The Warning Track: Predicting October’s squads in March

The weather is getting warmer, the grass is getting greener and Major League Baseball marches towards Opening Day on Monday, with a triple-header preceding on Sunday.

The business of predicting who will reign supreme in their respective division is always an obstensively exciting and enticing one, like waiting for 3-0 pitch and being confident that you’ll take it for ball one,, only to swing away and hit an infield popup.

Because for most of us columnists, barring some rare mercy from the baseball gods (sportswriting gods?), most of our predictions are destroyed by the time the All-Star Break rolls around.

Exhibit A: My World Series prediction around this time last year. 

There will be injuries, there will be unforeseen breakouts, there will be hypothetical apologies to fans for leading them in the wrong direction.

Most likely.

But before that time comes around, us columnists can revel in the glory of the return of regular season baseball, and with it the false feeling that we have more say in what the 2016 season is fated to become than the baseball gods do.

We begin by predicting the postseason field, with MVP, Cy Young, and other predictions to come later in the week.

American League East 

It’s easy to be enticed by the image of David Price leading Boston to the division crown, until you remember there is a huge possibility that last year’s costly acquisitions of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval perform poorly for a second consecutive year.

It’s easy to fall in love with the home-run happy group in Baltimore, until you remember that they’re a strikeout-happy core as well.

It’s easy to conclude a 30 game suspension for Aroldis Chapman might not mean much to the Yankees’ already top-three bullpen in the long run, until you remember the average age of their core is high enough for them to be considered the senior citizens of Major League Baseball.

It would also be easy to buy into the Toronto Blue Jays and the steamroller of a squad they were in the second half of the season last year, led by eventual AL MVP Josh Donaldson…and it’d be easy to think that even if they were to regress a little bit, they’d still be the favorite for the division.

Which is why I’m going with Toronto, the club that has unfinished business in returning the Fall Classic to Canada for the first time in almost a quarter of a century, as well as a stable enough rotation that should do well to weather the absence of Price.

Pick: Toronto Blue Jays

1704050871_4558663698001_jose-bautista-home-run

American League Central

The AL Central has the potential to be very much like its counterpart in the Senior Circuit – extremely competitive, with tight races and tighter storylines.

It will be interesting to see how the White Sox move on from the Adam LaRoche controversy that dominated headlines for a time during Spring Training. But even if they do, and even if Jose Abreu fulfills his MVP potential, it’s tough to think they did enough in the offseason to improve on last years’ ballclub.

In Detroit, Miguel Cabrera will be Miguel Cabrera, but it will be acquisitions like Justin Upton and Jordan Zimmerman and, perhaps most importantly, a revived, down to business Justin Verlander that will decide the fate of the 2016 Tigers. There should be some fantastic showdowns between Detroit and the defending champions in Kansas City, with a grossly underrated Indians club lurking in the shadows.

And who knows? Sports Illustrated took care not to spotlight Cleveland, so that just might be enough to get them into October.

Pick: Kansas City Royals, somewhat hesitantly

royals

 

American League West

If he can shoulder the incredible weight of expectations placed upon him, Astros shortstop Carlos Correa (.279 avg., 22 home runs, 68 RBI in 99 games in 2015) could be the second best player in the American League by the end of the season, only looking up to division co-superstar Mike Trout.

There’s reason to believe the 21-year-old Correa could play a major part in ensuring the rest of the baseball landscape that 2015 was no fluke and Houston is here to stay in contention, not to mention Dallas Keuchel, Jose Altuve, Evan Gattis…the list of impact players goes on and on…

…as it does for in-state rival Texas, which is looking to stay relevant over the course of a full season again behind Prince Fielder, veteran Adrian Beltre and 2015 trade deadline acquisition Cole Hamels.

The Rangers will look to give Houston a run for their money, and they’ve got high-end prospects waiting in the wings looking to assist if need be.

It’ll be a two-horse race between that pair of Lone Star State squads as they feast on the work-in-progress A’s, the consistently underachieving Mariners (no, I won’t be making that mistake again) and the mind-boggling Angels, who might have had the most dissapointingly quiet offseason in baseball.

