Wednesday, February 7, 2018

42 random thoughts #21-30

Pitchers and Catchers report to Dunedin in just 1 week on February 14. In honor of the Blue Jays 42nd season in the MLB, here are 42 random thoughts.

21. Three Series not involving the Blue Jays I'm looking most forward to:

August 3-5 Houston Astros @ LA Dodgers
A rematch of the World Series, this series pits the high octane offense of the Houston Astros against the pitching of the LA Dodgers. The World Series back in October proved to be a back and forth series where no lead was safe. This season Houston will have Justin Verlander in their rotation and he will have had lots of time to get comfortable pitching in Houston. Expect this series to be another exciting back and forth series.

September 28-30 NY Yankees @ Boston Red Sox
The Yankees and Red Sox will meet in the final weekend of the season in what could be a preview of the divisional playoff series. The Red Sox have been knocked out of the divisional round the pasty 2 seasons and the Yankees barely missed the world series last season. This season the Yankees added even more power to their lineup with Giancarlo Stanton. The Red Sox might added JD Martinez but currently their strength is the small ball and good pitching.

April 24-25 Chicago Cubs @ Cleveland Indians
This series is a rematch of the 2016 World Series where the Cubs won in dramatic fashion in extra innings of game 7. The Cubs are a different team this year minus closer Wade Davis, who signed with the Rockies in the off-season. Starter Jake Arrietta is currently unsigned as well. None the less, the Cubs are still a team that will compete for the NL Central title. The Indians were eliminated in the divisional round by the Yankees last season. They have largely the same team as in 2016. These two teams also meet May 22-23 @ Wrigley Field

22. One team that would appear to have a limited window to win is the Washington Nationals, The Nationals are your prototypical hard luck team. They can't seem to get past the divisional round of the playoffs. The past 2 seasons saw them lose to the LA Dodgers (2016) and Chicago Cubs respectively. The pressure to win now is immense with Bryce Harper eligible to be a free agent after this season. Starters Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg can opt out of their contracts after the 2019 season. Further, players such as Daniel Murphy and Ryan Zimmerman are in their 30's and their stats can start dropping off anytime. It is interesting that the Natonals signed Miguel Montero to a minor league contract. Montero  struggled as a Blue Jay after being released by the Cubs for throwing his pitchers under the bus. Expect the Nationals to make the playoffs but lose in the divisional round yet again.

23. The Cleveland Indians are another team that can win now. Two years removed from their last World Series appearance, the Indians are currently the team who has gone the longest time between World Series wins (1948). Last season from August 24-September 24 they lost just twice, including a 21 game win streak. The Indians boast a superior lineup that can hurt you in so many different ways, the long ball or small ball. Last season Jose Ramirez finished 3rd in AL MVP voting and he won the Silver Slugger award for 3B in the AL. DH Edwin Encarnacion proved he still has pop in his bat with 38HR in 2017. If the Indians lead after the 6th inning it is pretty much lights out. The Indians are led by ace Corey Kluber who won the 2017 Cy Young with an 18-4 record and an AL-best 2.25 ERA, 5 CG, three of which were shutouts. Carlos Carrasco had an 18-6 record and a 3.29ERA. Cody Allen saved 30 games last season and Trevor Miller was lights out with a 1.44 ERA and 2 saves. The Indians will be tough to beat in 2018.

24. Can Devon Travis. Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki stay healthy this season? Travis missed the bulk of the season with a bone bruise in his knee, Tulowitzki went down with a broken ankle in August and Josh Donaldson has struggled with calf injuries the past 2 seasons. When all three are in the lineup, the Jays usually have a good chance to win. I suspect Tulo is likely to play the most of the three while Devon Travis is most likely to spend time on the disabled list. Toronto has an artificial surface and that can be hard on the joints. The Blue Jays opted not to re-sign Darwin Barney so Yangervis (brought in via a trade with the San Diego Padres last month) and Aledmys Diaz (traded from St Louis 2 months ago) will see playing time when Donaldson, Tulo and/or Travis are not in the lineup

25. I expect the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals to make a big push for the NL West and NL Central crowns respectably. The Giants made a big splash this off-season trading for Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen. They also signed Austin Jackson.The Giants rotation looks solid with Lefty Madison Mugarner, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija as starters 1-3. The big question will be can the Giants protect a late lead? In St Louis, last season ended with disappointment at missing the playoffs. The 2017 canpaign got off to a terrible start when top prospect Alex Reyes required Tommy John surgery without even throwing a pitch in 2017. Dexter Fowler had a disappointing season in his first year as a Cardinal batting .264 with 18HR. The Cardinals bolstered their roster by signing Luke Gregerson and Miles Mikolas. They also traded for Marcell Ozuna. Reportedly the Cardinals are strong candidates to sign free agent Eroc Hosmer, who would give them a solid LH bat in their lineup. The NL Central will be close again this year and expect the Cardinals to be in it right to the end.

26. How many players will be caught taking performance enhancing drugs this season? With the Olympics just 2 years away, a positive test could impact Olympic rosters. So far mainly just minor league players have been suspended for taking performance enhancing drugs. Last season, Starlin Marte and David Paulino (both at the time on major league rosters) were banned for 80 games each. Steve Delabar and Jaire Jurrjens (in the minors at the time of suspension) were also suspended 80 games apiece. P Joe Colon was suspended for the remainder of the season July 1st, or 82 games. The IOC has zero tolerance on drug use and athletes are suspended for life often.

27. Speaking of the Olympics, will the MLB send players from Major league rosters to Tokyo? The NHL is not allowing anyone currently on an NHL contract, including those in the minors, to compete in the Winter Olympics. In 2008, the last time baseball was an Olympic sport, only minor league players were allowed to participate. I can see both sides of the argument for playing or not playing players on major league rosters. On the one hand, fans want to see the best players at the Olympics. On the other hand, if a team's star player got hurt, that could greatly impact the team for multiple seasons. Say, for example, the Blue Jays Marcus Stroman blew out his elbow pitching for team USA, the Blue Jays would lose him for the remainder of 2020 and most if not all of 2021. The timing of the Olympics would be a factor as well. The Summer Olympics are held in August and if the league stopped for 2 weeks, they would have to either reduce the number of off days or extend the season by a couple of weeks if they played a full 162 game schedule. More than likely, teams will only release players currently in the minors.

28. players who should never be selected for the hall of fame: Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina. Curt Schilling, Manny Ramirez, Barry Bonds, and any player who has ever tested positive for steroids.

29. The San Francisco Giants are retiring Barry Bonds #25 August 11. I personally don't think he should get that honor because he was suspected of taking steroids. In fact, his HR record should have an * next to it. By retiring Bonds' #, the Giants are telling future players that it is ok to cheat.

30. MLB records that will never be broken: longest hitting streak (56 games, held by Joe Dimaggio), stolen bases in a single season (136, held by Rickey Henderson), most strikeouts in a single game (20, done by Max Scherzer in 2016, Kerry Wood in 1998 and Roger Clemens in 1996 and 1986)