The curious case of Craig Kimbrel

It’s June, and MLB’s fastest player to ever record 300 career saves is team-less.

That’s right, ladies and gentleman. The same 31-year-old Craig Kimbrel with 333 career saves and the hilarious pitching stance is still a free agent.

Craig Kimbrel” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

It’s been over seven months since Kimbrel threw a pitch in the majors. In an age where MLB playoff teams often have two or three flame-throwers in their ‘pen, it might come as a shock to some that one of the premier game-finishers and his 868 strikeouts in 532.2 career innings is still available…or is it?



Kimbrel entered the offseason with some lofty demands, initially seeking a five year contract in the neighborhood of $100 million. Most teams felt that was an awfully steep price and commitment for a 31-year-old player who might play 60 innings in a season.

Another “knock” on Kimbrel, is that he’s had walk rates over 4.5 BB/9 in two of his last three seasons. Definitely a nit-picky stat since it’s recent, but it’s worth noting. Closers are meant to come in and shut the door, not give free bases and make life harder on a manager, a team, and the die hard fan screaming at the TV and breaking their third remote of the season when the closer walks the lead-off man yet again.

Over the past two seasons, MLB free agency has seen teams shy away from signing big time contracts early in the free agency period. The top four contracts given out in 2018 – Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, JD Martinez and Eric Hosmer – all signed after February 10th. Three of those players not named Hosmer were also 30 years old while waiting for free agency. Too many teams have shelled out some baaaaad, massive contracts to players on the wrong side of 30 in the past 10 years, making me believe teams are letting the value fall on some of the best players in the game.



At 31, Kimbrel still offers value as a closer, as he can still touch triple digits on the radar gun and has a nine year track record of success. It might take a few games for Kimbrel to get back into top form, but Kimbrel could provide a playoff team with a rested arm down the stretch. Rested arms down the stretch are a very, very valuable asset to have come playoff time.

Also, he’s never finished a season under 13.2 K/9, and his career average is 14.7. Aroldis Chapman’s career average is 14.9 K/9. Simply put, this guy does what closers do best: shut the door. Enough said.



There are many teams right now who could use Kimbrel, mostly being teams already shaping up to be playing in October. With that, let’s take a look at the contenders who might end up signing the valuable flame-throwing ginger.


Kimbrel would return to the team where he started his career, where he collected over half of his career saves (186). Atlanta (32-27) remains in the hunt in the NL East, just one game behind the Phillies as of June 2nd. The worst part? The Braves have blown 10 saves so far this year. Give them even half of those back and the Braves would be 37-22 with a four game lead over Philly.


The Cubs closer situation is in big trouble right now. The Cubs have blown 11 of 22 save chances this year, the worst percentage in baseball. Brandon Morrow was supposed to be closer, but he has yet to return from an injury sustained last season. Sign Kimbrel to close, get Morrow back to throw in the eighth, and the Cubs back-end of the bullpen becomes nasty. The Cubs (31-26) are slumping recently and moved to second place, but could be 40-17 had they converted nine of their 11 blown chances. Sorry to remind you, Cubs fans.


The AL Central first-place Twins are the hottest team in baseball, and seem to have all things working for them. A solid starting staff has allowed the bullpen to throw the second fewest innings thus far in MLB. By adding Kimbrel, the Twins would solidify themselves as contenders and give them an imposing arm with postseason experience for a playoff run. The Twins can’t afford to sleep on the high powered offenses of the Yankees and Astros.


Can you imagine a one-two punch of Kimbrel and Josh Hader at the end of a game? I can, and it would be absurd. With Corey Knebel out for the year and the Brewers bullpen having thrown the third-most innings so far, Kimbrel could step in and give the Brewers a stacked bullpen and fresh arm for the second half. Manager Craig Counsell showed in last year’s playoff run he’s not afraid to go to the ‘pen early. The more arms the merrier.


The Dodgers seem to acquire some big name every year, and getting Kimbrel would not surprise me. Kimbrel could pair with Kenley Jansen to give the Dodgers the most imposing one-two bullpen punch in baseball. Jansen has only blown two saves this season, but the Dodgers have blown nine as a team. Acquiring Kimbrel would be nothing more than to separate themselves even further from the field and become favorites to make it to the World Series.


Tampa has an overused ‘pen, already with 262 innings thrown, second-most in MLB. If Tampa – currently 35-22 and just 2.5 games out of first – wants to stay within striking distance of the Yankees, getting Kimbrel to close out close games could be the difference. The Red Sox will likely be around come September, so Kimbrel could help the Rays widen the gap in the wild card race and stay ahead of Boston. Tampa is currently led by Jose Alvarado and Diego Castillo with six saves each, so neither has run away with the job. Kimbrel would run away with the job. Quickly.


Why not? Probably the most unlikely to sign Kimbrel, but it is the Yankees after all. The Yanks haven’t been to the World Series since 2009 and are currently 38-20 in the AL East. Injuries have hampered the Yankees offensively, so they may be better than their record indicates. Kimbrel would give the Yankees the best bullpen in baseball with Aroldis Chapman, Adam Ottavino, Zack Britton and Tommy Kahnle. Signing Kimbrel would make the Yanks a very tough out in the playoffs and legit World Series contenders.



It’s only a matter of time before Kimbrel signs. Whoever ends up signing the ginger gun-slinger will be getting one of the top closers in the game and a game-changer, all without having to sacrifice any prospects or draft picks, thus ending the saga of the curious case of Craig Kimbrel.

PREDICTION: Chicago Cubs





What you missed this weekend: 5/17-5/19

Although most leagues around the world are coming to a close, What you missed this weekend won’t. This weekend, things continue to become more exciting in the NBA and NHL playoffs, the Braves and Cardinals find success in the MLB, an anticipated boxing match ended rather quickly, and as England get their World Cup preparations underway. Also, we have to say good-bye to a few names from the world of sports, which we’ll cover. 

Stanford vs. Washington State by Daniel Hartwig is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Bob Schloredt passes away at 79

College Football Hall of Famer Bob Schloredt has passed away on Thursday. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1989 after leading the University of Washington to consecutive Rose Bowl titles in 1959 and 1960. He received MVP Honors in both Bowl games. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Schloredt and football fans from Fourth Quarter Sports.


NBA Playoffs

Warriors’ Curry drops 37 in game 2 comeback to take a 2-0:

Stephen Curry was just too much to handle for Portland Trail Blazers. In game 2 of the conference finals, the 2016 NBA MVP put 37 points passed Trail Blazers in Warriors’ 111-114 victory over them to establish a 2-0 lead for Golden State. Although the scoreline reads a tight encounter between the two, Trail Blazers could’ve squared the series as they had a 15 point lead at half-time. As this game was on the road for Golden State, Kevin Durant didn’t join the team, but that didn’t seem to make much of a difference for as of Sunday night, Warriors currently have a 3-0 lead.

Kwahi Leonard “The Klaw” led his team to a win in double overtime:

Just as Toronto was starting to lose hope, Kwahi Leonard lead his team to victory as Toronto beat Milwaukee 112-118. In the NBA’s first double-overtime game since 2007, The Klaw’s 36 points helped Toronto come back in the series 2-1. Leonard ended up scoring 11 shots and 12 free throws and played for a new personal record 52 minutes.

Tyreke Evans dismissed from NBA:

Pacers’ guard Tyreke Evans has to pack his bags after violating the NBA’s anti-drug policy. This is the third time he’s been suspended, first for anything related to drugs, with the first suspension being in 2010.


NHL Playoffs

Boston sweep Carolina:

A few weeks back, in a special NHL edition of Buy or Sell, with Joel Deering, RahimAli Merchant and I, I backed the Boston Bruins to lift the Stanley Cup. On Thursday, Boston knocked Carolina out, beating them and winning the series 4-0, to advance to the Stanley Cup. In game 4, both teams were tied at 0-0 for the first 25 minutes until the Bruins scored back-to-back goals in the powerplay. Boston’s goaltender, Tuukka Rask , also came to the occasion, stopping a whopping 109 of the 114 shots he faced in the four games.



Le’Veon Bell to leave Jets?:

After New Jersey Jets manager Todd Bowles was fired at the end of the 2018-19 season, it seems that interim manager Adam Gase doesn’t think Le’Veon Bell fits in his plans. Gase stated that the Jets spend too much money on Bell, which points towards the possibility of Bell being traded away. Although he could find himself at Seattle or San Francisco, it seems difficult to do so at this stage, and Bell may just have to wait through this upcoming season.

Chris Long retires from Philadelphia:

After winning the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year last season, the defensive end Chris Long has announced the end of this eleven-year career with the Philadelphia Eagles. Retiring at the age of 34, Long won two consecutive Super Bowls, 2016 with the New England Patriots and 2017 with the Eagles. His father, Howie Long, also played in the NFL and combined with Chris Long, both have a total of 154 sacks. This last season, Chris Long held 6.5 sacks to his name, his most since 2013.



Cardinals beat Rangers for the first time since 2011:

Since the World Series eight years ago, the Arizona Cardinals have failed to beat the Texas Rangers until Friday. It was a big win as well, with the Cardinals winning 8-2. The fifth innings seemed to be the breakthrough which saw six runs being scored by Arizona. The Cardinals also pitched well as Dakota Hudson pitched six innings, striking out five batsmen and allowing only two runs.

Ryan Pressly goes 39 games without giving up a run:

In 2011, Craig Kimbrel went 38 games without giving away a single run. In 2019, Ryan Pressly has gone 39 games and counting. He broke the record Friday night in the Houston Astros’ 3-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox. Since August 10, 2018, Pressley has struck out 47 batsmen and allowed only 17 hits and three walks. It was a special night for Pressly as teammate Gerrit Cole remarked: “We were all aware of what he was going for, and wow, what a special moment for him.”

Braves beat Brewers in dramatic series:

On Friday, 20 runs were scored as the Atlanta Braves beat the Milwaukee Brewers 8-12. On Saturday, the Braves won, but just barely as Freddie Freeman’s homer in the tenth innings was the difference, handing Atlanta a 4-3 win and the series. This made Atlanta the first NL East team to beat Milwaukee in a series this season. However, the drama wasn’t over just yet. The Brewers found solace in another overtime game as this time, the Brewers won 3-2, thanks to Ben Gamel.



Wilder quiets Breazeale in the first round:

The rivalry between heavyweight titleholder Deontay Wilder and challenger Dominic Breazeale had reached such a high point that Wilder threatened to kill Brezeale in the ring. Such didn’t happen, but Breazeale’s will was killed within seconds. Wilder’s right-hand punch to Breazeale’s jaw was the difference as Breazeale was knocked out in the first round. Wilder has now tied Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Mike Tyson, and Lennox Lewis for nine consecutive titles.



Manchester City hero announces retirement:

Another athlete hung up the boots this weekend, this time, in England. Manchester City and Belgium captain and defender Vincent Kompany announced he’s played his last game for City after City won their fourth Premier League title, the last two being back-to-back. Despite facing an injury-filled career, Kompany’s long-range goal against Leicester City in the 70th minute ensured City were favorites going into the final week and prevented Liverpool from winning the title. Kompany’s leaving City after winning the domestic treble this season after winning the PL, Domestic Cup and the FA Cup, and will start managing for Anderlecht in Belgium.



England stumbles to victory at Trent Bridge:

Pakistan’s poor bowling continued to cost them as England chased down Pakistan’s 340-7 with three wickets and balls to spare. In the first innings, after Imam Ul-Haq was retired hurt, Fakhar Zaman and Mohammad Hafeez both made half-centuries while Babar Azam found a century. England opener Jason Roy replied with a century as well before Mohammad Hasnain took his wicket. Spin made the difference as Imad Wasim and Shoaib Malik found wickets, but Ben Stokes’ 71(64)* and Tom Curran’s 31(30) lead England to victory.

Chris Woakes bowls well in Leeds:

England wrapped up the series with a 4-0 win over Pakistan as England won the final ODI at Headingley in Leeds by 54 runs. England achieved a score of 340-7; half-centuries from Joe Root and captain Eoin Morgan and Shaheen Shah Afridi and Imad Wasim shared seven wickets. In the second innings, Pakistan was exposed to a poor start by losing three wickets in the first six runs. Babar Azam and wicketkeeper/captain Sarfaraz Ahmed steading the ship with a partnership worth 146 runs. However, Pakistan collapsed after Sarfaraz was stumped out on 97(80). Afridi and Hasnain had a comical partnership of 47 runs at the end of the innings, but the game was already lost for Pakistan by then.

Amir, Asif, Wahab in for World Cup:

Right after the England series, Pakistan announced their final World Cup squad. After an excellent performance in the England series with two half-centuries, Asif Ali was included over opener Abid Ali. From the need of serious pace in England, Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz have been recalled, replacing Faheem Ashraf and Junaid Khan.

Asif Ali mourns daughter’s passing:

After a long battle with cancer, Ali’s daughter has passed away at the age of 19 months after receiving treatment in the U.S. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, teammates and friends of Asif Ali from us here at Fourth Quarter Sports.

USA Women find light in T20I series against Canada:

As the men’s team finds success in ODI cricket, the women are roaring through the T20 format. The US beat Canada 3-0 in a T20 series, the first by ten wickets after restricting Canada to 66-6, the second by 37 runs after bowling Canada out for 76 and the final one by 35 runs after the Canadians could only score 81-6. In the first T20I, medium-pacer Lisa Ramjit broke records after bowling 2-5 in her four overs.

Buy or Sell: Toronto Raptors, NL MVP and Kevin Durant

This week we are back to the traditional “Buy or Sell,” where we focus on more than one sport at a time. Over the past several weeks, we’ve taken three topics from a sport and given you our thoughts.

Whether it’s been NFL, NHL, MLB or NBA, we’ve given you the best thoughts we can. This week is no different. This week we’ll be focusing on an NBA team in pursuit of an NBA title, two likely candidates for MVP honors in MLB, and one of the biggest NBA free agents.

Cody Bellinger” by Ian D’Andrea is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
  • After his unreal four bounce buzzer beating game-winner in game seven against the Philadelphia 76ers on Mother’s day, Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors are looking to make it to the NBA Finals, but can they win an NBA title this year?
  • How about the National League MVP race? Of course it’s still way to early, but can Christain Yelich or Cody Bellinger win NL MVP?
  • What will the next chapter in Kevin Durant’s career be?

Let’s find out what Dan, Joel and I think about these topics!

Rahim: Kawhi and the Raptors win the NBA title this year

Joel: I’m going to sell Kawhi and the Raptors winning the title this year. Kawhi is a great player, but I’m not sure his team has enough to overcome what the Bucks and Warriors bring. Yes, I’m already plugging the Warriors into the Finals. Kawhi was able to overcome poor play by his teammates against the 76ers, but I don’t see it happening against either the Bucks or Warriors. The Bucks were the best team in the league this season, and the Warriors are the Warriors. You can’t have bad play from key players against these two teams.

If the Raptors get by the Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals, I seriously doubt Kawhi can carry the Raptors over the Warriors if he’s not getting the help he needs. The Warriors are dominating right now, and they don’t even have Kevin Durant playing. In the Finals with Kevin Durant, I can’t buy the Raptors winning the title.

Dan: I’m going to sell Kawhi and the Raptors winning the title this year. The Bucks are better than the Raptors, and the Warriors are certainly better than the Raptors. They didn’t play that great in the series against a tough Philadelphia team. Unfortunately for Kawhi, it’s just not his year this year.

Dan: Either Christian Yelich or Cody Bellinger will win NL MVP

Rahim: As A Dodgers fan, I would love to see Bellinger win the National League MVP, but Christian Yelich is making a real case to repeat. There are also many other players in the mix right now, so I’ll have to sell this! It’s also still early in the season, as most teams have only played a quarter of the season. Some players could get hotter later down the road and over take both these guys.

Guys like Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, Freddie Freeman, and Bryce Harper. I know none of these guys are playing at the level that we are use to seeing them play, but they could likely start to heat up. And both the Brewers and Dodgers have so much talent on their teams that the production of Bellinger and Yelich may fall as well. And it’s also tough to repeat as MVP in back-to-back seasons, so it will a tough task to do so. I mean the last player to win back-to-back MVPs was Miguel Cabera in 2012 and 2013. Although I sell this idea right now, I do see that this could happen.

Joel: I agree with Rahim that it’s still early in the season, so giving a firm buy or sell is hard here. For sake of the question, I’ll buy this. If I had to choose one, I’d go with Cody Bellinger. His stats are slightly better than those of Yelich at the moment, but Yelich is still having a great season.

Cody Bellinger ranks first in the NL in runs, hits, RBIs and batting average. He also ranks second in home runs right now. Yelich ranks first in home runs, fourth in runs, 13th in hits, third in RBIs and sixth in batting average. Yelich has played three less games than Bellinger to this point, but overall, Bellinger has the better numbers.

Again, it’s still too early to say for sure on this, but based on their numbers right now, I’ll buy it.

Joel: Kevin Durant will leave if the Warriors win another title, but if they don’t, he’ll stay.

Dan: I sell Kevin Durant staying with the Warriors. Pretty much everyone has said Kevin Durant is leaving, and I believe it. Could you blame him?

If the Knicks offer him a max contract, they could potentially team him up with Kyrie Irving and R.J. Barrett, or whoever else they might draft with the No. 3 pick. Or maybe it’ll be Anthony Davis, depending on if New York wants to trade their third pick and if the New Orleans Pelicans are willing to do that trade. It just makes so much sense, and would turn the Knicks into an instant title contender.

Rahim: I agree with Dan in the sense that Kevin Durant will not return. In the question, Joel has asked that he’ll leave if the Warriors win, but stay if they lose. I buy him leaving in both cases. Not sure it’ll be the Knicks anymore, but it will be somewhere that makes him the highest paid player in the league.

What I am more interested in is who else will join him? Like Dan said, there is a potential that Kyrie Irving can join him. But there are several other names that could be in the picture. Names like Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, and even LeBron James. I say these names because this could be the biggest summer of all for the NBA and it’s free agency period.

