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.

Syndergaard Shows the Royals He’s Not Intimidated

A lot has been made this past week about the feud between the Kansas City Royals and New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard. It goes back to Game 3 of last year’s World Series, when Syndergaard threw a pitch up and inside to Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar to begin the game. The Mets would go on to win that game, but they ended up losing the series in five games. The two teams played each other to open up the 2016 season earlier in the week. Last month, Newsday reported that Kansas City was planing on getting revenge for the pitch in the opening series against the Mets. However, they did not retaliate in either of the two games. In the end, the one who ended up making a statement was Syndergaard.

The Mets and Royals played on Sunday night and Tuesday afternoon. On Sunday, the Royals raised their World Series Championship banner in a pregame ceremony while the Mets stood on the the third baseline. The team tagged Mets starter Matt Harvey for three earned runs, and they went on to beat New York 4-3. They continued the festivities on Tuesday with a pregame ring ceremony. When Syndergaard took the mound for the Mets in the bottom of the first inning, he was heavily booed by the Royals fans. As he warmed up, the song “American Woman” played throughout Kauffman Stadium. The boos of the fans quickly turned to cheers when Alcides Escobar led off the game with a triple. Unfortunately for the fans, that was the last time in the game that Syndergaard gave them something to cheer about.

Syndergaard did not let the leadoff triple get to him. He proceeded to strike out Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, and Eric Hosmer to escape the inning. Syndergaard looked very much in control for the remainder of the game. He was able to throw his fastball in the high-nineties consistently. He was also able to throw his nasty curveball effectively. What’s more, he also threw his slider in the mid-nineties. This is a pitch that he really didn’t throw that often when the Mets first called him up in May of last season. However, Syndergaard really worked on his slider in the offseason, and it showed on Tuesday. The Royals could not hit it.

The only other major rally Kansas City was able to muster against him came in the bottom of the sixth inning. With the Mets leading 2-0, the Royals had runners on second and third with two outs. Syndergaard walked Hosmer to load the bases. This sent Kendrys Morales to the plate with a chance to tie the game, or even take the lead. Syndergaard stayed calm however, and he got Morales to swing and miss at three straight sliders. That ended the inning, and the Royals’ chances of making a comeback in the game.

Mets manager Terry Collins decided to pull Syndergaard after that sixth inning, as his pitch count was at 92. Over the six innings of work, he allowed only three hits and one walk, while collecting nine strikeouts. The Royals do not strikeout very often, but Tuesday was an exception. The Mets bullpen held up, and they won the game 2-0 to earn a split in the series.

The Mets and Royals will see each other again for a two-game series at Citi Field in June. Syndergaard is one of the few Mets pitchers that has actually had success against the Royals, in the World Series or this season. When June comes around, he certainly won’t mind facing the Royals again.

Mets and Royals Set for World Series Rematch on Opening Night

This Sunday night, the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals will play in Kansas City to open up the 2016 MLB season. The game will be the last of four games being played on Sunday as part of Opening Day 2016. Both teams are very familiar with each other, as they faced off last October in the 2015 World Series.

The Royals will raise their World Series Championship Banner on Sunday night. It was just five months ago that they defeated the Mets in five games to capture their second championship in franchise history. As good as the Mets were, they could not handle the relentlessness of the Royals’ hitters. Kansas City’s shortstop Alcides Escobar especially hurt the Mets at the top of the lineup with his first-pitch aggressiveness. New York clearly had the better pitching in the World Series, but the Royals’  explosive offense overcame them.

Tensions will certainly be high on Sunday. For the Mets, the memory of the Royals celebrating after winning Game 5 at Citi Field is still fresh in their minds. The Royals are apparently seeking revenge as well, but for a much different reason. Game 3 of the World Series last year opened up with Noah Syndergaard throwing a pitch high and inside to Alcides Escobar. Clearly, this was meant to intimidate Escobar and to make sure he didn’t swing at the first pitch. The Royals didn’t take too kindly to this. They obviously didn’t retaliate right away, but reports came out this week that they’re planning on getting revenge. It’s unclear whether or not they will, but it’s definitely something worth watching for.   

It’ll be interesting to see if either team can get back to the World Series this year. The Mets boast one of the best starting rotations in all of baseball with Matt HarveyJacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Bartolo ColonZack Wheeler will join this stellar rotation later in the year, as he is still recovering from Tommy John surgery. Additionally, the team had a decent offseason, as they re-signed slugging outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. The also signed shortstop Asdrúbal Cabrera and traded for power-hitting second baseman Neil Walker. With this team, the Mets have a good chance to get back to the World Series.

The Royals are in a similar situation. Their team is not that much different than the one that won it all in October. The only thing that has really changed at all is the starting rotation. Johnny Cueto left Kansas City this offseason and signed with the San Francisco Giants. Cueto basically became the team’s ace after he was traded to them from the Cincinnati Reds back in July. He had a stellar start in Game 2 of the World Series, helping the Royals jump out to a 2-0 series lead. To replace Cueto, the Royals signed Ian Kennedy. Their starting pitching really isn’t their strength anyway. Probably their biggest strength is their fantastic bullpen, which includes Kelvin HerreraLuke Hochevar, and Wade Davis. These three pitchers make up a very dangerous 7-8-9 combo. All three were vital during the Royals’ playoff run last season. Their offense will also be a major factor again this year. In addition to Escobar, guys like Alex GordonLorenzo CainSalvador PerezMike MoustakasEric Hosmer, and Kendrys Morales are all poised to have good years. This Royals team is just as dangerous as they were last season. It would be a surprise to no one if they reached the World Series for the third consecutive year.

When both teams take the field on Sunday night, there will certainly be a lot of excitement in the air. Opening Night of the baseball season is always a great night in the sports world. Matt Harvey will start for the Mets, while Edinson Volquez will go for the Royals. The 2016 MLB season is finally ready to commence. It’s time to get it started.

Potential Landing Spots For Lincecum

There was a time when current free-agent pitcher Tim Lincecum was referred to as “The Freak”. From 2008 to 2011 Lincecum won two Cy Young awards while posting a 62-36 win loss record, 977 strikeouts, and an average ERA of 2.81.

Since then, Lincecum’s numbers have significantly declined as his 2012-2015 win loss record was 39-42 with an average ERA of 4.60. After undergoing hip surgery in September of 2015 and no longer a member of the San Francisco Giants (as his contract expired in 2015), Lincecum is looking for a new home in 2016.

The regular season is fast approaching,  but a showcase date to see what the right hander can still offer has yet to be announced. Lincecum though, has reportedly been pitching in private sessions out west and his agent, Rick Thurman, claims that 20 MLB teams have asked for the 31-year-olds medical information (per Yahoo Sports Israel Fehr).

So, despite a declining stat sheet and injury concerns, it sounds like more than a few teams may be interested in the nine year veteran.  But, instead of guessing who those 20 teams might be, I thought it better to provide a list of ballclubs that are most likely to sign “Big Time Timmy Jim”. Let’s get to it then.

 

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Bucs already have a more than capable starting rotation of Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano, Jon Neise, Jeff Locke, and Ryan Vogelsong entering this season. However, with the National League Central likely being extremely competitive again this year, it wouldn’t hurt the Pirates to take out a flier on Lincecum.

Lincecum could add depth to either the bullpen or rotation, and when the calendar hits August, a playoff hopeful team like Pittsburgh would relish being able to rest a starter or reliever and send Lincecum to the hill instead.

Also, Lincecum would be re-united with his former Giants teammate in Vogelsong. The two pitched together for San Francisco from 2011 to 2015.

 

Miami Marlins

Since former Marlins closer Steve Cishek’s self-destruction in 2015, Miami is left with only A.J. Ramos to take over in the ninth this year. Factor in losing expected set-up man Carter Capps to season ending Tommy John surgery, and the Fins might want to consider adding Lincecum as bullpen insurance.

Like the Pirates above, Lincecum could also be used as a change of pace for the Marlins pitching staff, or even earn the fifth and final starting rotation spot.

 

San Diego Padres

According to MLBTradeRumors.com and the San Diego Tribune’s Dennis Lin, the Padres have been “aggressively pursuing” the right hander for his services. It makes sense for San Diego to be targeting Lincecum, seeing as he is very familiar with the National League West division.

Lincecum could be used not only for pitching depth, but also as someone in the clubhouse who can provide guidance for Padres pitchers like Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross.

 

(Photo courtesy of Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

(Photo courtesy of Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

 

Kansas City Royals

You may be wondering why the Kansas City Royals are being mentioned in this post. Remember those private pitching sessions I mentioned earlier? Well, according to MLB.com’ Jon Heyman, the reigning World Series champions discovered Lincecum’s secret throwing spot recently, and were politely escorted out.

So, why would a team with a solid pitching staff and one of the MLB’s best bullpens be looking at Lincecum you ask?

For starters, the Royals have lost reliever Greg Holland for most if not the entire 2016 season, as he underwent Tommy John surgery late last season. Add the departure of short-term starter Johnny Cueto in free agency this off-season, and Kansas City could use an experienced arm for good measure.

Granted, the team still has a great pen in-tact with Wade Davis & Co. and their rotation can no doubt get the job done in 2016. Still, the fact that team scouts are sneaking to see what Lincecum looks like is stimulating enough.

 

Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore certainly had an interesting off-season that included signing veteran pitcher Yovani Gallardo, thinking they signed and then losing out on free agent Dexter Fowler, and most recently inking former Pittsburgh Pirate Pedro Alvarez to a deal .

Those moves, would lead me to believe the Orioles are still trying to figure out their 40-man roster, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Lincecum become their next target.

If the O’s were to add Lincecum, he could provide Baltimore some breathing room in the event Gallardo doesn’t pan out, or if the Zach Britton lead bullpen suffers a setback.

Also, since the O’s and Giants share a similar uniform color scheme, we already know Tim looks good in orange and black.

 

Los Angeles Angels

Los Angeles currently has two of their starting pitchers dealing with injuries this spring, and it could have a significant impact on the regular season rotation. Veterans Jered Weaver (neck) and C.J. Wilson (left shoulder) are listed as questionable to begin pitching by April.

Wilson and Weaver are currently shown as the second and third starters behind Garrett Richards on the depth chart (per MLB.com). In the event either of their injuries linger longer than expected, or should the ailments resurface this season, the Angels could do a lot worse than Tim Lincecum in trying to stabilize the pitching staff.

 

Honorable Mention: The Oakland Athletics, Cincinnati Reds, Texas Rangers, and Colorado Rockies.

 

Final Thought:

Tim Lincecum is far from “The Freak “on the mound that he once was. But after watching the resurgance of Scott Kazmir and Bartolo Colon in 2015, I don’t see why Lincecum can’t be next in line for a comeback.

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Opening Day 2016: What To Watch For

Ah, Opening Day. The field grass is trimmed up just right, fans from all over the country pack stadiums to see the MLB’s best perform, and another season of America’s favorite past time is underway.

With just over 40 days left until the MLB regular seasons first pitch is thrown on Sunday April 3rd, 2016, anticipation is mounting for baseball fans everywhere. A total of eight teams will start the season off on that Sunday, 20 more teams will begin play on Monday April 4th. 2016, and the Miami Marlins host the Detroit Tigers in their home opener on Tuesday April 5th.

That’s three days set to be chock-full of home runs, outstanding pitching, “web gems”, and will feature all 10 of last years playoff teams. So, with the regular season right around the corner, I’ll provide you with a rundown of five must see matchups, and some key players to keep an eye on:

 

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (PNC Park on Sunday April 3rd at 1:05 p.m. EST on ESPN)

Probable Pitchers- Adam Wainwright (STL) vs. Gerrit Cole (PIT)

Players to Watch: Andrew McCutchen (PIT), Matt Carpenter (STL), Josh Harrison (PIT), and Matt Holiday (STL)

Chicago Cubs vs. Los Angeles Angels (Angel Stadium of Anaheim on Sunday April 3rd at 3:05 p.m. EST on FSW)

Probable Pitchers- Jon Lester (CHC) vs. Garrett Richards (LAA)

Players to Watch: Mike Trout (LAA), Anthony Rizzo (CHC), Andrelton Simmons (LAA), and Kris Bryant (CHC)

New York Mets vs. Kansas City Royals (Kaufmann Stadium on Sunday April 3rd at 8:37 p.m. EST on ESPN)

Probable Pitchers- Jacob DeGrom (NYM) vs. Edison Volquez (KC)

Players to Watch: Yoenis Cespedes (NYM), Alex Gordon (KC), Neil Walker (NYM), and Lorenzo Cain (KC)

Houston Astros vs. New York Yankees (Yankee Stadium on Monday April 4th at 1:05 p.m. on ESPN)

Probable Pitchers- Dallas Kuechel (HOU) vs. Masahiro Tanaka (NYY)

Players to Watch: Jose Altuve (HOU), Jacoby Ellsbury (NYY), Carlos Correa (HOU), and Starlin Castro (NYY)

Boston Red Sox vs. Cleveland Indians (Progressive Field on Monday April 4th at 4:10 p.m. on Sports Time Ohio)

Probable Pitchers- David Price (BOS) vs. Corey Kluber (CLE)

Players to Watch: Michael Brantley* (CLE), Xander Bogaerts (BOS), Francisco Lindor (CLE), Mookie Betts (BOS)

 

Honorable Mention: Philadelphia Phillies vs. Cincinnati Reds (Great American Ball Park on Monday April 4th at 4:10 p.m. EST)

The Phils and Red Legs game may not be a “must watch”, but growing up 30 miles east of Cincinnati, I felt compelled to recognize the rich history of Opening Day in Cincy.

 

Other Opening Series Players to Watch:

Jason Heyward- After switching National League Central teams this off-season from the Cards to the Cubs, posting a .293/.359./.797 slash line in 2015 with 79 runs, 13 home runs, and 60 RBI, Chicago will hope to see Heyward improve on those stats for 2016 in pursuit of the teams first World Series title since 1908.

Zack Greinke- Posting a 19-3 record, a 1.66 ERA, and 200 strikeouts with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015, Greinke begins 2016 with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Greinke will likely be the D-Backs Opening Day starter against the Colorado Rockies on Monday April 4th.

Daniel Murphy- Despite losing his post-season magic in last years Fall Classic with the Mets, Daniel Murphy still posted a solid .288/.322/.770 slash line with 56 runs, 14 home runs, and 73 RBI  for 2015. Murphy begins 2016 anew with the Washington Nationals, and it will certainly be interesting to see how he affects a clubhouse that could use his positive attitude.

Johnny Cueto- The reunion of former Reds pitchers Johnny Cueto and Edison Volquez in last years post-season and World Series with KC was only temporary. After an 11-13 record with 176 strikeouts and a 3.44 ERA in 2015 (split between the Reds and Royals), Cueto will try to better those numbers with his new team, the San Francisco Giants in 2016.

 

(All probable pitchers are based solely off of team depth charts as of February 22nd,2016, and may be subject to change after Spring Training results)

(* Brantley may not be available to the Indians until April or May, as he is still recovering from a right shoulder injury)

(For a complete 2016 regular season schedule, visit MLB.com)

Final Thought:

I’ll simply end with a fitting quote from one of the games all-time greats:

You always get a special kick on Opening Day, no matter how many you go through. You look forward to it like a birthday party when you’re a kid. You think something wonderful is going to happen.- Joe DiMaggio

 

 

The All-Free Agent Team

It’s now late January. We are about three weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting and 68 days from Opening Day. There are still quite a few good free agents on the market. There are so many, in fact, that you can make a roster of them and likely have a team that would contend. Just for fun, I made that roster. You are welcome.

Pitchers

Starting Rotation

1. Yovani Gallardo

Gallardo will be 30 next month and is coming off of one of the best seasons of his 9 year career. In his only year with the Texas Rangers, he went 13-11 with a 3.42 ERA in 184 innings in 2015. He might not have “ace” stuff but he will take the hill every 5th day and give you his best. He has started at least 30 games in each season since 2009. He brings experience (6 appearances in playoff games over 3 postseasons) and if you like the National League, he is not too shabby with the bat (12 career home runs, 83 hits).

Rumored destinations: Rockies, Orioles, Astros

2. Doug Fister

Fister had a rough 2015 after a 16-win 2014 season. He fought injuries all year and logged just 103 innings. Before that, he had three straight double-digit win seasons. He was supposed to be a huge part in the mega-rotation the Nationals thought they had last year. He was 5th in WHIP in 2014, finishing ahead of the likes of Madison Bumgarner and his former teammate Stephen Strasburg.

Rumored destinations: Astros, Marlins, Rockies

3. Mat Latos

Latos did not do himself any favors in 2015. With rumored locker room issues combined with an ERA near 5 with three separate teams, it’s no secret why he is still on the market in late January. There must be some team willing to take a risk when they look at his previous seasons. He had an ERA under 3.50 in every season between 2010 and 2014. He was in the Cy Young discussion in 2010 with the San Diego Padres. Some teams are scared to sign Latos but the talent is there. He may just need the right locker room. If he can stay healthy, he makes any rotation better.

Rumored destinations: Orioles and Royals

4. Cliff Lee

Lee will be 38 before this upcoming season is over. He’s had a really tough two seasons, battling through injuries and didn’t pitch at all in 2015. His last full season was 2013 when he was an All-Star for the Phillies, winning 14 games, striking out 222 batters and a 2.87 ERA. He has some left in the tank. He’s rumored to not be 100% healthy yet but there will be a team willing to risk it. He has logged 82 innings of playoff baseball and has 143 wins. Veterans are always needed on a rotation.

Rumored destinations: Yankees

5. Tim Lincecum

Lincecum won two straight Cy Youngs in 2008 and 2009. He has battled some injuries and struggles on the mound in the last few seasons. Perhaps a change of scenery would do him well. He only logged 76 innings in 2015. His WHIP was the highest of his career. He is only 31 so it’s not to say he can’t turn things around. He could start at the back of this rotation and be a solid plug-in guy for now. Before 2015, he logged  7 straight seasons of double-digit wins and he also boasts three World Series rings. Any staff could use that experience.

Rumored destinations: Padres and Marlins

Bullpen

Franklin Morales

In Morales’ only year with the Royals in 2015, he was a vital part to their World Series run. In 67 appearances, he had a 3.18 ERA. He struggled a bit in the playoffs but he has a track record as a solid late-innings guy. He is a lefty, which ups his value. He has experience in many ballparks in both leagues, having pitched 6 seasons in the NL and 4 in the AL. A team could always use a veteran lefty out of the ‘pen. Morales can be that guy.

Rumored destinations: Twins, Red Sox and Royals

Burke Badenhop, Middle Relief

Badenhop has appeared in at least 63 games in four straight seasons, including 68 last year. He posted a 3.93 ERA and finished 17 games for the Reds last season. He has pitched for 5 different teams and held an ERA under four for all but one of them. He won’t blow you away or become the next Trevor Hoffman but he is a steady hand that any shaky bullpen would love to have.

Rumored destinations: Tigers

Neal Cotts, Middle Relief

Cotts finished last season with the Twins. He had a 3.41 ERA in 68 games for the Twins and Brewers. He has pitched 141 games in the last two seasons. He is a lefty that has pitched for 10 seasons. He is a 2005 World Series champion and has pitched for both Chicago teams in the playoffs.

Rumored destinations: Twins and Cubs

Tommy Hunter, Setup Man

Hunter finished the season as apart of the Cubs after being dealt from the Orioles. He can get you a save every now and then but is mostly a 7th or 8th inning guy. He posted a 4.18 ERA in 58 total appearances in 2015 with a 4-2 record.

Rumored destinations: Mets and Orioles

Ryan Webb, Setup Man

Webb appeared in just 40 games for the Indians in 2015 but pitched well. He had a 3.20 ERA and when healthy, can be a viable setup guy for a depleted bullpen. He’s not a big strikeout guy but he will get the job done.

Rumored Destinations: Tigers and Indians

Tyler Clippard, Closer

Clippard is the only legitimate closer left on the market. He notched 19 saves last year as he bounced around from the Washington Nationals in 2014 to the Oakland A’s to start 2015 only to be dealt to the Mets at the deadline to aid their playoff run. He was an All-Star in 2014, posting a 2.18 ERA in 75 games. He had a 2.92 ERA in 2015 with both teams. He has appeared in at least 69 games in every season since 2010. For a team looking for a closer, the 30 year-old Clippard is likely the best option available.

