Lack Of Timely Hitting Dooms Cubs

The Cubs lost their series opener in Miami against the Marlins. The Cubs had the bases loaded in the top of the ninth after Addison Russell, Albert Almora, and David Ross had managed to get on with one out. After Ross, Chris Coghlan and Ben Zobrist came up to the plate.

Coghlan struck out swinging and Zobrist popped up to end the inning. The loss marked the first four game losing streak for the Cubs this season. Had Coghlan or Zobrist gotten on base with a single, the Cubs could have scored one or even two runners. The Cubs would have to fend off the Marlins again in that inning to win the anyway, but it is possible the Cubs could have won in they could have gotten a few more hits in the ninth.

Prior to losing to the Marlins, the Cubs had been swept by their division rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals. This cut the Cubs’ lead in the NL Central by three games. The Cubs still have a large lead on the second place Cardinals, but had a 12.5 game lead prior to being swept.

The Cubs lost their games against the Marlins and the Cardinals for a number of reasons, but mainly it has been their hitting, or lack thereof holding them back. In the series against the Cardinals, the Cubs averaged 2.33 runs per game. In their opener versus the Marlins, the Cubs only scored two runs. Nine runs over four games is abnormal for one of the MLB’s best offenses.

In addition to the Cubs struggling offense, several young prospects have taken the place of established stars in recent games. Albert Almora took the place a Dexter Fowler, and Willson Contreras took the place of Anthony Rizzo. There will be growing pains as Joe Maddon tries to get his prospects some playing time, but hopefully they will pass as the Cubs starters return to play.

Those prospects will become valuable in the near future, however, as they are considered for potential trades. For the past several weeks, multiple sources have said that the Cubs are looking to make a trade in order to bring in a big time reliever. Whether Albert Almora or Willson Contreras will be moved is speculation at this point but nothing should be ruled out at this point as the Cubs try to take improve their team for a long postseason run and try to take home some hardware.

Moving Forward

The Cubs have three more games to play the against the Marlins after losing the series opener and will round out the month of June against the Cincinnati Reds in Ohio. The Cubs will then finish their current road trip in New York against the Mets and then come home to play the Reds again in July.

The Cubs will look to get back on track going forward with two series against a last place NL Central rival. The Cincinnati Reds are 28-45 as of June 23rd, have a 17-20 home record, and are 20 games back of the 1st place Cubs. While it is still early in the season, the Cubs need to end their losing streak.

Ichiro: The Quest For 3,000 Hits

As of this post, Ichiro Suzuki, mononymously known as Ichiro, is just 40 hits away from joining Major League Baseball’s exclusive 3,000 hit club.

At 42-years-old and playing in his 16th season this year, Ichiro has collected 25 hits in 70 at-bats thus far. This gives him 2,960 career MLB hits, which puts him just two hits shy of passing Sam Crawford (2,961 career hits) for 31st place on the all-time list.

Ichiro recently joined some impressive company, as he tied Craig Biggio, Ken Griffey Sr., and Ty Cobb for the most hits in a three game span by a 40-plus-year-old with 10 (Joe Morgan has the most with 11 hits). Ichiro did so by going 4-for-4 and 2-for-4 against the Washington Nationals this past weekend, followed by a 4-for-5 plate performance on Monday(May 23rd) against the Tampa Bay Rays.

The absence of Miami Marlins right fielder Christian Yelich of late, reportedly due to back spasms, has allowed Ichiro more playing time and plate appearances. Needless to say, Ichiro has been making the most of it, slashing for a respectable .357/.416/.400 thus far.

The key to reaching 3,000 hits for Ichiro, of course, will hinge entirely on how many multi-plate appearances he sees for the remainder of the season.

Ichiro is currently averaging one game played per team series, with an average of roughly two at bats. Given the Fins have a total of 35 series remaining on the schedule, and assuming Ichiro got at least one hit in one game played for those series per his averages, he would fall five hits shy of 3,000.

However, since there is no time-table on when Yelich will return, and seeing as Ichiro will likely see more than two at bats in games he plays moving forward, the 3,000 hit milestone is attainable in 2016. Especially if Ichiro continues to rack up more three plus hit games, when given the opportunity.