I mean putting your feelings aside about how you feel about now the draft lottery went on Tuesday night, this is going to be one heck of a summer despite whether Zion Williamson goes to the Pelicans at one in the draft or Kevin Durant decides to join an already super team in place again like he did when he first joined the Golden State Warriors.


And there you have it! Now, what do you think?

  • Can Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors win the NBA title this year?
  • Will Christian Yelich or Cody Bellinger win the National League MVP?
  • Will Kevin Durant stay or leave Golden State depending on if they win the title or not?
Let us know your thoughts in the comment!
NL central Preview

2019 MLB predictions preview: NL Central

As if this division wasn’t already tough to decide, the St. Louis Cardinals’ biggest acquisition makes them an easy favorite in the division. However, the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs have led this division for the past three years, and they won’t go out easily.

The Cubs and Brewers both made the playoffs last year, and it’s very likely they’ll make it again. So let’s look at all the transactions these teams have made and predict who wins the division! 

NL Central Preview
St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Michael Wacha – 2013 NLDS Game 4, Cardinals at Pirates” by Colleen_S is licensed under CC BY 2.0

1. St. Louis Cardinals

  • 2018 Record – 88-74
  • Postseason result – Missed playoffs

Off-season acquisitions:

  • Acquired first-baseman Paul Goldschmidt in trade from D-backs for pitcher Luke Weaver, catcher Carson Kelly, infielder Andy Young, and a 2019 first-round round draft pick
  • Signed relief pitcher Andrew Miller (Indians)
  • Signed catcher Matt Wieters (Nationals, minor)

Off-season departures:

  • Pitcher Tyson Ross (Tigers)
  • Starting pitcher Luke Weaver (Goldschmidt trade)
  • Closer Bud Norris (Blue Jays, minor)


In what may be the best division in baseball, the Cardinals are looking to build off of a strong finish in 2018 and will take over in the stacked NL Central in 2019.

The pitching staff is talented, they’re young, and they’re led by 18-game winner and sixth-place Cy Young finisher, Miles Mikolas. Carlos Martinez (27), Jack Flaherty (23), and Michael Wacha (27) are the young guns in the middle of the rotation and combined for 24 wins last year. Future ace Flaherty will have a Cy Young-caliber season, but the health of the rest of the staff (Wacha and Martinez) is worth monitoring. Is this the end for Adam Wainwright?

Andrew Miller had a “down year” in 2018, but at 33 years-old, still struck out 11.9 batters per nine innings. Miller is a perfect veteran addition to lead a talented, young bullpen and will be the set-up man for closer Jordan Hicks. Hicks must cut down his walk totals, and if he does, could become the next great closer with his 100+-mph fastball.

Matt Carpenter and Paul Goldschmidt at the top of the lineup is unfair for opposing pitching staffs. Their presence at the top of the lineup will mean big numbers for Marcell Ozuna and Yadier Molina. Dexter Fowler should have less pressure and have a bounce-back year, and youngster Harrison Bader could blossom into one of the best outfielders in the NL. The Cardinals have a deep bench with Jose Martinez (19 HR, 83 RBI), Jedd Gyorko (11 HR, 47 RBI), and Tyler O’Neill (9 HR). St. Louis committed the most errors in MLB last year and must clean up their defense in order to compete for an NL Central title, but adding Goldy may prove to be the best off-season move by any team.

The big question is, can the starting staff stay healthy enough to help carry an offense that is nearly a lock to produce, and can they clean up their team defense? Pitching and defense win championships, and if they can clean up those areas, this team is ready for a run.

  • Prediction: 97-65


NL Central Preview
“Christian Yelich” by Ian D’Andrea is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

2. Milwaukee Brewers

  • 2018 record –  96-67
  • Postseason result – Lost to Dodgers in seven games in NLCS

Off-season acquisitions: 

  • Signed catcher Yasmani Grandal (Dodgers)
  • Signed second baseman Brett Lawrie (Blue Jays, minor)

Off-season departures:

  • Starting pitcher Wade Miley (Astros)
  • Outfielder Curtis Granderson (Marlins)
  • Relief pitcher Joakim Soria (A’s)
  • Starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez (free agent)
  • Second baseman Jonathan Schoop (Twins)


The Brewers used a magical September to force a one-game winner-take-all game and defeat the Cubs to win the NL Central in 2018. Fueled by a video game-like run by Christian Yelich – who went on to win the MVP – the Brewers won the Central for the first time since 2011.

For 2019, the Crew will be able to rely on a lineup that, top to bottom, may be one of the best in the NL. Fueled by Lorenzo Cain at the top, Yelich and the rest of the Crew will be able to feast on NL pitching yet again. Yelich had a quiet 2018 postseason compared to his play over the final two months of the year, but the Brewers are built to score runs. Ryan Braun may not be an everyday player anymore, but the lifetime Brewer is still a threat whenever he’s in the lineup.

Reliever Josh Hader became a household name last year, propelling himself into one of the top weapons in the game coming out of the ‘pen. Hader and his 15.8 K/9 was feared by opposing managers, and that will continue for some time, as Hader is only 24-years old. Joined by revivals from flamethrowers Corey Knebel and Jeremy Jeffress, the Brewers have cooked up the bullpen recipe needed for postseason success.

Starting pitching will be interesting to watch, as the Brewers overachieved in that department last year. Is Jhoulys Chacin the real deal, or was his career year just a fluke? And how big will the losses of starters Gio Gonzalez and Wade Miley impact the staff? Hader may be a weapon, but if he gets overused and gets hurt, the Brewers lose a huge dimension of their team.

The big question for the Brewers won’t be their offense or loaded bullpen, but their starting pitching. Can the Brewers’ starters prove 2018 wasn’t a fluke and help propel the Crew one step further into October?

  • Prediction: 93-69


NL Central Preview
Cubs starter Jon Lester delivers a pitch during the first inning of #NLCS Game 5.” by Arturo Pardavila III is licensed under CC BY 2.0

3. Chicago Cubs

  • 2018 record – 95-68
  • Postseason result – Lost 1-0 to Colorado in Wild Card one-game playoff

Off-season acquisitions:

  • Signed infielder Daniel Descalso (D-backs)
  • Signed relief pitcher Brad Brach (Braves)
  • Signed relief pitcher Xavier Cedeno (Brewers, minor)

Off-season departures:

  • Second baseman Daniel Murphy (Rockies)
  • Relief pitcher Justin Wilson (Mets)
  • Relief pitcher Jesse Chavez (Rangers)


The Cubs staggered down the stretch in 2018, plagued by a tired pitching staff and ineffective offense, unable to reach the NLCS for the first time under Joe Maddon.

Jon Lester – an 18-game winner in 2018 – is 35 and must continue to defy age as the ace of the pitching staff. Surrounded by Cole Hamels, the oft-injured Yu Darvish, and above average back-end starters Jose Quintana and Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs need to get back to 2016 numbers if they want to go anywhere this year.

The bullpen, who finished with an NL-best 3.35 ERA, performed well, but was tired at the end of the season. Closer Brandon Morrow returns from injury and gives the Cubs a top-tier option at closer after the Cubs went closer-by-committee much of last year. The big problem for the bullpen was walks, as they surrendered 273 free passes, fifth-most in MLB. The hiring of 37-year old Tommy Hottovy as pitching coach could help spark the entire staff, but he is now the third pitching coach in three years.

After faltering down the stretch, the Cubs fired hitting coach Chili Davis and hired Anthony Lapoche to hopefully add a spark to an offense that had the third-fewest RBI in MLB with runners in scoring position. Javy Baez is a superstar and finished runner-up in the MVP voting. Anthony Rizzo had another fantastic season after a miserably slow start, and Kris Bryant needs to return to MVP form after battling injuries most of the year. Super-utility player Ben Zobrist continues to defy age, having one of the best seasons of his career at age 37 and will remain a valuable piece to Joe Maddon’s roster chess game. Willson Contreras must be more consistent, but the Cubs did nothing to provide him with a veteran backup at catcher.

The big question for the Cubs is, will a third hitting and pitching coach in as many years affect what the Cubs have built? Is that the answer to propelling them back into World Series contention? Anymore, it’s World Series or bust for Cubs fans. 

  • Prediction: 90-72


NL Central Preview
Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (19)” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

4. Cincinnati Reds

  • 2018 record – 67-95
  • Postseason result – None

Off-season acquisitions:

  • Acquired outfielder Matt Kemp, outfielder Yasiel Puig, starting pitcher Alex Wood, and catcher Kyle Farmer from Dodgers for starting pitcher Homer Bailey and prospects
  • Acquired starting pitcher Tanner Roark in trade with Nationals
  • Acquired starting pitcher Sonny Gray in trade with Yankees
  • Signed relief pitcher Zach Duke (Mariners)

Off-season departures:

  • Starting pitcher Homer Bailey (trade with Dodgers)
  • Outfielder Billy Hamilton (Royals)
  • Starting pitcher Matt Harvey (Angels)


Wow. What an off-season for the Reds. Trying to keep pace with the Cardinals, Cubs, and Brewers, the Reds made a snowstorm of moves and acquired three starting pitchers and two all-star outfielders.

Wood, Roark, and Gray will now highlight the front-end of a rotation that includes promising youngster Luis Castillo, who led the Reds in innings last year. Alex Wood remains an injury risk, but top to bottom, the Reds rotation is now a formidable one. Pair a solid rotation with some very nice bullpen pieces in Michael Lorenzen (81 inn., 3.11 ERA), Jared Hughes (72 G, 1.94 ERA) and budding superstar closer Raisel Iglesias (30 SV, 2.38 ERA), and the Reds pitching staff could make some noise.

Joey Votto remains one of the best at getting on base in all of baseball, and he’s surrounded by holdover on-base fiends Scooter Gennett, Eugenio Suarez, and Jose Peraza. Jesse Winkler will become a household name in 2019 with an opportunity to play a full season. Add in Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig to a lineup already littered with talent, and the Reds will surprise people this season. The Reds will have to score runs to keep up with the rest of the NL Central, and they may have made all the right moves to do just that.

The big question for the Reds will be, can the new stable of starting pitching give them an opportunity to compete and not make every game a track meet? Scoring runs won’t be a problem, but consistent pitching may be. 

  • Prediction: 84-78


NL central Preview
Starling Marte” by Ian D’Andrea is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

5. Pittsburgh Pirates

  • 2018 record – 82-79
  • Postseason result – None

Off-season acquisitions:

  • Signed outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall (Indians)
  • Signed starting pitcher Francisco Liriano (Tigers, minor)
  • Signed outfielder Melky Cabrera (Indians)

Off-season departures:

  • Second baseman Josh Harrison (Tigers)
  • Shortstop Jordy Mercer (Tigers)


The Pirates did little to improve a roster that was middle of the pack in 2018. In fact, they didn’t re-sign middle infielders Josh Harrison or Jordy Mercer, opting to replace the two longtime Pirates with a trio of youngsters in Erik Gonzalez, Kevin Newman, and Adam Frazier. Frazier will likely lead off and had mild success from that spot in 2018, but the Pirates lack firepower behind him, outside of Starling Marte and Corey Dickerson. The Pirates ranked 25th in home runs in 2018 with 157, and that number won’t get much better in 2019.

Chris Archer headlines a decent rotation, but Archer hasn’t displayed the same kind of dominance he showed while with the Rays. Jameson Tallion and Trevor Williams are decent middle-of-the-rotation arms, each finishing with sub-3.20 ERAs. Outside of those three, starting pitching is a big question mark for Pittsburgh, with Nick Kingham and Joe Musgrove rounding out the starting five. Closer Felipe Vasquez may be the best player on the Pirates, as he finished 2018 ranked sixth in MLB and third in the NL with 37 saves. If Pittsburgh falls out of contention, Vasquez, Tallion, Williams, and Archer could be hot names at the trade deadline.

The big question for the Pirates is…is it time to rebuild? Or will the team play carefree with little expectations and play spoiler in the loaded NL Central?

