Cubs will primarily use him at second base. However, he can give guys days off when needed because he can play the infield and the outfield. He is a great veteran presence as well, these young guys can go pick his brain and learn how to be a professional from Zobrist.

i

John Lackey 2 years 32 million

John Lackey another quality pickup for the Cubs adding depth to their starting rotation that has the reigning Cy Young award winner Jake Arrieta and John Lester. He’s an innings eater averaging 191 innings pitched per year, preserving the bullpen. The bullpen is the one concern for the Cubs because they are a little bit inexperienced and inconsistent.

He also has a lot of postseason experience, which always helps a young roster with very little outside of last season. His personality will also fit well in the Chicago clubhouse because he is so fiery and intense he will get young guys to focus when needed. The cherry on top is the Cubs were able to take two key players from the St. Louis Cardinals their arch rival.

fowler Dexter Fowler 1 year 8 million

This move should have never happened as Dexter Fowler had agreed to a three-year deal with the Baltimore Orioles. The deal fell through because the Orioles were not willing to give Fowler and opt out of his contract. He decided to go where ” his heart is” this move is good for the Cubs because Jason Heyward can go back to his primary position of right-field that is less taxing than center field. It also deepens the lineup, as Fowler will most likely lead off with his great speed setting the table for this ridiculous lineup. This deal is also cheaper than it would’ve been if he accepted the qualifying offer at the beginning of the off-season.

As we all know sports aren’t won on paper, but with these four moves plus the plethora of young studs they have littered throughout their roster,  they will have a great chance to win that long awaited championship.

det_1200x630

2. The Detroit Tigers

The Detroit Tigers have always been known as big spenders chasing their first championship since 1984. This off-season was no different as they added slugger Justin Upton, frontline starter Jordan Zimmerman and experienced closer Francisco Rodriguez. The Tigers in recent years have been ravaged by injuries and bullpen blunders that have cost them dearly. These additions will make the AL Central race very entertaining to watch.

635889095027339421-tigers-012015-kd-6

Justin Upton 6 years 132 million

The Detroit Tigers have always been known as big spenders chasing their first championship since 1984. This off-season was no different as they added slugger Justin Upton, frontline starter Jordan Zimmerman and experienced closer Francisco Rodriguez. The Tigers in recent years have been ravaged by injuries and bullpen blunders that have cost them dearly. These additions will make the AL Central race very entertaining to watch.

The Detroit Tigers struck gold when they were able to land free-agent Justin Upton. This seems to be a perfect fit because Upton is one of the premier hitters in baseball. The former first-overall pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks is entering his ninth year and is looking to make a great impact in the Motor City. Upton has been very consistent, even on bad teams. He has a.271 career average and is averaging 21 home runs in his career some of those seasons in pitcher friendly ballparks to boot.

As I said, this seems to be a perfect fit for Detroit because it lengthens an already potent lineup headlined by future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera. He is also very versatile and can hit anywhere in the lineup, giving pitching staffs different look depending on the starter.

Also his age is a big plus, he is just 28 years old and the contract takes him through what is thought to be the prime years of a career. He also is a solid defender in the outfield being nominated for the Gold glove multiple times. Offense has never been the issue for the Tigers the addition of Upton just makes them even scarier and a big threat in the American League.

jordan-zimmermann-12415

Jordan Zimmerman  5 years 110 Million

The Detroit Tigers bolstered their starting rotation with the pickup of right-hander Jordan Zimmerman. This is a very solid pickup considering the Tigers have a lot of wear and tear in their rotation with Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez, whom are not spring chickens anymore and have a history of injuries. Zimmerman provides depth and another veteran. The best asset he provides is he is an innings eater and very durable.

Last season with the Washington Nationals, he started 33 games and posted 13-10 record with a 3.66 ERA and pitched over 200 innings. In his career, he is 70-50 with a 3.22 ERA with over 1000 innings pitched. He is a warrior that you want is a part of your pitching staff. I think getting out of the toxic locker room of the Nationals will benefit Zimmerman and having a better offense behind him will result in a really good season.

CUHE32MUEAAcUzA

Francisco Rodriguez 2 years 13 Million

The part of the Detroit Tigers that has held them back from championships in recent years has been their bullpen surrendering so many late leads. They addressed their biggest weakness by signing veteran closer Francisco Rodriguez (K-ROD). The Detroit Tigers bullpen was dismal in 2015 they ranked 27th posting a 4.38 and experienced many heartbreaking losses because of that. The addition of Rodriguez will finally give manager Brad Ausmus confidence in save situations and close ballgames.

The 14-year veteran Rodriguez has seen it all and has been one of the most consistent closers in Major League Baseball over that span. He has converted 386 saves with a 2.69 ERA very good numbers and should get some consideration for the Hall of Fame in my opinion, but he’s not done yet. The signing could be the most underrated of the off-season depending on how the team and Rodriguez perform, but I love this move and it could catapult the Tigers to a World Series Championship

The Detroit Tigers did a great job of bolstering every aspect of their roster and I expect them to be a contender throughout the 2016 season thanks to the front office and their wallets.

