New York Yankees: July in Review

IMGP3471This team might be weirder than last years when the left side of the infield was a rotating door of players.

With 4/5 of the opening day starting rotation down and out, and ll the money spent on bats this off-season (Ellsbury, Beltran, McCann, re-signing Gardner), you’d think the offense would be carrying the pitching.  Nope.  Both facets of the team are in the middle of the pack across the league, but the Yankees lose a lot of low scoring games, and failure with RISP, along with poor defense, have hurt the pitching staff.

Mark Teixeira continues to come up small injuries that keep him out of the lineup, Carlos Beltran is just now starting to heat up, and Brian McCann still hasn’t.  The inconsistency is keeping this team around the .500 mark, but they remain in the hunt for October because of parody in the American League East.  The top of the order has been solid of late, with the hot month courtesy of Gardner, and a good month by All-Star Derek Jeter.  Jeter made his presence felt in the MLB All-Star game, an American League win, when he scored the 1st run of the game.  Jeter also moved into sole possession of 7th on the All-Time Hits list, and he’s just single digits from 6th, where he will most likely finish his career.

MLB TRADE DEADLINE MOVES

  • SS/2B Stephen Drew for Kelly Johnson

It took nearly 40 years, but the Red Sox and Yankees finally made a trade.  Sure it was the equivalent of trading two 5-dollar bills for a 10… but progress is progress. Kelly Johnson wasn’t the guy the bombers thought they were getting, a good defensive utility player with pop.  Instead they got a bad defensive player with very little pop.  Stephen Drew could have been a Yankee in the off-season, instead he brings his even worse batting average, yet better glove to help sure up the infield defense in the deadline trade.

  • Martin Prado for Prospect Pete O’Brien from Arizona

Prado bring versatility with the ability to play the infield and the corner outfield positions, a solid bat and a healthier veteran option who is in, not past, his prime.  He’s signed for two more years after this.

  • Brian Roberts & Alfonso Soriano Designated For Assignment

Roberts stayed healthy, something he’s been known not to do, but didn’t produce, something new for the veteran 2nd baseman.  And to make matters worse for Roberts, the Yankees held him out a couple games, keeping him from hitting the 350 plate-appearance mark, which would’ve bumped up his salary.  The DFA came to make room on the 25-man roster for Prado.  Soriano was let go earlier after a 2&1/2 month slump to start the season.  He was hot in the 2nd half of last season after being acquired from the Cubs, but his age caught up with him at the plate and in the field.

  • Esmil Rogers Claimed Off Waivers from Toronto

The back end of the Yankees bullpen has been a strength, and in an 11th hour move, Brian Cashman finished off his moves adding another arm to the over-worked pen.  Rogers hasn’t been good this season for the Blue Jays, but maybe the change will do some good.

  • Chris Capuano , Chase Headley and Brandon McCarthy (prior to the July 31st deadline):

Two veteran starters and a sure-handed 3rd baseman started off the month of moves for the Yankees.  All three have contributed in their short time, McCarthy is undefeated, Capuano had a very good first outing (a no decision) and Headley had a walk-off single in his first game.

The best part of the moves GM Brian Cashman made?  Not giving up big prospects or adding too much money to the payroll.  The only significant loss was Yangervius Solarte in the Headly trade.

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Best Starter(s): David Phelps &  Brandon McCarthy – or two guys not in the opening day rotation.  Phelps went 2-1 with a sub 3 ERA in July, proving my point about the lack of run support.  He quickly shot up to the team’s number 2 behind Kuroda after all the injuries to the staff, and Phelps has not disappointed.  And talk about needing a change of scenery! Brandon McCarthy had a near 5 ERA in the National League before being traded for by the Yankees.  He’s 3-0 (could be 4-0), has given length and brought stability to the rotation.  I’m not totally surprised despite a couple poor seasons, because he’d had a number of very good years in Oakland before moving to the NL.

Best Hitter: Brett Gardner – the guy is HOT! 7 homers in the month (a shortened month thanks to the All-Star break), which is one short of his previous career high for a season, which he set last year!  A team high 16 RBIs to go along with the 7 bombs in July have him just 5 short of tying his career high in that category as well, also set last season.  He’s doing everything you’d want fro ma lead off hitter, and with his recent power surge, the stolen bases are down, while strikeouts are up.  But in a consistently inconsistent offense, Gardenr has been a true bright spot.

Biggest Surprise: Francisco Cervelli – he sure has put injuries and suspensions behind him.  He’s hitting nearly .300, and has handled the makeshift pitching staff well.

Record vs AL East: 2-6

Overall Record: 55-52 (3rd in the AL East)

 

 

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MLB Predictions – The Hunt for Red October (World Series Edition)

We’ve come to that time of year.  The Fall Classic.  Our final 4 guaranteed baseball games until Spring Training.

It’s an all red World Series, a rematch of the 2004 series and the fourth time these two have met in the World Series.  The Boston Red Sox will represent the American League after taking out the Detroit Tigers in 6 games in the ALCS.  They will face off against the National League representatives, the St. Louis Cardinals, who also needed 6 games to advance past the Los Angeles Dodgers in their NLCS match-up.

The New York Yankees have the most World Series wins in MLB history with 27, but this is the decade of teams in red.  Why do I say this? Well, the winner of this year’s series will pick up their 3rd World Series Championship of the 21st Century, which would be the most of any franchise.  The Yankees and Giants are the other teams that have each two rings this millennium.  Of the two teams in this years Fall Classic, I think even if St. Louis loses, they’ve established themselves as the franchise of the 21st century.  They’ve appeared in 3 previous World Series since 2000, winning in 2006 and 2011, and of course losing in 4 to Boston in 2004.   This fourth appearance also ties them with the Yankees for most in this time span.  The Cards have been to by far the most League Championship Series’ with 6, and they’ve been to the playoffs more than they haven’t in the first 13 years of this century.  Not to mention their ability to draft and cultivate talent within has been remarkable and unmatched (with the exception of maybe the Tampa Bay Rays) the past 10 years.

Saying this takes absolutely nothing away from what the Boston Red Sox have done both in this decade.  Three World Series appearances and two wins after going 86 years between raising a championship banner.  But the turnaround from 2012 to 2013 is even more impressive than their playoff success.  They hadn’t played in October since 2010, and won just 69 games a year ago.  This was a franchise in turmoil, who instead of regressing, made a historic turnaround in just an off-season.  A lot of thanks for this has to be given to GM Ben Cherrington, who pulled of a miracle trade which dumped big money and big contracts of Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford.  Add the development of youngsters like Xander Boegarts, Will Middlebrooks and Jose Iglesias, and improved years of John Lester and Clay Buchholz, you can see why this team won the AL East.  Iglesias was of course traded, but his production allowed for Boston to acquire a quality arm in Jake Peavy.

Both teams have added pieces, and brought up guys from the minors that gelled quickly, allowing for them to be in the position they are.

This is the first World Series hosted by an American League team since 2009 when the Yankees held home-field advantage.  This because the AL snapped a 3-year All-Star Game losing streak, giving their representative, in this case Boston, home-field.  Both teams won 97 regular season games.

My Key Players in the Series:

St Louis

  • Starting Pitcher Michael Wacha: This isn’t your normal 22-year-old.  The youngster won the NLCS MVP after two huge wins, outdueling last years Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw twice.  If he can do anything close to what he did in the first two rounds, the Cardinals will be thrilled, and the Red Sox should be scared.
  • Carlos Beltran:  He’s in his first World Series after years of just missing.  He has many big hits in his postseason career, but now it’s time to see if he can continue it on the games biggest stage.

