Sunday, February 1, 2015

The World War II Era and MLB

I've recently felt the nostalgia pang for the sport of Baseball with the imminent arrival of the 2015 season. I'm almost finished reading New York City Baseball: The Golden Age 1947–1957 by Harvey Frommer and started re-watching HBO's When It Was a Game when I realized that the best team of the World War II era was the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Cardinals finished second to the National League Champion Brooklyn Dodgers in 1941 with a 97-56 record and the arrival of 20-year old rookie and future Hall of Famer Stan Musial a few months before the United States would be attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Before I go into the 1942 Cardinals, I wanted to take a quick look at the dilemma that World War II caused in reference to MLB and the 1942 baseball season.

The landscape of Major League Baseball would be altered with the departure of many a star player such as Bob Feller and Hank Greenberg to name of few in service to their country. It was believed that as time went on during World War II, the talent pool in Major League Baseball would be continue to be depleted to the point that it was debated by many including Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis whether or not play should be suspended in light of the war. Not only was the lack of major league caliber talent an issue, but more importantly it was wondered whether it would be appropriate for the Major Leagues to continue in operation while the war was going on. In came President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to end the debate.

Commissioner Landis wrote the following letter to President Roosevelt on January 14, 1942 voicing his concerns about the upcoming 1942 season. Here is a copy of both the handwritten and typed letters from the OPA - Online Public Access page of the National Archives website:

Responding to the concerns of a letter from Commissioner Landis, President Roosevelt penned what is known as the "Greenlight Letter" dated January 15, 1942. Here is a copy of the letter by President Roosevelt to Commissioner Landis from the article When FDR Said "Play Ball" from Prologue Magazine Spring 2002, Vol. 34, No. 1 located at the National Archives website:

For an in-depth website that covers Baseball in Wartime check out Gary Bedingfield's Baseball in Wartime which has been online since 2001. 

It was in this scenario that the 1942 season would be played and where the National League team from St. Louis would make their mark on the history books of Major League Baseball. I'll cover the 1942-1946 St. Louis Cardinals in my next post. 

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The 2015 Hall of Fame Results Are In

The results of the 2015 National Baseball Hall of Fame elections are in and Congratulations go to Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz and FINALLY Craig Biggio. Welcome to Cooperstown gentlemen.

Here is the breakdown of the votes from the Baseball Writers Association of America:

Ballots Cast: 549
Needed for Election: 412
534Randy Johnson97.3%
500Pedro Martinez91.1%
455John Smoltz82.9%
454Craig Biggio82.7%
384Mike Piazza69.9%
306Jeff Bagwell55.7%
302Tim Raines55.0%
215Curt Schilling39.2%
206Roger Clemens37.5%
202Barry Bonds36.8%
166Lee Smith30.2%
148Edgar Martinez27.0%
138Alan Trammell25.1%
135Mike Mussina24.6%
77Jeff Kent14.0%
71Fred McGriff12.9%
65Larry Walker11.8%
64Gary Sheffield11.7%
55Mark McGwire10.0%
50Don Mattingly9.1%
36Sammy Sosa6.6%
30Nomar Garciaparra5.5%
21Carlos Delgado3.8%
4Troy Percival0.7%
2Aaron Boone0.4%
2Tom Gordon0.4%
1Darin Erstad0.2%
0Rich Aurilia0.0%
0Tony Clark0.0%
0Jermaine Dye0.0%
0Cliff Floyd0.0%
0Brian Giles0.0%
0Eddie Guardado0.0%
0Jason Schmidt0.0%
*All candidates in italics received less than 5% of the vote on ballots cast and will be removed from future BBWAA consideration

I'll take a more indepth look at the ballot in my next post. Again, congratulations to the 2015 Hall of Famers Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

Saturday, November 15, 2014

2014 Most Valuable Player Awards

Ok, so I'm a couple of days late with this post. Now that I am back at work, writing time has been curtailed for things like work and sleep. The nerve. But here are my thoughts on the 2014 MVP vote.

-2014 American League MVP Award
Mike Trout's elusive career long chase for the American League is over!!!! Granted this is only his fourth season in the league, but after playing the bridesmaid the last two seasons to the two-time AL MVP Miguel Cabrera, Trout brings the trophy home to New Jersey having received all 30 first place votes. In doing so, Trout at the age of 23 is the youngest to win the AL MVP in unanimous fashion.

Trout received all 30 first-place votes and 420 points. Victor Martinez of the Detroit Tigers came in second with 229 points and Michael Brantley of the Cleveland Indians came in third with 185 points. The voting was conducted by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Trout is first player to win the AL award unanimously since Ken Griffey Jr. did so in 1997. Trout is the second ever to win it after two consecutive second-place finishes. Mickey Mantle was the first to do so with his runner up seasons for AL MVP in 1960-1961 and his MVP season of 1962 (Mantle had already won the award twice back-to-back in 1956-1957).

Trout is the third Angels player to win the MVP award after Don Baylor in 1979 and Vladimir Guerrero in 2004.

Looking at Trout's statistics, I find something interesting.

Could this be the first time that an MVP award winner has a season with significantly lower numbers than his previous runner up season? Look at Trout's statistics, courtesy of Baseball Reference's Mike Trout page:

This is no way saying that Trout did not have an MVP type season. He definitely did. But there is no denying that his numbers dropped compared to his freshman and sophomore seasons. While Trout had the same number of doubles and triples this season  and he hit 9 more home runs and drove in 14 more runs in 2014 (36/114) than he did in 2013, he a had glaring drop in batting average from .323 to .287. He had more at-bats this season than last (602-589) but also had less hits this season compared to last season (173-190). Trout led the league in both runs scored (115) and total bases (338).

What stands out to me is the significant rise in strikeouts. Where Trout was consistent in the 130 strikeout range in 2012 and 2013, he struck out 48 more times to finish at 184. At the same time, his walks dropped from 110 in 2013 to 83 in 2014. His slash line (.377/.561/.939) while consistent in the Slugging Percentage portion ..557-.561 his on base percentage dropped from .432 to .377.

Again, I'm not saying Trout didn't have an MVP time season. He did. Could the dips in his stats be a one season thing or is it a sign of things to come. Maybe pitchers have found a weakness in Trout's armor? Who really knows but it is something that has been mentioned before. Ben Lindbergh's article Scorsese’s Oscar: Mike Trout Finally Won the MVP, But Could He Already Be in Decline? from dated November 14, 2014 touches on this and other potential factors for Trout winning the 2014 MVP award. Its definitely an interesting read.

- Click Here to access Mike Trout's career statistics from Baseball
- Click Here to access the article Angels' Mike Trout, 23, wins MVP from dated November 13, 2014

- 2014 National League MVP Award
After I thought I couldn't say anything more about the two-time reigning National League Cy Young Award Winner Clayton Kershaw, wouldn't you know I forgot three letters: M.V.P.!!!! I know this pisses off many purists who don't think a pitcher should win the Most Valuable Award since pitchers have their own specific award: the Cy Young Award. Well, technically the hitters have their own award as well, known as the Hank Aaron Award. According to's listing for Hank Aaron Award Winners:
Awarded annually to the best overall offensive performer in both leagues, the award was introduced in 1999 to mark the 25th anniversary of Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's all-time home run record. Aaron, along with a panel of other Hall of Famers, determine the winners along with a fan vote.
Giancarlo Stanton was the 2014 recipient of the award. So based on that, the MVP is open to all players. Even pitchers. Hate to disappoint the purists but not only is Kershaw two-time reigning National League Cy Young Award Winner but now he is also the 2014 National League Most Valuable Player.