Boston_Red_Sox8

3. Boston Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox are looking to rebound from a dismal 2015 season that saw them go from first to last. The Red Sox started this off-season by revamping the front office hiring Dave Dombrowski former head of baseball operations of the Tigers and former general manager of the Atlanta Braves Frank Wren to construct the best 25-man roster possible.

They made two major moves that make them major contenders in the American League East and beyond. They were able to land the best pitcher on the market in David Price and acquired the best closer in baseball over the last several years in Craig Kimbrel.

GettyImages-499968822.0

David Price 7 years 217 Million

The Boston Red Sox definitely opened their wallets for Price, but I think it’s well worth it because it could possibly be a 10-win improvement with Price leaving the starting rotation. David Price has been one of the most consistent pitchers of his time, even though he has bounced around because of money issues and teams not being in contention.

Price went 18-5 with a 2.45 ERA with the Tigers and Blue Jays last season. In his regular-season career, he is virtually untouchable with a record of 104-56 with a 3.06 ERA. Those numbers show you why the Red Sox were willing to give him that contract.

However, the elephant in the room for Price is when the lights are brightest he tends to falter, his postseason record is 14-8 with a 5.12 ERA. He will get a chance to redeem himself with the Red Sox this season and I feel like he will have a great year and help his new team to a deep postseason run.

davis_st219-3_spts

Craig Kimbrel in Trade

The Boston Red Sox not only bolstered the beginning of the game, but also deepened their options at the end in the game as well acquiring Craig Kimbrel from the Padres. Some baseball executives say the Red Sox gave up too much for Kimbrel prospect wise however they are just prospects and you don’t know how they will pan out. Couple that with Kimbrel’s proven track record as one of the most reliable closers in Major League Baseball. With a bad San Diego Padres team Kimbrel still managed 39 saves and a 2.58 ERA. In his career he has 225 saves and a minuscule 1.63 ERA.

This was a great move for the Red Sox because they’ve had some uncertainty with injuries and inconsistency over the last couple seasons. Kimbrel provides durability and certainty in save situations and close ballgames.

These two moves are exactly what the Red Sox need to get back to their winning ways. The new front office made a great first impression on their fans we will see how it plays out on the diamond, but I think they are once again a scary team.

 Conclusion

 These are my three most improved teams this off-season that have greatly improved their chances to win a World Series title this season.  Do you agree?

Standard
MLB

There’s nothing better than Postseason baseball

The Major League Baseball postseason has been absolutely insane, thus far with monstrous homers, epic comebacks, shaky defense, and just for good measure some controversy. This postseason shows the growth and parity of America’s National Pastime three of the four teams advancing to the championship series didn’t make the postseason last year.

The Cubs, Mets and Blue Jays have flexed their muscles and proved they belong this year and beyond, but let’s not forget about the Kansas City Royals proving that last year’s Cinderella run was no fluke! Here are my top takeaways from an unbelievable opening round.

image

1  Starved fan bases have come out in droves to cheer on their teams

As I said earlier, three of the four remaining teams didn’t make the postseason last year and two of the teams have waited years for their next crack at October baseball. Although their teams have not experienced postseason in a while the fans are definitely not rusty and it’s been amazing to watch the excitement it gives me Goosebumps even though my team isn’t in the fight.

The Cubs were able to celebrate at historic Wrigley Field for the first time in their history absolutely amazing and breathtaking. The Blue Jays also got to celebrate for the first time since the Joe Carter game in 1993. The New York Mets also have waited a while this was their first postseason appearance since 2006; I guess we could say at least someone’s happy in New York. It’s really exciting to see new faces in the playoffs just making baseball even more fun to watch! Little shout out to the Houston Astros as well a magical run that came to a devastating end; however your fans were amazing and have a very bright future!

mlbf_523115083_th_45

2  Pitching and defense win championships

One of the oldest sports sayings in the book came to the forefront in every matchup in the opening round. I’ll start with the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals in game two with the Cardinals already had a 1-0 series lead Kolten Wong a normally shorthanded second baseman booted a ground ball opening the floodgates for the Chicago Cubs to a five-run inning gaining all the momentum which propelled them to a series victory.

Also, it felt like every time the Cardinals grabbed any type of momentum it was taken away by the Cubs getting a timely hit off a relief core that was ranked at times number one in the league and consistently in the top five all year. Those miscues and the lack of bodies were too much for the Cardinals to overcome.

If you’re an Astros fan skip part, they had a 6-2 lead in the eighth inning of the potential clinching game for them. Then it just started to unravel with dink and dunk hits and a potential double play ball going off of Carlos Correa’s glove that would’ve stifled the rally.  The Astros had no one they could rely on coming out of the bullpen and the relative inexperience that is what doomed them and I’m sure in the off-season they will address the back end of the game the way the series played out it will haunt them for a little while. With the Royals having a dominant bullpen turning it into a six-inning game that was the difference in a series. This will continue to be for the Royals, who look to continue to feed off the momentum they’ve created from last year and this.

We thought the Astros had the most devastating series loss nope, it was the other Texas team. First of all blowing a 2-0 series lead and a seven inning to forget it will be in the player’s nightmares forever three routine plays turned into errors leading to what might’ve been the biggest bat flip I’ve ever seen after a moonshot to give them the lead they never relinquished. The series also had a few brawls and unnecessary things from the fans, it had everything.

The last series was the New York Mets versus the Los Angeles Dodgers this one didn’t have the defense miscues, but the pitching was a big factor because the New York Mets were much deeper easily having four starters that you are very confident can go shut down opposing offenses. Whereas the Dodgers just had Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke, who are the best in the business, but were exposed in game three when the Mets scored 13 runs. Thus, putting all the pressure on two guys just became too much even though they pitched very well and good enough to win. The Dodger offense wasn’t able to crack the code of the Mets young stars on the mound ultimately deciding the series.

3  The Cubs are here to stay

cubs-101315-getty-ftrjpg_1j5fnhasy2wae1bhs73xrds9r4The Cubs were able to defeat their arch rival the St. Louis Cardinals in impressive fashion. Taking advantage of the conditions in the friendly confines absolutely tearing the cover off the baseball and coming up with timely hitting not allowing the Cardinals to gain any momentum after game one when Lackey shut them down.

Some other big takeaways I had from this series is the maturity of Jorge Soler going four for seven with a home run and the more eye-popping stats for him is he has walked six times his plate discipline has markedly improved since debuting because when he first came up, he would just wave at the breaking ball having noncompetitive at-bats and now he is a force and could be a big X-factor as continued to play. all the young sluggers to go with Soler; this offense looks like a force to be reckoned with. Another key I’ve seen is the unsung heroes coming out of the bullpen Trevor Cahill getting key outs in the postseason continues to build his confidence this was a guy that had a 7.73 ERA and now is getting meaningful outs in October very happy for him. Lastly, with Joe Maddon leading the squad anything can happen he’s been a wizard with this team.

4.  Looking Ahead

Bracket-2015-101515-LCS

The reality is this is just the beginning of the postseason and both of the upcoming series are going to come down to the smallest of margins. The Mets and Cubs battled seven times this season and the Cubs are 7-0; this may give the Cubs a little momentum, but its postseason and anything can happen. This series is strength verseses strength with the Mets young pitching and the Cubs young sluggers that flex their muscles against one of the better pitching staffs in the league clubbing home run after home run. I’m pulling for the Cubs because I’m a diehard Braves fan and can’t bring myself to cheer for the Big Apple but I’m hoping for a closely contested series that comes down to the wire.

In the American League it’s once again strength on strength as the Blue Jays have an offense that can bludgeon opponents, but the Royals have the best bullpen left and can turn it into a six inning game quickly. They also have the experience and momentum they’ve created both this year and last. I don’t really care who wins the series, but I think I’m leaning towards the Royals due to their dominant bullpen. I hope for a closely contested series and it’s very exciting, I must say hope it doesn’t come down to any more controversy, we’ve had enough to last us until next season.

This has been an amazing start to the postseason obviously I would rather the Atlanta Braves be in it, but it might be a blessing in disguise that they’re not this year because I might’ve already had a heart attack the way these series have unfolded.

Standard
MLB

Why Arrieta should be the NL CY Young Winner

300x250_chc2015postseason

The Chicago Cubs have had a magical 2015 season finally seeing the fruits of their labor pay off clinching a playoff berth for the first time since 2008!!! They have gotten huge contributions from their young sluggers in Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Kyle Schwarber all of which they have either acquired in trades or drafted, sometimes it pays to be a bad team for a couple years. These guys have shown they are going to be a force for many years to come. The team also brought in highly touted manager Joe Maddon, who has already created a winning culture in his first year in the Windy City!!

The young offense is great, but as the saying goes pitching and defense wins championships and this year the Chicago Cubs have been led by the right arm of “Jake from State Farm” Jake Arrieta, who has put up eye-popping numbers this season making the Baltimore Orioles cringe wondering where this was a couple years ago. He is 22-6 with a miniscule ERA of 1.77 and 236 strikeouts ridiculous numbers; he the first pitcher since Dwight Gooden in 1985 to have 22 wins and a sub-two ERA. The overall numbers are jaw dropping, but Arrieta’s numbers in the second half are both historic and laughable he is 12-1 with an MLB record 0.75 ERA. Oh, just one more thing since August 1 he has an 11-0 with a 0.41 ERA it’s been unfair for opponents. This stretch is similar to the one Bob Gibson pulled off with the Cardinals forcing major league baseball to lower the mound unfortunately for offenses I don’t see that happening again.

Those are just staggering numbers and I believe he is going to join Hall of Famer Greg Maddux as the only pitcher that wasn’t an All-Star to win the National League CY Young award! Historic stuff and no way the Cubs would be where they are without Jake Arrieta and that’s why he should win the National League Cy Young award; it also helps that Zach Greinke and Clayton Kershaw will split votes!! All I have to say is good luck to the Pirates trying to crack the code of Arrieta. It’s been a magical season for the Cubs! Baseball is better when the Cubs are competitive and in postseason play. October is going to be fun and I’m excited to see how it plays out!

Standard