2018 MLB Season Predictions

Opening day is finally here! Here is how I see this season shaking out:

AL East

Yankees

Red Sox (WC 1)

Blue Jays

Orioles

Rays

AL Central

Indians

Twins

Royals

Tigers

White Sox

AL West

Astros

Angels (WC 2)

Mariners

Rangers

Athletics

NL East

Nationals

Mets (WC 2)

Phillies

Braves

Marlins

NL Central

Cubs

Cardinals (WC 1)

Brewers

Reds

Pirates
NL West

Dodgers

Giants

Diamondbacks

Padres

Rockies

AL Cy Young –  Chris Sale

AL MVP – Carlos Correa

AL RoY – Shohei Ohtani

NL Cy Young – Noah Syndergaard

NL MVP – Bryce Harper

NL RoY – Ronald Acuna

NL Wild Card Game – Mets over Cardinals

AL Wild Card Game – Red Sox over Angels

NLDS – Dodgers over Mets; Cubs over Nationals

ALDS – Astros over Red Sox; Yankees over Indians

NLCS – Cubs over Dodgers

ALCS – Yankees over Astros

World Series – Yankees over Cubs in 7

 

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10 Bold Predictions for 2018 Part 2 (This one includes gifs!)

Check out Part 1 of my bold predictions here

6. The Mets make the playoffs and Noah Syndergaard wins the Cy Young,

This one pains me in many ways. First of all, I can never forgive the Mets for 2015. They utterly dominated the Cubs in the NLCS, and it looked like it was going to be a slugfest between the two teams for years to come. The Cubs had the young offense, the Mets had the young pitching, which approach was the better plan? Well, we found the answer to that question with a Cubs World Series and three consecutive NLCS appearances. But the Mets are back this year, and they are back in a big way. When healthy, Noah Syndergaard is the best pitcher in baseball (@ me. I’ll take this fight any day). Syndergaard averaged 99.6 MPH on his fastball (THAT WAS HIS AVERAGE). His slider averaged 93.2 MPH. That’s right, Noah Syndergaard throws his slider 6 MPH faster than Kyle Hendricks throws his fastball.

Image result for noah syndergaard slider gif

(LOL good luck hitting that)

Just for fun, his changeup averages 91. If healthy, he is nearly unhittable. For his career opponent’s have batted .233 against Syndergaard. His career K/9 is 10.3 with a career 1.9 BB/9. All he needs to do is stay healthy, and we are going to see a historic season from Thor.

With Thor leading the way and another ace in Jacob DeGrom helping to front the rotation, the Mets have arguably the strongest 1-2 in all of baseball. But health in the rotation is going to be a huge question mark. They added Vargas, who is already hurt, and are hoping for healthy bounce back seasons from Steven Matz, Matt Harvey, and Zach Wheeler. They do have nice rotation depth with guys like Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman. Overall, the pitching staff from 3-5 should be serviceable and when coupled with two aces at the top, the Mets can win a lot of games with their pitching.

Healthy pitching will be key if the Mets want to get back in the playoffs, but they need a healthy offense, too. Yoenis Cespedes is a breaker of baseballs, but he too has injury issues and was limited to just 81 games last year. Michael Conforto was a breakout star for the Mets last year before he, shockingly, hurt his shoulder and only played in 109 games. He is progressing nicely in his rehab, and although he will miss the start of the season, he shouldn’t be out too long. When they are healthy, that outfield is going to be lethal with the addition of Jay Bruce. They also added Todd Frazier and Adrian Gonzalez who should provide some nice offense and veteran leadership for the young guys looking to contribute like former top prospect Amed Rosario. If the Mets can stay relatively healthy and make a couple of moves to shore up the rotation and lineup, they can definitely be a playoff team.

7. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. makes it to the big leagues this year and helps push the Blue Jays into the playoffs

Vladimir Guerrero Sr. was just elected into the MLB Hall of Fame. He had 2590 hits, hit 449 home runs, and slashed .318/.379/.553 for his career. Guerrero had a rocket arm, and he is well known for giving us swings like this:

Image result for vladimir guerrero gif

But it is his son who is making noise right now. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. shot up prospect rankings last season landing as high as number 3 on MLB Pipeline and Baseball America. And you can see why. The 19 year old slashed an insane .323/.425/.485 between A and High A ball last year. At 18 years old last year, he was roughly 3.8 years younger than the average competition he played against. The Blue Jays haven’t announced where Vladdy Jr. will start the year, but it could easily be in AA since he hit even better in High A last year than A ball, and it would seem like a waste to send him back there. Starting AA this year at 19 years old makes the majors seem like a long shot, but this kid is so good. I think he is going to force the Blue Jays’ hand. We will see him move up to AAA before the midway point of the season, and then with the Jays battling for a playoff spot come September, they are going to shoot Junior to the majors to try and push them over the edge. The Blue Jays currently play in the most insane division in baseball. The AL East just added the best slugger in baseball last year and Giancarlo Stanton (go look up what JD Martinez did last season in 119 games). The Yankees and Red Sox are juggernauts. With strong lineups, powerful rotations, and dominant bullpens, they are both going to be hard to pass. The Orioles lack some pitching, but they aren’t pushovers and the Rays always find a way to contend. The bloodbath that is the AL East is going to provide tough competition for the Jays and with a tightening playoff window and Josh Donaldson’s free agency looming, they are going to need to do something bold to sneak into a playoff spot. Cue Vlad Jr.

8. Billy Hamilton finally gets 60 steals

Not bold enough? He’s had 56, 57, 58, and 59 stolen bases the past 4 seasons, but fine, not only does he break 60, he breaks 75. The only thing stopping Hamilton from stealing bases is his struggle with actually getting on base. Hamilton reached base 188 times last year and stole 59 bases. That means about ⅓ of the time he reached base, he recorded a steal (that’s a rough statistic since sometimes he stole two bases or pinch ran for someone). At that rate, if he can reach base 250 times, he should get to 75 steals. 250 seems like a lot more than 188, but for his career he has an even better stolen base rate than what he did last season. In 2016, Hamilton reached base 144 times and stole 58 bases for a rate of 40%. If Hamilton had stolen bases at the same rate in 2017 as 2016, he would have stolen 75 bases last year. Hamilton still only played in 139 games in 2017. Part of that was due to injury and part due to ineffectiveness, but it was actually more games than he played in 2016 (119) and 2015 (114). Last year was a disappointing year for Hamilton. People expected him to take a step forward, but he saw his average and on base percentage dip, but that was not helped by his .313 BABIP. For a player as fast as Hamilton, .313 is relatively low. For perspective, Dee Gordon’s BABIP last year was .354. This will be Hamilton’s 5th full season in the majors, and he is still only 27 years old. If he can improve his rate of contact, draw a few more walks, stay healthy, and get back to stealing bases at his 2016 and 2015 rate, I think this is the year he puts together that insane stolen base season we have all been waiting for.

9. The Yankees have 4 guys who hit 35 homers AND Greg Bird leads them all

The Yankees offense is going to be historic this year. I don’t think that is a very bold prediction. They have Aaron Judge (52 homers last season), Gary Sanchez, (31 homers in just 122 games), and added Giancarlo Stanton (59 homers last season). That. Is. Insane. But I think it is Greg Bird that’s going to shock people this year. Bird took the world by storm last year during Spring Training when all he did was hit bombs. He was a common pre-season choice for breakout player of the year and was poised to bash in the middle of the Yankees lineup. However, an ankle injury at the end of Spring Training stopped the Greg Bird train in its tracks. He tried to play through it at first and was horrendous. Bird had 72 plate appearances, hit 1 homer, and slashed an embarrassing .100/.250/.200. A month into the season, he finally elected to have ankle surgery which risked him missing the rest of the 2017 season. Bird came back on August 26th and proceeded to hit 8 homers in 29 games. He had 98 plate appearances over that time which, when extrapolated out to 600 at bats, is a 49 homer pace. During that time, Bird slashed .253/.316/.575 also known as a lot better than what he did at the start of the season. Not only did he mash to close out the season, but he was a beast in the playoffs as well slashing .244/.426/.512 with 3 homers in 13 games including this bomb off of Andrew Miller:

A healthy Greg Bird has a few advantages that I think can lead him to the top of the Yankees home run list. First of all, he is a lefty, and the new Yankee stadium is a joke for left handed hitters. Second, no one wants to pitch to Stanton, Judge, or Sanchez. Well, who does that leave to pitch to in the middle of that lineup? Greg Bird, that’s who. And third, we are likely going to see some regression from the big guys Stanton and Judge, and, as a catcher, Sanchez just won’t play as much. This one may be bold, but I think he if can stay healthy, he has a real shot at leading that team in homers. Either way, the Yankees are going to be hitting a ton of dingers this year, and remember, the Bird is the word. 

10. The Brewers miss the playoffs and don’t come particularly close

I actually didn’t think this was much of a bold prediction until the Brewers added Cain and Yelich, but I am going to stand by it. The Brewers overperformed last year and competed for a Central title and a Wild Card spot for nearly the whole season missing the playoffs by one game. They made two great additions in Cain and Yelich, and they look like they are poised to challenge the Cubs for the Central crown. However, I am here to tell you that it just isn’t going to happen (and I am going to do it with as little Cubs bias as possible!). The Brewers were able to contend last year for a couple of reasons, the first being a bunch of their players outperforming their projections by a significant amount and the second being the decline of the Pirates and Cardinals. Now, sadly (although not so sadly as a Cubs fan) the Pirates seem to have embraced their decline and have jump started rebuild mode again (it really must suck to finally put together a competitive team in the same window as the best Cubs team in decades, ouch).

Image result for sean rodriguez punching gatorade gif

But the Cardinals got better. A whole lot better. We will get to that in a minute. First, a look at some of the over performances from guys like Domingo Santana, Travis Shaw, Eric Thames, and basically the entire Brewers pitching rotation. The Red Sox traded Travis Shaw after he disappointed in his first full season with the team for a relief pitcher. Shaw then went on to hit 31 homers and double his WAR from the season before in the same amount of games. There are not too many signs that he is heading towards a significant decline in production from the previous year, but ZiPS projects a WAR of 2.4 in 2018 compared to the 3.4 he put up in 2017. Speaking of career years, Domingo Santana exploded in his first full season hitting 30 homers and slashing .278/.371/.505. He had a strong 12% walk rate but a terrible 29% K rate. His BABIP was absurdly high at .363 and again ZiPS projects a regression from the 3.3 WAR he put up last year down to 2.0 for 2018. Finally, on the offensive side, you have the man who took the baseball world by storm the first two months of the season – Eric Thames. Thames was unbelievable to start the 2017 season, hitting 14 homers in the first two months of the season. He was pretty much an average hitter from June 1st on and with the new additions to the Brewers squad, he might find playing time tough this year. Thames also had an unsightly 29% K rate last year as well and is unplayable against lefites. Between Santana, Thames, Keon Broxton, and Jonathan Villar the Brewers will often put out lineups with 4 starters who struck out almost 30% of the time which is not ideal. Yelich and Cain certainly will help in that area, and overall the offense should perform above average, but it doesn’t compete with the Cubs lineup and is not nearly good enough to overcome the pitching especially after shoulder surgery for Brewers’ ace Jimmy Nelson.

The Brewers project to run out a rotation of Chase Anderson, Zach Davies, Jhoulys Chacin, Brent Suter, and Junior Guerra to start the season. Chase Anderson finished the season last year with a 2.74 ERA or a full run and a half lower than his career best. The peripherals show serious signs of regression. Anderson had an 80% left on base percentage (league average is about 70%), a 39% ground ball rate which would have been the 10th worst in baseball if he had qualified, and a .265 BABIP. As the “ace” of the staff, Anderson does not provide much confidence. Behind Anderson the Brewers will be throwing Davis, a dependable starter but nothing special (career ERA 3.90), Chacin, who is projected for a 4.77 ERA from ZiPS, Suter, who has thrown 103 career innings, tops out at about 86, but does have a funky delivery that is hard to hit, and Junior Guerra who was a surprise in 2016 but then only threw 70 innings last year and was absolutely terrible. They do have Josh Hader in their pen (who should be in the rotation at some point this season), and Corey Knebel who was absolutely filthy last year, but that is not nearly enough to save the rotation. The Cubs are still a far superior team running out Lester, Darvish, Quintana, and Hendricks who would all be the number 1 starter on the Brewers team, and the Cardinals look very formidable this year with the addition of slugger Marcell Ozuna, the underrated Tommy Pham, and a rotation headed by Carlos Martinez who can be one of the best starters in baseball on any given night. Plus the eventual return of future ace Alex Reyes. In addition, the Cardinals have a much stronger 2-5 and a bunch of near major league ready pitching in Luke Weaver (3.88 ERA in 10 starts last year) and Jack Flaherty (20 strikeouts in just 13 innings so far this spring). The Cardinals and Cubs are going to be battling for that top spot in the Central with the Brewers trailing behind. With fierce competition for the two Wild Card spots in the National League, the Brewers are poised for a disappointing season.

Thus concludes my epic bold predictions for 2018. Feel free to comment any disagreements, I’m always up for good debate! And look for my predictions for the 2018 standings and major award races coming soon…

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10 Bold Predictions For 2018 Part 1

ShoheiOhtaniEdit

WOOOOOOO! It’s that time of year, baseball is almost here! As I have raised the Fantasy Baseball Championship Banner several times, I find myself highly qualified to write some predictions for the 2018 season and share them with you! Ok, maybe not highly qualified, but they’re fun. And I have some data to back up each one, so they aren’t just random. Anyway, let’s get on to it…

1. THE ROCKIES WILL FINISH LAST IN THE NL WEST

This is made somewhat complicated by the presence of the San Diego Padres in this division, but that’s why they call them bold! I like the Rockies and root for them at times throughout the year, but the Rockies offense continues to be the most overrated aspect of baseball. For some reason people still don’t want to accept the fact that Coors Field inflates numbers. People rave about DJ LeMahieu who had an ISO of .099 last year! For the casual fans out there, ISO helps to identify a hitter’s raw power, and .099 is horrendous.  For comparison, his .099 ISO ranked 140th out of 144 qualified hitters. Colorado had two above average hitters last year, Ian Desmond looks absolutely lost at the plate this Spring (although he must have heard me typing this yesterday as he hit two bombs), Trevor Story was fun for awhile but became overmatched, and David Dahl is a huge question mark after taking the world by storm in his debut and then missing all of last year. The Rockies needed to add to their offense this offseason, and they didn’t. The only offensive signing they made was re-signing Carlos Gonzalez who is a shell of the player he once was and can’t play against lefties. They will add one of their top prospects to the lineup everyday in Ryan McMahon, but he struggled in his brief stint in the majors last year (small sample size alert!). It is hard to rely on a rookie to provide an instant impact although we saw it in Cody Bellinger and Aaron Judge last year, so you never know. I like the additions they made to their bullpen adding Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw, and re-signing Jake McGee, but they lost Greg Holland who provided equal value to Davis last year, and their starting pitching remains a huge liability. The ace of the staff, Jon Gray, has never thrown more than 168 innings, and the remaining projected starters combined for a 4.44 ERA, pedestrian 3.0 BB/9, and below average 7.3 K/9 last year. That sort of production at Coors is not going to go well.  Overall, I think this team is going to disappoint, and I think the Padres will be a bit of a surprise leading to the Rockies finishing last in the NL West.

2. SHOHEI OHTANI WILL GIVE UP ON HITTING THIS YEAR

As much as I want him to succeed as a two-way star (and not just because I own him in a fantasy keeper league), it just isn’t going to happen. This might not be considered that bold, but Ohtani loves to hit and he wants to do it in the majors – it’s one of the reasons he signed with the Angels as they promised to give him a chance. But it’s just too hard and he’s just not good enough. Scouts have raved about his raw power, but they are in almost unanimous agreement that he needs full-time reps at the minor league level to improve his skills as a hitter. As a hitter in Japan, Ohtani had a strikeout rate near 30% which would be awful by Major League Baseball standards and is made even worse by the quality of competition he faced over in Japan. Ohtani’s arm is too good to waste, and although he wants to do both, he’s going to give it up when his pitching suffers and injuries linger. He already has been diagnosed with a first-degree sprain in his Ulnar Collateral Ligament (yep the Tommy John one). The Angels aren’t acting worried about it, and Ohtani is being treated without surgery, but it is only a matter of time before it becomes worse. He also had ankle surgery last season in Japan causing him to miss a lot of time. What makes this a bold prediction, in my mind, is that he is going to abandon his attempt to do both sooner than people anticipate.

3. DANNY SALAZAR WILL FINISH IN THE TOP 10 IN CY YOUNG VOTING

Alright, if that last one wasn’t bold enough then this one should help up my boldness credibility. Salazar has always shown incredible stuff and potential, but he has never put it together consistently and for a full season out of the rotation. That changes this year. When you dive deeply into Salazar’s numbers this prediction becomes less bold. It became clear just how good Salazar is as my buddy, Jake, stumbled across some insane peripheral stats on Salazar and shared them with me which led to this prediction – thanks Jake! Among pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched last year, Salazar was second in baseball in k/9 at 12.63. He also had the 5th highest batting average on balls in play (BABIP for short) at .343 – the major league average is between .290-.310 – and Salazar’s career BABIP is .310, so he was extremely unlucky last year. Couple that with an above average O-Swing% (outside the strike zone swing percentage), second lowest O-Contact% (outside the zone contact percentage), and lowest Z-Contact% (inside the strike zone contact percentage), Salazar is poised for a huge year. If he can get to 180 innings this year, and that’s a big if, he is going to make some Cy Young noise.

4. BYRON BUXTON FINISHES IN THE TOP 5 IN MVP VOTING

Ok, so when we dove deeper into Salazar’s stats you decided I still wasn’t being bold enough. Fair enough. So how is this for a bold one. Buxton actually received some MVP votes last year, although down ballot, and finished 18th – although, I have no idea why (his 3.5 fWAR tied for 27th among hitters in the AL). He started to show flashes of superstardom, and we are going to finally see it completely put together this year. The defense is incredible, and he is must watch out there in centerfield, but it’s his offense that is going to be can’t miss TV this year. At times last year Buxton couldn’t hit water falling out of a boat, but in the second half he showed the power/speed combo that led to such high praise as he was coming through the minors. In 140 games last year, he hit 16 homers and stole 29 bases. A 20/20 season is easily within reach, but I am going to go one step further and say he goes at least 25/30 this year with 30/40 within reach. For perspective, the last 30 homer, 40 stolen base season occurred in 2012 by none other than The Mike Trout. Contact will still be a bit of an issue for Buxton as he continues to learn and grow at the major league level, but his other tools are so great that he will overcome those contact rates to hit at least .275. Combine the improved offensive numbers with the elite defense, and you are going to see Buxton near the top of MVP voting for a long, long time.