Trout can do a lot, some would say he can even do it all. But expecting him to be the player to step up every day is just too much for the young star, and Albert Pujols isn’t getting any younger.

Pick: Houston Astros 

astros

American League Wild Cards

1) Cleveland Indians 

The offense has the potential to impress, but even if it doesn’t, the starting rotation in Cleveland is one to be feared. That town deserves one adequate sports team, right?

2) Texas Rangers 

While the Astros’ youth may prevail for the division, the Rangers’ experience will lead them back to October. A healthy Yu Darvish – which would mean a terrifyingly dominant Yu Darvish – is the key for Texas.

 

National League East

The Phillies and Braves are still a few years away from returning to the status of contender, and the Marlins’ success depends largely on full seasons from Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez, a much-awaited phenomenon that has to happen.

Will Bryce Harper make sure the 2016 Nationals live up to the expectations of yesteryear? How quickly will the Mets rotation – essentially made up of four aces – make the baseball landscape think that the 2015 Cardinals’ staff was nothing compared to the arms they have in New York?

Those will be the dominant storylines in what should be a tight NL East all season long in the top two spots.

But Yoenis Cespedes’ decision to return to New York long-term should be what pushes the Mets over the bump. If he can lead the offense to even a semblance of what it was in the 2015 home stretch (1st in the NL after the All-Star Break in runs, home runs, and doubles), New York will withstand Harper and an overall stronger Washington club to come out on top.

Pick: New York Mets 

cespedes

National League Central

What may be the best division in all of the four major sports associations is also the easiest to predict and call it a day.

Whether the Cubs will end their curse in October remains to be seen, but it would be mind-boggling if this group doesn’t at least improve on their 98 wins from last season. Taking the two most productive players away from their rivals in St. Louis is enough to sharpie them in for the NLDS.

It will be fascinating to see how the relatively young group in Chicago – which still has a healthy dose of experienced players –  deals with the monstrous amount of expectations thrust upon them, but if any manager in the game can keep the young Cubbies’ focus on their ultimate goal, it’s Joe Maddon.

The tougher question with the NL Central is whether it will again produce three postseason teams as it did a season ago.

Pick: Chicago Cubs  

maddon

National League West

Contrary to most sportswriters, I’m pretty sold on what the Diamondbacks have cooking in Arizona.

Already armed with an offense that has been top five in the NL in four of the past five seasons, the D-Backs went out a nabbed a legitimate ace who still has something to prove in Zack Greinke (19-3, 1.66 ERA in 2015 with L.A.).

That move simultaneously set off questions marks for every starter behind Clayton Kershaw in L.A., who have been plagued by injuries this spring. Meanwhile, while it is an even year and they still have what it is by far the best battery mates in the game in Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey, San Francisco will need formidable comebacks from offseason additions Jeff Samardzija (4.96 ERA in 2015) and Johnny Cueto (4.76 ERA in 13 starts with the Royals in 2015) to be competitive.

And, let’s be honest, it’s time to see what Paul Goldschmidt (.321 avg., 33 home runs, 110 RBI in 2015) can do in October.

Pick: Arizona Diamondbacks 

Arizona Diamondbacks pitchers Zack Greinke and Patrick Corbin (46) prepare to hit during a spring training baseball practice, Monday, Feb. 22, 2016, in Scottsdale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Matt York)

National League Wild Cards

1) Washington Nationals

Harper will mash, Scherzer will break hearts, and Dusty Baker might just have his best season yet as a Major League Baseball manager.

2) San Francisco Giants

What? It is an even year.

giants gif

Thanks for reading.

 

 

The Warning Track is a blog that covers all things Major League Baseball on a fairly consistent basis, from discussing why some teams are getting hot, who’s in line for awards at season’s end and who is getting ready to make the leap to contender status, as well as hot button topics like MLB’s expansion mission, which players could be headed to new homes, and the latest clubhouse chemistry conundrum. 

If you have anything MLB-related that you would like to see discussed in the upcoming edition of The Warning Track, or have any comments at all, you may suggest/comment/rant/agree/disagree/tell me I know nothing about baseball at any time on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.

