Cleveland Indians Winning Big

The Cleveland Indians have been on a tear lately and they are slowly gaining momentum in the AL Central and they are becoming contenders. Being in the same division as the defending champions the Kansas City Royals is a challenge, but the Indians are looking like the team to beat right now. Cleveland has great run support for their pitching staff which is a key to any team’s success.

If they can keep up this great pace and continue to put multiple runs on the board they will be able to extend their lead in their division. They are only up by half a game, but they can continue to climb and gain a healthy lead before the all-star break.

In their last six wins only two of those games were decided by 1 run. Their hitting has been great that is why the other four games of those six wins were not in question.

Their division rivals the Royals have been battling with them all season. In their 2 most recent series Cleveland swept the Royals in 4 games, but the Royals would return the favor with a 3 game series sweep of their own. Both of these teams will give problems to each other throughout the remainder of the season, and it will be a battle to the end.

Cleveland swept a series against the Chicago White Sox and they showed that they are a great offensive team in a couple of different ways. In game 1 they held on to the lead till the 9th inning and then won on a walk off hit. In game 2 they outscored the White Sox by 11 runs, and in game 3 another walk off win.

There is one player that has been coming up big for the Indians and that is Mike Napoli. He had 4 RBI’s in those 3 games. He has been producing in his role as DH this season. Napoli is hitting .229 and he seems to be in a great rhythm as his team continues to win.

Stating pitching for Cleveland has been another key to their success. In their last 3 games all starting pitchers have worked through 6 innings. That efficiency can preserve the bullpen and keep everyone healthy which is important especially with the second half of the season coming up.

I think this team has the potential to be one of the best teams in baseball, but they need to continue win more of the series they play. Each series is different and Cleveland has made adjustments to keep winning, but Terry Francona and his coaching staff need to find a way to not get swept as often.

Cleveland is 8 games over .500 and they are trying to pull away from the rest of the pack in the AL Central. They are playing like a team with a purpose and they do have playoff aspirations.

Now that the Cleveland curse has been broken due to the recent NBA Finals victory, the Indians want to bring a pennant back to their fans. If they keep winning they will put themselves in a better spot to become World Series champions.

Kansas City Royals Slow Roast Blue Jays To A 3-1 ALCS Lead

The Kansas City Royals bounced back from their 11-8 game three loss to beat the Toronto Blue Jays 12-2 in game four to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.  The matchup on Tuesday pitted knuckleballer R.A. Dickey against 88 MPH fastballer Chris Young of the Royals.  

Young’s last playoff appearance came in game one of the ALDS against Houston when starter Yordano Ventura got himself into trouble, causing Young to come in for relief; “CY” Young tossed four innings of relief and allowed just one run on three hits.

Young came in to pitch in to Tornto’s home run hitting offense in a ballpark that features 328 feet corners, a hitter’s dream.  R.A. Dickey and his knuckleball tossed in game four of the ALDS against Texas; he pitched 4.2 innings and allowed just one run on five hits.  Today was a much different story for Dickey as Young continued to shine.  

The first inning showed no promises for Dickey as he allowed a leadoff bunt single to Alcides Escobar that was followed by a two-run bomb into the right field seats from second baseman Ben Zobrist. A passed ball by Dickey allowed a run to score to increase the lead further to 3-0. Mike Moustakas tacked on one more run on a sac fly to finish out the Royals’ scoring in the first inning.

Chris Young (who struck out seven in his four inning outing against Houston) allowed Josh Donaldson to reach base on a walk in the first inning, but proceeded to strike out the side.  Former Blue Jay Alex Rios landed one in the left-center field seats in the top of the second to increase the Royals lead to 5-0 and ran Dickey out of the game allowing him to toss only 1.2 innings.  

With the hopes of tying the series slowly fading for Blue Jay fans, the Blue Birds were able to cut the deficit to 5-2 in the bottom of the third courtesy of a Josh Donaldson RBI double and a Jose Bautista RBI groundout. What cannot go unsaid is the performance by Liam Hendriks, who took over for Dickey in the second and hurled 4.2 scoreless one-hit innings, keeping the deficit at a reasonable 5-2 for the Jays.  

Chris Young continued to deal despite the short ballpark and his “slow heat;” he was replaced by Luke Hochevar in the bottom of the fifth inning. Young completed his outing with 2 earned runs on 3 hits in 4.2 innings, also striking out 4.