Kershaw received 18 out of 30 first-place votes and 355 points to win the award. Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins came in second with 8 out of 30 first-place votes and 298 points with Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates coming in third with 4 out of 30 first-place votes and 271 points. The voting was conducted by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Kershaw is the first NL pitcher to win both the Cy Young and MVP awards in the same season since Bob Gibson achieved the feat in the magical year of 1968. He is the fourth National League pitcher overall to do so with Dodger pitchers Don Newcombe doing it first in the history of MLB in 1956 and Sandy Koufax in 1963. Kershaw is also the first pitcher league-wide since Justin Verlander to win the Cy Young and MVP in the same season since 2011.

With his third NL Cy Young Award in four years and now the 2014 NL MVP Award in his trophy case, Kershaw is making himself quite the convincing case of being the best in-season starting pitcher of our generation, all at the tender age of 26.

- Click Here to access Clayton Kershaw's career statistics from Baseball
- Click Here to access the article Clayton Kershaw wins NL MVP from dated November 14, 2014

Both league MVP are under the age of 30 and the sky is the proverbial limit on what we can see both players do in the years to come.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

Thursday, November 13, 2014

2014 Cy Young Award Winners

I had mentioned to someone yesterday whether in the Cy Young Award voting we would see an upset and/or the favored choices winning the trophy. Well folks, we got a bit of both when the announcement for the awards came down from the Baseball Writers of America's mountain. Here goes.

- 2014 American League Cy Young Pitcher of the Year
Seattle Mariners fans, especially those of the King's Korner are undoubtedly still steaming from their ace Felix Hernandez being denied his second AL Cy Young Award. Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians is your 2014 American League Cy Young Award winner.

In a very close vote by the Baseball Writers of America, Kluber earned 17 first-place votes and 169 points with Felix Hernandez of the Mariners earning the other 13 first-place votes and 159 points. White Sox starter Chris Sale finished third with 78 points.

18-9 with a 2.44 ERA and 269 strikeouts in 235 2/3 innings. The right-hander led the league in wins, finished second in strikeouts, third in innings pitched and was third in ERA.

After failing to make the All-Star Team, Kluber finished the season with a 10-4 record with a 1.73 ERA with 127 strikeouts and 19 walks. He pitched deep into those last 14 games, only once failing to reach into the sixth and reaching the sixth once, the seventh three times, the eighth four times, the ninth five times, completing two with one shutout.

In terms of Hernandez, the article Corey Kluber edges out King Felix from dated November 13, 2014 states:
Hernandez went 15-6 with an AL-leading 2.14 ERA and 248 strikeouts in 236 innings. He set a major league record when he pitched 16 straight games of seven or more innings and allowing two earned runs or less. It was a brilliant stretch from May to early August that put Hernandez in the lead for his second Cy Young award.
In the same 14 game stretch after the All-Star Game, Hernandez went 8-6 with a 2.16 ERA with 94 strikeouts and 21 walks. In those last 14-games, Hernandez failed to reach the sixth four times. He finished the sixth three times, the seventh seven times and the eighth twice. Hernandez was a victim of his team's lack of offensive performance in those games.

Kluber becomes the fourth Cleveland Indians pitcher to win the American League Cy Young Award Gaylord Perry in 1972, C.C. Sabathia in 2007 and Cliff Lee in 2008.

As I told my friend Christopher yesterday, I think Kluber's strong finish and the complete games/shutouts were the determining factors that led to his winning the AL Cy Young. I would have been satisfied if either he or Hernandez won the award. Both were deserving of the recognition.

- Click Here for Corey Kluber's 2014 Statistics from Baseball
- Click Here for Felix Hernandez's 2014 Statistics from Baseball
- Click Here for the article Could Corey Kluber become the first Cleveland Indians pitcher to win two AL Cy Young Awards? by Paul Hoynes from The website

- 2014 National League Cy Young Pitcher of the Year
What can I say about Clayton Kershaw that hasn't been said already. Kershaw is quickly staking his claim as being arguably the most dominant pitcher of our generation by winning the National League Cy Young Award for the third time in the last four seasons.

Kershaw won the award via a unanimous vote taking all 30 first place votes. Cincinnati Reds' starter Johnny Cueto finished second and the St. Louis Cardinals' starter Adam Wainwright finished third.

