Monday, February 27, 2017

Ranking The 5 Most Fun Red Sox Seasons Of The New Ownership Era

Since the "new" Red Sox ownership took over prior to the 2002 season the franchise has been arguably the best in the sport to date. The team is tied with the Giants for the most championships during this span, but the Sox have done it with more iconic players and much more interesting story lines. All the success has been great but it would be a lie if Red Sox fans said that some seasons weren't as fun and entertaining as others:

5. 2016, 93-69, AL East Champs

2016 was unique in the sense that heading into the season Boston had missed the playoffs in five of the previous six years, yet they were still expected to contend. The biggest storyline of the year was the fact that it was David Ortiz's final season. Incredibly the Large Father had one of the best statistical seasons of his career and his supporting cast was able to get him into the postseason one last time. Boston fans were very optimistic heading into the ALDS against the Indians. Unfortunately the Sox couldn't send Ortiz out on top and the team was man handled by their former manager in a three game sweep.

Despite the brief playoff run the regular season still had a lot of great moments. The most entertaining plot line was the outfield dance celebrations. By September the group of outfielders were taking dance recommendations from fanson Twitter, which included Michael Jackson and "the Carlton". The celebrations became so iconic that they are going to be featured in MLB The Show 17. Other highlights of the regular season included Markus Lynn Betts turning into a top five player in baseball, Rick Porcello winning the Cy Young award, and 25+ game hit streaks by Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr.

4. 2007, 96-66, World Series Champs

Thank goodness for the drama of the Sox falling behind three games to one against the Indians in the ALCS. Besides that there would have been little to no drama for the team to overcome. Still, a championship season is a championship season and the playoffs definitely had its fair share of moments in 2007. This includes Manny's arms in the air walk off homer in game two of the ALDS, JD Drew's first inning grand slam in game six of the ALCS, and Jonathan Papelbon dancing in his boxers to "Shipping Out To Boston" after game seven.

Entering Spring Training the biggest story was the craze surrounding Daisuke Matsuzaka. Dice-K had a solid year but the myth of the gyro ball was overblown and he didn't win the Rookie of the Year award like many expected him to. Instead another Red Sox player won ROY despite hitting just .150 through mid-May. From that point on Dustin Pedroia went on absolute tear and finished the season with an average of .317. Pedroia led a young core of himself, Kevin Youkilis, and Papelbon that complemented superstars Manny, Ortiz, and Josh Beckett in a perfect blend of youngsters and veterans. The best regular season games of the year included hitting four consecutive homers against the Yankees, the Mother's Day Miracle, and Clay Buchholz throwing a no-hitter in just his second MLB start.

3. 2003, 95-67, AL Wild Card Champs

It's crazy to think that 2003 was 14 years ago. It was so long ago that steroids had yet to be banned from baseball, the Expos were still a thing, and Boston had celebrated just one of its 10 championships from this century. Thanks to Bill James and first year General Manager Theo Epstein the Red Sox were ahead of the analytics curve. They used the market inefficiency of on base percentage to sign free agent bats David Ortiz, Bill Mueller, and Kevin Millar to bargain contracts. All three played a central role in the 2004 championship. The most memorable moments from the regular season included countless walk-off wins and Millar starting "Cowboy Up" as the team's rallying cry.

The 2003 playoffs had everything you want in a postseason from your favorite baseball team (besides a championship of course). There were walk-offs, come from behind wins, and both series the Sox played in went the distance. It started in Oakland where the Sox came back from down 2-0 in a best of five that included a loss on a walk-off bunt in game one, a win on a walk-off homer in game three, and an epic series clinching nail biter in game five. The ALCS against the Yankees was as electric as expected, with Pedro throwing Don Zimmer to the ground in game three (!!!). In game seven the Sox had a three run lead with five ours to go before Grady Little left Pedro in a little too long and the rest is history. 

At first glance it might seem strange having '03 ranked ahead of the World Series winning team from 2007 but everything that happened, including the pain of the Boone homer, made 2004 so much sweeter. 

2. 2013, 97-65, World Series Champs

Say what you will about John Farrell's managerial skills these days, but in 2013 he was the right man for the job. Coming off of the beer and fried chicken scandal of 2011 as well as the disaster that was the Bobby Valentine year in 2012, the Sox needed someone to restore order in the clubhouse. Additionally GM Ben Cherington used money saved from the Adrian Gonzalez trade to sign short term, veteran clubhouse guys known for creating good team chemistry. This list included Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Johnny Gomes, David Ross, and Koji Uehara. The plan worked perfectly as the team (led by veterans Ortiz, Pedroia, Lester, and Ellsbury) rode the wave of good vibes all the way to 96 wins and the franchise's first AL East crown since 2007.

Sometimes during a long, grueling baseball season teams need a rallying cry to keep the intensity up on a night to night basis. So there is no question that the tragedies of the Boston Marathon bombings that year gave the Red Sox some extra incentive in 2013. From the moment Big Papi declared "This is our FUCKING city" to when Koji struck out Matt Carpenter in game six, this team was on a mission. The Sox and the fans also rallied around their beards, #BostonStrong, and Koji's high five celebrations. By the time the playoffs rolled around the most fun part of going to Fenway was singing "Every little thing's gonna be alright" to close out Victorino's walk up song.

Ultimately there were many heroes in 2013 but at the end of the day the season belonged to Ortiz. After hitting an epic, game tying grand slam in game two of the ALCS, Papi cemented his legacy in Boston by winning World Series MVP and hitting an absurd .688 through six games.

1. 2004, 98-64, World Series Champs

Never in the history of sports will there be a better story than the 2004 Red Sox. Start in 1918 when the Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees and saw them go on to win 26 World Series championships before Boston got another one for themselves. Not only did the Sox not win during this time but they made it to the Fall Classic four times and lost all of them in the seventh game in heart breaking fashion. Then you add in the fact that throughout all this time the Yankees were just beatin Boston's brains in year after year from the Bucky Dent homer to the Aaron Boone homer to being the ones to trade for Alex Rodriguez. There could not have been a better set up for the 2004 ALCS and the greatest comeback in baseball history. 

It is impossible to talk about '04 and not list all the incredible moments that happened that year. They include trading for Curt Schilling in the off-season, almost trading for A-Rod, losing the game where Jeter dives into the stands, the A-Rod/Varitek fight, Bill Mueller hitting a walk-off homer off Rivera later that night, Theo having the balls to trade NOMAR, Ortiz hitting a walk-off to end the ALDS, two more Ortiz walk-offs in the ALCS, Dave Roberts stealing second, Schilling's bloody socks, and finally Keith Foulke getting Edgar Renteria to ground right back to him. Holy fuck what a year.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Breaking Down The Trailer For MLB The Show 17 As Well As The Current State Of Baseball Video Games

Note this trailer came out back in December but with pitchers and catchers finally reporting it seemed like a good time to start talking about it

Ranking the best baseball video games of all time is mostly a subject exercise. For older games a lot of it has to do with which you grew up playing. For example, kids who grew up on RBI Baseball likely think that's the best. The same can be said for Baseball Stars or Triple Play. I have played all these games and personally think MVP Baseball is not just the greatest baseball video game of all time, but the greatest sports video game of all time. The only games that have ever made me question this thought are the past few years of MLB The Show.

The Show has been around for a while now, since 2006 to be exact, but it's the past couple of years where the game has really taken off. One of the "problems" with baseball video games is that outside of playing single games or franchise modes there isn't much else to do. The Show changed that in this regard by prominently featuring online play with Diamond Dynasty mode as well as adding a "campaign" mode with Road To The Show. 

In the trailer above we get our first glimpse at a potential new RTTS feature where we see a created player talking to his manager in a cutaway scene. This likely hints that RTTS will have more story lines this year. With such a quick scene it's unclear how in depth the mode will go but it's great to see the game trending in this direction.

The other big new feature that is getting a lot of buzz is retro mode. Footage of this was shown at the very end of the trailer and similar to the new RTTS features we don't have much to go off. The clip we do see shows Ken Griffey Jr. batting and is shown able to be moved around in the batters box. He is also hitting off Goose Gossage, which hints that this mode will have retro teams as well. At worst retro mode will be a fun way to experience the nostalgia of the old baseball video games, while at best the developers will make it something worth playing more than a handful of times. Lastly other new features teased in the trailer include new player celebrations (Red Sox outfield dance!!), more classic stadiums, and more diamond dynasty legends. 

Up until a couple of years ago MVP Baseball 2005 was still my baseball video game of preference. One of the reasons for this was, despite the fact the last installment came out over a decade ago, the game still held up to present day. It was just a better overall game experience than whatever new MLB 2K game was coming out. Now I feel myself trending to whichever new version of The Show has come out. One barrier to get people to play The Show is that it is only available on PlayStation, but if you like great baseball video games than the system is worth purchasing with the game. Some of the online play may seem intimidating for more casual players but the game has so many modes to choose from between franchise, diamond dynasty, and RTTS that there is something for everyone. With the new features teased in the trailer it looks like The Show 17 will be the best version yet. 

The Show 17 comes out March 28th.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

This Alex Reyes Injury Sucks But The Cardinals Are Still The Cardinals

Here we go...

Spring Training hasn't even fully started yet and we have already been dealt our first major injury of the season. This one hurts more than most since it is a 22-year-old kid (likely) undergoing Tommy John surgery before he had the chance to really break out. (He was also set to be a big time sleeper in fantasy drafts this spring). Reyes missed the first 50 games of last season due to a ridiculously long suspension for marijuana usage. He came back and dominated the minors before getting called up to the bigs in August. In 46 innings split between starting and relieving Reyes struck out 52 while posting a 1.57 ERA.

This is terrible news to start Spring Training if you're a Cardinals fan. Reyes is a huge part of their future, as he was just ranked as the best pitching prospect in the game by Baseball America (and fourth best prospect overall). He was also going to be a big part of their present since he was set to open the season in the big league rotation. That being said the Cardinals are one of the few teams well equipped to overcome this. Back in 2011 they lost their ace Adam Wainwright to Tommy John in the spring and still went on to win the World Series. While the '17 team likely isn't as good, St. Louis are the Spurs of baseball for a reason. They have too much depth and you can never count them out. 

Should The Diamondbacks Trade Paul Goldschmidt?

Just one off-season ago the Arizona Diamondbacks made what could go down as one of the worst baseball trades in recent memory. One year after having the worst record in baseball Arizona thought they were ready to compete so they sent their number one overall pick, Dansby Swanson, to the Atlanta Braves for Shelby Miller. This was a questionable move at the time that looks even worse now that Miller had to spend part of 2016 in AAA due to ineffectiveness. Swanson, meanwhile, hit .302 with a .361 OBP in 38 games in the majors last year. He came in ranked third on Baseball America's list of Top 100 Prospects this past weekend.

Making matters worse is the team's other big off-season move from last winter. Arizona gave Zack Greinke a six year, $206.5 million contract, which comes out to the highest average salary ever awarded to a starting pitcher (over $34 million). Regardless of whether to not Arizona decides to rebuild after three straight sub .500 seasons, the Greinke contract is unmovable. This means that if the D'Backs want to expedite the rebuilding process they will have to consider trading franchise player Paul Goldschmidt. 

For years Goldschmidt has been one of baseball's best kept secrets outside of fantasy players. Goldy has been a first round fantasy pick the past few seasons but since he plays in a small market and the Diamondbacks suck he doesn't get much national attention. This is unfair since his stats and fantasy production show that he is one of, if not the best, first basemen in the game. Over the past four years he has been an all star in every season and has twice finished second in the MVP voting. In addition to the homers, batting average, and high on base percentage Goldschmidt is a great baserunner for a first baseman. He stole 32 bases in 2016.

One of the biggest reasons for why Arizona wouldn't trade him is his contract. He is set to earn just over $33 million during the next three seasons if the D'Backs exercise his 2019 club option. For a player of Goldschmidt's caliber this is an absolute steal. The again, this contract could help result in a much bigger haul of prospects if a trade were to happen. The best blueprint for Arizona to follow would be what the White Sox did when they traded Chris Sale this winter. Similar to the D'Backs, the White Sox aren't going to compete in the next few years and Sale is set to earn a similar amount of money to Goldy. So Chicago sent him to Boston for Baseball America's second rated prospect, 32nd rated prospect, and two others. There is no question that the team friendly contract of Sale led to a bigger return.

2017 will mark the beginning of a new era in Arizona. The team has a new General Manager in Mike Hazen and a new manager in Torey Lovullo. The old regime left a lot of work to be done, as the franchise has just one player ranked among BA's Top 100 prospects (and he was 88th). Hazen has said he wants to evaluate the roster for the beginning part of the season before making any big moves, which is the right decision by a new GM. However, it's unlikely the Diamondbacks are close to contention come the All-Star break. So whether it's at the trade deadline or next off-season expect baseball's best first baseman to be at the center of the trade market.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Dodgers Have Added Help This Winter But Their Season Will Still Come Down To How Kershaw Pitches In October

The Dodgers are good. The fact that they even made the playoffs last year is a testament to the quality of depth the organization has built. At one point last summer the team had more salary on the disabled list than on the active roster. Yet just making the postseason has become old for LA. They've made it to October in six of the past nine seasons but haven't played in the World Series since 1988.

The front office was able to keep the core of last year's team together this winter when they successfully re-signed both Justin Turner and Kenley Jansen. Adrian Gonzalez should return as his consistently reliable self, Clayton Kershaw will be as incredible as usual in the regular season, and Yasmani Grandal is one of the best defensive catchers in baseball.

So why should 2017 be any different? Well for starters there's Logan Forsythe. Most baseball fans probably don't know who he is unless you're a diehard or play fantasy, but he's a massive upgrade at second base for them. Additionally Corey Seager should only get better after finishing third in the NL MVP voting as a rookie. Plus Yasiel Puig seems to be more committed to his body this off-season after humiliatingly getting demoted to AAA last season. Any production the lineup receives from him this year will be a bonus from 2016.

Unless something goes terribly wrong the improved lineup should send LA back to the playoffs in '17. From there it'll be up to Kershaw to determine how far they go. The past six years he has been better than any regular season pitcher we have seen since Pedro in his prime. In the playoffs Kershaw hasn't been as bad as David Price, but he hasn't exactly been Madison Bumgarner either.

2016 was huge for him because at one point it looked like he was single handedly going to will the Dodgers to the World Series. After coming out of the bullpen to close out the NLDS he pitched seven shutout innings against the eventual champion Chicago Cubs in game two of the championship series. 

By the time game six rolled around he didn't have anything left in the tank and Chicago was too good. Kershaw gave up four runs and lasted just five innings that night. Still, this marked the first time Kershaw began to establish himself as a dominant postseason pitcher for any part of the playoffs. Loading up the team around him makes sense since we don't know how much longer his prime will last. If he takes another step forward in the 2017 playoffs there's no reason LA can't win it all.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Wake Up With Kris Bryant's First Inning Homer In Game Six Of the 2016 World Series

In my opinion this was the hit that changed the course of one of the greatest World Series we have ever seen. The Indians were leading the series 3-2 and were playing at home. Had Cleveland been able to get a lead in this game, and gotten the ball to Andrew Miller, then Chicago would have been feeling the pressure of 108 years of failure while the Indians fans would be going into a frenzy.

Instead, Kris Bryant hit a two out, 0-2 pitch from Josh Tomlin for a solo homer to give the Cubs the lead. Cleveland was one strike away from getting out of the inning but the Cubs would go on to score seven runs in the first three innings en route to a 9-3 win that set up an absolutely classic game seven. That seventh game was played on November 2nd, which was 99 days ago. Somehow it feels even longer but hang in there - we are getting closer and closer to opening day 2017. Pitchers and catchers report starting in just three more days. 

Breaking Down MLB's Proposed Rule Changes To Speed Up "Pace Of Play"

Forty years ago in 1976 the average length of a baseball game was two hours and 29 minutes. By 2016 that number has swelled up to three hours and four minutes. This has been due to a number of reasons including television timeouts, increased bullpen usage, and the millions of dollars players have at stake during every at bat. This week Major League Baseball officially proposed two rule changes to the players association, whose approval is required. If they agree then the strike zone will be raised and pitchers will no longer have to throw four pitches for an intentional walk.

When discussing these possible rule changes it's important to remember MLB's intent, which is not primarily to reduce the average length of a baseball game. Yes, if we could shave 5-10 minutes off games I'm sure everyone would be all for that. But the way the game is going it will be impossible to drastically reduce game time. Instead, the goal of MLB is to increase the pace of play or "pace of action".

For any baseball fan, casual or diehard, the worst part of watching a game is the dead time. These are the moments in a game where nothing is happening and it feels as if time is crawling. An example is whenever a batter strikes out or walks, which have both increased in likelihood thanks to advanced analytics. We now know that strikeouts aren't that bad and that walks are incredibly valuable.

So when players are walking and striking out the ball isn't being put in play, which makes the game seem less exciting. One way to combat this is to raise the bottom of the strike zone from "the hollow beneath the kneecap" to the top of the knee, about a two inch difference. While this would theoretically encourage hitters to make more contact it may only take a few minutes off the average length of games. However, it will FEEL as if the game is moving faster, which is MLB's goal.

Ultimately raising the bottom of the strike zone won't have a massive effect on the game the way some other ideas would, but it's a change that's necessary.  Having teams signal for an intentional walk instead of lobbing four pitches would have even less of an impact, but still should happen. Intentional walks are down and in 2016 one was thrown just once every 2.6 games. Still it's great to see MLB making legitimate attempts at increasing the pace of play. It now falls on the players to decide whether or not to accept these proposed rule changes. Let's hope they do because if things don't improve within the next few years we could realistically be looking at the vaunted pitch clock, which would be the single worst thing to happen to baseball since the 1919 Black Sox scandal. 

The Cardinals Do It Again, Sign Carlos Martinez To Incredibly Team Friendly Extension

We hear all the time that when it comes to baseball contracts $30 million is the new $20 million. Just last winter we saw free agent starters David Price and Zack Greinke both sign contracts for an average of over $30 million per year. Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez will now make less than half of that every season before he even turns 30. Price and Greinke should have good years on their current deals but on some level their teams are paying for past performance. It makes far more sense for teams to sign players to big contracts before they hit free agency, and while they still have their prime years ahead of them. This was the thought process of the Red Sox when they signed Rick Porcello to a four year, $82.5 million deal a year before he was set to hit the open market. That deal is perceived as good value for Boston, which means Carlos Martinez's five year, $51 million extension could prove to be highway robbery for the Cardinals. 

Martinez came up to the bigs in 2013 but was transitioning between starting and relieving until 2015. In his first full season as a starter that year C-Mart became an all star en route to finishing 10th among National League pitchers in WAR, ERA, and strikeouts per nine. Although he wasn't an all star this past season he took another step forward and led the Cardinals in wins, ERA, and strikeouts. He finished the year with a record of 16-9, a 3.04 ERA, and 174 strikeouts. Due to Adam Wainwright's experience and leadership he may still be considered the "ace" of the St. Louis rotation but Martinez has become the staff's best pitcher.

For years the Cardinals were considered baseball's version of the Spurs or Patriots. While these organizations may not win it all every year, they are always in the conversation come season's end. In a 11 year stretch from 2004 through 2014 the team made the NLCS a whopping seven times, including four pennants and two World Series championships. 2016 turned out to be a major kick in the nuts for St. Louis. They had to watch their arch rival Cubs win their first of what could be several championships in the near future. They also lost draft picks from the 2015 hacking scandal. However, as evidenced by the Spurs and Patriots great franchises weather the storm as opposed to hitting the full reset button. The first step to building the next great Cardinals team is signing a 25-year-old potential superstar pitcher to a highly affordable, team friendly extension.

Backyard Baseball 2017 Player Representatives: National League Edition

To view an introduction and a complete listing of the American League representatives, click here:

Arizona Diamondbacks: Paul Goldschmidt was underrated for a long time. Then he had a couple of monster fantasy seasons and people started to pay attention. But over the past couple seasons Arizona has been so unbelievably bad that Goldy has been out of the spotlight and is back to being underrated. 2016 wasn't his strongest year yet he still hit 24 homers and stele 32 bases. He's still arguably the best first baseman in the game and definitely has some prime offensive seasons left.

Atlanta Braves: Bartolo Colon! Just kidding (kind of). It's so tempting to pick Dansby Swanson, since he's so good and not yet well known, but the answer here has to be Freddie Freeman. While many are still waiting for that one monster season Freeman has quietly been one of the best first basemen in the league for several years now. In 2016 he hit .302 with a career high 34 homers. Only Kris Bryant and Nolan Arenado finished with more WAR among NL players. He is at the center of the team's rebuilding plan. 

Chicago Cubs: The Cubs are loaded with young studs and the best of them all is their 24-year-old reigning NL MVP Kris Bryant. In 2016 Bryant led all NL players in WAR while finishing third in home runs, fourth in slugging, fourth in OPS, first in runs, and third in total bases. Bryant showed his defensive versatility by appearing in the field at third, first, shortstop, and in the outfield. He has accumulated more WAR through his first two seasons than any position player in the history of baseball.

Chicago is so stocked with great players it was impossible not to have two representatives from their team. While I don't know why the Reds were given two players in Backyard Baseball 2001, here we are rewarding the team for winning the World Series for the first time in 108 years. Anthony Rizzo isn't as young as the rest of the Cubs position players but in each of the past two seasons he has hit 30 homers with 100 RBI and finished fourth in the MVP voting. Him and Bryant will form a deadly combination in the Cubs lineup for the next half decade.

Cincinnati Reds: Joey Votto had an under the radar monster second half in 2016. After hitting just .213 through May 31st Votto exploded for a .408 batting average after the All Star break and became the first player to hit over .400 there since Ichiro in 2004. He is in a similar situation to Goldschmidt in that he is so good but so unrecognized because the Reds suck. His 2010 MVP season feels like ages ago but he's still producing at a franchise player level for Cincinnati.

Colorado Rockies: It's mind boggling how Colorado hasn't figured out how to draft or acquire better starting pitching throughout the history of the franchise. However, they have always produced stud hitters from Todd Helton to Matt Holliday and now Nolan Arenado, who has won a gold glove in each of the four seasons he's been in the majors. Additionally he has led the National League in both homers and RBI in each of the past two seasons.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw. Enough said.

Miami Marlins: The only real option here is Giancarlo Stanton. He is one of the five most talented players in baseball but his inability to stay on the field has been a massive disappointment. In his last healthy season, 2014, Stanton led the NL with 37 homers and a .555 slugging percentage to finish second in the MVP voting. But he has appeared in at least 123 games just once since 2012. If he can stay healthy moving forward the sky is the limit for baseball's best power hitter.

Milwaukee Brewers: Ryan Braun has come a long way since being one of baseball's biggest villains back in 2013. The guy used performance enchanting drugs, swore he didn't, got caught, and was able to get off on a technicality by blaming someone else. Yet that hasn't stopped him from producing. After bottoming out in an injury plagued 2013 Braun has improved each of the past three season and hit over .300 with 30 homers in 2016. With the Brewers not currently close to contending he may not be in Milwaukee much longer but for now he's the best they got.

New York Mets: Noah Syndergaard, thanks to his skills, hair, and social media presence, is one of baseball's most likable stars. He had a dominant year in 2016, which was capped off by an incredible performance in the NL Wild Card game where he matched zeroes with Madison Bumgarner through seven innings before running out of gas. Yoenis Cespedes received consideration of course but something about seeing Thor's hair on a backyard kid was too good to pass up.

Philadelphia Phillies: There is finally hope again in Philadelphia. Gone are Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins. After the 2008 championship Philly dealt prospect after prospect to try and win another. They had several years of success but ultimately weren't able to accomplish their goal and all the trades left them with a terrible farm system. They have slowly started to build it back up and at the forefront of the rebuilding plan is third baseman Maikel Franco. His 2016 numbers weren't as good as his rookie season in 2015 but he still hit 25 homers and is just 24 years old.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Andrew McCutchen currently has a strange relationship with the only franchise he's ever known. He had a down season in 2016 and posted career lows in batting average, OBP, and slugging. Worse of all his defense in center field collapsed so badly the Pirates want him to move to a corner outfield spot. This caused friction between the two sides and things got so bad Pittsburgh was aggressively trying to trade him to the Nationals back in December. Ultimately the Nats got Adam Eaton, which killed the Cutch trade. One down season isn't enough to give up on someone as talented as McCutchen. This time last year he was a top ten player in baseball.

San Diego Padres: The Padres are such a bad franchise. They're not even the exciting kind of bad. They're just irrelevant and have been for decades. A couple of seasons ago the team tried to go all in and acquired Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, James Shields, and Craig Kimbrel. The plan failed miserably and now the organization is back to rebuilding. The only good news is they have found their building block in first baseman Wil Myers. In 2016 Myers enjoyed a breakout season with 28 homers and became an all star. The club rewarded him this off-season with a six year, $83 million deal.

San Francisco Giants: Buster Posey is literally everything you would want in a franchise catcher. He hits for power, hits for average, is a great teammate, builds strong rapports with his pitchers, and is great defensively. It was tempting to take Madison Bumgarner but we couldn't leave baseball's best catcher off the list. At just 29 years old Posey already has three championship rings and an MVP award.

St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals are in a weird spot. Matt Holliday regressed and left via free agency this year, Adam Wainwright had a terrible 2016 by his standards, and Yadier Molina isn't the player he once was. After years of ruling the NL Central the Cardinals are realizing the defending champion Cubs aren't going anywhere for a long time. They're too young and good. Right now the Cardinals' best player and backyard baseball representative is Matt Carpenter. The infielder has played multiple positions over the last several years but his main contribution to the team has been offensively. He had another good year in 2016, hitting 20 homers for the second straight season.

Washington Nationals: Bryce.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Wake Up With Max Scherzer's 20 Strikeout Performance In 2016

On May 11, 2016 Max Scherzer became just the third pitcher to ever record 20 strikeouts in a single game. Right now he is undoubtedly one of the five best starting pitchers in baseball. Scherzer has finished top five in his league's Cy Young voting in each of the past four seasons, including first place finishes in 2013 and 2016. As evidenced by this 20 strikeout performance and his multiple no-hitters, Scherzer is one of those guys that at his best he looks like the best pitcher of his generation. 

Since signing a seven year, $210 million contract prior to 2015 Scherzer has been everything the Nationals could have hoped for. However, the team's regular season success has yet to translate to the postseason. Despite playoff appearances in 2012, 2014, and 2016 the team has failed to advance to the second round. There seems to be added pressure for the franchise now that Bryce is going to be a free agent in just two years. This caused Washington to trade their top prospect to the White Sox this winter in exchange for Adam Eaton, which makes the Nationals the clear favorites to repeat as NL East champs heading into 2017.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Wake Up With Wily Mo Pena Hitting A Mammoth Home Run In 2011

Let me start by saying that in the greatest baseball video game ever made, MVP Baseball 2005, Wily Mo Pena could absolutely CRUSH left handed pitchers. He was so good against them (91 power, 82 contact if I remember correctly) that he was a must have in any new franchise mode that began with a fantasy draft, despite the fact that the rest of his attributes were nothing special. His ability to hit lefties was simply too much value to pass up in the later rounds. This was 12 years ago and somehow Wily Mo just turned 35. He hasn't appeared in a major league game since 2011 but that didn't stop the Cleveland Indians from giving him a minor league contract with a chance to make the big league team out of Spring Training.

Not only has Pena not played in the bigs since 2011, he has appeared in just 39 games total since 2008! In other words he has played just 39 MLB games since Obama first took office. He is even farther removed from his best season, which was 2004 when he hit 26 homers. The Indians are a smart, analytical driven organization so they must see some potential in Pena. It's highly unlikely Wily Mo finds himself playing for the Indians this season, but literally every baseball fan alive will be rooting for him.