Tag Archives: Craig Counsell

The two Phillies skippers to win Manager of the Year may surprise you

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Ozark was the first, and is one of just two Phillies managers to ever take home Manager of the Year honors

 

On Tuesday evening the 2019 Major League Baseball Manager of the Year Awards for the National and American Leagues will be announced.

As with Monday’s announcement of the Rookies of the Year, honorees were first named on social media by the IBWAA for their organization. That will be followed by a televised announcement on MLB Network at 6:00 pm EST for the Manager of the Year as chosen by the BBWAA.

The voters from the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America handed their honors out to Brian Snitker of the Atlanta Braves in the National League and Rocco Baldelli of the Minnesota Twins for the American League.

Finalists for this year’s BBWAA award in the National League are Craig Counsell of the Milwaukee Brewers, Mike Shildt of the Saint Louis Cardinals, and Brian Snitker of the Atlanta Braves.

My choice among these candidates would be Shildt. Prior to the season, most prognosticators had his Cardinals finishing behind the Brewers and Chicago Cubs. But the Cards won their first NL Central Division crown since 2015, turning last year’s worst defense in the NL into the league’s best.

While Shildt would be my pick among those finalists, he would not be my actual pick. I believe that Dave Martinez of the world champion Washington Nationals deserves the honor – and it has little to do with his club winning the first World Series in franchise history.

The Nationals were a dozen games below the .500 mark and sitting in fourth place in the NL East Division as May wound towards a close. Rather than throw in the towel, Martinez kept his team positive and focused. The Nats had the best record in the National League from that point to the end of the season.

Over in the American League, the finalists are Aaron Boone of the New York Yankees, Kevin Cash of the Tampa Bay Rays, and Rocco Baldelli of the Minnesota Twins.

A great case can be made for any of these men, as well as Oakland A’s skipper Bob Melvin. But my choice would be Baldelli. While the Twins were considered a possible playoff team entering the season, few saw them winning 101 games and capturing the AL Central crown in nearly wire-to-wire fashion.

The first recognized honors in this category were The Sporting News Manager of the Year Award, established in 1936. From that year through 1985, one winner for all of Major League Baseball was announced. Since 1986, The Sporting News has handed out honors in both the American and National Leagues.

The  Baseball Writers Association of America began honoring a Manager of the Year for both leagues with the 1983 season. Each member of a 30-member committee of the BBWAA submits a ballot listing a first, second, and third place finisher among the managers of each league. The manager with the highest score in each league wins the award.

Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa have won the BBWAA award four times, more than any other manager in history. Jim Leyland is the only skipper to be named Manager of the Year four times by The Sporting News.

The Phillies new manager Joe Girardi is the only person to be named as the BBWAA Manager of the Year while piloting a losing club. Girardi took those honors for keeping the 2006 Florida Marlins in the Wildcard playoff hunt until the season’s final weeks, despite working with the game’s lowest payroll.

Yesterday, I wrote about the four players who won the Rookie of the Year Award as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. Today, we’ll look at the history of the club in Manager of the Year Award voting.

It’s not much of a history, mind you. Only one manager of the club has ever taken the award as handed out by the BBWAA. And that manager was not either of the men who guided the Phillies to World Series glory. He was also honored in the same year by The Sporting News, which has named just one other Phillies manager as a winner of their award.

As I said earlier, the BBWAA award did not begin until 1983, so Dallas Green obviously would not have a plaque on his shelf for that 1980 championship. That year, The Sporting News chose to honor Bill Virdon of the Houston Astros, whose team the Phillies defeated in the NLCS, as their NL Manager of the Year.

And after guiding the Phillies to a second consecutive NL East crown and the 2008 World Series championship, Charlie Manuel finished as the runner-up to Lou Piniella of the Chicago Cubs in that year’s BBWAA voting.

Manuel would lead the Phillies to five consecutive NL East crowns, but never was awarded the Manager of the Year by the BBWAA or The Sporting News. Not even in 2007, when an underdog Phillies team rallied from seven games back on September 12 to capture their first division title in 14 years.

Manuel finished second to Bob Melvin of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2007 BBWAA voting. With his team established as favorites, ‘Uncle Charlie’ would finish just 6th in 2009, 5th in 2010, and 4th in 2011. That last was after guiding the Phillies to a 102-win season, the most regular season victories in franchise history.

Despite leading the “Whiz Kids” to a surprise National League pennant in 1950, manager Eddie Sawyer was passed over by The Sporting News in favor of Detroit Tigers skipper Red Rolfe, whose club had finished as the American League runners-up to the New York Yankees that year.

Paul Owens guided the Phillies “Wheeze Kids” to a 1983 NL pennant, but The Sporting News honors that year went to Tony La Russa, who had led the Chicago White Sox to a 99-win season and the AL West Division title in his first year as manager. In their first season giving out an award that year, the BBWAA handed the honors to the manager of the NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers, Tommy Lasorda.

A decade later, Jim Fregosi skippered the ‘Macho Row’ Phillies to a stunning NL East crown in a wire-to-wire performance, then on to a National League pennant. But Fregosi finished a close runner-up to Dusty Baker of the San Francisco Giants, whose club had won 103 games but finished as runners-up in the NL West. The Sporting News gave their award to Bobby Cox of the NL West champion Atlanta Braves.

So, which Phillies managers have been recognized as the Manager of the Year?

The first was Danny Ozark, who The Sporting News named as their winner after he guided the Phillies to the first of three consecutive National League East Division titles in the 1976 season.

It would then be a quarter-century until a second Phillies skipper was so honored. For leading the club to a second place finish in the NL East in 2001, Larry Bowa won the Manager of the Year Award from both The Sporting News and the BBWAA.

That’s it, Ozark and Bowa, the only two men to ever be named as the Manager of the Year with the Phillies. The hope now is that Girardi can put a second career Manager of the Year award in his trophy case and on his resume’ as soon as next year at this time.

 

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Phillies to spend Memorial Day weekend 2019 at Miller Park in Milwaukee

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Phillies hope to keep Bernie Brewer from sliding much this weekend

The Philadelphia Phillies (29-21) will be spending Memorial Day weekend at Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers (29-22), who are currently sitting in second place in the National League Central Division standings.

The Brew Crew trail the Chicago Cubs, against whom the Phillies just split a four-game series, by 1.5 games, three in the loss column. They enjoyed an off-day on Thursday prior to this series, coming off an 11-9 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in their previous game on Wednesday night.
It was just over a week ago that the Brewers captured three of four games between the two teams at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies won the opener of that series by 7-4 when J.T. Realmuto and Odubel Herrera produced run-scoring doubles to break up a 4-4 tie game. But Milwaukee roared back to capture the final three games by a combined 22-6 runs margin.
The two clubs have proven very evenly matched in recent years with the Phillies holding a 10-9 edge in their 19 meetings over the three previous combined entering this 2019 season.
The Brewers (250) and Phillies (249) rank 4th and 5th respectively in the NL in runs scored, though Milwaukee has played one more game. The Atlanta Braves (252) are 3rd, and also have one more game than the Phillies.
Milwaukee is a well-rounded, dynamic offensive ball club. The Brewers hitters collectively rank 4th in OPS and 5th in OBP. They lead the entire National League in home runs and are tied for the league lead in stolen bases. No slouch with their gloves, the Brew Crew defenders have committed the 5th-fewest errors in the NL while handling the 2nd-most chances.
After splitting their series at Wrigley Field with the Cubs, the Phillies are now 6-5 during what we have described previously here at Phillies Nation as a 23-game “crucible”, a nearly month-long stretch against top-notch competition from outside the NL East Division. That stretch continues this weekend.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

