The Cleveland Indians Should Have Done Better

The Cleveland Indians were the most disappointing team in baseball this season. I know that is a weird thing to say about a team that won 91 games and its division. However, a team that could have won the World Series got booted in three games in the ALDS. Yes, they lost to a supremely talented Astros team, but still, the Tribe will undoubtedly look back on 2018 as a team that could have done so much more.

This team’s offense is very talented. They had two players who are going to finish in the top 5 in the MVP race in Jose Ramirez and Fransisco Lindor, followed by a deep lineup that features six OTHER players who have made at least on all-star team. Michael Brantley was one of the most consistentt hitters in baseball. Yan Gomes was one of the best hitting American League fathers this season. They had four players steal at least 20 bases, as well as four who hit 30 plus home runs. They did not have many week spots, and they were a threat to put up ten runs on any given night.

Their starting rotation might have been better than their offense. Of the six pitchers with more than ten starts, four finished with 200 strikeouts and ERA’s below 3.50. Those four, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, and Mike Clevinger, rounded out one of the most successful rotation in the history of the league. No rotation has ever had four reach the 200 K mark, The highest ERA in the group was 3.38, and you could rely on any one of them to give quality innings every time they took the mound. A rotation like this, along with that lineup, should have been pushing 100 wins. In fact, their Pythagorean W-L had them at 98 wins, which is significantly more than their 91.

Even though the fact that their bullpen was the problem was obvious, it did not make sense either. Cody Allen’s struggles came out of nowhere, and Andrew Miller just couldn’t stay healthy enough to get consistent. Still, them at half strength could have usually been enough when the rest of the team is as good as it is. However, Allen couldn’t even get to half strength, and he finished with a 4.70 ERA. Still, a midseason trade for the best reliever in baseball, Brad Hand, couldn’t save them. Although they improved, they still were not playing like the team they should have been.

The most problematic things that happen with seasons like the Tribe had in 2018 is that it is very difficult to know what to do in the offseason. They need to fix their ‘pen, but how do they know who to get rid of. Can you really part ways with a player who did as much as Cody Allen did? is it worth flipping Miller for a few pieces with the idea that a couple consistent arms are better than one great one? Do they ship some of the excess talent that they have elsewhere, and, if so, who? These are the questions that Cleveland will need to think about, because they cannot afford to have another year like 2018.

Why Team's Should Use an "Opener" in This Season's Post-Season

Ok, so full disclosure, this article was inspired by an article on ESPN which I do not remember the exact title of or who wrote it, and could not find it when I looked and therefore can not properly give credit. However, in the interest of maintaining the high journalistic standard that I, random blogger Daniel Knickmeyer, hold myself to, I will still say that there is an article on ESPN that talks about an idea similar to this.

Now that that is over, this article is one that I am very excited to write. In mid-summer, the Tampa Bay Rays changed baseball, maybe forever, by starting a bullpen pitcher to pitch the first few batters, then bringing in a starter to pitch the next four or five, then going back to the bullpen. When they did this, I immediately thought about how awesome this concept would be in October. This concept seems almost made for post-season ball, and I really hope that a team is brave enough to actually go for it.

While the whole”opener” concept is not unanimously loved within the world of baseball, I think that it would be awesome to see during this year’s playoffs. The main reason that I love it is because of how much more exciting pitching duels are once post-season begins. Every out feels like its worth five times what it is during the regular season, and watching two teams battle it out to scrape a few runs is my favorite thing in the world(I don’t have a life). This strategy only adds to that, as it will make it even harder to get those few runs teams fight so hard to get. Plus, this will keep the games close, which will benefit everyone involved, save for the losing teams fans.

While that reason is the most obvious, there is one more specific one that is more of a personal one; I love bullpen strategy. Trying to get inside the head of managers and think about their moves, as well as what I’d have done differently, is one of the reasons that baseball is my favorite sport. When Terry Francona used Andrew Miller in ways nobody had ever used their best pitcher before in their 2016 run, he immediately became my favorite manager. Watching Bruce Bochy use Madison Bumgarner for two starts and, and then again to watch him get crucial innings in game seven out of the bullpen, was easily my favorite part of that whole season. Watching managers get creative with their bullpen is one of the very best joys in sports, and the “opener” idea just adds a whole new level for how they can do that.

Yes, the “opener” argument makes me look like a complete baseball nerd. However, that does not make it less valid. Baseball is a perfect game, but adding this layer adds a whole new level of excitement. I understand that people think this idea disrupts the game, but when they see the 2-1 nail biters that will surely result, I believe everyone will agree that it will make post-season baseball even more thrilling, if that’s even possible. Did I mention I love baseball.

Are the Bengals Finally Legit?

I’m just gonna start out by saying that I understand that their two wins over the Colts and Ravens are not exactly the quality wins that usually inspire these types of articles, especially when they are followed by a tough loss to a Carolina team with plenty of holes in its lineup. However, while they are not perfect by any means, the improvement is pretty remarkable. So remarkable, in fact, that they may do something that they haven’t done since 1991; win a playoff game.

I know that this seems very premature. A couple of stupid mistakes cost them their last game against Carolina, and A.J. Green had to leave with a groin injury. But still, they look like a serious threat to win their division with the Steelers struggling, their early win over the Ravens, and the Browns being the Browns. Once that happens, anything is possible. Plus, since Green’s injury isn’t severe and they are playing some inexperienced players, they may only get better. As long as they don’t see any major injuries, this may finally be the year they see the second round.

Basically, the Bengal’s success can be boiled down to three things; Andy Dalton playing as well as he ever has, finally having an established run game, and a defense that for once ins’t the football equivalent of Swiss cheese. Dalton and their running back’s solid performance seem very sustainable. Dalton has plenty of weapons around him, headlined by one of the best receivers of all time, while their Mixon-Bernard 1-2 punch will keep defenses guessing for the rest of the year. Its the defense that is going to have to prove itself. It’s forced five turnovers in its first three games, and its pass rush has been very solid as it has recorded 7 sacks already. It still has a lot to prove, though. It has yet to hold an opponent to under 20 points, and still has games against the Falcons, Chiefs, and Chargers, as well as two against division rival Steelers. All of those are capable of going for 40+ points on a given night, so the Bengals will really have to play their best. If they really are good enough to make it through that gauntlet, though, winning a playoff game doesn’t just seem possible, but even likely.

It isn’t going to be easy. Their defense is finally good enough to keep them in games, but they still are going to have to lean heavily on their offense. A bad injury to any of their key receivers or Dalton could easily derail them out of a 17th game, but if that doesn’t happen, this may finally be the year that Cincinnati can say they won a playoff game. And it would only have taken them 27 years too…

About Time; Notre Dame Finally Shows They Can Play Offense

Notre Dame came into the season as a top 15 team with hopes of rising all the way to the play-offs. After a close win against Michigan, it looked like they had a very real shot at making those dreams a reality. The next two games, though, diminished them somewhat, as offensive troubles made games that should have been blow-outs into close games. Finally, in week 4, they finally showed that they can play well as their offense put up numbers you expect of a top ten team.

Week 1 was a huge game for Notre Dame fans. They put up a bunch of points early against a tough Michigan defense, then managed to survive a late push by the Wolverines to earn a win that propelled them into the top ten. Although they did not have great overall numbers, especially in the second half, the Irish still had 33 points against a team that was supposed to be one of the very best defenses in the nation. While it was not as clean as it could have been, nobody would have suspected that they would have many problems going forward.

After that solid win, Notre Dame must have felt a huge amount of confidence going into their week 2 home game against Ball State. The Irish were a huge favorite, and no one had it on their radar. In the end, though, they won only by one score in a 24-16 game that left fans a little shocked. Then they were just as bad the next week, winning 22-17 over a not especially talented Vanderbilt team. Their returning QB, Brandon Wimbush managed just to complete just 55.3 percent of his passes with 4 picks and only one touchdown through the air. As explosive as he was as a runner, people began to seriously doubt whether it made up for his clear lack of ability as a passer.

Apparently coach Brian Kelly doubted as well, and in week 4 he decided to start his talented backup Ian Brook in hope that he would give the offense a much needed boost. Brook did that and more, as he managed to go 25-34 for 325 yards and a pair of touchdowns passing. What was more impressive is that he rushed for 43 yards on ten attempts, and found the end zone another 3 times on the ground. All this lead to a 56-27 route of the Demon Deacons. If his passing wasn’t enough to put him over the top, then the fact that his rushing performance was so solid almost certainly did. He gave Notre Dame the punch it needed, and may have saved their season in the process.

If Notre Dame can maintain the offense that they showed today, they really may be able to run the table and be the first non-power five team to reach the College Football Play-Off. They still have plenty of tough games left on their schedule, though. Stanford is coming to Southbend next week, and after that is a road trip to Virginia Tech. If they win those two, though, they will almost certainly secure a spot. A nice blow-out win is exactly the kind of confidence builder they needed to prove they can go and beat those teams, and today may have finally proved that they actually have what it takes to go the distance. While only time will tell, Notre Dame must be feeling pretty good after today.

Is David Price back?

After a 2015 season in which Price was a key piece on a team that missed the World Series by about as much as bullets missed Neyo(for the record, I was not alive when The Matrix came out). After that dominant season, one of the largest bidding wars in recent history took place as half the league wanted to take their shot at the former Cy Young winner. It ended with one of the largest contracts in history, netting Price $217 million over seven years with the Boston Red Sox. Since then, though, David Price has fallen completely off the map. Now all of the sudden, it seems like he may finally have come all the way back.

Price’s first few seasons in Boston definitely did not go as planned, In his first year, he posted his highest ERA since his first full season in the Bigs way back in 2009. His Hr/9 jumped to nearly twice as much, and opponents hit .254 against him, nearly thirty points up from his 2015 campaign. The next year went bad for a different reason. All of his stats improved except his walk-rate, which had actually been solid the year before, but a myriad of nagging injuries kept him from really gaining any consistency, and in the end he managed only 74 mediocre innings. Going in to 2018, it seemed like the BoSox had made a huge mistake, paying for an ace but getting a third starter.

The way 2018 started, it seemed like it would be more of the same. While missing some time with an injury, Price’s first half was not what he had hoped for, posting a 4.42 ERA with hitters managing a .756 OPS against him. Then, out of nowhere, he started pitching better. It started with stringing a few good starts together, and then turned into a serious run that has resulted in a 1.56 ERA and a .494 OPS against during the second half(as of September 18). These improvements have turned what looked like a lost seasonn into a legitimately good year, and Boston may finally have the ace that it hoped for.

It is way too early to say for certain that Price is all the way back. He could easily lose his mechanics again or have another nagging injury that limits his ability. However health has definitely played a huge role in his recent struggles. While there’s never a guarantee that he’s back, it doesn’t seem to unlikely that he is finally back to 100%. He could easily be the pitcher that the Sox needed, though, and nobody would be shocked if he winds up winning his first ring. If that happens, then he really may wind up being worth the monster contract, and he, and the city of Boston, may finally feel at peace with it.

Meet Patrick Mahomes, the NFL's Newest Star

There was perhaps more pressure on the Chief’s new quarterback Patrick Mahomes than on any other player at the beginning of 2018. First, the Chiefs used their top-ten pick on the young Texas Tech star. This alone would have brought a ton of pressure, as few expected that Kansas City would take him when they already had a stable signal-caller in Alex Smith. On top of that, however, the Chiefs decided that after a year on the bench, it was time to throw Mahomes into the fray by trading Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins. That meant that Mahomes had to spend all offseason hearing about what a great coach Andy Reid is and how much was expected of him in his first year as a starter. All of this put together would probably scare ordinary people to the point of complete paralysis. Patrick Mahomes is not an ordinary person though.