Advertisements

The Warning Track: The American League Awakens at the Trade Deadline

*all stats are through the beginning of play on August 1st, all contract information provided by http://www.rosterresource.com

Who knew when the Astros acquired Scott Kazmir from Oakland, officially opening the floodgates of MLB trades, we were about to witness one of the wildest flurries of moves in recent memory?

Aces switched uniforms. Clubs on the cusp of postseason contention became World Series favorites. A face of the franchise in the West had to pull out his passport. The balance of power was decidedly shifted to the American League, with seemingly every NL star making the switch.

It all made for an incredibly entertaining week of trades, at least until we get to contracts and numbers. In addition with discussing the short- and long-term effects of the big deals, The Warning Track has also devised its very own unique trade rating; essentially we are adding the “surprise” factor of each trade (from a scale of 1-50) with its “logical” factor on a scale of the same size, resulting in a figure unique to the trade’s initial impact at the deadline.

Make sense? Hey, we said numbers aren’t fun. But we’ll do our best.

The Biggest Impact Trades

Cincinnati sends SP Johnny Cueto to the Royals in exchange for SP/RP Brandon Finnegan, SP John Lamb, SP Cody Reed

Surprise Factor: 18

Logic Factor: 40

Trade Rating: 58

 The team with the best record in the American League – and the second best record in all of baseball – got a much needed boost for their rotation in the form of Johnny Cueto, who is en route to posting a sub-3.00 ERA for the fifth year in a row.

That not only gives a jolt of life to a starting five that ranks 11th in the AL with a 4.35 ERA, but also a legitimate ace and Game 1 starter once October rolls around.

In addition to sending two minor league arms with big league potential to the Reds, Kansas City also shipped Brandon Finnegan, who has a 2.96 ERA in 14 games this season. The 22-year-old will most likely be used to help re-fortify a Reds bullpen that ranks 14th in the NL (4.24 ERA) in the coming years, and he was expendable to the Royals, who boast a bullpen with an MLB-best 2.25 ERA that achieved prominence during the 2014 postseason and hasn’t stopped breaking hitters’ hearts since.

Lamb and Reed will also help bolster a Reds rotation that also traded away Mike Leake to the Giants.

Kansas City took the Giants to Game 7 of the World Series last year, and that was with their ace, James Shields, struggling with a 1-2 record and 6.12 ERA in five postseason starts.

This year, they might not even need to go the distance in the Fall Classic. If peak regular-season Cueto shows up in October, it might have a whole different ending for the Royals, one they were 90 feet away from experiencing last year.

And they’re betting wholeheartedly on it happening; Cueto becomes a free agent following the 2015 season.

Cueto ranked in the top 2 in the NL in 2014 in ERA, wins, Ks, WHIP, BAA, and innings pitched

Cueto ranked in the top 2 in the NL in 2014 in ERA, wins, Ks, WHIP, BAA, and innings pitched.

 Detroit sends SP David Price to the Blue Jays in exchange for SP Daniel Norris, SP Matt Boyd, SP Jairo Labourt

Surprise Factor: 10

Logic Factor: 45

Trade Rating: 55

The Blue Jays are currently in the midst of the majors’ longest active postseason drought, having not had the chance to play in October since 1993. GM Alex Anthopoulos sent a message to the rest of the league over the past week: they’re on a mission to make sure that unfortunate streak comes to an end.

Well, acquiring a legitimate ace in David Price to go along with an MLB-best offense sure seems like a good place to start.

Toronto is lingering one game back of the second wild card in the AL, their MLB-best 5.3 runs/game offset by a pitching staff that ranks 12th in the Junior Circuit with a 3.99 ERA, resulting in a 53-51 record and unfulfilled potential.

The acquisition of Price, who had a 9-4 record and 2.53 ERA with the Tigers this season, changes all of that. Not since the days of Roy Halladay in the 2000s have the Blue Jays had a dependable, consistent No. 1 guy.

It’s possible they acquired Price as a rental – he becomes a free agent at the end of the year, and he is going to be offered buckets and buckets of cash – and they gave up starter Daniel Norris, who had a 2.53 ERA in the minors in 2014, to get him.