 

 

(Ichiro in his Prime while with the Seattle Mariners from 2001-2012. He also had a short stint with the New York Yankees from 2012-2014. Moving to the National League with the Marlins in 2015.--Photo Credit: Elaine Thompson/AP Photo)

(Ichiro in his Prime while with the Seattle Mariners from 2001-2012. He also had a short stint with the New York Yankees from 2012-2014. Moving to the National League with the Marlins in 2015.–Photo Credit: Elaine Thompson/AP Photo)

 

 

For Ichiro, reaching 3,000 hits would be just another incredible feat to go along with an already legendary career. Below is a short list of his career highlights, awards, and achievements:

 

  • Became only the second MLB player since Fred Lynn (1975) to win both the Rookie Of The Year award and Most Valuable Player in the same season in 2001.
  • Set the single-season hits record in 2004 with 262, edging previous record holder George Sisler (257 in 1920) by five hits.
  • In 2010 he finished his 10th consecutive season with at least 200 hits (an MLB record). The only other player to do so was Pete Rose, though his 10 seasons were not all consecutive, rather accumulated.
  • Became the first and only MLB player to hit an inside-the-park home run during an all-star game in 2007.
  • Once stole 45 consecutive bases from April 19, 2006 to May 17th, 2007, which ranks him second in MLB history behind Vince Coleman’s 50 consecutive games (September 16th, 1988 to July 26th, 1989).
  • For his 16 year MLB career, Ichiro currently holds a .314/.357/.406 slash line with 113 home runs, 743 RBI, and 500 stolen bases.
  • Fun Fact: If you included Ichiro’s nine year Japanese League career hit total of 1,278 (he began his MLB career at age 27), he would surpass both Ty Cobb and Rose on the all-time MLB list with 4,278 (if he reaches 3,000).
  • Ichiro would become just the seventh MLB player to have 3,000 hits and 500 steals in a career.

 

Should Ichiro reach 3,000 hits this year, he would tie Roberto Clemente (3,000 hits) and become only the 30th MLB player to accomplish the feat.

 

Final Thoughts:

Ichiro’s nickname, per BaseballReference.com, is “Wizard”. This couldn’t be more fitting, as his baseball career has been nothing short of magical. He’s arguably one of greatest hitters of all-time, ranking somewhere in the top 10 to top five among varying baseball expert circles.

I believe Ichiro, and the Marlins, can find a way to make 3,000 a reality in 2016.

Ichiro will become a free agent at seasons end, and if he is only a few hits shy of 3,000, you can bet Miami or another team will sign him to a one-year deal.

Of course, if Ichiro makes it to the milestone this year, I imagine he would want to ride off into “the rising sun” via retirement.

 

(All statistical information is courtesy of BaseballReference.com, Fox Sports.com, and ESPN.com)

Dee Gordon Gets 80-Game Suspension

According to multiple reports today from ESPN, Fox Sports, Yahoo Sports, etc., Miami Marlins second baseman Dee “Flash” Gordon has been suspended by the MLB for 80 games this season, effective immediately, after testing positive for two banned performance enhancing drugs.

Per NPR’s Bill Chapel and the MLB, Gordon’s positive test results showed both externally derived testosterone and Clostebol (a type of anabolic steroid). By way of the MLB Players Association, Gordon released a statement earlier today claiming he never knowingly took those substances, but that he accepts the leagues decision :

 

Though I did not do so knowingly, I have been informed that test results showed I ingested something that contained prohibited substances. The hardest part about this is feeling that I have let down my teammates, the organization and the fans. I have been careful to avoid products that could contain something banned by MLB and the 20+ tests that I have taken and passed throughout my career prove this. I made a mistake, and I accept the consequences.

 

 

Marlins Manager Don Mattingly, who also coached Gordon while they were in LA, was quoted as saying “I feel like he’s one of my kids, to be honest with you. I’ve known him so long.” Mattingly added, that he is “definitely shocked and surprised” by the news (Per NPR/Chapel). “Flash” joins a number of MLB players who have been suspended for similar reasons this year, such as Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Chris Colabello (80-games for PED use) and New York Mets reliever Jennry Mejia (162 games for PED use).

 

Gordon debuted with the Los Angeles Dodgers back in 2011, and began to catch fire in 2014 when he made his first all-star game appearance, posted a solid .289/.326/.378 slash line, and led the majors in stolen bases with a career high 64.