Boston

  • Closer Koji Uehara:  Talk about a breakout season.  Uehara was unhittable the last two months of the season, and has carried it into the postseason.
  • Starter John Lackey: If there’s one key starter for Boston, it’s Lackey.  He had a good bounce back year from 2012, but if the Sox want to win this series, they can’t have a performance like he had against Tampa earlier in the postseason.  He gave up 4 runs in less than 6 innings in that start.  Boston needs the guy that shut down the Tigers in the ALCS.

Here is the schedule and pitching matchups

Game 1 (Wednesday @ Fenway Park- First Pitch 7:30PM EST)

  • Adam Wainwright vs John Lester

It’s just what you want in Game 1 of the World Series; a match-up of aces who have been on this postseason.  The Cardinals send Adam Wainwright and his 1.57 postseason ERA to the hill.  Wainwright has 2 rings and knows what it takes close out a series, and get a series started  The Red Sox counter with John Lester, who hasn’t been too shabby this year, allowing just 5 runs in 19.1 innings this October.

Game 2 (Thursday @ Fenway Park- First Pitch 8:07PM EST

  • Michael Wacha vs John Lackey

Based simply on what has happened this postseason, this matchup favors the Cardinals, which is good down 0-1.  Clay Buchholz was the likely game 2 starter for Boston, but he’s suffering from fatigue.  Both are players I tabbed as key to the series, and know here’s their chance to prove me right.  Wacha looks to send his team home tied 1-1, Lackey hopes to make a statement and put the Sox up 2-0.

Game 3 (Saturday @ Busch Stadium- First Pitch 8:07PM EST)

  • Jake Peavy vs Joe Kelly

This is a toss up.  Neither has made a World Series start, though Peavy is a veteran to Kelly’s relative inexperience.  It’s a big game, as it’s the first swing game, with the winner being just 2 games away from a championship.

Game 4 (Sunday @ Busch Stadium- First Pitch 8:00PM EST)

  • Clay Buchholz vs Lance Lynn

I think the match-up favors the Sox, as Buccholz is really a number 2 in this rotation, though he was pushed back because of arm fatigue. Lance Lynn hasn’t been great this postseason, but with a 2-1 series lead, the Cardinals are saving Adam Wainwright for a possible clincher in game 5.

Game 5 (Monday @ Busch Stadium- First Pitch 7:30PM EST)

  • Jon Lester vs Adam Wainwright

With the series tied 2-2, it’s a re-match of game 1.  Lester was brilliant, while Wainwright was tattooed.  I don’t think either will be as good, or as bad as they were in game 1.  This will not be a blowout, but a close game, the way games 2-4 have gone.  The winner will have a chance at closing out the series Wednesday in Boston.

Game 6 (Wednesday @ Fenway Park- First Pitch 7:30PM EST)

  • Michael Wacha vs John Lackey

If Necessary***

Game 7 (Wednesday @ Fenway Park- First Pitch 7:30PM EST) 

So it all starts with game 1, which is important in any series.  It gives one team a quick advantage, and puts them 3 wins from a championship.  Winners of Game 1 have won 20 of the last 24 Fall Classics.  I hope you all enjoy what should be a long, hard-fought series. Both teams have had great runs to get themselves to this point.  From the Red Sox crazy turnaround, to the Cardinals getting big performances from different guys every night.  But I think the Cardinals core gets this done.  I like the Red Sox depth, but I think St. Louis’ depth is better.

CARDINALS IN 6

MLB Postseason Predictions – NLCS

Here we are. One round from the World Series, and we’re now down to two teams left standing in the National League.

Los Angeles Dodgers @ St. Louis Cardinals

  • Joe Kelly (0-0, 3.38 ERA) vs Zach Greinke (15-8, 3.75 ERA)

I had the Dodgers beating the Braves in four, and that’s exactly what happened. It wasn’t even that close. LA scored 23 runs in their 3 wins. They gambled bringing their Ace Clayton Kershaw back on three-days rest for the first time in his career, but it paid off. Kershaw gave the 6 innings strong of, 3-hit, 2-run ball. But now they don’t have their Cy Young starter until game 2.

