Early 2017 MLB Playoff Predictions

Despite being so far away from the playoffs, it is a natural pastime to contemplate the possible contenders for each division championship and of course there after it all depends on who had the consistency and the favorable winds to go all the way to the next World Series. The Indians had it all wrapped up in the first week, yet somehow the Chicago Cubs mustered all the will power, talent, and guts that they had along with the prayers and the will of millions of fans and folks who seemed to wish them to victory.

Now that 2017 has arrived and Spring Training just around the corner, it is time to take stock of who has been moved around and who has been acquired on the teams that will compete once again for the glory of playing in the 2017 playoffs and beyond.  Vegas posted their World Series odds and they seem to think the Red Sox and Cubs will face off to win it all.

With the offseason free agency movement, Mark Trumbo and Jose Bautista are two to mention. The big names have also been placed in their new team spots. Looking at these placements is a good indicator as to the development of the winning teams this season. Looking at the American League first, the American League Champions, The Boston Red Sox were able to win 93 games in 2016. Most of the team is back for 2017 making the task list very short for adjustments to the game plan for the next season. They are surely the team to beat again in the American League East.

So, what adjustments were made? Minor ones, such as trading Mitch Moreland, the first baseman and Tyler Thornburg, the reliever, for Chris Sale, the Chicago Cubs’ ace lefty pitcher. He will be the new starting pitcher in the rotation along with Cy Young award winners, David Price and Rick Porcello. Even though Big Papi has retired, Sale will pull things together with the assistance of the new arrival of Moreland. The Red Sox also have a number of young talents in the starting line up such as Jackie Bradley, Adrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts. This team appears to have no prominent rivals in their division as the Blue Jays and the Orioles have holes in their rosters.

As the American League Central Champions, and finalists that almost took the World Series in the first five games, The Cleveland Indians, have little to do to make the team better for 2017. The are the clear favorites in the AL Central. What they did do was acquire Edwin Encarnacion for three years. He is a big hitter with .912 OPS and 193 home runs since 2012. He will be in the place of Mike Napoli in the next season batting order. The other patches that were needed in the line up were due to injuries. Those are all healed up at this time. The pitchers, Miller and Kluber were stretched to their limits in the World Series and the Playoffs, so there may be some concern there for the coming season.

Still, all looks theoretically great on paper, as the Indians appear to be capable and ready to score even more victories than their 2016 season with 94 wins. No other team in the AL Central, including the Detroit Tigers, has the matching talent to cause enough problems for the Indians.

The National League will offer similar holding patterns in the standings as the season rolls on for 2017. The NL East, Washington Nationals still offer a greater potential of winning more games than the New York Mets as the Mets still have a void in the certainty of who will be playing in center field.

In the NL Central, strength remains again with the Chicago Cubs. Much like the Indians in the Al Central, they remain the favorite. They won 103 games in the regular season and then topped it off with the 107th win to break their 108 year drought, as World Series Champions. The change for them is losing Dexter Fowler and Aroldis Chapman. They traded for Wade Davis, a superior reliever pitcher in 2014-2015.

Both the Indians and the Cubs might suffer from a post World Series slump , but these two teams are very healthy for repeating league championships. The NL West offers teams with vacancies such as the Los Angeles Dodgers who lack a second baseman. They are also missing an outfield and pitching team with depth. Once they get second covered they should be capable of repeating a win record close or better than their 2016-91 game season and while potentially securing the NL West title.

The wild cards are the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants. The Giants are strong with pitchers such as Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto. The Pirates and the Cardinals could do well if the Mets have problems that continue after their star players Steven Matz and Matt Harvey are recovering from surgery. No matter what happens, it will be another great season to watch and enjoy.

Yankees & Mets Playoff Chances

Yankees Mets Playoff Chances

The Yankees and the Mets could both go to the playoffs if all their young talent is able to hold it together. The problem with both of these teams is that they need to rely on very young guys who could be brilliant all season, or they could get injured and have problems. These teams could easily make their way to a subway series, but no one is going to know until the two teams get past the trade deadline with most of their young talent in check. The teams will go nowhere without their young talent, but they could win a title with it.

I talked with an expert handicapper out in Las Vegas.  He thinks the pitching with the Mets could take them to the playoffs every year, but they could also lose a lot of games because they are not handling their young pitching well. That has already been a big problem, and there are a lot of people who are going to wonder how this team is going to get better if they do not have good pitching, and that is just the problem. They are going nowhere if they do not have good pitching.

The Yankees have similar issues. They have called up a lot of people who are going to help the team if they can get in a groove and stay healthy. That means that these guys need to be in a place where they can stay healthy, and they also need to be productive most of the time. It is not enough for them to just be on the roster. The Yankees are in a hard division, and they will need all the help that they can get to make sure that they are going to do their best.

These two teams could collide in the World Series, but it all depends on the young guys that they have all over their rosters. It is something that people need to keep in mind when they are handicapping these games or trying to figure out how they will go. That also means that a lot of people who are going to be surprised to see what happens. There is no way to predict this, but it is possible that two very young teams from New York could be great this year and for many years to come just because they took the time to find the young talent that they needed.

Yankees Cy Young Winners

Yankees Cy Young Winners

The New York Yankees are famous for winning World Series. When I think about the great Yankees my thoughts usually go to non-pitchers: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe Dimaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, and Derek Jeter. In addition to those great position players, there have been five pitchers who have won the Cy Young award. I will look of each one with statistics provided by Baseball-Reference.com and Baseball-Almanac.com.

It is important to remember that the first year the Cy Young award was given was 1956,and from 1956 to 1966, only one award was given for both leagues. Then in 1967 baseball starting given one for each league.

Bob Turley

The first Yankee hurler and American League pitcher to win the award was Bob Turley in 1958. He won 21 games while losing 7 with an ERA of 2.97. Turley pitched 245.1 innings with 168 strikeouts. He got off to a tremendous start by pitching a complete game four hit shutout and followed that up in his second start with a one hit shutout. He fast start included seven victories in his first seven starts. Every win was a complete game and four games were shutouts.

Whitey Ford

The 1961 Yankees are considered to be one of the greatest teams in baseball history and Whitey Ford was a major part of that team. He became the third American League pitcher and the second Yankee pitcher to win the award. Ford had a season to remember winning 25 games while losing only 4. His ERA was 3.21 in 283 innings. He struck out 209 batters during this incredible season that included the month of June when he started 8 games and won all of them. He continued that run through July 17th when he threw a six hit shutout for his 11th straight victory in 11 starts.

Sparky Lyle

Sixteen years would pass before another Yankee hurler would win. That occurred in 1977 when the award was given to one pitcher in each league. Sparky Lyle was a reliever but that did not stop him from the convincing the voters that he deserved to be called the best pitcher in the American League. Lyle complied a record of 13-5 with a 2.17 ERA and 26 saves. Lyle appeared in 72 games and the Yankees were 41-31 when Lyle made an appearance. Sparky pitched 137 innings for the Yankees, making many appearances of more than one inning.

Ron Guidry

The Yankees won consecutive Cy Young awards in 1978 with Ron Guidry. Guidry was truly dominant, posting a record of 25-3 with a 1.74 ERA in 273.2 innings. Guidry struck out 248 batters as he put up numbers that sound hard to believe. He started 35 games with 16 complete games and 9 shutouts. The Yankees were 30-5 in the games he started. When he won his start on July 2nd his record stood at 13-0. He also finished strong winning 6 of his 7 starts in September. I would say of the five pitchers listed here Guidry’s year was the best.

Roger Clemens

The final Cy Young winner was Roger Clemens in 2001. He complied a record of 20-3 in 220.1 innings with an ERA of 3.51 and 213 strikeouts. The Yankees were 27-5 in his 32 starts. When Clemens was the winning pitcher on September 19th, his record stood at an amazing 20-1. Clemens just knew how to win in this Cy Young season.

The above five pitchers truly represent excellence and are a part of the great Yankee tradition.

Best Mets Players Ever

Best Mets LineupIf time had no meaning, if the “Field of Dreams” truly existed, this Mets lineup would play every week, forever showing why these boys of summer earned the title “all-time greatest.”

Starting pitcher: Dwight Gooden. Gooden’s best year, 1985, shows what he was all about. The year before, the NL named him the Cy Young Award winner. “Dr. K” finished 1985 with a 1.53 ERA, 16 CG, 276 IP, 268 Ks, 0.965 WHIP. It was a tough call over Tom Seaver, 1967’s NL Rookie of the Year and a three-time Cy Young winner, but “Dr. K” wins it.

Catcher: Mike Piazza. A more recent player, Piazza wowed crowds in the 1990s and early 2000s, winning ten Silver Slugger Awards. In his best Mets year, 2000, his stats show why he’s really the only choice at catcher: .324, 38 HR, 113 RBI, 1.012 OPS. This 12-time All-Star recorded a career 427 home runs and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2016.

First baseman: Carlos Delgado. Looking at overall career, Delgado consistently brought a strong performance on base and at bat. For instance, look at his 38 home runs in 2006, his career high. Some may choose John Olerud, but overall, Delgado brought it home more often in more than one way.

Second baseman: Edgardo Alfonzo. A stronger performer at second or third base, Alfonzo lit up the Mets’ field in the mid-1990s and early 2000s. In his career high year, 2000, his stats show why he’s on second: .324, 25 HR, 94 RBI, .967 OPS.

Third baseman: David Wright. Insert a young David Wright here, covering his base like chocolate syrup on an ice cream sundae and hitting 30 home runs in 2007. His strong stats in his best Mets year reflect his overall play: .325, 107 RBI, 34 SB, .963 OPS.

Shortstop: Jose Reyes. Far and away not only the best shortstop for the Mets, but one of the best period. In his best year, 2006, he racked up impressive stats indicative of his impressive career: .300, 19 HR, 81 RBI, 64 SB, .841 OPS. This four-time MLB All-Star won the Silver Slugger Award in his career high year and later hit his way to NL batting champion in 2011. Three years in a row, 2005 – 2007, he led the NL in stolen bases.

Left fielder: Bernard Gilkey. In his brief stint with the Mets (just over two years), Gilkey played his best ever. In 1996, his .317 average ranked him eighth in the NL. He set the Mets single season record for doubles with 44. He also led the league that year in outfield assists with 18. His other stats 1996 were equally impressive: 30 HR, 117 RBI, .955 OPS.

Center fielder: Willie Mays. Going further back in time to the 1970s, Mays wins the spot at center field. Although his time with the Mets was brief and at the end of his career, he continued to turn in stellar performances, including a thrilling, game winning home run in Game 2 of the 1973 World Series against the Oakland Athletics. Despite the knee problems he’d developed by this time, his career performance at this position, 3,283 hits, and 660 home runs, earn the “Say Hey Kid” the All-Time Greatest slot.

Right fielder: Darryl Strawberry. Although his later years of play were beleaguered by his substance abuse issues, Strawberry, now an ordained minister, channeled angels in the outfield in 1987, his best Mets year. That year he joined the storied 30-30 club, hitting 39 home runs and stealing 36 bases. Add to that 32 doubles and a .284 average, 104 RBI, .981 OPS.

Closer: Billy Wagner. “Billy the Kid,” the ambidextrous Mets relief pitcher, recorded his 300th career save in 2006. His career total of 422 puts him in rare company as one of only five relief pitchers in MLB history with more than 400 saves. The remainder of his 2006 stats illustrate his strength as a player: 2.24 ERA, 72.1 IP, 94 Ks, 1.106 WHIPs.

