By: Daniel Multz
It’s been three weeks since the Red Sox won the World Series and officially brought baseball season to a close. Baseball columnist, Daniel Multz, is here with 10,000 words about the crazy 2018 Major League Baseball season and a look towards the future:
2018 MLB Team Capsules:
Let’s take a look into how each team’s season in the AL-East went and who surprised and who disappointed.
Boston Red Sox
What a season to say the least. The Sox offseason was the story of the JD Martinez sweepstakes. It took over two months to ink JD to the 5 year deal that brought a .330 average with 43 homers and 130 RBIs in 2018. More than this, JD was the DH this team’s been missing since David Ortiz retired. Add on to that Chris Sale, Craig Kimbrel and the guidance of rookie manager Alex Cora and that helps make up this 108-win Red Sox team that blew away the competition. The Sox had one major issue that plagued them all year long: the bullpen. Other than Kimbrel, the Sox bullpen was plagued with inconsistency. Sometimes the relief corp. could go 9-up 9-down while other times the 9 men they had to face all got hits against them.
The Sox failed to acquire any relievers at the deadline, but instead he acquired Yankee-killers Steve Pearce and Nathan Eovaldi. ‘Nasty Nate’ shut the Bronx Bombers down twice in the regular season and then again in the ALDS, and then shut down the Astros and Dodgers. Pearce’s power haunted the opposition enough to earn him World Series MVP. Also, that shaky bullpen was rock-solid throughout the playoffs, with Ryan Brasier, Matt Barnes and Joe Kelly shining and the clutch performances largely came from unexpected sources: Rafael Devers, Eduardo Nunez, Brock Holt and ALCS MVP Jackie Bradley Jr.
The top 5 in this lineup could beat you any day and they carried the team throughout the season and playoffs. With Kimbrel, Eovaldi and Pearce departing for free agency, the Sox will need to restock the pitching and that should be enough to be repeat champions in 2019.
New York Yankees
The Yankees were expected to contend for the World Series by getting another year of their young core of Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorious, Luis Severino, Gary Sanchez, the overpowering bullpen and the marquis offseason acquisition, 2017 NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton. The only real questions were surrounding Aaron Boone and how the former player and TV analyst would handle managing this team.
What was unexpected was that rookie sensations Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar would end up being 2 key pieces to the puzzle, that Aaron Hicks would become the everyday center-fielder and that the deadline acquisitions: J.A Happ from Toronto, Zach Britton from Baltimore and Luke Voit from St. Louis would make such an impact on this 100-win team. Stanton struggled mightily in the second half while Gregorious, Judge and Aroldis Chapman all had key injuries.
All this led to the 8-game deficit that came at the end of the season Add on to that the team’s deadline acquisitions (J.A Happ, Lance Lynn and Zach Britton) all choked at the worst time (in the playoffs). This team is incredibly powerful, but it needs a little more to overtake the Red Sox and that little more may be another starter or another bat that won’t strike out 200 times, but they need something to match up with Boston in 2019.
Tampa Bay Rays
Who on Earth could’ve thought that after trading away Corey Dickerson, Evan Longoria, Steven Souza Jr. and Jake Odorizzi that this team would end up with 90 wins? In any other division, the Rays might be contending for the division title! One key player they kept was Blake Snell (good call), who may well win the AL Cy Young Award this season going 21-5 with a 1.89 ERA and 221 strikeouts. Manager Kevin Cash’s squad quietly posted the 2nd lowest ERA in the AL (3.74 to Houston’s 3.11), all this while playing over 50 combined games against New York, Boston, Houston and Cleveland.
With a lot of speed and contact hitters like Mallex Smith, Matt Duffy, Kevin Kiermaier and Joey Wendle, along with sluggers Tommy Pham and CJ Cron and a pitching staff led by the young Snell, the Rays need one or two offensive pieces and maybe a couple of solid relievers to help solidify Cash’s unconventional methods and keep the Rays in the race in 2019.
Toronto Blue Jays
Fresh off of a 76-86 2017 campaign, Toronto didn’t make too many new additions to the team to warrant excitement and playoff hopes. The Blue Jays have a lot of youth just breaking in like lefty Ryan Borucki, infielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr and catcher Danny Jansen with even more on the way (infielders Vladimir Guererro Jr and Bo Bichette and outfielder Anthony Alford), the Blue Jays should be more focused on 2019 and 2020 and keeping the future of the organization healthy so it can contribute to the Major League team.
The one thing that has to be addressed immediately is who will replace manager John Gibbons, whose 6-season tenure as manager came to an end at the end of the season. The ’18 team hit plenty of home runs, but no one who played over 100 games hit over .270 and only 1 pitcher to start 15 games had a sub-4 ERA (Borucki). Toronto may need to suffer through another lackluster campaign in 2019 as their rising young future stars break into the bigs. This may lead to Toronto not roping in any big free agents but they may not need to if these prospects pan out as they’re expected to.
I’ll say it right out of the gate, there’s just about nothing good to say about the 2018 orioles. Going 47-115 doesn’t really indicate to me that this team did anything right. They traded Manny Machado at the deadline which was the right thing to do at that point. This team has begun to tank and they’ve set themselves up for years of struggles to come. The free agents they signed all struggled because they had no spring training. They’ll enjoy 2 or 3 years of #1 picks that may or may not pan out down the road but as we’ve seen too often baseball, tanking and investing in first rounders doesn’t always pan out and Baltimore has gone all in to break this team down and rebuild, and all of this with veteran manager Buck Showalter no longer at the helm. All I can say is YIKES!
Let’s take a look into how each team’s season in the AL-Central went and who surprised and who disappointed.
Let’s get something straight, this division might as well have been clinched in May. As you’ll see, the other four teams really didn’t pose much of a threat to Cleveland in 2018 and that allowed the Indians to coast. The Indians had so many amazing performances in 2018: their quartet of 200 strikeout pitchers, 30 homer seasons from Eddie Encarnacion, Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor and a healthy .300 season from Michael Brantley.
With all that you might ask how did this team only win 91 games? The answer is simple: THE BULLPEN WAS ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE. Other that ageless Oliver Perez and deadline acquisition Brad Hand, Cleveland’s pen was perpetually bad and when Terry Francona had to pull his starter early in the game, the game was subject to being lost much more often. Cleveland got obliterated in the ALDS for the second straight season, this time by Houston as the bats stalled and the almighty starting pitchers crumbled. With Michael Brantley, Cody Allen, Andrew Miller and Josh Donaldson heading to free agency, Cleveland may lose some key relievers and a star outfielder heading into a weak AL Central in 2019
The consensus over the last two years is that Minnesota was better than expected in 2017 and worse than expected in 2018. After reaching the Wild Card game from an 86 win campaign, the Twins were expected to take another step in the right direction and challenge Cleveland for the AL Central crown. Many things went wrong for the Twins this year. Miguel Sano fell of the cliff and had to go down to the minors to learn how to make contact again. Ervin Santana got suspended for 80 games. Brian Dozier tanked then got traded, and Byron Buxton continues to pad his “biggest draft bust of the decade” campaign.
Despite Strong seasons from Kyle Gibson, Jose Berrios, Eddie Rosario and the half season of Eduardo Escobar, the rest of the team couldn’t back them up. To give them credit, 78 wins is not terrible by any means, until you examine how weak this division was and 78 isn’t all that impressive when 3 teams were under 65. There may be a changing of the guard both on and off the field before 2019 with long-time Twin Joe Mauer possibly retiring and manager Paul Molitor being removed as manager. With everyone healthy and a couple of additions, the Twins might be able to put together a winning campaign, but they won’t catch Cleveland.
Just two years removed from an 86 win campaign in 2016, this Tigers team looked like a minor-league team day in and day out for the second consecutive year. Gone are their powerful bats from that ‘16 season: Victor Martinez, Justin Upton, Ian Kinsler, JD Martinez and a healthy Miguel Cabrera along prime with Justin Verlander, and Max Scherzer. What’s left is all-star Nicholas Castellanos, a Miggy who can’t stay on the field and a weak starting rotation. Detroit is officially neck-deep in tanking mode and now that they’re here, that won’t change for a while. The veterans will get older and the youth of this team still has A LOT to prove. 2019 Might not be all that exciting for Detroit, but there are some pieces there that with a bounceback, will get the team to 70 wins.
Chicago White Sox
Whether under the leadership of Robin Ventura or Rick Renteria, this team hasn’t had a winning season since 2012 and can you guess how many surviving members of that team are still there? If you guessed one then you’re 100% right! The White Sox have been trying to build a young core to carry them to October for years, but it hasn’t worked out yet.
Eloy Jimenez is not in the Majors yet. Michael Kopech will now be out until 2020 with Tommy John Surgery. Lucas Giolito got his first full season in ‘18, where he led the AL in walks, earned runs and ERA. Carlos Rodon took a step in the right direction when he was healthy, but that was the issue and Yoan Moncada was the only player to strike out more than Giancarlo Stanton last season and the list goes on and on.
The Sox have so much youth and so much more on the way, all with star potential that hasn’t come out yet. Not much will change from their 62-100 2018 campaign next season unless they can bring in a veteran or two, control their young pitchers and tame their aggressive young hitters.
Kansas City Royals
It pains me to have to ask this, but how on Earth did this team make back-to-back World Series just a few years ago? To put it simply, EVERYONE LEFT! Many of the key components of the 2014 and 2015 Royals have either retired or moved on: notably Lorenzo Cain (signed with MIL in ‘18), Eric Hosmer (signed with SD in ‘18), Wade Davis (traded CHC in ‘17), Mike Moustakas (Traded to MIL in ‘18), Kendrys Morales (signed with TOR in ‘17), Jarrod Dyson (signed with SEA in ‘17) and Kelvin Hererra (traded to WSH in ‘18).
All that remains is gold glover Salvador Perez, elite leadoff man and base-stealer Whit Merrifield, aging veterans Alex Gordon, Ian Kennedy and Alcides Escobar and a young group of inexperienced players. Put all of that together and KC’s 58 win season makes a lot more sense. Much like Baltimore, KC has entered a period of tanking in 2018 and will now try to build up another core like the one they had a few years ago to get them back to October. While youngsters Brad Keller, Adalberto Mondesi and Ryan O’Hearn showed much promise in 2018, the rest of the team was bad, plain and simple. KC probably won’t attract any free agents and probably won’t exceed 70 wins in 2019
Let’s take a look into how each team’s season in the AL-West went and who surprised and who disappointed.
One of just 3 teams of this century that has proven that tanking and rebuilding can pay off (along with the Royals of ‘14-’15 and the Cubs from 2015 on), Houston put up another great season and looked even better than last year. This team got a full season of the reborn Justin Verlander, a career-reviving season from Gerrit Cole, great years from Charlie Morton, Dallas Keuchel, Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve. Add onto all of this George Springer in the playoffs and this team looked unstoppable until the Red Sox came around.
The dominant pitching crumbled in the 3 games in Houston and the bats couldn’t keep up with the Red Sox. So no repeat championship for Houston, but 2019 looks to be yet another year of dominance for Houston. The lineup will remain the same (with Carlos Correa, Altuve and Springer hopefully healthy for the whole season), with maybe a couple of touted young prospects (pitcher Forrest Whitley and outfielder Kyle Tucker) making an impact. The one major concern is that Keuchel and Morton are free agents and may be pitching in a different uniform in 2019. Other than that, the Astros should contend for a third straight 100-win seaosn next year.
Who could’ve thought that in just two years, this organization would jump from 69 wins up to 97. This team just rakes, hitting dingers left and right, second only to the Yankees in the AL this season. Matt Chapman, Khris “Khrush” Davis, Matt Olson and Stephen Piscotty carried the offense while Blake Treinen, posted an ERA UNDER 1, and had one of the best relieving seasons of all time, The A’s were just one or two solid starting pitchers away from a potentially deep playoff run that was cut short at the Wild Card Game.
In addition to the notable components of this team, Oakland got plenty of out-of-nowhere performances in 2018. Jed Lowrie was an all-star with 99 RBI in his age 34 season. Edwin Jackson returned to the Majors to play for a record setting 14th team pitching to a 3.33 ERA. Lou Trivino’s rookie campaign led to him being Blake Treinen’s setup man, and outfielders Nick Martini and Ramon Laureano both hit around .290 in almost 200 at-bats. Jackson and Lowrie, along with reliever Jeurys Familia, and catcher Jonathan Lucroy going to free agency, Oakland will lose some key components and will need to replace them to stay relevant in an AL-West with Houston and L.A.
I hate to say it but it’s about time we all came to this conclusion, Seattle WILL NOT WIN THIS DIVISION WITH THE TEAM THEY HAVE. Ever since they stole Robinson Cano away from New York prior to the 2014 season, Seattle was expected to do big things in the AL-West and they’ve had their chances and wasted them all. This team finished second once, and third or fourth every other time and couldn’t clinch one playoff berth.
Cano is now a known steroid-user, Felix Hernandez’s career has declined at almost a 90 degree angle in the last 3 years and Kyle Seager took a major dip from his dependable offensive and defensive production in 2018. Edwin Diaz has established himself as an elite closer, ICHIRO CAME BACK, and Jean Segura and Mitch Haniger have anchored this lineup as two young talents. Some things have also stayed the same. Nelson Cruz is still the “Boomstick” at 38 years of age, James Paxton’s talent on the mound still gets plagued by injuries, and Mike Zunino proved that hitting .251 in 2017 was a fluke (he never hit above .214 before or since).
Not much will change for Seattle next season Even if they lose Cruz Seattle won’t cash in on their talent as they’ve done in each of the last five seasons.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Let’s travel a little farther down the path of recent strings of disappointing seasons from Seattle to L.A, where the Angels are not only following the Mariners in disappointment, but they’re doing it with arguably the game’s biggest talent in Mike Trout.