Hochevar pitched the end of the fifth and the entire sixth inning only allowing one hit.  Latroy Hawkins relieved Hendriks for the 7th inning and immediately loaded the bases without recording an out.  Hawkins was replaced by Ryan Tepera in an attempt to keep the Birds in the game.  

Alcides Escobar drove in a run with a sac fly while a seventh run was allowed to score on a wild pitch by Tepera.

 A single by Lorenzo Cain and a sac fly by Eric Hosmer increased the Royals lead to 9-2.  Royals reliever Ryan Madson took over for Hochevar and tossed a one-hit shutout seventh inning.  Apparently, Kansas City was not satisfied with a 9-2 lead as they tacked on 3 in the eighth to take a 12-2 lead over the #2 seeded team in the American League.

 After allowing two baserunners to reach in the top of the ninth, Blue Jay shortstop/second baseman Cliff Pennington emerged from the bullpen to pitch for the Birds; he allowed two hits and two runs to cross the plate, 14-2 Royals.  Franklin Morales tossed a one-hit ninth inning to close things out and secure the Royals a 3-1 series lead.

The Toronto Blue Jays got a taste of their own medicine on Tuesday as the Royals hammered two home runs and scored 14 runs on 15 hits; on Monday, the Blue Jays scored 11 runs on 11 hits to cut the KC series lead to 2-1.  

The Royals game two win last Saturday ensured that Toronto would have to win at least one game at Kauffman Stadium in Missouri, but Tuesday’s win ensures that Toronto will need to win on Wednesday at home as well as two times in Kanasas City in order to win the series.

 Chris Young also continued to be clutch for the Royals ball club, giving quality innings (even though he didn’t pitch 5 innings today) in his last two postseason appearances.  KC’s bullpen proved solid once again as the 4 relievers allowed just 3 hits.

The Blue Jays used 4 relievers and one everyday player to combat the Royals hot bats; combined, their bullpen allowed 9 runs on 11 hits. The Royals offense proved worthy of the “best offense in the AL” title and also breaking a franchise record with the most runs scored in a playoff game with 12 runs scored (previous record was 11 in 1985).  

3 Stars of the Game:

#3- (KC) 2B Ben Zobrist- 2-4, 2 RBI, HR, BB, 2 runs

#2- (KC) CF Lorenzo Cain- 2-3, 3 RBI, 2 BB, run

#1- (KC) SS Alcides Escobar- 2-3, 4 RBI, run

As they take a 3-1 series lead after their 14-2 blowout win on Tuesday, Kansas City can win their second straight American League pennant in game five on Wednesday.  If the Jays pull out a win in game five, the series will return to Kansas City for game six and the “if necessary” game seven.  Right hander Edinson Volquez (game one winner) takes the mound for the Royals against Marco Estrada (game one losing pitcher).

First pitch of game five at 4:07 PM ET, 1:07 PT on Wednesday at Rogers Centre in Toronto.  

Follow @dylanmiles97  on Twitter for MLB updates, news, analysis and commentary. 

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Are the Mariners Contending?

The Seattle Mariners are actually contending, I know, the 66-71 Mariners are just going to do what they always do, drop a vital series and this article becomes useless. I probably would agree with you if you thought that, but something is different about this team, maybe it’s the September call ups and this is just a good ride for a short time. Maybe it’s the hot bats of Trumbo, Seager, and Cano combined with a solid closer taking over in Tom Wilhelmsen. Whatever it is; they need to ride what it is that is making them win and take it all the way to October.

They will be opening up a 4 game series against the second place (Wild Card and A.L. West) Texas Ranger tonight, and with the Rangers coming off a series lost in LA, they look to bounce back from that so they can regain some of the ground they just lost. What gives them the sense that they will be fine is just how poor Seattle plays in Safeco Field (29-36) in contrast to just how well Texas plays on the road this year (39-32).

In a recent 13 game stretch, the Mariners have gone 9-4 in that stretch, improving their record to 66-71. The Mariners have not been over .500 since May 26th. With less then a month of baseball left; Seattle doesn’t have any room to lose, but they have the biggest and most unsuspecting chance ahead of them; Seattle will face Texas 7 times, Anaheim 6 times, Oakland and Houston 3 times. Currently, Seattle is 9 games behind Houston, and just beat them in Houston, which is really hard to do, let alone was the first team to take Dallas Keuchel yard in Houston(Mark Trumbo). I’m not saying they are going to money ball their way into 1st place in the A.L. West, but they have a great opportunity to make the post season via the wild card.

