Why You Should Root Against The Chicago Cubs

When the Chicago Cubs visited Miller Park earlier this year, I engaged in some discussions with their fans about the state of their franchise versus the Milwaukee Brewers. It’s obvious the “Lovable Losers” are in a far better position right now, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the continued struggles to win (or even reach) the World Series.

Yes, they look like an unstoppable force right now, owning the best record in MLB at 47-22 entering play Wednesday. With a relentless offense ranked 2nd in scoring (5.35 runs/game) and a pitching staff on pace to break the single-season team ERA record (2.70), Chicago has outscored its opponents by 169 runs to potentially threaten the all-time record for run differential set by the 1937 New York Yankees (+411 runs).

With all these positive numbers coming out of Wrigley Field, it would be easy to crown the Cubs the champs now and stew about as Brewers fans – or fans of the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates. Still, baseball is a funny game, so I would implore you to keep root, root, root against the Cubbies and feel no guilt about it.

Great team or not, there are reasons to sit back and soak in the Cubs’ past pain…for now:

 

Baseball Curses Are Fun To Believe In

While the logical side of my brain knows there isn’t an actual curse held over the Northsiders (or any team), it’s fun to find supernatural reasons a team can’t win it all. When the Boston Red Sox broke the “Curse of the Bambino” in 2004, it knocked off some of the mystique.

The Cubs, however, still have Steve Bartman with his infamous headphones, turtleneck and deflection away from Moises Alou‘s urine-soaked hands. They have the black cat that ran around Ron Santo, kick-starting the Cubs’ collapse, ultimately blowing a an 8.5-game lead in mid-August.

And of course, the actual curse supposedly has to do with a goat. A tavern owner and his goat were kicked out of Wrigley Field during the Cubs’ last World Series appearance in 1945. He cursed the team by saying “they’d win no more.” They haven’t even made it back to the World Series since.

In 2015, Chicago owned a paltry 97-65 mark, but still came short of their ultimate goal. They were swept by the 90-72 New York Mets in the NLCS to end the year with a thud. Adding more intrigue to the curse last season was the incredible performance of the Mets’ Daniel Murphy in the NLCS. He had a HR in all 3 games, adding a .417 average and 1.628 OPS.

In reality, the name Murphy might be the actual curse.

When the Cubs last won the World Series in 1908, the owner’s name was Charles Murphy. He was not a well-liked man and was left off the guest list for the celebration dinner, something he was quite upset about.

The famous goat in ’45? Well, his name was Murphy, too. In 1969 (the year of the black cat), the Cubs blew that big lead to the Mets whose GM was Johnny Murphy and broadcaster was Bob Murphy. Then in the 1984 NLCS, Chicago had a 2-0 series lead (best of 5), only to lose all three games at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego.

Hey, does anyone know what Steve Bartman’s middle name is?

Meanwhile, Game 5 of that ’84 series included a brutal error by first baseman Leon Durham, helping the Padres erase a 7th-inning deficit and go on to the Fall Classic. Durham was the first baseman because Bill Buckner was traded from Chicago to the Red Sox at the beginning of the season.

Buckner, of course, has the most famous between-the-legs error. When he committed that gaffe in the 1986 World Series, he was actually wearing a Cubs batting glove. Apparently curses have some crossover effect. Like I said…curses are fun! Why not keep the count going in the Windy City and make it 109 years – just for kicks and giggles.

 

From 2006-2014, The Brewers Had More Success

Since I was arguing on the side of Milwaukee against Cubs’ fans who would simply say the Brewers were awful, I made sure the have actual facts to shoot them down. Sure, the Cubs took an enormous step forward in 2015, but where were they the previous 9 seasons? From 2006-2014, the Brewers had 5 winnings seasons and went 740-718 for a .508 winning percentage.

In the same time, Chicago had only 3 winnings campaigns and went 677-779 (.465). Not to mention, Milwaukee also won more playoff series than the Cubs in that time frame.

In fact, Chicago never won a playoff game in that 9-year stretch, getting swept in both series they played. Milwaukee earned 6 playoff victories, and came just 2 wins shy of the World Series in 2011. The Brewers have no argument now, but how quickly Cubs’ backers forget.

 

Chicago Cubs Fans Are The Worst!

As a disclaimer, every fan base has their fair share of idiots and drunkards who can make games less enjoyable for everyone around them. With that said – Cubs fans are the worst. Well, technically the 2nd-worst behind Cardinals’ supporters (aka “Best Fans in Baseball” ).

Anyway, ask any Brewers’ fan how those Cubs’ backers act when they infiltrate Miller Park. Don’t get me wrong, a quality fan base will always travel well to opposing ballparks; however, I’ve never seen a group – as a whole – behave so ridiculously obnoxious that even I wondered if I’d ever go to a Cubs-Brewers game again.

For one, they barely know anyone on the team or actually understand what’s going on. During the hey-day of Sammy Sosa mania, they would jump out of their seats in exuberant joy anytime the ball went skyward. Never mind it was foul by 500 feet or that he catcher was camped under the ball.

Somehow it became cool to call yourself a Cubs fan, regardless of knowledge, loyalty or competence. There’s a strange arrogance and elitist attitude from the lot of them – odd since they haven’t won a title since 1908, and until last year, had won only one playoff series since 1990.

Of course, I heard from many “Cubs fans” in May tell me they “haven’t paid much attention to them in the last 5 or 6 years, but they’ve been glued to the guys the last couple of seasons!”

For being the 3rd-largest market in the US, they seem to have an inordinate amount of fans who are of the fair-weather variety.

 

The Cubs Are Going To Be Scary Good For Years To Come

Here’s the reality, and why you should embrace every Cubs’ failure as much as you can. Take pleasure in the Cubs’ pain right now, because they look primed to be one of the best teams for a decade or more. They already have stud, young hitters up and down the lineup, and a couple of good-to-great veteran hurlers.

With Chicago’s wallet size, you better believe GM Theo Epstein will be able to snag another pitcher or two that he thinks is worth the money. It might even happen this year or in the offseason.

They are also so stocked with young talent, giving Chicago multiple avenues to collect impact pitchers and hitters as needed via trade. The 97 wins last season – and NLCS appearance – were slightly ahead of schedule, so now there is little reason to believe the Cubs aren’t going full steam ahead. Considering how they look in the middle of June, it’s a bit frightening.

The Brewers are a number of years away from truly competing, so unless you really think the Pirates or Cardinals can catch the Cubs for the NL Central title this year (doubtful), we can only hope that either A) The randomness of the playoffs works against the Cubs’ talent or B) The Cubs truly are cursed and the “baseball gods” will intervene whenever they see fit.

Both are unlikely – so enjoy this as possibly the last moment the Lovable Losers moniker will make any sense.

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.

 
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2015: The Year Of The Met

There has perhaps been no more impressive team in the 2015 Major League Baseball Postseason than the New York Mets. In the National League Divisional Series the Mets were able to beat a very strong Los Angeles Dodgers team in five games and did so by beating Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 and beating Zach Greinke in the decisive game 5.

The Mets have continued to surge forward and after two games in the National League Championship Series they lead the Chicago Cubs two games to zero. The Mets have outscored the Cubs 8-3 in two games and with staff ace Jacob DeGrom set to start game 3 tonight against the Cubs at Wrigley, the Mets are very close to making the World Series for the first time since 2000.

Jacob DeGrom faces Cub starter Kyle Hendricks in tonight’s game and so far in the postseason DeGrom has been lights out and boasts a 2-0 record with a 1.38 earned run average in 13 innings pitched. Hendricks has not been as effective in the postseason and he allowed three runs over 4.2 innings in his single start against the St Louis Cardinals.

The Mets have played very well in the postseason and through 7 games they have a team earned run average of 2.90, which is the best of any playoff team. This 2015 New York Mets club is eerily similar to the 1969 ‘Miracle Mets’ who were led by 25 year old starting pitcher Tom Seaver and 22 year old Nolan Ryan. That Mets team relied on its stellar young pitching and timely hitting to get them to the World Series and that year the Mets beat the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles four games to one to clinch the World Series title.

This year the Mets have been carried by young pitchers and after 27 year old DeGrom starts tonight’s game against the Cubs, 24 year old Steven Matz will start game four tomorrow night. The Cubs will salvage a game at Wrigley Field, but they will not be able to cool down this high octane Mets team and the Mets will win games three and five to get back to the World Series.

However, the player that has been the most instrumental to the Mets postseason success is 30 year old second baseman Daniel Murphy. Murphy was a rookie in 2008 for the Mets and has spent seven years with the ball club and is now finally getting to taste success. The spotlight has been great for Murphy, who has been sensational for the New York ball club and is hitting .357 with five home runs and eight runs batted in in the postseason. The second baseman leads all players in the postseason in home runs and is second behind Kendrys Morales in runs batted in.

After dispatching the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS, the Mets will await the winner of the Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays. Both teams are far more experienced than the Mets, but neither club has the dynamic starting pitching that the Mets have and the New York ball club will be able to handle the pressure of Toronto’s hitting or the Kansas City bullpen.

The Blue Jays will win game four tonight against the Royals and will win the series in seven games setting up a World Series that will feature dominant hitting versus dominant pitching. The Blue Jays will get off to a slow start in the series and the Mets will split the opening two games in Toronto before coming back to New York and winning games three and four. Jacob DeGrom and Matt Harvey will be huge for the Mets in the series and will likely start games one and two for the Mets.

Perhaps no pitcher wants to prove more than Harvey just how much he wants to win and he has been excellent so far in the postseason, going 2-0 with a 2.84 earned run average in 12.2 innings. Harvey will win two games for the Mets in the World Series and the Mets will win the series in six games, capping off a truly magical year for a team that is built to succeed for a long time.

The Cardinals Become First Team To Clinch A Postseason Birth

On Saturday the St. Louis Cardinals became the first team in Major League Baseball to clinch a postseason birth despite losing to the Chicago Cubs 5-4 because of a loss by the San Francisco Giants.

The Cardinals own a dominant 94-56 record on the season despite injuries to key players such as Adam Wainwright and more recently Yadier Molina, who has a partially torn ligament in his thumb and could miss the last few weeks of the regular season. The Cardinals have banded together and been the best overall team in baseball thanks to great team play and help from a very good starting rotation led by Michael Wacha.

St. Louis has a team ERA on the season of 2.90, which is first in all of baseball, with the next closest team (Pittsburgh Pirates) at 3.20. The Cardinals have the best pitching in all of baseball and their starting pitchers John Lackey, Lance Lynn, Wacha, Carlos Martinez and Jaime Garcia have ERAs of 2.79, 3.28, 3.08, 3.01 and 2.45 respectively.

Barring a major collapse the Cardinals will enter the playoffs with the best record in the National League and will likely end up playing the winner of the Pirates and Chicago Cubs wild card game. Either matchup will be fun to watch and the Cardinals own an 8-8 record against the Pirates and an 11-8 record against the Cubs.

The Cardinals will be a dangerous team to face in the playoffs because any of their starters could start game one and it is likely that at least one of their starters will be used for long relief out of the bullpen if needed. Adam Wainwright is also expected to return to the bullpen for the Cardinals in the playoffs and the last time he was used in that role the red birds won the World Series in 2006.

With the Cardinals likely to enter the playoffs with the best record in the National League it will be the daunting task for teams to beat the red birds on the road. The Cardinals own the best home record in baseball at 51-24 and for a team to advance past the St. Louis ball club they will have to beat them at Busch Stadium.

The two teams that will have a shot at knocking the Cardinals off in the National League Division Series both could clinch playoff spots in the next two days. The Pittsburgh Pirates will clinch a playoff spot with a win tonight and if the Cubs win tomorrow they will also clinch a playoff spot. The Kansas City Royals of the American League are the third team that could clinch a playoff spot if they win tomorrow.

The playoffs are drawing nearer with each day and the Pirates and Cubs will have tough decisions to make when they play each other in the wild card game. For either team to beat the Cardinals in the National League Division Series they will have to win at least one out of the two opening games in St. Louis.

The two teams will have to decide whether they want to use their game one starter in the wild card game, or if they want to gamble and hope that their number two starter can win the wild card game allowing them to use their ace in Game one against the Cardinals. No matter what happens it is set to be a great postseason for baseball and the road to the World Series will lead through St. Louis.

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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

The Houston Astros Approach: Could It Work?

The Houston Astros are on a crash-course towards the postseason. They have shocked everyone and are five games ahead of everyone else in the American League West. They have had some help from a slumping Seattle Mariners team and an inconsistent Los Angeles Angels.

Their only threat right now could be the Texas Rangers. To some experts, the Astros are living dangerously. They have a good offense but they oddly are last in the American League and tied for last in the MLB in team batting average at .241.

Houston is also leading the entire league in home runs at 174. They live by a “boom or bust” offense. With 1,126 strikeouts, they lead the American League. So how could a team that leads the AL in strikeouts and is last in team batting make the playoffs?

The Astros seem to have figured it out. But would it work for everyone?

The short answer is no. A team with that trend shouldn’t make it to the playoffs but the Astros are defying the odds. If we look at the other teams likely headed for October, they all have more balanced numbers. The Kansas City Royals have a team average 30 points higher with 400 less strikeouts. The Pirates are hitting .261 and the Cardinals .253.

The Astros also struggled with runners in scoring position and are ranked 23rd in the MLB. That is second to last among teams in the playoff race.

So how are they doing it? First off, their home runs seem to come when needed the most as they are 6th in the MLB in home runs with runners on base. They have a stellar starting rotation with a collective ERA of 3.61, 3rd best in the AL. They are also 4th in the MLB in bullpen ERA.

Their pitching has been clutch. Dallas Keuchel has arrived as the ace of that staff. He is 15-6 with a 2.28 ERA, the best numbers in the AL. When you add the new Astro Scott Kazmir, Collin McHugh, fresh-off-a-no-hitter Mike Fiers and rookie Lance McCullers (3.12 ERA), they have a rotation to be feared.

Yes, the Astros strike out a lot. But when you go down their lineup, it is no cake walk, 1 through 9 can hurt you. You have the pesky All-Star leadoff hitter in Jose Altuve (.309 avg, 151 hits, 33 SB). The rookie sensation at shortstop, Carlos Correa (.278, 15 HRs in 68 games), the powerful country-strong Evan Gattis (22 HRs) and the surprisingly powerful Luis Valbuena (22 HRs) are all a threat to leave the yard. That lineup is laced with power.

Could this power-first, hit-for-average-second, swing for the fences approach carry the Astros deep into October? The history says no. You have to go back to the 1995 Atlanta Braves as the last team to finish lower than 23rd in the league in team batting and win the World Series. It is hard to ever recall a team that finished last in batting and win the World Series.

We will have to wait and see if the Astros can buck the trend. The odds are not in their favor but they still keep winning. Maybe this is the year that proves you can win it all with a swing-for-the-fences attitude.
Dulles Glass

 

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Making The Case For Anthony Rizzo As NL MVP

Yesterday Anthony Rizzo launched his 24th home run of the season for the Chicago Cubs, helping the team win 7-1 over the Atlanta Braves. After the game Anthony Rizzo was sitting at 24 home runs and 73 runs batted in, both of which are top ten in the National League.

The Chicago Cubs are 68-51 on the season and are well on their way to making the playoffs and Rizzo has been the biggest reason for their success. At only 26 years old Rizzo is the leader of the Cubs offense and has done a magnificent job of guiding an extremely young team.

Once a top prospect for the Boston Red Sox, Rizzo was traded to the San Diego Padres as part of the Adrian Gonzalez trade in 2010. The Padres quickly gave up on the lefty hitter after the 2011 season and Rizzo was shipped to the Cubs, where he got the opportunity that he needed. Rizzo has gotten better each year and is having his best season as a pro, primed to set career highs in hits, RBIs, batting average, walks, on base percentage and slugging percentage.

Rizzo has also stolen 15 bases on the season for the Cubs, something that is impressive considering that he is a first baseman. His 5.7 Wins Above Replacement ranks him fifth in the National League and in a year where no player has stood out as a popular candidate for MVP, Rizzo is making himself be heard.

The Cubs first baseman has quietly become one of the best in baseball at his position and is one of the most valuable players to his team in all of baseball. Earlier in the season many wanted to give the MVP to Bryce Harper, who has 30 home runs this year, but the Nationals are likely to miss the playoffs. The Cubs however are primed to make the postseason for the first time since 2008 and look to win the World Series for the first time since 1908.

Looking at the Cubs roster, the team would not be very good without Rizzo and with him leading the way the Cubs are 17 games above .500 and have the fifth best record in all of baseball. The Cubs would be division leaders in four other divisions in baseball and their success has been because of their star player.

If the Cubs do indeed continue to play well and make the postseason, Rizzo should win the MVP award as he has been key to his team’s success. Very few players in baseball have been more important to their team than Rizzo has to the Cubs and Rizzo is on his way to winning what could be the first of multiple MVP awards for the lefty.

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.