TOP LINEUP THREATS

  • Christian Yelich: clearly the Brewers top lineup threat, the 27-year-old Yelich was last year’s NL Most Valuable Player. He was also a first-time All-Star and captured his second career Silver Slugger Award. Yelich won a Gold Glove back in the 2014 season with the Miami Marlins, for whom he was a first round draft pick at 23rd overall back in 2010. Yelich was obtained by Milwaukee in a January 2018 trade for a four-prospect package. He is currently slashing .325/.440/.732 and leads the club in homers (19), RBIs (41), extra-base hits (26), runs (40) and steals (9).
  • Ryan Braun: still a threat at age 35, Braun is perhaps the biggest “Phillie-killer” in the game today. He was both the 2007 NL Rookie of the Year and the 2011 National League MVP. However, that MVP honor was tarnished when he later admitted to having used PEDs during that season, an infraction that cost him an 80-game suspension. His nine homers and 30 RBIs are both tied for second on the team this season. Braun is slashing .385/.428/.709 over his career against the Phillies across 76 games. His 25 homers and 73 RBIs against the Phillies are his most against a non-divisional opponent.
  • Mike Moustakas: ‘Moose’ was obtained by the Brewers from the Kansas City Royals just prior to last July’s trade deadline. He re-upped with Milwaukee for one year after becoming a free agent this past off-season, with an $11 million mutual option for the 2020 season. The dozen homers off his lefty bat are second on the club and his 30 RBIs are tied with Braun for second. He just recently moved from second base back to his more natural third base to accommodate the rookie you can read about in the below spotlight feature.
  • Yasmani Grandal: after winning four straight NL West crowns as the Los Angeles Dodgers starting catcher, Grandal  also signed a one-year deal with the Brewers as a free agent. He has a $16 million mutual option for next season. One of the top offensive backstops in the game, Grandal’s nine homers are tied with Braun for third on the club. He also holds a fine .374 on-base percentage.
  • Lorenzo Cain: Phillies fans will recall that Cain produced a five-hit game against their team just last week. He has gotten hot beginning with that game, slashing .389/.450/.556 over his last eight games. Now 33-years-old, Cain signed with Milwaukee as a free agent in January 2018 for five years, the dealing taking him through the 2022 season.
  • Jesus Aguilar: Aguilar burst onto the season as a first-time All-Star last year, blasting 35 home runs and producing 108 RBIs. However, he has started the 2019 season very cold, hitting just .200 with three RBIs and seven extra-base hits. He has lost playing time at first base over the last week to Thames (see below.)

SPOTLIGHT PLAYER

Keston Hiura: the Brewers top prospect was promoted to the big-leagues for the first time during last week’s series against the Phillies. The 22-year-old was Milwaukee’s first round pick at 9th overall in the 2017 MLB Draft out of the University of Cal-Irvine. After ripping minor league pitching at five levels over the next two years, he has slashed .273/.333/.455 with two homers over his first eight games in Major League Baseball and has taken over as the Brewers starting second baseman. He could end up holding the position for years to come.

SCHEDULED STARTING PITCHERS

  • Chase Anderson: (FRI) 2-0, 2.66 ERA, 1.310 WHIP, 4.27 FIP, 18 hits allowed over 23.2 IP across eight games (three starts) with a 25/13 K:BB ratio. Anderson spent time on the IL at the start of this month with a blister on his right pitching middle finger. He began the season in the bullpen before returning to the starting rotation on April 16.
  • Jhoulys Chacin: (SAT) 3-5, 4.65 ERA, 1.311 WHIP, 5.47 FIP, 44 hits over 50.1 IP across 10 starts with a 36/22 K:BB ratio.
  • Brandon Woodruff: (SUN) 6-1, 3.51 ERA, 1.225 WHIP, 3.23 FIP, 52 hits over 56.1 IP across 10 starts with a 65/17 K:BB ratio. One of the club’s top prospects for a couple of years, Woodruff debuted in 2017 and was a rookie last year when he pitched mostly out of the bullpen. He has finally seized a role in the rotation this season at age 26.

