Category Archives: Baseball

Is it really home sweet home?

I was browsing through espn.com the other day and I noticed something. It was not the what the future Manny Machado in Baltimore or what the suspension of Robinson Cano will do to his Hall of Fame Ballot.

But, what caught my attention is that MLB teams are winning on the road at a much higher number than previous years.

I’m not here to tell you why this is the case. I’m a numbers guy. I want to show the change in home field advantage in today’s game.

Look at the Atlanta Braves. The Braves finished 2017 in 3rd place in the National League East with a 72-90 record. They compiled two more wins at home than they did on the road in 2017. Forty-two games into the 2018 season, the Braves are sitting atop the NL East. One thing is for sure, if their road record wasn’t where it is, they would not be in that position. Away from SunTrust Park, the Braves carry a 17-8 record. At home, just 9-8.

Sure, they only have played 17 games at home compared to 25 on the road, but check out these numbers from teamrankings.com. At home, the Braves run line is +1.2, whereas, on the road, it increases an entire point to +2.3.

It’s not just the Braves who are winning on the road. Overall, the entire league is having more success away from their home ballparks.

The table below illustrates the number of teams with better records on the road over the last 5 years:

(Stats based on 5/17)

What is the significance of these numbers?

Well, so far this season, 9 teams in the American League win more on the road. NINE TEAMS. That’s the same number the National League had in the last 5 seasons. In the National League this season, 7 teams own better records away from home.

That’s 16 teams. SIXTEEN.

As the season goes on, it will be interesting to see what ends up happening. I leave you with this question to think about:

Will there be more than 16 teams that have better records on the road or will decreases back into single digits?

What does a Manny Machado trade mean for the struggling Cubs?

Here I am just laying in my bed and I get a notification on my phone that says the Chicago Cubs are going to be in talks with the Orioles for a trade involving Manny Machado.

This is huge news and I want to break down the pros and cons of the Cubs being involved in this kind of big name trade.

First off, the Cubs need a spark. Badly. They have been playing very inconsistent on both sides of the game. The Cubs only have one guy batting over .300 and that’s Ben Zobrist who doesn’t play everyday. Kris Bryant started hot but is now batting a still respectable .290. Rizzo has been up and down with injuries and is batting .177. It appears as if he is starting to find his stride, and he will eventually, but for right now he is not bringing the spark this team needs.

Surprisingly Javier Baez has been on a tear. He leads the team with 10 home runs and 32 RBI’s. To go along with that he has a .285 batting average which is a big step up for him. In his last seven games he has 7 hits, 3 of them homers, and 6 RBI’s. He has undoubtedly been carrying this team so far.

The Cubs are currently fourth in the division at 17-15, 2.5 games out of the first place Cardinals at 20-13. Do not worry Cubs fans, they will find their stride they just need a couple of pieces.

Firstly, like I predicted at the beginning of the season, Addison Russell wouldn’t be on the Cubs playoff roster. To me, he just isn’t the stud player he was projected to be. He has his flashes, there’s no doubt about that, but he optimizes the Cubs this season. He is too inconsistent. He is a top 10 shortstop in the league and that is why his trade value is high but he’s not the fit the Cubs need. He’s batting .250 with 9 hits in his last seven games.

If the Cubs go for Machado, Addison Russell will be included the mix. He is under arbitration until  2021 so that gives the Orioles a legitimate shortstop replacement for the next few years without having to spend ridiculous amounts of money on Machado in the upcoming free agency.

Now, what does getting Machado mean for the Cubs. The Cubs need a leadoff hitter. Plain and simple that has been the main reason for their struggles this season. They lost Dexter Fowler and this has led Joe Maddon to experiment with the leadoff spot a lot. First, Ian Happ looked like the guy coming into the season. He was drawing walks and had approach. When he led off the season on the first pitch with a home run everyone thought the Cubs had found their guy. Shortly, Happ fell off the face of the earth and the Cubs struggles set in. Then as Baez got scorching hot, Joe thought to put him there. That was a risk he was willing to take as Baez was playing well but strikes out a lot. While his strikeout numbers are a little down, his walks aren’t going up making him not the leadoff hitter they need.

The struggle for them has been finding someone who can get on base and get the lineup going. With Machado, he is a guy who consistently hits around .300 with virtually no one in front of him in the Orioles lineup. He is currently hitting .346 with 20 walks and 20 strikeouts. He strikes out a bit, but he makes up for it with how many walks he draws. Machado has been able to adjust to anything the Orioles organization has thrown at him. Making him a leadoff hitter might give him the opportunity to become a better hitter, than he already is, and not have to do everything for them like he does with the Orioles.

It would be an interesting move if the Cubs organization decide to make that type of blockbuster trade and it will be interesting to see if Machado can fit the role of a leadoff hitter and potentially give the Cubs a boost they very much need.

What does this mean for the rest of the Cubs lineup:

This would give them the boost they need to start games off and get the guys on base for the big bats like Rizzo and Bryant to get RBI’s and find their stride. It would give the guys who are still finding their way like Happ and Contreras a chance to not have the pressure of hitting in the leadoff spot.

If the Cubs make this trade I would expect the lineup to look something like this:

  1. Machado
  2. ***Almora/Zobrist/Happ
  3. KB
  4. Rizzo
  5. Schwarber
  6. Contreras/Caratini
  7. Baez
  8. Heyward/Happ
  9. Pitcher

With this lineup it gives Joe the freedom to play around with the 2-spot and gives them a solid lineup from top to bottom with great power and the ability to hit for average moving guys around the bases. This would give the Cubs a no doubt World Series lineup, and would take a lot of pressure off the struggling pitching staff.

Now let me get into the negatives of this trade. The Cubs would have to give up a lot more than just Russell. It would include multiple prospects and most likely someone like Happ or Schwarber in there as well. The Orioles would be foaming at the mouth if they could get a guy like Schwarber to be their new DH. The Cubs have already pretty much depleted their once legendary farm system and have focused on the “win now” mentality, and they should. If they want to stay relevant winning now is crucial.

Another downfall is that Machado is a rented player. He becomes a free agent this offseason and is most likely going to end up going to the Yankees if the Cubs want to make any type of push to get Bryce Harper. It’s a big risk that they would have to take and Theo and the front office will have to decide if it is all worth it in the end.

Getting Machado would be a Joe Maddon dream come true and would give them a leadoff hitter they very much need.

Don’t get your hopes up Cubs fans, a lot of teams will be coming to inquire about Machado and I expect the Cubs and Dodgers to make the biggest push for Machado.

Evaluating the Yankees Offseason Moves

The Yankees had quite an interesting offseason. It started with Giancarlo Stanton getting traded for basically just Starlin Castro and seems to have ended with trading for Brandon Drury. Let’s grade all the major offseason moves from November to February.

Acquiring Giancarlo Stanton: A++

Although Aaron Judge looks like the AL version of Stanton, it never hurts to have an NL MVP on the team. This was a great move because it not only brings another huge power bat to the middle of the lineup but it makes the Yankees the “evil empire” again. Also, Brian Cashman gave up NOTHING.

Enjoy this video of what the Yankees will be enjoying

Trading Chase Headley: A

This was another good move for Cashman; he was able to give away an expiring contract. The Yanks are very intrigued by the fact of getting under the luxury tax to prepare for next off-season’s free agents which include Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Headley didn’t have a spot on this team with Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar on the doorstep of the majors.

Re-signing CC: A

Sabathia was a huge part of the Yankees postseason run last year and it was only right to bring him back for this season. With the Yankees slim on 4 and 5 starters who are proven in the majors, CC made a lot of sense on a 1-year deal.

Acquiring Russell Wilson: B

OK, so obviously Wilson will never actually play for the Yankees ever but this was an interesting move. It wasn’t something the Yankees usually do but it makes sense. With such a young team, Wilson is going to come in and be able to tell the young guys like Judge, Torres, and Sanchez his success story and what he had to do to win a championship. Although this seems more like a Mets move, Wilson can’t hurt the Yankees, he can only help.

The Yankees future second basemen has smooth hands (Just kidding)

Acquiring Brandon Drury: C-

Drury is a solid player but Moustakas also made a lot of sense if Cashman signed him to a 1-year deal. That’s why I give this trade a C- because there were other options out there that maybe were a little more enticing. With a slow free-agent market, Moustakas could be looking at a 1-year prove-it-deal and the Yankees would’ve loved him at third with a short porch in right. Drury will be a good piece at a low price to play either third or second when Andujar or Torres either aren’t ready for Opening Day or start out slow.

What signing Darvish means for Bryce Harper

Everyone knows next year will be one of the hottest free-agency markets of recent history.

Two names: Manny Machado, Bryce Harper.

We are talking about a potential billion dollars worth of deals between those two players.

It’s pretty clear those two are going to the best teams in the MLB with the most money. I predict Machado to the Yankees (or maybe White Sox) and, well, I’m praying Harper to the Cubs.

The Cubs just signed Yu Darvish the other day to a 6 yr/$126 million contract.

So, now the question begs,

Will the Cubs still be able to afford a Harper-type contract?

Well, I got out my protractor out and went to town. I crunched the numbers ‘til the sun came up.

Being the GM that I am, and thanks to my friends at Baseball Reference, I looked over the Cubs contract situation and it won’t be easy to put it lightly.

To start it off, I’ll give you a little background on the contract situation. Lester, Zobrist and Heyward are untouchables. Their contracts are huge.

Did the Cubs overpay for Heyward? Yes. Is it the end of the world? No. They bring just enough value to the team to make up for their gargantuan salaries.

Lester’s contract breakdown follows as so. He is owed $27.5 million over the 2018 and 2019 seasons, $20 million in 2020 and $10 million in 2021. Yikes.

Heyward’s contract is $28.17 mil this year, 20 the next, and 84 million over the next four. Bigger Yikes. Yeah, I already know what you’re thinking holy crap did they drop the ball on that one. Heyward’s contract is the most team unfriendly, but there is no question he is getting better and still one of the top corner outfielders in the league.

Zobrist is owed $16.5 mil this year and 12.5 the next. Now, let’s get to the big question.

Will the Cubs be able to re-sign Kris Bryant and Addison Russell and still sign Bryce Harper.

No.

Bryant and Russell are up for arbitration these next three years since their rookie contracts are coming to a close. Both signed handsome bonuses after bringing the North side it’s first World Series in 108 years, but now that’s up.

So, what does this mean? The Cubs have to get rid of one of them, and I promise you it will not be Kris Bryant. Expect the Cubs to shop around Addy this season and help them bolster their farm system that has produced some of the best young talent currently in the game.

Darvish’s contract is going to average $21 million a year, for a 31 year-old pitcher, over six years. It HAS to be win now and by signing Darvish, it is.

If the Cubs shopped Addison Russell this offseason, not only would they get a good deal from whatever team he’s dealt to, it would be one less person the Cubs would have to deal with in Arbitration. For the Cubs to convince Bryant to take a team friendly contract in order to bring in Harper would be much more likely than Russell.

Harper and Bryant have been good friends since Little League in Las Vegas and have been hanging out a lot this offseason so I would expect him to be more lenient on his contract situation, in order to sign one of the best players in the league. I also expect if Harper does decide to come to the Cubs, that he will take less money in order to be on the team he chooses. This could be huge for the Cubs who are already stacked on major contracts.

I know that sending Addy away is not ideal as he’s only been in the league for 3 years and is already one of the best young shortstops in the game. He’s coming off a year last year where he underperformed due to injury and a domestic violence accusation. After getting through both obstacles he had a good postseason with 5 hits, 2 doubles and 5 RBI’s in 10 games.

Opening up the shortstop position could give a guy like Javy Baez, who is under team control, the chance to show what he has at the spot and give Ian Happ a chance to play his natural position at second base. This could be a very good thing for the Cubs because they would have a very good young infield.

Happ and Baez up the middle could become a dynamic duo in the making. Heyward in center, Zobrist in right and Schwarber in left would be a very slow outfield. It would put a lot more pressure on Heyward, but defense is his specialty and he has thrived in center when he’s had to fill in.

Obviously that would be a one year option if the Cubs decided to go after Harper next year.

Kris Bryant and Bryce Harper on the same team again? Watch out MLB.

It’s Winter Meeting season and I couldn’t be happier

It’s that time of year again ladies and gents. Winter meetings are just a few short weeks away. A time when the finest of baseballs front office members pack their bags and head down to sunny Orlando, Florida with the hopes of signing the biggest and best free-agents on the market and conducting any other league-wide transactions.

Let me start by saying this. It’s gonna be a wild one this time around and hopefully it’ll give me that little fix of MLB that I’ve been craving since the Astros hoisted the Commissioner’s Trophy above their heads.

Where Will Giancarlo Stanton Land?

Derek Jeter the new owner of the Miami Marlins is cleaning house. Everyone’s on the chopping block unless your name is Christian Yelich. Jeter’s in full rebuild mode and for good reason. The Marlins finished just under .500 on the season at 77-85, but were a better team than their record shows. After the tragic death of Jose Fernandez that team just wasn’t the same and for good reason. He was such a huge loss to not only that team, but to the sport itself. RIPJF. Right now Stanton is sitting on a mountain of money equivalent to $295 million over 10 years. He has a buyout clause after the 2020 season if he so wishes to use it. He’s no doubt one of the top trade pieces of the last 10 years. He has pretty much everything teams are looking for especially after coming off a historic year. A good bat who can either DH or play the outfield depending if he’ll end up in the AL or NL, and he is a longterm guy with at least 3 seasons left under contract, granted he doesn’t want the buy out. The teams that have been the most outspoken about trading for Stanton are the Cardinals, Giants and Dodgers. I heard the Red Sox were in the mix for a little, per usual as Dave Dombrowski loves to destroy franchises by trading away and spending everything his teams own and then failing to win a World Series (circa Detroit Tigers 2012). Stanton has all the money he could ever want and coming off a year like that he’ll go wherever he wants, and I think that’s back home to beautiful Southern California.

Most likely landing spot: Dodgers, they have too much in the farm system and plenty of money to spend.

 

Where will Japanese two-way superstar Shohei Otani land?

Survey says… Whichever team has the most money!

Yep, you guessed it. Cue the music ladies and gents get my guy Frank Sinatra on deck.

NEEEEWWWW YOOOORRRRKKKKKK

That’s right Otani is almost a lock in New York in my opinion. It’s not a matter of if he comes to the MLB it’s a matter of when. A guy who throws 100 from the mound and rakes at the plate just screams like a guy that Brian Cashman wants on his roster. Complement that with the youth that team has and that’s going to be a scary looking roster. The Yanks are real close, they have almost everything they need to win number 28 and it was very easy to see that as they fell to the world champs in Game 7 of the ALCS. Rebuilding year? Not so much. The Yanks are close and Otani will only secure that even more. When Judge wasn’t striking out 9,000 times they hit top to bottom like one of the best teams in the MLB. Their bullpen was awesome in the postseason and David Robertson looked like a young stud once again. When almost everyone in your bullpen throws 95+ Larry Rothschild definitely has plenty of options. Tanaka looked like the guy he was back in Japan, Severino showed flashes of greatness but was just a little too inconsistent at times, stacked with that lineup? Watch. Out.  Who knows whether Otani will pan out as a two-way stud, but there’s no better place to make a name for yourself than a team that’s one of the most glorified franches in all of baseball, that happens to be right back up there on the verge of yet another World Series.

Most likely landing spot: Did I stress it enough? Oh yeah, Yankees.

 

Where will all the top Free-Agent’s land?

After the 9 players to receive qualifying offers turned them down, they’re going to enter into the free-agency pool.

The top guys that headline this are former Cubs’ Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis. Arrieta and Davis who are 31 and 32, respectively, are the premium pitchers of this year’s class. Arrieta who reinvented himself in Chicago has won a Cy Young and thrown two no-hitters in his tenure in Chicago. Davis was nearly perfect on his saves last year and was at the top of the league in ERA and saves. Those will both be huge losses for the Cubs to overcome this offseason but I have full faith in my guy Theo to keep us on the right track after making three consecutive NLCS appearances, and ending the 108 year World Series Drought.

Next we have to look at the Royals and how differently their going to look next time they take the field. They’re getting gutted harder than Brad Pitt in Moneyball when he lost Isringhausen, Giambi and Damon. Poor Dayton Moore, that’s a huge blow. Guys like Cain, Moustakas and Hosmer have been the core of that squad for years and in 2015 brought the Royals their first championship since 1985.

Most likely landing spots: Arrieta, Phillies; Cain, Rangers; Cobb, Mariners; Davis, D-Backs; Holland, Royals; Hosmer, Cardinals; Lynn, Cubs; Moustakas, Angels; Santana, Red Sox

 

How much Friggin’ money is J.D. Martinez going to make?

Talk about someone who is going to cash in this offseason and that’s J.D. The former Tiger who was traded to the Diamondbacks last season carried that squad to the postseason only to get swept by the Dodgers. Quite honestly I don’t know how that D-Backs team didn’t put up a fight against the Dodgers because I thought for sure they were a lock in the NLCS vs the Cubs. That lineup with Martinez, A.J. Pollock, and Paul Goldschmidt. Add on Greinke, Robbie Ray and Archie Bradley it amazes me they were so flat in the postseason. Can you imagine if that Dansby Swanson trade hadn’t backfired and he was still on that team too? Good lord. I’ve heard from the most bias Detroit sports fans that, “J.D. will always be a Tiger, he told me, ME PERSONALLY, that he wants to finish his career as a Tiger,” but that ain’t happening sorry dudes. He wants to win and even with that super team back in 2012 they still couldn’t do it so he’s not coming back. He’s going to the Nationals. The Nats have the money and a playoff talent caliber team to entice J.D. to come across the country. Plus the Nationals are going to be looking for Bryce Harper’s long term replacement after he skedaddles and comes to the Windy City. Perfect fit. Who knows, maybe he’ll be the guy to push D.C. past the point of choke return.

Most likely landing spot: Nationals

WATCH OUT KRIS BRYANT AND BRYCE HARPER WEARING THE SAME JERSEY FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE LITTLE LEAGUE

Screen Shot 2017-11-29 at 10.55.04 AM

Good LORD what a beautiful sight! Kris Bryant and Bryce Harper in the same jersey just gets me the hell going. Couple of Vegas boys sittin’ back drinking some brews talking about how many championships they’re gonna win together in Chi-town for the best fan base in sports??? Doesn’t get better than that.

I mean come on as a Cubs fan you love to see this kind of a tweet. When I first saw this I showed my friend and said “Check this out. I can’t wait for them to be in the same jersey out on the field.”

Harper has been a big Chicago fan his entire life. He loves the Windy City. His dog is named “Wrigley” for god’s sakes.

Just picturing it now gives me the chills. I hope to god the Cubs can squander enough cash to pay Harper and Bryant the 12 bajillion dollars they deserve.

One more year, that’s all I have to wait to see that bearded beauty in the royal blue and white pinstripes with a big ole’ “C” on his chest.

World Series Champs 2018–2030

 

Keep the Home Plate Umpire on the Field

The abuse of home plate umpires on their strike and ball calls has been a part of baseball forever. These humans that wear masks and pads to protect themselves from a collection of 102 mph Aroldis Chapman fastballs and 90 mph Noah Syndergaard sliders get strikes and balls correct over 90% of the time. Sure, calls like Jim Joyce on Armando Galarraga should not be a part of the game and it isn’t anymore. The current replay system has its flaws but all in all it has worked for the MLB. I simply can’t imagine a world where there wouldn’t be a human set up behind the catcher and calling the game. That is just how we have all grown up watching the game and playing it and the home plate umpire is part of the fun. Imagine if there wasn’t a human back there. Who would Bobby Cox have yelled at every night or Joe Girardi yelled at when A-Rod got drilled by Ryan Dempster. The human element should be part of the game for this reason alone. There aren’t robots calling holding penalties on offensive lines or offside penalties in soccer.

 

The only possible way that the automated strike zone would seem feasible would be for reviews. What happened when replay first came into the sport? The umpires on the bases didn’t leave the field and let a computer call safe and out. There were replays when coaches didn’t agree with calls. So why can’t the automated strike zone be implemented like this when it is ready. I can see a world where there is a human umpire behind the plate and coaches have a certain amount of strike-ball challenges per game. The call would be simple, replay operators would know right away if the automated strike zone was tracking each pitch. The umpire wouldn’t even have to leave the catcher’s box and a call could be made to him within seconds if a coach chooses to challenge a pitch. Just remember, the human umpire is correct on over 90% of strike-ball calls. There’s no need to change the game just yet, Rob Manfred.