2019 MLB predictions preview: AL Central

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Cleveland Indians by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

1. Cleveland Indians

Record: 97-71
Postseason Result: Lost to Houston Astros in the AL Division Series.
Offseason Acquisitions: Traded for Max Moroff from Pittsburgh Pirates, traded for Jake Bauers from Tampa Bay Rays, traded for Jordan Luplow from Pittsburgh Pirates, Walker Locket traded from San Diego Padres, traded for Carlos Santana from Seattle Mariners, traded for Kevin Plawecki from New York Mets, and traded for Nick Wittgren from Miami Marlins.
Offseason Departures: Mike Freeman, Trayce Thompson, James Hoyt, Anthony Gose, Brooks Pounders, Brandon Barnes, Matt Joyce, Dioner Navarro, Ryan Flaherty, Alex Wilson, Ben Taylor, Yu Chang, Corey Anderson, Carlos Gonzalez, Oscar Mercado and Justin Grimm signed with Minors, Mike Napoli retired.
2019 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION: It’s given that Cleveland will more likely than not top this division, again, for the fourth consecutive time. The main eyes should be facing the playoffs after, as Cleveland hasn’t won a World Series since 1948. However, it will be even more difficult than last season for them to do so. Despite the signings during the offseason, shortstop Francisco Lindor will be missed in the beginning due to a strained calf injury. Despite the setbacks, this team will still likely beat out any competition in their division to seal a playoff spot. But this team’s waited long enough for a World Series appearance, therefore, can Cleveland bring the title home?
Prediction: 90-72

 

2. Detroit Tigers

Record: 64-98
Postseason Result: Nice try.
Offseason Acquisitions: Signed Shane Greene from New York Yankees, Matthew Boyd from Toronto Blue Jays, Kaleb Cowart from Seattle Mariners and Josh Harrison from Pittsburgh Pirates.
Offseason Departures: Assigned Casey Mize to Minors, Optioned Dawel Lugo, Eduardo Jimenez, Matt Hall, Sandy Baez, Franklin Perez, Willie Castro, Sergio Alcantara and Victor Reyes to Minors.
2019 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION: For the last two seasons, the Tigers have lost 98 games each, and they’ll be hoping to turn that around. The signings of Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer will definitely help, but they will need more. Detroit will need to look towards good performances from Nicholas Castellano and Jeimer Candelario for support. However, if anything happens to the two of them, it’s gonna be a long season for Detroit. But can Detroit utilize these players and push for second in the division?

Prediction: 63-97

 

3. Minnesota Twins

Record: 78-84
Postseason Result: Not last season, better luck this time around.
Offseason Acquisitions: Signed Nelson Cruz from Seattle Mariners, Blake Parker from Los Angeles Angels, traded for Daniel Ozoria from Los Angeles Angels, signed Martín Pérez from Texas Rangers and signed Marwin González from Houston Astros.
Offseason Departures: Dario Alvarez, Mike Olt, D.J. Baxendale, Jordany Valdespin, Wilin Rosario, Pat Dean, Kevin Comer, Adam Atkins, Lucas Duda, Adam Rosales and Tomas Telis signed with Minors, traded Zack Granite to Texas Rangers, optioned Andrew Vazquez, Kohl Stewart, Stephen Gonsalves, Nick Gordon, LaMonte Wader Jr., Luis Arraez, Zack Littell, Tyler Duffey and Lewis Thorpe to minors, released Lucas Duda.
2019 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION: The Minnesota Twins have had a wonderful offseason. The most eye-catching player this season for them has to be Byon Buxton. He’s known as ‘the fastest man in baseball’. According to SBNation, he had the best defense in the league, hitting .300/.357/.546 by the latter end of the season. The Twins can also benefit from the services of Logan Morrison and Lance Lynn to stabilize the lineup. Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios. Even though Satana’s got a finger injury to deal with, Jake Odorizzi is an upgrade from last year, so the Twins should be optimistic. Despite it being a long stretch, can Minnesota dethrone Cleveland at the top of the division?
Prediction: 80-82

 

4. Kansas City Royals

Record: 58-104
Postseason Result: Is this question necessary?
Offseason Acquisitions: Signed Brad Boxberger and Jake Diekman from Arizona Diamondbacks, signed Jorge Lopez from Milwaukee Brewers and signed Martin Maldonado from Houston Astros.
Offseason Departures: Assigned Cheslor Cuthbert to Omaha, optioned Arnaldo Hernandez, Ben Lively, Jake Newberry, Josh Staumont, Scott Blewett, Kelvin Gutierrez, Glenn Sparkman, Brett Philips and Jorge Bonifacio to Omaha, assigned Jake Kalish, Andres Machado, Foster Griffin, MJ Melendez, Sebastian Rivero and Samir Duenez to Minor League, traded Jason Adam to Toronto Blue Jays.
2019 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION: The Kansas City Royals didn’t sign much in this offseason nor did they intend to. According to Dayton Moore, the general manager of the team, the team is looking to develop their youth players for the future.

However, going into this season, one main player which will be key for the Royals is Danny Duffy, who’s signed a major five-year, $65 million deal. But although Duffy continues to thrive, he is injury prone, starting no more than 30 games last season. But this season is a good chance for Jorge Soler to show what he’s made of in the case of a Duffy injury.

