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

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Baseball Bloggers Alliance Award Predictions Part II

In my last post, I made my first round of year end award predictions as required by the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. Where the last post focused on the Connie Mack (Manager of the Year) and Willie Mays (Rookie of the Year) awards, these predictions focus on the Goose Gossage (Reliever of the Year) award, the Walter Johnson (Pitcher of the Year) and the Stan Musial (MVP) awards. As with the last post, I will only place my choices here for today and when the awards are announced after the World Series will I give thoughts into the award winners.

Goose Gossage (Reliever of the Year)
American League
  1. Greg Holland (Kansas City Royals)
  2. Dellin Betances (New York Yankees)
  3. Zach Britton (Baltimore Orioles)

National League
  1. Craig Kimbrel (Atlanta Braves)
  2. Mark Melacon (Pittsburgh Pirates)
  3. Aroldis Chapman (Cincinnati Reds)

Walter Johnson (Pitcher of the Year)
American League
  1. Felix Hernandez (Seattle Mariners)
  2. Corey Kluber (Cleveland Indians)
  3. Max Scherzer (Detroit Tigers)
  4. Matt Shoemaker (Los Angeles Angels)
  5. Phil Hughes (Minnesota Twins)

National League
  1. Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers)
  2. Adam Wainwright (St. Louis Cardinals)
  3. Johnny Cueto (Cincinnati Reds)
  4. Doug Fister (Washington Nationals)
  5. Madison Bumgarner (San Francisco Giants)

Stan Musial Award (Most Valuable Player)
American League
  1. Victor Martinez (Detroit Tigers)
  2. Nelson Cruz (Baltimore Orioles)
  3. Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels)
  4. Jose Altuve (Houston Astros)
  5. Adam Jones (Baltimore Orioles)
  6. Michael Brantley (Cleveland Indians)
  7. Jose Abreu (Chicago White Sox)
  8. Robinson Cano (Seattle Mariners)
  9. Miguel Cabrera (Detroit Tigers)
  10. Corey Kluber (Cleveland Indians)

National League
  1. Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers)
  2. Jonathan Lucroy (Milwaukee Brewers)
  3. Buster Posey (San Francisco Giants)
  4. Giancarlo Stanton (Miami Marlins)
  5. Anthony Rendon (Washington Nationals)
  6. Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh Pirates)
  7. Justin Morneau (Colorado Rockies)
  8. Josh Harrison (Pittsburgh Pirates)
  9. Hunter Pence (San Francisco Giants)
  10. Adam Wainwright (St. Louis Cardinals)

When the results of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance are all announced, I'll return to the predictions and see how my choices matched up with my fellow alliance members.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

Friday, October 10, 2014

Connie Mack (Manager of the Year) and Willie Mays (Rookie of the Year) Predictions

With the MLB playoffs in full swing, I've decided to come back to the present. As you've undoubtedly noted, my blog has taken quite the historical path as of late. But since I think I am going to devote the in-season time to historical events that happened in Baseball on a daily basis, during the postseason and offseason, I think I am going to reside in the present and give Doc Brown and the Delorean a break ;)

For today I wanted to shed some light on the year end award voting for the 2014 MLB season. One of the requirements for membership in the Baseball Bloggers Alliance is for members to vote in the form of a blogpost and all the votes are collected and tabulated by the Alliance. Today's post is devoted to the Connie Mack (Manager of the Year) and Willie Mays (Rookie of the Year) awards. Now I will only place my choices here for today and when the awards are announced after the World Series will I give thoughts into the award winners.

Connie Mack Award (Manager of the Year)
American League

  1. Ned Yost (Kansas City Royals) 
  2. Lloyd McClendon (Seattle Mariners)
  3. Mike Scioscia (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim)

National League

  1. Matt Williams (Washington Nationals)
  2. Clint Hurdle (Pittsburgh Pirates)
  3. Don Mattingly (Los Angeles Dodgers)

Willie Mays Award (Rookie of the Year)
American League

  1. Jose Abreu (Chicago White Sox)
  2. Yordano Ventura (Kansas City Royals)
  3. Dellin Betances (New York Yankees)

National League

  1. Jason deGrom (New York Mets)
  2. Joe Panik (San Francisco Giants)
  3. Billy Hamilton (Cincinnati Reds)
Will my predictions match the actual results of the votes for the Manager and Rookie of the Year Awards? We'll have to wait for the official announcements to see.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

Friday, October 3, 2014

Steve Carlton wins 27th game for the Philadephia Phillies October 3, 1972

On this day in Baseball History October 3, 1972: Steve Carlton of the Philadelphia Phillies wins his 27th game of the season against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field by the score of 11-1 en route to a 27-10 record with a 1.97 ERA. What's astounding of Carlton's National League Cy Young Award performance of 1972 is that his 27 wins were almost half of the entire 59 wins that the Phillies put up in 1972. Here is the boxscore for the October 3, 1972 game between the Philadelphia Phillies vs. the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field from the October 4, 1972 edition of the New York Times:

Carlton would lead the league with 310 strikeouts with 87 walks, a league leading 257 hits allowed in 346.1 innings pitched for a WHIP of 0.993. Carlton made 41 starts with 30 complete games, both league bests. He would finish the season with eight straight complete games and 17 complete games in his last 19 starts.

Carlton would be the unanimous NL Cy Young Award winner, garnering every first place vote. This would be the first of four NL Cy Young Awards for Carlton.

He would be the last pitcher to win 27-games until Bob Welch would went 27-6 for the Oakland Athletics in 1990. Will we ever see a pitcher win 27-games? Its hard to tell with pitchers being on strict pitch counts and a five and sometimes six man rotation. Pitchers just don't make 40+ starts in a season anymore. I wouldn't bet on it happening anytime soon.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:
- Click here to access Steve Carlton's career statistics from Baseball
- Click here to access the article Carlton Captures No. 27 As Phils Rout Cubs, 11-1 from the New York Times dated October 4, 1972
- Click here to access the official Steve Carlton website

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Bob Gibson Fans 17 Tigers in Game One of the World Series October 2, 1968

On this day in Baseball History October 2, 1968: In the first game where the eventual two league Most Valuable Players pitched against each other, St. Louis Cardinals ace Bob Gibson defeated Denny McLain 4-0 in Game One of the 1968 World Series while striking out a World Series record 17 batters. 

Gibson came into the Series with a 22-9 record and a miniscule 1.12 ERA (How did Gibson lose nine games with an ERA that low?) in 34 games started with 28 complete games and 13 shutouts. Gibson struck out a league leading 268 batters, while walking 62, giving up 198 hits in 304.2 innings pitched for a league leading WHIP of 0.853.

McLain came into the Series with a 31-6 record and a 1.94 ERA in 41 games started with 28 complete games and 6 shutouts. McClain struck out 280 batters while walking 63 and giving up 241 hits in a league leading 336 innings pitched for a WHIP 0.905.

Both pitchers would win their respective league Cy Young and Most Valuable Player award. This was the matchup to open the 1968 World Series.

Gibson held up to his end of the bargain by breaking Sandy Koufax's World Series record of 15 strikeouts that he set in the 1963 World Series against the New York Yankees. What was even more impressive was Gibson's performances in the World Series up to this point. The article ST. LOUIS WINS, 4-0, IN SERIES OPENER by Joseph Durso of the New York Times dated October 3, 1968 states:
By winning his sixth straight game in three Series in five years, he tied the record set by Lefty Gomez and Red Ruffing of the Yankees between 1932 and 1942.
By working his sixth straight complete game in Series competition, he broke the record set by Ruffing for pitchers who finish what they start when the money is on the table 
Here is the boxscore to Game One of the 1968 World Series between the Detroit Tigers and the St. Louis Cardinals from the October 3, 1968 edition of the New York Times:

Not to let down the viewing public, Gibson would pitch two more complete games in the 1968 World Series during games four and seven where he would strike out 10 and 8 batters respectively. Gibson would lose Game 7 of the World Series finishing with a career 7-2 record in three World Series (1964, 1967, 1968). In nine starts, Gibson would throw EIGHT complete games. His first World Series start in Game Two of the 1964 World Series against the Yankees was an eight inning start while Game Five was a ten inning complete game. In 81 World Series innings pitched, Gibson put up a 1.89 ERA with 92 strikeouts, 17 walks and 55 hits for a World Series WHIP of 0.889.

McLain on the other hand would only last six innings in Game One though he would vindicate himself with a pivotal victory in Game Six on two days rest after losing his first two World Series starts to Gibson.

On an aside, to answer my question from earlier in the post: How did Gibson lose nine games with an ERA that low? I'm not sure where and when I found this chart, but it shows us how he indeed lost those nine games in 1968:

Gibson goes down as one of the best pitchers ever in World Series history. I say World Series and not Postseason since in his day the World Series was the only round of the PostSeason as compared to today's four rounds including the World Series. Will we see a performance like Gibson's in this year's World Series? We'll have to wait until the Fall Classic begins to see if it happens.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:
- Click here to access Bob Gibson's career statistics from Baseball
- Click here to access Denny McLain's career statistics from Baseball
- Click here to access the article Sports of The Times: Gibson Versus McLain by Robert Lipsyte from the October 3, 1968 edition of the New York Times
- Click here to access the article Cool Pitcher and Victor Over Pain: Robert Gibson from the October 3, 1968 edition of the New York Times
- Click here to access the article Gibson Unaware of Breaking Record Until Message Flashes on Scoreboard by George Vecsey from the October 3, 1968 edition of the New York Times

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Roger Maris Hits His 61st Home Run October 1, 1961

On this day in Baseball History October 1, 1961: Roger Maris of the New York Yankees hit his 61st home run of the season in the fourth inning off of rookie starter Tracy Stallard in a 1-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox. In doing so, Maris broke Babe Ruth's record of 60 home runs which was set in 1927. Maris' achievement came with some controversy. The article Maris Hits 61st in Final Game from the October 2, 1961 edition of the New York Times states:
Ruth's record, of course, will not be erased. On July 17, Commissioner Ford C. Frick ruled that Ruth's record would stand unless bettered within a 154-game limit, since that was the schedule in 1927. Maris his fifty-nine homers in the Yanks' first 154 games to a decision. He hit his sixtieth four games later.

However, Maris will go into the record book as having hit the sixty-first in a 162-game schedule.

Maris finished the season with 590 official times at bat. Ruth, in 1927, had 540 official times at bat. Their total appearances at the plate, however, were nearly identical--698 for Maris and 692 for Ruth.

According to the official baseball rules, a batter is not charged with an official time at bat when "he hits a sacrifice bunt or sacrifice fly, is awarded first base on four called balls, is hit by a pitched ball or is awarded first base because of interference or obstruction."

Though it had taken 162 games (actually, 163, since the Yankees played one tie), a player finally had risen from the ranks to pass Ruth's majestic record. Maris himself missed only two of these games, although he sat out a third without coming to bat, when, after playing the first inning in the field, he was bothered by something in his eye.
Here is the boxscore to the October 1, 1961 Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees game from the October 2, 1961 edition of the New York Times:

The last two players to come close to the 154-game record set by Ruth was Jimmie Foxx in 1932 and Hank Greenberg in 1938 who both came up two homers short of tying the 60 home run record. For an interesting take on the whole Roger Maris/Babe Ruth home run record asterisk, I recommend that you read the article Roger Maris and the Myth of the Asterisk by Allen Barra from the Jockbeat Blogs of the Village Voice dated June 27, 2011.

Maris would win his second consecutive American League MVP award with a league leading 61 home runs, 141 runs batted in and 132 runs scored. Here is a breakdown of all 61 home runs by Roger Maris from the October 2, 1961 New York Times:

And if you haven't check out Billy Crystal's movie 61*. Let me know what you think of it.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:
- Click here to access Roger Maris' career statistics from Baseball
- Click here to access the article Angry King of Swat: Roger Eugene Maris from the October 2, 1961 edition of the New York Times
- Click here to access the official Roger Maris website