That success continued last year with the Marlins, as Gordon made his second all-star game appearance, slashed for .333/.359/.418, and again led the majors in stolen bases with 58.

 

With Gordon now gone until well after the all-star break, Miami will start Miguel Rojas at second until further notice.

 

(Statistics, data, and direct quotes for this post are courtesy of Baseball Reference.com, Spotrac.com, NPR’s Bill Chapel, and the MLB Players Association)

 

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

 

 

Labor Pains for the Marlins, Braves, and Phillies

The Washington Nationals have won five in a row and trail the New York Mets by 4-games in the NL East. The Mets are just 4-5 of late following a seven-game winning streak. Both teams will play each other for three games starting on Labor Day afternoon.

Lucas Duda figures to return from his DL stint to give the Mets some extra power. Jon Niese and Max Scherzer will meet in the lid lifter from our nation’s capital. These two teams will also meet for the final three games of the regular season in October.

Somewhere (The Players’ Tribune) Matt Harvey is writing about pitching in the playoffs. Allegedly there is a 180-inning cap on Harvey’s previously TJ’d elbow and he’s at 166.1 IP.

It’s an all too similar story to Stephen Strasburg in 2012. He got shut down after 159.1 IP that season. The Nats ended up making the postseason, but lost in 5-games to the St. Louis Cardinals in a division series where Strasburg DID NOT pitch.

Be careful Washington. A week ago, the Giants were just 3.5 behind the Dodgers after Jake Arrieta no hit the Boys In The Blue on Sunday Night Baseball. San Francisco then lost three straight to Los Angeles and a week later is 7.5 games out of first in the NL West.

My focus here is not the Nats climbing back into the NL East race, but what the heck happened to the rest of the division this season. Three of baseball’s five 80+ loss teams reside in this division as we hit the Labor Day check point.

Miami Marlins (57-80)

Manager Mike Redmond (16-22) got fired and GM Dan Jennings (49-58) took over. The situation is still kind of comical If anybody still cared. Fans of superstar players do care that Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez came back from injury and then got injured again. Huge bummer.

Stanton (broken wrist) may make it back this season, but to date has only got to terrorize opposing pitchers for 27 homers over 74 games. Jose Fernandez made just seven starts after returning from TJS.

All that’s left in Miami is hoping 14-year old looking Christian Yelich, he’s 23, or Dee Gordon, he’s still hitting .325, can help you in the fantasy baseball playoffs.

Atlanta Braves (54-83)

In their last 20 games the Atlanta Braves are 1-19. During that stretch they’ve lose 15-4 and 20-6 to the Yankees, and 15-1 to the Nationals. The Nats Bryce Harper now has 34 home runs after he went deep in all three games of the Nats-Braves series. He was part of the reason Atlanta lost their 10th, 11th and 12th straight games over the weekend.

It didn’t always smell that bad.The Braves were once 5-0 a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far from Labor Day. On June 1st they were still a game over .500 at 26-25. It was a time where Shelby Miller (5-2, 1.48 ERA) was awesome and Alex Wood (4-2, 3.19) was winning games too. Freddie Freeman (.297/.363/.865) was hitting. Jim Johnson was also setting up plenty of save opportunities for Jason Grilli (15 SV) to lock down.

Then the Tomahawk lost its chop.

Shelby Miller is still pitching to an ERA below 3.00 with a FIP at 3.35. He was 5-2 to start June, he’s currently 5-13.

Freddie Freeman missed June 18th-July 24th (right oblique strain), but is still the Braves best offensive player because his only competition is A.J. Pierzynski.

Jason Grilli ruptured his achilles on July 11th which ended his season.

Free agent infield acquisitions Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson were kind of hitting, but were expendable and tossed aside in a July 24th trade to the Mets for a couple minor leaguers.

Alex Wood, Jim Johnson, Jose Peraza, Bronson Arroyo and Luis Avilan were dealt to the Dodgers on July 30th in a three-team trade that also involved the Marlins. The Braves netted highly touted infielder Hector Olivera. He’s 2 for his first 15 as a big leaguer.

The Braves and Phillies get to celebrate Labor Day by playing the first of six games remaining between the two teams. They are the only two teams in MLB with over 80 losses at Labor Day. The Rockies and Marlins have 80. This isn’t a compliment.