Though it would be really tough for this young team to make the playoffs, can they outdo themselves and give their fans hope by coming third in the division?
Prediction: 70-92

 

5. Chicago White Sox

Record: 62-100
Postseason Result: Everybody has dreams.
Offseason Acquisitions: Signed Manny Bañuelos from Atlanta Braves, claimed Josh Osich from waivers off of Baltimore Orioles.
Offseason Departures: Assigned Charlie Tilson, Aaron Bummer, Carson Fulmer and Juan Minaya to Minors, Ryan Goins, D.J. Peterson, Matt Skole, Randall Delgado, Evan Marshall, Donn Roach and Brandon Guyer and Preston Tucker signed with Minors.
2019 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION: Though it seems the White Sox don’t fancy winning as of late, they still like to and are surely looking for more of those this season. The main player for the White Sox will be Shortstop Tim Anderson, who will be entering his fourth season with the White Sox. On his MLS debut, he clocked a 2.8 WAR. Along with Anderson, young faces like Michael Kopech, Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and Dylan Cease will hopefully please the fans.

This team is nowhere near settled like the others in this division, but there’s no reason the White Sox can’t improve upon last season. Last season, the White Sox won 62 games, consider 70 as excellent improvement. Can Anderson and co. lead the White Sox to an improved 70 wins or more?
Prediction: 70-92

 

Predicted Division Standings:

Cleveland Indians

Minnesota Twins

Detroit Tigers

Kansas City Royals

Chicago White Sox

 

Mount Rushmore: American League Central

00440_n_12ag9rg4vb0449” by clare_and_ben is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Chicago White Sox

  • Frank Thomas, 1B/DH, 1990-2005
  • Nellie Fox, 2B, 1950-1963
  • Minnie Miñoso, LF/3B, 1951-1957, 1960-1961, 1964, 1976, 1980
  • Luke Appling, SS/3B 1930-1943, 1945-1950

An imposing figure at 6’5″, 240 pounds, Frank Thomas (a/k/a The Big Hurt) seemed to clobber the ball every time he connected on his 2,468 career hits, most of which came as a member of the White Sox. But he also had a keen eye, leading the league in walks and on-base percentage four times. The two-time MVP gained a World Series ring his last year with the club despite having only played in 34 games that season.

Fox, seven inches shorter and 80 pounds lighter than Thomas, went to the All-Star game 15 times during his 19-year career while winning the MVP in 1959 and earning three Gold Gloves between 1957 and 1960.

Minnie Miñoso won just as many Gold Gloves as Fox while heading to the All-Star Game nine times. The lifetime .298 hitter also appeared in several White Sox games at the age of 50–and then again at 54! He’d finish his career with 50.5 WAR and four Top 5 finishes for MVP.

Playing his entire 20-year career with the White Sox, Appling, a Hall of Famer, won two batting titles on his way to seven All-Star Games. For his career, he hit only 45 home runs, but his career WAR was 74.4. He finished with a career slash line of .310/.399/.398 for a .798 OPS. Not bad for a guy whose career high in home runs was eight.

 

Jim Thome” by Erik Drost is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Cleveland Indians

  • Larry Doby, CF, 1947-1955, 1958
  • Jim Thome, 1B/DH/3B, 1991-2002, 2011
  • Bob Feller, SP, 1936-1941, 1945-1956
  • Tris Speaker, CF, 1916-1926

The American League’s first African-American ballplayer, Doby, in his first full season in the pros, helped the Indians win their most recent World Series–in 1948. He’d go on to play in seven All-Star Games while leading the league in nine different offensive categories over the years, including winning 2/3 of the Triple Crown in 1954.

Thome, a fellow Hall of Famer, hit 337 of his career 612 home runs as a member of the Indians. Overall, the hefty lefty earned a WAR of 48 while in Cleveland. The five-time All-Star would also go to two World Series with the Indians, both of which they lost.

Debuting at age 17, Feller went 5-3 with a 3.34 ERA and 76 strikeouts over 62 frames in 1936. Overall, he finished with 266 career wins (all with Cleveland) while playing in eight All-Star Games. He won at least 20 games six different times in his career. In 1940, he won the “Pitcher’s Triple Crown,” leading the AL in wins (27), ERA (2.71), and strikeouts (261). Now consider this: he missed three seasons, when he was 23, 24, and 25, due to military service. What might he have accomplished with those three seasons? Regardless, Feller’s one of the best pitchers to have ever played the game.

Finally, Speaker is another exclusion to my rule of leaving out players from the Dead-ball Era. He was just too good. In 11 seasons with Cleveland, he had a .965 OPS despite averaging less than seven home runs per season. A member of Cleveland’s 1920 World Series championship team, he was a doubles-machine (no one’s hit more than his career 792) who hit over .380 three different times.

