The Price Isn’t Right In Boston Right Now

The Boston Red Sox needed to get an ace this past offseason, so they signed lefty David Price. He didn’t come cheap. Price inked a seven-year, $217 million deal with Boston. So far however, he hasn’t lived up to his big contract.

One of the main reasons that the Red Sox signed Price was because of how mediocre their pitching staff was in 2015. The team lacked a true ace. Clay Buchholz was really Boston’s best pitcher last season. He went 7-7 with a 3.26 ERA, but only made 18 starts due to injuries. Buchholz has always been a decent pitcher, but he’s never consistently put up ace-like numbers. Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski knew that his team needed a true ace going into the 2016 season. Price was supposed to be that guy.

Unfortunately for the Red Sox, he has not been the pitcher they expected him to be. Overall, he has a record of 8-5. However, this isn’t a good indicator of how Price has actually pitched. His ERA is up to 4.74. He’s allowed 109 hits and 57 earned runs in 102 innings pitched. Price just hasn’t looked like the dominant pitcher he’s always been.

His season got off to a rough start when he posted a 5.76 ERA in April, a month that included a start in which he allowed eight earned runs against  his former team, the Tampa Bay Ray. May wasn’t much better, as Price had a 4.62 ERA in the six starts he had in the month. He pitched somewhat better in June, as his ERA was only 4.08 for the month. He pitched better earlier in June, but he’s struggled over his last few starts. Last Friday against the Texas Rangers, Price only lasted 2.1 innings and let up six earned earned runs on 12 hits and had just one strikeout. His start on Wednesday on the road against the Rays was somewhat better, as he gave up four runs over 6.1 innings while collecting ten strikeouts. However, Price took the loss in the game.      

Given that we’re now into July, the MLB season is basically halfway over. Price’s stats at the halfway point aren’t all that flattering. He still has time to pick it up, but so far his adjustment to Boston hasn’t gone smoothly. Part of the problem could be pitching at Fenway Park. It’s never exactly been known as a pitcher’s ballpark. Given the short dimensions in left field, it’s hard for a lefty to have success pitching at Fenway. Still however, Price has always been a strikeout pitcher. In 2012 when he won the AL Cy Young Award while with the Rays, he struck out 205 batters. Two seasons later, he had a league-leading 271 strikeouts combined with the Rays and Detroit Tigers. In the 16 starts he’s made so far in 2016, he’s struck out 120 batter. His stats in this department have decline. The problem is that he’s allowing more hits and home runs. Price has already surrendered 15 homers this year. The most he’s ever given up in a single season is 25. That might change the way things are going.

David Price needs to turn things around quickly. He still has half the season to go, but he has yet to show any signs of turning the corner. Boston needs him to be the ace he’s been throughout his career. Right now, David’s definitely not worth the price that the Red Sox paid for him.

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Can The Red Sox Reclaim The East?

Apart from a miraculous 2013 season that saw the Boston Red Sox once again as World Series champions, the team has spent the majority of the last five seasons in the American League East’ cellar.

In fact, the Red Sox finished at last place in consecutive seasons, 2014-2015, for the first time since the 1920’s (Boston finished in eighth place out of eight teams from 1922-1923 and 1925-1930 *they finished the 1924 season in seventh place*).

Nevertheless, the Sox managed to find success in the second half of last season by way of their younger players like Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Blake Swihart.

Add the off-season signing of David Price to the mix, giving Boston its first true Ace on the mound since Jon Lester’s departure, and the Red Sox are certainly in a position to manufacture more wins in 2016.

 

But can they go from worst to first again like they did in 2013 and reclaim the AL East division?

 

BaseballProspectus.com and their yearly PECOTA seem to think so:

 

Projected American League Final Standings for 2016

    Boston Red Sox                  87-75

Tampa Bay Rays               87-75

Toronto Blue Jays            86-76

New York Yankees          84-78

Baltimore Orioles           74-88

Ok, so technically they have the Red Sox tied with the Tampa Bay Rays at the end of 2016, which would result in one game playoff for the AL East title. And while tie-breakers are rare in baseball, only 14 have occurred in MLB history, you don’t have to look too far back to find the most recent example.

In 2009 the Minnesota Twins were tied with the Detroit Tigers both having a record of 86-76. The Twins defeated the Tigers in extra innings of their one game playoff contest, to capture the American League Central crown.

So, it’s possible (though highly unlikely) for a scenario like this to occur in the AL East for 2016.

Designated hitter David Ortiz is set to begin his 20th and final season in 2016. The Boston Red Sox will no doubt try to give “Big Papi” a retirement season to remember.(Chris O’Meara/Associated Press Photo)

 

 

The Red Sox will undoubtedly have the offense this year to earn them a championship in the east. With a lineup that includes David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia, Bogaerts, Betts, Rusney Castillo, etc. (as well as utility guys like Brock Holt and Chris Young), providing the Sox pitchers run support should not be an issue.

Speaking of pitching, Boston’s staff will ultimately be the difference between them taking home the hardware, and just barely making the post-season via the AL Wild Card this season. After Price, the rotation shakes down like this:

Sox Starters (Excluding David Price)

Clay Buchholz

Rick Porcello

Joe Kelly

Steven Wright

(Eduardo Rodriguez will eventually rejoin the rotation. He is currently recovering from a knee injury as he dislocated his knee cap. Rodriguez will begin the season on the disabled list.)

At first glance, Boston’s rotation appears capable of having success throughout the season. However, Buchholz (73-51 career win-loss record with a 3.85 career ERA), Porcello (85-78 total win-loss record and a 4.39 career ERA), and Kelly (31-22 career win-loss record with a 3.82 career ERA) have all been consistently inconsistent during their respective major league campaigns . Hence my reasoning for the rotation ultimately determining the teams 2016 outcome.

Steven Wright could be a “silver lining” though, as the knuckleballer has been impressive this spring and could become a key contributor in the end. The eventual return of Eduardo Rodriguez, should also help provide some re-assurance if it’s needed.

Final Thoughts:

The AL East has become one of baseballs toughest divisions from top to bottom of late. I could easily see four of the five teams in the division (the Sox, Jays, Rays, and Yankees) winning 85 or more games this season, and the race for first place will be closely contested.

If David Price can notch a 18-20 win season, with the rest of the rotation winning 10-12 games, and the everyday lineup stays healthy, I believe Boston can win its eighth AL East division title in 2016.

 

 

Looking Ahead: 2018 MLB Free Agents

Picture this…

It’s the winter of 2018. A few months earlier, the Chicago Cubs win their first World Series in 110 years by defeating the Houston Astros (hey it could happen). After jubilant Cubs fans everywhere calm themselves from a long overdue celebration, Chicago and the other 29 MLB teams turn their attention to the off-season.

The Free agency pool looks like the 1992 Olympics “Dream Team”. It features a host of all-stars, gold glovers, silver sluggers, Cy Young and MVP award winners. One major leaguer from this group will become baseballs first half-a-billion dollar man, others will strike deals that far surpass previous contract figures at their respective positions.

Reality Check

Ok, so the bit about the Cubs winning the World Series was purely for fun (though it’s not out of the realm of possibility), however, the rest could actually happen in 2018.

In what promises to be one of the best free agent classes we’ve seen in a long time, the 2018 off-season will be nothing short of astounding. Below are just some of the top names that could be available for hire:

Starting Pitchers

David Price*

Clayton Kershaw*

Matt Harvey

Jose Fernandez

Shelby Miller

Dallas Kuechel

Garrett Richards

Jose Quintana

Jake Arrieta

Closers/Relievers

Craig Kimbrel

Wade Davis

Trevor Rosenthal

Andrew Miller

Luke Gregerson

Jake McGee

Steve Cishek (pending he hasn’t completely combusted by 2018)

Infielders

Josh Donaldson

Manny Machado

Dee Gordon

Eric Hosmer

Mike Moustakas

Jose Iglesias

Outfielders

Bryce Harper

Andrew McCutchen

Jason Heyward*

Michael Brantley

Adam Jones

Lorenzo Cain

A.J. Pollock

(* indicates players who can opt-out of their current contracts in 2018)

Depending upon who ends up where, there could be a tremendous shift of power in both the American and National League. Of, course there are still three seasons to be played between now and the winter of 2018.

This means a number of the individuals listed above could very well be re-signed by way of contract extensions, or stick out their current contracts. Also, a few of these players could decline significantly in performance, suffer career altering injuries, or even become part of a blockbuster trade before 2018 arrives.

Nevertheless, the level of talent available by then will still be plentiful. While it’s difficult to say where these and other free agents will wind up, I will take a shot at projecting where four of the above free agents might land in 2018.

 

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

 

Fantastic Four

 

1. Bryce Harper (NYY,WSH,LAD)

Harper will be the most coveted free agent prize in 2018 for a plethora of reasons. At 27-years-old, he’ll be in his prime as a player and will likely command a record setting contract. Per ESPN.com, the gifted outfielder was interviewed recently by 106.7 FM The Fan, and was asked about his thoughts regarding his next contract possibly exceeding the $400 million mark, to which Harper replied

“Yeah, I mean, I don’t really think about that stuff” Harper said. “I just try to play the years out and do everything I can to help my team win. But don’t sell  me short. That’s what you’re doing right now to me, so don’t do that.”(quote per 106.7 FM The Fan interview)

Given that Harper himself expects a big payday, there are only a few teams I feel that can cash his potentially historic check. It’s no secret, or surprise, that the New York Yankees (notorious for big off-season spending sprees) are a likely destination for Harper in 2018.

Many MLB experts believe the Bronx Bombers have been inactive in the off-season recently, in order to cash in on the likes of Harper and others once 2018 arrives.

While there could be some risk involved with the Yankees playing the waiting game, being able to unload hefty contracts such as Alex Rodriguez (free agent in 2018, C.C. Sabathia (free agent in 2018), and Mark Teixeira’ (free agent in 2017) will allow New York to spend freely in the 2018 Free Agency.

Imagine a NYY outfield composed of Bryce Harper, Jacoby Ellsbury, and a still effective Brett Gardner entering the 2019 season. Harper’s home run power coupled with the hitter friendly dimensions of the New Yankee Stadium would be a match made in heaven for New York.

Furthermore, it would be fitting for the Yanks to yet again break the contract record books (as they did with A-Rod before, 10 years at $275 million) by signing Harper to say a 12-year $450 million deal.

Of course, just because the Yankees will have money to spend in 2018, doesn’t mean everyone else is out of the running for Bryce Harper. His current team, the Washington Nationals, could go all-in and up the contract ante to a whopping 15-year $500 million mega deal.

Then again, they could structure the deal to guarantee “x amount” of dollars in a 10-year $400 million deal ($40 million annually) that might appeal more to Harper.

The Nats, however, may not be able to best New York in a bidding war in 2018. Over the next three seasons they will have other key players looking to cash in for their time and services to the team (Stephen Strasburg, Jayson Werth, Danny Espinosa, etc).

Meaning, even if they manage to keep some of those players around by 2018, there simply may not be enough money in the bank to convince number 34 to stay in D.C.

Finally, another big market team (like the Yanks) that could potentially court Harper…the Los Angeles Dodgers. LA hasn’t been shy in seasons past when it comes to spending big money on top talent, though they have yet to see the desired results from said investments. Nevertheless, I think it’s safe to say the Dodgers pursuing Harper would surprise no one, and is highly probable.

Imagine for a second a Dodgers outfield consisting of Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson, and Harper. This would give LA one of the scariest 3-4-and-5 hitter combinations in the league, for years to come. Combine that offensive output with a Clayton Kershaw led pitching staff, and the Dodgers would be heavily favored champions entering the 2019 season.

 

(Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports)

(Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports)

 

2. Clayton Kershaw (LAD,ATL,PHI)

Speaking of Kershaw, and as previously mentioned in this post, he could very well opt-out of his current contract and seek an even bigger pay-day in 2018. While I think Kershaw will ultimately stay with LA, it is becoming more commonplace to see players using the opt-out clause of their contracts to seek larger contracts elsewhere, rather than stay with a franchise for their career.

Kershaw has been with the Dodgers since 2008, which would bring his tenure with the team to a decade in 2018. By todays standards, that’s a long time playing in one uniform. Given the post-season struggles LA has faced in Kershaw’ time out west, he very well could be ready for a change of scenery.

For the sake of this post at least, lets pretend Kershaw tires of being on the hill in Hollywood and opts out of his contract. One of the teams who I feel will be interested, is the Atlanta Braves. While they may not look like much entering the 2016 season, the Braves can certainly turn things around in 2018 by adding some top tier pitching and other pieces to go along with franchise player and first baseman Freddie Freeman.

Should Kershaw become available, Atlanta would likely try and persuade the three time Cy Young award winner to come to tomahawk chop country. As far as being able to afford Kershaw or outbid the Dodgers, the Arizona Diamondbacks signing of Zack Greinke in 2016 is proof that a deal can always be made.

Lastly, and this team comes in as a total dark-horse for Kershaw, the Philadelphia Phillies could shock the baseball world and strike a deal. The Phillies would not only have the salary cap space to sign Kershaw, but could also add another top-tier free agent like a Josh Donaldson, or Jason Heyward (should he also opt-out). This is because in 2018, the Phils have virtually no money going towards major contractual commitments (per MLB.com writer Anthony Castrovince).

Again, Philly may be a bit of a stretch, but like Atlanta, they’ll be rebuilding over the next few seasons. No better way to do so, than going after one of the best arms on the open market.

 

3. Josh Donaldson (TOR,BOS,NYM)

The reigning AL’s most valued player could bring in another MVP award between now and 2018, and will likely convince Toronto to keep him in Canada. The Blue Jays have certainly shown the other large market teams of the AL East that they too can splurge of talent. Of course, like the Dodgers, those dollars spent haven’t yet translated into gold rings.

Nevertheless, Toronto should be in a good position by 2018 to not only keep their multi-talented third baseman, but also compete for a championship. The Jays, will not be alone, however, in trying to talk money with the “Bringer of Rain”.

Another team that may be in need of Donaldson’ services could be the division rival Boston Red Sox. Sure the Sox have current third baseman Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval under contract until the year 2021. But, considering that the Panda hasn’t exactly panned out the way Boston originally hoped, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Sox trade Sandoval away before the 2018 free agency, thus allowing the pursuit of Donaldson.

Of course, by trading Pablo away, the Bo Sox would have to eat a chunk of his contract. Throw in possibly having to re-bid or restructure a contract for David Price (should he opt-out in 2018) and the Sox might think twice about splurging the way they did back in 2011 (and we all know how that worked out, see 2012 Sox Collapse).

One last possible destination for Donaldson, could be the revamped New York Mets. Seeing as David Wright (who will turn 36 in 2018) could possibly hang up his cleats after an illustrious 14-year MLB career by 2018, Donaldson’ availability could be perfect timing for the Mets. Add Donaldson to an already potent lineup, with a rising, young,  and talented pitching rotation, and the Mets have a championship caliber team for years to come.

 

(Pat Sullivan/AP Photo)

(Pat Sullivan/AP Photo)

 

4. Dallas Kuechel (HOU,TEX,PHI)

Last but certainly not least on my brief list of possible 2018 free agents is Dallas Kuechel, currently with the Houston Astros. While Houston standouts such as second baseman Jose Altuve, outfielder George Springer, and short stop Carlos Correa all sound like future Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, and St. Louis Cardinals members, Kuechel may be one guy that the Astros can hang onto for a while.

Granted those other Astros listed above won’t hit the free agency until a few season after 2018, so Houston may still be able to keep a solid core together out West. If Keuchel plays his cards right, he could command a high dollar contract that rivals other top arms in this class. Whether or not Houston will be willing or able to pay up to keep their ace, will depend on who else throws their hat into ring for the talented lefty.

The in-state and AL West rival Texas Rangers could be one team that challenges Houston for Kuechel’s arm. The Rangers will still have the majority of their current 2016 pitching staff under contract through 2019 and beyond (Yu Darvish 2019, Derek Holland 2019, Cole Hamels 2020, Martin Perez 2021). When you add Dallas Kuechel to the mix, Texas’ rotation could rival other top staffs around the majors.

While multiple other teams could be in need of this lefties pitching power, I feel like no other team will need a left hander to build a team around more than Philadelphia. As previously mentioned about the Phillies in this post, the team will have the capital needed to bring in talent.

Quick Question: What if the Phils pulled off a major off-season sweep and sign Clayton Kershaw, Dallas Keuchel, and say Manny Machado?

Answer: That would be a great start to rebuilding a franchise that has suffered multiple sub .500 seasons since 2012.

(All contractual information and statistics for this post is courtesy of http://spotrac.com )

 

Final Thoughts:

While the majority of this post is pure speculation, a good number of these players will become free agents in 2018. Contracts will no doubt reach all-time highs, and depending upon how the upcoming collective bargaining agreement goes, teams will likely crush 2016′ $2 billion spending spree by a significant margin.

It will be a class to remember, and could be an off-season that leaves a decade long impact on the majors. Until then, we can only watch, wait, and wonder.

David Price Agrees to Mega-Deal With Red Sox

After missing out on signing Jon Lester last offseason, the Boston Red Sox went through the 2015 season without a true ace. Going into the offseason, newly appointed President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski knew that his number one priority was to sign a top pitcher. On Tuesday, he did just that.

The Red Sox and veteran lefty David Price have agreed to a seven-year, $217 million contract. The signing was first reported by Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe on Tuesday evening. The contract includes a clause where Price can opt-out after three years. The deal is the most lucrative ever for a pitcher. It’s even larger than the seven-year, $215 million contract extension that Clayton Kershaw signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers following the 2013 season. Price will make about $31 million a year with the Red Sox, making him one of the highest-paid players in all of baseball.

Price is no stranger to the AL East. He was with the Tampa Bay Rays for almost seven years. The Rays traded him to the Tigers at the trade deadline in 2014. He played in Detroit for a year, and then found himself back in the AL East when he was traded at the deadline again, this time to the Toronto Blue Jays. Price’s contract was up at the end of 2015, and the Red Sox jumped at the opportunity to sign the five-time All-Star.

While it may be true that the Red Sox might have overpaid a little for Price, he has proven that he’s a legitimate ace and one of the best pitchers in baseball. In his time with the Rays, he went 82-47 with a 3.18 ERA. His best season in Tampa was in 2012 when he went 20-5 with an ERA of 2.56. Price won the AL Cy Young Award that year for the first and so far only time in his career. This past season, he went a combined 18-5 with the Tigers and Blue Jays and finished with a career-best 2.45 ERA. He finished second in the AL Cy Young Award voting behind Dallas Keuchel. The reality of it is that if the Red Sox didn’t offer Price this much money, another team probably would have. Good players are always going to get the big contracts.

As good of a career as Price has had, his only achilles heel has been the postseason. In 14 career postseason games, he’s 2-7 with a 5.12 ERA. Most recently, he struggled with the Blue Jays in the 2015 postseason, going 1-2 with an ERA of 6.17 in 23.1 innings pitched. Despite going to the playoffs six times with three different teams, Price has never won a championship The closest he came was in 2008 when the Rays lost in the World Series to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Since being traded from the Rays, Price has certainly had a wild year and a half. The Red Sox will be his fourth different team in the last two years. Boston will be his third stop in the AL East. If he does not opt-out, Price will be 37 when his contract with the Red Sox is up. Boston could be his final destination.

Dombrowski is already being very aggressive this offseason. He acquired All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel from the San Diego Padres in November. Now he’s signed one of the top free-agent pitchers on the market. We’ll see if his efforts pay off next season for the Red Sox. Only time will tell.

 

David Price, Jordan Zimmermann, And Why Pitchers Are Getting Overpaid

$217 million. That is how much the Boston Red Sox signed David Price for this past week . That makes him the seventh highest paid player in baseball right now, and the highest paid pitcher in MLB history. Price is not the first pitcher to get paid recently, as eight of the top 20 contracts in baseball right now belong to pitchers, with Clayton Kershaw holding the previous top spot with his $215 million contract from the Dodgers.

Now $217 million is an egregious amount of money to spend on any player, regardless of if they are a pitcher or not. But signing a pitcher to that type of money leads even more into a type of risk/reward payoff. It seems like the Red Sox are giving Price $200 million dollars to go out and throw a baseball as hard as he can every fifth day for seven years and crossing their fingers and praying for the best. The same could be said for the Detroit Tigers and Jorden Zimmermann. The Tigers inked Zimmerman to a five year-$110 million dollar contract – which next to Prices’ contract looks like peanuts – but is still a nice chunk of change for the veteran pitcher.