Philadelphia Phillies (53-84)

The Phillies were once 4-0. However, while Fredi Gonzalez is still somehow managing the Braves, Ryne Sandberg called it quits with the Phillies after a 26-48 start. The Pete Mackanin error is 27-36, but it includes a successful 16-5 run following the all star break.

The Phillies said goodbye to Jimmy Rollins and eventually Chase Utley in 2015 and said hello to rookie third baseman Maikel Franco (13 HR in 77 games) and rookie starting pitcher Aaron Nola. Nola got roughed up for six runs against the Mets his last time out, but has been successful through his first nine starts with a 5-2 record, 1.16 WHIP, 4.02 ERA.

Unfortunately for Franco he suffered a non-displaced fracture in his left wrist on August 11th. Back then the 22-year old, was battling the Cubs Kris Bryant in NL Rookie of the Year discussions.

Add a few letters to Franco’s last name and we get one of 2015’s feel good stories about bouncing back. Jeff Francoeur is third on the Phillies with 12 HRs. It’s his most since 2012 with the Royals. Frenchy had only 25 at bats with the Padres in 2014.

23-year old centerfielder Odubel Herrera (.302) leads the Phillies in hits, but that’s enough about the Phillies.

Happy Labor Day. Don’t work too hard.

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The Youth Movement Taking Baseball By Storm

In the midst of a division race Friday night Bryce Harper hit his 30th home run of the season for the Washington Nationals, becoming one of seven players in the major leagues with 30 this year. Harper is only 22 and has not reached his ceiling yet, and is quickly already becoming one of the best players in baseball and a legitimate MVP candidate.

Joined by Bryce Harper at the top is 24 year old Mike Trout, who has hit 33 home runs this year. Trout has been off the chart for the Los Angeles Angels and is likely on his way to winning his second consecutive Most Valuable Player award. The Trout vs Harper debate will be around for years to come, but there are many other young superstars in the game that should be getting fans’ attention during this exciting season.

Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies is only 24 years old, but leads the National League with 86 runs batted in and has hitting 29 home runs on the season. The 24 year old third baseman might not even be the best young player at that position, with 23 year old Manny Machado also having a prolific year and Kris Bryant learning the ropes for the Chicago Cubs.

The 2015 season has been taken over by young players led by Trout, Harper, Machado and Arenado and baseball is seeing a movement that will make the game more exciting for years to come. In the national league 24 years olds Shelby Miller, Gerritt Cole and Michael Wacha have all put up great years and all have ERAs under 3 for the season. Wacha’s teammate for the Cardinals, Carlos Martinez, is only 23 years old and has a 2.59 ERA on the season for the St. Louis ball club.

Over in the American League Sonny Gray has dominated hitters and is leading the league in ERA at 2.06. At 25 years old he has a good shot at winning his first CY Young award for the Oakland Athletics. Gray has been overpowering and leads the league in ERA, WHIP and BAA.

In Houston we are seeing the emergence of a 20 year old shortstop that might already be the best at his position in baseball. Carlos Correa has been on fire since being called up by Houston this year and has 14 home runs in 227 at bats, good for a .537 Slugging percentage on the year. Correa has been a catalyst for the Houston ball club and is a big reason why the Astros are winning the AL West.

In Minnesota 22 year old slugging third baseman Miguel Sano has hit seven home runs and ten doubles in 125 at bats and is hitting .280 for the season. He is joined by 21 year old center fielder Byron Buxton, who when healthy, is one of the most exciting players in baseball and is a top prospect.

Giancarlo Stanton has not played since June 26, but is still tied for fourth in the National League with 27 home runs on the year. Stanton at 25 years old has more power than any player in the big leagues, and is joined by Jose Fernandez as two of the most exciting players in the game.

Over in Chicago the Cubs have a team stocked with young talent headed by 23 year olds Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler. At the age of 23 Bryant is already tenth in the majors in walks and has been as good as advertised. However as good as Bryant has been, he is not even the best young player on his team with the way that Kyle Schwarber has been swinging the bat since being called up.

Schwarber is a 22 year old catcher that is hitting .313 with 8 home runs in 112 at bats for the Cubs. He has been phenomenal and with Schwarber, Bryant, Soler and 21 year old Addison Russell the Cubs have their own young all-star roster.