Rumored destinations: Yankees

Starting Lineup

1. Dexter Fowler, CF

Fowler has gotten better and better in recent years. He has played at least 100 games every season of his career, which started in 2008. You can pencil him in for at least 7 triples, 15 home runs and right around 20 stolen bases. He is an excellent defender patrolling center field. He would serve as a good leadoff hitter, as that it what he has done for most of his 8-year career. He hasn’t had an on-base  percentage lower than .346 since his rookie year. He is also coming off of a career high in home runs with 17.

Rumored destinations: White Sox and Angels

2. Howie Kendrick, 2B

Fighting through injury last season for the Dodgers, Kendrick put together a good season at age 31. He hit .295 with 22 doubles and 9 home runs in 117 games. He is just a year removed from his best season in 2014, when he had a career high 181 hits. He gets the job done with the glove and will be a veteran presence towards the top of the order. Good hitting second baseman are always needed.

Rumored destinations: Diamondbacks

3. Justin Morneau, 1B

Morneau had a tough 2015 with injuries ending it early. He did finish with a .310 average in 49 games. Going back to his 2014 season, he led the league with a .319 clip and added 17 home runs and 82 RBI. The 2006 AL MVP has played 13 seasons in the bigs and has 241 career home runs. Granted, one could say he has had good numbers because he plays at Coors Field but that has been disproved before. He was a great hitter in Minnesota too. At age 34, he still has got some pop in that bat.

Rumored destinations: Rockies and Rays

4. Marlon Byrd, LF

Byrd might be 38 years old, but that hasn’t stopped him from totaling 48 home runs in the last two seasons. He finished 2015 with the Giants and combined with his numbers with the Reds, he hit .247 with 23 home runs and a .743 OPS. The guy can still slug it and could definitely be put in the cleanup spot. He was an All-Star in 2010 and hasn’t slowed down much since. In fact, his four career 20+ home run seasons have all come after the age of 30.

Rumored destinations: Rays

5. David Freese, 3B

Freese is mostly known for his clutch 2011 postseason for the Cardinals when he was NLCS and World Series MVP. Since then, he has quietly been a consistent presence at the hot corner. He hit 14 home runs last year while hitting a vanilla .257. However, he also racked up 27 doubles and had a .743 OPS. He still can provide a steady bat. He won’t blow you away with numbers but he will be there if you need him.

Rumored destinations: Pirates and Red Sox

6. Ian Desmond, SS

Desmond has been a constant in the rumors flying around many teams seeking a shortstop. And for good reason. Over the past four seasons, he has been one of the best offensive shortstops in the game. He has hit at least 19 home runs every season since 2012, when he was an All-Star. His numbers dipped a bit after a dreadful first half to 2015. He has hit 88 home runs in the last four seasons and is young enough to still be in his peak. He also has only missed 18 games in the last three seasons.

Rumored destinations: Rays and White Sox

7. Alex Rios, RF

Rios’ power has declined significantly in the past two seasons. In his last 236 games, he has hit 8 home runs. He can still hit, however, posting a .280 average in 2014 and .255 last season. He is likely a bottom of the order hitter now in his mid-30’s with no power. Now a World Series champion, there will be a clubhouse that will seek his experience in the outfield.

Rumored destination: Royals

8. Pedro Alvarez, DH

Alvarez is nothing short of a liability at first base, with 23 errors last season. That being said, his bat is worth putting in the lineup. He smacked 27 home runs last season and is just two seasons removed from a 36 home run, 100 RBI campaign in 2013. His average is usually below .250 but that power threat is tantalizing. As a full time DH, he could do some serious damage.

Rumored destinations: Brewers and Rays

Catcher: none

Bench

Austin Jackson, OF

Jackson started the year as the centerfielder for the Seattle Mariners. He was then dealt to the Cubs to aid their playoff run. He played 136 games, hitting 9 home runs, stealing 17 bases and hitting .267. He’s a guy with plus defenses and speed that can get hot with the bat. He also will stay pretty healthy, as he has played at least 129 games in every season since he came to the league in 2010.

Rumored destinations: Cubs and Rangers

Will Venable, OF

Venable was traded from the Padres to the Rangers after the deadline. He’s a plus fielder that gives you the occasional pop (22 home runs in 2013). However, he’s only hit 14 dingers in the two seasons since then. He’s been a consistent .245 to .260 hitter most of his career. If you are looking for a cheap good fielder who is competent with the stick, Venable is the guy.

Rumored destinations: Orioles and Padres

Jimmy Rollins, SS

There is some doubt as to whether the 37 year-old Rollins can still play a good shortstop. His defensive numbers have actually been pretty steady in his mid 30’s. There will be a team that will take a chance on Rollins. He has 2,422 career hits along with 229 home runs. He won the 2007 MVP. Last year he struggled a bit with the bat, hitting just .224 with 13 home runs. He did score 71 runs (he is 4th on the active runs scored list). Teams will value his playoff experience (.673 OPS in 50 games).