But that just legitimizes Anthopoulos’ message: Canada’s team is all in, gunning for home and the World Series, where Price is 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA.

 

Colorado sends SS Troy Tulowitzki and RP LaTroy Hawkins to the Blue Jays in exchange for SS Jose Reyes, RP/SP Miguel Castro, SP Jeff Hoffman, SP Jesus Tinoco

Surprise Factor: 47

Logic Factor: 38

Trade Rating: 85  

But Toronto team wouldn’t stop at Price, oh no. Because if you have the MLB’s scariest offense, why not make it even scarier?

In what many deemed to be an impossible task, the club north of the border was able to reel in star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki from the Rockies, as well as veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins, who had a 3.33 ERA in 26 appearances for Colorado this season.

Almost everyone was shocked when the trade was announced, including Tulo himself, and for good reason. Colorado seemed to be committed to Tulowitzki, as in 10-year-contract-that-runs-through-2020 committed. But he does seem to be taking it all in stride.

In return, Rockies got three young, promising arms, officially going younger to partially remodel their team into one led by Nolan Arenado (25 homers, 78 RBI), Carlos Gonzalez (21 homers, 52 RBI), and now 32-year-old Jose Reyes (.281, 4 homers, 35 RBI), who has become an MLB journeyman over recent years.

With the move, Toronto fully upgraded at the shortstop position, as Tulo’s 2015 season has been superior to Reyes’ in nearly every way (.303 average, 13 homers, 56 RBI), and they have him for a few more years beyond the 2015 season, solidifying them as one of the big winners of the trade deadline.

If the baseball landscape was Westeros, and the Canada-American border The Wall, be prepared, American League…Winter is coming. In the form of the Toronto Blue Jays.  

 

Philadelphia sends SP Cole Hamels and RP Jake Diekman to the Rangers in exchange for SP Matt Harrison, C Jorge Alfaro, OF Nick Williams, SP Jake Thompson, SP Alec Asher, SP Jerad Eickhoff

Surprise Factor: 33

Logic Factor: 44

Trade Rating: 77

It finally happened: the Cole Hamels saga, the question of which contender he would be traded to, finally came to an end this week.

Would he go to the Dodgers, a possible No. 3 starter where he when be the No. 1 almost anywhere else? Would the Yankees land him, in the hopes of being led to their first postseason berth since 2012? Could he be sent to the Cubs as another big piece in the greatest baseball rebirth of the 21st century?

Hamels brings consistency and postseason experience to.....

Hamels brings consistency and postseason experience to…..

Answer D, actually: None of the above. In the end, Hamels, along with relief arm Jake Diekman, was sent to the 50-52 Texas Rangers for a whole bunch of Grade-A prospects as well as Matt Harrison, who has a career ERA of 4.21. The trade puts plans in motion for two franchises in very different stages of their reboots: the Rangers, fighting to stay relevant for next year and beyond in the face of overwhelming underperformance, and the Phillies, who are essentially now where the Cubs were a few years ago.

This is an agreement made solely for long-term interests: the Rangers hope they can contend next year and the Phillies hope they get to that level by 2020.

For Texas, it all comes down to health, seemingly their nemesis of the past two seasons. Their roster is full of stars, both fresh and experienced, and Hamels will boost a rotation that ranks 13th in the AL this season with a 4.44 ERA, as well as adding postseason experience.

Add in the return of Josh Hamilton, who led the Rangers to back-to-back Fall Classic appearances in 2010 and 2011, and the Rangers are hungry to steal some thunder from their upstart division rival Houston Astros…provided they can stay healthy.

Meanwhile, in the Senior Circuit, the Phillies acquired three prospects that ranked in the top five of Texas’ farm system at the beginning of the season, a pivotal cog in the massive reboot that will give the new Star Wars a run for its money.

 

Milwaukee sends CF Carlos Gomez and SP/RP Mike Fiers to the Astros in exchange for OF Domingo Santana, OF Brett Phillips, SP Josh Hader, SP Adrian Houser

Surprise Factor: 20

Logic Factor: 35

Trade Rating: 55

 Many criticized the Astros’ acquisition of Scott Kazmir over a week ago, saying it was their strikeout-prone lineup that needed help, and not their pitching staff that is already second best in the AL.

But Houston wasn’t done dealing, solidifying their status as postseason contender by snagging offensive and defensive nightmare Carlos Gomez from the Mets Brewers in a message that says they’re ready to capitalize on being 2015’s most surprising squad.

Gomez is batting .258 this season to go along with 8 home runs and 43 RBI, and he shines in the field too; he is 11th among active players with a defensive WAR of 11.1, which is tops for his new club.

In addition, Mike Fiers (3.89 ERA in 2015) gives the Astros rotation even more depth and potential to be on shutdown status in the postseason, seeing as they now have two pitchers (Kazmir, Dallas Keuchel) that rank in the top five in the AL in ERA.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee, still recovering from 2014’s second-half meltdown, is getting a plethora of young players in return, including probable Gomez replacement Domingo Santana, who is hitting .256 with 2 homers and 8 RBI in 14 games this season. Kyle Lohse, Francisco Rodriguez and Jonathan Lucroy all become free agents either this offseason or after 2016, so for all intents and purposes the Brewers might be in the beginning stages of a massive, multi-year rebuilding process in the same vein as the Phillies.  

Detroit sends OF Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets in exchange for SP Michael Fulmer, SP Luis Cessa

Surprise Factor: 17

Logic Factor: 45

Trade Rating: 72

Joke’s on you, baseball. Because, for the first time in seemingly forever, it sure isn’t on the Mets.

The same Mets we chided and criticized for years as being the joke of the sport, unable to stand up to the Yankees in the slightest, had an unreal start to the season and haven’t slowed down.

Rather, they’re neck-and-neck with the Washington Nationals for first place in the NL East as the calendar flips to August.

However, they remain one of the most imbalanced teams in the league, led by the third-best pitching staff in the NL (3.26 ERA) but held back by a deeply flawed offense that has scored an MLB-worst 3.54 runs/game.

Solution? Slugger Yoenis Cespedes line. Cespedes is already tops on the Mets with those numbers, as are his 18 homers and 61 RBI. GM Sandy Alderson might be on to something.

It’s a no-nonsense trade for the Mets, but also one that makes complete sense. And the Tigers, who are “rebooting” for next season, didn’t ask for much: two minor league pitchers who probably would never have seen the light of day at Citi Field, what with young phenoms 27-year-old Jacob deGrom and 22-year-old Noah Syndergaard pitching out of their minds, and 24-year-old Steven Matz waiting in the wings of a full-time rotation spot.

Cespedes brings a perennial Home Run Derby contender to Citi Field...among other things, of course

Cespedes brings a perennial Home Run Derby contender to Citi Field…among other things, of course

So be ready, baseball. The Mets have made their intentions knows. Time to start rooting for a Subway World Series, the first since 2000.

Thanks for reading!

 

The Warning Track is a blog that covers all things Major League Baseball on a weekly basis, from discussing why some teams are getting hot, who’s in line for awards at season’s end and who is getting ready to make the leap to contender status, as well as off-the-field issues like first-time Commissioner Rob Manfred, which players could be headed to new homes, and A-Rod’s latest conundrum. 

If you have anything MLB-related that you would like to see discussed in the upcoming edition of The Warning Track, or have any comments at all, you may suggest/comment/rant/agree/disagree/tell me I know nothing about baseball at any time on Twitter @RealDavidLynch. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Warning Track: Week 2

The Warning Track is a blog that covers all things Major League Baseball on a weekly basis, from discussing why some teams are getting hot, who’s in line for awards at season’s end and who is getting ready to make the leap to contender status, as well as off-the-field issues like first-time Commissioner Rob Manfred, which players could be headed to new homes, and A-Rod’s latest lie. 

If you have anything MLB-related that you would like to see discussed in the upcoming edition of The Warning Track, or have any comments at all, you may suggest/comment/rant/agree/disagree/tell me I know nothing about baseball at any time on Twitter @RealDavidLynch. 

 

The Cog Who Set It All In Motion

8 years before Rosa Parks said “No”, Jackie Robinson played.

15 years before James Meredith was admitted, Jackie Robinson played.

18 years before Marin Luther King, Jr. marched, Jackie Robinson played.

This past Wednesday, as it have done on every April 15 for 11 years, America’s pastime celebrated a historic moment for American society.

A lot of people make the misconception that the Brooklyn Dodgers general manager who signed Robinson, Branch Rickey, was looking to him as the man who would break the color barrier for baseball that had been in place for over half a century.

While Robinson would obviously go on to do so, becoming an icon not just for baseball but for American sports, Rickey saw Robinson as a player who could make an impact for the Dodgers. For him, it was never about forging his place in history, but putting his talents on deck.

Rickey wasn’t colorblind – he knew that Robinson on the same playing field as whites would incite both the league and fans. And it did. Major league teams even threatened to strike should Robinson play. Some of his teammates refused to play alongside him.

Branch Rickey made clear to Robinson the dangers he’d face, and Robinson decided to play anyway.

On April 15, 1947, Robinson took the field on Opening Day, and he endured. He endured the hate, the insults, the ridicule, and he never fought back when urged to do so by his critics. He never gave in.

He stood at the plate, bat in hand, head held high, a monument in his own right.

As a result, early 70 years later, the game is as diverse as it has ever been. His image endures, because he did.

Robinson played for ten seasons, and played well. He won the inaugural Rookie of the Year award, was an All-Star for six straight seasons, and was the first black player to win MVP honors.

He played and unified the game when it couldn’t be more broken.

He became the first American professional athlete to have his number retired across the league in 1997, and remains only one of two to have the honor to this day.

In a society that had been so cemented by lines of segregation , Robinson made the first cracks towards unity.

Robinson was 28 when he made his debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers, shattering baseball's unwritten but universal color barrier.

Robinson was 28 when he made his debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers, shattering baseball’s unwritten but universal color barrier.

The game as we know it would never be the same. Make no mistake, American history as we know it would never be the same. Without Robinson’s resilience, there might be no Rosa Parks. Without Robinson’s nonviolent approach to combatting a society so unable to comprehend a colored man among whites, there might be no Martin Luther King, Jr. Without his fearlessness, there might be no James Meredith.

Number 42 didn’t just play baseball. He epitomized the spirit of the sport, a spirit that would only become stronger as the Negro Leagues ceased to exist and major league baseball destroyed segregation player by player.

That’s why we have a day for 42, as important as any in the season. That’s why we remember 42, as much as any social activist anywhere in the world, at any point time over the course of history.

That’s why the legacy of 42 endures.

 

How vital is offense, really?

The Washington Nationals are the heaviest of favorites to win the World Series this year, due to their potentially historic rotation that has yet to live up to its full potential.

Their collective 3.14 ERA rank eighth in the bigs, and their .245 opponent batting average is 18th. They’ll pull it together sooner rather than later, they’re too good.

But at 5-7 through their first 12 games of the season, another aspect of the Nationals’ game must be examined as something that could contribute to long-term struggles as the season continues – their offense.

First things first, the offense isn’t in trouble. In 2014 they ranked ninth in the MLB in runs, and in the early going of 2015 they are 13th, albeit with Anthony Rendon and Denard Span on the 15-day DL to begin the year.

As a result and as expected, Bryce Harper has been the catalyst for his team’s offense, with three home runs, nine runs scored, and six RBI. Wilson Ramos, Michael Taylor and Ryan Zimmerman have also chipped in with eight RBIs each.

Harper doesn’t seem to mind sharing the load.

As much as their offense will no doubt get a lift when their lineup is back to full strength, it’s worth asking the question of how high important it is for this team’s bats and arms to get hot.

When looking at the World Series participants the last two years, there isn’t a consistent answer as to how important scoring runs during the regular season really is. Let’s look as some figures.

  • In 2011, the two World Series participants, the Rangers and Cardinals, ranked third and fifth in runs scored, respectively, in the regular season.
  • In 2012, it was the Tigers and Giants, who weren’t in the top 10.
  • In 2013, the Red Sox and Cardinals were in the top three in runs scored during the year.
  • In 2014, the Royals, all about pitching and defense, ranked 14th in runs scored, and the eventual World Series champion Giants were 12th.

