Looking Ahead to the 2015 World Series Front Runners

Looking Ahead to the 2015 World Series Front Runners

Posted on 19 March 2015 by Carrie

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This year’s World Series is still seven months away, but sports enthusiasts already have an eye on who the top contenders are for winning in 2015. The Washington Nationals have moved ahead of both the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox to become the odds-on favorite. Leading on-line sports bookers have upped the New York Mets’ chances from 25/1 to 33/1 odds to win and the Miami Marlins and the Atlanta Braves are both now tied with the Mets at those 33/1 odds. But in order to play in the Series, a team has to get to the Series by winning the playoffs. It helps to stay injury-free and keep eyes on the prize. Who is most likely to go?

It’s easy to see why everyone thinks the Nationals have a good shot at making it to, and winning, this year’s Series. Look at their line-up: they have an unbelievable depth of talent. Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman have remained uninjured and as amazing as ever, and Anthony Rendon is poised to show his stuff. These guys are clearly the tops when it comes to filling in all the blanks. The Los Angeles Dodgers have talent too and are the NL West favorite, but lack the scope and depth shown by the nation’s capital home team boys. It would also be a mistake to rule out the Chicago Cubs – they have the best manager around in the shape of a certain Joe Maddon and plenty of young talent to boot. This may not necessarily be their year to win it all but they are definitely in the running. Same with the St. Louis Cardinals; they could be considered the best from top-to-bottom. And speaking of talent, what single living player has more in the talent department than Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels? It may be difficult for one player to pull the whole team to victory, but they are definitely in the running.

Some folks look at two criteria, payrolls and past performance, for guiding lights in helping select a winner and to help give insight about the World Series here. Years ago every team that made it to the series from 1996-2001 had an Opening Day payroll in MLB’s top 10. But from 2002-2014 just eleven of the twenty-six participants, or less than half, could say the same. So this may not be the most effective way to pick. Other factors such as the inevitable injuries, over-reliance on youthful talent and lack of offense may play more of a role. This is not necessarily predictive; of the last thirty-eight World Series participants around half did not even make it to playoff the year before.

If you wanted to participate in a little legal baseball betting, you would probably pick the Washington Nationals, the Los Angeles Dodgers, or the Boston Red Sox to win with odds of 6/1, 8/1 and 12/1 respectively. If you wanted to bet on a longshot, put your money down on either the Oakland Athletics (40/1), Texas Rangers (40/1), or Cincinnati Reds (50/1). On the side of an underdog? How about the Chicago White Sox (20/1), Baltimore Orioles (22/1), or Kansas City Royals (25/1). But remember, it’s always a crapshoot to some extent. Last year’s Series featured the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals, with the Giants snagging the win. Who called that? So as we go through the season and then the post-season on the way to October, keep an eye on all of the teams. Baseball is full of surprises top contenders have a way of changing from game to game. Play ball!

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What should we be looking forward to for Major League Baseball 2015?

What should we be looking forward to for Major League Baseball 2015?

Posted on 13 March 2015 by Anna

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It seems like just yesterday that the San Francisco Giants were celebrating their World Series win at the AT&T Park Stadium in California. Now, with just two months to go, baseball fans around the world are looking forward to the start of the 2015 Major League Baseball season, which begins at Chicago’s Wrigley Field Stadium on 5th April.

Kicking off the season, the St Louis Cardinals will be visiting the Chicago Cubs. The Cardinals had 90 wins to the Cubs’ 73 last year, but the odds could be in the Cubs’ favor if the home support alone is anything to go by.

Of course, the Cardinals and the Cubs is just one of a series of exciting games we should all be looking forward to for the 2015 season, as well as all the other additional delights of Major League Baseball. So what should we be looking forward to for the MLB Season 2015?

This year, the experts at Betsafe have tipped the World Series title winner to be the Washington Nationals, who currently have odds of 11/2 to win. One particularly exciting player we’re being told to watch out for is outfielder Michael Taylor, who experts claim will be a likely opening-day starter.

Of course, this could simply be down to the fact that Jayson Werth will be out with shoulder surgery, giving youngster Taylor the opportunity to step up to the plate and deliver. At just 23 years old, Taylor has shown his potential to take over this season – his athleticism has allowed him to develop offensively, giving him an incredible combination of power and speed.

What’s more, the players are not the only thing we should be keeping an eye out for in the 2015 season. Gamers everywhere are eagerly anticipating the release of RBI Baseball, which is returning with all its retro gaming glory.

The game, which is produced by Major League Baseball, is to be released for the second time, with both a console and mobile version available. This year’s highlights include a complete set of authentic, redesigned major league ballparks, as well as complete 25-man rosters, stat tracking and online play.

Whether you’re a sports fan who loves to watch every game religiously or play along with the merchandise that comes with it, there’s plenty to look forward to for the Major League Baseball season 2015.

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The Wood That Makes It Good

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The Wood That Makes It Good

Posted on 30 May 2013 by Will Emerson

If you have Travis Wood on your fantasy team, you are a lucky duck.  For real! Travis Wood has been the bargain of bargains at the fantasy starting pitcher slot this season. Even I, a man with a certain fondness for Wood and fantasy crush on the entire Cubs rotation, could not, would not, have predicted the start that Travis Wood is having. The thing now, from the fantasy baseball view, is can we hope to get out of Wood for the remainder of the season? A valid question that will be asked of any player who puts up good numbers, virtually out of nowhere. If you are currently a proud Travis Wood owner you are probably, even as you read this, wondering what the future holds for the Cubs’ wily southpaw. If you’re not, you probably should be. Okay, now that all Travis Wood owners have this thought rattlin’ around their noggins, time to drop some knowledge on them.

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Personally, I have liked Travis Wood for a couple of seasons now. “Why,” you may ask. Well, I don’t really know. Travis Wood is just one of those pitchers I like, but cannot quite pinpoint the reason for this “liking”. Other members of this club include such big names as Chris Volstad and Brett Cecil. I guess Cecil sort of has K potential, but really none of them offer anything in the way of star, or even above-average, potential in real or fantasy baseball. They are not guys I peg as sleepers at the beginning of a season, but rather, guys who I might spot start here and there, at best. I am a K/9 guy, so liking Wood is very strange for me. Wood’s career K/9 is 6.78, so he should not even be on mike likability radar. But he is. Now, K-rate aside, there are pitchers who can make do whilst allowing more contact. We call those guys crafty. Picture a Mark Buehrle type. A solid innings eater, who won’t be especially flashy, but will get the job done for your team, more often than not. The key for those types of pitchers is to keep the ball on the ground and not give up hard hit balls.  So, does Wood fall into this Buehlre-esque (not to be confused with burlesque) mold? Maybe?

Here are Wood’s career numbers- 21-25, 3.94 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 6.78 K/9, 2.94 BB/9, 33.5 GB% and a 71.9 LOB%. Seems sort of like a Buehrle like guy, right? I mean, personally I might be a bit concerned about the ground ball rate, but Wood seems to be working with it, for the most part. Wood’s career line drive rate is right around 20%, which seems about average. Now let’s look at Wood’s 2013 numbers at this point in the season.

In 2013, Wood is 4-2, with a 2.24 ERA, .93 WHIP, 5.82 K/9 and a 2.83 BB/9. So compared to his career and, pretty much projected, numbers the K-rate, just like the ERA and WHIP, are down significantly. So what’s changed? Well, his ground ball rate, while still lower than I’d like, is actually up over five percent from 2012. More ground balls, in theory, will generally help a pitcher’s cause, that is for darned sure! Wood is also walking slightly fewer hitters, down a little (about .11 per nine innings) from his career number. So those numbers will help a bit, but the biggest improvement right now for ol’ Travis is his pitching with men on base.

To this point in 2013, Wood has a LOB% of 82. Eighty-frickin’-two, folks! For those that may not know, that is quite a good strand rate. Not only as that more than 10% higher than Wood’s normal numbers, but it is almost 10 higher than the league average! Now, it does not take a rocket surgeon to realize that preventing baserunners from scoring is a good idea, but the question is, can Wood sustain this rate? It’s really hard to say yes to that question. I don’t think there are many, if any, people who believe in that rate continuing. Obviously, if you start letting more baserunners score, your ERA will rise. The thing is, even if the strand rate goes down to the league average or in that vicinity, remember Wood has not been allowing a ton of runners to reach base.  So even if Wood’s strand rate was right around league average his ERA would still be right around three. Now before you get all crazy and start telling people I said his ERA would be around three the rest of the way, just wait a tick.

I am not saying Wood will still be tossing up these ace like numbers. throughout the rest of this season. Wood’s ERA should finish in the mid threes though, which is a bit of alright! Wood’s been throwing a cutter more frequently, and with more consistency, which has definitely contributed to his success thus far. So while he will not keep up his current pace, I feel like he will definitely pitch better than some of the current projections that have his ERA the season being up over four. I need a few more strikeouts for my liking, but he definitely has some fantasy upside the rest of the way.

If you have Travis Wood on your roster, his price may not get much higher than it is now and it would definitely behoove you to test trade market waters. That being said, it is still tough to say who believes in Wood enough to give you a premium return in a deal. Wood has been pitching very well dating back to the end of last season, but there is just no track record or even any sort of expectations that have popped up, pointing to this sort of performance. It is definitely worth testing the waters. Wood should be good (I’m a poet and I don’t even know it!) going forward, just not quite this good. Hey, put it out there and see what happens, I mean there’s always one in every league, right? Let’s just hope you are not that one. I mean in the words of Mike McDermott, “If you can’t spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Do You Trust Your Closer?

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Do You Trust Your Closer?

Posted on 30 May 2013 by Jennifer Gosline

Every position in baseball is important. Every pitch. Every catch. Every play. Once the starting pitcher has exhausted, he counts on his relievers to carry some weight for the rest of the game, and then the final touch must be executed with extreme precision by the closer.

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The closers role is glamourous yes, but the amount of pressure that lays upon them is intense. They are there for that final inning. They are responsible for finishing a game that the rest of the team has worked long and hard for. They face the final three batters. Well, hopefully just three. The opposing team’s batters have an extra exuberance for one last chance at taking the lead in a game. They have more adrenaline for the last shot at being the hero. Even though every out in every inning matters, the closers seem to have a heavier job to do.

Not every reliever can handle the pressure and stress of this responsibility. A lot of closers get demoted to the set-up guy if they struggle too often. Some even get sent down to the minors to work on their pitches, or even get released.

Detroit Tigers, Jose Valverde, was mercifully given another opportunity with the team this year. After initially releasing him to free agency, no other team wanted the veteran on the back-end of their bullpen. He then agreed to sign a minor league contract with the Tigers organization, and was eventually called back up and given another chance to prove he deserves his former closing role.

Last season, Tiger’s fans would cringe when Valverde was given the ball in the 9th. They never knew what would happen. But one thing for sure was that he would make it interesting. At times he would pitch a flawless inning. Three up. Three down. But more often, the 9th inning would seem just as long as the first 8 innings combined. As Tiger’s fans would shake their heads in disgust, Valverde would still be trusted by his skipper and continue to pitch the painful, what should have been, final inning.

But he was not always unreliable. In 2011, he amazed baseball fans everywhere for completing 49 saves out of 49 tries, being one of the best closers in the majors. So, how can someone with such a solid record do so much damage in 2012, and lose the faith of most of the fans?

Closing a game is not easy.

The Tigers see something in Valverde that the fans right now, are not. And they decided to give him another chance at becoming the phenomenal pitcher that he has been before. Tiger’s fans, and maybe some of the players themselves, are now on the edge of their seats, waiting to see which type of pitcher Valverde will be this season. He has 4 saves, and has blown one so far in 2013.

There is a weakened bond between the fans and Valverde, but then there are other closers such as Phillies, Jonathan Papelbon, who has the trust of most of the entire crowd to be able to finish games. His career numbers prove his worth with a career ERA of 2.30 and WHIP of 1.01. He has 8 saves so far this season and none blown, but last season he had 4 blown saves which was only one less than Valverde in 2012. But for the fans to have faith in their closer, they want that 1-2-3 final inning. Valverde is not that type of closer. But the difference between a much loved Papelbon and a oh-no-here-he-comes Valverde, is consistency.

Another loved closer is Rangers, Joe Nathan. He has 13 saves already this season and not one blown save yet. He has pitched 17 innings and has 16 strikeouts. Nathan has been highly reliable, finishing last season with 37 saves, an ERA of 2.80 and 78 strikeouts. Much like Papelbon, Nathan is dependable. When he is handed the ball in the 9th, the fans are a little more relaxed. And if he fails, they are more likely to be forgiving. But if a closer gets that reputation for being unpredictable like Valverde, he is likely going to have everyone clenching their jaws until the final out.

Valverde has a chance at gaining back the confidence of the fans. His charismatic off-the-wall personality will help soften hearts, but ultimately it is what he does on the mound that will determine the patience and belief of the crowd.

The fans want their closer to succeed. Not only because they want their team to win, but they want that connection between pitcher and fan. That feeling where they know the team is in good hands, so they can sit back and enjoy the rest of the game. But fans do expect pitchers to mess up sometimes. Every now and again, closers are going to give up hits, runs, or blow a save. That is understandable.

Fans are forgiving as long as they do not have to forgive every single game.

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The National League Shortstop Revolution

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The National League Shortstop Revolution

Posted on 20 May 2013 by Will Emerson

Recently there has been a rush of hot new shortstops, primarily in the National League. Jean Segura, Andrelton Simmons and Didi Gregorious are the three hottest new shortstops in the majors. They have all had a bit of prospect hype surrounding them and thus far they have actually been exceeding expectations. The thing is, it is always tough to gauge skill level or future performance based on an initial small sample size. Truth be told, they are all currently hitting the ball quite well. But is this just a hot start to their respective major league careers or are the offensive numbers legit and a nice indication of things yet to come?

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For Segura, the primary piece the Brew Crew received in return for Zack Greinke, there were some mixed reviews at the time of the trade in regards to whether or not the Brewers got enough in return for Greinke. Here is a quick evaluation of Segura from Baseball Prospect Nation, right around the time of the Grienke trade:

“At the plate, Segura is a plus to plus-plus hitter for average with definitively good gap power. There are scouts that believe he can have fringe-average home-run power down the line, making him a high average guy with plenty of extra-base hits.”

From this evaluation and plenty of others I have seen, Segura would make a very solid top of the order hitter. There is that “fringe home-run power” suggested above, but should we have expected it this soon? Segura’s current isolated power sits at .229 thanks in part to six home-runs, while many preseason projections projected a home run range of five to ten over around four-hundred at bats. Segura had yet to post an ISO over .110 anywhere above A-ball. I would say the current .229 ISO is bound to drop, or is it? Well, yeah, it probably is, but maybe not as much as many may think. I mean, it is possible that the power, generally the last skill to develop, has arrived for Mean Jean, right? Sure, it is. I am not sold on the power just yet, but the kid can make contact, that’s for darned sure! Now Andrelton Simmons is a bit of a different story, altogether.

Simmons is a slick fielding shortstop who will flash some nice leather in the field, but as far as hitting is concerned, he is not expected to be overly spectacular. The preseason projections had a slash lines somewhere in the neighborhood of .270/.320/.377. Nothing flashy, but nothing atrocious either, especially with his glove. I, for one, felt like those slash numbers were a tad bit high. Thus far Andrelton’s slash line is .250/.294/.386. However, Simmons is heating up a bit at the plate, lately, showing some power at the plate. In May, small sample size though it is, the slash line for Simmons is .267/.283/.489 . Everything is a bit better, but hold the phone a sec, here! A .489 slugging percentage? Wow! Talk about out of character and exceeding expectations, right?! Through the end of April, Simmons had four extra base hits. Two doubles and two home runs. That was over the span of 87 at bats. In May, over 45 at bats, Simmons already has two home runs and four doubles. According to this wonderful piece by Eno Sarris over at FanGraphs Andrelton (I really do love that first name!) has been receiving hitting tips from Justin Upton, which is not a bad place to receive tips from and may also have helped launch that recent Simmons mini power surge. Now before everyone tries to go out and swindle some unsuspecting fantasy owner in a trade for Simmons, it is interesting to note that all six extra-base hits came in a four game span. In the next four games after that he was 1-16 and the one hit was a single. So, it seems a bit premature to start jumping on any Andrelton bandwagons juuuuusssst yet, unless you are expecting a child and looking for a cool baby name. What I find to be a somewhat less cooler name? Didi.

While I am not a huge fan of Didi has a guy’s name, I think Gregorious is kinda nice! Working on his nickname, I am thinking maybe the Gregorious B.I.G? Well, we can work on that later. Gregorious has come outta the gate smokin’ hot. Didi was 6-13 with 2 dingers in his first three games and he was quickly swooped up in fantasy baseball leagues all across the land. Here is Marc Hulet’s read  on Didi:

‘“a gifted fielder, [with] outstanding range, a plus arm and excellent actions.” On his hitting, Hulet added that “he gets pull happy but has some surprising pop from the left side”.    

There was nothing pointing even to a remote amount of pop from any side of the plate from Didi during is minor league stay. So has the pop arrived? It is possible, sure. I don’t think the power Didi is showing right now is gonna keep up, but he should be a solid hitter. Gregorious has three home runs thus far, but really over a full season you should only expect 10-12 home runs, at this point in his career.

So at this point, I would say, power aside, Gregorious and Segura are the real deal as far as hitting is concerned. They should both post some good XBH numbers without a ton of longballs. As far as Simmons is concerned, he is a great glove man, but not quite there at the plate. Offensively, I would say, Simmons’ has an Omar Vizquel-esque hitting numbers. So drink it in! Welcome the shortstop revolution!

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