5. ASTROS WILL WIN 110 GAMES BUT WON’T REPEAT AS WORLD CHAMPIONS

The Astros won the World Series and used the offseason to get even better. I am trying to find a weakness for this team, and I can’t. Here is their most likely lineup with projected* slash lines (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage). I’ve included their projected home run totals too just for fun:

George Springer CF .266/.360/.492 – 30 Home Runs

Alex Bregman 3B .271/.339/.461 – 20

Jose Altuve 2B .318/.375/.497 – 22

Carlos Correa SS .298/.378/.522 – 27

Yuli Gurriel 1B .277/.331/.477 – 19

Josh Reddick RF .279/.333/.445 – 15

Evan Gattis DH .255/.308/.479 – 22

Marwin Gonzalez LF .265/.323/.441 – 17

Brain McCann C .247/.325/.433 – 18

There is not an easy out in that entire lineup, and their biggest weaknesses (Gattis, Gonzalez, and McCann) hit a combined 53 homers in only 315 games last year. On top of that the Astros top prospect, Kyle Tucker (projected by ZiPs for 21 home runs in 124 games), will be joining the offense soon, and the guy can flat out hit.

For all their offense firepower, it may be the pitching staff that is the most impressive. Their starting rotation is projected to include Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel, newly acquired flamethrower Gerrit Cole, hard throwing Lance McCullers who has one of the best curveballs in all of baseball, and the extremely underrated, hard throwing Charlie Morton. That rotation is going to rack up a lot of strikeouts and will keep that strong Astros offense in every game.

But finally, after touting their offensive prowess and their fireballing rotation, it is the Astros bullpen that continues to stand out. Giles (11.9 K/9 in 2017), Devenski (11.1), Harris (10.3), Hoyt (12.0) are going to rack up the strikeouts, and they added Hector Rondon (10.8) on top of that. Their rotation is so deep that Brad Peacock is going to be a long man out of the pen, and he had 13 wins, a 3.00 ERA, and a 11.0 K/9 rate last season in 34 games, 21 of them starts. This team is extremely talented and extremely deep. Combine that with 19 games against a weak Athletics team, and questionable Rangers, Mariners, and Angels teams, and you get a Houston team that is going to win a lot of games. The last team to win at least 110 games was the 2001 Seattle Mariners who tied for the Major League record in regular season wins with 116. The Mariners failed to even make it to the World Series that year, and as Cubs fans know all too well, it’s really hard to repeat.

Well, that’s it for part 1 of my bold predictions. Let me know if you disagree with anything 🙂 Part 2 coming soon…

*Projections courtesy of Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS which can be found over at Fangraphs.com

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Otherworld Review

Title: Otherworld

Author(s): Jason Segel (Yes, the same Jason Segel of HIMYM and Forgetting Sarah Marshall fame) and Kirsten Miller

This is not a game

The tagline for this Hunger Games for nerds young adult science fiction novel is lived out through a fast-paced and action packed novel.  It’s an interesting take on what might happen when virtual reality gets out of control. I enjoyed the story and found myself captivated by Otherworld, the virtual land where the majority of the story takes place. The book is written in first person, present tense which is a unique style of writing that doesn’t always sit right with me. It’s hard to follow the thoughts and actions of one character for the entirety of 350+ pages. In order for that to work you have to love the main character, and I just wasn’t the biggest fan of Simon. His heart is in the right place, but his flaws are highly unbecoming and his justifications for his actions don’t always make sense. The story is somewhat predictable, but that is not always a bad thing. The main focus of the book is all of the possibilities of the virtual land of Otherworld. It seems to bring out the worst in people, where people are capable of living out their darkest fantasies. Regardless, the story was entertaining, but it is definitely on the higher end of the young adult age range. There is some rough language, inappropriate situations of blackmail, descriptive details related to violence, murder, and even cannibalism. I read a lot of young adult books to decide whether to recommend them to my 6th grade students, and this is one that will not be recommended for their age. The bottom line when it comes to Otherworld is if you like science fiction, video games, adventure, blood and gore, mysteries, and psychopaths than this is the perfect book for you. I am looking forward to reading what happens in the sequel, Otherearth, which is coming in 2018.

Rating: 3/5

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