 

Justin Verlander” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Detroit Tigers

  • Al Kaline, RF/1B, 1953-1974
  • Justin Verlander, SP, 2005-2017
  • Hal Newhouser, SP, 1939-1953
  • Ty Cobb, CF, 1905-1926

Kaline finished with just over 3,000 hits, a .297 career batting average and a WAR of 92.8. Though he never won the MVP, he was part of the club that won the 1968 World Series. Plus, he won 10 Gold Gloves, appeared in 18 All-Star Games and won the 1955 batting title–when he was 20.

Still playing today for the Astros, Verlander helped rise the Tigers franchise from the dead. In his rookie season, he helped Detroit win the American League Pennant. His Tigers teams would make the playoffs five times. Overall, Verlander–who won the Rookie of the Year in 2006 and who captured both the Cy Young and MVP in 2011–won 183 games for Detroit. A durable starter, he’d also make six All-Star teams during his tenure.

Newhouser, however, was a southpaw, and he did win a World Series with Detroit–back in 1945. During the course of his career, Newhouser won 207 games with a 3.07 ERA, good enough for 63.3 WAR, 59.4 of which came with Detroit. He won back-to-back MVPs in 1944 and 1945.

Ah, the most famous Tiger of them all–Ty Cobb. Not a very good person. Probably a horrible person, from all accounts. But an incredible ballplayer. He led the league in runs scored five times, hits seven times, doubles three times, triples four times, home runs once (with 9 in 1909, the year in which he won the Triple Crown), RBIs four times, stolen bases six times, on-base percentage seven times, slugging percentage eight times, OPS 10 times and total bases six times while winning 12 batting titles. Incredibly, he won the MVP only once, in 1911. In the most glaring lowlight of his on-field performance, his Tigers reached the World Series three times–and lost every time.

 

Alex Gordon” by Minda Haas Kuhlmann is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Kansas City Royals

  • George Brett, 3B/1B, 1973-1983
  • Bret Saberhagen, SP, 1984-1991
  • Amos Otis, CF, 1970-1983
  • Alex Gordon, 3B/LF, 2007-Present

Brett was by far the easiest choice here, as he’s the only player enshrined in Cooperstown as a Royal. Part of the Royals’ first World Series championship team in 1985, Brett collected more than 3,000 hits, including 317 home runs. The 13-time All-Star won the 1980 MVP, won one Gold Glove and collected three Silver Sluggers. For his career, he slashed .305/.369/.487.

In eight seasons with the Royals, Saberhagen won two Cy Young Awards, in 1985 and 1989. He was also named the 1985 World Series MVP after throwing two complete games (one a shutout) for a 2-0 record and a 0.50 ERA. His importance to the Royals goes beyond his career win-loss record. An important cog in some of the team’s first glories, Saberhagen pitched another eight seasons after leaving Kansas City, but never was the same type of pitcher.

The last two spots really came down to ten players. Among the notable misses: Kevin Appier, Dan Quisenberry, Frank White, Salvador Perez, Willie Wilson and Bo Jackson.

Otis is the only one of four players selected who wasn’t on either the 1985 or 2015 World Series championship teams. But he made five All-Star Games and won three Gold Gloves with the Royals. In his 14 seasons in Kansas City, he totaled 44.8 WAR. While he hit for power, his true value came on the basepaths and in the field.

Gordon is entering the last year of his contract with the Royals. He’s had a star-crossed career: drafted early, praised as a moribund franchise’s savior, then labeled a bust, he re-made himself as a Gold Glove outfielder with a rifle for an arm. His bat’s regressed after 2015, but played key roles in both 2014 (when the Royals lost the World Series) and 2015 (when they won it all). Perhaps more importantly, he stuck around, and will most likely finish his career having only played for the Royals–just like Bret.

 

Kirby Puckett Statue at Target Field” by Jeramey Jannene is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins

  • Harmon Killebrew, 1B/3B/LF, 1954-1974
  • Rod Carew, 1B/2B, 1967-1978
  • Kirby Puckett, CF, 1984-1995
  • Walter Johnson, SP, 1907-1927

The Killer played for both the Washington Senators and then the Minnesota Twins, after the franchise re-located prior to the 1961 season. He hit all but 14 of his 573 career home runs as a member of the Senators/Twins en route to 13 All-Star Game appearances that included the 1969 MVP. He helped the Twins reach the 1965 World Series, which they lost in seven games. Overall, as a member of the Senators/Twins, he slashed .258/.378/.514 for an .892 OPS.

The first half of Carew’s career came in Minnesota, where he won the 1977 MVP while making 12 All-Star Games. He won Rookie of the Year in 1967 and went on to win seven batting titles, all while a member of the Twins. He collected over 3,000 hits in his career with over 2,000 of them coming as Twin. In his 12 seasons in Minnesota, he slashed .334/.393/.448.

Man, Puckett was great, and he could have been so much better had his career not tragically ended. But before that unfortunate ending, Puckett led the Twins to a World Series title in 1987. The Hall of Famer reached 10 All-Star Games, won six Gold Gloves and six Silver Sluggers. In 1991, he won the ALCS MVP. In 1989, he won a batting title.

Lastly, there’s Walter Johnson, who won 417 games with the Senators in his 21-year career, all with the Senators. He won two MVP awards in that time while winning 20 or more games 12 times and twice winning 30 or more games. Of the 666 career games he started, he completed 531 of them, including 110 shutouts. Overall, he had 3,509 career strikeouts with a 2.17 ERA and a 1.061 WHIP. His only World Series title came in 1924 when he won his second career MVP. He was 36.