  • Prediction: 70-92



  1. St. Louis Cardinals (97-65)
  2. Milwaukee Brewers (Wild Card, 93-69)
  3. Chicago Cubs (Wild Card, 90-72)
  4. Cincinnati Reds (84-78)
  5. Pittsburgh Pirates (70-92)

*Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, and ESPN



Mount Rushmore: National League Central

Ferguson Jenkins” by ScottRAnselmo is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Chicago Cubs

  • 1B/SS Ernie Banks, 1953-1971
  • SP Fergie Jenkins, 1966-1973, 1982-1983
  • LF Billy Williams, 1959-1974
  • 3B Ron Santo, 1960-1973

Banks (“Mr. Cub”), Jenkins and Santo were easy picks for me. All three are Hall of Famers. Banks spent his entire career with the Cubs, collecting over 500 home runs and 2,500 hits to go along with consecutive MVP awards in 1958 and 1959.

During his first stint with the Cubs, Jenkins won at least 20 games six different times while earning the 1971 Cy Young Award.

Santo, meanwhile, would spend all but his final year with the Cubs, winning five Gold Gloves at the hot corner while reaching the All-Star Game nine times.

The final spot gave me some pause, as I considered three players for it: Hall of Famer Billy Williams, Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg and Sammy Sosa. Sosa will always have a spot in my heart, as I’m a firm believer he and Mark McGwire helped save the game of baseball with their home run chase in 1999. Yet, I also recognize his numbers are tainted.

Ultimately, I went with Williams over Sandberg, as the outfielder had better overall numbers even though Sandberg collected more accolades.

Pete Rose” by Kjunstorm is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Cincinnati Reds

  • OF/1B Pete Rose, 196-3-1978, 1984-1986
  • C Johnny Bench, 1967-1983
  • 2B Joe Morgan, 1972-1979
  • OF Frank Robinson, 1956-1965

Bench, the game’s greatest defensive catcher, was a no-brainer. For the most part, so was Pete Rose. Yes, he’s been banned from the game, but he shouldn’t be. He deserves to be enshrined in Cooperstown.

For Morgan and Robinson, I had a bit of digging to do, mainly because they didn’t spend as much time with the Reds as did the other player I was contemplating: SS Barry Larkin. Morgan’s time in Cincinnati was too dominant to pass, though, as he helped the team to consecutive World Series titles in 1975 and 1976, winning the MVP both of those years.

Neither Robinson nor Larkin won a World Series with the Reds, though both were on pennant-winning clubs. But Robinson’s numbers surpassed Larkin’s. Sure, the two were completely different players in completely different eras, but I’m giving the edge to Robinson, who averaged a higher WAR per season while with the Reds than Larkin.

Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Robin Yount.” by Scott Ableman is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Milwaukee Brewers

  • SS/CF Robin Yount, 1974-1993
  • 3B/DH Paul Molitor, 1978-1992

Here’s the thing about the Milwaukee Brewers: last season and 1982 withstanding, they have not been a good franchise. Hence, only half of Milwaukee’s Mount Rushmore has been filled in. Granted, Young and Molitor–both Hall of Famers, both in the 3,000-hit club–were spectacular. But after them you’ve got…Rob Deer? Ryan Braun? Prince Fielder?

And as far as pitchers go–yikes. CC Sabathia had a memorable stint with the Brewers in 2008 that lasted all of 18 games. Zack Greinke got out of there as quickly as he could. Would-be Hall of Fame pitchers Rollie Fingers, Don Sutton and Trevor Hoffman all played for the Brewers as their careers were winding down.

For that matter, so did the (former? rightful?) Home Run King, Henry Aaron.

Maybe someday Christian Yelich’s face will be up there with Yount’s and Molitor’s.

Wilver (Willie) Stargell Statue” by David Brossard is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Pittsburgh Pirates

  • RF Roberto Clemente, 1955-1972
  • SS Honus Wagner, 1900-1917
  • LF/1B Willie Stargell, 1962-1982
  • RF Paul Waner, 1926-1940

The first spot undoubtedly goes to Clemente, who died in a plane crash after the 1972 season and who collected exactly 3,000 hits during his Hall of Fame career.

Wagner gets the nod, too, as he’s the one exception to my rule of not picking anyone who played the majority or entirety of his career during the Dead-Ball Era. His numbers are too good and he’s too much of an influential figure in baseball’s history to put on the sidelines.

Stargell finished just shy of 500 career home runs, but he led the Pirates to multiple World Series titles during his career, the entirety of which he spent in Pittsburgh. Making seven All-Star squads, he also helped keep the franchise afloat after Clemente’s death.

With Paul Waner, I once and for all settle the greatest Pittsburgh debate: Paul or Lloyd? Paul. It’s always been Paul.

Wide Stance” by Dave Herholz is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

St. Louis Cardinals

  • 2B Rogers Hornsby, 1915-1926, 1933
  • SP Bob Gibson, 1959-1975
  • 1B/LF Stan Musial, 1941-1963
  • 1B/LF/3B Albert Pujols, 2001-2011

Really, an embarrassment of riches for the St. Louis franchise, from the Gashouse Gang through a dominant 1960’s squad, through a 1980’s team that reached three World Series, to Tony La Russa’s tenure, which stretched from 1996-2011 and included three trips to the World Series with two titles. The other four I considered for spots were shortstop Ozzie Smith, starting pitcher Dizzy Dean, third baseman Ken Boyer and left-fielder Lou Brock.

Much like Wagner with the Pirates, Hornsby is one of the key figures in baseball’s formative years, and he played the bulk of his career with the Cardinals. His numbers for that time-period are astounding.

Gibson led staffs that played in three World Series in the 1960’s, winning two. In the year they lost, 1968, he had one of the greatest years ever by a starting pitcher, going 22-9, completing 28 of the 35 games he started and leading the league in strikeouts with 268. He won not only the Cy Young, but also the MVP. Oh, and his ERA? 1.12.

Pujols is a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer whenever he decides to hang ’em up. (Which may be sooner than later.) During his first 11 seasons, all with the Cardinals, he slashed .302/.382/.554 to go with 445 home runs, 455 doubles, 1,291 runs and 1,329 RBI. He made the All-Star team nine times, won Rookie of the Year in 2001 before collecting three MVP awards, and also won the World Series twice, in 2006 and 2011.