KEY BENCH & BULLPEN PIECES

  • Ben Gamel: a left-hander who turned 27-years-old last week. He has made 27 starts, mostly as a corner outfielder. Since the Phillies are likely to start a trio of right-handers on the mound this weekend, Gamel should see at least one start in place of Braun.
  • Eric Thames: a left-hander who is at least platooning at first base with Aguilar at this point. The 32-year-old veteran has 20 RBIs in just 125 plate appearances.
  • Josh Hader: the closer is one of the toughest left-handers in the game today. He has a dozen Saves with a 2.52 ERA and 0.640 WHIP in 19 games. A first-time All-Star a year ago, Hader has allowed just nine hits across 25 innings with a 49/7 K:BB ratio.
  • Junior Guerra: the club’s primary setup man, Guerra has a 2.39 ERA and 0.911 WHIP, allowing just 13 hits over 26.1 IP with a 22/11 K:BB across 21 games.
  • Jeremy Jeffress: another top righty out of the bullpen, Jeffress was an All-Star a year ago when he spent much of the season as the Brewers closer. This season he has a 2.93 ERA and 1.109 WHIP, allowing 11 hits over 15.1 IP across 14 appearances with a 16/6 K:BB ratio.
  • Alex Claudio: the most effective southpaw out of the pen, Claudio has made more appearances (27) than any Brewers reliever. He has allowed 16 hits over 20 innings with a 16/8 K:BB ratio.

THE SKIPPER

Craig Counsell is in his fifth year at the helm in Milwaukee, having taken over in the middle of the 2015 campaign. He has guided the club to an overall 345-330 record in that time. After his 2017 club missed an NL Wildcard playoff berth by just a single game, he led the team to a division crown last year.
Counsell played for 16 seasons in the big-leagues with five organizations. He played with Milwaukee in 2004 and then over his final five years from 2007-11. He was a teammate of Braun’s when the two faced the Phillies in the 2008 National League Division Series.
As a second baseman with the Florida Marlins, Counsell scored the title-winning run at Pro Player Stadium in Miami in the bottom of the 11th inning of the decisive Game 7 in the 1997 World Series. He reached on an error with one out, then came home three batters later on Edgar Renteria‘s single to center field.

THE BALLPARK

Bernie Brewer makes his slide after each Brewers home run and victory. (Mattingly23)
Miller Park opened as the Brewers home for the 2001 season. The facility features the only fan-shaped convertible roof in the United States, which can open and close in as little as 10 minutes. It holds 41,900 as a normal capacity but has been filled with a record 46,218 for a 2003 game with the rival Cubs.
Two of the unique fun features at Miller Park include the “Sausage Race“, a foot race between five people in “racing sausage” costumes, which takes place in the middle of the 6th inning of each game. And high above left-center field, the mascot “Bernie Brewer” takes off down a long, winding, yellow slide after each home run hit by the Brewers and after each of their victories.
During the traditional 7th-inning stretch, in addition to singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, Brewers fans also sing “Roll Out the Barrel” as a salute to the town’s beer-making history. Fans watching on television can usually spot “Front-Row Amy” sitting just behind home plate. Let’s just say that it’s hard to miss Amy Williams, who has held her $5,670 season ticket there for the last two years.
Following the 2020 season, Miller Park will no longer be known by that moniker. The naming rights to the stadium, which have belonged to the Miller Brewing Company for 20 years, will expire. Beginning with the 2021 season the park will be renamed for the new rights holders, American Family Insurance.

Phillies need to find a way to slow down Ryan Braun

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Ryan Braun has been a Phillies-killer for years

Over the course of his 13-year career in Major League Baseball, outfielder Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers has done a lot of damage against a lot of opposing teams.

Braun, who served a 65-game suspension back in 2013after admitting to using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) during his 2011 National League MVP-winning campaign, has blasted 331 home runs over that career.
The Philadelphia Phillies have been victimized by Braun more than most, to the point that he is now high on the list of “Phillie-killers”, those players who consistently do damage when the two teams meet.
Over 74 regular season games played against the Phillies, 72 of those as starts, Braun is slashing .378/.417/.711 with 25 home runs, 71 RBIs, and 44 extra-base hits with a 1.129 OPS. He even hit the Phillies during the one postseason series between the two clubs. During that 2008 NLDS he delivered five hits and a pair of RBIs. Ironically, he went 0-4 in the lone Brewers victory of that series.
At Citizens Bank Park, Braun has ripped successive generations of Phillies pitching to the tune of a .406/.453/.804 slash line with 14 homers and 43 RBIs over 36 games.
During Tuesday night’s 6-1 victory for the Brewers, Braun crushed his ninth home run of the season. It was just another successful night in South Philly for the now 35-year-old slugger, who is enjoying his best power year since the 2016 season.
In addition to that tainted 2011 NL MVP Award, Braun has finished among the top three in the voting in two other seasons. He was the 2007 National League Rookie of the Year and is a six-time NL All-Star and five-time Silver Slugger.
After manager Craig Counsell sat him out for the previous three Brewers games, using him only as a pinch-hitter, Braun was back in the starting lineup to torture the Phillies last night. Fans who head down to the ball park tonight can expect to see him in there again, looking to continue his onslaught.
The Brewers (25-19) trail the first-place Chicago Cubs by 2.5 games in the NL Central Division race, but are five games back in the loss column. The Phillies (24-17) are 3.5 games up in the NL East Division standings, three in the loss column over the New York Mets.
Coming into this series, the Phillies had been finding a way to win despite consistently dropping their series openers. This time around they won that opener. In order to capture their fourth series in a row the Phillies need to slow down Braun and beat the Brew Crew on Wednesday night in this third of a four-game set.

WEDNESDAY STARTING LINEUPS

PHILLIES LINEUP

  1. Andrew McCutchen CF
  2. Jean Segura SS
  3. Bryce Harper RF
  4. Rhys Hoskins 1B
  5. J.T. Realmuto C
  6. Cesar Hernandez 2B
  7. Sean Rodriguez 3B
  8. Phil Gosselin LF
  9. Jake Arrieta P

BREWERS LINEUP

  1. Lorenzo Cain CF
  2. Christian Yelich RF
  3. Ryan Braun LF
  4. Mike Moustakas 3B
  5. Jesus Aguilar 1B
  6. Keston Hiura 2B
  7. Manny Pina C
  8. Orlando Arcia SS
  9. Gio Gonzalez P

SHIBE VINTAGE SPORTS STARTING PITCHING MATCHUP

  • Jake Arrieta: 4-3, 3.78 ERA, 1.320 WHIP, 47 hits allowed over 50 innings across eight starts with a 42/19 K:BB.
  • Arrieta has six Quality Starts among his eight outings this season, but has lasted just five frames in two of his last three.
  • The Phillies right-hander has made 17 career starts vs the Brewers, going 8-6 with a 3.22 ERA, allowing just 69 hits over 100.2 innings. Arrieta lost both starts vs Milwaukee in 2018, giving up 8 earned runs and 11 hits over 8.2 innings.
  • After surrendering three home runs in his most recent start last Friday in Kansas City, Arrieta has now given up eight long balls on the year. His current 1.4 HR/9 is the highest since second big-league season back in 2011.
  • Gio Gonzalez: 1-0, 1.69 ERA, 0.938 WHIP, 11 hits allowed over 16 innings across three starts with a 12/4 K:BB.
  • Gonzalez has given the Brewers three straight starts of 5+ innings since his promotion after starting the season with three starts for Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre.
  • The lefty signed with the Brewers as a free agent on April 27 after being released by the Yankees five days earlier. He had signed on with the Yanks back in spring training after splitting last season with the Brewers and Nationals, the latter of whom he pitched with from 2012-18.
  • Gonzalez was once Phillies property, having been obtained from the Chicago White Sox as part of the Jim Thome – Aaron Rowand deal in 2005. The Phillies sent him back to the Chisox a year later along with Gavin Floyd in a trade for Freddy Garcia.

BRUCE WILLIS THROWING OUT FIRST PITCH

Golden Globe and two-time Emmy Award-winning actor Bruce Willis has starred in many films shot in the Philadelphia area: “The Sixth Sense”, for which he won a People’s Choice Award, and “12 Monkeys” among them. Willis family moved from Germany, where his father was in the U.S. military service, to New Jersey when he was just two years old. He grew up a Phillies fan in Carney’s Point, New Jersey and was a graduate of both Penns Grove High School and Montclair State University in New Jersey. He is taking batting practice prior to the game tonight and will be throwing out the honorary first pitch.

PHILLIES NUGGETS PREGAME NOTES

  • Maikel Franco has the second-best fielding percentage among all National League third basemen. After handling four chances cleanly on Tuesday night, Franco has gone 30 games since making his lone error of the season back on April 9. However, he is hitting just .042 in his career over 24 at-bats against Gonzalez, and so is out of the starting lineup on Wednesday.
  • Bryce Harper remains one of just four hitters in the National League with 25 RBis and 25 walks on the season. Two of the other three are playing in this series: Rhys Hoskins and Christian Yelich. Harper leads all of Major League Baseball with 163 walks since the start of the 2018 season. Harper and Andrew McCutchen are the only NL hitters with at least 25 runs scored and 30 walks this season.
  • Cesar Hernandez has 45 hits this season, second-most among all NL second basemen. He is slashing .348/.415/.522 since April 10, though without much run production.
  • After throwing out Orlando Arcia trying to steal second base and Lorenzo Cain trying to swipe third last night, Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto leads all of Major League Baseball with 15 runners thrown out this year, more than twice as many as the next highest backstop.
  • Jean Segura singled in the first inning last night, upping his first inning average to the .469 mark this year.
  • The Phillies currently have four right-handed relievers on the Injured List who were expected to be bullpen keys: David Robertson (right arm flexor strain), Victor Arano(right elbow), Tommy Hunter (right arm flexor strain) and Edubray Ramos (right biceps tendonitis). Ramos is expected to return next week, Arano possibly within two. Hunter hopes to begin a minor league rehab by the end of the month, and Robertson hopes to be back by the end of June.
  • Scott Kingery began a minor league rehab stint last night at Lakewood. He is expected to play twice this week at Double-A Reading and then return to the Phillies as a super-utility player this coming weekend.

WEDNESDAY PROGRAMMING INFORMATION


2018 MLB Preview and Predictions

The Boys of Summer are set to begin the 2018 season

The crack of a bat ripping a line drive. The pop of a fastball into a catcher’s mitt. Fireworks exploding. Hot dogs steaming.

It’s that time again folks. The start of another season in Major League Baseball.

For the first time in 50 years, all MLB teams will experience Opening Day on the same date. That comes this Thursday, March 28, when 15 games will take place scattered at various times throughout the day and night.

Those first games will begin a regular season that will stretch out over more than six months, leading to the drama of the MLB playoffs as Fall arrives.

Which teams are most likely to reach those playoffs? Which players will stand out over the course of the 162-game MLB regular season?

Each year, I give you my picks for the final standings across each of MLB’s six divisions, as well as my playoff predictions. I also make picks for some of baseball’s most important awards.

A year ago in my 2017 MLB Preview and Predictions piece, I correctly picked the winners in five of those six divisional races. The biggest letdown from those picks was for the San Francisco Giants to edge out the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West. The Giants collapsed to a last place finish after winning three World Series crowns in the previous seven seasons.

I had the Washington Nationals beating the Boston Red Sox in seven dramatic games a year ago. As we know now, it was the Houston Astros beating the Dodgers in six to capture their first-ever world championship.

So now it’s time to make my team picks and my awards predictions for the upcoming 2018 MLB season. Would love to hear your own picks in the comments section below this piece. Here we go again, baseball fans.

2018 NATIONAL LEAGUE AWARD WINNERS

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Kris Bryant, Chicago
Contenders: Corey Seager LAD, Bryce Harper WAS, Nolan Arenado COL, Paul Goldschmidt ARZ
CY YOUNG AWARD: Stephen Strasburg, Washington
Contenders: Clayton Kershaw LAD, Max Scherzer WAS, Noah Syndergaard NYM
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Lewis Brinson, Miami
Contenders: Jack Flaherty STL, Ronald Acuna ATL, Scott Kingery PHI, Nick Senzel CIN
MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Craig Counsell, Milwaukee
Contenders: Joe Maddon CHC, Dave Roberts LAD, Dave Martinez WAS, Gabe Kapler PHI

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Noah Syndergaard
Contenders: Adam Eaton WAS, Mark Melancon SF, Homer Bailey CIN

2018 AMERICAN LEAGUE AWARD WINNERS

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Francisco Lindor, Cleveland
Contenders: Giancarlo Stanton NYY, Carlos Correa HOU, Mike Trout LAA, Mookie Betts BOS

CY YOUNG AWARD: Chris Sale, Boston
Contenders: Corey Kluber CLE, Luis Severino NYY, Justin Verlander HOU, Chris Archer

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles
Contenders: Dustin Fowler OAK, Gleyber Torres NYY, Francisco Mejia CLE, Chance Sisco BAL

MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Alex Cora, Boston
Contenders: Aaron Boone NYY, TerryFrancona CLE, A.J. Hinch HOU, John Gibbons TOR

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Michael Brantley CLE
Contenders: Doug Fister TEX, Miguel Cabrera DET, Francisco Liriano DET

2018 MLB DIVISIONAL & WILDCARD PREDICTIONS

NL EAST: Washington, Philadelphia, Atlanta, New York, Miami

NL CENTRAL: Chicago, Milwaukee, Saint Louis, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati

NL WEST: Los Angeles, Colorado, San Francisco, Arizona, San Diego

NL WILDCARDS: Milwaukee, Colorado

AL EAST: Boston, New York, Toronto, Baltimore, Tampa Bay

AL CENTRAL: Cleveland, Minnesota, Detroit, Kansas City, Chicago

AL WEST: Houston, Los Angeles, Seattle, Texas, Oakland

AL WILDCARDS: New York, Los Angeles

2018 MLB PLAYOFFS & WORLD SERIES PREDICTIONS

As stated at the top of this article, a year ago I had the Washington Nationals finally breaking through to win the franchise first-ever World Series by edging out the Boston Red Sox. I genuinely believe that making that exact same prediction this season would be just as valid. It would also be just as likely to go another way entirely.
A major development will come as the summer rolls on, and the impending free agency of superstar Bryce Harper becomes more and more realistic. At some point, the powers-that-be with the Nationals may have to actually entertain trade offers for their outfielder, or risk losing him for nothing later this Fall.
If Harper stays and is both healthy and focused come October, the Nats are my pick. But that is way too questionable at this point. So let’s call it the Chicago Cubs as winners of their second NL Pennant in three years.
Over the in AL, the defending World Series champion Houston Astros are the cream of the crop until someone proves differently. The Bosox and Yankees will do a Battle Royale in the AL East, and both could be good enough to dethrone the Astros. Same can be said of the Tribe in the Central. Still, I’m taking Houston to repeat in the American League.
The 2018 World Series would then be a battle between the winners of the last two Fall Classics. There is an old saying in sports that goes “you gotta beat the champ if you wanta be the champ.” I just think that Houston is too good for that to happen.
Given health, the Houston Astros will defeat the Chicago Cubs in five games in the 2018 World Series. After never having won a title, the Astros will make it back-to-back World Series crowns. They would become the first team to repeat since the 1998-2000 Yankees won three in a row.

There you have it, my 2018 Major League Baseball preview and predictions. Again, feel free to leave your own picks in the comments section below. Play ball!