Now do not get me wrong, Price is a great pitcher. Despite the fact that he disappeared during last postseason, he is still one of the top tier pitchers in the MLB.  But will Price be a top tier pitcher in seven years? Probably not. Do the Red Sox care about that? Probably not.

Long-term contracts are just the norm in baseball. The baseball free agent landscape changed when Giancarlo Stanton signed with the Miami Marlins for 10 years-$325 million (which is too much money to pay anyone, but I digress.) Now everyone wants a contract where they know that they will have a place to play over the next half-decade, even if they do not deserve it, or it does not make any logistical sense for the team signing them.

Now the Red Sox should not expect Price to produce the way he does now in the later years of his contract. The Red Sox should probably expect a decline much like the Tigers Justin Verlander has been experiencing.

Prior to the 2013 season, Verlander signed a seven year-$180 million contract with the Detroit Tigers (Verlander was 30 when he signed his contract, the same age David Price is now) and Verlander  has slowly begun to decline since. He has had an E.R.A over three every year since 2013, and it ballooned to 4.54 in 2014, and he has also had a very pedestrian 33-32 record since 2013. That is not the type of production that you pay $180 million for.

Now David Price is pitching better than he ever has in his entire life currently. He very well have an amazing year next year, and his addition immediately makes the Red Sox a favorite for the AL pendent, but the Red Sox should legitimately be concerned that they may have paid $217 million for one or two years of dominance, and seven years of mediocrity.

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5 Most Meaningful Moments in the Detroit Tigers’ 2015 season

The Detroit Tigers 2015 season has come to its end. With the MLB playoffs now in full swing, it is unusual not to see Detroit among the contenders. Finishing last in the American League Central Division was a steep tumble for the Tigers after four straight years at the division’s summit.

Few, if any, expected this dismal fate. Entering the season, the Tigers maintained a strong nucleus of players including former AL MVP’s Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander, as well as last year’s runner up, Victor Martinez. Detroit had been in win-now mode for a while, and intended on resuming normal service.

Things began on a positive note, too. A couple of weeks into the season they stood in familiar territory atop their division with an 11-2 record. Another run at the postseason was seemingly a foregone conclusion. But, things didn’t pan out that way—far from it.

Crushing defeats, big names like David Price and Yoenis Cespedes being traded away, and players being absent due to long-term injuries were among the major happenings that led to the team’s demise this year. These will feature prominently in the list below.

There are, however, silver linings in the dark Detroit skies. The July trades yielded some bright talent who promise to be strong contributors in the years to come. Verlander’s return to dominance during the season’s second half was another positive, as was the blockbuster season for slugger J.D. Martinez. So not everything was bleak.

It’s now time to go back and take a back at those monumental moments which made Detroit’s season. Tiger’s fans will need to take a deep breath or two before stepping into the time machine.

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Ready now?

*Note that the moments are chronological and not in order of significance.

 

Justin Verlander Begins The Season On the Disabled List

The first DL stint of Verlander’s career was a lengthy one. Two-and-a-half months of the season had already passed before the veteran made it back to the bump.

Verlander’s absence was deeply felt. In the nine seasons preceding this one, nobody in the majors had as many wins as Verlander’s 152 —an average of 16.8 per season. His time on the DL, in addition to a patchy form upon his return, meant Verlander eked out just five wins in 2015. Yep, five.

A dozen more wins would have produced an average season for Detroit’s former No. 1 pick. With 12 more victories in the bank, the Tigers would definitely not have finished last in the Central. They may have also extended their season for the fifth year in a row.

 

J.D. Martinez hits three home runs at Yankee Stadium

Told you it wasn’t all doom and gloom. This was a career day for Martinez in what was a career season for the Tigers outfielder.

Martinez homered thrice against New York—one each to left, center and right field on June 21 (Father’s Day) in a 12-4 Tigers victory.

“It was just one of those days where you take swings and you’re actually hitting the ball how you want to hit it…There’s not too many of those days, so you’ve just got to take advantage of them,” said Martinez per ESPN.com .

This was the beginning of a long-ball binge for Martinez who swotted 11 big flies in 13 days. That hot stretch led to him being rewarded with his first All-Star Game selection.

It was also a crucial win at the time for Detroit. It put the team back above .500 (35-34) after a dreadful run of 14 defeats in their previous 20 games.

Martinez ended the season with excellent numbers : .282, 38 HR, 102 RBI. Right field looks solid in the Motor City for a good few years to come.

 

Brian Dozier Hits A Walk-Off Homer Against Detroit on July 10

Detroit’s defeat to Minnesota just before the All-Star Break was not just another loss.

Leading 6-0 in the 8th inning and with Justin Verlander in control of the game, the Tigers seemed on the verge of penciling in another W. But the Twins had other ideas. A seven-run ninth inning capped by Dozier’s shot off Joakim Soria sent the Metrodome crowd into delirium, and the Tigers home stunned.

This was the second game of a four-game set preceding the Midsummer Classic. The Tigers came into it on a mini run of five wins in their previous seven. This heartbreaking defeat was then compounded by two more to close out the series. Just when Detroit seemed to be catching fire, Minnesota extinguished their flames with one huge splash.

When reflecting on the Tiger’s season in September, Manager Brad Ausmus told Anthony Fenech  of the Detroit Free Press: “It’s definitely the one loss that stands out in my mind.”

That single defeat felt more like 10.

 

David Price Is Traded to Toronto

The day that Detroit traded their ace Price (July 30), they officially waved the white flag.

Any chance of a Tigers resurrection after a 49-52 start disappeared with this deal, which brought Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd and Jairo Labourt in return.

It had to be done, though. The Tigers were underachieving even with Price and they needed to re-stock a bare prospect cupboard. Boyd and Norris showed enough in the final two months to demonstrate they may offer the club plenty in the future. Free-agent Price was a goner at the end of the season, anyway.

With all their season’s hopes now dissolved, the Tigers then exchanged Cespedes and Soria the following day for a few more prospects. It stung a bit at the time, but the future should vindicate the decisions of since departed Tiger’s president/general manager Dave Dombrowski.

 

Verlander One-Hits the Los Angeles Angels

By late August, the Tigers were already looking ahead to 2016. They got a major positive moving forward on August 26 when Verlander came just three outs shy of twirling the third no-hitter of his career.

This outing was part of a major resurgence for Verlander during the second half of the season. In his final 14 starts he was 5-5 with a 2.27 ERA and an impressive 91-20 K-BB ratio.

Another telling number was his velocity. In his final start of the season, one of his pitches whistled into the catcher’s mitt at 99 miles per hour.

“Things are coming back to me. I’m feeling a lot like my old self,” Verlander told Fenech late in the year.

It had not been pretty upon his initial return from the DL. In his first six starts, Verlander was winless and posted a 6.62 ERA.

The return of a nearly vintage Verlander—beard, tight pants and all—bodes well for the Tigers in 2016.

 

Stats in this article are courtesy of mlb.com and fangraphs.com

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Will Alfredo Simon Return For The Detroit Tigers In 2016?

Alfredo Simon (12-9) has more wins than any other Detroit Tigers pitcher this year. Not many saw that coming

The Dominican righty’s dozen victories have been a satisfactory contribution in what’s been a disappointing season for the Tigers.

Bolstering the starting rotation will be priority No. 1 for Detroit this offseason. Their combined starter’s ERA of 4.76 (last in AL ) has arguably been the biggest contributing factor towards the team’s freefall in 2015.

Simon is a free agent at season’s end, which leaves Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez as the only two pitchers certain to return to the rotation next year.

Youngsters Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd, Shane Greene, Kyle Lobstein and Michael Fulmer will all be vying for a starting berth, but only one of them is likely to get a spot in the rotation. This leaves two vacant spots to fill.

There are bevy of attractive starting pitchers hitting the free agent market this winter, including David Price, Jordan Zimmerman, Yovani Gallardo, Mike Leake, Ian Kennedy and Jeff Samardzija.

The Tigers are unlikely to bid for Price or Zimmermann due to their high salary demands. Verlander and Sanchez will earn $44.8M between them next year, making a temperate purchase (or two) more likely.

The latter four are the next best and all figure to be within the Tiger’s price range. Their stats show how durable and effective they’ve been throughout their careers:

 

W L ERA 30+ GS
Gallardo 100 73 3.65 6
Leake 62 49 3.85 3
Kennedy 74 65 3.93 5
Samardzija 45 59 4.05 2

Doug Fister, well remembered by Tigers fans after his stint in Motown earlier this decade, is another available starter worth consideration. Chris Young and Scott Kazmir will also have their admirers. But, like Fister, their injury histories raise red flags.

Then there is Simon. The Tigers could do a lot worse than the eight-year veteran. If you offered most Detroit fans 12-15 victories and 180 or so innings from their No.4 starter before this campaign, I suspect most of them would have taken it.

His performance this year comes on the back of a very successful 2014 campaign with Cincinnati. Few would realise that only 10 MLB pitchers have more wins than Simon during the past two seasons.

However, there are some caveats. Simon owns a grimace-worthy 4.94 ERA and 1.43 WHIP this season. His sabermetric stats are also condemning. A 4.77 FIP gives him an awful grade according to FanGraphs .

It has been Simon’s inconsistency that has cost him.  After a hot first two months (5-2, 2.67 ERA), he has produced just four quality starts in his last 18. Oddly, despite this slide, Simon has been nearly un-hittable on his good days, including a one-hit shutout against Texas on August 20.

He also has a habit of producing his best against losing teams. Two thirds of his wins (eight) this season has come against teams with sub-.500 records.

Hence, due to mercurial nature, Simon is unlikely to be near the top of Detroit’s shopping list.

That does not completely rule out a return to the Motor City. There is no guarantee that the Tigers will manage to sign one of the premium arms listed above. There will be plenty of other teams eager to sink their meat-hooks into pitchers of Gallardo’s and Kennedy’s ilk.

As well as the threat of competition, finances are another consideration for Detroit. The bullpen will require upgrades (yes, again), and Rajai Davis’ probable exit will leave a position vacant in the outfield. Purchasing in these areas may be costly, and as noted by Chris Iott of MLive , Detroit already has a base of over $111M committed to its 2016 roster even before its offseason shopping begins.

Simon will be cheaper than many of his free agent peers, which keeps him in the frame for a return to Detroit. However, the Tigers are likely to have their sights set on others who can bring more consistency and solidity to their rotation.

This means that Detroit’s Mr. Mercurial will most probably be toeing the rubber for another club in 2016.

 

All stats in this article are courtesy of FanGraphs

Stats are correct as of 09/11/2015

Predicting The 2015 World Series

Prior to playing the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday, July 29, the Toronto Blue Jays had a mediocre record of 50-51. People questioned whether Toronto would go for it this season, or try and build their farm system up for the next few seasons.

Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos rolled the dice and traded for Troy Tulowitzki and David Price and the gamble paid off immediately. On July 29 Troy Tulowitzki played his first game for the Blue Jays and hit a home run. Since then Toronto has not looked back and the club is a ridiculous 23-5 with Tulo on the team.

In 27 games with Toronto, Tulo has hit an underwhelming .227 with four home runs and 11 RBIs, but having the shortstop at the top of the lineup to go along with his solid defense has sparked the Blue Jays. The Canadian ball club now has Tulowitzki leading off followed by AL MVP Candidate Josh Donaldson batting second, Jose Bautista batting third and Edwin Encarnacion batting fourth.

That is an insane combination of hitters that can kill you in almost any way and Encarnacion has been red hot for the Blue Jays of late. Yesterday Encarnacion hit three home runs and knocked in 9 runs and now has 29 home runs on the season to go along with 90 runs batted in.

The Blue Jays have no doubt the best offense in baseball and with their starting pitching heating up, led by staff ace David Price, this team is primed for a postseason run. In five starts with Toronto David Price is 4-0 with a 1.98 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 36.1 innings pitched.

The ball club has gotten decent starting pitching as of late and with their incredible offense, that could be all the team needs. The Blue Jays are 3-1 against the Kansas City Royals in the second half and are now a game and a half up on the division in the AL East.

Toronto will enter the playoffs having won over 90 games and will dispatch of the Houston Astros in four games in the ALDS. The Blue Jays will then play the Royals in the ALCS and though it will be a great series, Toronto will win in six games thanks to their great offense and their pitching led by David Price.

The X-factor for the Blue Jays in the playoffs will be Marcus Stroman, who will likely come out of the bullpen for the Jays and will catalyze the pitching staff.

On the National League side the World Series favorite is the St. Louis Cardinals, but once October comes around they will not be the team in the World Series. The National League will be represented by the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have arguably the two best pitchers in baseball with Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke.

Greinke leads the league in ERA on the season at 1.61 and Clayton Kershaw has been lights out in the second half. In 8 starts since the all-star break Kershaw is 5-0 with a 1.o2 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 62 innings pitched. To go along with the two aces are Brett Anderson, who has a 3.36 ERA on the year, Mat Latos and Alex Wood.

The Dodgers have also gotten help from their closer Kenley Jansen, who has been great this year posting 27 saves in 29 opportunities to go along with a 2.39 ERA on the season. The Dodger lineup, led by Adrian Gonzalez who has 24 home runs and 75 RBIs, is full of veterans that have played in the spotlight before.

Gonzalez is joined by Howie Kendrick, who is hitting .296 on the season, along with Andre Ethier and ultra utility man Justin Turner who has been phenomenal this year. Turner on the season is hitting .295 with 15 home runs and 51 RBIs and has been a big part of the team’s success.

To go along with those players the Dodgers have all-star catcher Yasmani Grandal, and veteran leaders Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley who have played many big games in their careers. The time is now for the Los Angeles Dodgers and with a 72-56 record on the year they will likely end up playing the New York Mets in what will be a great NLDS matchup.

The Mets young pitching will give the Dodgers hitters fits, but with Kershaw and Greinke leading the way the Dodgers will dispose of the New York ball club in five games. In the NLCS the Dodgers will have to find a way to get past the St. Louis Cardinals.

This series will be tough for the Dodgers, but Kershaw will come in fired up as he has struggled against the Cardinals in the past. Kershaw will lead the Dodgers to a NLCS victory in six games and the Dodgers will meet the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2015 World Series.

The X-factor in the playoffs for the Dodgers will be Yasiel Puig. The young player is immensely talented, but has not had a very good year for the Los Angeles ball club. Puig is going to figure it out down the stretch and in October will help carry the team to the World Series.

In one of the best World Series match ups in years Clayton Kershaw will face David Price in game one of the World Series. Kershaw will dominate the Blue Jays free swingers and will win game one for the Dodgers. The Blue Jays will make it a good series, but ultimately the Dodgers will win the World Series in seven games with Clayton Kershaw winning the World Series MVP.

http://SportsRants.com

How The AL East Will Be Won

Major League Baseball will have some pretty fun division races down the stretch. There are also some yawn-inducing divisional races such as the Kansas City Royals (11 game lead) and the St. Louis Cardinals (6 game lead). The NL East, AL East, NL West and AL West are all will be worth watching late in September and even very early October.

Pay particular attention to the AL East. The Blue Jays have taken a rocket ship up the standings and now sit atop the AL East with a half game lead on the New York Yankees. Before the deadline, everyone thought the Yankees winning the division was a forgone conclusion. Now some are thinking they could be left out of the playoffs all together.

It’s still a two and maybe even three-horse race in the AL East. Let’s take a look at how things play out.

