NLDS 2017 Preview

S.Samek

We have four teams left in the National League. Let’s take a closer look at each division series matchup.
First is LA and Arizona. This is an NL West division battle, set up by Arizona’s win over Colorado, also of the NL West.
LA is no stranger to the playoffs and winning. This year they would win the President’s trophy for best regular season mark with 104 wins. This was 11 better than the Diamondbacks total.

According to ESPN the Dodgers have the best fielding team left in the tournament and best roster. If you have a roster than boasts, Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish, Alex Wood, Cody Bellinger and more you deserve that mark.
Bellinger stands out because of his success against Zac Greinke. Bellinger hit .293 against him this year with a .655 slugging percentage.

Arizona should rely on Greinke and Robby Ray to win them games pitching. Paul Goldschmidt and J.D Martinez should care the Snakes offensively. The pair mashed 36 and 29 homers respectively during 2017.

Though Goldschmidt struggles against Kershaw to the tune of .227 career and 0-5 during 2017 against him.

The bullpen may be a bit shaky, especially with closer Fernando Rodney. Big reason why the snakes pen is ranked seventh of eight remaining teams in bullpen war.

Though recently the Diamondbacks have the Dodgers number, winning the last six in a row. It won’t be enough as La wins this series

Second offering is the defending world series champions Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals. This is a matchup of the two teams that emerged in rather weak divisions.
Chicago may still have a bit of a spark from winning it all last year. They also have Kris Bryant, Antony Rizzo and company hitting well for them. They also returned Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester to the staff that took it all last year. They will be a tough out in this round.

The Nationals were five games better than the Cubs, with 97 wins. They did this with a core of Bryce Harper. Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. With an improved bullpen from trades this team looks complete and ready to compete.

Harper should have an advantage over Arrieta, as he hit left handers .322/.433/.654 this season. It should be close, but Washington has just enough to sneak by.

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2017 ALDS Preview

S. Samek

Moving past the wild card game to set up each division series. Here would be my pick for team s advancing to the Championship series. Starting with the American League.
Our first match up is the Indians and Yankees. The Yankees are fresh off an 8-4 win in Tuesdays wild card game. While Luis Severino did not look good in that game it shouldn’t matter as the Yankees bullpen looked good. Severino should be able to rebound and pitch closer to the dominance he saw during the regular season if he is needed in this series.

Aaron Judge, homered in the wild card game and had 52, tops in the American League during the regular season.  Gary Sanchez hit 33 homers as well. The power is there for New York.

Cleveland wins plan and simple. The won last year’s American League championship and lost in the World series final game. They won 102 games this season, most in the American League and second most in all of MLB.

They own the record for wins in a row all time as they strung together 22 wins during the season. They have a 42-8 record in the past 50 games.
They pitch well. Indians bull pen has the best era, while their starters have the second best. Cory Kluber leds this staff with a 1.62 era in his last 23 starts.

The Indians can hit too. Edwin Encarnacion had the big stick with 38 homers this year. Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez also combine for 62 long balls this season. If the Yankees have power, so do the Indians.

Cleveland has a 58.3 percent chance to win according to ESPN and I agree. Indians win.

Next matchup is Houston and Boston.

Houston won 101 games, third best overall record. The have four great pitchers in the rotation, led by Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander. They have strong hitters like Jose Altuve, Josh Reddick and George Springer. They are a complete team built to compete.

The Red Sox won the East division and 93 games. The have a rotation with Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello. Offensively they have Mookie Betts and his 24 home runs. Betts does well against ground ball pitchers, like Keuchel and should be able to give Boston a nice boost on offense.

think Houston’s depth in the rotation should be able to send them on, when combined with a strong hitting core. Astros take this series.

 

 

 

 

Wild Card Predicts 2017

S.Samek

As the calendar tunes from September to October it means its football season right. Not quite as its baseball playoff time. The first game of the playoffs goes down tonight with the American League Wild Card Game.

This matchup is the Twins and Yankees. The Twins seem to be big under dogs in this one. The Yankees seem to have an advantage at most of the positions on the field.

The Bronx Bombers also won six games more than the Twinkies. During the most recent series between the two It was New York sweeping a three-game set.

The Pitching matchup seems to be getting the most attention. The Yankees are sending Luis Severino against Ervin Santana. Severino is dominate with a 2.98 era against Santana’s 3.36. It’s not a huge difference, but maybe just enough of an edge to give the Yanks the win.

If era isn’t it would be the stakeout numbers. Severino sends hitters back to the dugout at almost a 30 percent clip. This is ten percent better than Santana. That’s about a third of Twins hitters not getting on base. You don’t get on base you don’t score. No runs scored, you don’t win the game.

Santana doesn’t also fare well in Yankee stadium. He is 0-5 with a 6.43 era there.

Minnesota does have Byron Buxton to watch though. Buxton hit .253 with 16 homers and 51 rbi during the year. However, he is hitless against Severino.

New York counter punches with Aaron Judge. Judge had 52 long balls this season while hitting .284.

Gary Sanchez also has 33 homers for New York, making there no shortage of power for the Yankees. Santana has also given up seven homers while pitching in Yankee stadium, so there’s plenty to be worried about if you’re a Twins fan.
Yankees win this one.
In the second wild card game the National League has the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks.
Arizona won 93 games to Colorado’s 87 games. Both finishing behind the 104-win Dodgers. It’s the same Dodgers that loom on the horizon for the winner of this game.
Colorado should make this a competitive game with big hitters such as Charlie Blackman, Noland Arenado and Carlos Gomez. Gomez has homered five times and has 14 hits in 42 at bats against Zac Greinke, who looks to get the ball for Arizona.

The Snakes have Paul Goldschmidt and a resurging J.D Martinez to help power them. This should be enough to overcome the Rockies. This one should be close though.

 

Fayetteville Baseball 2019 Name

Fan vote determines new identity.

By S. Samek

It was discussed in a prior post how bad and boring the new Houston Astros affiliate in the Carolina league’s new name would be. http://bit.ly/2mBxu8e

 Fortunately, this is just a two-year stop gap name until the team moves to a new stadium in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Name possibilities have been announced and well let’s check them out here.

 

First up is The Fatbacks. The name is explained as coming from a pork dish, popular down south. Absolutely not does this need to be a nickname. Food nicknames are starting to get ridiculous. http://bit.ly/2uJuui0.

Also, really a pig them, it doesn’t show much creativity. I mean you have the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs the Texas Air Hogs any Razorbacks you can think of, the former Winston-Salem Warthogs. I don’t think swine is the way to go.

Batting second is the Flytraps. Apparently, the plant is native to the wetlands of Carolina. It also matches up with catching fly balls. To me it screams backyard baseball copycat. It’s a fun name for a kid’s game, but not for the major leagues.

Third we have the Jumpers. The name comes from parachute regiments at Fort Bragg nearby, specifically the 82nd airborne division. Good effort though I think misplaced. Jumper isn’t really a flattering term. Why not try like the artillery, Battery, or old school Generals, maybe Cannons, or raiders. The possibilities are there if you look and think a bit creatively.

Fourth up is the Wood Dogs. This is a meh name. Sounds too much like the Down East Wood Ducks. It’s just rather boring. Also, too close to the Fayetteville Swamp Dogs of the Coastal Planes League.

Finally, we have the Woodpeckers.  Named after an endangered species in the area. It just doesn’t seem like an exciting name. It just falls into the generic bird category.

Not impressed with this crop of names. They just feel generic and boring. Not much better than Astros. I think they have something with a military angle, but it needs to not be jumpers. Interesting to see the final name and logo.

 

 

 

 

 

Striking Distance

Pirates have chance to gain ground in division.

By S. Samek

 The Pittsburgh Pirates have started out strong in the first two games of a four-game set in Milwaukee. The Pirates have outscored the Brewer’s 15-four in what I think could be a pivotal point toward the rest of the season. The Pirates it just four games out of first place and a half game back from second in the NL Central. Even taking just one of the next two keeps them at four games back from first place in the division. Plus depending on what the Cubs do against San Diego, a move up to second place is possible.

 

This would then lead them into a series against St. Louis, a team they are currently tied with in the standings. Having momentum from a big series in Milwaukee, should help the Pirates do well against the Cardinals and add separation between the two for at least third place in the division.

 

Then the Pirates end June and enter July with series against the Rays and Giants. The Rays being similar to the Brewers in record can be hung with, more so being at home where the Bucs have a winning mark at 19-18. The Giants then come into town with one of the worst records in baseball and provide another chance to gain ground by beating them.

The schedule keeps staying easy with the Phillies and Cubs rounding out the pre-all-star game slate. The Pirates realistically could go 11-6, or 12-5 during this stretch. This puts them at 44-44, or 45 – 43. This would then give them strong momentum going into the All-Star game, before seeing the Cardinals and Brewers immediately after the break.

Having the separation from before the all-star break would help a lot. Then With more games scheduled against the Giants and Padres, now could be the start of the big month that plays into a playoff spot.

The Pirates are currently on a 7-3 run in the last 10 games. This includes a pair of wins against the Marlins after losing two games to the them. A two-one series win against NL West leading Colorado, a win over the Cubs and the two in Milwaukee. Showing a sample of how teams better than the Pirates can be beaten.

The offense is picking up for Pittsburgh. Jordy Mercer has a 10-game hitting streak going. He is hitting .389 with a homer and five extra base hits during the streak. He hit his third triple of the year last night as part of a 2-4 effort.

Andrew McCutchen is also hitting better in the sixth spot in the order. McCutchen went 3-3 last night with a home run, walk and three rbi. This is part of a resurgence in which McCutchen is hitting .406 with six homers and 19 rbi in June.

Jose Osuna, Josh Bell and Elias Diaz are developing well in the bigs, and break out second halves could be just what this team needs. Josh Harrison is also contributing with regularity.

The Pitching is still a work in progress, but with Jamison Taillon back and Ivan Nova and Gerrit Cole pitching consistently this team has a chance.

Starling Marte is also due back in Mid -July. Having his glove and bat in the lineup is a major plus. This addition would put some confidence back into the outfield and combined with McCutchen and crew could keep the Pirates around in a weaker NL Central.

 

 

 

LA Lights Up

Rookie displays big power.

By S. Samek

The American League and National League always seem to go head to head over which league is superior. This season is no exception. Taking the American League by storm is Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge.

To counter punch for the national league it’s the LA Dodgers Cody Bellinger. Bellinger is bringing the power knocking 21 homers after a two-homer night on Monday.

 This continues a string of nine home runs in nine games.  Hes played in just 51 games this season after his April 25 call up. Bellinger is the fourth player to mash 20 home runs pre-all-star break being younger than 21. The last person to do so was Miguel Cabrera in 2004.

Bellinger is hitting .269 with 10 doubles and 47 rbi this season. The 21 home runs are tied for second in the majors behind only Judge and his 23 dingers. Though while Judge is doing well in the all-star balloting, Bellinger is not. He hasn’t ever cracked the top 15 in outfielders.  In fact, in the ESPN article it looks like it would take quite a bit of work to get the man into the all-star game.

While this would be a shame, I think it is going to happen and Mr. Bellinger will be staying home. Though I feel like the snub will only motivate the kid to do bigger and better things. Like win a rookie of the year award. He has a very early edge if nothing else.

Bellinger is another home-grown product. In 2016, he hit 26 homers in the upper two level of the minors while hitting .271. When he was called up this season he was hitting .343 with five homers and 15 rbi in 18 games for the Oklahoma City Dodgers.  He was a Double-A all-star for Tulsa and played in the AFL, where he was all-prospect team and an AFL rising star. He also owns two Dodger’s organization all-star nods.

Bellinger won last month’s rookie of the month award on the National League side. He also won the player of the week honor for the week of May 7th,2017.

While Bellinger has caught a lot of national attention like Judge has. Bellinger may serve as a symbol of the new culture of baseball.

 The idea of drilling the ball hard, his average exit velocity is almost 93 mph, or failing he has 65 strikeouts proves this.

This is very true with all the advanced metrics of the game and obsession with pitchers that hit triple digits on the gun. Not a bad thing, as who doesn’t love seeing the ball go sailing 500 feet out for easy runs. Who doesn’t love to see dominant pitchers rack up strikeout numbers in the teens. It’s an evolution of the game. If seeing players like Judge and Bellinger come around by the hundreds over the years that would be great. It gets media attention and fans in the stands. I embrace Bellinger and wish him the best of luck this year, Judge too.

As for which is better, time will tell. It’s only been a small sample for Bellinger, and Judge is still less than a full season into his pro career. Open the debate back up in five years for a more fair comparison.

West Virginia Black Bears 2017

By S. Samek

Tonight, the West Virginia Black Bears begin season number three. The Black Bears had a .500 campaign in 2016 with a 38-38 record. This was after taking the championship in 2015, their first year in the league as the Black Bears.

Taking a look at tonight’s opening roster. The team looks rather pedestrian.  One of the top 30 Pirates prospects have been assigned to the roster.

Mitch Keller is listed, but it is as a rehab assignment. He belongs with Bradenton.  Michael Suchy is also on a rehab assignment.

The rest seem to be call ups from the Gulf Coast league and Bristol.http://www.milb.com/roster/index.jsp?sid=t5020. No one stands out to even have done anything really worth noting. The closest thing to doing something is Jonathan Schwind. Schwind has seen time at the Double and triple a level. He just hasn’t done much with the bat and isn’t really considered a prospect. This just has to be lineup filler.

Sandy Santos returns to the black and gold after spending last season with them. Santos was with the West Virginia Power, but struggles this season have led to a demotion back to Morgantown. Santos tied for second on the team with 34 rbi, while hitting .281, also second best on the team.

A fast start with the Bears and it won’t surprise me if he gets returned to Charleston. Last season he showed a bit of dominance, but nothing top 30 worthy, yet.

Though aside from the yawn fest of a line up, the Black Bears have an interesting addition to the coaching staff. Joel Hanrahan is an assistant pitching coach for the team. Hanrahan was a former all-star closer in Pittsburgh with 100 career saves. This gives that big league feel and experience to the young pitchers and should serve them well.

I will say though even with a lack of pedigree in the lineup I can see moves being made to improve this roster. Shane Baz, the first-round pick that recently signed with the Bucs could perhaps make an appreance here. Though the most likely spot for him would be the GCL. Recent draftees from the college ranks maybe sent here as well after signing.

 

Though it won’t surprise me either if top 30 ranked pitchers in Braeden Ogle, Travis MacGregor and Max Kranick see time in West Virginia after short, or successful stints in the GCL.

Plus, with no expectations comes the high possibility of a sleeper prospect emerging.  First pitch for the season is at 7:05 p.m.  against Mahoning Valley.