It’ the strength of schedule for the remaining wild card teams that start to make you think; Seattle might have the best chance to do something here.

Texas faces Houston and Seattle 14 times between the two, and play two series against Oakland and one against Detroit and finish the season against Anaheim.

Anaheim faces Houston and Seattle 6 times and will open a series against the Dodgers tonight; they will also play against fellow wild card contenders Minnesota for a 4-game series. They will then finish the season against Texas.

Baltimore who is sliding and sliding fast, will have two series against New York, one four game series against Toronto, 2 against Boston, one against Washington and a four game series against Tampa Bay.

Chicago, Cleveland and Minnesota will face off against each other 5 times for the rest of the season, making the change of positions between the three in the wild card race so fluctuating that unless one of them run the table they will just keep beating each other up and remaining where they stand. They also will play Kansas City and Detroit 5 times between the three as well.

When you balance the schedule’s of all the remaining wild card teams, and look at the Mariners, who haven’t lost in September so far, you can’t help but think, something special could really happen if the Mariners don’t cool down.

http://SportsRants.com

A.L. MVP Race

The A.L. MVP Race has been narrowed down to three candidates, in my opinion, and neither of them are pitchers. I would like to give Chris Archer and Sonny Gray a big nod towards the MVP race, but they will be fighting it out for A.L. Cy Young this year, and honestly, it’s down to just those two. I can’t think of a third candidate that will compare this year.

A lot of people have different views on “MVP”, is it someone that is putting up numbers and performing at a level that no one else is? Is it someone that is the reason the team is where they are? In other words, is it someone who is the best in baseball, or is it the most valuable player to this players team? I go back and forth myself, but in the end, I think it’s someone who is in both conversations. My MVP is a player who could be plugged into any team and instantly makes them a contending team, Miguel Cabrera could be the MVP every year if he never gets injured, he could play for the Phillies and somehow people will have a sense of hope that the team is a contender every year he is on the roster. So who had the MVP year in 2015?


Nelson Cruz: The best thing to happen to the Mariners this year, Nelson Cruz has always been able to crush the ball, and draw his walks because of the fear of what he might do at the plate. This year though, that’s not the case. He is having a career year, on path to hit more then 40 home runs, gather around 100 RBI’s, 170+ hits, 20+ go ahead hits, 300+ total bases, .750+ offensive winning percentage. The list of his accomplishments go on and on. The only month that Cruz was slumping was in June, and everyone in the MVP race has had a slumping month, but June was a bit ugly for Cruz, posting a slash line of .239/.323/.307. It was the only month where he didn’t post an OPS over 1. What has me saying Cruz is my 2015 AL MVP is that his fielding has been about average, which no one would have predicted when he came to Seattle, everyone assumed he was going to be a full time DH and play just a little in right field. When his manager Lloyd McClendon said that he would be playing a lot in the outfield, everyone scratched their head asking themselves, “why would you risk your best hitter getting injured at something that isn’t his strongest skill?”. Well, Cruz certainly proved those critics wrong this year, playing 71 games in the outfield, with a fielding percentage of .979, committing only 3 errors out of the 141 defensive chances.

The downside to his career year is his team, they didn’t perform nearly half as well as he did all season. If the Mariners were contending for a playoff spot, then he would be the front runner for MVP, hands down. Every talking head would speak of how Cruz was the best thing to happen to Seattle since Griffey. So it’s sad that the team Cruz is playing for is the reason his MVP season might not be labeled as a “MVP Season”. Take a look at his offensive ranking this year and see if that doesn’t change your mind to give the nod to Cruz this year.

Offensive WAR: 6.1 (2nd)
Batting Average: .320 (4th)
Slugging: .604 (1st)
OPS: .993 (2nd)
Hits: 150 (2nd)
Total Bases: 276 (1st)
Home Runs: 36 (1st)
RBI: 75 (7th)
Adj. Batting Wins: 4.7 (1st)
Extra Base Hits: 57 (4th)
Times on Base: 196 (3rd)
Runs Created: 109 (1st)
Offensive Winning Percentage: .794 (1st)
Intentional BB’s: 7 (4th)
AB per HR: 12.7 (3rd)
WPA: 4.9 (1st)


Josh Donaldson: The front runner for the trophy, Josh has been producing both, offensively and defensively all season, a little bit of a June hiccup, but not as bad as Cruz’s June or Trout’s August.  Even in his worst month, it would be anybody else’s good month, hitting .269 with 3 HR, 10 RBI, 8 walks and 8 extra base hits. He is making right or left hand match ups look like a joke, hitting .291 against right handed pitching, .347 against left handers, and 26 of his 34 home runs have come against right handed pitching.

