The American League.
I am very excited about this year. Last year’s playoffs were incredible. The top teams mostly got better and a couple of others tried to get better. The Angels added a lot and we shall see if it actually translates into wins. They’ll do better but it’s probably not enough to make them serious WS contenders. Minnesota has made some moves and they have young talent that is growing and could make them better. Seattle also has some nice pieces and is still a team that could make a run if things go well.
But the big four are where you’re probably going to find the WS participant. Let’s start with Cleveland. I considered Cleveland the best team last year. It’s splitting hairs, but I thought they were the best. They didn’t make any big moves to bring in a big bat or arm, in fact they lost one (Carlos Santana signed a 3yr – $60m with Philly). But I don’t think it kills their chances. Their strength is their starting pitching and it will carry them into the playoffs. Kluber is one of the best in the game along with Kershaw, Scherzer, Sale. Those 4 were listed, in various orders, as the top 4 pitchers in MLB top 10 Starting Pitchers this spring. But it doesn’t end there. Carlos Carrasco is developing and made it onto some of the top 10 lists. Clevenger pitched well last year and many project him to continue or improve. Then Bauer, Tomlin and Salazar round out a competent 3, 4 and 5. They’re offense, led by Lindor, is no slouch. Cleveland is projected by the stat geeks to be the 4th best offense behind Houston, the Yankees and Boston. So even with the loss of Santana, they’re offense will still produce. And if their outfielders can stay healthy (Brantley) then it will make it that much easier for them.
Next is Boston. Boston was much maligned for not hitting enough homers last year and while it is deserved, it’s not as bad as one would think. They were tenth in the majors in runs scored. Not bad. But consider that both Bogearts and Betts dealt with debilitating hand injuries for half the season. A natural turn to their average selves will be a big improvement. If they play above their established career norms, then even better. Then add a big bat in the lineup (JD Martinez) and you have a formidable lineup. For me though it all depends on whether David Price can be healthy and productive.
“I feel strong in both [the elbow and arm]. I had a good off season.” David Price 2/13/18
If they have a one-two punch of Sale and Price and a competent 3,4 and 5 (Porcello, Pomeranz and fill in the blank) They have enough to win the WS. They are good enough to get in the playoffs, either by beating the Yankees again for the division or getting a WC. Once in, anything can happen. (Look at the Yankees last year. They were so close.)
OK folks. What about the Yankees? Well the excitement level is through the roof. And I suppose it’s warranted. However, games are never won by the fans excitement. Just for starters, if I had to bet, I would say that neither cannon will hit 50 homers this year. They’ll probably be in the 75 to 90 range, combined. Stanton has played 7 seasons and has only had 3 relatively injury free season. He has also had some slumps, one of which was possibly the worst slump ever. For a guy with his talent he had a five week slump in 2016 that was truly epic. From May 7 – June 15 he hit .118. A 211 on base and a whopping 216 slugging. It is difficult to explain how bad this is. Baseball talking heads were agog watching this. It was really painful to watch every day. Of course last year he was truly Ruthian. Let’s compare his cold streak from 2016 and his hot streak from 2017:
So, 2 homers in 29 games vs 25 homers in 38 games. 216 slugging vs 929 slugging. That’s a good OPS!! That’s as bad and as good as any month you will find in the last 30 years. So who is Giancarlo Stanton. If he stays healthy and plays over 150 games you’ll see a homer total north of 40 and RBI north of 110. 55+ and 140 would not surprise me. But neither would 105 games, 24 homers and 65 RBI. Not exactly something that would make Yankee fans happy. But that’s how reality goes.
Judge is a wild card. Hitting 50 homers is hard. Stanton and Judge did it last year. Prior to that it hadn’t been done since 2010 when Jose Batista hit 54 in Toronto. That’s 6 years without anyone hitting 50. So maybe it is Judges thing. He hits 50 every year. Maybe he is a true anomaly. But I seriously doubt it. 162 games is a long, hard road. It is difficult to wake up every day and lace up your cleats and perform at the highest level. That’s why hitting 50 doesn’t happen every year. Judge is very tall and has a big strike zone. His height brings potential injury issues into the picture. His size puts extra stress on his bones and ligaments. It’s also what allows him to generate such incredible power. I would recommend going to the Stadium this year to watch these two because they will put on a show. They hit the ball so hard and so far that it becomes sublime. There is a sense of wonder and majesty that can leave you breathless. It is why sports are so wonderful. To watch Jordan dunk or Julio Jones catch impossible passes or Aaron Judge hit it into the upper deck are special and worth watching and honoring. It demonstrates man’s potential and can fill your heart with joy. I’m not kidding. I truly believe this. I have witnessed several moments at live sporting events that left a lasting impression on me.
OK fine. Stanton and Judge. Whoopee. Fun, fun, fun. But that’s just the start of what the Yankees bring to the table. Next up are Sanchez and Bird. They may end up being the big surprise and lead the Yankees this year. Bird is only 25 yrs old this year. The scouts around the league are gaga over this guy. He could be a 30/100 guy this year. Sanchez already is. Sanchez and Severino are my favorite Yankees. The middle of this lineup is truly scary. Facing Judge, Stanton, Sanchez and Bird is succession is daunting. Adding Didi, Gardner, Hicks, Torreyes and the rest to round things out and you have the number 2 projected offense on baseball.
IMHO with the best bullpen in baseball, a top 10 starter and other competent pitchers (Tanaka should be better, CC and Gray are fine) the Yankees are a front runner for the WS. #2 going into this season behind only the Astros.