MLB Divisional Series Predictions: Astros vs Indians

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Houston Astros” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

This is one of the more exciting series in this year’s postseason. The last two American League pennant winners go around the diamond for a chance to represent the American League in the World Series again. For each team the stories were different. The Indians blew a 3-1 series lead against the Chicago Cubs to a loss in game 7 and fell short of the Trophy (2016). The Astros forced a game 7 against the Dodgers and took home the World Series trophy last season. They would love to do it again, but this is going to be a tough task.

Despite the Indians clinching their division first, they still have to travel to Houston to start the series on Friday afternoon. The two teams faced each other seven times this season, with the Astros edging out the Indians four games to three. All seven of those games were played in May, and neither team is the same as they were then. That’s why it’s essential for the two sides to be well prepared for this series.

The Indians have won their division for the third straight year and are looking to finally win the World Series for the first time since 1948. They’ve won it twice (1920 & 1948), but have fallen short four times, including against the Cubs in 2016. The Astros won their division for the second straight season. They look to repeat as champions. It was their first title in franchise history after they failed to win a single game in the 2005 World Series against the Chicago White Sox.

 

2. Houston Astros vs 3. Cleveland Indians

Winner: Indians in 5

Reaction: The Astros offense is still as explosive as it was during their playoff run last season that led them to the World Series. The real game changer is third basemen, Alex Bregman, who is in his third year in the Majors and already leading his team in Home Runs and RBIs. Bregman led the way with 31 HRs and 103 RBIs; the next closest guy is Evan Gattis with 25 HRs and 78 RBIs. But they aren’t the only players with power on the team, and we have seen that all season long. They also have a strong pitching rotation, which is just another reason for the Astros’ to be the victor.

However, this is going to be an interesting series because it could be a pitchers battle or a slugfest. So we’ll have to keep a close eye on this one. I believe the Indians will have the edge because there’s still plenty of unknowns on the team.

We saw the Astros win the World Series last year with what they have, but the Indians added another slugger and former AL MVP, Josh Donaldson. Donaldson will be the X-factor in this series as the Indians look to make it to their second World Series in three years. Let me also mention that the Indians have a strong bullpen with three relief pitchers who could be the closers at any time. Indians’ Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and Edwin Encarnacion all have 30+ homers on the season, so we do expect them to be pitched around to, which only opens up more opportunity for Donaldson. So let’s see how this round plays out.

What You May Have Missed This Weekend in Sports

BYU Cougars
BYU Huddle, UCLA Bruins 24, BYU Cougars 23, Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California” by Ken Lund is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

By Joel Deering

Last week we did our first article in this series because there was too much history being made in sports that we had to make sure you all knew. This week was very much the same. History was made in the NFL and College Football, while important events happened throughout sports. If you didn’t get a chance to watch sports this past weekend and need a quick recap, here’s what you missed.

 

NFL

Vikings and Packers tie 29-29

The two teams competing for the NFC North title faced off last night, and it looks like the division race may be a tight one. The Vikings were down late, but scored a TD to force OT. Both teams had a chance to win the game with a field goal, but both kickers missed, eventually forcing the second game ending in a tie in two weeks. This tie marks the first time since 1973 that there have been two ties in the first two weeks of the season.

Patrick Mahomes Makes History

So it turns out Patrick Mahomes is pretty good. Mahomes set the NFL record for most TD passes thrown in the first two games. He threw 4 TD passes last week against the Chargers, and yesterday he threw 6 TD passes. 6 TD passes! There was nothing the Steelers’ defense could do to stop Mahomes and the Chiefs. In only his second year, and first year as a the starter in KC, Mahomes has started off red hot. Last week he was ranked third on my MVP list. Keep an eye out for where he ranks after Week 2. I’ll give you a hint, he’s moving up.

The Browns Are Still The Browns

The Cleveland Browns have to be cursed. They have to be. They had an opportunity late to tie the game against the Saints, but Zane Gonzalez missed a FG, leaving the Browns still searching for a win. Gonzalez missed two extra points and two field goals in this game. If he makes those kicks the Browns win, but something is seriously working against them.

Browns to Part Ways With Josh Gordon

Speaking of the Browns, it looks like WR Josh Gordon won’t be a member of the team anymore. The Browns are either going to trade or release the talented, but troubled WR. Reports are that Gordon was ‘not himself’ while at the team facility. It looked like Cleveland was worried about his substance abuse again, but later reports said that had nothing to do with the team parting ways with him. Gordon’s preferred destinations are either the Cowboys or 49ers, but he may not get his wish. Keep an eye on where Gordon ends up.

Titans Get Tricky

Sometimes you need to be a little tricky to win a game. The Titans got tricky when they faked a punt and ended up scoring a TD on the play. Two of the Titans’ safeties were the players who executed the play. Kevin Byard took the snap and lobbed the pass to rookie Dane Cruikshank. It was an embarrassing play for the Texans. If you didn’t see the play, watch it. You’ll feel the embarrassment.