Interesting, to say the least, and especially when considering the popular sports mantra that “defense wins championships”.

We can see that the importance of offense when figuring out who will make it deep in October is like figuring out whether it’s the Giants year to win it all or not. If that trend continues, then that means the Royals, Jays and Athletics – the top three clubs in runs scored so far in 2015 – are good bets to make it to the Series, right? The Nationals aren’t quite in that mix with their 13th-ranked offense.

Before we can cement that conclusion, let’s look at some other numbers from World Series teams since 2011, this time concerning pitching.

  • In 2011, pitching for Texas and St. Louis wasn’t as hot as their bats, as their team ERAs ranked 12th and 13th, respectively. Their bats carried them to the World Series.
  • In 2012, the Giants and Tigers, not as strong offensively as the 2011 Rangers and Redbirds, ranked 7th and 9th in team ERA. Contrasting the year before, their pitching was the key factor.
  • In 2013, we finally see a break in the pattern. While the Red Sox led the majors in run scored, they were very average in pitching with a 3.79 ERA. However, the Cardinals were a top-five team in both categories – third in runs scored and fifth in ERA. Even though they were the most complete team in the World Series in at least a few years, they still lost out to the Red Sox.
  • The pattern again doesn’t prove consistent when it comes to last year’s World Series. The Royals – who were 90 feet away from becoming the team of destiny last fall – ranked 12th in regular season ERA. The Giants were a bit better, ranking 10th.

What do we take away from that? If the strongest trends continue, this year’s World Series will be all about offense, but judging from the last couple years, some teams whose strength lies in their arms will make it through October.

In other words…the Nationals might just be right on track, with their offense that will no doubt become stronger with the return of Rendon and Span, who combined for 205 runs scored in 2014. Their starting pitching will also certainly improve after shaking off some common early-season overexcitement.

How important is Scherzer's role as Nationals ace given recent World Series trends?

How important is Scherzer’s role as Nationals ace given recent World Series trends?

There isn’t a clear trend when it comes to predicting postseason contender by looking at the team stats. Such is the nature of baseball, where nothing is predictable. But if we at least look the pattern when it comes to offense, a category in which Washingotn jumped from 15th to 10th over the last two years, oddsmakers might have hit a home run.

We’ll examine how the Nationals do with both their arms and bats later in the season, and see how they stack up with these trends.

 

Power Rankings

It’s been quite a fun first two weeks of the 2015 major league season. We’ve had home run barrages, triumphant returns and, at the time this is being written, only one complete game shutout in an age of dominant pitching.

Without further ado, here are my rankings for the top five and bottom five teams, which I will try to present every other week.

Note: I do not take preseason rankings/predictions into account. This is purely how they’ve fared up until this point in the regular season.

The Fab Five

1. Detroit Tigers (9-2)

Owners of the best record in baseball in the early going, the Tigers have proven to be as unfazed on the road (5-1) as they are in front of their home crowd (4-1). They own a +25 run differential, second in the MLB. Their ace, David Price, has been as David Price as we can expect him to be, giving up only one earned run through three starts (0.40 ERA). Most importantly, Miguel Cabrera has been as hot to start the season as anyone, ranking in the top ten in OBP, hits, doubles, runs and lingering among the top tier in most of the other major offensive categories.

2. Kansas City Royals (8-2)

The Royals would like to get back to the Fall Classic, and their MLB-best +31 run differential alone proves that. They rank in the top 10 in both team ERA and runs scored, showing that this is a more complete team than last year’s club. And they’ve done it against good teams, going 6-0 against the White Sox and Angels while outscoring them 40 to 15.

No James Shields? No problem. KC is dominating the league.

No James Shields? No problem. KC is dominating the league.

3. St. Louis Cardinals (7-3)

So far, the perennial World Series contenders have played as we’d expect them to – damn good. Their team ERA of 2.00 is only the best in baseball, and their bats, which were incredibly inconsistent last year, have been on fire in the early going, scoring at least four runs in eight straight games, in which they’ve gone 6-2. Oh and they’ve allowed the lowest number of runs in baseball – only 23 through ten games.