Rumored destination: Angels

Ryan Raburn, DH, OF

Raburn has not played a full season since 2011. However, he did hit .301 in 82 games in 2015. He has a bit of pop (16 home runs in 2013, 82 in his career). He usually puts the ball in play (.936 OPS with just 44 strikeouts in 2015). He is a nice bat to have come off the bench and maybe fill in a spot every so often in the outfield.

Rumored destinations: Tigers and Indians

 

Juan Uribe, INF

Uribe is getting up there in age (will be 37 during Spring Training), but he still hit 14 home runs and helped the Mets reach the World Series after he was dealt from the Dodgers to the Braves and then to the Mets. He still scares pitchers enough to make a difference in a lineup.

Rumored destinations: Dodgers and Indians

Clint Barmes: SS, 2B

Barmes is getting up there in age but he still can serve as a veteran presence that can play everyday in a pinch. He hit just .232 for the Padres last year but had his highest slugging percentage (.353) since 2011. He’s a clubhouse guy and any young team would do well to have Barmes on the roster.

 

So there it is. The all-free agent team. It maybe could contend, depending on the division its in. There are plenty of good arms available and a few good bats. Expect signings to flurry in before Spring Training hits later next month.

 

 

 

 

World Champion Kansas City Royals…and a dark night in Gotham.

World Series – Game 5 – New York

“NO WAY” mouthed the Dark Knight of Gotham after taking a 2-0 lead to the dugout following eight scoreless innings highlighted by nine strikeouts and a pitch count at 102. NO WAY, Matt Harvey was going to let the messenger, pitching coach Dan Warthen, or manager Terry Collins remove him from the biggest game of his life and the Mets’ season.

Collins saw the confidence in Harvey and rolled the dice. NO WAY I can second guess a decision that allowed for a classic 9th inning to unfold. We were getting to enjoy a stellar starting pitching performance that was exceeding what Johnny Cueto did for the Royals in Game 2 when he went the distance in a 7-1 Kansas City win. This was good stuff no matter how you slice the Big Apple.

If there was no way we needed to see Jon Niese, Addison Reed or Bartolo Colon help Harvey get through the 8th then there was certainly no way we needed to see stopper turned pumpkin Jeurys Familia help the Mets superhero finish off the Royals in the 9th to force a game six.

However, there was also NO WAY the Kansas City Royals were going to be denied a World Championship in 2015. Here are the final brush strokes to a colorful season of celebrating in Kansas City.

  • Harvey walked Lorenzo Cain to lead off the 9th.
  • Harvey was then allowed to work from the stretch, but didn’t work in a pick off throw so of course Lorenzo Cain easily stole 2nd base.
  • Eric Hosmer doubled home Cain to make it 2-1. Harvey was finally removed from the game and in entered Jeurys Familia.
  • Mike Moustakas advanced Hosmer to 3rd on a ground out to first.
  • It was Salvador Perez’s groundball to David Wright that doomed the Mets. The drawn in Wright sort of looked Hosmer back to 3rd base before throwing out Perez at first. Only problem, Hosmer decided to break for home to give the routine play some color. Lucas Duda butchered the throw home and just like that a sliding Hosmer had tied the game at two.

The game headed to extra innings after the Mets failed to score in the bottom of the 9th.

  • Leading off the 12th inning of a 2-2 game, World Series MVP Salvador Perez singled against Addison Reed.
  • Jarrod Dyson pinch ran for Perez and Travis d’Arnaud once again had no shot at throwing out a runner as Dyson stole second.
  • Alex Gordon advanced Dyson to 3rd on a ground out to first.
  • Because everybody should be allowed to play, the Royals sent Christian Colon to the plate as a pinch hitter. Colon’s line drive single to left scored Dyson to give Kansas a 3-2 lead. It was Colon’s first postseason at bat and hit, but the Royals were just getting started.
  • Playoff MVP, if the playoffs ended after the NLCS, David Murphy misplayed a Paulo Orlando ground ball and for the second night in a row Murphy immediately applied the lip balm as if that provided some kind of quick fix or diversion. The Mets defense was charged with six errors in the series, but had other tough defensive breaks.
  • Time to cash in. Alcides Escobar doubled home Colon to make it 4-2.
  • Following Reed’s intentional walk of Ben Zobrist to load the bases, Bartolo Colon was summoned.
  • Lorenzo Cain sealed the deal with a 3-run double to make it 7-2.
  • In the bottom of the 12th, Drew Butera got some playing time for the Royals and caught the final pitch from Wade Davis when Wilmer Flores was caught looking to clinch the World Championship for Kansas City.

It’s Kansas City’s first World Championship since 1985 (2nd overall). It comes one year after they were 90-feet away from tying game seven of the World Series against Madison Bumgarner. That 2014 heartbreak against the Giants is a feeling the Royals carried with them this season. Maybe it was visible as a chip they appeared to have on their shoulder when a game or two or three or theirs got feisty, but Sunday night all you could see was joy and the celebratory goggles (I believe Jeremy Guthrie had a snorkel) that accompanied the World Series trophy.

Looking back we see the Royals built a large lead in the AL Central early and finished tops in the AL with 95 wins. I tend to think 2014 was a smoke and mirrors act for the Royals until they reached the postseason. Not the case in 2015 as statistically and visually many of the Royals looked like improving players.  This year’s playoff run featured a 5-game challenge in the ALDS against the up and coming Astros followed by a 6-game triumph against the also upstart Toronto Blue Jays.