 

College Football

Ohio State vs TCU

This was a pretty good game to watch. Ohio State played their final game of the season without Urban Meyer, and they impressed. In addition to winning the game, Ohio State made some history in this one, although it’s not really a good statistical stat. TCU running back Darius Anderson recorded the longest run ever allowed by Ohio State, going for 93 yards. This run wasn’t just the longest Ohio State had ever allowed, but it was the longest rushing play in TCU history.

LSU vs Auburn

This battle of top 25 teams came right down to the end. Both teams went back and forth in this one. At the end of the game, LSU had the ball and got into field goal range with a chance to win the game. LSU’s kicker set up for a 42-yard FG and nailed it, giving #12 LSU a victory over #7 Auburn.

BYU Upsets Wisconsin

The former number six team in the country was upset by the BYU Cougars. Before losing this game to the Cougars, Wisconsin had the second longest win streak in the FBS against unranked opponents (26). Wisconsin had the chance to tie the game to force OT, but the kick was missed, giving BYU the upset win.

North Texas’ Fake Fair Catch

Now this play was too good! If you’ve never seen a fake fair catch before, go watch what North Texas did against Arkansas. The punt returner gave a little wave of his arm, making Arkansas players think he fair caught the ball, but the wave wasn’t big enough for the ref to see it as a fair catch. The North Texas returner caught the ball and started walking away like the play was over, but no whistle had been called. Next thing you know, he’s taking off and scoring a TD!

Florida State…..

Oh Florida State. What a rough season they’re having. This past weekend they lost to Syracuse 30-7, marking the first time since 1966 Florida State lost to the Syracuse Orange. To make things even worse for Florida State, they got absolutely roasted on Twitter by pretty much everyone.

Kansas Wants Bama?

Kansas continues to make history in a good way. Their second win in a row marked the first time since 2009 that they beat an FBS school in consecutive weeks. I guess their 55-14 win over Rutgers has Kansas, well at least their fans, feeling pretty confident. One fan brought out a sign saying “We Want Bama.” It’s one thing to score 55 points on Rutgers, but Bama is a whole different story. Alabama would beat Kansas so bad, it’d probably send them into another historically long losing streak of some sort.

UCLA Starts 0-3 for the First Time Since When?

UCLA lost to Fresno State 38-14 on Saturday, dropping them to 0-3 on the season. Their loss marks the first time since 1971 that the UCLA Bruins have started off their season with an 0-3 record. There’s been a lot of history made in college football this season already, and unfortunately the Bruins are finding themselves on the wrong side of it.

Kyler Murray the Heisman Front Runner?

Oklahoma continued their winning ways behind QB Kyler Murray as they beat Iowa State 37-27. Kyler Murray had a great game. In fact, he’s had a great game in every game so far this season. Through three games, Murray has 1,032 yards of total offense and is responsible for 10 TDs. Last year’s Heisman winner and the guy Murray is taking over for, Baker Mayfield, had 1,033 yards of total offense and was responsible for 10 TDs through three games in his Heisman campaign last season. Only 1 yard separates the two right now. Does that make Murray the Heisman front runner? I think so.

 

MLB

Playoff Spots Clinched

The Cleveland Indians joined the Boston Red Soxs as the only two teams to secure a playoff spot so far. Boston has a much better record than the Indians, making them a heavy favorite right now, but at least the Indians know they’ll have a shot. Several other teams don’t even know if they’ll make it to the playoffs or not yet, so the Indians are in pretty good shape.

 

NBA

Dwyane Wade Returns to Miami for One Final Season

If you’re a fan of Dwyane Wade, you’ll be happy to know he announced he’ll be playing for the Miami Heat for one more season. Wade also announced this next season, being his 16th, will be his last before he retires. NBA fans need to get ready to soak in Wade this season as he makes his farewell tour.

 

Predicting the Five American League Playoff Teams

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Boston Red Sox” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

By Mickayeen Farner 

A quick glace at the MLB standings right now will show you that each team has around 40 games remaining, meaning there is only a quarter of the season left and it’s crunch time. While some results are easy to predict, such as the Red Sox winning the AL East (spoilers), there are still some heated races going on, especially in the National League, which are too close to call. Without further adieu, here are my predictions of the five teams who will make it to the postseason from the American League!

AL East Champs: Boston Red Sox

Again, this isn’t a pick that will surprise anyone. I’m not going out on a limb or anything, but there is something to be said about just how good this team has been this season. The 2001 Seattle Mariners and 1906 Chicago Cubs are tied for most wins in the regular season by one team (116), and these Red Sox are only one game off the pace. They could definitely get there if they keep up this torrid pace, and with their lineup and pitching both exceptional, there is no reason to think they can’t get there. Unfortunately for them, history is not on the side of those who win so many games in the regular season. Albeit a small sample size in just two teams, neither won the World Series the year they reached 116 wins.

AL Central Champs: Cleveland Indians 

Keeping with chalk here, the Indians will win the Central. They have a 12 game lead on the second-place Twins. Cleveland has the experience to make a deep postseason run, but they have been feasting on weak competition within their division all year, so it will be interesting to see how they fare in October.

AL West Champs: Houston Astros

Hey, I didn’t say this is a hot-take article. This one is the closest division race in the American League by a mile. The Astros will get the nod from me, though, and not just because they are the defending World Series Champions. They are absolutely stacked  everywhere. The hitting, anchored by perennial MVP candidate, Jose Altuve, has the fourth-most runs scored in the MLB. The starting pitching is arguably the best all-around staff we’ve seen since the 1990’s Braves. Dallas Keuchel, who won the Cy Young award in 2015, is their FOURTH option. That’s just pure filth on a nightly basis. Oh, and their bullpen, which people consider their weakness, has the best bullpen ERA in the majors. They’ve been slumping of late, but I expect them to pick right back up and win the division comfortably by four or five games.

First Wildcard: New York Yankees

I’ll be the first to admit that I did not buy into the hype for these guys at the beginning of the year. They’ve proved me wrong, and if they were in any other division, they would be in first place right now. They just happen to be 10.5 games behind what is becoming a historically-great team. They are also three games ahead of Oakland in the wildcard chase, and I believe they’ll stay there. They don’t have the strongest starting pitching, but it’s still top-half of the league in ERA. That, combined with a super bullpen that just got better, and a lineup that has scored the second-most runs in the league will propel them to host the AL Wildcard game in the beginning of October.

Second Wild Card: Oakland Athletics

This came down to a decision between the A’s and the Mariners. Honestly, I think the more talented team resides in Seattle, but the A’s just seem to have that weird “Moneyball Magic” to them that makes them hard to pick against. Their starting pitching is middle of the pack in ERA, but they make up for that by having a strong bullpen (top five in ERA) and a top-ten run-scoring offense. Those factors will get them the ticket on the plane to New York to play the Yankees in the one-game wildcard playoff.

Just missing the cut: Seattle Mariners

There is really only one team not listed above that has the potential to make it in, and that is the Seattle Mariners. I think this is a very talented team who peaked too early in the season. With the A’s looking so good, along with an untimely injury sustained by their ace, James Paxton, will ultimately leave them on the outside looking in.

Sorry if you clicked this article wanting some blazing hot take, but I don’t think there is much reason to suggest that the American League standings will look any different in October than they do now. Again, look for my NL preview coming out soon if you’re looking for a bit of a shake up.

Let me know if you think there is any reason to suggest any of these predictions are wrong! (I will be putting up National League predictions soon, so look for that in the next few days!)

MLB Second Half Preview

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Chris Sale” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

 

BY ADAM HATLAN

Ah, the MLB All-Star break. The official-unofficial mark of the midway point of the season. A time for the best teams to relax and prepare for the stretch run, and a time of reprieve for some fan bases.

As division races have begun heating up, playoff races are starting to gain a clearer picture. Of course, anything can happen in baseball, with injuries and trades bound to happen that could shake up division races. Teams have to decide whether or not to load up for a playoff run and be buyers, or be sellers and throw in the towel until next year. Oh, and be hopeful the injury bug stays very far away.

Let’s take a look at how things might shake up the rest of the way in MLB.

AL EAST

This is a two-horse race between the Red Sox (68-30, 1st place) and Yankees (62-33, 4.5 GB). The Yankees lead the season series 5-4 against Boston, and the two teams play each other 10 more times in the second half. The Red Sox feature the number one scoring offense in the AL, the Yankees number three. The Yankees are leading MLB with 160 home runs. Number two in home runs? The Red Sox, of course. Boston’s Chris Sale and New York’s Luis Severino are both pitching like Cy Young candidates, but Boston features a rotation with four double-digit winners. Yes. Four. And it’s only July. The loss of Eduardo Rodriguez for Boston could make things interesting. Do the Red Sox go out and trade for a starter? Or hope that a Drew Pomeranz/Brian Johnson/Steven Wright trio can be enough? It’s worth keeping an eye on, but I think Boston should be able to take the East for the third year in a row in what could be the best race of the second half.

Projected standings and wins:

  1. Boston (104-58)
  2. New York (99-63, Wild Card)
  3. Tampa (83-79)
  4. Toronto (70-92)
  5. Baltimore (52-110)

AL CENTRAL

The Indians should be safe here. They currently sit 7.5 games ahead of second place Minnesota in what is possibly the worst division in baseball. Think about this: Cleveland would be in second place in any other division in baseball. Weak. But they will get Andrew Miller back, who is a difference maker out of the ‘pen. Jose Ramirez is a superstar with MVP numbers. Terry Francona is…well, Terry Francona. The Indians win this division easily. BTW, what the hell happened to KC? Wow.

Projections:

  1. Cleveland (90-72)
  2. Minnesota (74-88)
  3. Detroit (68-94)
  4. Chicago (58-104)
  5. Kansas City (46-116)

AL WEST

Are the Mariners for real? They sit five games behind division leader Houston and have a run differential of -1. That’s pretty impressive, considering they lead the second wild-card position by 3.5 games. But can they sustain it? I’m not buying into Seattle as a contender. It’s the other team in their division, Oakland, that has my attention. They completed a recent stretch over the past couple weeks in which they beat Cleveland four-out-of-six, then went INTO Houston and nearly swept the Astros, taking three-of-four. Oakland has been doing it with a rotation that features just two pitchers with double-digit starts. Can THEY sustain it? We’ll see, but I’m buying it. Oh, and I think the Astros should have little trouble taking the division.

Projections:

  1. Houston (103-59)
  2. Oakland (92-70, WILD CARD)
  3. Seattle (90-72)
  4. Los Angeles (82-80)
  5. Texas (70-92)

NL EAST

The Phillies and Braves in first and second, respectively, at the all-star break? Are you kidding? The Nats have been underachieving (Harper, Murphy, pitching-staff-not-named-Scherzer), while in my opinion, the Phils and Braves overachieving. Coming into the season, the Nats, just one year removed from being one game from the NLCS, seemed to be easy favorites. Philly had a bunch of “Who?” guys, while Atlanta seemed too young. Enter a potential Cy Young candidate for Philly (Aaron Nola) and rookie of the year candidate for Atlanta (Ozzie!), and you have some exciting story lines in the NL East and two unlikely teams at the top. If Philly goes all in and acquires Manny Machado, this is their division. If not, I think it comes down to which team can stay healthier. Either way, this division could be decided in the final two weeks of the year. Philly and Atlanta face off 7 times in the final 11 games. Chills. (Oh, and I think Jacob DeGrom is not a Met by the end of July).

Projections:

  1. Philadelphia (92-70)
  2. Atlanta (91-71, WILD CARD)
  3. Washington (81-81)
  4. Miami (68-94)
  5. New York (64-98)

NL CENTRAL

The Brewers may have seen first-place for the last time this season. Losers of six straight, the Brewers hurt themselves badly to end the first half, allowing the Cubs to quietly sneak ahead of them and possess a 2.5 game lead. The Cubs are having a season nearly equivalent to their 2016 season (shhh…), and have really started kicking it into gear over the last month-and-a-half. Barring a major addition to the Brewers lineup (ahem, Manny Machado?), the Crew may struggle keeping up with the high-powered Cubs. Machado to the Crew will make things interesting, though. The Brewers’ bullpen has been very shaky lately as well. The Cubs on the other hand, will be looking forward to the return of Yu Darvish and the addition of Jacob DeGrom. (Say what?!). The Cardinals are a mess, but may get a boost after the firing of Mike Matheny (kinda shocked by that one). The Pirates and Reds have both been playing good ball over the last month, but not enough to make a surge in the standings.

Projections:

  1. Cubs (96-66)
  2. Brewers (90-72)
  3. Cardinals (83-79)
  4. Pirates (79-83)
  5. Reds (75-87)

NL WEST

Four teams within striking distance here. The Giants are are in fourth and just four games behind leader Los Angeles. This is a tough one, especially considering how up and down the division has been. LA has been playing the best ball over the past two months, and I think it was only a matter of time before they started clicking. Kershaw was hurt, Madea has been dinged up…but the unforeseen power of Max Muncy has saved the day for LA! What a story this guy has been. Five career homers headed into the season over pieces of two seasons, and suddenly he finds himself with 22 first half homers and in the home run derby. Whether he continues this kind of hitting in the second half or not, he’s been a fun story line. Manny Machado comes into play here again, as the Dodgers and D’backs have both been linked to Machado. Does he put one of those teams over the top? I would say the Dodgers more than the D’backs. I think this race comes down to experience, and here, LA takes the upper hand.

Projections:

  1. Dodgers (93-69)
  2. Arizona (90-72, WILD CARD)
  3. San Francisco (84-78)
  4. Colorado (79-83)
  5. San Diego (67-95)

PLAYOFFS

AL: WILD CARD–Oakland over New York

Divisional–Boston over Oakland, Houston over Cleveland

ALCS–Boston over Houston

NL: WILD CARD(ONE-GAME PLAYOFF)–Arizona over Milwaukee (PLAYOFF), Atlanta over Arizona

Divisional–Chicago over Atlanta, LA over Philadelphia

NLCS–Chicago over LA

WORLD SERIES–Boston over Chicago

So there you have it. My second half MLB predictions.

Obviously a lot can change here with the trade deadline likely to shake things up and injuries to star players, but I believe this is a pretty accurate representation of what might happen. Here’s to an entertaining second half.

Watch for foul balls.

GO BASEBALL!

 

How Much Is Lindor Worth??

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Francisco Lindor” by Erik Drost is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Francisco Lindor Contract Situation

The Cleveland Indians have gotten themselves into a mess with regards to their best player’s contract. Francisco Lindor is currently the best bargain in all of Major League baseball. Last year, prior to arbitration, the Indians and Lindor agreed to a one year contract worth $623,200. The Indians missed their chance to extend him last offseason. Lindor is 24 years old and arguably the best shortstop in Major League Baseball. Lindor is eligible for arbitration for the next three years, at which time he will be in the prime of his career. I can only imagine what the difference will be between what Lindor asks for and what the Indians are willing to give him. The last huge contract for a middle infielder was Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros, who signed a 5 year, $151 million contract with a signing bonus of $21 million in March. Altuve is 4 years older than Lindor. I would think that Lindor and his agent will start somewhere in the $30 million ballpark, and in my opinion, he is well worth it.