MLB Spotlight Series: Chicago Cubs at Milwaukee Brewers

NL Central lead at stake as Cubs visit Brewers
The most competitive division race in the 2017 MLB regular season thus far is taking place in the National League Central Division.
After appearing to sleepwalk through much of the first half, the defending champion Chicago Cubs are on top once again. However, three teams are within just 4.5 games of the lead.
This weekend, the Cubbies travel just about two hours up I-94 to Miller Park in Milwaukee. Waiting for them will be the NL Central’s second place team, the host Milwaukee Brewers.
The Brewers actually led the division for much of the season. The Brew Crew jumped into first place on May 17, and until this past Wednesday had spent just two days out of the top spot ever since.
The Cubs, meanwhile, were suffering from a serious World Series victory hangover. By the end of May they were two games under .500 and sitting in third place. As late as July 9, the Cubs were still those same two games below the break-even mark.
However, something clicked for Chicago coming out of the MLB All-Star Game break. The Cubs have won 11 of 13 games since taking those four days off. Conversely, Milwaukee has lost nine of their last 11 contests.
Headed into the weekend, the Cubs hold a 1.5 game lead on the second place Brewers in the division standings. That lead is three games in the loss column. There is no doubt that this series in front of their home crowd is of vital importance to manager Craig Counsell and his ball club.
Milwaukee needs to get back on track, and fast. This is a perfect opportunity to let the Cubs know that they intend to stay in the race for the long haul.
For the Cubs, it’s a chance to stay hot and begin to put Milwaukee further back in the rear view mirror. The champs are looking to make a statement: we’re back, and now we’re going to pull away.

PITCHING MATCH-UPS

The weekend starting pitching match-ups are scheduled as follows:
FRIDAY: Jose Quintana (6-8, 4.22 ERA) vs Brent Suter (1-1, 2.84 ERA)
SATURDAY: Kyle Hendricks (4-3, 3.95 ERA) vs Junior Guerra (1-4, 5.22 ERA)
SUNDAY: John Lackey (7-9, 4.97 ERA) vs Zach Davies (12-4, 4.45 ERA)
Quintana was a big trade acquisition two weeks ago from the AL’s crosstown Chicago White Sox. He has been fantastic in his first two Cubs starts, winning both. Suter began the year pitching out of the Brewers bullpen, but started July in the rotation. He has not allowed more than two earned runs since, and three of his four outings were of the Quality Start variety.
Last year’s third place finisher in the NL Cy Young Award vote, Hendricks is fresh off a seven-week stint on the Disabled List. He surrendered eight hits and lasted just 4.1 innings in his first start back earlier this week. Guerra was a pleasant surprise a year ago, emerging as a reliable starter at age 31 after bouncing around the minor leagues for a decade. But this season, MLB hitters appear to have caught up with him. He hasn’t reached the fifth inning in four of his last five starts.
The 38-year old Lackey is the senior member of the Cubs rotation. Now in his 15th big league season, the righty has just seven Quality Starts among his 19 turns so far this year. Davies is a 24-year old who is emerging as a reliable mid-rotation option. He got banged around by the Cubs back in April, but then beat them with a solid effort earlier this month at Wrigley Field.

STATISTICAL COMPARISONS

Milwaukee is seventh and Chicago just 14th in baseball in runs scored this season. However, the Cubs recent hot streak has been spurred largely by an offensive awakening. The North Siders have scored seven, nine, and 10 runs once each and put eight runs on the board three times since the All-Star break. They are averaging exactly six runs per game in that time.
The Brewers hold a slight edge in OPS at .768-.763 for the season. On the basepaths, however, it’s no contest. Milwaukee has stolen 87 bases, tops in all of Major League Baseball. The Cubs are way down at 25th with just 37 bags swiped.
On the mound, the Cubs hold the edge. The Chicago staff has a .237 Batting Average Against, fourth in the game. Milwaukee’s staff at .259 ranks just 18th in the game. In both WHIP (1.27-1.38) and K/BB ratio (2.53-2.35) the Cubs staff holds the edge.
The Cubs are coming off a four game home-and-home with the Chisox in which they won the final three games to capture the 2017 “Crosstown Cup” trophy. They have won five of the nine games against the Brewers so far this season.


This are two teams who have begun heading in opposite directions. The Cubs are on the rise, the Brewers are falling. It’s something that many believed was inevitable. Now it’s up to the Brewers to answer the Cubs challenge. After this, the two teams won’t meet again until the second week in September.