American League East

Why the Blue Jays Will Win:

The time is now for the boys north of the border. The front office made that very clear when they acquired Troy Tulowitzki and David Price at the deadline last month. All they have done is ignite the entire franchise and now they have everyone thinking late October baseball in Toronto. Tulowitzki has hit three homers since joining the club and all David Price has done is throw 15 innings in two starts with 18 strikeouts and a 0.60 ERA. The focus is to turn that 1/2 game lead into a 3-5 game lead by September. If the club plays like they have been in the last two weeks, they will cruise to a division title (disclaimer: I am not saying the Blue Jays will go undefeated in September, but it could be close).

(By The New York Times)

(By The New York Times)

Why the Yankees Will Win:

First of all, Alex Rodriguez needs to show a few others on the club where the Fountain of Youth is located that he found. This team is starting to fade, perhaps due to the fatigue of five key players that are 35 or older (A-Rod, Texeira, Beltran, Sabathia, Capuano)? This team needs to find the groove they were enjoying in July. They got there with home runs (153, 3rd in MLB) and clutch, late-inning pitching (2.72 ERA in 8th inning or later, 5th in MLB). It is likely the team that doesn’t win the division will get a Wild Card spot. The Yankees have 11 more games against the Blue Jays  this season and they are 2-7 so far this season. That is not a good trend for the Bronx Bombers.

 

(By USA Today)

(By USA Today)

Why the Rays Will Win: Honestly it will take a colossal collapse by the Blue Jays and/or Yankees. If either of those teams plays above .500 ball for the rest of the season, the Rays are out. It can be done, however if someone not named Chris Archer can step up on that Tampa Bay rotation. Archer has a 2.62 ERA and the rest of the rotation is almost a run worse. It is division or bust for the Rays, they don’t want to face any team in a one-team play-in game.

My Pick: Toronto Blue Jays

They finally have a difference maker in David Price in their pitching staff to complement their explosive offense. They will continue trending upward towards their first division title since 1993.

The Blue Jays’ Hunt For A Successful October

The Blue Jays stand at 61-52 for the 2015 MLB season and are now only 1.5 games back of the New York Yankees. Since acquiring Troy Tulowitzki, the Blue Jays have gained 6.5 games on the Yankees and are 11-0 with the all-star shortstop in the lineup. David Price has been dominant for Toronto in two starts and is 2-0 with one run allowed in 15 innings.

The Blue Jays are also in the first Wild Card spot and are only 49 games away from doing something that they have not accomplished since 1993, which is making the postseason.

It has been a tough few years for Toronto as they gave up a lot of talent to acquire Mark Buerhle, Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, John Buck and Emilio Bonfacio from the Miami Marlins, and R.A. Dickey from the New York Mets. Since making those trades the expectations were that the Blue Jays would make the postseason but the team has failed to do so.

With this year starting to look like another failure for Toronto, General Manager Alex Anthopoulos decided enough was enough and dealt for Ben Revere, Tulowitzki and Price, giving the Blue Jays an ace at the top of their rotation, an all-star shortstop and a speedy outfielder.

The Blue Jays have now won eight straight games and nine of their last ten and are on the verge of overtaking the first place Yankees after sweeping the Bronx Bombers over the weekend. The ball club is red hot and improved what was already the best lineup in baseball with the acquisitions of Tulowitzki and Revere and with Tulo leading off for Toronto followed by Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion the lineup is formidable enough to frighten any opposing pitcher.

The real key for the Blue Jays was adding David Price, who is a free agent after the 2015 season. By adding the left-hander the Blue Jays stated that they were all in for this season and believe that they can make the World Series. The way that Toronto has played they look like a World Series caliber team and they recently won three out of four against Kansas City, the team that many people believe will return to the World Series.

Adding David Price at the top of the rotation gives Toronto veteran leadership and allows Mark Buerhle to become the number two starter for the team, a role that he more comfortably fills. To go along with Buerhle and Price are Dickey, Drew Hutchinson and Marco Estrada, who has been very good this year and is 10-6 with a 3.21 ERA on the season.

With the news that Marcus Stroman will return this season the Blue Jays now have another good pitcher to add to the mix. While Stroman might not start when he returns, the 24 year old could still be valuable in the bullpen mowing down hitters with his elite fastball.

Toronto has finally found their closer in Roberto Osuna and the 20 year old has four saves in the month of August and has pitched to a 2.13 ERA on the season out of the bullpen. Osuna is anchored by LaTroy Hawkins and Mark Lowe, two players that were also acquired at the deadline to give Toronto the best bullpen that they have had in recent memory.

For the Blue Jays this could be their last chance to make the World Series for some time. David Price is not going to re-sign with Toronto, but the Blue Jays still have him for now and they are making the right decision to go all in on the 2015 season. The Blue Jays have a legitimate candidate for the AL MVP in Josh Donaldson to go along with CY Young candidate David Price and are on the precipice of making the playoffs for the first time in 22 years.

With the way that the Blue Jays are playing they have a good shot of reaching the World Series. Toronto improved more than any other team at the trade deadline and now have a staff ace, and a good bullpen to go along with the best lineup in baseball. A Royals-Blue Jays ALCS would be a great matchup and is something that fans should look forward to this year.