Kansas City won the first two games of their Fall Classic against the Mets 5-4 and 7-1. The Game 1 win featured tying the game in the 9th, before winning in the 14th. The Mets appeared to climb back in the series after Friday’s 9-3 Game 3 win.

Not so fast. The Royals 5-3 comeback win in Game 4 Saturday after being down 3-2 in the 8th set the stage for another comeback on Sunday. It’s what they do.

This postseason the Royals outscored the opposition 51-11 in the 7th inning or later. It’s a stat that clearly tells the tale of a Royals’ team that never stops applying pressure and more times than not can push the hammer down so the bullpen can turn out the lights. The Mets were the finest the National League had to offer, but because of the Royals it was a dark night in Gotham and a celebration to befit a king in Kansas City.

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The 2015 World Series: What We’ve Seen So Far

The World Series shifts to New York tonight for a critical Game 3. The Kansas City Royals are off to a great start in the series, as they were able to take both of the two games in Kansas City. The New York Mets have a tremendous amount of pressure on them heading into the game tonight. The series hasn’t exactly gone how they’d hope it would, but it isn’t over yet.

The Royals have done a good job of throwing the Mets off their game. The Mets have relied on their good young starting pitchers all season long. These pitchers have been their biggest strength. This series has been an exception however. Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom were both surprisingly avererage for New York in Games 1 and 2 respectively. In Game 1, Harvey allowed three earned runs on five hits over six innings. He departed with the game tied at three. In Game 2, deGrom allowed four earned runs on six hits, while lasting only five innings. Neither were as dominant as usual.

The Royals have shown us that they can hit the fastball, no matter the speed. That’s something they’ve been able to do all season. Even against the very hard-throwing Mets pitchers, they’ve had no problem putting the ball in play. Harvey and deGrom each recorded only two strikeouts in their respective starts. In their 14 inning win in Game 1, the Royals only struck out seven times. The team only struck out three times in Game 2. They’ve used a combination of timely hitting and speed to score runs. The home run hasn’t been a big part of Kansas City’s offense game in the series so far, or in the entire postseason. The lone long ball they’ve hit in the series came in a huge spot though, when Alex Gordon took Jeurys Familia deep in the ninth inning of Game 1 to tie the game.

In contrast, the Mets have been largely reliant on the home run ball in the postseason. However, they’ve only hit one home run in the World Series thus far. Curtis Granderson has the only home run for the team in the series. The Royals pitchers have prevented the Mets from playing their style of offense.

The Royals pitching has been very good in the World Series. Their bullpen has been their biggest strength all year, but in this series the starting pitching has also been very good. Edinson Volquez went six innings in Game 1 while allowing three runs on six hits. Volquez was still able to pitch well despite receiving the news that his father had passed just hours before the game started. The Royals bullpen did not allow an earned run the rest of the game, and the team went on to win 5-4 in 14 innings. Johnny Cueto was fantastic for Kansas City in Game 2. He threw a complete game, while only allowing one run on  two hits. The Royals didn’t even need to use the bullpen in Game 2, as the team cruised to a 7-1 victory.

The Mets need to win tonight to get back into the series. We’ll see if they can make the necessary adjustments to figure out the Royals. They’ll have the crowd on their side tonight, unlike Games 1 and 2. Citi Field will be very loud, as tonight will mark the first World Series game in the park’s seven-year history.

If the Mets fall behind early tonight, they’re most likely doomed. The Royals have a very dominant 7-8-9 combination in their bullpen with Kelvin HerreraRyan Madson, and Wade Davis. The Mets don’t want to have to face those guys late in the game, especially if they’re behind. Their best hope is to rattle the Royals starter Yordano Ventura early and score some runs off him. The Mets need a big-time perfomance from their starter Noah Syndergaard if they hope to win. He needs to figure out how to strike out the Royals. That will require throwing his off-speed pitches effectively, as the Royals hit the fastball very well. If the Mets do have the lead in the ninth, Jeurys Familia needs to shut the door this time. That’s something he failed to do in Game 1.

The Royals have a chance to put the series out of reach tonight with a win. This will most likely be a very short series if they do. All the pressure’s on the Mets. Let’s see what happens.

 

Top Storylines For 2015 World Series

The New York Mets and Kansas City Royals are in the World Series. The Mets get their first crack at it since 2000 and the Royals are on a revenge tour from last year. There are plenty of juicy headlines heading into this matchup. One got there with pitching and the other with clutch hitting.

Here are the top storylines to watch for as you indulge in the 2015 Fall Classic.

1. One of These Teams Will End a Long Drought

These two clubs won consecutive World Series in 1985 (Royals) and 1986 (Mets). Those were the last times these two clubs won it all. Each team is right around 30 years without a championship. No matter who wins, it will be the longest drought ended since the 2010 Giants (1954) and the 2008 Phillies (1980).

The longest current drought in the American League belongs to the Cleveland Indians (1948). 15 other teams have won the World Series since these two teams have clinched it.