The Indians historically do not pay for their superstars, but they are in rarified air right now. They have a couple of players who are the best at their position and they are going to have to start paying for them. Unless the Indians change their ways and start paying for the players they have, they’ll continue getting away to other teams. Thome, Ramirez, and Belle are a few of the top free agents that the Tribe has lost over the years to big market teams that were willing to pay. They cannot afford to do that with the young starsthey have on this team.

Chris Antonetti and the front office took care of Jose Ramirez in 2017 to the tune of 5 years and $26 million, which will take them through 2022 and then the team has club options for 2023 and 2024 at $11 and $13 million respectively. The Indians have been doing a better job of signing their young stars to multi-year extensions pre-arbitration, as evidenced by the signings of Carlos Carrasco, Corey Kluber, Yan Gomes, Jason Kipnis, and Michael Brantley, with Kluber and Gomes signing the largest pre-arbitration deals for their position. The front office and the ownership better be ready to pony up another huge pre-arbitration contract for Lindor too.

Lindor is not only the best player on the Indians team, but he is also a crowd favorite. Not only is he a crowd favorite, but he is the favorite of the youngest of fans. The kids in Cleveland love him. I’m not sure if it is his infectious smile or just that he plays the game the right way, but all of Cleveland loves him. It would destroy the city, just short of the way LeBron leaving did to the city and team. Let’s hope that the team can get something long-term done this offseason so they can avoid arbitration. Let’s Go Tribe!

🍀Cheers🍀

April Report Card: Cleveland Indians

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Cleveland Indians” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Cleveland Indians played in the World Series in 2016, losing in a dramatic seven-game series to the Chicago Cubs. Last year they won 102 games, but bowed out in the divisional round of the playoffs to a lesser New York Yankees team. What will this year hold for the Tribe? Well, they have a lot of parts that got them to the Series two years ago still on the team, thanks to some great young players that haven’t hit their contract year yet and some great signings/trades made by the front office. I do not think that enough attention is paid to the fact that the Indians are not one of these teams that goes out and rents a player for a few months and then they hit free agency never to be heard from again, but rather they get guys that will be good for them for a few years and will be under contract, ala Andrew Miller. The Indians, under the leadership of Terry Francona and General Manager Chris Antonetti, are enjoying success the city of Cleveland hasn’t experienced since the mid-nineties.

Currently, the 2018 version of the Indians are sitting in first place in the Central Division, three games ahead of the Detroit Tigers. In the Tribe’s 19 ball games so far this season, 17 in April and 2 in May, the Tribe has scored 120 runs and have given up 115 runs in the first 19 games. The bats have been relatively quiet the first part of the season, but that could be due to a whole lot of factors, mainly that they play their home games at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio, and the weather has been terrible to start this season. Without further ado, here is the breakdown of the offense, defense, pitching, and managing of the team in the first 1/8th of the season.

Offense:

The offense has struggled at times to score runs other than hitting home runs. The big bat that they acquired in the offseason, Yonder Alonso, has added some pop to the middle of the lineup. One of their young studs, Jose Ramirez, struggled out of the gate, but seemed to find his stride about the middle of April. He is now hitting about .270.  Francisco Lindor is the teams best and most exciting young player on the team and he too is struggling at the plate so far in this season. Lindor did supply the most exciting moment of this young season as he homered to break open a scoreless game with the Twins. The exciting part wasn’t that he hit yet another homer. The excitement came because of where he hit it, in his homeland in Puerto Rico. Francisco is one of a few Puerto Rican players, along with Roberto Perez of the Indians, that were welcomed home as heroes when the Tribe played there earlier in the season. Look for the Tribe’s bats to heat up as the weather gets warmer and play gets more consistent.

Defense:

Not only did the Indians offense get a boost with the addition of Alonso, but also the defense. Alonso is a good first baseman and a bigger target to throw to than the departed Santana. The infield has always been solid, even with Kipnis getting older and losing a step or two at second base. The outfield gets a much added boost with Bradley Zimmer in centerfield and Michael Brantley moving to left. While Lonnie Chisenhall gets healthy, having a young Tyler Naquin getting reps in right field is a pretty good thing for the future. The Indians have arguably the best catching duo in the league, between Perez and Yan Gomes. Both are solid defensively, especially throwing runners out trying to steal.

Pitching:

The Indians have a sure fire Hall of Famer as their number one starter in Cory Kluber, and a really good two and three starter. The problems with the rotation start with these two spots. Josh Tomlin and Mike Clevinger have not been able to find the consistency to establish themselves as solid major league rotation guys. Clevinger has been becoming more solid in his, as he threw eight innings in his last start and a complete game two-hit shutout in the start before. I believe the inconsistency in games has played a major role in these two becoming less established in their roles. If the Indians have a game postponed or suspended, then their start gets pushed and sometimes passed until their next start, which would lead to inconsistencies.

Managing:

Terry Francona is the best manager in the game! This is not even close. He should win the Manager of the Year Award every year. The Indians are in great shape in this department and Tito always has the squad playing their best in September and October.

The Tribe is off to a great start and I still like them to represent the AL in the World Series and win the whole thing this time.