Losing out to Kyle Seager last year for the Gold Glove, this year it looks like Donaldson will be a lock. Manny Machado would probably be the runner up if that helps anyone sleep at night. Donaldson also has a harder job given his stadium, Rodgers Stadium still using Astro Turf/GameDay Grass 3D and only Tropicana Field uses the same playing surface, so the ball doesn’t get to slow down if hit to any of the infielders, and Donaldson still ranks 1st in putouts at 3B with 104, and 3rd place in errors with only 16.

He is the first to 100 RBI’s and is still raking, and has plenty of time left to keep adding to the daunting numbers, take a look at where he ranks offensively:

On Base %: .370 (8th)
Slugging: .585 (4th)
OBPS: .956 (4th)
Runs Scored: 95 (1st)
Hits: 145 (7th)
Total Bases: 281 (2nd)
Doubles: 34 (2nd)
Home Runs: 34 (2nd)
RBI: 100 (1st)
Runs Created: 104 (2nd)
Adjusted Batting Wins: 4.0 (6th)
Extra Base Hits: 68 (1st)
Time On Base: 201 (3rd)
Offensive Win %: .739 (3rd)
Sac Flies: 7 (4th)
AB per HR: 14.1 (7th)
RE24: 46.63 (1st)
WPA: 4.7 (2nd)


Mike Trout: Last years MVP and the front runner for most of the summer, until August, Trout has been playing like he isn’t from this planet. He is going to garnish a lot of votes again this year, I expect him getting 2nd place for a 3rd time in his four year tenure in the MLB. Mostly because of where his team sits, and where his WAR has been since he stepped onto Angel Stadium of Anaheim, he has lead the MLB in WAR since his rookie tour, posting a 10.8 WAR in 2012, 9.3 in 2013 and 7.9 in 2014.  A lot of people will argue that this is the most important statistic when it comes to overall evaluation of a ball player, how much does he help your team, and for Mike Trout, he helps, he helps out A LOT. Yet, he still strikes out a lot, and has been slumping really bad this August. It’s going to be a month he will use to fuel him for the future, he can always look back at his .205/.333/.321 slash lines and remember what it was like to play at that low of a level, and knowing Mike, he will be humbled, knowing that he has the talent he does and is able to come out of a slump of this proportion.

But prior to this slide, he was definitely making it a hard decision to discount Donaldson and Cruz for MVP. Especially when you think about his defense, before the baseball world had trout, we were watching the spectacular plays in center field by the likes of Adam Jones, and Carlos Gomez, but now we seem to not think of those guys when someone brings up the Center Field position, and instantly all of our heads will go to Mike Trout. He’s this era’s Ken Griffey Jr without the HR numbers and hits from the right side. I don’t think we need to post the fancy defensive numbers to know that no one on the ball field plays their position better than Mike Trout… Well, maybe the platinum glove winner Andrelton Simmons could make that argument. But look at Trouts offensive numbers and where he ranks across the MLB:

Offensive WAR: 6.8 (1st)
On Base %: .394 (3rd)
Slugging: .586 (3rd)
OBPS: .979 (3rd)
Runs Scored: 80 (5th)
Total Bases: 260 (3rd)
Home Runs: 33 (4th)
Walks: 64 (4th)
Runs Created: 103 (3rd)
Adjusted Batting Wins: 4.6 (2nd)
Extra Base Hits: 59 (3rd)
Time on Base: 204 (1st)
Offensive Winning %: .762 (2nd)
WPA: 3.9 (4th)

American League Playoff Predictions

With the trade deadline in the rear view mirror, the only road left is the one to the playoffs. The race to October is really heating up in cities like Toronto, New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Houston. If the playoffs started today, the N.L. Central would have three playoff teams. The world series champion San Francisco Giants would not even be able to contend to defend their tittle. The Houston Astros would win the A.L. West and the Anaheim Angels would be playing in Toronto for the wild card. It’s refreshing to see new teams make the post season, especially in the American League. With 7 weeks left of baseball, anything and everything can happen, be sure to chime in on your predictions in the comments below.