In Los Angeles 23 year old Joc Pederson has had an impressive rookie campaign, hitting 23 long balls on the year for the first place Dodgers. Pederson is joined by 24 year old Yasiel Puig, who has had a down year, but still has managed to hit 10 home runs and when he is in the zone is one of the most dangerous hitters.

All around baseball young players are stepping up and making an impact for teams and the tide is changing in the major leagues. A game that was once dominated by veterans is being pushed aside as the exciting young superstars get their chance at glory and with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper at the helm, baseball is in great shape for years to come.

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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.

Should Jose Reyes be remembered as a Mets Legend?

(Danny Wild-MLB.com)

As the Toronto Blue Jays roll into town, Mets fans get to see one of their former beloveds; Jose Reyes. Jose was adored by the Mets faithful; night in and night out chants of “Jose, Jose Jose Jose!” used to echo around old Shea Stadium, as Jose Reyes, David Wright, and a core of veterans made 2006-2008 some of the most exciting and prosperous times in Mets history (although a World Series still evaded those highly talented teams).

However, Reyes’ and Wright’s contracts were expiring around the same time, and the Mets had to make a choice. They could only give the big, mega, franchise player bucks to one of them; and the Mets chose David Wright. Following the 2011 season, a season in which Mets fans begged the front office to keep Jose Reyes in town, and a season where we saw him win the Mets one and (to date) only batting title, Jose left for greener pastures, to the NL East Rival Marlins, signing a 6 year-$106M contract . It hurt. Mets fans were bitter, and heartbroken over losing their beloved Jose Reyes, and felt stabbed in the back by his decision. While Jose has never reached the level of success he had in New York, he has never hit over .300 since leaving, is he still considered a New York Mets legend? Let’s look into the numbers and find out.

As compared to Mets shortstops, Reyes completely shatters the competition. He is second to games played to Bud Harrelson, but the rest of his stats show how special of a player he was in Queens. His 735 runs scored are first, with Harrelson coming in at second with 490. His 1,300 hits are first, over Bud Harrelson again, who had 1029. His 222 doubles are first, with (you guessed it) Bud Harrelson at 123. He has 99 triples to Harrelson’s 45. He hit 81 home runs for the Mets, with Kevin Elster (who was a rookie in 1986, and was the starting shortstop from 88-92) hitting 34 to come in second. His 423 RBI’s are almost 200 more than Rey Ordonez’s 260, and his 370 stolen bases completely shatter Bud Harrelson’s 115. He was also a wizard with the glove, with his highest error total being 18 in 2005, and his lowest being 12 in 2007.

As a shortstop, there is no competition; while Bud Harrelson was a great player, Jose Reyes is the best shortstop the Mets have ever seen. Honestly, there is not one stat that is even close to his; he completely shattered the Mets shortstop records. He was also an important piece to a some of the most successful (despite narrowly missing the playoffs in 2007 and 2008) teams in Mets history; he had an oWAR of 4.9 and a dWAR of 1.6 with a 116 wRC+  (click the link for a detailed description of the stat) in ’06, an oWAR of 4.0 and a dWAR of 1.8 with a 101 wRC+ in ’07, and an oWAR of 5.0 and a dWAR of 0.5 with a 118 wRC+ in ’08, in a stretch where the team went a combined 274-212. The Mets were good, and Jose Reyes was a huge part of it.

The Mets have never really recovered from losing Reyes to free agency. They never got that leadoff hitter and defensive star Reyes was, and they never really had another shortstop. Ruben Tejada is a bench player at best, and Wilmer Flores is simply not a shortstop. While fans can throw around the word “loyalty” and show how David Wright took a discount to stay here, fans should remember that Jose Reyes did a lot of things well in his time in Queens, and he is certainly a Mets legend. Now that the sting of him leaving has dulled it is time for Mets fans to understand that, and have one more Jose chant, for old times sake.

Note: All stats are received from baseball-reference.com , fangraphs.com  and newyork.mets.mlb.com

Shelby Sparks Seven Shutout Sunday

Braves’ Shelby Miller reacts to allowing his first hit. (Photo Courtesy: Fox Sports Marlins)

By night, the St. Louis Cardinals, the former home of Shelby Miller, improved to a major league best 25-12 thanks to Lance Lynn’s (7.1 IP, 1 ER, 7 K) pitching and a 6th inning go-ahead home run by Kolten Wong against the Tigers’ Alfredo Simon. The Cardinals 2-1 victory closed out a week six that featured a lot of doughnuts on Sunday.