4. Colorado Rockies (7-3)

The Rockies are playing better baseball than anyone else on the road, going 6-1 away from Coors Field. Their collective team ERA early on has also been a pleasant surprise at 2.90. And, obviously, Tulo’s gonna Tulo, to the tune of at least one hit in nine of his last ten games, and at least two in four of those. The Rockies have been apt to start off hot out of the gate in recent years. Their consistency in 2015, especially when it comes to facing contending division rivals in the Padres and Dodgers, might just depend on the health of their star shortstop, who played only 91 games last year due to injury.

5. New York Mets (8-3)

Raise your hand if you thought the Mets – and not the Nationals – would be leading the NL East two weeks into the season. *doesn’t see hands* Yeah, me either. The Mets, like the Rockies, would a pleasant surprise except for the fact that they are actually expected to contend for at least a wild card spot this year. Theey are the only team yet to lose at home (5-0).Matt Harvey, who sat out all of last year, has been great in two starts (2.25 ERA, 3 earned runs), but 41-year old Bartolo Colon continues to defy Father Time, sporting a sterling 3-0 record through three starts, going at least 6 innings in each start and giving up only five runs. Also…

 

The Futile Five

1. Milwaukee Brewers (2-8)

Owners of both the worst run differential (-28) and words record in baseball, the Brewers who held their ground at the top of NL Central for most of 2014 have done anything but this year. They’ve committed the third most errors in the MLB (10) and they’re practically grooving their pitches to opposing batters, allowing them to hit an astounding .295 on the season.

2. Seattle Mariners (3-7)

This isn’t supposed to be happening, Seattle. You’re supposed to dominate this year. 10 ESPN experts picked you to represent the American League in the World Series damnit! Instead, you’re hanging out in the basement of the AL West….below Houston. We’re concerned, Seattle.

3. San Francisco Giants (3-9)

The whole “Well, it’s an odd year” thing is almost becoming old. But it’s frighteningly appropriate for the 2015 Giants, who have yet to recover from yet another World Series hangover. They’re winless in front of their home crowd, and the October innings might be catching up to Madison Bumgarner, who has an uncharacteristic 5.29 ERA through three starts early on.

 

The defending champion Giants lose 9-0 to the Diamondbacks on Friday. Let that sink in.

The defending champion Giants lose 9-0 to the Diamondbacks on Friday. Let that sink in.

4. Minnesota Twins (4-6)

Bottom five in both runs scored and runs allowed, the Twins have performed…as expected? Yes they’ve have a tough stretch to start the season – Boston, Detroit, Chicago White Sox – but someone’s got to step up when your team’s batting a scary .216. Can’t expect the prodigal son Torii Hunter to do it all. Wait…never mind he’s not hitting either.

5. Miami Marlins (3-8)

You know it’s bad when your superstar is talking down about his own team.

https://twitter.com/BBTN/status/589489284857618432

 

There’s truth to Stanton’s remarks. The Marlins, expected to contend with the busy offseason they had, were hoping that acquiring SP Mat Latos would help their rotation hold over until Jose Fernandez’s eventual return.

Yeah, it hasn’t. Latos has a 17.36 ERA through two starts. No one else is pitching much better – they have a 4.82 team ERA. And they’re offense isn’tmaking up for it – they rank 16th with only 40 runs scored.

 

Final thoughts

  • Mike Trout, fastest to 100 home runs and 100 steals. The legend grows. Can he even have his own legacy at the age of 23?
  • Kris Bryant, remarkably going two MLB games without hitting his first big-league dinger.
  • Welp. Alex Rodriguez is the Yankees’ MVP thus far. Awkward, much?
  • Kershaw is not Kershaw, and in such a way that even though it’s early in the season, it’s concerning.
  • As a Cardinals fan, love love love seeing Carpenter churning out doubles like he did in 2013. Already at over one-fifth the number of doubles (7) that he hit all of last year (33).
  • Thank you, 42.

 

Have a great weekend and week, everybody.

 

 

David Lynch likes to talk about and write about movies, sports, and important happenings around the world. He can be reached at alex.695@hotmail.com or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch. He is a student at the University of New Mexico.