But the best Cardinal of them all was Stan “the Man” Musial, who missed all of the 1945 season due to Military Service. He would finish his Hall of Fame career with 475 career home runs, 725 doubles, 1,949 runs scored and 3,630 hits. He won three MVP awards to go with three World Series titles (he was also the general manager of the World Series-winning 1967 squad), seven batting titles, and 24 (!)* All-Star Game appearances.

*MLB played two All-Star Games from 1959-1962.

All in 22 seasons. Each and every single one of them with St. Louis.

National League Championship Series Preview

here’s the pitch” by Ron is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

The Los Angeles Dodgers (92-71) are in the National League Championship Series for the second consecutive year, facing the NL Central division winner, Milwaukee Brewers, who finished with the best record in the National League (96-67) and has home field advantage throughout this series.


Milwaukee’s Quest

The Brewers hadn’t made the playoffs since 2011, when they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS 4-2. Since then, they’ve finished third or fourth in their division. However, last season they finished second and we saw a bit of what they had in store for this year. The credit is given to general manager David Stearns, who has helped the Brewers increase the win total each of the last three years. Stearns also played a huge role in the moves the Brewers made this past offseason.

Milwaukee signed All-Star outfielder Lorenzo Cain to a five-year contract and acquired outfielder Christian Yelich in a trade with Miami. Yelich is finally in a place where he could be himself, and by that I mean the NL MVP. He has continuously put up the numbers to help the Brewers in the quest of their first ever World Series title.

The Brewers also signed starting pitchers Wade Miley, Jhoulys Chacín, and Gio Gonzalez. They also agreed to a two-year contract extension with starting pitcher Chase Anderson. Let’s not forget they still have the third baseman, Travis Shaw. They also acquired Mike Moustakas from Kansas City and moved Shaw to second base.

After a sweep against the Colorado Rockies, the Brewers turn their attention to the World Series runner-up and look for their first title.


Los Angeles’ Return

The Los Angeles Dodgers went swing for swing with the reigning champions Houston Astros, only to lose during game 7 of the World Series. It has been 30 years since the Dodgers last won the World Series title, and though they did not finish as the No. 1 team in the league, they turned it on late and got hot enough to win the division for the sixth straight year. Manager Dave Roberts and the Dodgers’ organization knew how close they were to winning their seventh World Series title.

They let the world know they were coming when they acquired SS Manny Machado from the Baltimore Orioles for five prospects. That wasn’t the only acquisition the Dodgers made in their return to the top of the mountain.

They also acquired 2B Brian Dozier from the Minnesota Twins and 1B/3B David Freese from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Let’s not forget about the emergence of utility guys Max Muncy and Chris Taylor. 

These were much-needed acquisitions for the Dodgers after losing 2016 NL Rookie of the Year, Corey Seager for the season with Tommy John surgery. They still have the 2017 NL Rookie of the Year, Cody Bellinger, who was used as a utility player last year, but played most of the time in the outfield.

Regardless of missing one of their best sluggers, the Dodgers found a way to replace him.

With the new acquisitions and young talent comes the old veterans like Justin Turner, Yasiel Puig, and Yasmani Grandal. The Dodgers look to continue to have the hot bats adding in with the pitchers like southpaws Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill that shut down the Atlanta Braves 3-1 in the NLDS.


The Prediction: Los Angeles in Seven

Dodgers were one of the favorites to win the National League when the season began, and they got off to a slow start and were plagued by injuries that slowed them down. But they managed to get by and make it into the postseason while getting healthier and stronger in the process.

Though the Brewers made the right moves to make themselves a contender, they will fall short of their chance and continue their drought of not having a World Series win.

To me, the Dodgers are just the better overall team. Even without the acquisition of Machado, they would have still made it to where they are now. Their depth at each position and in the bullpen is just more experienced than the Brewers as a team, and that is why we will see that Dodgers in the World Series again!

Buy or Sell: Suns, Gators, Brewers

Devin Booker” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

In this week’s installment of Buy or Sell, we take a look at whether a bottom-feeding NBA franchise made the right move in canning its general manager right before the start of the season; whether Dan Mullen’s new collegiate program is truly BACK; and whether the smallest market left in the MLB playoffs can take home the ultimate prize.


Cullen: The Phoenix Suns Made the Right Move in Firing GM Ryan McDonough (Despite the Season Starting in Just Days).

RahimAli: I’m buying real hard on this move. It’s been a rough eight years for the Suns as they failed to make the playoffs after Steve Nash took them to Game 6 in the 2006 Western Conference Finals against the eventual Champions, Los Angeles Lakers. Nash later went on to finish his career as a Laker and couldn’t stay on the court. But the Suns never could find themselves a replacement for Nash. I mean, the closest thing they got was Goran Dragic and they couldn’t decide whether or not they wanted him. Trading for him and then traded him away. The other players were Isaiah Thomas, Brandon Knight, and Eric Bledsoe. All of whom were traded for picks and other players.

Those are all moves under McDonough as general manager. If there aren’t any new results or improvement to the team over the time in which he was making the decisions, then other decisions have to be made. Last year was the head coach and this year it was the general manager. Not quite sure what they plan to do in terms of making moves to get better, but trading away your best point guard since Nash for a pick and a center that you bought out made no sense to me. And with the West only getting stronger, it may be tough for them to get out of the bottom half of the conference. I think the additions of Ryan Anderson and Trevor Ariza finally gets them the help they need at forward. Hopefully DeAndre Ayton and Josh Jackson can have break out seasons and help the Suns not only get better, but find the right GM to bring in the right guys next season.

Mickayeen: I sell the Suns firing Ryan McDonough as being the right move. Very bad move, even if it wasn’t this close to the season. Them failing to make the playoffs for the better part of the last decade has not been McDonough’s fault. The reason the franchise has been so bad has been the result of very bad ownership in Robert Sarver. All the moves RahimAli mentioned as being under McDonough have been mostly the result of Sarver and his micromanaging the team. Sarver has been too involved in the team, and it won’t matter who is the GM there. As long as Sarver is there, he will be the one pulling the strings and they will continue to be mediocre at best.