It’s the first time the Dodgers have reached the NLCS since 2009, when they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies in 5 games. They also fell in 5 games to Philly in 2008. And if they should win, it will be the first time the reach the Fall Classic since 1988, when they beat the Oakland A’s.

As for the Cardinals, it took 5 games for them to get here. Again, that’s how long I figured their NLDS match-up against Pirates would go, It was a fun, close series, with the clincher the biggest margin of victory. Not counting the 6-1 clincher, St. Louis outscored Pittsburgh 15-14 in the first 4 games.

The question is always is it better to play everyday and get in on a high, or clinch early? Well, it’s another case of that in this years NLCS.

Without Ace Adam Wainwright because he went the distance last night, possible game 1 candidates included Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller and Joe Kelly. Kelly ended up getting the nod, after just 1 start during the regular season.

Clinching Monday meant LA could set up their Dodgers send their Ace 1A to the hill in Zach Greinke. Greinke took the game 2 loss to Atlanta, but pitched well enough for the win, going 6 innings of 2-run ball.

The LA Dodgers took the West, the St Louis Cardinals the central. Now one will take the NL.

And it all gets started with Game 1 Friday night at Busch Stadium- first pitch set for 8:30.

It’s going to be a hard fought series. But I think the fact that the Dodgers were able to set up their pitching much better than St. Louis will ultimately mean a win. Getting 2 from Greinke and 2 from Kershaw is huge. Wainwright won’t pitch until game 3, and it might be too late by then.

DODGERS IN 6

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ALCS UPDATE

  • The Red Sox have already clinched their spot in the next round.
  • The Detroit Tigers are in Oakland tonight for a winner-take-all Game 5.
  • No matter what happens tonight, the ALCS kicks off in Boston on Saturday.

MLB Postseason Predictions – NLDS

With the Wild Card games out of the way, let the Division Series begin.

The National League gets things started tonight, with the American League playing tomorrow.

NL Central opponents do battle in the first best-of-five match-up.

Pittsburgh Pirates @ St Louis Cardinals

  • AJ Burnett (10-11, 3.30 ERA) vs Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94 ERA)

The pirates won their first playoff game in 21 years when they took down Cincinnati on Monday in their Wild Card match-up.  Now they look to keep the the good feeling going against a playoff perennial that knows what it takes to win in October.  That being said, it’s the first postseason series between the two clubs, so anything can happen.

It’s a good pitching match-up between 2 guys who have helped teams win in the postseason in the past.

The Pirates have used the long ball and a strong bullpen of late to get them into the playoffs.  While against Pittsburgh this year, Wainwright went 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in three starts, going seven innings each time out.

I see this being a close game, and a close series, but I think the Cardinals experience and home-field advantage wins out.

CARDINALS IN 4

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In NLDS number 2, it’s East meets West for two division winners.

Los Angeles Dodgers @ Atlanta Braves

  • Clayton Kershaw (16-9, 1.83 ERA) vs Kris Medlen (15-12, 3.11ERA)

It wasn’t easy but the Dodgers took the west crown, while the Braves easily topped the East.  LA made an amazing 2nd half push to take their division.  They’re hot, young and don’t care what anyone thinks about them.  The Braves got off to a fast start, and cruised into October in a down NL East.

Kershaw is probably going to win the Cy Young again, and his teammate Zach Grienke was just as dominant in the second half push. The Braves weren’t challenged all year for their spot in the postseason, and i think that will hurt them, while LA fought from a big deficit early to overtake Arizona.

I think the Dodgers starting pitching top to bottom is better, and their a much more versatile lineup.

DODGERS IN 4

Enjoy the game 1’s tonight, and stay tuned for my ALDS preview coming tomorrow.