American League

East: The Toronto Blue Jays are going to take over the East, they have become the power house to keep up with in the American League. Kansas City is the only team you can look at that is more well put together, they just don’t have the line up that Toronto has. Toronto has a lot of fuel in the tank after the trade deadline, if they want to stay on the winning side of things they are going to need to maintain a healthy line up. The best thing they did outside of David Price and Troy Tulowitzki was pick up Mark Lowe and LaTroy Hawkins, the bullpen was a little rough, but they found some really good pieces to preserve more wins.

I think Baltimore is going to land a wild card bid, the starting rotation is solid even with the release of Bud Norris. The Bullpen has been pretty lights out, posting a 2.78 ERA 1.20 WHIP and hitters are only hitting .231 and they even have a 19-12 record. They will be relying heavily on the arm of Wei Yin Chen to help them get to October baseball, but he has been the dark horse MVP for Baltimore.

Yes, this means the Yankees will be watching October baseball from the couch. I do think they will be in the race all the way to the end, but I think they will fall off when attrition sets in on that starting rotation and line up.

Central:  Even with seven weeks left and anything can happen, the Kansas City Royals have this locked up. They just need to keep playing with the chip on the shoulder like they do every game and they will win the Central in a month. The rest of the central has fallen off and will likely be watching baseball rather then playing it. It’s upsetting to see Minnesota fall off the table, a team that had a lot of promise and a lot of upside fall flat. Ervin Santana was pitching really well since his return from suspension, but a recent implosion and a 2-8 ten game skid, they have laid the table for their future.

West: The most fun division to keep an eye on, because it has the previous years basement dwellers Houston Astros playing some of the best baseball in the majors. The Astros validated themselves with the acquisition of Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers. They also will get the return of George Springer in the next few weeks, the only crutch against Houston is how poor they play on the road, the good thing about the future road games, most of them are all under .500.

Anaheim is in the driver seat to take over the A.L. West but if they fall short, they will be rewarded with a wild card spot. The biggest issue with Anaheim is pitching. They have one of the best closers but struggle getting to him, they were running on the magic of Garrett Richards last year but it wasn’t realistic to expect him to repeat his 2.61ERA, 1.03WHIP, .201 AVG 2014 campaign. They can’t really rely on Jared Weaver to take them all the way either, Huston Street has a better WAR then Weaver, and is only a few ticks behind Richards. I don’t think the Angels will get to the ALDS, but will fight to get in.


My American League final standings.

1. Kansas City
2. Toronto
3. Houston
4. Baltimore
5. Anaheim

 

Teams That Should Buy or Sell

(Jesse Johnson/USA TODAY Sports)

New York Yankees (Buyers): The Yankees are playing winning baseball behind the resurrection of A-Rod, the clutch and power hitting of Mark Teixeira, the ability to score, averaging 4.6 runs a game which ranks 2nd in the American League, the team is 7th in average(.254), 4th in OBP(.323), and 3rd in SLG(.425). The team is 25-16 at home and is 23-24 on the road and only Tampa Bay plays better away(22-18), but worse at home(24-27) in the AL East.

What They Need: Another arm to back up the starting rotation or to come out in long relief, and an outfielder that can stay on the field with any sort of production, between Beltran, Ellsbury, and Young; they need a player that doesn’t know the bench as well as the outfield grass.

Minnesota Twins (Buyers): It’s really refreshing to be talking about WINNING Minnesota baseball. The pitching staff hasn’t been spectacular, but they have been solid, the arise of Kyle Gibson has been very eye opening. Posting a 2.85 ERA over 18 games and even with the really rough month of June, he is still under 3. The twins get Ervin Santana back from suspension, they called up Miguel Sano, who in 11 games so far has hit .378 with a 1.138 OPS 2 HR and 8 RBI’s. The offense is right where it needs to be to win; Ranking 7th in Runs, Hits, Average and Slugging. All Star Glen Perkins is perfect in save situations (28/28) and is posting a 1.21 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, and a 2.25 FIP.

What They Need: The Twins are already trending up within their own dugout, the team is getting healthy and the players seeing playing time are producing. They don’t really need to acquire any heavy talent, the team is very balanced, but I could see them picking up an extra bat to put in the outfield. Plenty at bats for outfielders in Minnesota, and with how good Torii Hunter is in the field, you would like to keep him healthy for the post season push.

Texas Rangers (Sellers): It’s probably head scratching to think of the Rangers being a seller when sitting in 3rd place in the AL West, but the team can’t win at home(16-26) and could move some pieces to make the future more bright. If the team can find ways to stay competitive now, without their ace, 40 moves with the DL, and only 2 hitters batting over .270. The Rangers would benefit now by letting the young talent get experience, get Yu Darvish and Jurickson Profar back next year, make a few trades, and have a solid free agency, the Rangers could be playing for a title next year.

New York Mets (Buyers): The team has been sliding, health isn’t on their side either, but they really have no choice. If they don’t make any kind of push the Nationals will win the NL East in their sleep. The Met’s have an outstanding record at home(32-14) and is pitching absolutely lights out; ranking 3rd in ERA(3.23), 2nd in Walks and hits allowed, 5th in HR, 6th in Strike Outs, and batters are only hitting .239 against them. Jeurys Famila has been the prince of the bullpen; posting a 1.25 ERA, 0.9 WHIP, with an astounding 1.42 ground ball to fly ball ratio. If the Mets can win on the road they will contend as they are only 2 games behind Washington.

What They Need: Hitters, whatever kind of offense that can be plugged in on the corners and make up for the lack of production from the infield. Outside of Duda and Murphy, the Mets are getting really low production from their infielders. It’s not a good sign when 4% of the runs driven in comes from the pitchers. If the Mets make a move, expect them to move an arm for a utility player that can hit and would ideally be able to play 3rd or 2nd.

San Diego Padres (Sellers): A wild card contender after the huge trades made in the off season, the Padres have made no noise and has let a lot of fans down. With the firing of Bud Black, the lack of run support with good pitching and poor pitching during times the offense is hitting, the Padres are ready to move some pieces and use the big trades to try and build something for the future. The division isn’t lost quite yet, but playing behind the 8 ball with the Giants and Dodgers, the Padres should try to cut the suffering down to a minimum and let the team regroup for next year. Upton won’t be a Padre next year, and Matt Kemp is playing almost Robinson Cano like in the first half. It wouldn’t make much sense for San Diego to make a push given their division and how well teams like, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and St. Louis are playing, the wild card seems to be drifting further away down the river.

 

5 Fantasy Pitchers Worth Adding

JAMES BORCHUCK | TampaBay Times

Erasmo Ramirez: Here is one of the hottest pitchers under the radar lately. The last start where he gave up more than 2 runs was on May 24th. Since then, he has tossed 8 consecutive games with 2 runs or less with a 6-1 record. Tampa Bay has been able to give the young Nicaraguan run support; averaging 4.5 runs a game. With a really rough start to the season; posting a 12.71 ERA in April, but settled down drastically; posting a 2.90  ERA in May; and an outstanding 1.44 ERA in June, and a 1.50 in the early part of July. I’d look for him to continue his hot success.

Mike Leake: A pitcher that can either throw a complete bomb or a gem; but Leake has been solid for Cincinnati this year. Only giving up 2HRs since June 3rd, while hitters are only hitting .253 off him and earning a 5-3 record during that span. Watch the match ups and don’t be afraid to interchange him with a rotation of other starters, but if you are in a deep league; Leake will surely help you out.

Edinson Volquez: The numbers aren’t impressive, but when Volquez is on the mound, Kansas City wins. The team is 13-5 when he starts; and hasn’t been dealt a loss to his record since June 5th. The best sign of picking him up is how much better he is playing than the rest of his career numbers. With a career ERA of 4.33, he is posting a 3.31 ERA with a 1.24 WHIP compared to his 1.43 Career WHIP. He is pitching for a winning team and is doing what it takes to help the Royals win. Look for him to help any fantasy team lacking a starting pitcher.

Ervin Santana: Only owned on 40% of all ESPN Fantasy leagues; the 32 year old Dominican can still deal. I understand waiting to see how he performs coming off a half season suspension, but this guy pitches too well to let him hang out there for someone else to steal him. If you have a chance to acquire him; take it. Minnesota is playing winning baseball, ranking 2nd in Home Runs, 5th in triples, 7th in average, hits, runs, and slugging. You don’t have to ask for a lot from Santana, as long as he can continue the success he has found since leaving Anaheim, he should give your fantasy team success if still available.

Wei-Yin Chan: 55% of ESPN Fantasy leagues don’t own the 29 year old Taiwanese pitcher. That is an absurd number of people missing out on a consistent and reliable starter. He could have made a case to pitch in this years all star game; posting a 2.78 ERA with a 1.09 WHIP while hitters are only hitting .235 against him. He has only pitched 4 games on the road so far; and in those 4 games, he has posted a 2.57 ERA. Never got dealt a loss in June, but the last two games before the All Star break fell in the loss column with Chan putting up 15 innings, 2.40 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and hitters only hitting .218.

AL East Becoming Competitive Division

(Photo: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports)

A month or so ago, it looked as if the New York Yankees might run away with the AL East division title by the All-Star break because of the inept play of everyone else in the division up to that point. Fast-forward to the present, and it is a totally different look in the AL East. The Baltimore Orioles (41-34) are currently tied for first place with the Tampa Bay Rays (41-34), and the New York Yankees (41-35) and Toronto Blue Jays (41-36) are both within one game of first place in the AL East.

How did we get to this point? Simple, the Orioles have posted an 18-7 record in the month of June with two left to play in the month. During the month, the Orioles had a six-game win streak and are hitting .276 as a team. It helped when the team’s stud catcher Matt Wieters returned from injury. While he isn’t playing everyday yet, he has amassed a slashline of .288/.316/.596 in 16 games during the month of June to go with three home runs, ten runs batted in, nine runs and five doubles. He should continue to build up endurance leading up to the All-Star game, and will most likely return as the everyday starting catcher.

The Tampa Bay Rays have put together a 16-10 record for the month of June after a 14-15 month of May. Both 2B Logan Forsythe (10 runs batted in) and RF Joey Butler (12 runs batted in) have both had a solid month and they have led this team to a first place tie with the Baltimore Orioles. Forsythe is a career .248 hitter, but has a .297 average in 2015, and has been fairly consistent for once.

The New York Yankees have looked solid during certain stretches this season, but have also shown that they can put a five or six-game losing streak together as well. They began the month of June with a seven-game winning streak, behind series sweeps of the Mariners and Angels, but had two separate three game losing streaks this month as well. The Yankees have five players with double-digit home run totals in 2015 (Alex Rodriguez, Brian McCann, Chris Young, Mark Texeira, Stephen Drew), but they are only hitting .257 as a club.

Perhaps the hottest team in all of baseball is the Toronto Blue Jays after posting an 11-game winning streak, which began after a 2-0 loss to the Washington Nationals on June 2 (first game of a doubleheader). They have been firing on all cylinders as a club and their pitching staff has an 18-7 record with a 3.23 ERA in the month of June. They have continually been the cellar-dwellers in the AL East, but might make the playoffs this season if they can continue to play great baseball for the next 3+ months.

Photo: Maddie Meyer-Getty Images

By far one of the biggest underachievers this season, the Boston Red Sox have looked terrible for most of the season, yet they only sit eight games back in the AL East standings. It doesn’t help when they have 3B Pablo Sandoval, who seems to be more interested in liking Instagram photos of women than he does staying in playing shape and helping the Red Sox offense. He was suspended for the offense, but this seems to be Clubhouse Food-gate all over again. Manager John Farrell seems to have lost respect in the clubhouse already, but there don’t seem to be any plans for firing him anytime soon. Sandoval was supposed to come to Boston and help this team win; like he did with the San Francisco Giants, but that hasn’t been the case.

Overall, the AL East has become a fun division race to watch, and I don’t expect that to change in the next month or so. We could be witnessing the resurgence of a division that once was all about the Yankees and Red Sox and then everyone else (I know the Blue Jays were relevant within the last 25 years), but has become more well-rounded and added talent across the board. It is nice to watch the race in the AL East, and that might be all I place my focus on in the coming months with the struggles of my beloved Seattle Mariners.

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Has the Real Albert Pujols Stood Up?

(Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

It is no secret that Albert Pujols’ career has become inconsistent since he signed a monster contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. In fact, the last few years in LA have been ones that have shown how effective he can be offensively. The only problem is that he isn’t putting together consecutive seasons of these offensive numbers in LA, which is something that was never an issue when he played for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Since arriving in LA in 2012, Albert Pujols has been on a Giants’-esque, every-other-year tear offensively. And his production seems to happen during even-numbered years, just like that of the San Francisco Giants. In 2012, he had a slashline of .285/.343/.516 with 30 home runs, 105 runners batted in, 52 walks, and 76 strikeouts. These stats were mostly on par with the ones of his Cardinals’ days, but his average slipped the most (-.014 points). It also marked the first season since Pujols’ rookie year (2001) that he had less walks than he did strikeouts (52 BB, 76 K), via ESPN.com .