RahimAli: The Florida Gators Will Win the SEC East After Knocking off LSU.

CullenSelling on Florida winning the SEC East. Georgia is still the team to beat, as they’ve looked dominant so far this year and have the better overall conference and division record. Florida losing to Kentucky hurts their chances at representing the East in the (almost) annual slaughtering at the hands of the Crimson Tide in the conference championship game. The Bulldogs have to travel to Baton Rouge this weekend for a match against the wounded Tigers, but then Georgia gets a bye week before playing Florida in Jacksonville.

Neither one of these teams has an easy schedule down the stretch, but the Bulldogs have a better starting QB, a better head coach, and a better overall team. Plus, they’ve got experience. Mullen is working wonders in The Swamp, and while the Gators may challenge the Bulldogs for East supremacy, it will be down the road when that happens.

Mickayeen: I’m selling the Gators winning the East. I’m not sure how much more needs to be added to my reasoning other than what has already been put forth by Cullen. Georgia is the top dawg and will continue to be. I’ll hedge a little bit here and say that having Georgia at home this season gives the Gators a chance, but I’m taking Georgia to win that game by double digits if they both play their best.


Mickayeen: The Brewers Will Win the World Series

RahimAli: I’m selling the Brewers win the World Series. As you know by now, I am a huge LA sports fan, so I may be putting a bit of bias opinion into it, but look at the history between the two teams. Dodgers have won their sixth straight division title in which time the Brewers have been at home watching their division rivals like the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals battle their way to the postseason and capture World Series wins.

The Dodgers came one game short of the World Series last year and they look to take it this year. They have the best rotation in the Majors, and manager Dave Roberts has done a great job managing them through all the injuries faced during the season, which has only made them stronger than ever. The Brewers added a lot of offense to their team and the pitching has be tremendous thus far this season. I do believe that Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich will win the NL MVP for the season, but this will come down to who does better down the stretch of the game. I think the Dodgers will win in seven games.

CullenSelling the Brewers winning the World Series, but I’ll buy them representing the Senior Circuit in the Fall Classic. Despite having the better record (and with it, home field advantage) than the Dodgers, picking the Brewers feels like an upset.

Why is that? Well, Milwaukee being such a small market is part of it. Plus, by merely taking a look at the names on the teams’ rosters, the Dodgers have the better squad. Both teams are clicking right now, and both strolled their divisional series relatively easily, with the Brewers sweeping the Rockies and the Dodgers defeating the Braves in 5 (as predicted).

Both teams have well-balanced lineups with major pop (Brewers have five guys with 20+ home runs, including three with at least 32 while the Dodgers boast a whopping eight players with 20+ home runs with two of them at 32+). The starting pitching and the bullpens also compare well to one another.

So why am I picking the Brewers? I can’t pinpoint it, exactly, but this team has vibes similar to both the 2014 and 2015 Kansas City Royals, teams I followed closely. Hell, multiple members from those Royals teams are on the 2018 Brewers. In both the 2014 and 2015 pennants, the Royals seemed the underdog against the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays, respectively, and yet the Royals steamrolled both of them.

I don’t expect Milwaukee to steamroll L.A. In fact, I’m predicting this series goes the full seven, and for the Brewers to celebrate their first National League Championship on their home field.



What’s everyone else think? Was McDonough really the problem in Phoenix–or is it Sarver? Are the Gators the team to beat in the East? What’s Milwaukee going to do against the Dodgers? Let us know in the comments!

MLB Divisional Series Predictions: Brewers vs Rockies

Ryan Braun” by Ian D’Andrea is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

It’s finally that time of the year where we see the best teams in the Major Leagues slug it out for the Commissioner’s Trophy, which is rewarded to the team who beats their opponent in the World Series. Before we get there, we have to take it one game at a time, especially for the Wild Card teams like the Colorado Rockies, who beat the Chicago Cubs 2-1 in 13 innings late Tuesday night.

Cullen and I will be taking it one round at a time and give you our round by round predictions of who we think will win the round and advance. So let’s get it started.

With the Rockies winning on Tuesday, they will travel to Milwaukee to face the Milwaukee Brewers in the Divisional Series, which starts today. The two teams faced each other seven times this season, with the Brewers getting the best of the Rockies. Those seven games were played in two series: Four-game series in mid-May where the Brewers won 3-1, and three-game series in mid-August where the Brewers won 2-1.

This will be the third series the two teams have against each other, and it is by far the most important one for both clubhouses. The Brewers have won their division for the first time since 2011 and are looking to make it to the World Series for just the second time (1982) in the history of the organization. The Rockies lost a one-game tiebreaker with the Los Angeles Dodgers that would have given them the division, but instead, they make it back to the playoffs with their second consecutive wild card season. They are looking to make it to the World Series for the first since 2007, where they lost to the Boston Red Sox’s 4-0.


1. Milwaukee Brewers vs. 5. Colorado Rockies

Winner: Brewers in 4

Reaction: The Brewers proved their bats are more than what everyone expected. Let’s not forget they made moves in the offseason that had people questioning what they were thinking about. Like when the Brewers already had Ryan Braun in the outfield, but they went out and got Lorenzo Cain and Christain Yelich as well. They even added Curtis Granderson to the batting order recently. Don’t forget about the pitcher though. Josh Hader is a great set up guy for the closer, Jeremy Jeffress. Hader has been one of the most consistent relief pitchers in the league this year. He even turned out to be a great closer while Jeffress was out with injury.

The Rockies have the bats to competition with the Brewers despite their struggle to beat them in the regular season series. Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, and DJ LeMahieu aren’t only helping out the pitchers get out of jams with great defensive players all season, but they also give the opposing pitchers problems. Arendo (38) and Story (37) have combined for 75 home runs, while LeMahieu does all the same things like getting on base, in scoring position, or just getting the opposing pitcher’s pitch count up. LeMahieu finds the gaps to get on base and help Arendo and have Story drive him in. But that is not enough for the Rockies to win the series.

Who do you think will win these series? Comment below with who you got and we can talk about why you think that is.