Archive for July, 2013

Philly Woes

Posted: 07/30/2013 by levcohen in Broad Street Sports

Fivetool has made a temporary escape from the sporting hell known as Philadelphia and has asked me to fill his size-11’s for an evening.  Truth be told, these are not the most inspirational days for sports buffs here in the City of Fraternal Love.  In recent years, the Phillies had ascended to the baseball elite and tickets were hard to come by.  Now the team’s core has aged without the front office doing anything to look out for the future and the team is agonizing to watch.  (It is, of course, much easier to come by tickets.)  The prognosis for the Phillies is similar to their basketball neighbors, the Sixers, namely to get better they will have to get worse first.  In the case of the Sixers, the process has begun.  In consecutive off-seasons, the Sixers have traded away their one All Star.  The first such move, disposing of Andrew Iguodata for Andrew Bynum, was a disaster and set the team back at least a year.  Now Jrue Holliday has been traded for even younger, and completely raw, talent.  This seems to be step forward, but as with the Phillies, there are going to be some ugly times before these franchises recover.  At least the Sixers have set a course and laid out a strategy.  The Phillies still seem to be wavering, although it is hard to believe they won’t move anyone before the trade deadline.  The men in green, the Eagles, have also set a new course by hiring a college coach, CHip Kelly, with a decidedly different offensive scheme.  His energy and success would be more contagious if he had personnel to fit in his scheme, but the roster and the scheme will have to find a comfortable meeting place before the Eagles can return to success.  At least they are likely to be more fun to watch this year, which is more than can be said for the Sixers and Phillies.  As for the fourth of the Big 4, the Flyers, they have the most talent on their roster but have struggled with key injuries and inconsistent goaltending over the last several seasons.  How well they do this season is a complete crapshoot, but they are the only one of these four teams with a legitimate shot to make the playoffs, and they have enough talent to at least be worth watching.  While all of these franchises are struggling, a look a few miles down I-95 toward the home of the Philadelphia Union soccer time offers some hope.  They have rebounded from some bad personnel decisions and returned to MLS relevancy (if that is not an oxymoron!).  While they are still not a championship calibre team, they are capable side who play in a beautiful stadium with plenty of buzz in the stands.  At least the Phillies have the beautiful stadium, albeit with all the buzz of a cup of decaf.



MLB Trade Deadline Predictions

Posted: 07/26/2013 by levcohen in Baseball

The Cubs have officially started the trade deadline frenzy, having already traded three key players: Scott Feldman (to the Orioles), Alfonso Soriano (to the Yankees), and Matt Garza (to the Rangers). The Cubs are obviously sellers, and so are the Brewers, who have already traded Francisco Rodriguez (to the Orioles) and are also shopping guys like Yovani Gallardo and Jim Henderson. The problem is, with most divisions tight, there are likely to be very few sellers at the deadline and a heck of a lot of buyers. With that in mind, it’s likely that this will be a relatively quiet trade deadline, but that doesn’t mean there will be no deals at all. Also, keep in mind that prospects are being valued at an all time high (and in the minds of many, they are being valued too highly), so there are likely to be fewer blockbuster trades than there were, say, five or ten years ago.

First, reviewing the recent trades of Alfonso Soriano, Matt Garza, and Francisco Rodriguez.

Cubs trade Alfonso Soriano and 18 million to the Yankees for Corey Black
Cubs thinking: Despite giving the Yankees 18 million dollars to take Soriano off their hands, the Cubs do save the remaining seven million on Soriano’s deal. Plus, they get 21 year old Corey Black, who touches 100 miles per hour with his fastball and could be a late inning reliever. Plus, Soriano is old and isn’t a great player at this point in his career, so this is a low downside trade.

Grade: B

Yankees thinking: Incredibly, Soriano has more home runs than the Yankees in July. They only have to pay him seven million over a year and a third, which isn’t bad at all.

Grade: B+

Cubs trade Matt Garza to the Rangers for Mike Olt, C.J. Edwards, Justin Grimm, and a PTBNL
Cubs thinking: For the Cubs, this had to have been a no-brainer. The only question was whether whatever return they would get for Garza would be better than a compensatory pick they’d get this offseason for not signing him, and clearly the answer here is yes. They get Olt, who prior to this year was a top flight prospect and has been hitting a lot better since coming off the DL. They also get Edwards, who has 122 strikeouts in 93 and a third innings with a 1.83 ERA in A-Ball this year. Grimm has really struggled this season, but at least he is already a major league player and could be a fifth starter if not a valuable sixth or seventh one (also known as: next man up after an injury). This is all for just two months of Garza.

Grade: A-

Rangers thinking: Win Now, which is what they should be thinking. Garza really bolsters a staff that features Yu Darvish. Unfortunately, they had to pay quite a lot, but they got the best starting pitcher on the market. They could win two or three more games for the rest of the season than they would have with Grimm in the rotation.

Grade: B

Brewers trade Francisco Rodriguez to the Orioles for Nick Delmonico
Brewers thinking: Rodriguez is a free agent this year, and Delmonico is immediately one of their top prospects (they have a very thin farm system), and is probably a top 150-ish prospect overall.

Grade: A

Orioles thinking: Maybe it’s a steep price for maybe 25 innings of relief, but if it helps them make the playoffs, it’s worth it. The Orioles, who have lost three straight, are in a dogfight with the Rangers, among others, for the second wild card, so any little upgrade is vital.

Grade: B-

Now, here’s my best bet on where, if anywhere, the remaining top available players (well, at least the guys we think are available) will go.

Jake Peavy: Top suitors: Red Sox, Braves
Prediction: Peavy goes to the Red Sox for a package around AAA third baseman Will Middlebrooks. This deal makes a lot of sense. The White Sox would get a power bat to add to their very un-powerful infield, and the Red Sox would add a solid #2 or #3 starter to their stable as they get ready to make a World Series run.

Alex Rios: Top suitors: Rangers, Pirates
Prediction: Rios goes to the Rangers, where he replaces Nelson Cruz for the duration of his suspension. The Rangers are looking for a corner outfielder, because they know that slugger Nelson Cruz is likely to get suspended due to PED use. Rios is under team control in 2014 and possibly 2015, so if the Rangers don’t want to re-sign Cruz (Cruz is a FA after this season), Rios can become their every day right fielder.

Bud Norris: Top suitors: Braves, Nationals
Prediction: Norris gets traded to the Braves, who need a replacement for Tim Hudson. The Braves have had interest in Norris for a long time, and I think they’ll finally get him.

Yovani Gallardo: Top suitors: Diamondbacks, Dodgers
Prediction: Due to his struggles, the Brewers hold on to Gallardo.

Ervin Santana: Top suitors: Cardinals, Red Sox
Prediction: Santana goes to the Athletics for two or three mid level prospects. The A’s are usually sellers at the deadline, but right now they look to be buyers. Their main AL West counterpart, the Rangers, just traded for a starting pitcher, so I think that the Athletics will retaliate with a move of their own.

Nate Schierholtz: Top suitors: Pirates, Rays
Prediction: Schierholtz gets traded to the Pirates in an under the radar trade. It is not a coincidence that the top suitors for Schierholtz are both small market teams, and that is because he is cheap and under team control through 2014. He becomes an instant upgrade for Pittsburgh in right field.

Michael Young: Top suitors: Red Sox, Rangers
Prediction: Young gets traded to the Red Sox, where he replaces Jose Iglesias at third base. Iglesias is still hitting above .340, but he has been in a huge swoon and Young is probably an upgrade on him. Iglesias can still play about three times a week, whether at third base or shortstop.

Other main Phillies trade bait (Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon, Chase Utley) does not get traded.


My NBA League- Draft

Posted: 07/24/2013 by levcohen in Basketball

Today I’m going to do the draft for my league. Remember, these players do not have to be members of the 2013 NBA draft class, and any available player can be taken.

1. Chicago Bulls: Needs: SF, C. The Pick: Jeff Green, SF

It’s somewhat of a surprise that the first player in this draft was not from the NBA draft, but this pick makes lots of sense. The Bulls really needed someone who could create his own basket and be explosive, and Green is just that.

2. Houston Rockets: Needs: Backup PG, Forward. The pick: Larry Sanders, PF/C

Houston takes breakout big man Larry Sanders, and although that doesn’t really help them offensively, Sanders makes this a much better defensive squad. Plus, now Andrea Bargnani can move to sixth man, where he can help out a lot more offensively.

3. Minnesota Timberwolves: Needs: SG, SF, PF. The pick: Victor Oladipo, SG/SF

The Timberwolves decide to take the best available player in rookie Victor Oladipo. Although the Timberwolves are still not a very good team, they now have more options, and can either run out a small ball lineup (with Oladipo at the three, Gerald Wallace at the four, and Anthony Randolph on the bench) or a big one (Oladipo at the two, Wallace at the three, Randolph at the four, and Jordan Crawford out).

4. Cleveland Cavaliers: Needs: PG, SF. The pick: Trey Burke, PG

The Cavaliers want immediate help, as they look primed to make a playoff run in the upcoming season. Burke, a rookie, looks ready to produce right off the bat.

5. Indiana Pacers: Needs: Youth, Bench. The pick: Anthony Bennett, SF/PF

With his versatility and youth, Anthony Bennett is a perfect pick for this aging Pacers team.

6. Portland Trailblazers: Guards. The pick: Eric Bledsoe, PG

Bledsoe had a semi-breakout season on the Clippers last year, even though he was the third string point guard. Now out of LA, Bledsoe will have a lot more time to shine, and this will luckily move Ramon Sessions to the bench.

7. Golden State Warriors: PG, SG, PF. The pick: Ben McLemore, SG

The Warriors, with Carmelo Anthony and absolutely no other scoring threat, needed to get a pure shooter here, and rookie Ben McLemore had perhaps the best talent of any player drafted.

8. Boston Celtics: SG, PF. The pick: Danny Green, SG

The Celtics needed outside shooting, and Green is perhaps the best at that on the planet right now. He certainly was in the playoffs.

9. Denver Nuggets: PG, SF, defense. The pick: Kawhi Leonard, SF
Leonard, who has an incredibly bright future, is perfect for the Nuggets in this spot. He is a mature player, and he is also a great defender, which the Nuggets sorely need.

10. Dallas Mavericks: backup PG. The pick: George Hill, PG/SG
George Hill is definitely not a backup PG, so he will slot into the lineup as the starting shooting guard. Then, if Kyrie gets hurt, he can slide over to the point. This move just adds a lot of flexibility, and Dallas also took arguably the best available.

11. Orlando Magic: SF, PF. The pick: Tobias Harris, SF
The Magic need a scorer, so they pick their own player, Tobias Harris. Harris, just 21 years old, averaged 17.3 points per game after the all star break, as he broke out as soon as he was given playing time.

12. Los Angeles Lakers: SF, C. The pick: Otto Porter Jr., SF
The Lakers get a great value in Porter, the third pick in the NBA draft but the fifth in his draft class drafted here. He can easily slot in as starting small forward, pushing Terrence Jones to the bench.

13. Charlotte Bobcats: SG, SF, perimeter shooter. The pick: Chandler Parsons, SF
Parsons continues the run on small forward, making it four of five. He is exactly what the doctor ordered for Charlotte. A good all around wing man who can flat out shoot the ball.

14. Toronto Raptors: backup PG, perimeter defender, C. The pick: Lance Stephenson, SG
Stephenson will be the sixth man for the Raptors, and he is a perfect fit. He and Andre Iguodala make a great, long defensive backcourt (or frontcourt, whatever you want them to be). He has also shown he is fearless, and will probably play for Iguodala down the stretch, giving the Raptors three proven “clutch” players (Stephenson, Bradley Beal, Lou Williams).

15. San Antonio Spurs: Big men, interior scoring. The pick: Tristan Thompson, PF
The Spurs just need a big man, and they have a lot to choose from (Nerlens Noel, Cody Zeller, Omer Asik, JJ Hickson were also considered), so they take young Tristan Thompson, who had a much improved season last year.

16. New York Knicks: SF, defense. The pick: Jimmy Butler, SF
The Knicks were surprised to see young Jimmy Butler last so long, but the veracious defender fell into their laps. He fits really well with Ty Lawson and Klay Thompson.

17. Oklahoma City Thunder: PG. The pick: Greives Vasquez, PG
The Thunder sorely needed a PG, and a pass-first one like Vasquez is preferable, even though arguably better players like Isaiah Thomas, C.J. McCollum, and Jamal Crawford are available.

18. Milwaukee Bucks: SG, backup SF. The pick: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG
Pope was drafted 8th overall in the draft, and the Bucks are happy to get him because he is a prototype shooting guard. Caldwell-Pope can shoot, and can also drive well. He can also play SF if Danilo Gallinari gets hurt, which seems inevitable at this point.

19. Memphis Grizzlies: SG, defense. The pick: Tony Allen, SG
The Grizzlies pick their own real life player, because he fits so well here. The Grizzlies needed a perimeter defender, and Allen is the best there is. Plus, now Austin Rivers can go to his more natural instant-scoring role.

20. Sacramento Kings: PG, SF. The pick: Derrick Williams, SF/PF
Derrick Williams and Michael Beasley are sort of similar, in that they are very explosive, athletic and high draft picks, but just haven’t put it together. Williams, though, was better last season, and the Kings would rather start him and move Beasley to the bench.

21. Phoenix Suns: PF, C. The pick: JJ Hickson, PF/C
Hickson was one of eight players to average double digit rebounds, and he is better offensively than two or three of those players. He’s a safe bet to pile up numbers down low.

22. Washington Wizards: SG, PF. The pick: Cody Zeller, PF
Cody Zeller was the fourth pick in the 2013 NBA draft, so he is a great value for the Wizards here. He has been compared to LaMarcus Aldridge and Chris Bosh, and while I don’t necessarily agree with those comparisons, they are very telling.

23. Philadelphia 76ers: SF, C. The pick: Omer Asik, C
Asik fell pretty far, but maybe that is because he is set to be a backup this year in Houston. He is another player who averaged a double double, and is one of the best rebounding and defensive centers in the NBA.

24. Detroit Pistons: PF. The pick: Amir Johnson, PF
The Pistons just need a PF, because besides that, they have a good roster. It was down to Johnson and rookie Kelly Olynyk, and the contending Pistons decided to take the established player. They also needed a third big man because the injury history of center Tyson Chandler.

25. New Orleans Hornets: veteran. The pick: Jamal Crawford, PG/SG
Crawford is a very good player, but another key reason the Hornets draft him is for his great veteran presence. The Hornets have an incredibly young team, and Crawford is perfect for them. He also had a great season last year, and can probably start at either guard position, but is one of the best 6th men in the NBA.

26. Atlanta Hawks: SG, C. The pick: Nerlens Noel, C
The Hawks get a great value in Noel, as the only reason he fell this far is because of injury. I think that Jeff Teague, Kevin Durant, and Derrick Favors can carry the team until Noel gets back, and then when he does get back, this will become a very exciting young team.

27. Utah Jazz: PF. The pick: Kelly Olynyk, PF/C
The Jazz get a perfect fit, because Olynyk is a big man who can step out and really shoot. With slashers like Brandon Knight and James Harden and back to the basket center Al Jefferson, the Jazz needed someone just like Olynyk to start at power forward.

28. Miami Heat: SF, interior defense. The pick: Robin Lopez, C
With Carlos Boozer and Brook Lopez down low, the Heat want another big, and they add Lopez’s brother, Robin, who had a good year last season.

29. Brooklyn Nets: starting SG. The pick: C.J. McCollum, PG/SG
Another rookie, McCollum is a huge upgrade at SG over Jason Terry, who can move to 6th man. Also, point guard Kyle Lowry is injury prone, and McCollum can also play point guard.

30. Los Angeles Clippers: perimeter shooting. The pick: J.J. Redick, SG
The Clippers are a very complete team, but one thing they lacked was perimeter shooting. Redick is one of the best at that in the game, and he fills the Clippers biggest hole.

AL Second Half Predictions

Posted: 07/22/2013 by levcohen in Baseball

Time for the AL Second Half predictions.
In the preseason, I had the Rays winning the AL East, the Tigers winning the AL Central, and the Angels winning the West. Of those three teams, only the Tigers lead right now. In the preseason, I had the Tigers winning 91 games, and that looks pretty solid right now. I wish they were in a tougher division, because they constantly under perform and just barely scrape by in a poor division. Perhaps I’m being unkind, as they do have a +90 run differential. Based on that, they should be 62-35. Instead, they are nine games worse.

The Rays are in second place in the balanced AL East, but I am confident that they will win this division. Since starting the season 4-9, they are 54-32, the best record in the league since then. Most of that has been without ace David Price, and without consistent Alex Cobb. Now Price is back (and pitching well, as he’s given up seven runs in 33 innings since his return) and Cobb is nearing a return. The Rays are just 1.5 games back in the East, and they have a better roster than the Red Sox.

I will, on the other hand, take a mulligan on my AL West pick. I said in the preseason that at least one of the LA teams would flunk, and it turns out that that team is the Angels. At 46-50, the Angels are 10 games out of first place, and seven out of second place. They are more likely to finish in fourth place than in the playoffs.

AL East:
Boston Red Sox:
Current Record: 60-40

Sweet: If the Red Sox even have just a slightly above average pitching staff for the rest of the way, they’ll be the best team in the American League. That’s a testament to their offense, which is perhaps the best in the Majors. The Sox lead the MLB in runs scored, and it isn’t close. They have 26 more runs than the second best team. To put that in perspective, 32 runs separate the 16th best offensive team, the Mets, and the 29th, the Nationals. Four regulars (Jose Iglesias, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury) are hitting above .300, and this is also a team that knows how to walk. They lead the MLB in bases on balls, one of many offensive categories they lead in. Also, expect the Sox to try to upgrade their starting pitching at the trade deadline, whether it is with Jake Peavy, Matt Garza, Yovani Gallardo, or someone else.

Sour: With clearly the best offensive in the MLB, how are the Red Sox not running away with the division? Their pitching has been suspect, despite the bounce back seasons for John Lackey and Felix Doubront. The bullpen has been stretched thin, as two closers (Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan) are out for the season. I could imagine the Sox’s bullpen losing them a key playoff game.

Preseason prediction: 83-79
Current prediction: 94-68
Ceiling: 100-62
Floor: 89-73

Tampa Bay Rays:
Current record: 58-41

Sweet: Evan Longoria, the cornerstone on offense, has finally stayed healthy. He has played in 96 of the 99 games, after appearing in only 74 games last season and 133 the year before. Desmond Jennings, who is still promising but not so young anymore, has raised his OPS by 80 points this season. Chris Archer, a promising young right-handed pitcher, has a 2.76 ERA and looks like a future solid starter. Alex Cobb continues to work his way back, Matt Moore has become a near ace, and David Price is back to being an ace. Basically, this is a team with two legit aces, and another two legit #2 or #3 starters.

Sour: The Rays aren’t getting a lot of production from their middle infielders (mostly Yunel Escobar and Ben Zobrist), as Zobrist has seen his OPS drop 100 points. Fernando Rodney hasn’t been dominant this season as he was last year, as his ERA is over 4.

Preseason prediction: 90-72
Current prediction: 96-66
Ceiling: 98-64
Floor: 84-78

Baltimore Orioles:
Current record: 56-43

Sweet: Yet again, the Orioles have gotten somewhat lucky, as their record should be (with a theorem that uses two formulas to determine a projected record) 52-47. But I think they are closer to a 56-43 team than a 52-47 one, mostly because of their power. They have 134 home runs, which is the most in the MLB by 14. Their power, er, powers them to the best slugging percentage in the big leagues. They’ve been led by Chris Davis, who has an MLB-leading 37 bombs and a slugging percentage over .700. Manny Machado has 39 doubles, which puts him on pace to hit more than 60. The last time that happened was in the 1930’s.

Sour: The Orioles are another team that is looking for starting pitching help at the deadline. They have three solid starters in Miguel Gonzalez, Chris Tillman, and Wei-Yin Chen, but outside of that they have very little. What they really need is a staff ace, as none of those guys are great and a playoff team should ideally have at least one stud. Cliff Lee would be a good fit if the Phillies were ever to come to their senses.

Preseason prediction: 87-75
Current prediction: 90-72
Ceiling: 95-67
Floor: 84-78

New York Yankees:
Current Record: 52-46

Sweet: How is their record this good when their offense is this bad? They just find a way to get things done. Offensively, their only threat is Robinson Cano. Period. Mariano Rivera is going out with a bang, as he has 31 saves and a 1.78 ERA.

Sour: The lineup stinks. Of Yankee starters with more than seven starts, four of the five have a 4.30 or worse ERA, including handsomely paid C.C. Sabathia.

Preseason prediction: 80-82
Current prediction: 80-82
Ceiling: 87-75
Floor: 76-86

Toronto Blue Jays:
Current Record: 45-52

Sweet: Edwin Encarnacion has repeated last season’s breakout year, with 26 home runs. Jose Bautista has also been an impact bat, with 22 home runs. When healthy, Jose Reyes has been terrific, as he has a 1.4 O-WAR in 31 games. The bullpen has been surprisingly good this year. Yes, the same pen that I mocked in the preseason has been terrific. Remember those names? Janssen, Delabar, Loup, Cecil. All have been good, and I stand corrected.

Sour: Overall, this team has flopped. As I predicted in the preseason, their key offensive players have gotten hurt. Reyes and Brett Lawrie have been on the DL for the majority of the season, making this infield sub-par. R.A. Dickey has been this team’s best starting pitcher, and he sports a 4.75 ERA.

Preseason prediction: 86-76
Current prediction: 83-79
Ceiling: 88-74
Floor: 70-92

AL Central:
Detroit Tigers:
Current Record: 53-44

Sweet: If Chris Davis slumps, Miguel Cabrera is going to be the first player ever to win back to back triple crowns. He is having a better season this year than he did last year, when he was the best hitter on the planet by far. They also have three other regulars hitting above .300. Max Scherzer is 13-1, and didn’t lose a game until July. Anibal Sanchez has an ERA under 3.

Sour: They should be running away with this division, and probably have the best team in the MLB on paper, but they haven’t shown it. Justin Verlander, the best pitcher in the planet coming into this season, has just a 3.69 ERA, which is fine for most pitchers but atrocious for Verlander. The Tigers really only have two reliable guys in their bullpen, in Joaquin Benoit and Drew Smyly.

Preseason prediction: 91-71
Current prediction: 91-71
Ceiling: 96-66
Floor: 87-75

Cleveland Indians:
Current record: 52-46

Sweet: As expected, the offense has been very good. Jason Kipnis, in particular, has broken out. He has a .913 OPS, 15 home runs, 21 steals, and a 4.6 WAR, which is tied for 10th in the MLB. Carlos Santana is one of the best offensive catchers in the MLB. When healthy, Chris Perez has been a good closer, and along with Justin Masterson, Corey Kluber has established himself as an above average starting pitcher. The new coaching staff has been terrific.

Sour: The Indians need another consistent starting pitcher, or preferably two. Other than that, this team has been very good.

Preseason prediction: 81-81
Current prediction: 86-76
Ceiling: 90-72
Floor: 78-84

Kansas City Royals:
Current record: 45-50

Sweet: Eric Hosmer has bounced back, at least somewhat, from a poor season last year and a poor start to this one. In 175 at bats since June started, he has 54 hits (a .308 average), a .502 slugging percentage, and a .346 OBP. That’s a .848 OPS, which is almost 200 points higher than he had last season. Salvador Perez looks like a solid bet to be catcher of the future, and Ervin Santana and James Shields have both pitched well, with ERA’s in the low 3’s.

Sour: The other three SPs in the Kansas City rotation have ERA’s worse than 4.40. The left side of the infield has also really under performed. Alcides Escobar has a .593 OPS and Mike Moustakas has a .620 one. Overall, this team has been a disappointment.

Preseason prediction: 79-83
Current prediction: 79-83 (why not)
Ceiling: 83-79
Floor: 70-92

Minnesota Twins:
Current record: 41-54

Sweet: I never would have predicted that the Twins would be only 13 games under .500 after the all-star break, but they are. Joe Mauer has yet again been a stud, with a .320 average and .402 OBP, and the Twins have gotten good production from guys like Oswaldo Arcia and Trevor Plouffe. Glen Perkins has been one of the best, if not THE best, closers in baseball this year, and he will fetch a lot in a trade if the Twins decide to move him.

Sour: Unfortunately, the starting pitching has been a disaster. Vance Worley, the ace coming into the year, has a 7.21 ERA. Nine pitchers have made a start for the Twins, and six of them have an ERA of 5.40 or worse. Young players like Aaron Hicks have also underachieved.

Preseason prediction: 60-102
Current prediction: 65-97
Ceiling: 70-92
Floor: 60-102

Chicago White Sox:
Current record: 39-56

Sweet: Gordon Beckham is finally performing after years of disappointment, and Alex Rios continues to perform. Alexei Ramirez and Alejandro De Aza have also been good offensive players. Chris Sale has continued to prove to skeptical scouts that he is an ace, and Jose Quintana has also been good. Jesse Crain has probably been the best reliever in the game this year, as he has a .74 ERA (three runs allowed in 36.2 innings) and 46 strikeouts. His 2.4 WAR is second best among all relievers.

Sour: The rest. The Sox are going to be huge sellers at the trade deadline, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they challenge the Marlins and Astros for worst team in the MLB. Anyone from Alex Rios to Ramirez to De Aza to Paul Konerko to Crain to Jake Peavy could move. Basically, everyone other than Sale will move if a team wants him enough.

Preseason prediction: 76-86
Current prediction: 61-101
Ceiling: 69-93
Floor: 56-106

AL West:
Oakland Athletics:
Current record: 57-41

Sweet: The Athletics are 24th in average, 12th in on base percentage, and 17th in slugging percentage, and yet are somehow 9th in the MLB in runs scored. I don’t know how they do it, but I won’t doubt them now. Josh Donaldson and Jed Lowrie have led offensively, and the A’s have also gotten production from John Jaso, Seth Smith, Coco Crisp, and Brandon Moss. They’ve been this strong despite the struggles of their best player, Yoenis Cespedes. If Cespedes’s bat comes around, watch out. Bartolo Colon, at 40 years old, has been staff ace despite questions swirling around about possible PED use. The 7-8-9 combo of Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook, and Grant Balfour has been very good.

Sour: Cespedes. Tommy Milone has regressed. Josh Reddick has been hurt, and now that he is back, extremely ineffective. Brett Anderson, the staff ace coming into the season, got hurt yet again, and has started just five games and has a 6.21 ERA.

Preseason prediction: 88-74
Current prediction: 93-69
Ceiling: 98-64
Floor: 88-74

Texas Rangers:
Current record: 54-44

Sweet: Nelson Cruz and Adrian Beltre have been great offensively, and Mitch Moreland is having a career year. Yu Darvish has turned into one of the best pitchers in the MLB, and Derek Holland has an ERA just above 3. The bullpen has also been really good. Joe Nathan and Tanner Scheppers are perhaps the best 8-9 combo in the MLB, as each have an ERA at 1.80 or below.

Sour: Ian Kinsler got hurt again this season after being relatively healthy for the last two, and he has just nine homers and five steals for the season, just two years after a 30-30 season. They are another team that will probably trade for a starting pitcher, as two of their five are hurt right now (Matt Harrison and Alexi Ogando), and their replacements (Nick Tepesch and Justin Grimm) have been poor, with a 4.85 and 6.37 ERA, respectively.

Preseason prediction: 88-74
Current prediction: 90-72
Ceiling: 96-66
Floor: 86-76

LA Angels:
Current record: 46-50

Sweet: They haven’t been a top three offense like many people predicted, but they have definitely been a top 10 one. Mike Trout seems on his way for another 30-30 season, and his batting average hasn’t regressed at all. Mark Trumbo has continued to be a power threat, and Howie Kendrick has turned into a really good two-hole hitter, with a .309 average and a .350 OBP. C.J. Wilson, after having a bad year last season, has been good again this year. As has closer Ernesto Frieri and setup man Scott Downs.

Sour: What a disappointment. Albert Pujols can’t even run, and Josh Hamilton has probably been the biggest disappointment in all of baseball this season. And those guys have huge contracts for years and years and years. Joe Blanton is 2-12 with a 5.53 ERA, and still has the second most starts on the team.

Preseason prediction: 93-69
Current prediction: 82-80
Ceiling: 86-76
Floor: 76-86

Seattle Mariners:
Current record: 46-52

Sweet: Kyle Seager has been the best player on the team, and Raul Ibanez has an incredible 24 homers. Even more importantly, they’ve seen some improvement from young players. Justin Smoak has an OPS above .800, and the middle infield is much more promising than it was at the beginning of the year. The middle infield of Dustin Ackley (.547 OPS) and Brendan Ryan (.521 OPS) is now Nick Franklin (22 years old, .788 OPS) and Brad Miller (23 years old, .830 OPS). Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma have both been aces, with Hernandez again a frontrunner for Cy Young. Overall, this team has slightly overachieved my expectations.

Sour: Other young players, like Ackley, Jesus Montero, Mike Zunino, and Carter Capps have been bad, and that’s not a good thing for a young, developing team. Also, veteran acquisition Jason Bay has failed miserably.

Preseason prediction: 74-88
Current prediction: 78-84
Ceiling: 82-80
Floor: 74-88

Houston Astros:
Current record: 33-64

Sweet: The Astros are currently on a 55 win pace. I predicted them to win 54 games. Better than I thought! Jarred Cosart pitched eight shutout innings in his first start. Bud Norris has a 3.91 ERA. That’s all I’ve got.

Sour: Jose Altuve, the only player on the roster who the Astros wanted to build around, has been disappointing this year. Probably worst-case scenario for Houston.

Preseason prediction: 54-108
Current prediction: 54-108
Ceiling: 60-102
Floor: 49-113

AL MVP update:
1. Miguel Cabrera
2. Chris Davis
3. Mike Trout
4. Jason Kipnis
5. Robinson Cano

AL Cy Young update:
1. Felix Hernandez
2. Yu Darvish
3. Mariano Rivera
4. Max Scherzer
5. Bartolo Colon

AL ROY update:
1. Chris Archer
2. Wil Myers
3. Nick Franklin
4. Jose Iglesias
5. Martin Perez

I’m back… MLB Second Half Predictions– NL

Posted: 07/20/2013 by levcohen in Baseball

I’m really sorry I didn’t blog about how I wouldn’t be able to post for the upcoming few weeks, but I’m sure that became apparent, quickly. Someone was supposed to blog for me while I was gone, but that didn’t quite work out as planned. Now, though, I’m back, and I’ll get back to blogging right away, starting with some second half predictions for the MLB.
Note: NL East records and stats are prior to Friday night’s games.

In the preseason, I had the Nationals winning the East, the Reds the Central, and the Diamonbacks the West. If you were to have asked me which I felt least confident about, I probably would have said the D-Backs, but of those three teams, only Arizona leads their division. At 50-46, they haven’t been terrific, but in a balanced division, 86 wins might be enough to win it.

Cincinnati, at 53-42, haven’t been bad, with the fourth best record in the National League, but they are in third in the NL Central, the toughest division in baseball this year. It will probably take at least 95 wins to take this division, and I don’t think Cincinnati will reach that number. A wildcard is easily in reach, though, especially with two up for grabs.

Washington, unlike Cincinnati, has been a pure disappointment. I expected them to be 20 games over .500 by the all-star break. Instead, they are 48-47. Washington is by no means out of the race, but at this point, it’s tough to expect them to make the playoffs. Their roster is still talented, but their offense hasn’t preformed and their starting pitching depth has evaporated.

Now, the sweet and sour for each NL team thus far, starting with the NL East.

Atlanta Braves:
Current Record: 54-41
Sweet: At 54-41, the Braves have the best record in the NL East, and it isn’t even close. Their six game lead isn’t just comfortable, it’s three and a half games bigger than any other division lead. The defense is terrific, and the pitching is also very good. Among individual players, Freddie Freeman, Brian McCann, Chris Johnson, Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, and Luis Avilan have all outperformed expectations.

Sour: The Braves are a good team, but they have the potential to be so much better. Each member of the much hyped outfield of Jason Heyward and the Upton brothers has disappointed. Even Justin Upton, who started the season off so strongly, has really disappointed of late.

Pre-season projection: 93-69
Current projection: 93-69
Ceiling: 98-64
Floor: 86-76

Washington Nationals:
Current Record: 48-47
Sweet: The core of five pitchers (three starters and two relievers) have gone 31-16 with 25 saves and have almost single-handedly kept the Nationals above .500. Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimermann are like a three-headed ace. Closer Rafael Soriano has a 2.25 ERA, and setup man Tyler Clippard’s earned run average is even lower.

Sour: Basically everything else. The offense, the rest of the pitching staff… It’s discouraging.

Pre-season projection: 96-66
Current projection: 84-78
Ceiling: 91-71
Floor: 79-83

Philadelphia Phillies:
Current Record: 48-48
Sweet: Domonic Brown, one of the young players Philadelphia is counting on to help the transition to the future, finally has broken out this year, to the tune of 23 home runs, a .856 OPS, and a 2.9 O-WAR, tops on the team by nearly a win. Cliff Lee has continued to be one of the best pitchers in baseball, and Chase Utley has rediscovered a lot of his sapped power.

Sour: This isn’t a playoff team; it’s a mediocre, .500 one. Ryan Howard, being paid 25 million dollars a year, has been a disappointment and is on the DL. Cole Hamels has taken a major step back, at a time where he should be in his prime. Jimmy Rollins, who is paid like a star, plays like a below average shortstop. And then there is Roy Halladay.

Preseason projection: 84-78
Current Projection: 81-81
Ceiling: 85-77
Floor: 75-87

New York Mets:
Current Record: 41-50
Sweet: David Wright is still a superstar, and Matt Harvey has been perhaps the best pitcher in baseball this season. Marlon Byrd seems rejuvenated. Waiver wire pickup Eric Young Jr. is hitting .308 with a .380 OBP and eight steals in 24 starts with the Mets. Overall, they’ve been slightly better than I expected, but not very much.

Sour: Ike Davis, supposed to be the first baseman of the future for the Mets, had a .505 OPS in 237 plate appearances and was in the minor leagues until recently getting recalled. The Mets have gotten Harvey only seven wins in his 19 starts, 15 of them quality. The rotation, outside of Harvey, isn’t promising.

Preseason projection: 72-90
Current Projection: 74-88
Ceiling: 78-84
Floor: 66-96

Miami Marlins:
Current Record: 35-58
Sweet: Offensively, nothing. They are last in every major offensive category. Their best player this year has been young sensation Jose Fernandez. Fernandez, who surprisingly opened the season in the Marlins rotation at the tender age of 20, has a 2.75 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP. It looks as if Miami has their ace of the future. They also have a decent bullpen, albeit one that has just 18 saves (an indictment of the offense).

Sour: The whole offense. Also, the fact that Giancarlo Stanton can’t stay healthy, and top prospect Christian Yelich is struggling a little bit. Being the second worst team in baseball is never a good thing.

Preseason projection: 64-98
Current projection: 60-102
Ceiling: 64-98
Floor: 55-107

NL Central:

St. Louis Cardinals:
Current Record: 58-36
Sweet: The Cardinals are the best team in baseball right now, both record-wise and personnel-wise. They have a top five offense, and a top five defense. Incredibly, they have four regulars hitting over .300, including three of the top four hitters batting average wise. Yadier Molina, terrific both offensively and defensively at catcher, is probably the lead MVP candidate. Allen Craig has been better with runners in scoring position than anyone on the planet. The Cardinals have a chance to have the MVP and the Cy Young winner, as Adam Wainwright may well be the favorite. He has 12 wins, a 2.45 ERA, and an incredible 130 to 15 strikeout to walk ratio. Shelby Miller may be the NL Rookie of the Year.

Sour: The back of the rotation and shortstop are really the two holes the Cardinals have, and they are two fairly easy holes to fill. They can easily get a shortstop, with Asdrubal Cabrera available and a lot of assets to work with. A lot of those assets are starting pitchers, with Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, and others waiting in the wings and close to ready to fill in the 5th spot in the rotation.

Preseason projection: 92-70
Current projection: 98-64
Ceiling: 102-60
Floor: 92-70

Pittsburgh Pirates:
Current Record: 56-38
Sweet: The Pirates are going to break their long streak of losing records, and they are also likely to make the playoffs. Young stars Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, and Pedro Alvarez have a combined 45 homers, 50 steals, and 55 doubles. Most of the team’s success has come on the other side of the ball. Even with Wandy Rodriguez on the DL, the Pirates have five starters who are excelling right now. Jeff Locke, Francisco Liriano, A.J. Burnett, Charlie Morton, and Gerrit  Cole have ERA’s between 2.15 and 3.89. The Pirates also have three bullpen members who are pitching historically well. Justin Wilson, Mark Melancon, and Jason Grilli have gone a combined 138 innings and given up just 24 earned runs. That is an ERA of 1.57!

Sour: Sorry Pirates fans, there are some warning signs. The offense, outside of the three mentioned above, has been mediocre. They need to add some hitters via trade. Also: What if one or two of the three relievers mentioned above gets injured? The Pirates have to be careful about overworking those players.

Preseason projection: 83-79
Current projection: 92-70
Ceiling: 98-64
Floor: 86-76

Cincinnati Reds:
Current Record: 54-42
Sweet: They have the 5th best run differential in the MLB. Offensively, they have two guys, Joey Votto and Shin-Soo Choo, who have been incredibly valuable offensively. Each have an O-WAR above 3.5. Jay Bruce has also been heating up. They also have a lot of guys, Sean Marshall, Johnny Cueto, Ryan Ludwick, who are nearing a return and should be very valuable. The pitching has been terrific, as they have the fourth best ERA and best WHIP in the MLB.

Sour: I thought they’d be the best team in the NL Central. Right now, they are third best. I’m mostly blaming that on the three injuries I mentioned before. Those three, all of whom are major contributors, have missed a substantial amount of time and have probably cost the Reds at least four wins. At 58-38, the Reds would be just one game behind the Cardinals.

Preseason projection: 94-68
Current Projection: 93-69
Ceiling: 97-65
Floor: 87-75

Chicago Cubs:
Current Record: 43-51
Sweet: The farm system has flourished. With Theo Epstein as GM, it has really turned around. As for the MLB talent, this team is better than it was last season, although there haven’t been many individual standouts.

Sour: Starlin Castro, supposedly the team’s star, has been horrible this season, taking a huge step back, as he has just a .625 OPS. Also, free agent acquisition Edwin Jackson has an ERA worse than 5.

Preseason projection: 68-94
Current projection: 72-90
Ceiling: 77-85
Floor: 66-96

Milwaukee Bucks:
Current Record: 39-56
Sweet: Nothing? Actually, they have two bright spots: Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura. Both are young, and both seem destined to become stars. Gomez has a 6 WAR, and Segura, at 23 years old, is one of the top three shortstops in the MLB.

Sour: There’s a lot, so let’s just list it:
Ryan Braun’s negative publicity
Yuniesky Betancourt’s sub .200 average
The poor farm system
The fourth worst record in the MLB
“Ace” Yovani Gallardo has a near 5 ERA

There is a lot more not to like, but those are the major things.

Preseason projection: 77-85
Current projection: 67-95
Ceiling: 73-89
Floor: 58-104

NL West:

Arizona Diamondbacks:
Current Record: 50-46
Sweet: Paul Goldschmidt has exploded, and looks to be a lead MVP candidate. He is one of the best hitters in the MLB, and that has happened because he is finally able to hit righties. Last year, he had a .738 OPS against right handers. This year, it is at .933. And he still crushes lefties. Patrick Corbin, with a 2.35 ERA and an 11-1 record, is now clearly one of the best pitchers in the National League, if not the MLB.

Sour: Overall, they haven’t preformed to expectations. Miguel Montero and Martin Prado have really struggled at the plate, and Ian Kennedy has regressed to a 5.29 ERA.

Preseason projection: 91-71
Current projection: 85-77
Ceiling: 89-73
Floor: 81-81

Los Angeles Dodgers:
Current Record: 48-47
Sweet: Hanley Ramirez! Yasiel Puig! Clayton Kershaw! Hyun-Jin Ryu! After a slow start, the Dodgers are streaking, having won 19 of their past 24 games.

Sour: Ramirez and Puig need help on offense, because their current stats are unsustainable. Mostly, Matt Kemp can make or break this team’s playoff chances. The Dodgers are solid at most positions, but they need another game changer offensively. Kemp has the talent (and the track record) to be that player, as long as he can stay healthy. Now Matt, please stay healthy for those of us who want to see the Dodgers and their stars in the playoffs.

Preseason projection: 86-76
Current projection: 86-76
Ceiling: 91-71
Floor: 78-84

Colorado Rockies:
Current Record: 46-51
Sweet: Overall, the Rockies have outperformed expectations. Their lineup has a huge amount of offensive firepower. Their 3-4-5 of Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, and Michael Cuddyer have combined for 55 homers, 171 RBI, and a 9.3 O-WAR. Add in Dexter Fowler and Wilin Rosario, and this is a top 10 offense. Jorge De La Rosa and Jhoulys Chacin have reemerged as quality starters, which is very important for this team.

Sour: Outside of Tyler Chatwood, De La Rosa, and Chacin, pitchers who have started a game for Colorado have no better than a 4.89 ERA and have a combined 11-22 record. The awful back of the rotation is the sole reason that the Rockies are not in the playoff chase.

Preseason projection: 60-102
Current projection: 80-82
Ceiling: 86-76
Floor: 70-92

San Francisco Giants:
Current Record: 44-51
Sweet: Buster Posey is quietly having another MVP-type season, with a 4.7 WAR. Madison Bumgarner is still an ace, with an ERA at just about 3. Their bullpen is also very good, and Chad Gaudin has been terrific in his short stint as starter.

Sour: Pretty much everything else for the reigning World Series champs. Matt Cain is no longer an ace. In fact, his ERA is 5.06. The rest of the rotation has been lackluster, as well, as has the lineup. This looks like a fourth place team, not a champion one.

Preseason projection: 86-76
Current projection: 77-85
Ceiling: 84-78
Floor: 74-88

San Diego Padres:
Current Record: 42-55
Sweet: Everth Cabrera, PEDs or no PEDs, has broken out, with 34 stolen bases and a .373 OBP. Jedd Gyorko looks like a solid 2B of the future.

Sour: Pitching wise, this team has taken a step back, perhaps because of the changed stadium dimensions in PETCO park (see, moving in the fences isn’t always a profitable plan). Also, Chase Headley has taken the step back that many thought he would.

Preseason projection: 74-88
Current projection: 74-88
Ceiling: 79-83
Floor: 66-96

NL MVP update:
1. Yadier Molina
2. Paul Goldschmidt
3. Carlos Gonzalez
4. David Wright
5. Joey Votto

NL Cy Young update:
1. Clayton Kershaw
2. Matt Harvey
3. Adam Wainwright
4. Cliff Lee
5. Patrick Corbin

NL ROY update:
1. Jose Fernandez
2. Shelby Miller
3. Yasiel Puig
4. Hyun-Jin Ryu
5. Trevor Rosenthal