In 2013, Albert Pujols had the worst season of his career, and it wasn’t even close. He hit .258/.330/.437 with 17 home runs, 64 runs batted in, and 49 runs scored, while only playing in 99 games that season. It was a season that Pujols’ hopes never happens again in the remaining years of his career, and it most likely won’t happen again, especially if he has anything to say about it.

Photo: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

So, why does it appear that Albert Pujols has finally found his stroke again? Last season was an even year, and he had a solid season (.272 AVG, 27 HR, 105 RBI), which is similar to his seasons in St. Louis. His average has been affected the most, but his power seems to still be present, though his home run totals each season have failed to reach the level of those when he played for the Cardinals.

This season has been a fairly decent one as well. Albert Pujols started of hitting an abysmal .208 through the month of April, but he has raised that to .271 as of today. He is catching fire in the month of June (.338 AVG, 10 HR, 21 RBI), and appears to be playing with more confidence now than he did during the last couple of years. If he approaches each at-bat with the same mentality that had him raking homers in St. Louis, the rest of the AL West and Major League Baseball should pay attention.

It is nice to see how white-hot Albert Pujols has looked in the month of June, and you can see the confidence in his eyes every time that he steps up to the plate. He hasn’t reinvented himself, but is instead remembering how much fun it was to rip the cover off of the baseball, and it seems like baseball fans are getting excited about watching him play once again. So, yes, the real Albert Pujols has finally stood up, and we are all watching. Here is just one example of his home runs in the month of June.

The No-No Dynasty: San Francisco Giants

(Frank Franklin II/AP Photo)

Dynasties come in very different forms, and the San Francisco Giants are proving that point. Having won the World Series every even-numbered year since 2010, they have had three championships in the last 5+ years and are currently sitting in second place in the NL West (34-29), behind the LA Dodgers. Their current championship run is one that has Giants’ fans very excited, but there is another stat that is helping them form a dynasty of another kind–the no-hitter.

Most of the time, no-hitters occur every couple of years for a team, although it happens on a consistent basis throughout Major League Baseball. There have only been two seasons in the last 16 years where a no-hitter has not been pitched by any team (2000 and 2005 ). In 2014, there were four no-hitters (one combined no-no), and in 2012 there were seven no-hitters (one combined and one perfect game).

Photo: Getty Images

So, how are the San Francisco Giants a dynasty when it comes to no-hitters? They have now had a pitcher throw a no-hitter in four consecutive seasons, which is the most for any current MLB team. The Giants’ pitchers that have thrown a no-no during that time are Matt Cain (2012), Tim Lincecum (2013 and 2014), and rookie Chris Heston (2015). This is an unbelievable feat, and with Chris Heston’s no-hitter, the Giants have tied the all-time record for most consecutive seasons with a no-hitter being pitched (LA Dodgers, 1962-65), via Baseball Almanac .

While many fans base the use of the term “dynasty” on winning championships within a certain amount of years, the no-hitter is a dynasty in and of itself. Throwing a no-hitter is one thing, but having your team throw them in consecutive seasons is another, and should be labeled as a pitching dynasty nonetheless. After all, the San Francisco Giants had gone 33 years between no-hitters before Jonathan Sanchez threw his on July 10, 2009. Since 2009, the Giants have four no-hitters (2012-15), which is why they have become the no-no dynasty.

On another note, there has been another feat that has occurred several times since 1876, and one that has not included the San Francisco Giants. That feat is the combined no-hitter. A combined no-hitter is fairly rare, but it has happened 11 times since 1876 (twice in the last four seasons), via ESPN.com . The Giants will most likely jump on the combined no-hitter train at some point in the next few seasons, which will further cement their no-no dynasty status.

With this being an odd-numbered year, the San Francisco Giants most likely won’t win the World Series. Having said that, they have already made it four consecutive seasons with a no-hitter, so now we wait for 2016 to see if they can continue their streak of no-hitters. Will the consecutive no-hitter streak continue in 2016, and make it five years in a row? I guess we will have to wait roughly ten months to find out.

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