The last time these two teams won the World Series, Ronald Reagan was President and the top songs were Like A Virgin by Madonna and the Bangles’ Walk Like an Egyptian.

2. For the First Time in MLB History, Two Expansion-Era Teams Will Meet in WS

The Expansion Era teams include any team founded after 1960. The Mets were founded in 1962 and the Royals, 1969. It is mind blowing to think that this is the first time that the World Series has featured two teams both founded after 1960.

The last expansion era team to win the World Series was the Florida Marlins in 2003.

3. Daniel Murphy Having a Postseason For the Ages

Daniel Murphy entered into this postseason with 14 home runs in 130 regular season games this year and 62 in his 903 career games. He has half of his regular season total during this postseason and has homered in a record 6 games in a row.

He could potentially continue this historic streak in Game 1 on Tuesday against Edinson Volquez. He is 6 for 15 lifetime against Volquez

4. A Small, Country-Esque Fanbase Against the Largest Market in Sports

There is a New York team in the World Series. Except this time everyone is not rolling their eyes, cringing at the thought of another Yankees championship, it is the Mets’ turn. It is no secret that New York is the biggest sports market in the United States. This series will get huge numbers on the eastern seaboard.

Another market gets its time to shine, that is the littler, more country-feeling market in Kansas City. These two cities could not be more different. It will be a clash of styles and regions when this series gets going.

5. The Royals Seek Revenge

The Royals were the darlings of yesteryear and came oh so close to a championship. It was snatched from their grasp on their home turf in Game 7 against the Giants. This year they are on a mission to seek revenge and get that title that they believe is rightfully theirs.

Their revenge tour ripped them right through the regular season, cruising to an AL Central title and the number 1 seed in the American League. With the American League winning the All-Star game, the Royals have the same home field advantage that betrayed them last year.

6. Power vs. Speed

The Mets have some of the best young power arms in the league. Jacob deGrom had over 200 strikeouts in the regular season. Noah Syndergaard had 166 strikeouts in 150 innings. Yoenis Cespedes has a .942 OPS since coming to the Mets. Daniel Murphy is summoning his inner Reggie Jackson. It’s safe to say the Mets are a powerful team.

The Royals come out with a completely different approach: speed. They were 2nd in the AL with 104 steals. Lorenzo Cain is good at getting on base and stealing. He swiped 28 bags along with a .361 on-base percentage. The Royals get on base and make you pay with their legs. We are about to find out which philosophy works best.

 
Fresh Diet

Marco Estrada and the Toronto Blue Jays Hold On To Force ALCS Game 6

Marco Estrada and the Toronto Blue Jays held on to their season as the defeated the Royals 7-1 to force a game six of the ALCS.  Game one winner Edinson Volquez came in to game five on Wednesday to try to close things out and send the Royals to their second straight World Series.  Volquez was out-dueled by Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada.

The game opened with a perfect first inning by both pitchers and a perfect second by Estrada. In the bottom of the second, Chris Colabello blasted a change up from Volquez over the left field walls of Rogers Centre. The score stayed 1-0 in favor of the Jays as the Royals were not able to do anything off of Estrada, who carried a perfect game into the fourth inning, when he allowed a single to the red hot Blue Jay killer Alcides Escobar (who had 4 RBIs in game four on Tuesday). The next batter, Ben Zobrist, grounded into a double-play to keep Estrada at the minimum number of batters faced.

The Royls did not tally another hit off of Estrada until the eighth inning, when Salvador Perez homered to right field; by that time, the Jays had already added six more runs to their impressive lead thanks to RBIs by Edwin Encarnacion, Troy Tulowitzki (3 RBI) and Jose Bautista. Estrada pitched into the eighth inning and was replaced by Aaron Sanchez after allowing a Sal Perez bomb and an Alex Gordon single. Sanchez allowed an eighth inning single but was able to end the threat.

Danny Duffy pitched the eighth for the Royals and allowed one run courtesy of an RBI double by Kevin Pillar. Roberto Osuna finished off the Royals and secured the Jays another baseball game.

In game four on Tuesday, the Royals offense scored 14 runs on 15 hits; on Wednesday, the Royals were only able to tally one run on four hits. Toronto put up seven runs on eight hits. The Royals 2-3-4-5-6 hitters went a combined 0-17 on Tuesday afternoon.

Royals starter Edinson Volquez finished with 5 IP, 3 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 2 SO and 1 HR.  Marco Estrada dazzled and dealt; he finished with 7.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO and 1 HR. The Royals’ bats cooled down and the Jays brought theirs to life and were able to savor their season for at least one more game.

3 Stars of the Game:
#3- (TOR)- RF Jose Bautista- 2-3, RBI, BB, run
#2- (TOR)- SS Troy Tulowitzki- 2-4, 3 RBI, run
#1- (TOR)- SP Marco Estrada- 7.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO, 1 HR

Royals Yordano “Ace” Ventura will look to clinch his team a spot in the World Series in game six on Friday night in Kansas City. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays have won four straight elimination playoff games.

David Price takes the mound for the Blue Jays as he will now try to keep their season alive and force a series deciding game seven that would take place on Saturday night in Kansas City.

First pitch of game five will be at 8:07 PM ET, 5:07 CT on Friday at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.