According to the article Clayton Kershaw wins NL Cy Young dated November 12, 2014:
Kershaw, who also won the award in 2011 and 2013, went 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA this past season, leading the Dodgers (94-68) to their second straight NL West title. Kershaw was baseball's most dominant pitcher despite missing over a month with a back injury. He led the majors in wins and ERA and had 239 strikeouts in just 198 1/3 innings.
Kershaw also threw his first career no-hitter on June 18, when he had 15 strikeouts and did not walk a batter against the Colorado Rockies.

In doing so, he becomes the 14th National League pitcher to win the award unanimously. According to the BBWAA website, Sandy Koufax achieved it three times, Greg Maddux twice and once apiece by Randy Johnson, Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, Rick Sutcliffe, Dwight Gooden, Orel Hershiser, Jake Peavy and Roy Halladay.

Kershaw is also the fifth NL pitcher to win the award in consecutive seasons. Maddux and Johnson each won four years in a row. The other back-to-back winners were Koufax and Tim Lincecum.

Kershaw’s third Cy Young Award tied the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers’ franchise record that was originally held by Sandy Koufax and is the eighth Dodgers pitcher to win the award and the twelfth time that the a Dodgers pitcher won the award. Don Newcombe was the first in 1956, followed by Don Drysdale in 1962, Sandy Koufax in 1963, 1965-1966, Mike Marshall in 1974, Fernando Valenzuela in 1981, Orel Hershiser in 1988, Eric Gagne in 2003 and finally Clayton Kershaw in 2011, 2013-2014.

Kershaw is also the sixth pitcher to win three Cy Young Awards in a four-year span since the award was first given in 1956. The other pitchers are Randy Johnson 1999-2002, Pedro Martinez 1997-2000, Greg Maddux 1992-1995, Jim Palmer 1973-1976 and Sandy Koufax 1963-1966.

What's even more impressive that Kershaw has only been in the league for seven years and has been a full-time player for the last six years. At the current age of 26, it is scary to think how much more he will improve and how many more awards he might be capable of winning. Now if the Dodgers can only get him a better bullpen so he can win a post-season game.

- Click Here to see Clayton Kershaw's 2014 Statistics from Baseball

Later on today will be the Most Valuable Player announcement. Will it be a Southern California clean sweep with Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw winning the award? Or will it be a Tigers player once again spoiling it for Trout, this time in the form of Victor Martinez. Can the Indians make it another upset in the form of Michael Brantley? Can Andrew McCutchen make it two in a row in the National League? Will Giancarlo Stanton grab the NL MVP trophy and further use that as a bargaining chip in his extension negotiations with the Marlins? We'll have to wait for 6pm to see who wins the awards.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

2014 Managers of the Year

The 2014 Managers of the Year Awards were handed out today. Who won the trophies? Read on and find out.

- 2014 American League Manager of the Year
Baltimore Orioles skipper Buck Showalter wins the 2014 AL Manager of the Year award for 3rd time while leading the Baltimore Orioles to a 96-66 record. This is Showalter's 3rd Manager of the Year Award with his 3rd different franchise. His previous two awards came with the New York Yankees in 1994 and the Texas Rangers in 2004. Since the award was first given out in 1983, Showalter is the sixth manager with three or more Manager of the Year awards. Bobby Cox, and Tony LaRussa have four awards while Dusty Baker, Jim Leyland, and Lou Piniella have three apiece.

Showalter received 25 first-place votes. Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia and Kansas City Royals skipper Ned Yost finished second and third, respectively. The voting was conducted by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Showalter is the first Orioles manager to win the award since Davey Johnson in 1997.

- 2014 National League Manager of the Year
Washington Nationals first year manager Matt Williams wins NL Manager of the Year award. Like his contemporary up the Beltway in Baltimore, Williams led the Nationals to a National League best 96-66 record and NL East title. In doing so, Williams was the fourth manager to win the award in his first year joining Hal Lanier of the Houston Astros in 1986, Dusty Baker of the San Francisco Giants in 1993 and Joe Girardi of the Florida Marlins in 2006.