First, Mahomes played very well during the preseason. He completed 76% of his passes while throwing for 367 yards and threw a pair of touchdowns with only one pick. He seemed very poised the whole time, and never really gave the impression that he wasn’t comfortable. This was just preseason, though, so its hard to say for sure that anything was trustworthy. It was a good start, but nobody could have known whether or not he would carry it into the regular season.

In week 1, Mahomes quieted any doubters. He threw for 256 yards, four touchdowns, and 0 interceptions in the win versus the Chargers. He was very effective at taking what the defense was giving him, as he completed 56% of his passes(admittedly not spectacular) and never tried to do too much, as many first year QB’s tend to do.

Week 2 is when he really let loose, though. In a 42-37 shootout win against the Steelers, Mahomes went 23-28 for 326 yards and six touchdowns. Yes, six. In his third career start, Mahomes came just score away from the single season record. After this hot start, Mahomes has beaten the record for TD’s in a player’s first three starts ever by a QB. The craziest part, though, is that he didn’t even throw one in his first start last year against the stout Denver defense. He only needed two starts to do better than anyone ever had in three. To call that insane would actually be an understatement.

Mahomes has gotten off to about as good a start as anyone could ever have hoped. While plenty of players in every sport have been great in their first few games and then never been heard from again(basically every young player to make the cover of Madden), Mahomes seems less likely to slow down. He really does have one of the best coaches possible for his situation in Reid, plus maybe the best slew of weapons around him with Kareem Hunt, Tyreke “what Usain Bolt would be like as a football player” Hill, and Travis Kelce, maybe the best TE in the NFL not named Gronkowski. While he probably won’t continue averaging 5 touchdowns a game, it doesn’t seem like a stretch to say he could well be a superstar in the making.

David Wright is Back, But Is It a Good Idea?

The Mets recently announced that they are going to activate longtime third-basemen David Wright from the 60 day DL. This is going to be a big moment for him, since he hasn’t played since way back in 2016. After too many injuries to count, he finally has made it all the way back to a Major League diamond. It’s been a long road, and his determination is something that deserves to be admired by everyone, both fans and otherwise. Its this incredible determination that makes this question so painful…should he? There are really only two outcomes of this, and one of them is really, really sad. David Wright was one of my favorite players growing up, and as happy as I am to see him back again, its also scary that it will end up being incredibly disappointing. I don’t want to come off as a total “glass half-empty” person, I am going to go ahead and list the good, as well as the bad, and ugly of what is going to happen.

The Good:

This is definitely what I am hoping for. Seeing a man like Wright play through so much in his career is truly inspiring, and I want to see him coming out a winner in all of that. While I don’t think it is very likely that he will come all the way back to his all-star self, he may be able to be a contributor to his team again. I know it sounds sad that this is the best case scenario for him, but it isn’t actually bad at all. Lets say he puts together a few more good seasons with the Mets. He adds a few more wins to his career WAR, which is already very high. Mix that and the very low standard that the Hall of Fame has for third basemen, along with the devotion he showed by staying with the Mets as long as he did(something voters love), he might have a real shot at making it into the Hall. It could be a truly happy ending to a man who has fought enough that he truly deserves it.

The Bad:

This one isn’t the worst, but it may be the most likely. If David Wright can’t be an affective player, he may have to retire sometime in the very near future. It could make voters a little anxious putting him in, since he doesn’t quite have the credentials yet, although he is close. Him falling short of the Hall of Fame would be a disappointment, but right now his odds seem like a little bit of a long shot as of right now.

The Ugly:

What is the worst thing that could happen to someone who had to come back from all of those serious injuries in a row? More injuries, of course. If Wright comes back only to have another huge setback, he may never be able to climb all the way back up. It would be a bitter disappointment to come all the way back when nobody thought that you could, to finally be at a healthy enough state to play the game you love, only to have to be put on the shelf again, maybe forever. While this spirit-crushing even will hopefully never happen, can you really discount it considering his age and injury history? It’s something that you never want to see happen, but it is still a definite possibility.

Joe Sewell, the Best There Ever This Very Specific Thing

Joe Sewell is a legend. He played baseball in a way nobody else ever could have, and is without a doubt the greatest ballplayer who ever lived…at this. Sewell never struck out. Ever. He was literally the best at not striking out of all time. In fact, its not close. In a game that has swing and misses going up on the daily, I think it is important to look at the one man was able make more contact than anyone else by a margin larger than the Grand Canyon.

First of all, Joe Sewell really was a fantastic player. He had a career lifetime average of .312, and a .391 OBP. In his prime, he was the best fielding shortstop in the league, and his career bWAR was 53.7, and he was rightfully elected into the Hall of Fame in 1977. However, his main skill is undoubtedly his ability to put the ball in play. in his 14 years in the Bigs, he struck out 114 times. Put together with his 7,132 AB, you find he struck out once every 62.5 times He only hit double digits in four of those years, with his career high being 20 in 1922. He had five seasons in which he played over 100 games and still struck out 4 times or fewer. As good as he was as a regular player, his contact skills are his defining attribute, and he truly is the best of all time in that aspect.

Lets put this into some perspective. Firstly, there are 60 players in the Majors who have 114 or more K’s this season. We aren’t even all the way done, and still there are that many who whiffed more times than a man did in his whole 14 years. Need more proof. The league leader in K% this year is Andrelton Simmons with a 6.2% mark. That is still over four times Sewell’s career K%, which ended at 1.4. Seriously. The man was simply impossible to strike out. It’s a skill that doesn’t exist today, and it’s worth remembering that a man like this exists; a man with a skill that is so ridiculously above everyone else’s that it deserves to be remembered by anyone who truly enjoys the game of baseball.