Despite Trout, This rotation CANNOT stay healthy, Albert Pujols’ age is manifesting more and more each year, and 23 year-old two-way star Shohei Ohtani, who hit .285/.361/.564 with 22 homers and pitched to a 3.31 ERA in 10 starts couldn’t help this team enough. Back-to back 80 win seasons sum up quite well this team: they don’t suck by any means, but they can’t seem to play great baseball.
Now Ohtani may miss all of 2019 with Tommy John Surgery (but he might hit), Garrett Richards is gone, and another strong season from Trout, Justin Upton, Andrelton Simmons and a solid year from the bullpen are all gone. Who knows what this team will look like in 2019. They might or might not land any big free agents, and they’ll waste another year of Trout and Ohtani.
Now if you want to talk about teams with tons of talent wasting it away, this team is the best example not just of the last few seasons, but the entirety of the 2010s. Going all the way back to losing 2 straight world series in 2010 and 2011, the Rangers blew additional playoff berths in 2012, 2015, and 2016 (and a 91-win 2013).
The 2018 team didn’t have much to look at. Adrian Beltre hit .273, his lowest mark by 15 points in his 8 years with Texas AND had the highest average on the team, Joey Gallo hit .200 with 200 strikeouts and a lot of homers again, Cole Hamels tanked with Texas and got traded to the Cubs (where he looked vintage). The one bright spot is Jose Leclerc who looks like a young, fired up, dominant reliever in the making and he’s only 24.
Not much will likely improve in Texas next year: Elvis Andrus, Beltre, Bartolo “Big Sexy” Colon and catcher Robinson Chirinos are all free agents, and replacements from within don’t pop off the page. 2019 will be just as bleak if not more so than 2018.
Let’s take a look into how each team’s season in the NL-East went and who surprised and who disappointed.
Who could be upset with reaching contender-level 2 or 3 years before expected? Who can’t help but be happy for Jonny Venters returning to the Braves after 3 1/2 Tommy John Surgeries? Braves fans certainly aren’t! Atlanta was no doubt the most youthful team in the Majors this season, and all of that youth contributed way more than anticipated as this team won 90 games in 2018. Ozzie Albies (21) carried the team in his red-hot first half. Johan Camargo (24) anchored 3rd base and hit .272 with solid defense. Mike Foltynewicz, Sean Newcomb, Max Fried, Touki Toussaint, and Mike Soroka (all 26 or younger) all made an impact. And how can you quantify the contributions of Ronald Acuna Jr. This 20 year-old stole the show with his streak of homers, his speed and his great fielding.
Let’s give the veterans the credit they deserve too though. At 34, Nick Markakis made his 1st all-star team and played 162 games. Anibal Sanchez revived his career by pitching to a 2.83 ERA in 24 starts and being a veteran brain for the young pitchers to pick at. Kurt Suzuki’s veteran presence at catcher was equally vital to the development of this youthful pitching (he also hit .271 in 105 games). Finally, despite only being 28, Freddie Freeman finished his 8th season with a .309 average in another all-star season. Sanchez, Suzuki, and Markakis are free agents and are vital to this youth developing further. If they don’t resign, expect some other veterans to as the Braves look poised for an equally if not stronger 2019 season.
All you can do with this team is shake your head as this team’s tenure atop the NL East ends. With Atlanta taking their leap forward and the Phillies and Mets just a few pieces away from breaking out, Washington is heading in the other direction. Bryce Harper is a free agent now and is looking for big bucks Washington probably can’t offer. Despite an incredible rookie campaign by 19 year-old Juan Soto, another .300 season from Anthony Rendon, a 162-game effort from Trea Turner and a Max Scherzer that keeps getting better with age, Washington managed only 82 wins. Other than Mad Max, the other pitchers were bad, hurt or both, including Tanner Roark, Stephen Strasburg, Sean Doolittle, Kelvin Hererra, Ryan Madson and prospect Erick Fedde. Washington has plenty of youth but without re-signing Harper, stopping father time’s work on Ryan Zimmermann, Strasburg and most importantly Scherzer (who will turn 35 next season), keeping some key players healthy and without restocking a weak bullpen, don’t expect much more than a similar season for Washington next year.
Much like the Braves, this team is stocked with youth and a few key veterans, but a red hot first half preceeded a second half meltdown that amounted to 80 wins in 2018. Offseason acquisitions Jake Arrieta and Carlos Santana disappointed in their first seasons with the Phils (Arrieta had an average season but not the level Arrieta has shown he’s capable of and Santana hit .229). Despite this, certain homegrown talents shined in 2018. Aaron Nola cemented himself as a perennial ace pitching to a 2.37 ERA in over 210 innings and Rhys Hoskins hit 34 homers and 38 doubles in 2018.
Ultimately, many youngsters on this team all hit brick walls in the second half, notably Vince Velazquez, Seranthony Dominguez, Cesar Hernandez, Scott Kingery and Odubel Hererra. All of that comprised the downfall from division contender to under .500 team that’s a year and a couple of acquisitions away from contending. Known to want to pursue top tickets Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, expect the Phillies to spend some money while they hope the youth of this team take a step forward to make this team a big threat in 2019.
New York Mets
This team is a tale of two halves even more dramatic than the Phillies. After winning 11 straight to open up the season, the Mets went 21-48 to close out the first half before finding its winning ways again by going 45-37 after the all-star break. The thing this team so desperately needed and still needs is OFFENSE. The old saying goes ‘good pitching can’t win without good hitting and good hitting can’t win without good pitching.’ The Mets unbelievable rotation was starved of run support all year long and nothing changed that throughout the season: not Jeff McNeil’s .329 rookie campaign, not Brandon Nimmo’s breakout year and not Michael Conforto’s strong finish.
Case and point is Jacob deGrom. The 30 year-old pitched one of the best seasons of all time by a starter despite his 10-9 record. A 1.70 ERA, 269 strikeouts, 217 innings, and an MLB-record 23 straight quality starts. He’s no-doubt the NL Cy Young award winner this season and was the leader of a rotation that featured a healthy, strong season from Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard and strong second halves from Steven Matz (all made at least 25 starts) and Jason Vargas.
One or two bullpen arms and a few decent (or better) bats can easily get this team over .500 next season and if they can pull off a good offseason, they’ll only deepen this strengthening NL East in 2019.
Let’s put it this way, the fact that this team didn’t lose 110 games is a victory with this Marlins team (they actually only lost 98). After trading Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, Amidst the reboot of this organization, JT Realmuto, Starlin Castro and rookie Brian Anderson all hit above .270 and despite his controversial actions against Atlanta and Ronald Acuna, Jose Urena churned out a 3.98 ERA and made 31 starts. The Marlins will once again enter a long and painful rebuild as their dying fanbase gets asked to wait another 5 years for talented players to take the field. Add onto that the fact that Realmuto and Castro might get traded and this Marlins team in 2019 may essentially appear like a Triple-A team.