Williams received 18 of 30 first-place votes. Last year's National League Manager of the Year Clint Hurdle of the Pittsburgh Pirates came in second with eight first-place votes while Bruce Bochy on the World Champion San Francisco Giants came in third, earning three first-place votes. The voting was conducted by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Williams is the second Nationals' manager to win the award after Davey Johnson who won the award in 2012. Williams is the fourth Manager of the Year when taking into account the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals history. Buck Rogers in 1987 and Felipe Alou in 1994 won the awards while the team was in Montreal.

The future looks bright for both teams that play in the Beltway Metropolitan area of Baltimore/Washington DC. Congrats to both managers on their awards.

Tomorrow the Cy Young Awards will be announced at 6 p.m.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

2014 Rookies of the Year

The first of the 2014 MLB Year End Awards have been handed out. So let's not wait anymore time and get cracking on who won the hardware.

- 2014 American League Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year

Slugging first baseman Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox is the winner of the 2014 American League Rookie of the Year. Abreu earned all 30 first-place votes outdistancing Los Angeles Angels right-hander Matt Shoemaker and New York Yankees reliever Dellin Betances who finished second and third, respectively

Abreu led all rookies in home runs (36), RBIs (107), hits (176), doubles (35), runs scored (80), OBP (.383), slugging percentage (.581) and OPS (.964).

Since the Rookie of the Year Award was first given out in 1947, only four rookies have batted at least .300, hit at least 30 home runs and driven in at least 100 runs. All four including Abreu have won their league's respective Rookie of the Year award. The other three players? Walt Dropo for the Boston Red Sox in 1950, Mike Piazza for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1993 and Albert Pujols for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2001.

Abreu is the sixth White Sox player to win the American League Rookie of the Year award after Luis Aparicio 1956, Gary Peters 1963, Tommie Agee 1966, Ron Kittle 1983, Ozzie Guillen 1985.

- 2014 National League Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year

Starting pitcher Jacob deGrom of the New York Mets is the winner of the 2014 National League Rookie of the Year. DeGrom received 26 of the 30 first-place votes. Cincinnati Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton and St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong finished second and third, respectively. The vote was conducted by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

DeGrom, 26, went 9-6 with a 2.69 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 140 1/3 innings pitched over 22 starts.

DeGrom is the fifth Mets' player to win the National League Rookie of the Year award after Tom Seaver 1967, Jon Matlack 1972, Darryl Strawberry 1983 and Dwight Gooden 1984.

Congratulations to both players and continued success in their respective careers. The next award to be given out is Manager of the Year which will be announced today Tuesday November 12th at 6 p.m.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

Friday, October 31, 2014

My Thoughts on the 2014 Season Part I

Well, the 2014 season is in the books following an amazing performance by NLCS and World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner leading the San Francisco Giants to their third World Series Championship in the last five years. Now that winter has arrived (I believe in two seasons: Baseball and Winter) I wanted to take a quick look at each team in the American League based on their performance this past season and how they stand for next season.

AL East
Baltimore Orioles: Their World Series dreams came to a grinding halt after running into the Kansas City Royals buzzsaw in the ALCS. A timely hit or two and maybe they play the Giants in the World Series instead of the Royals. All four games of the ALCS were decided by a total of 6 runs. The future in Baltimore is bright, especially if they can resign Nelson Cruz. Do the O's go big after a pitcher like Max Scherzer?

New York Yankees: Ah, my Yankees. What to do with the Bronx Bombers. REBUILD!!! If there was ever a time to do so, it is now that the last piece of the Yankees dynasty of the late 1990's and early 2000's has retired in the form of Captain Derek Jeter. This team needs to rebuild around Masahiro Tanaka, the youth in the bullpen and give the youth in the Minor Leagues a real opportunity to show what they can do. Oh, by the way, Alex Rodriguez's return looms large. The drama never ends in the Bronx Zoo.