Can't Catch a Break; The White Sox Simply Can Not Win

The Chicago White Sox have had it as hard as anyone over the last few seasons. They were obviously going nowhere after the 2016 season, so they made a couple of blockbuster trades to try to build for the future. They traded their two best players, Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, for three of the top prospects in baseball, including two who spent a good amount of time at number 1 on the top 100 list. It felt like they were going to have a dangerous team in the future. So far, though, that could not have been more wrong.

The first trade that was worth talking about is the Adam Eaton trade. They shipped him to the Washington Nationals for the number one pitching prospect in baseball, Lucas Giolito. This admittedly seemed like a gamble at the time, as Giolito had been unimpressive in his brief time at the MLB level. He still had obvious talent, though, so it seemed like the least they could get would be an above average starter, even if he never developed into the ace they hoped for. Even that hasn't been the case so far though, as his career stats are almost as bad as anyone could have ever imagined. His career ERA sits at 5.22, while his WHIP is an absurd 1.370. To be fair, he pitched a very solid 45.1 innings in 2017, where he had a 2.38 ERA and a 180 ERA+. There were cracks in the foundation, though, as he stranded a completely unsustainable 92.0% of his runners and had a 4.94 FIP. This made it doubtful that his success would last long, and 2018 has only confirmed those fears. His ERA has jumped to 5.85 and his WHIP to 1.483. He still has not had any real success in the majors, and he Is running out of time to get back on track. While Eaton hasn't been great in D.C., it still seems unlikely that Chicago will not wind up regretting this trade.

The other huge trade was to the Boston Red Sox, The Chi-Sox traded their ace Chris Sale, who has been one of the top pitchers in the American League(here's proof) for a couple of top of the line prospects in Michael Kopech, who threw a ball 110 MPH in an unofficial practice, and number one prospect Yoan Moncada, who looked like a superstar. Moncada reached The Bigs full time this  season, and instead of being an all-star level player, he leads the league in strike out and has a meager .223/.302/.393 batting line. He isn't a negative player by bWAR, but he also isn't on par with an average starter as he has currently added around 1.2 wins. It isn't terrible, but it's also nowhere near what they paid for as Sale is having his best year and may even finally win his first Cy Young. Michael Kopech may be even sadder. First, his rise was delayed because he punched a teammate and broke his hand in the beginning of last season. Then, when he was having a good second half in Triple-A, so the Sox promoted him to the Majors a few weeks ago. He pitched 14.1 innings, and not particularly well. HIs lack of immediate effectiveness isn't his concern, though. It's that earlier this week he tore his UCL and will have to miss the next year or so with Tommy John surgery. They thought they might finally have had a player who could come through, and instead they lost a top prospect for what could be all of next season.

There is hope, though. After failing to move him in the 2017 offseason, the Sox waited until the trade deadline to unload their then-ace Jose Quintana,. The best offer came from their in-city companions, the Chicago Cubs. They felt that they needed another top pitcher to repeat as champions(it didn't work), so they gave up their top prospect in Eloy Jimenez to get him. He has since dominated in the White Sox system, and in 2018 he put up a monster .355/.399/.597 batting line and a crazy 179 OPS+. He will make the team next year, and while he won't make them contenders by himself, he may serve as a symbol to Sox fans that they aren't completely hopeless. He can renew their faith in baseball by finally being what they were expecting. Nobody needs a win more than the White Sox, and they might have found just that in Jimenez.

History in the Making; Why the US Open Quarter-Finals May be More Important Than Just Nadal-Thiem

Last night's Nadal-Thiem match in the quarterfinals of the US Open will undoubtedly be considered the best match of the tournament, but it also may have a much deeper meaning for both players. While there is no guarantee, it seems likely that this match will be symbolic of the next few years of the ATP World Tour.

Why it's important for Nadal:

Rafael Nadal is one of the greatest players ever. In fact, that may be an understatement considering he has the second most ATP Major wins in the history of tennis. However, he is also 32 years old. He's had a great year, but it still seems easy to doubt that it can continue. Tennis careers simply do not often have careers after 30, which means that it would be easy to doubt that he can continue at the level he is playing. A match like this, however, makes it much easier to believe in him. A five set marathon in which he outlasted a young player like Thiem is about as much proof as you need that he still has a decent bounce in his step. It reaffirms that he has a good shot at being around for a long time.

What it means for Thiem:

It's no secret that Dominic Thiem has talent. He is a tenacious player who smokes the ball as well as anyone. He's been in the top ten all year, and he even managed to beat Nadal in the Madrid Open this year. However, he has yet to have his skills translate off of the clay court season. While he made three finals during the clay season this year, including one where he beat Nadal and another close match in the French Open, again against Rafe, he has yet to make an especially deep run in any other huge tournaments. In fact, this quarterfinals run is the deepest he'd ever made in a grand-slam event that wasn't Roland Garos. This tournament may prove to be a turning point. He dominated up to the Nadal match, and even beat the number 5 player in the world, Kevin Anderson. A deep run like that where he beat tough opponents and then barely lost to the number 1 player in the world. If he can keep playing like that, he may end up at that number one spot before too long, and it all started at this match.

What it means for tennis:

This could set up the next five years in a way people don't fully realize. A match like this could may work as almost a passing of the baton. While it serves as showing that Nadal is not the most dominant player in the world anymore, but he's still one of the absolute top. it also shows that Thiem could finally start being the player that people knew he could be. While tennis is a tough sport that few play as well as Nadal, Thiem seems like he has as good a shot as anyone to reach that level, though, and this match only goes to prove it. 


