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.
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 popping his 49th homer of the season against the Yankees on Tuesday night, slugger Chris Davis now stands just 1 blast shy of the Baltimore Orioles single-season record, set by Brady Anderson back in 1997. Davis still has an outside shot at making a run at Roger Maris’ AL record of 61 homers as well, but that’s looking a little bit more like wishful thinking as we wind toward October.
But even without the AL home run record, what Chris Davis has done this season has been nothing short of phenomenal. He’s entirely remade his swing, showed remarkable plate discipline, and perhaps most importantly, Davis has finally figured out how to hit an off-speed pitch.
After the first month of the 2013 season Royals’ GM Dayton Moore had to be feeling pretty darn good about himself. By the end of April an offseason full of risky moves in the pitching department and prospect department had begun to coalesce into one of the best rotations in baseball, leading Kansas City to a 14-10 record despite a struggling offense.
One of the toughest things to quantify in all of sports is a catcher’s value on defense. Their are so many responsibilities and subtle nuances that go into being a quality Major League backstop. The best of the best are able to deftly juggle the responsibilities of managing a pitching staff, framing borderline pitches, blocking pitches, holding base runners, throwing said runners out when they attempt to steal, and much, much more. Recently I’ve been doing some research into catching defense and I have been somewhat unsatisfied by both the traditional statistics (caught stealing %, passed balls, and so on) and by the advanced metrics (URZ and defensive runs saved). A few excellent studies in particular have been done to analyze a catcher’s ability to frame pitches, but otherwise most analysis is left to judgment. I’ve been compiling some of my own numbers relating to catchers controlling the base running game in order to gain a better understanding of who the best backstops in baseball really are, and I’d like to share some of my findings today.
Fact: In 2012, for the first time in a decade, the Cincinnati Reds failed to score at least 700 runs. These kinds of little issues fail to get noticed during a banner season in which a franchise racks up 97 wins while clinching a playoff berth before every other team in baseball, but it’s true. The Reds, an offensive juggernaut in 2010 and 2011, were outscored by 20 other teams this past season. It seems somewhat unfathomable that Cincinnati could score so few runs with All-Stars like Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Brandon Phillips centered around a decent supporting case, but the numbers don’t lie. The Reds struggled to hit for average. They were abysmal at drawing walks, and they possessed very, very little team speed.
Some of these issues will need to be corrected this offseason, because it’s highly likely that Cincinnati’s pitching staff won’t be able to repeat the good health the had in 2012, which will likely lead to a decline in wins. The Reds also played a little bit over their heads a year ago, winning 6 more games than their run differential would suggest, although that is owed in large part to a stellar bullpen, which is also due for a bit of regression. So, if the Reds are going to repeat their NL Central title in 2013, what should they do to kick-start their offense?
Last night’s Battle of Los Angeles was quite the interesting little 3-2 affair for a number of reasons. With the game tied 2-2 in the top of the 9th, the Angels’ Albert Pujols singled home Mike Trout to give them the lead. Ernesto Frieri was able to shut the door in the 9th to keep the red-hot Angels rolling. Here are some of my more random thoughts and observations from watching the game last night: