|IBWAA 2018 MLB awards ballot time|
|The Yankees and Red Sox again battle atop the AL East|
We have reached the Major League Baseball All-Star Game break, and the National League has developed the far more interesting playoff races.
In the American League, the Boston Red Sox in the East Division (4.5), Cleveland Indians in the Central (7.5), and Houston Astros in the West (5) all have comfortable leads at the moment.
In the AL Wildcard race, the New York Yankees hold a comfortable eight-game cushion for one of the two available playoff berths. The Seattle Mariners currently hold a three-game edge on the division-rival Oakland Athletics for the other slot.
Just two more teams, the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Angels, are above the .500 mark at the break. They sit 8.5 and nine games out in that Wildcard race respectively, and are all but out of their respective divisional battles.
But over in the senior circuit it’s an entirely different picture. The Philadelphia Phillies hold just a half-game edge on the Atlanta Braves in the East Division. In the Central, the Chicago Cubs are just 2.5 up on the Milwaukee Brewers.
The NL West Division is by far baseball’s best divisional race this season. The Los Angeles Dodgers finally got their act together after struggling for much of the first half. The Dodgers are by a half-game on the Arizona Diamondbacks, with the Colorado Rockies two back, and the San Francisco Giants lurking at four games off the pace.
The National League’s two Wildcard berths are presently controlled by the Brewers and Braves. However, six teams are within 5.5 games of the second spot held by Atlanta. It all seems to be setting up for a tremendous second half.
When I released my July 1 MLB Power Ranking, only the team rankings on offense, defense, and pitching were considered. This time around, I’ve allowed for their winning percentage to also be considered.
I researched each of the 30 MLB clubs current rankings in four categories: winning percentage, runs scored, pitching OPS, and fielding percentage. I then simply assigned each of those rankings a 1-30 value, and added them up to determine the below MLB Power Ranking for the middle of July.
This is the formula that I am going to stick with moving forward. It encompasses a team’s ability to actually win games, while also taking into account their performance on offense, defense, and on the mound. Yet it is also simply enough for the average baseball fan to comprehend.
1. Houston Astros (1)
2. Boston Red Sox (2)
3. New York Yankees (5)
4. Atlanta Braves (4)
5. Chicago Cubs (7)
6. Los Angeles Dodgers (9)
7. Arizona Diamondbacks (3)
8. Milwaukee Brewers (9T)
9. Colorado Rockies (12T)
10. Cleveland Indians (12T)
11. Oakland Athletics (15)
12. Seattle Mariners (11)
13. Washington Nationals (8)
14. Los Angeles Angels (6)
15. Tampa Bay Rays (14)
16. Philadelphia Phillies (23T)
17. Minnesota Twins (16)
18. Saint Louis Cardinals (23T)
18. Pittsburgh Pirates (18)
20. San Francisco Giants (22)
21. Cincinnati Reds (17)
22. Detroit Tigers (19T)
23. Miami Marlins (26)
24. New York Mets (27T)
25. Toronto Blue Jays (19T)
26. Texas Rangers (19T)
27. San Diego Padres (25)
27. Kansas City Royals (27T)
29. Baltimore Orioles (29)
30. Chicago White Sox (30)
The next MLB Power Ranking will be released around August 1, right in the middle of the dog days of summer. By then, some of these teams will have made significant moves to improve their chances as the MLB non-waiver trade deadline arrives on July 31.
|Could the Phillies bring back former hero Cole Hamels?|
As the month of June draws to a close, this weekend also marks the exact halfway point to the 2018 Major League Baseball regular season.
One month from this weekend, the MLB non-waiver trade deadline will arrive. The Philadelphia Phillies, emerging from a half-decade of irrelevance, are once again emerging as playoff contenders.
The Phillies have a number of holes which need to be filled in order to remain legitimate contenders in the current season. As that trade deadline draws closer and rumors begin to heat up, Phillies fans find their team has been frequently involved in the gossip.
The most glaring need may be at least one proven run producer for the middle of their batting order. That hitter would preferably play on the left side of the infield, or at a corner outfield spot. Manny Machado of the Baltimore Orioles, who could slot in at either shortstop or third base, is the biggest name being tossed around.
The club also could use help in the bullpen. A pair of 23-year old right-handers, Seranthony Dominguez and Victor Arano, are the only currently healthy members of the bullpen who have been consistently reliable.
I also believe that the Phillies are going to need one more strong, proven veteran starting pitcher for their rotation. Behind Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta, and possibly Zach Eflin if he remains healthy and effective, one more veteran would really solidify them for the second half.
I’ve written previously that a good option moving forward would be an immediate move of Vincent Velasquez to the bullpen. Adding that veteran starting pitcher could allow this switch to happen. I believe it would strengthen the back of the relief corps as well, taking care of two needs.
One option who has frequently been linked to the Phillies, especially among the fan base, is former World Series hero Cole Hamels. The Texas Rangers, to whom the Phils traded the lefty three years ago, are actively shopping the now 34-year old.
Sources: #Rangers groundwork on a Cole Hamels trade has advanced to the point that a deal before the All-Star Game is increasingly possible. @MLB
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) June 29, 2018
Hamels is 4-6 this season with a 3.61 ERA and 1.274 WHIP. He has surrendered 87 hits over 97.1 innings pitched across 16 starts with a 97/37 K:BB ratio. Those are all solid numbers, and would certainly upgrade the current Phillies rotation.
However, there are some red flags with Hamels. His current FIP mark of 5.22 is well above the 4.09 MLB average. That mark ranks him just 87th of 91 pitchers who have recorded at least 80 innings pitched and a dozen starts.
His biggest problem this season has been the long ball. Hamels has already surrendered 20 home runs, two more than he allowed all of last season. He has never given up more than 28 in any full season previously.
Corey Seidman for NBC Sports Philadelphia addressed the possible reasons for those troubles in a recent article regarding a possible reunion between Hamels and the Phillies:
“Some of that is because he’s around the plate often with a fastball that averages 91 mph; some of it is because the Rangers’ home park is among the most homer-friendly venues in baseball.”
Citizens Bank Park is no picnic for fly ball pitchers either. Globe Life Park in Texas ranks as the second-toughest for pitchers as far as surrendering home runs. Citizens Bank Park is 10th among the 30 ball parks in Major League Baseball.
However, Hamels won 114 games here over a full decade between 2006-15. He certainly is comfortable here, and knows how to make adjustments at the South Philly park.
The Phillies are already paying $2.5 million of his $23.5 million contract for this year. With the season halfway over, they would be on the hook for the rest of that money, roughly $11 million. There is also a $20 million team option for next season, which they would presumably pick up.
That money wouldn’t hurt the Phillies in any way. The club has plenty to spend both this season and next. But bringing back Hamels would not only cost some cash, it would also cost the Phillies something from their minor league system.
That is where the answer can be found as to whether or not the Phillies should consider bringing Cole Hamels back to bolster their rotation for a couple of years. What would that prospect package look like?
You also have to factor the possibility of the Phillies going after a big bat such as Machado. That deal would certainly involve more, and more valuable, prospects than would be needed in a Hamels trade.
The Phillies do have the minor league talent to get a Hamels or Machado deal done. In fact, they have enough to get both deals done. But should they pay the price? That is the big question for GM Matt Klentak and owner John Middleton to decide in the coming days and weeks.
I believe that the return of Hamels would not only be a great story, it would also help the Phillies. The money is not an object. And I also believe that the price in prospects would be reasonable.
Should the Phillies bring home Cole Hamels, the 2008 World Series and NLCS Most Valuable Player? As long as that prospect package is indeed reasonable, you have to vote ‘Yes’ on this proposition.
|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.
Contenders: Jack Flaherty STL, Ronald Acuna ATL, Scott Kingery PHI, Nick Senzel CIN
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
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
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!