Let’s take a look into how each team’s season in the NL-Central went and who surprised and who disappointed.
What a year for this team. 96 wins, an almost certain NL MVP winner, falling just 1 win short of their first pennant in 36 years, Milwaukee stole the show in the Central this season. Offensively, this squad was incredibly deep with offseason acquisitions Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich immediately making impacts, another 30 homer season from Travis Shaw and a breakout campaign from Jesus Aguilar. Add onto that this incredible bullpen led by Corey Knebel, Jeremy Jeffress and of course Josh Hader and this Brew-crew was a force to be reckoned with all year long.
After beating the Cubs in the tiebreaker game, Milwaukee made quick work of Colorado thanks to enough offense and shut-down pitching from both the bullpen and starters. Unfortunately, after starting the NLCS strong, they left L.A after game 5 trailing 3-2 and forced a game 7 with an epic 7-2 win. Unfortunately, Walker Buehler and friends shut the crew down and eliminated them in game 7. With only a couple of starters and fan-favorite Eric Kratz headed for free agency, most of this Brew-crew will be back at it for 2019.
It appears as though this team is still hung over from their magical 2016 championship campaign. After winning their division again in 2017 but losing to the Dodgers in the NLCS, the Cubs fell one win short of Milwaukee at 95 wins and lost in the wild card game to Colorado this season. Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist and Javier Baez carried the offensive load this season as Kris Bryant, Wilson Contreras and Ian Happ struggled. Not to mention that the rotation had its fair share of issues too. Tyler Chatwood was on pace for 200 walks when he was booted from the rotation and Yu Darvish’s struggles from the 2017 postseason carried over into an injury-filled 2018 season.
It was the deadline acquisition of Cole Hamels, who looked vintage pitching to a 2.36 ERA in 12 starts that stabilized this rotation. The bullpen was good all year for the Cubbies, with Pedro Strop, Steve Cishek, Justin Wilson, Carl Edwards Jr, Jesse Chavez and Brandon Morrow (despite his injury) all posting low-3 ERAs or lower. Most of this team will return for 2019 (just without Justin Wilson, Daniel Murphy and maybe Cole Hamels), so as long as everyone else stays healthy, the Cubs string of great seasons will not end in 2019.
St. Louis Cardinals
Even in recent years when the Cubs and Brewers have taken off, and even in the years when the Pirates were up top in the Central, the Cardinals are always around. After a .500 start, manager Mike Matheny was fired and replace by Mike Shildt, who led St. Louis to a 41-28 strech to get them 3 wins shy of a wild card berth. There’s a lot to like about this team. Matt Carpenter is a solid power hitter, Harrison Bader, Yairo Munoz and Tyler O’Neil were rookie sparkplugs for this lineup, Yadier Molina just keeps going, and this rotation shows a lot of promise. Carlos Martinez, Jack Flaherty and Michael Wacha can all have all-star campaigns if they could all be healthy, not to forget 18 game-winner Miles Mikolas who shocked the baseball world with his all-star season returning from Japan and veteran Adam Wainwright coming back for another season. St. Louis needs one thing to get over the hump of their division rivals next year: BULLPEN HELP! If they can get that, they’ll be right in the thick of the division race in 2019.
No one really knew what to expect from this Pirates team this year. After 98 wins in 2015, 2 losing seasons followed, and the Pirates seemed on track for a third. With Andrew McCutchen, Gerrit Cole and reliever Tony Watson gone, what was left did not look like a winning team and yet they were. 82-79 was impressive all things considered. Pittsburgh had 6 key contributors hit over .270: Colin Moran (.277), Corey Dickerson (.300), Starling Marte (.277), Adam Frazier (.277), Elias Diaz (.286) and David Freese (.282). Add onto that Trevor Williams and Jameson Taillon both posting low-3 ERAs with 14 wins and a strong bullpen campaign from Felipe Vazquez, Richard Rodriguez, Edgar Santana and Kyle Crick. This team as a whole is good but there really isn’t that standout player. Unless Pittsburgh can find a way to lure in some free agents, next year may be much of the same as this year, somewhere around .500.
The story of this team in the last few years has been an unfortunate one: four straight seasons of wins in the 60s despite a strong offense. Why? They haven’t had a good pitching season and a good hitting season happen in the same season. In 2015, the hitting was off, in 2016 it was the relief pitching that was terrible, in 2017 it was the whole pitching staff and in 2018 it was the starting pitching.
All the while Joey Votto has been the rock of this Reds team over the last 10 years and he’s always had a great team of hitters alongside him. In 2018, that team was Jose Peraza, Eugenio Suarez Scooter Gennett and Jesse Winker. All four of them hit above .280 to back up Votto who had an unusually low power season (just 12 homers).
On the pitching side the Reds got strong relief efforts from Raisel Iglesias, David Hernandez, Jared Hughes, Michael Lorenzen and Dylan Floro while Matt Harvey was the only exciting part of this rotation. Harvey appeared to gain back some zip on his heater and looked better (still not that great) than he did in his last 2 years in New York. Plain and simple: the Reds need starting pitching and they need it fast while this group of hitters remains in their prime.
Let’s take a look into how each team’s season in the NL-West went and who surprised and who disappointed.
Los Angeles Dodgers
What a whirlwind of a season for the NL champions. Within their first 42 games, L.A had separate 1-5 and 1-7 runs that by mid-May that amounted to a 16-26 record and heavy criticism. Things got even worse when Corey Seager went down with Tommy John Surgery, Clayton Kershaw went down with another back injury and Kenley Jansen struggled.
Enter into play Walker Buhler, Max Muncy, trade deadline acquisition Manny Machado and Matt Kemp returning to L.A. Buhler pitched to a mid-2 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP, Muncy hit 35 homers with a .973 OPS, Machado anchored shortstop for the playoffs and second half and Kemp hit .290 in an all-star season back in L.A. When September came around, L.A brought in clutch king David Freese and reliever Ryan Madson to pad the roster as they finished 19-9 and beat the Rockies in game 163 to win the West.
After beating the braves rather smoothly in 4 games in the NLDS, they faced the tall task of beating Milwaukee for the pennant. Strong performances by Kershaw, Buhler, Chris Taylor, Yasiel Puig and series MVP Cody Bellinger combined with over-management and over-working of the pen let L.A win the NLCS in 7 games to face Boston in the World Series. Unfortunately, manager Dave Roberts was equally prone to overmanaging and it plagued him in the World Series as his bullpen was massacred by the brute force of the Red Sox.The 5-games of the World Series was almost all Boston.
L.A has a lot of potential free agents: Machado, catcher Yasmani Grandal, 2nd baseman Brian Dozier and pitchers Clayton Kershaw (can opt-out of the last 2 years of his contract), Hyun-Jin-Ryu, and Ryan Madson. The Rockies are young and eager to win the West next year and they’ll fight the Dodgers tooth and nail in 2019.
Quite possibly for the first time since this franchise began in 1993, the pitching was as big of a contributor to the team’s success as the hitting. Without Kyle Freeland and German Marquez in the rotation, and Adam Ottavino, Scott Oberg, Seunghwan Oh and Wade Davis in the pen, Colorado doesn’t win 91 games and make the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time ever.
I haven’t even mentioned this lethal lineup yet! Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon were as advertised and Trevor Story did everything right in a breakout campaign: .291 average, 37 homers, 27 stolen bases and a solid .979 fielding percentage. Beyond just these big three, Gerardo Parra, DJ LeMahieu, Carlos Gonzalez and David Dahl all also hit over .270 supporting the big 3. The Rockies went 19-10 down the stretch and then upset the Cubs in the 13-inning wild card thriller, but the bats went quiet in the NLDS and as the main lifeline of this team, it suffocated them.
LeMahieu, Ottavino, and Gonzalez are all free agents now, and Colorado will need to either re-sign or replace their vital second baseman, setup man and outfielders in order to stay at the 90-win level in 2019.
This team had high expectations going into 2018 and I’m sorry to say that they disappointed. While Zack Greinke performed as expected in the rotation and Patrick Corbin shined in his free agent season (200 innings, 1.05 WHIP and 246 strikeouts), Robbie Ray and Zack Godley took a step back and the team had to turn to phoenix (no pun intended) Clay Buchholz who amazed pitching to a 2.01 ERA. The bullpen wasn’t great and offensively, David Peralta and Paul Goldschmidt shined with .290 average/30 homer seasons while the rest of the offense was average or worse.
The team entered September on a hot streak and Leading the NL West, but then they went 8-19 while L.A and Colorado got white-hot and fell to 82 wins and third place. With Corbin, and outfielder AJ Pollok leaving for free agency, and the looming possibility of Goldschmidt getting traded, things don’t look too great for the 2019 Diamondbacks.
San Francisco Giants
The team that won 3 titles in 5 years now looks old with its best years behind them, finishing with 73 this season. Only two out of the 11 players to play 90 or more games are under the age of 30 (Joe Panik who’s 27 and Alen Hanson who’s 25). Not to mention that the only player among those 11 to hit above above .255 was Buster Posey who hit .284. On the pitching side, this team is much younger with strong starting pitching and a great bullpen. If Madison Bumgarner could stay healthy, he’d remain the ace we know him to be and losing Jeff Samardzija. Johnny Cueto and Mark Melancon to injuries didn’t help. Derreck Rodriguez looked great in his rookie campaign and the quartet of Will Smith, Sam Dyson, Tony Watson and Reyes Moronta all pitched to mid-2 ERAs out of the pen. The Giants need their lineup to get younger and their pitching staff needs to get back to 100% to give this team any chance against L.A and Colorado in 2019.
San Diego Padres
This team is focusing on the rebuild and on the future rather then on the now. San Diego has 10 of MLB’s top 100 prospects, including #2 prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. Not all of their prospects will be ready in 2019, but the Padres accepted years of losing seasons in order to be great in the future. Despite that, some of their young players came through and shined in what was otherwise another lackluster 66 win season. Lefties Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer looked solid posting ERAs around 4 in their rookie seasons. Hunter Refnroe hit 26 bombs and Franmil Reyes slugged .498 in 87 games. Next season will feature a few more of those 10 top 100 players: Tatis Jr, Francisco Mejia for sure and maybe others, but a winning season is probably 2 or 3 years away but hey, look at that Braves and what their young talent did in 2018 (winning 90 games and the NL East way ahead of schedule), the Padres can do that to if all of the stars align in 2019.
Where These Free Agent Hitter Might End Up Playing in 2019
The World Series has come to an end (congratulations Red Sox) and the offseason has officially begun. One of, if not the biggest free-agent-frenzy the game has ever seen is about to begin. Here are some of the top free agent hitters of 2019 and the teams could use their talents the most next season.
OF Bryce Harper
Quite possibly the biggest name hitting the market this offseason, the 26 year-old outfielder is bringing unquestionable power and eye at the plate to whoever will be willing to pay him the big bucks. Harper could become the first player to sign a $400 million contract, so any team with deep pockets that’s ready to win and has a need for an elite player will be in the hunt for Harper. Best Fit: Phillies. Other Candidates: Yankees, Dodgers, Nationals, Astros.
3B/SS Manny Machado
Harper’s infield counterpart in terms of talent, age and stardom on the market will be the other candidate to receive that first $400 million contract. After much success in Baltimore and then helping the Dodgers in the ’18 playoffs, Machado’s power and elite defense will be prized by every team. The 26 year-old shortstop’s high price tag may turn some teams away, but any team after Bryce Harper may also pursue Machado. Best Fit: Yankees. Other Candidates: Phillies, Dodgers, Diamondbacks.
C: Wilson Ramos and Yasmani Grandal
Ramos was an all-star this year with the Rays before heading to the Phillies in a playoff push. Ramos is a strong hitter with great defense and can anchor any pitching staff and any team in need of catchers in a time where the game is starving for great catchers. Best Fit: Brewers. Other Candidates: Phillies, Rays, Astros, Athletics, Mets.
Grandal is a switch-hitting catcher with plenty of power and those are two hard-to-come-by commodities in a very weak position in baseball nowadays. He’s only 31 and can catch well over 100 games, but the one issue and it’s a big one: shaky defensive showings in the playoffs. Best Fit: Astros. Other Candidates: Athletics, Braves, Mets, Diamondbacks.
IF: Josh Donaldson, Daniel Murphy, Brian Dozier, DJ LeMahieu, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jed Lowrie
Coming off an injury-ridden 2018 campaign, the 33 year-old former MVP can still play defense and DH from time to time on an AL team or be the everyday 3B on an NL Team. Donaldson may seek a multi-year deal, but may have to take whatever deal gets thrown at him. Best Fit: Cardinals. Other Candidates: Indians, Angels, Blue Jays.
The 33 year-old Murphy deserves a short term deal with a team that needs veteran presence and help in the infield. The man can still hit very well for contact with some pop, can get on base and this might be enough to make up for shaky defense. Best Fit: Mets. Other Candidates: Rockies, Yankees, Athletics.
LeMahieu is only 29 and is an excellent contact hitter with superb defense while Dozier (31) brings good power and solid defense. Both players are coming off down seasons from their usual numbers but they may just be flukes. For D.J: Best Fit: Cubs. Other Candidates: Rockies, Angels, Athletics, Red Sox. For Dozier: Best Fit: Dodgers. Other Candidates: Twins, Rays, Rockies.
Cabrera and Lowrie are both switch hitting infielders that can hit and play solid defense. Cabrera played in the most games (147) since 2011 and hit 23 homers. Lowrie made the all-star team and drove in 99 runs anchoring second for the surging A’s. Both are still grinding and will do so in 2019. For Cabrera, Best Fit: Phillies. Other Candidates: Mets, Cubs. For Lowrie, Best Fit: Yankees. Other Candidates: Athletics, Dodgers, Phillies.
OF: A.J Pollock, Charlie Blackmon, Michael Brantley, Andrew McCuthen and Nick Markakis and Marwin Gonzalez
Pollock has been a solid performer in the Diamondbacks lineup but hasn’t played more than 113 games since 2015. Pollock is a solid hitter and a good defender, but his health issues cannot warrant a top-tier level contract. Best Fit: Rays. Other Candidates: Phillies, Astros, Diamondbacks, Indians.
The man they call “Chuck Nasty” has used his strong defense and a great bat to headline the Rockies offense for the last few seasons. Blackmon is among the best leadoff hitters in the game and still has at least a couple of more great years in him. Best Fit: Re-sign with the Rockies. Other Candidates: Indians, Rays, Phillies, Mets.
“Cutch” may not play to the MVP levels we were used to earlier in the decade with Pittsburgh, but he has proven to still be very serviceable while playing with plenty of passion and emotion. Best Fit: Re-sign with the Yankees. Other Candidates: Pirates, Astros.
After injury-ridden 2016 and 2017 campaigns, Brantley returned to his normal high-caliber level of performance by hitting .309 and making the all-star team. Best Fit: Re-sign with the Indians. Other Candidates: Rockies, Yankees, Cardinals, Pirates, Phillies, Mets.
Markakis made his first all-star game at age 34 hitting .297 and playing all 162 games. He is durable, a great contact hitter and a solid outfielder who brings plenty of veteran wisdom to a team. He’s got plenty of baseball left in him, and 3,000 hits isn’t out of his sights yet. Best Fit: Diamondbacks. Other Candidates: Rockies, Braves, Indians.
Gonzalez couldn’t quite match his breakout 2018 season, but he can play any infield and outfield position, is only 30 and is a switch hitter. This type of super-utility layer may be very valuable to teams looking to rest any player on any given day. Best Fit: Cubs Other Candidates: Astros, Rays, Cardinals.
DH: Nelson Cruz
Nelson “Boomstick” Cruz might be 38 years old already, but the man still knows how to get on base and hit the ball very hard. Cruz can’t do much more than serve as a team’s DH so a national league team doesn’t really seem like a good fit for him. Best Fit: Re-sign with the Mariners. Other Candidates: Rays, Twins.
Is Baseball’s Umpire Problem Fixable in the Foreseeable Future?
Ask any baseball fan what they think about when they hear the name Angel Hernandez. I can tell you with almost 100% certainty that some will just say “who’s that,” but most will ask you back “WHY DOES HE STILL UMPIRE?”
Unfortunately, while I hate to have to throw so much shade at one man who’s just trying (albeit not with very much success) to do his job, this long-time MLB umpire has become the face of the movement advocating for make officiating in baseball more automated. If not for all over the field, then at least to have automation behind home plate, where arguments break out daily.
As entertaining as arguments between players and umpires can be for fans, they both slow the game down and prove that umpires are human and are prone to make mistakes. Yes, I do understand that they do have to be more perfect than any Average Joe dawning the umpire uniform, and that they “shouldn’t” make mistakes, but are these mistakes really worth starting to take some of the humanity out of baseball?
My answer to that question would be no. I don’t think we can just take umpires out of baseball, they’re part of the fabric of the game just like the officials and refs are in almost every other professional sport. There are some other alternatives to full-on removal of umpires that may be worth considering for Rob Manfred and baseball
- Allow for disputed third strike, balk and check-swing calls to be challenged
This solution would eliminate three of the most, if the the three most aggravating incorrect calls umpires make that bother players. No player likes it when a pitch that’s clearly too high is called strike three, no pitcher likes being told they flinched after engaging the rubber when an eternity of review can’t prove it, and most importantly, no hitter likes it when they know their bat didn’t cross home plate (which defines a swing), but their either told by a base umpire 90 feet away or by a home plate umpire not watching the pitch (not doing his main job) that it did.
The problem with this solution: the pace of play would slow to 100 times slower than it already is. Imagine instead of 1-3 challenges a game there’s 10-20 or even more challenges in a game. While these reviews would be shorter, no one wants to stop the game after every at-bat to prove that the umpire did his job right. This solution fixes one problem while greatly amplifying another
2. Get rid of the home-plate umpire and keep the other three
This seems like a diluted way of taking some humanity out of the game. While the home-plate umpire is probably the one incurring most of the arguments from players, most of them, NOT ALL but most, are actually good at their jobs. According to Fangraphs, in 2016 MLB umpires correctly call over 4 out of every 5 strikes strikes (82.21 % of strikes were actually called strikes).
MLB’s Best Comeback Performances From 2018
2018 saw the revival of many players’ careers. Here are the top 15 of those bounceback performances from the 2018 season.
15) Edwin Jackson (Oakland A’s)
Yes, he only pitched 92 innings in 2018, but for someone who was 10-13 with a 5.57 ERA with 4 teams over the last 2 years, Jackson made quite the return to normal in 2018. Jackson pitched to a 3.33 ERA and cemented his chances to pitch again in 2019.
14) Anibal Sanchez (Atlanta Braves)
Pretty similar story to Jackson here. Having gone 10-20 with a 6.09 ERA in the last 2 seasons, Sanchez looked to be on the way out, but at age 34, Despite less velocity, he figured out how to be effective again and pitched to a 2.83 ERA in 24 starts for the young NL-East champion Braves.
13) Derek Holland (San Francisco Giants)
One More Jacksonian comeback. Posting a 5.50 ERA over 301 innings in the last 3 seasons and only 6 games the year before Holland just couldn’t right the ship. but a 3.57 ERA in 171.1 innings with just 19 homers given up for San Francisco this season gave Holland a strong 2018 comeback campaign
12) Matt Kemp (L.A Dodgers)
This one’s more about returning home than returning to form. Kemp had been with L.A since 2006 and was a 2-time all-star (2011 and 2012). Now 33, Kemp returned to L.A, but was expected to either be traded or released. Instead he was kept and hit .290 and made the all-star team. God call Dodgers!
11) Kyle Gibson (Minnesota Twins)
Things reached a critical low with the Gibson after 2017 when he finished his second straight season of an ERA above 5 with a sky-high hits/9 of 10.5. Fortunately, Gibson came back from his 2-year ugly spell by Pitching to a 3.62 ERA in over 190 innings and lowering his hits/9 from 10.4 to 8.1 from last year to this. Hopefully Gibson’s bumps in the road are all behind him now.
10) Dellin Betances (New York Yankees)
The 30 year-old Betances has been one of the Yankees’ best relievers over the last 4 or 5 years, but his control and overall performance steadily declined over the last two seasons and Betances’ title as Yankees setup man was in jeopardy. Betances greatly improved in 2018 by nearly cutting his walks/9 in half from 6.6 to 3.5 while maintaining a solid ERA and incredible strikeouts/9.
9) Oliver Perez (Cleveland Indians)
Having just wrapped up his 16th big league season, the 37 year-old Perez pitched to a 1.39 ERA and shined in what was a very disappointing Cleveland bullpen. Perez’s ERA was his lowest since moving to the pen in 2012 and he proved that he can still be effective in a team’s bullpen with his great 2018 rebound.
8) Nathan Eovaldi (Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox)
Eovaldi last pitched in 2016 as he recovered from his second Tommy John surgery. After 10 starts in Tampa, Eovaldi was traded to Boston, where he pitched to a 3.33 ERA, became a Yankee killer and dominated in the playoffs. The 28 year-old flamethrower looked as good as ever and hopefully put the injuries behind him
7) Zack Wheeler (New York Mets)
After a great 2014 campaign, a 3.54 ERA, 187 strikeouts and just 14 homers allowed in 32 starts, Wheeler missed 2 years with injuries and pitched to a 5.21 ERA after coming back in 2017. Wheeler found his groove in 2018 with a 3.31 ERA in 29 starts with a strong 1.12 whip (compared to 1.59 in 2017) and 179 strikeouts on just 55 walks in 182.1 innings.
6) Michael Brantley (Cleveland Indians)
The 2014 all-star and MVP candidate played in only 101 games between 2016 and 2017 before returning to form in 2018. Brantley hit .309 in 143 games, his highest total since 2014, and made his 3rd all-star team and made his case in his free agency season as one of the best available outfielders.
5) Trevor Story (Colorado Rockies)
Story burst onto the scene right away in 2016 when he hit 7 homers in the first 6 games of his career and ended up hitting .272 with 27 bombs in 97 games. In, 2017 Story regressed hitting .239 with 191 strikeouts and only 24 homers in 145 games. 2018 was his return to form. Story hit .291 with 37 homers, 108 RBI, 42 doubles and 27 steals in 157 games.
4) Patrick Corbin (Arizona Diamondbacks)
Corbin was an all-star in 2013 but the next 4 years were filled with injuries and off performances. Last year Corbin pitched 32 starts for the first time since 2013, but gave up over 200 hits. This year, he gave up just 162 in 200 innings while pitching to a career-low 3.15 ERA and striking out a career-high 246 batters.
3) Gerrit Cole (Houston Astros)
Since his all-star and Cy Young caliber season in 2015, Cole suffered a spike in hits/9 and homers/9 with a gradual dip in velocity from 97 to 95 mph. Skip ahead to Houston in 2018, where Cole’s ERA dropped from 4.26 in 2017 to 2.88, while his hits/9 dropped from 8.8 to 6.4 after one season and he gave up 19 homers while striking out 276 batters and restoring his average fastball velocity back up to 97 mph.
2) Jonny Venters (Tampa Bay Rays and Atlanta Braves)
What a story we have here! From 2010-2012, Venters had a high-90s sinker that was one-of a kind and used it incredibly well over 230 appearances in 3 seasons with Atlanta. Then came the 3 ½ elbow operations that kept Venters out for SIX years until he finally returned on April 25 with the Rays. Venters pitched to a 3.67 ERA in 50 games and how fitting that the incredibly long road back to the Majors ends where it started: Atlanta
1) Mookie Betts (Boston Red Sox)
After finishing runner up to Mike Trout for AL MVP in 2016, Betts hit only .264 with an .803 OPS in 2017. In 2018, Mookie not only looked like the MVP version from 2 years ago, but even better in 2018. Mookie led the AL with a .346 average, .640 slugging and with 129 runs scored, not to mention 84 extra-base hits, 30 stolen bases and 20 defensive runs saved. If that doesn’t win you MVP, I don’t know what will!
Just Missed: Xander Bogaerts (BOS), Yan Gomes (CLE), Colin Mchugh (HOU), Cole Hamels (CHC), Maikel Franco (PHI), Matt Holliday (COL), David Peralta (ARI), Clay Buchholz (ARI).
Where These Free Agent Pitchers Might End Up in 2019
The World Series has come to an end (congratulations Red Sox) and the offseason has officially begun. One of, if not the biggest free-agent-frenzy the game has ever seen is about to begin. Here are some of the top free agent pitchers of 2019 and the teams could use their talents the most next season.
LH SP: Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel, J.A Happ and Derek Holland
Corbin is 29, fresh off of his best season in his career and there are plenty of teams that want to win now that desperately need a good left-handed pitcher like Corbin. He’s the best available starter on the market and will be the target of lots of teams Best Fit: Yankees. Other Candidates: Brewers, Braves, Angels
For the 1st time since his Cy Young season in 2015, Keuchel made every start this season and pitched to a solid 3.74 ERA. At 31, lengthy deals may be scarce for Keuchel, but he is deserving of a shorter multi-year deal. Best Fit: Rockies. Other Candidates: Braves, Astros, Mariners, Brewers, Cardinals.
Happ Shined in his second-half campaign with the Yankees, going 7-0 but struggling in his ALDS Game 1 start. Despite being 36, Happ still has good velocity, good command and has plenty of experience in both the regular season and playoffs. Best Fit: Re-sign with the Yankees. Other Candidates: Pirates, Athletics, Rays, Brewers.
Holland shrugged off an ugly 2017 in Chicago with a solid 2018 in San Francisco, pitching to a 3.57 ERA in 36 games (30 starts). Only 32, Holland still boasts a good sinker along with solid breaking pitches and general strikeout stuff. He’s a slightly risky number 3 starter (due to past injuries and struggles). Best Fit: Athletics. Other Candidates: Rays, Brewers, Pirates, Nationals.
RH SP: Charlie Morton, Nathan Eovaldi, Anibal Sanchez and Matt Harvey
Being almost 35 doesn’t seem to matter for Morton, who has put up his best 2 seasons in his last 2 years in Houston. A journeyman turned fireballer, Morton is a risk because of his age and injury history, but has a tremendous upside going into 2019. Best Fit: Athletics. Other Candidates: Mariners, Pirates, Cardinals, Astros.
Eovaldi has had an unimaginable amount of injuries in his career, has found a way to recover from a 2nd Tommy John surgery, bring back his 100Mph fastball and learn a new cutter that’s made him even better. Add on to that that he owned the Yankees in 2018, he is a lock for an AL East team in 2019. Best Fit: Re-sign with the Red Sox. Other Candidates: Rays, Athletics, Astros, Phillies, Blue Jays.
Sanchez revived his career going 7-6 with a 2.83 ERA providing veteran presence for the young Braves this season. At 34, he’s a low-cost veteran with a potentially high ceiling for any team that needs a solid righty and a veteran pitcher. Best Fit: Re-sign with the Braves. Other Candidates: Cardinals, Rays, Athletics
Despite all the drama surrounding his mid-season trade, Harvey had a solid campaign in Cincinnati in 2018. Pitching to a 4.50 ERA with a fastball that seems to have regained some of its heat, Harvey is at best a number 3 or 4 starter on a contending team Best Fit: Re-sign with the Reds. Other Candidates: None
RH RP: Craig Kimbrel, David Robertson, Jeurys Familia, Adam Ottavino and Brad Brach
Kimbrel has been one of, if not the most, dominating closer in the MLB since he assumed the role with Atlanta in 2011. Coming off of 2 straight strong years with Boston, Kimbrel will likely seek out a lengthy deal anchoring a team’s bullpen for years to come. Best Fit: Braves. Other Candidates: Red Sox, Indians, Cardinals,
Robertson may be 33 years old, but he can give you more than 3 outs in an outing, he’s dependable and is excellent at getting swings and misses. He throws nothing straight and knows how to rack up Ks on his wicked cutter/curveball combo. Best Fit: Re-sign with the Yankees. Other Candidates: Cardinals, Indians, Braves
The 28 year-old Familia may not be the elite closer he was in 2015, but he’s still young with a great sinker-slider combo. He can easily be an 8th inning guy or a closer for any team needing bullpen help, especially a team in a division full of power hitters. Best Fit: Astros. Other Candidates: Rays, Angels, Cubs, Pirates, Rockies
Ottavino had a career year at the right time: 2.43 ERA with Colorado, 13 K/9 and just 5 homers in an all-star 2018. With an absolutely wicked slider and a great 4-seam/2-seam fastball combo, Ottavino could easily warrant a 1 or 2 year deal as a team’s setup man. Best Fit: Re-sign with Colorado. Other Candidates: Yankees, Cardinals, Red Sox, Indians
Brach pitched to a 1.52 ERA with Atlanta to finish 2018 strong and the 32 year-old holds some stock as an experienced setup man for a team needing a less-expensive righty. Best Fit: Athletics. Other Candidates: Braves, Rays, Mets
LH RP: Andrew Miller, Zach Britton, Sean Doolittle
Miller has had to battle injuries and major playoff struggles in 2018 to labor through the last year of his 4 year deal. When he’s on, the 33 year-old is as good of a left hander as there is with his mid-90s fastball and unhittable slider, but that was the issue in ’18. Best Fit: Re-sign with the Indians. Other Candidates: Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Phillies.
Doolittle was rock solid in the Nationals bullpen but was limited to 43 appearances last season, and Britton was inconsistent in his second-half efforts with the Yankees, posting his highest walk-rate and homer-rate ever as a reliever. Best Fits: Just about any ready-to-win team because you can never have too many quality lefty relievers.
The Biggest MLB Award Snubs of the 2000s
The season awards are some of the most heralded pieces anybody would want sitting on the mantle over the fireplace or filling up a trophy case at home, and in the MLB each year, two players get to bring home either the MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year awards, but others also miss out on that award, sometimes undeservedly. Here are 3 of each of the biggest snubs from each award in the MLB since 2000.
Rookie of the Year
The AL in 2000
Kazuhiro Sasaki came over from Japan and pitched to a 3.16 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. Not to discredit his strong rookie year, but his good season beat out outfielder Terrence Long, who hit .288 with 18 homers, 80 RBI and 104 runs scored in 584 at-bats in 138 games. A solid relief season with just 62.2 innings pitched beats out an everyday outfielder. WHAT?!?!
The AL in 2010
Pretty similar story to 2000, a reliever who had a good year and beat out a position player who had a great year, which was EVEN BETTER for a rookie! Neftali Feliz pitched to a 2.73 ERA with 40 saves in his rookie year. He beat out Austin Jackson of the Tigers, who hit .293 with 181 hits, 103 runs scored and 27 stolen bases. Feliz pitches 69.1 innings and wins over an outfielder who records 618 at-bats in 151 games with those stats? NOT OKAY!
The NL in 2003
This one closes it out because the winner beat out not one but TWO more deserving rookies. Dontrelle Willis had a 3.30 ERA, a 1.28 WHIP and 160.2 innings pitched for the World Champion Marlins. BUT, he beat out outfielder Scott Podsednik, who hit .314 with 100 runs scored and 43 stolen bases in 154 games, AND fellow pitcher Brandon Webb, who had a lower ERA, WHIP, more innings and fewer hits allowed. It’s a tough call who should have won, but neither Webb or Podsednik deserved it less than Willis.
Just Missed: The AL in 2005
Cy Young Award
The AL in 2005
A weak season in general, and STILL the wrong winner was chosen. Bartolo Colon won while much like in the NL in 2004 (more on that later), the better starter in almost every way, in this case Twins lefty Johan Santana, got snubbed. Colon’s 1.16 WHIP, 157 strikeouts and 215 hits allowed vs Santana’s 0.97 WHIP 238 strikeouts, 180 hits allowed in similar starts and innings.\, and Santana has all the advantages. What may have won it for Colon over Santana was his 21 wins compared to Santana’s 16, but Santana got snubbed, no way around it!
The AL in 2016
This one’s a snub because of a technicality, but it’s shocking that it happened. Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello both had advantages over each other in 2016. Porcello gave up 23 homers with just 32 walks while J.V allowed only 171 hits and struck out 254 . All that aside, the snub for Verlander comes from the vote totals. Verlander got 14 1st place votes to Porcello’s 8, and it was the 2nd-10th place votes that won Porcello the award. It’s insane that getting the most top votes gets you second place!
The NL in 2004
Sorry Roger Clemens but Randy Johnson out-pitched you in every way in 2004. The game-changer was Clemens’ 18-4 record vs Johnson’s 16-14 record in an era where record really mattered. After that it’s all Johnson: an ERA .38 lower (2.98 to 2.60), 31 more innings with just 8 more hits allowed and 35 fewer walks allowed with 72 more strikeouts (290 to 218). Add on a perfect game that year, and HOW DOES JOHNSON NOT WIN?!?!
Just Missed: The AL in 2002
The NL in 2004
This one gets on this list because Barry Bonds won while he was on the juice while the first and second runners-up had equally good if not better seasons (that were clean as far as we know). Bonds hit .362 with 45 homers and a record 232 walks. Meanwhile, Adrian Beltre and his elite defense, combined with a 200 hit, 48 homer, .334 season finished second and Albert Pujols’ .331 average, 46 homers, 133 runs scored and 1.071 OPS finished 3rd.
The NL in 2000
Coors Field Effect be damned, Todd Helton needed this MVP award! Hitting .372 (38 points above the rest) with 42 homers, 138 runs scored (both 2nd in the NL), 147 RBIs, 216 hits and a 1.162 OPS (all 1st in the NL) and finishing 5th is criminal. Not to take any credit away from winner Jeff Kent or other runners up: Barry Bonds, Mike Piazza and Jim Edmonds, but Todd Helton finished 5th with these numbers and that’s wrong!
The AL in 2000
This is one of the few times where I believe a pitcher should have won MVP. Jason Giambi, Frank Thomas, Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Delgado all did the following: hit over .310, at least 40 homers, 130 RBI and 100 walks, but that made their accomplishments all the less unique. Below them at 5th is Pedro Martinez, who had a 1.74 ERA, a 0.74 WHIP, just 128 hits allowed with 284 strikeouts in 217 innings while he kept Boston in the race for a tossup AL-East. Pedro earned it but didn’t get it.
Just Missed: The AL in 2011