By day, half of the fourteen games ended as shutout victories. Sugary sweet for the victors, but not so much for friends of the fin. The highlight was in Miami where the Braves’ Shelby Miller (5-1, 1.33 ERA) pitched Marlins manager Mike Redmond (16-22) to the unemployment line.

Braves 6, Marlins 0

Miller took a no-hitter into the 9th, when with 2 outs Justin Bour singled to centerfield. Dee .420 Gordon followed with another hit before Martin Prado popped out to second to end the game. Miller’s complete game shutout saw 70 of 94 pitches go for strikes in a tidy 2:13 game where he yielded just two hits, one walk and four strikeouts. Miller has held opponents to a major league best .156 batting average this season.

Less tidy was the Marlins reaction after the loss. Sports Rants Mike Addvensky has more on the Redmond firing. He’ll be on the Marlins payroll through 2017 after getting a contract extension from owner Jeffery Loria on the final day of the 2014 season. I guess that was a reward for turning a 62-win team into a 77-win outfit. Loria, who benefits from revenue sharing, helped his bottom line by then essentially letting GM Dan Jennings hire himself to be the manager. What more would you expect from a team that still has Ozzie Guillen on the payroll in 2015 after he last managed in 2012.

Regardless how ridiculous this managerial move sounds, Jennings now gets to try to win with the players he wanted. Good luck with that. Starting pitcher Henderson Alvarez did return from the DL on Sunday to make his second start of the season. Eventually help will come from ace Jose Fernandez when his TJS recovery is complete. The bullpen is tied for the major league lead with eight blown saves. Half of them charged to deposed closer Steve Cishek.

Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal opines that Loria may need to be questioned about how he conducts business when tossing around some of that revenue sharing cash.

Diamondbacks 0, Phillies 6

Sean O’Sullivan got his first win since May 12th, 2011 after pitching six scoreless for the Phillies. Relievers Luis Garcia, Ken Giles, and Jeanmar Gomez all recorded three outs to finish the shutout. Philadelphia is still in the NL East cellar, but they have won five straight games.

Angels 0, Orioles 3

Mike Wright won his major league debut for the orange clad Orioles by pitching 7.1 IP of scoreless baseball. He only surrendered four hits to go with no walks and six strikeouts. Relievers Brad Brach and Zach Britton kept the Angels scoreless who had Erick Aybar hitting cleanup. Sounds like Kole Calhoun will be the Angels’ cleanup hitter for the foreseeable future, although on Monday the Angels bullpen (Morin-Pestano-Ramos) got spanked 10-6 against the Blue Jays on Victoria Day.

 Pirates 3, Cubs 0

The Cubs six-game winning streak came to an end during Sunday’s loss to A.J Burnett. Burnett walked five, but still had seven scoreless innings. Tony Watson and Mark Melancon teamed up for the hold and save.

 Yankees 0, Royals 6

Chris Capuano made his season debut for the Yankees, but he only recorded nine outs. The Royals Edinson Volquez recorded 21 outs allowing just three hits and striking out five. Wade Davis and Jason Frasor each got three outs. The Royals lead the Tigers by one game in the AL Central. The Yankees have a one game lead over the Rays after losing five out of their last six.

Red Sox 0, Mariners 5

James Paxton only two strikeouts were of Hanley Ramirez, but Paxton didn’t let any Red Sox score during his eight innings of work. Carson Smith pitched a scoreless 9th.

Steven Wright’s knuckleball made its first start of the season for the Red Sox. He allowed two earned runs over five innings. With Justin Masterson being terrible and on the DL (inflamed shoulder and ERA) it stands to reason the Red Sox may see how much Wright stuff they can get out of Steven going forward.

Rockies 0, Dodgers 1

The marquee matchup of shutout Sunday was not Kyle Kendrick vs Mike Bolsinger. The Dodgers are probably most happy that Yimi Garcia, Chris Hatcher and Kenley Jansen all pitched clean innings in support of the six scoreless, six strike out effort they got from Bolsinger. The Dodgers (24-13) enter the new week with a 4.5 game lead over the San Francisco Giants.

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