Tuesday, August 11, 2015

MLB Pennant Races - 50 games to go

With only, yes I said only, about 50 games left to play in the season we are beginning to see how the second season might unfold, as many questions as there are still left to answer one thing is certain, that one of the top clubs of the season to date is going to be left out of the playoff picture in both the NL and AL. In the National League the catbird seat will be held by perpetual top-seeds from St. Louis, the Patriots of baseball. The Cards have a five game lead over the Pirates for the NL Central, a four game lead over the Royals for the overall best record. Of course that doesn’t mean much now that we’ve gone to the All-Star Game method, but it still sends a message that the road to riches still travels through the arch. Because of the dominance of the NL Central winner, the silver medalist will also be first wild card so that means there is only one more seat on the last life raft to be fought for by the Mets, Nats, Cubs, Dodgers, and defending champion Giants. Once again the division winner will survive and advance and the runner up will go home. The Dodgers may have a 3 game lead over the Giants in the West but despite a plethora of moves ahead of the trade deadline they don’t look any closer to shoring up that short starting rotation or retched bullpen. Kershaw and Grinke have been carrying the club all season and the addition of Latos and Wood so far haven’t made much of a difference. LA has two golden starters and a closer that’s subject to giving up at least a run in most of his save opportunities. That may be enough to get through a 7-game series if Zach and Clayton don’t lose but much like the NLDS last year, once Kershaw lost game 1 the Dodgers were done. What they do have going for them is that over the next 22 games the Giants will play nothing but clubs that are fighting for playoff spots. All of their opponents have been previously mentioned except the Astros who are currently in first place in the AL East. Astros, Nats, Cards, Pirates, Cubs, Cards, and Dodgers. Look it up, it’s the toughest stretch any club will face all season and it will be the reason why LA will take down its second consecutive NL West flag, but unless something changes right away that will about as far as the Dodgers go. In the NL East, the Nats have been calling their shot the entire year about how they’re the best in the league and how everyone expects them to win the NL, well now that prediction is in serious jeopardy. The Nats currently find themselves a game and a half out of first place which usually doesn’t mean anything with two months to play but the Mets are the hottest team in the NL right now along with the Cubs and that’s who they’re chasing. It would behoove them to come out of a 7-game roadie with the Dodgers and Giants with a winning record because if they fall too far behind the Mets they may not catch up. Meanwhile the Mets are a far cry for the “Mighty Mets” of the eighties but they are playing with a ton of enthusiasm have just taken 2 of 3 from the Nats to take the division lead but have a tough road to finish out the season so they had better continue their winning ways. With all of the talk about global warming and freaky summer weather nation wide it’s no wonder they are talking about the drought ending in Chicago. The Cubs trying to break the curse find themselves 3.5 games ahead of the Giants for the final Wild Card seat that would leave the Nationals out in the cold. The hottest team in baseball at 9-1 over their last 10 the Cubbies finally are giving fans something else to cheer for except the start of football season but a though schedule with series at the Giants, Dodgers, Cards, and Pirates have many thinking that it is perpetual death for Chi Town and come September things will be back to normal with the Cubs on the outside looking in. Next up………………The AL races.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