Toronto Blue Jays: The Blue Jays season ended in a disappointing fashion after the Blue Jays had hopes of ending their playoff drought. While 83-79 isn't a record to be ashamed about, this was the season where the Blue Jays should have taken advantage of a weakened AL East. Do they try to make a blockbuster trade as they did during the offseason following the 2011 season?

Boston Red Sox: Arguably their performance this season was the most disappointing of the 2014 campaign. Following their 2013 World Series Championship, the team faltered and a number of players were traded away at the deadline. Now, you can never count the Red Sox out. Remember, in 2012 they did the same exact thing, restocked, reloaded and won the trophy in 2013. The Red Sox Nation shouldn't worry about their team sliding down any further. I see the Red Sox making a resurgence next season through home grown talent and timely free agent signings (Yankees, take note, this is how you should be doing it).

Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays are the team with the most question marks after losing their GM Andrew Friedman and Manager Joe Maddon. Does the trade of David Price work in their favor this season? What moves to the Rays make, if any since ownership wants to shed payroll. Is there any validity to the rumors of the Tampa Bay Rays considering a move to Montreal? 2015 will be a very interesting season to see what happens to the Rays.

AL Central
Detroit Tigers: The trade for David Price seemed like the Tigers would be a shoo-in for the World Series. But as we know, the games have to be played on the field. Now, Price did his job. If it wasn't for a bullpen that just couldn't get outs when needed, maybe the Tigers play the Royals in the ALCS instead of the Orioles. The big questions are do the Tigers resign Max Scherzer and Victor Martinez. Trading for Price gives the Tigers some leeway if Scherzer decides to leave Detroit. Martinez put up MVP numbers in his walk year and is due to sign one last big payday. We'll have to see what the Tigers do to rearm for the 2015 season.

Kansas City Royals: What can be said about the Royals that hasn't already been said. The darlings of the 2014 Postseason broke their 29 year playoff drought in an exciting fashion leaving the tying run on third base in Game 7 of the World Series. The city of Kansas City was reinvigorated and will undoubtedly be hoping that this season was a sign of things to come rather than a fluke. That is the question. What do the Royals do next. Their bullpen is set and they have tremendous youth in their lineup. A veteran starting pitcher like Max Scherzer would do wonders to solidify their rotation even if they are able to resign James Shields. The issue is, do they crack open the vault and spend some major money to lure players to Kansas City? Will players want to sign with Kansas City this offseason?

Cleveland Indians: The future is bright in Cleveland after a second consecutive winning season under Tito Francona. The emergence of Corey Kluber as a viable AL Cy Young candidate as well as AL MVP candidate Michael Brantley bode well for the future of the Tribe. I think they face a similar fate as the Royals do. Will they be able to lure free agents to sign in Cleveland? Cleveland is willing to spend money as seen in the contract signings of Nick Swisher and Michael Bourne a few seasons ago. Do they also make a run to sign Max Scherzer in an addition by subtraction to gain traction against the Detroit Tigers?

Chicago White Sox: I see the Chisox in a similar situation as the Yankees. They need to rebuild. Captain Paul Konerko has walked off into the sunset and the rebuilding project should be undertaken in earnest on the South-side. Build around slugger Jose Abreu and staff ace Chris Sale. A player like Pablo Sandoval would be a major coup for the White Sox. He would solidify the left side after third baseman Gordon Beckham was traded to Anaheim during the season and he would be a tremendous bat behind Abreu in the lineup. Nelson Cruz would also fit the need for more power in Chicago. Now I'm not sure if the team is going to jump in head first in the free agency market or try to rebuild from within. But the South-Side faithful might have to be a bit patient with this team for a few season.

Minnesota Twins: I'll be honest with you all. I am not versed in the Twins and where they stand. This is going to be the first season since 2002 where Ron Gardenhire is not at the helm and the team has yet to name his successor. One thing is certain, the rebuilding project will continue in Minnesota.

AL West
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: After making their triumphant return to the playoffs since 2009, the Angels were swept out of the ALDS by the eventual American League Champions Kansas City Royals. Where the Angels finished the season with a dominating 98-64 record, they went cold in the ALDS. Albert Pujols showed flashes of the player who the Angels hoped he'd be for them in the playoffs while potential AL MVP Mike Trout and CJ Wilson failed to live up to expectations in the postseason. And what about Josh Hamilton. Can he regain his form for the Angels or are his best days behind him. I think the Angels are in good shape in a division that isn't threatened by teams breaking the bank to sign free agents. If Garrett Richards can make a successful return from the leg injury that prematurely ended his potential AL Cy Young season that would give the Angels a solid rotation to compliment their veteran lineup. Injuries aside, I don't see the Angels falling to far from their 2014 season performance.

Oakland Athletics: Who would have thought that the Oakland A's would have barely made the Wild Card game after the clubbing they were handing out to the league in the first two-thirds of the 2014 season. The trade that brought Jon Lester to the A's from Boston for slugger Yoenis Cespedes raised many eyebrows throughout Baseball. It showed that Billy Beane was ready to play for now and many would argue the move backfired. Lester was the pitcher they expected to get but the run production ended when Cespedes was shipped to Boston. Coincidence? Many will show stats that he wasn't the main cog in the lineup in terms of run production and there are other factors as to why they stopped scoring runs, but when it comes down to it, the Lester-Cespedes trade is the watershed moment for Billy Beane in 2014. If Lester signs elsewhere, is the trade a total failure? Now, even if he does leave Oakland, the A's pitching staff is still solid. Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Jeff Samardzija are all in the A's rotation plans for next season. Does Beane continue to buck his M.O. by trying to sign a big bat or does he go back to square one.

Seattle Mariners: Putting up a 87-75 and a 3rd place finish in AL West was quite a surprise for the Mariners. Doing so helped to validate General Manager Jack Zduriencik offseason signing of Robinson Cano and hiring of Lloyd McClendon as manager. Now, Cano didn't put up the power numbers that he had done with the Yankees, but in his defense, Safeco Field isn't a hitters park as Yankee Stadium and he isn't batting in an offensive laden lineup as he did in New York. I believe that it is imperative to get him some real protection in the lineup. Someone like Giancarlo Stanton would help to minimize the pitching around Cano that he saw this season. Do the Mariners have the prospects to make a move for a young slugger of Stanton's stature? Pablo Sandoval and Nelson Cruz will be looking for big paydays and would fit nicely in Seattle but do the Mariners have anymore money to spend after breaking the bank to sign Cano?  I won't even talk about Felix Hernandez. What is there to say. After him, the pitching is a big question mark. The team holds a $7M Team Option/$1M Buyout on Hishasi Iwakuma for next season and closer Fernando Rodney is signed thru next season after putting up a 48 save season in Seattle. The rest of the pitching staff? Who knows what happens there.

Houston Astros: Second baseman Jose Altuve provided the major source of excitement for the Houston Astros this season with his leading the league in both hits and average. This team is in full rebuilding mode under new manager A. J. Hinch and General Manager Jeff Luhnow. They have some real young talent that is getting major league experience on the fly. I think it would be premature to think that the Astros will compete for a playoff spot next season. But I think the future is definitely bright in Houston. The team just needs to stay the rebuilding course and let the young players mature together.

Texas Rangers: Long gone are the years of the Nolan Ryan built two-time American League Champions. The rotation is basically staff ace Yu Darvish and a number of players who pitched for the Rangers due to injury and inability of other hurlers. The trade for Prince Fielder paid no dividends for Texas with Fielder's season being cut short due to a neck injury while Ian Kinsler thrived in Detroit. The departure of Ron Washington and the hiring of Jeff Banister means that the team will be in flux for the next season. If the injured offensive injured players can come back they can carry the rotation to a potential Wild Card berth. But I don't think anything more is possible.

Next I'll look at the National League. I also have some book posts hopefully in the works. So keep an eye out for those.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco