Raise your hand if you foresaw a Baltimore-Kansas City ALCS matchup back in April. Anyone? Anybody at all? No? That’s what I thought. It’s a matchup that’s 30 years in the making and it features ball clubs that find a way to win in vastly different ways. The Royals stole more bases than any other team in the league while the Orioles plodded along the base paths, finishing dead last in baseball, 12 behind the next slowest team. Instead the O’s mashed their way to victory, racking up a Major League best 211 homers in the process, more than double the number of dingers hit by Kansas City. Both teams feature solid starting staffs and deep bullpens that have been dynamite this year when protecting a lead. This series has all the makings of a barn burner. So who’s going to win? Let’s take a run-through at some of the more salient points:
The playoffs in Major League Baseball have a tendency to be a cruel and fickle beast. You can blast through the regular season, crushing all opponents in your path and come October, all it takes is facing one team at the wrong time and it’s all over in a mere handful of games. The 2014 postseason has been no exception, with many of the projected favorites and higher seeds headed home and back to the drawing board earlier than expected.
This year’s Angels team is the best representative of that cruelty. They not only won more games than any other team in baseball, but they did so with a run differential that surpassed every team in the league outside of Oakland. And after 3 games against a feisty Kansas City squad it was all over, sending the Angles and their management back to square one. So, what does Los Angeles need to do rebound in 2015 to make a deep playoff run? (more…)
After slugging their way to victory for the better part of the 2014 season, the Orioles continued that trend in their opening playoff game, piling up 12 runs and 3 homers. And while Baltimore piled on a bit once Scherzer left the game, the O’s still managed to tag the 2013 Cy Young Winner with 5 runs in 7.1 innings, which was more than enough for the victory. So how did the O’s do it?
Kansas City abused poor Derek Norris so badly in the AL Wild Card game that he may have been placed in the witness protection program for his own safety. They absolutely terrorized the Athletics on the base paths, racking up 7 steals total and they needed every single one in order to pull off the win. The bad news for Kansas City is that with that victory, they now have to face the 98-win Angels and their bevy of MVPs. The good news? Los Angeles might struggle with the running game worse than Oakland, which could provide the Royals a path to victory.
Hello all! It’s been quite a while since I last posted but that’s only because life got in the way. Between vacationing up in Glacier National Park with Shannon this summer, working 50 hours a week every week, taking a full load of classes at Missouri State, and watching every Derek Jeter at-bat that I could, the ole’ blog has been on the backburner. But with the start of the 2014 playoffs finally upon us, that’s all about to change. Each week I’m planning 3-5 posts that cover a variety of postseason topics, starting with tonight’s long-awaited matchup in Kansas City.
Strike 1 – Oakland’s slumping lumber, meet Kauffman
The struggles of the Oakland A’s since the trade deadline have been well-documented. The team’s been playing .400 ball for the better part of the last two and a half months after posting the best record and run differential in baseball before the All-Star break. And while many have been quick to point the finger at Billy Beane for his myriad of offense-for-pitching moves, those aren’t exactly the culprit. The only player Oakland departed with that was of any significance to the 2014 lineup was Yoenis Cespedes, and while that’s a major blow, it’s really only a small part of the problem. (more…)
Chris Sale made a victorious return from the disabled list on Thursday evening and in the process he tore thorough a decent Yankee lineup as though it was tissue paper. Sale retired 18 of the 19 hitters he faced, while striking out 10 in just 6 innings of work. The lanky lefty tore through the first 17 hitters he faced before allowing a hit, which actually came as a relief to skipper Robin Ventura, because the manager was prepared to make the unpopular, but intelligent, decision to remove his ace during a perfect game. In short, Sale looked like he hadn’t skipped a beat. This was the dominance White Sox fans have come to recognize in their ace over the past couple of seasons, but the reality is this isn’t the same Chris Sale. This 2014 version has turned into something more.
It’s hard to imagine a player having a better first month in the big leagues than Jose Abreu did in April. He managed to lead all Major Leaguers in home runs (10) and RBI (31) while totaling more bases than any other player as well. His presence in the lineup has been the lightning bolt that electrified the White Sox offense Frankenstein offense back to life and thanks to a brilliantly balanced approach at the plate the Cuban slugger shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. (more…)
On Sunday afternoon, Derek Jeter smacked a pair of hits to help the Yankees to a 6-4 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. And while Jeter’s contributions may not have won his team the game, they did help the Yankee legend accomplish a little history. That pair of singles earned Jeter hits #3,319 and #3,320 of his career, which bumped him past Paul Molitor for 9th on the all-time hit list.
AL East (*signifies wild card)
- Tampa Bay Rays
- New York Yankees*
- Baltimore Orioles*
- Boston Red Sox
- Toronto Blue Jays
- Detroit Tigers
- Kansas City Royals
- Chicago White Sox
- Cleveland Indians
- Minnesota Twins
- Texas Rangers
- Oakland A’s
- Los Angeles Angels
- Seattle Mariners
- Houston Astros
ALCS: Tampa Bay over Texas
- Washington Nationals
- Atlanta Braves*
- Miami Marlins
- New York Mets
- Philadelphia Phillies
- St. Louis Cardinals
- Cincinnati Reds
- Pittsburgh Pirates
- Milwaukee Brewers
- Chicago Cubs
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- Arizona Diamondbacks*
- Colorado Rockies
- San Francisco Giants
- San Diego Padres
NLCS: Los Angeles over Washington
World Series: Tampa Bay over Los Angeles
AL MVP: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
NL MVP: Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox
NL Cy Young: Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins
AL Rookie of the Year: Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox
NL Rookie of the Year: Archie Bradley, Arizona Diamondbacks
3 Bold Predictions
The Minnesota Twins will take the title of worst team in baseball away from the Astros.
The Twins struggled with just about everything a year ago. They couldn’t hit (13th in the AL in runs scored), they couldn’t keep runs off the board (14th in the AL in ERA) and they were historically inept in getting their opponents to swing and miss. The solution to these woes? Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes. Let me repeat that. A professional baseball front office legitimately thinks they won’t lose 100 games with these two and Kevin Correia fronting their rotation. Hughes is guaranteed to be a disaster. He’s got a career 11-46 record when his offense scores fewer than 5 runs and that’s something Joe Mauer and the banjo pickers are going to be doing frequently.
The Miami Marlins will manage top the .500 mark
Thanks to a couple of superstar level talents in Jose Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton and a couple of veteran additions, the Marlins will surprise a lot of people. Fernandez will get most of the buzz but the rest of the rotation has the chops to keep up. Jacob Turner has spent most of his minor league career populating the top 25 lists of most every major prospect rating company and he appears poised to break out. The offense will likely be Miami’s ultimate downfall, but don’t be surprised to see the Marlins hunting for the wild card come September.
Jose Abreu will top the 30 homer mark
Abreu was an absolute revelation during the 2013 World Baseball Classic, which doubled as his introduction to most of the baseball viewing world. He hit a ballistic .383 with 3 homers and 9 RBI in 6 games, displaying the kind of prodigious power that made him a legend by 25 in Cuba. Abreu’s work regiment is already the stuff of legend in the Chicago clubhouse, and I expect that drive to push the White Sox back to respectability, while resulting in numbers that look something like a .275/30 homer/100 RBI year for the slugger.
After a tedious month filled with plenty of patience and very little news, Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka finally broke the freeze, signing a 7 year/$155 million dollar deal with the New York Yankees. If you’ve been paying any attention at all this offseason, the Tanaka signing should come as no surprise. That much discussed luxury tax number, $189 million, they Yankees were hoping avoid was always a pipe dream and after the big money signings of Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran, New York almost had to sign Tanaka to upgrade what appeared to be a league average pitching staff.