All Time Yankees Lineup

Yankees at Orioles 09/10/13
Yankees at Orioles 09/10/13

The New York Yankees are perhaps the most venerated club in the history of baseball. I often times find it paradoxical they refer to these teams as “clubs,” because there certainly is hardly a chance to join, and it seems kind of antithetical in a strange way. Etymology aside, these are wonderful clubs on the Major League Baseball (MLB) circuit. The Yankees have had so many excellent players over the years, it is hard to even compile a fantasy, best-player list. That said, it is so nice to know that my eyes have seen some of the best-of-the-best, the top-of-the top players in this history of this team.

Whenever I hear Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” I am immediately reminded of the amazing Mariano Rivera. When I think of right fielders, I am reminded that my mother was married to the nephew of one of the greatest ever, Babe Ruth. When I think of great smiles, and people who ooze class, I think of one of the greatest shortstops of all time, the one-and-only Derek Jeter. All of these men have worn pinstripes, and have brought great times, and contributed to amazing titles that this team has achieved.

The Yankees are indeed a team, and there is no “I” in the word team. I find it amazing that so many humongous personalities can grace one locker room, and remain completely committed and supportive of one another in their mission to win. That said, these are some of the greats, and they are in no particular order.

Derek Jeter is perhaps one of the greatest shortstops ever in the history of baseball. I can never, ever forget seeing him launch himself off the ground, feet spread as far out as humanly possible, as he used that energy to place the power of his entire body behind throwing, often times, to first base! It was an amazing feat of baseball talent that will likely never be repeated. Thinking about how he arrived at the point where he could physically do that, it is incomprehensible he made that work for himself so well. The Captain will forever be revered, by fans and teammates alike, as being one of the classiest players ever, and who made a career basically on hitting singles and doubles. What an amazing person, and a fantastic player.

Alex Rodriguez, so vilified for his involvement in the dreadful steroids scandal, booed in his first few games upon returning to the Bronx, and in record time, he turned that hate to love! His return to the Bronx was a story for the ages, of someone who bucked the energy against him, and who turned it all around, and made it into a dazzling performance. His is a story of true accomplishment. His first season back basically made the Yankees season so much better than it would have been without him, and he is one of the greatest third basemen of all time. He was a good shortstop, too!

Closing greatness was found in the super talented Mariano Rivera. Joe Torre poured himself into Mariano, and he brought him up through the organization, and saw in him raw talent. Mariano was brought through the system, and he eventually dominated as one of the greatest closers of all time. It was nothing short of amazing to watch him pitch, and it seemed as if he could make that ball dance, in staggered motion, as it hurled through space and time. His was a show that will never be seen again.

Japan sent the New York Yankees quite a gift in Hideki Matsui! He will go down in the Yankee’s history books as being one of the greatest designated hitters of all time. The Yankees are a tough club to swing a bat for, and once in, and you earn your stripes, you will forever be respected, and Hideki Matsui worked hard and earned his place in their lineup.

Babe Ruth had the best 1923 of just about any player in the history of baseball. After that dubious trade by the Red Sox, he went on to achieve great fame for his right-field abilities, and is regarded as one of the greatest to ever grace that position, and that organization.

Mickey Mantle is the best center-fielder the Yankees ever had. It is hard to decided between he and Joe DiMaggio, but alas most would agree that Mantle was likely the best.
Charlie Keller gets kudos for his amazing work as one of the greatest left-fielders of all time! He did great things in that position.

Second base would have possibly gone to Robinson Cano in the fullness-of-time, but after the seemingly incongruous trade to Seattle, he lost his chance. Tony Lazzieri, of the 1929 Yankees, gets the accolade for best second-basemen of all time in the Yankees franchise.

Lou Gehrig gets top-honors for his work as first baseman for the Yankees. His 1927-season performance was a true standout.

Many of us who love the Yankees feel that Jorge Posada was one of the greatest catchers of all time, yet equally as many would look at Bill Dickey as being the best. It is a draw, really.

The top honors for pitching go to the one-and-only Ron Guidry. He had many amazing seasons, and rounds out this list having certainly earned his right to be included in this best-of-the-best Yankees lineup.

This might be the greatest dream team of all time!