11th Hour Moves Shape the MLB Race to the Finish

Firstly, apologies are in order for those of you whom lambasted us back in June when we went on record stating that strange names on the top of the divisions like the Astros, Twins, and Mets were here to stay. Well, here we are in August and three of the four clubs we highlighted are on top of their respective divisions. Moreover, they look like they have their sights set on taking the flag not just the division crown. However it’s not just the young guns that are making strides to the top, the clubs that have become synonymous with fall baseball the Cardinals, Dodgers, and Giants have all made big moves. Ironically, everyone but the Yankees, who seem to always be wheeling and dealing, have made moves but the Bombers seem content with their club that currently holds a five-game lead in the East and believes they have all the components to make another glory run. The Cards, who seem to perpetually have the league’s best record only have to fear peaking too early and to prevent a repeat of falling short in the NLCS like last year, GM John Mozeliak reconfigured the roster with the additions of first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss and relievers Steve Cishek and Jonathon Broxton. Moss will hopefully be the bat Cardinal fans were hoping for, though naysayers think the team overpaid by sending single-A lefty and former first rounder Rob Kaminsky to Cleveland. The Dodgers whom have the second best record in the National League made a ton of moves to not only get them over the hump and back to the world series for the first time in over two decades but justify that massive payroll. The first thing they needed to do was acquire anyone else that can throw the ball over 50 mph to help Greinke and Kershaw and fill in the gaps until they can take the bump again. They countered by making only one move, but a massive one, a three-team, 13-player blockbuster that added four above-average pitchers to a staff desperate for reinforcements. Having lost Hyun-jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy to season-ending arm surgeries early in the year, the Dodgers finally landed replacements in Mat Latos and Alex Wood, the latter of whom has four team-controlled years remaining, and to a bullpen that has been shaky all year, they added rejuvenated former closer Jim Johnson and lefty Luis Avilan. In addition to all of that, they brought in highly-regarded 21-year-old infield prospect Jose Pereza, who could be starting in the middle of the diamond for L.A. next year, and the best player they gave up was a 30-year-old Cuban defector with a sketchy injury history who has never played a game in the major leagues Hector Olivera, that they paid handsomely for the rights to in the off-season. Meanwhile the Mets added Yoenis Cespedes, Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson and Tyler Clippard. That’s an impressive haul for a team that has been paralyzed by financial concerns in recent seasons and developed a reputation for never making the big move it needed to make to get better. The Mets desperately needed a bat, and they got three, led by All-Star slugger Cespedes, whose Home Run Derby win in 2013 stands as one of a limited number of memorable moments from Citi Field’s first seven seasons. Uribe and Johnson may not appear in the lineup together very often, but both veterans have been swinging hot bats this season and represent upgrades for a Mets lineup that was last in the majors in run scored prior to their acquisition. cespedes Following a 92-loss season last year and three straight last-place finishes before that, the Astros slipped behind the Angels into second place in the American League West on July 12, marking the first time since mid-April that they didn’t occupy the top spot in their division. Their confidence did not waiver. The Astros struck the first blow of the deadline period by acquiring Houston native Scott Kazmir from the A’s late last Thursday, and promptly swept the Angels to take over first place in the AL West for the first time in franchise history. The Astros completed a second deal, bringing centerfielder Carlos Gomez and starter Mike Fiers to Houston, the former representing a significant upgrade from the slumping Jake Marisnick. With Kazmir and Gomez in place, the Astros are in excellent position to reach the postseason for the first time since 2005. These are the teams in the spotlight but the slipping under the radar are the Blue Jays whom may be 7 games out of first place but are only two back in the wild card race and I guarantee you are a club nobody wants to see in the post-season. Toronto arguably landed the best pitcher and position player to be dealt at this deadline in David Price and Troy Tulowitzki, the latter of whom is under contract for six more seasons. In adding set-up men La Troy Hawkins (acquired in the Tulowitzki deal) and Mark Lowe, they drastically improved their bullpen. And they upgraded their fourth outfielder slot by acquiring Ben Revere (who has two team-controlled years remaining) to boot. All of this adds up to a stretch run that should have a number of clubs fighting for those final playoff spots and making another case for how great the world is since the Wild Card came into play. So now we’ve seen the river card and now it’s a matter to see who was drawing dead and who has a shot to still be playing when the season turns.

Monday, June 15, 2015

MLB - New Kids on the MLB Block

Now that we’re a third of the way though the MLB it’s time to recognize that some the amazing turnarounds we’ve seen to start the season aren’t early season aberrations, and these clubs figure to around with the season changes. Houston Astros – Perhaps a change of scenery was exactly what the franchise needed. Perpetual cellar dwellers in the NL for years, a change the on AL West where they still went a dismal 70-92 last year but up from the year before and in 2015 actually sit atop the AL West at 36-28, 2.5 games clear of the Rangers, and five games off the best record in the league. Easily their best start since they used to challenge for not just the division crown but the League Pennant back when they had pitchers like JR Richard and Nolan Ryan. I know it’s early but they’re following the formula for success, be tough to beat at home, the Astros have a league best 21 wins and play .500 ball on the road where they’re 15-14. Of course the million dollar question is can the keep this going through the gauntlet that is 162 games? Texas Rangers - Speaking of the AL West the only team finish worst than the Astros in the division last year were the Rangers whom now reside right behind them in second place. A balance of crafty vets and young talent Texas has brought some excitement back to the lone-star state outside of football season. The shot in the arm of bringing back Josh Hamilton for one more trip around the bases has put cheeks in the seats and he immediately paid dividends before going to the DL, (again). He will need to stay healthy and continue to produce for the Rangers to be around come September, and they had better be close to the top because come August, all the attention in the State will move towards the grid iron. New York – Wait for it….METS! Yep it’s the Metropolitans not the Yankees that are the talk of the Empire State right now, at 34-18 they’re ion a battle with Nationals for the NL East lead. That itself is kind of big news as we’re already in June and they haven’t faded yet, but it gets bigger when you throw into the mix that the Nationals were not only the consensus pick to win the division, but the NL as well. Moreover, this wasn’t even supposed to be close, like last year when the Nats won the divison by 17 games. Yea, can you believe it? I’m talking 17 games, that’s over 10% of the season they could have taken off and still taken the flag, and it was over by this time last year! So yes, the Mets going from a distant third to leading the NL East is a big deal even though it’s early June and if you don’t believe me ask anyone McFadden’s how happy they are that they have some statistical retorts for the fans from that other team that resides in the state. Minnesota Twins – This can’t be the best story simply because the Twins have rings on their fingers and were once the best team in baseball. The fact that it was well over a decade ago is part of the lure. The Twins are 34-26 recently falling out of first place due to a 3-7 stretch but they’re right in the mix. Last year, Minnesota was dead last, just three games above the club with the worst record in baseball, the afore mentioned Texas Rangers. That alone is something to celebrate but the fact that they’re holding off the challenge from the ‘lumber company’ that is the Detroit Tigers, the pre-season favorite to take the division is something that has fans that aren’t used be being happy this time of the season, or for most of the year for that matter, have to be exited about. That those old glory days of Jack Morris and Kirby Pucket may not be too far away.
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