Saved by the 'Pen, Can the Yankees Strongest Asset Push Them to the Series, or Will They Fall Short Again

The Yankee's bullpen this season has been undoubtedly the best in the league. Their set-up guys could be closers on most teams. Their middle relievers could be set-up guys. At the deadline, they traded for Luke Voit with a reliever who on most teams would be a very valuable asset who could provide important innings, however on the Yankees he just dead weight. Once teams get the starters out, they basically have no chance of adding runs, All five of their top relievers are playing at an all-star question. Everything they have done has led to the top bullpen in baseball, but will it be enough to overcome an inconsistent starting staff and a lineup full of major contributors on the disabled list.

The Yankees are full of problems right now. Their starters are always coming up short, and while J.A. Happ has become nearly unbeatable and Luis Severino has had an impressive breakout season. The rest of the rotation has been a revolving door of pitchers though, as none can either stay healthy or consistently enough to actually keep their spot. These problems are nothing compared to their lineup right now. Star catcher Gary Sanchez, who was having a rough year to begin with, has been out for the last few months. All-star shortstop Didi Gregorious has been out for a few weeks and still doesn't have a timetable for his return. And, of course, their face of their franchise Aaron Judge still doesn't seem close to coming back from his fractured wrist. All of these are going to make it very difficult for them to stop the firepowers that they'll face in the Indians, Astros, and division rival Red Sox. Even the A's are close to them at this point. It will be very difficult for them to live up to their World Series expectations.

There is one way that they can, however. Their bullpen is unstoppable. They have maybe the top closer in baseball in Aroldis Chapman, who, although is currently on the 10-day DL, has a 16.1 K/9 and an ERA under 2.00. Dellin Betances is also currently striking out 16 per nine, although he has less control than Chapman. Chad Green has been an amazing setup man, as he has an ERA and FIP below three and is striking out 10 per nine. David Robertson, who was so good that he was recently a deserving closer with the White Sox, has been very similar to Green, with an ERA just below three and a strike out rate of 11 and a half. Finally, Johnathon Holder has lived up to his name, as his ERA, although is the highest of the five, has an ERA just over 3 and a FIP thats lower. In all, they have packed five star relievers onto one team, making late innings terrifying for the rest of the AL.

Bullpens are frequently what puts teams over the top. The 2015 Royal's were built entirely through their Herrera/Davis/Holland bullpen, and the Indians would never have made it to the Series in 2016 without Andrew Miller or Cody Allen. No team is going to win through the 'pen alone, but it can be a huge difference maker. The Yankees, although hurt, still have more than enough talent around their bullpen to make a similar run, but everything is going to need to come together first. With all of the talent that they have to compete with, there is not a lot of room for error. Everything is going to have to come together perfectly for them to get to 29 titles, but they are certainly never going to be pushovers either.

Give Sale Some Respect

Chris Sale, the ace of one a team that is still flirting with the regular season wins record in late August, has now been a dominant force in the majors for nearly nine years. Since coming up with the White Sox in 2010, he has never had n ERA higher than 3.46 and never had a k/9 lower than 9.0. Yes, you read that right. Sale has never finished a season where he did not strike out at least one hitter an inning. That level of swing and miss stuff has literally never been seen before. If he retired today, he would with the highest K/9 rate of all time. Seriously. The most surprising thing about Sale, however, is that he still has never won a Cy Young award.

Sale has always been a fixture of curiosity for me. His weird side-arm deliver that somehow manages to push 97-100 regularly has always baffled me. The science of his pitching mechanics do not seem to make any sense. Because of that, hitters never really look comfortable at the plate. He manages to mix his devastating fastball with a. wipeout slider that probably ranks among the best in the history of the game. The craziest thing is, despite his velocity, Sale has never had a control problem. He allows only 2.1 walks per nine in his whole career, and his K/BB ratio currently is the best of all time. It almost isn't fair when you realize how good the guy really is. I could probably write another 20 pages about my fascination with Sale, but for simplicity I will leave it at this; the dude can PITCH. 

As good as I believe he is, the voters do not seem to agree. Sure, he's a 7 time all-star and in those years never finished lower than 6th in the Cy Young. However, even with those impressive accolades, his career is still undergoing a severe injustice. He has never won a Cy Young award. The man who has the most efficient strike-out statistics of all time has never won pitching's highest honor. I simply cannot wrap my head around it. He always come close, but the writers seem to refuse to put him higher than the number 2 spot he was awarded last year. The most annoying part of it is it is almost certainly due to wins. Playing half of his career in Chicago, Sale rarely pitched with a decent offense during the first several years of his career. This has limited his ability to get wins, as his career high is 17. It probably is no coincidence that the his first year in Boston, where he again won 17, managed to finish with his highest vote count. I hate that they go by that, but voters consistently give it to the wrong man because of their incredulous fixation on winning games despite the proof that they aren't a good measure of a pitcher's talent.

Hopefully, this year if finally when he will bring it home. He is leading the American League in bWAR, ERA, FIP, ERA+, WHIP, H/9, and, shockingly, K/9. Although, because of two late DL stints, he could end up falling short in yet another year where he deserved it. Hopefully, he comes back strong enough to finish his case for the award. Only time will tell, but for a player who is almost certainly a future Hall of Famer, you have to think that he'll finally take it home someday.

The Most Overrated Stat in Baseball; Please Never Go by Wins

To me, there is simply nothing more annoying than hearing someone on tv linking a pitcher's abilities with the number of games he has won. With the saber metric revolution, the evidence has mounted on why it is not at all reliable in deciding a pitcher's talent. With all of the statistics that are very reliable, like FIP or ERA+, wins have become more and more irrelevant. Not to mention that as baseball's ever-changing landscape has shifted farther and farther away from pitcher's going through lineups multiple times, fewer and fewer starters are even qualifying for them.

Wins can never be used to evaluate a player's true success over a season. Every year, there are pitchers who do not get the credibility that they deserve because they only managed to win half their games. Cy Youngs are constantly given to the wrong player simply because the true best pitcher won fewer games. Jacob DeGrom is a perfect example. He is almost definitely the best pitcher in the majors this season, however he only has a 8-8 record this season. This is not because of anything that he did wrong, but rather because the team around him can't score runs and even when they do the bullpen gives them right back. However, come voting time, there is a very real possibility that the writers will decide that he is not deserving of it just because he couldn't win the right number of games.

Wins have also caused player's whole careers to be undervalued. Nolan Ryan won a phenomenal 324 games, so at first he may seem like a weird example. Many that follow his career, though, believe he should have had more over his 23 years. They think that because he only eclipsed 20 wins in two of those, he should be considered overrated and not be held in the incredibly high esteem that he always will be. His wins may not be what they could be, however that is because he only played on 5 play-off teams, and only one of those made it past one round. He never had the right talent around him, and yet people still blame him for not being able to win more. All he could do was prevent runs, and he did it well, however people seem to have decided that his team's lack of offense is his fault as they hold his win count against him.

Although they aren't viable in within any context, wins are becoming more and more irrelevant every year. In 1971, all four of the Baltimore Oriole's starters(Mike Cuellar, Pat Dobson, Jim Palmer, and Dave McNally) won 20 or more games. This year, there will not be four 20 game winners in the entire MLB. Manager's are becoming more and more aware of the effect that pitching through a lineup multiple times has on a team's chances. The more the hitters see a starter's stuff, the easier it is for them to hit it. This has meant that managers go to their bullpen a lot faster than they used to, which has greatly reduced their innings, and with that also their chances of earning the W. It has gotten to the point where 300 game winners are almost completely extinct because starters do not stay in games long enough anymore. This trend has only grown this year, as the Tampa Bay Rays began starting a reliever and then going to a pitcher who can pitch longer innings, which eliminates the idea of a starter all-together. If baseball continues in this direction, win numbers will continue to drop and thus be even less of a measure than they once were.

There are a lot of reasons to not trust wins, and they keep multiplying. As baseball continues to lean on the new-era statistics, there will be less and less reason to consider using them for anything. Hopefully, we are heading to a utopian future where statisticians stop recording them in the first place, making room for stats that actually matter. One can only dream...

As Close as it Gets; Why the NL Cy Young Race is One of the Tightest Ever

2018's Cy Young race has been one of baseball's leading discussions all year, and none of the pitchers are backing down. Since the very first weekend, Max Scherzer, Aaron Nola, and Jacob DeGrom have dominated in every facet of the game. There is no separation in ERA, WHIP, K's, or any other statistic that can accurately assess a player's true skill( notice that I didn't mention wins). The voters are going to have to go to the very nitty-gritty to make a pick, and at this point in the season, there really is no telling what they are going to decide.  Here are, as of August 25, the cases for why each should win:


I'm putting the Phillie's ace up first because he is probably the least likely to win it.  His ERA is tied with Scherzer's, but his FIP and K/9 are both the worst of the three. There are really only two ways he wins it: 1) The Phillies make the play-offs. Since the other two teams have no real chance at October-ball, the voters may decide that he should get it based solely on that(It's stupid, but also has happened before) or 2) The strong second half he's had so far turns in to a ridiculous streak that puts his stats on with that of his two opponents. There is a chance that option 2 could wind up leading to 1, and, if that's the case, he may truly deserve it. However, the odds are definitely against Aaron at this point in the season.


The Washington Nashinal's ace Max Scherzer may have been the best pitcher in baseball over the past three seasons. From 2016 to this year, he has had a 2.56 ERA, 2.95 FIP, and a 0.922 WHIP. He averaged 265 K's per season and 11.7 per nine. Those numbers are incredible and, because Kershaw hasn't been able to stay healthy, make him undisputedly the best pitcher in the National League in that stretch. This year has been more of the same, as he has struck out 12.1 per nine along with a 2.13 ERA and an absurd league leading 0.866 WHIP. His ERA and FIP aren't quite on the same level as Jacob DeGrom, but his league leading strike-out and win totals may put him over the edge, since the voters love looking at those. The biggest thing going against him right now is probably voter-fatigue. After winning it the last two years, they may be a little reluctant to give it to him a third, especially with two very worthy candidates instead. Based solely on the stats, however, he may have a slight edge, depending mostly on how much you value K's.


Jacob DeGrom's year has been easily the most frustrating of the three. Not because he hasn't been dominant, which definitely has, but because the Met's bullpen always coughs up the small leads that the mediocre team around him can only sometimes muster. Being as good as he is and still always losing can't be fun. His year has been synonymous with the Cleveland Cavalier's Finals. Just as Lebron's dominance couldn't keep George Hill from missing free throws or JR Smith from forgetting the score, DeGrom can't seem to pitch deep enough in the game to give the Mets a win. At one point, his bullpen's ERA was above 7 after he came out of a game, and it hasn't gotten much better. Despite what must be a terrible distraction, he still may be the top Cy Young candidate. He leads the league in ERA and FIP. He has more fWAR than all three, although he is slightly below both in bWAR(averaged, he would still be leading them all). His strikeout numbers are very impressive, as he sits just a shade below Scherzer at 11.1. There isn't a lot of separation between the three, but nobody would look twice if would up taking home the gold.


It is a very difficult race to call. None of the players have seemed to slow down, so there it hasn't even seemed as if one might finally fall behind the others. It is going to go down to the wire, and who ever has the best last month in 2018 may be the one who wins. As of right now, though, I think DeGrom has the best chance. Although the difference between him and the others is razor thin, I think the voters will choose him because they sympathize with him. His team has been so bad that they will overlook the lack of wins(as they should), especially since none of the other teams are currently in the playoffs. Especially since Scherzer won the last two, the voters may decide that DeGrom is the new face that deserves to have his frustrating record made right by giving him the recognition he deserves. A lot could change between now and game 162, but right now I definitely think he has the advantage.




Too Little, Too Late. Why the Nationals Waited Way Too Long to Trade Their Assets

Two days ago, the Washington Nationals officially phoned it in by trading away two of their more important players; Matt Adams and Daniel Murphy. Its not a clear move toward the future, as neither of the trades really yielded much in return outside of a few no-name players and  small compensation. They could have gotten more, though, but they simply waited too long. Waiver trades never acquire as much as trades at the July 31 deadline, as teams have generally either filled the wholes they were missing or else given up entirely. These players could easily have gotten them more, but that isn't even the biggest missed opportunity.

A year ago, the Nationals could easily have gotten a king's ransom for their superstar outfielder, Bryce Harper. Now, acquiring a rental like him would not be nearly worth what a team would have to give up. It just wouldn't make sense to give up so much for one player who will be a free agent at the end of 2018. Now the Nationals are going to have to watch as he moves to some other big city, leaving behind nothing but the nightmarish five-year stint where they managed without fail to be disappointing in each season.

The Oriole's got it right. Immediately after the all-star break, the traded their best player, 2018 free-agent Manny Machado, to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a slew of prospects, including Yusniel Diaz, who is now the top prospect of Baltimore's organization.  It will take time, but they managed to turn their best player, who was absolutely not going to resign into a major building block in their future. The Nationals could maybe have gotten more. They could easily have managed to snag high quality prospects like the Yankee's pitcher Justus Sheffield. Instead, they got nothing to boost their already weak farm-system, which means that Washington will probably take a pretty deep slide after this season.

Their lack of moves will probably be one of the worst things that the National's organization of all time. They have given up on their chances at this season, which will probably leave them without much of a chance at resigning Bryce. Without Harper and a decent farm-system, it seems very unlikely that they will be able to turn themselves into contenders for at least half a decade, and it could easily take longer.

Willie Stargell, the Unappreciated Legend

There are still some things that modern baseball stats are not yet capable of measuring. Ok, there are a LOT of things that they are not able to measure. This may not be more true in any one case, however, than that of Wilver Donrel (Willlie) Stargell.


According to Wins Above Replacement(WAR), the stat that supposedly takes into account the amount of wins a player adds to a team over an “average” player, “Pops” managed a score of just 57.5. To those that do not know, that is an extremely high score. Its also almost ten WAR short of the 65.4 WAR that the average HOF left  fielder collects during their playing careers. That difference may not seem super high, but it is the equivalent of two or three more very above average years.


At first glance, this number may seem right. He was a very good hitter, but he never did anything tremendously record setting, and he was an absolute train wreck  defensively. He was large, slow, and had very ailing knees for his entire career. On top of that, he could not consistently play first, which would have suited his body type much better, due to the fact that the Pirates already had a very good hitter their in the form of Donn Clendenon. A slow, injured man who is not even playing his best position could never be successful.


Offensively, though, Stargell really shined. He was an RBI machine over his 20 years, smacking in 1540 and even leading the league once in 1973. He also clubbed in 475 homers, most of them moon-shots, and finished with a .282/.360/.529 slash line. When it comes to an on-base/power blend, Willie Stargell is right up with the best of them, as he even led the league in OPS twice and, had it not been for unlucky timing, could probably have done it a few more. 


There is one shortcoming that Stargell had offensively though; his speed. As with fielding, his large frame and bad knees would not let him perform at the level many MLB players could. This is most evident in his career 17 for 33 mark on stolen bases. He had an untraditional way of managing this problem, though. While it likely was unintentional, “Pops’” high strike out rate actually was better for him than people would probably assume. Instead of hitting grounders with runners on that could result in double-plays, he would hit nothing.  Of his 5695 outs he made in his career, 1936 of them were K's. This saved the team a lot of outs and thus gave them another chance. Its why he never lead the league in GDPs, while high contact guys with similar bodies like Yadier Molina can do it multiple times in their career.

Finally, there is one quality of Willie’s game that is as important as it is unquantifiable. He was respected. He was known as a leader to his teammates. He would give “Stargell stars” to those that helped during wins, but also was not afraid to stand-up when someone did something out of line. During the Pirates best  decade(1970-1979), they won two world championships and went 839-781 for a .518 winning percentage. To maintain that over ten whole years is remarkable. What’s more, they did not finish below .500 once in that whole stretch. Much of this can be attributed to Stargell’s mere presence in the dugout. He was invaluable in this way, as that success is unattainable without him.


Overall, Stargell is as good as they come. While he is only a below average member of the HOF by WAR, the value he gave to Pittsburgh is perhaps double that. While he still isn’t quite in the Ruth/Aaron/Mays category, there still are few players that would be more worthwhile to have on a team.

Francisco Lindor is my Favorite Player, and He Should be Yours Too

There is not a single player in the Major Leagues right now who is more fun to watch than Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor. Ok, that's a pretty big statement to make, and I do not at all expect. everyone to share this opinion. Still, though, there are a lot of compelling reasons to love Lindor, and I'm sure nobody will really argue that.

Part of what makes Lindor so much fun is he is so amazing at defense. He routinely makes plays that other shortstops would not have had a chance on. He combines wide range with a great arm to make himself a true gold glove threat, and he even took home the hardware with not only a gold but also platinum glove back in 2016. If you still aren't convinced, here's more proof that the dude can flat-out play: 

Lindor Compilation Video

As fun as Lindor is on defense, his evolution as a hitter may be even more exciting. When he first game up, he was a speedy player who mostly hit with his legs, which was very entertaining. Over the last few years, though, he has begun changing his approach to add more power. In his first full season, he hist only 15 round-trippers. Here in 2018, he already has 29, and there is still a month left. He is a true 20/20 threat in a world where those are disappearing. 

The best part about watching Lindor isn't his glove or his bat, though, but rather that he actually has fun playing the game. As baseball has become more and more a business over the past few decades, fewer and fewer are actually playing for the love of the game, or, at the very least, seem to treat it like one. This is not the case with Lindor. He is always smiling. He always goofs around with his teammates. It just feels like every time he is on the diamond, he is having the time of his life. It's my favorite quality to see in a player, 

it is hard to find anything not to like about Lindor. He is someone that I believe people can truly look up to, and I love watching him every time that I have the chance. As cliche as it is to say, Lindor just seems to play the game the right way, and it is REALLY fun to watch.  

Edwin Diaz is the Best Reliever in Baseball, and It's Not Close

Edwin Diaz's season has been nothing short of phenomenal. From the very beginning, he has been nearly unhittable. In fact, despite the fact that his walk-rate is just around average, he still has a WHIP of .787, a number lower than MVP candidate(yes, MVP. not cy young) Jacob Degrom, who sits at .958. It is a ludicrously low number, and it doesn't seem to be going up anytime soon either. He is even on pace to approach Francisco Rodriguez's 62 save record, as he currently sits at 47 on a team that has been known all year for winning close games. His odds are about as good as somebody can hope for.

The craziest part of the Diaz's season is that he seems to be getting stronger. While most people his age usually start to falter in August, he has only gotten better. He even just finished a four game series versus the Astros in which he finished ALL FOUR games. That is a Brandon Morrow in the World Series level of effort. Even in his last appearance in which he blew the save was not a bad showing. He gave up a line drive homer to Max Muncy, who had 27 round-trippers before his game saver. That one bad pitch aside, his appearance was still very solid, as he did not give up any other runners and even got two of his three outs via the K. While Diaz does not have bad appearances often, when he does they are typically like that. He just never gives up runs, allowing just 14 ER through his 61.0 innings of work.

The most impressive thing Diaz has done this year is his unbelievable strike-out rate. It currently sits at 15.5, and for the longest time it seemed like he had a chance at two K's an inning. Despite the inevitable step-back, if you can even call it that, he still has one of the highest strike-out rates in the league. Coupling K's with an ability to produce weak contact, and BOOM, you've got a top reliever. Diaz certainly fits that mold.

Diaz's success may have come a little bit out of nowhere, but still it is quite remarkable. Few players at his age manage to be as consistently dominant as he has been so far in 2018. What is even more promising is that he had been very solid in his career before this season as well. Relievers come and go more than any other position in baseball, and so it is impossible to say how long his success can last. However, with luck, the M's may have something in the 24 year old that other clubs can only dream of, a player who can anchor their pen for years. Who knows how long it will last, but their is certainly hope that Edwin eventually be on the same level as players such as Craig Kimbrel or a pre-Harper strangling Johnathon Papelbon. The talent is there, but only time will tell if he can keep it up.

A New MVP Candidate...Matt Chapman. Seriously.

2018 in the American League has been a year of giants. Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Aaron Judge, and Jose Ramirez all are putting up monster numbers, and none are doing it for the first time. While Trout is the only one in that group to have actually won an MVP award, all the rest would certainly have been on the short list for candidates for 2018.

There is one more on the list of top candidates, though. A man who few had even heard of at the beginning of the year. A man who was not even recognized halfway through the season, as he did not even make the All-Star team. He has gotten no press, no award talks, and no recognition. And yet A's third basemen Matt Chapman has managed to stay right on pace with Trout, Betts, Judge, and Ramirez. 

Offensively, Chapman;s 2018 campaign has been as dominate as it has surprising. Although he hit well in 2017, nobody could have seen this breakthrough coming. Chapman currently has a .278/.365/.505 batting line along with an even 50 extra-base hits. He's got a very balanced approach at the plate and never tries to do too much with the ball. Everything he is doing in the batters box is what you would expect out of an experienced All-Star rather than a second year player with little previous accomplishment.

Despite his success hitting, Chapman has maybe been more successful on the other end of the ball. He makes highlight plays frequently, and his 14 errors are more a product of fantastic range than a lack of ability. Even the peripherals love him, as 3.0 of his 6.7 bWAR comes from his defense(it doesn't add directly and isn't super trustworthy, but thats still an incredible number) If the season ended today, I would absolutely vote for him to win the gold glove.

When you combine exceptional offense with elite defensive ability, the result is always going to be one of the top players in the league, and that's exactly what Matt Chapman has become. Although he is nowhere near the name that Trout and Betts are, that is bound to change, and frankly, after this performance, it is long overdue.

The Cardinals are good?

Over the last two weeks, the St. Louis Cardinals have done something that they had not been able to do consistently in nearly three years; win. For the first several months, the 2018 season seemed like it would just be another saga in the ruining of the Cardinals. Their manager was still bad, their bullpen still could not pitch, and they still did not have a legitimate star anywhere on the roster that could carry them on any given day.

Then, out of nowhere, everything changed. First, right before the All-Star break, they fired longtime manager Mike Matheny, which was long overdue. His replacement, Mike Schildt, was so competent that the organization believed they had a chance, and subsequently brought up all of their AAA pitchers to help anchor the pen and make spot starts when necessary. This filled up two of the clubs greatest weaknesses. They now have a bullpen that can keep leads along with a manager competent enough to actually use them.

That still left one whole, however. Midway through the season, the Cardinals still did not have a legitimate star. And after the team went quiet during the trade deadline, acquiring nothing but another usable mid-reliever, it seemed that was something that was going to continue into the off-season. Then, out of nowhere, Matt Carpenter decided that sounded like too long a wait. He then went on a salsa infused hot streak that jolted him into the league lead in homers, on-base percentage, and OPS. He simply hit out of his mind, as he frequently drove in enough runs in a given game that the rest of the offense didn't need to show up.

All this put together apparently adds to a fairly good team, as the Cards have won six straight series and are currently in a 9 for 10 game stretch. After a 5-2 win over Milwaukee, they are suddenly a half game out of the aforementioned Brewers, and still have two more games in the series to make it up. While there is plenty of time left to mess it up, October in St. Louis seems more likely than it has in a very long time.