Starting Pitching Will Decide the A.L East

 

 

There isn’t a better topic to get us back into writing about baseball than the Red Sox and Yankees rivalry. Both teams made significant splashes during the off-season and brought in new managers. It’s a two-team race and the Red Sox are trying to win the American League East for the third straight year.

I believe the division title will come down to the starting rotations of both teams. Offensively, the Yanks add Giancarlo Stanton to an offense that scored the second most runs (858) in the American League. Stanton comes to New York off a career season (59 home runs) to a team that led the American League in home runs (241). There is no question that the Yankees will have a top three offense in baseball but fans should not expect there offense to be the reason they win the division. Last season, the Red Sox ranked sixth in the A.L. in runs scored (785) and last in home runs (168). If the Red Sox were able to win the division in a season where their offense was below average, they should have a good shot to win the division adding J.D. Martinez to rejuvenate their offense. Both teams should have top 5 offenses in the A.L. but the offense won’t be the deciding factor.

I also believe the two bullpens are a wash when comparing the two teams. Last season, the Yankees led the A.L. in bullpen ERA (2.67) and had a K/9 of 12.09. The Red Sox bullpen was third with an ERA of 2.73 and K/9 of 10.56. Both teams have multiple power arms and guys who can get both lefties and righties out.

So let’s look at the starting rotations. The Yankees return everyone from a year ago. They are led by a 24-year-old ace who is coming off his first full big-league season in which he finished third in the CY voting. Severino threw 193.1 innings last year and it will be interesting to see how he bounces back after a full season, but I would expect Severino to have a similar season as last year. His ability to strike hitters out (10.7 K/9) allows him to work out of trouble. C.C. Sabathia is coming off a fantastic season in which he had his lowest ERA (3.69) since 2012. With Sabathia, the question is always going to be health as he is entering his 18th season in the league. Sonny Gray was not the pitcher the Yankees thought they were acquiring as he went 4-7 in 11 starts with a 3.72 ERA. Gray has not looked like the pitcher that went toe-to-toe with Justin Verlander in the playoffs over the past 2 seasons. Jordan Montgomery is coming off a rookie season in which he made 29 starts and gave the Yankees valuable innings. Montgomery is a left-hander sinker-ball pitcher and I think he could make a big jump this season. The X factor for the Yankees is Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka had such a confusing season because he had his worst season in the big leagues. He went 13-12 with a 4.74 ERA. It was weird because Tanaka had the highest K/9 (9.8) of his career but the strikeouts did not lead to success. Tanaka had 9 games where he gave up at least 5 runs. In the post-season, Tanaka looked like a different pitcher as he threw 20 innings and had a 0.90 ERA. If the Yankees get post-season Tanaka or anything close to that, they will have a good chance to win the division.

As with the Yankees, the Red Sox return their whole rotation as well. Chris Sale is coming off his first season with the Red Sox and it was a dominant season (2nd in the CY). Sale was dominant for most of the season, but it looked like the tall lefty was fatigued in September. Opponent batting averages were the following: April (.177), May (.215), June (.205), July (.167). August (.217), and September/October (.272). Sale was just not as sharp as he was earlier in the season and it might be in the team’s best interest to try to give Sale as much rest as possible early in the season. Rick Porcello followed up his CY in 2016 with an 11-17 season in which Porcello saw his FIP raise 1.20 from the previous season to 4.60. Either Porcello ran into bad luck last year or the 2017 Porcello is more like the real Porcello than the one that won the CY in 2016. Drew Pomeranz provided the Red Sox with a much-needed top of the rotation arm as the lefty made 32 starts and went 17-6 with a 3.32 ERA. Unfortunately, 2018 is not off to a good start as Pomeranz will likely start the season on the DL with an elbow strain. Another pitcher recovering from an injury is Eduardo Rodriguez. E-Rod is coming off off-season knee surgery but there is a good chance he starts the season in the rotation. The wild card for the Red Sox rotation is David Price. Price missed almost all of the second half with an elbow strain until returning to pitch extremely well out of the bullpen in October. Price is only two years removed from finishing second in the CY. Price’s time in Boston has been interesting but if he is healthy, it will be fun to watch Sale and Price at the top of the rotation.

The best rivalry in baseball should heat up as both teams are stacked with stars and young talent. There hasn’t been this much excitement between these two teams since the 2004 post-season. If you put a gun to my head, I would probably pick the Yankees to win the division, but a case can be made for both teams. Let the games begin.

Mick

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A League with No CY?

 

Who will be the American CY Award winner this year? Through 4 months, it is very unclear as to who is the top pitcher in the American League.

Unlike most years, the 2016 campaign has been very interesting, especially in the American League. The A.L. has seen a lot of aces not pitch to their potential. Guys like David Price, last year’s CY Dallas Keuchel, Sunny Gray, and Felix Hernandez have all struggled for extending periods this season. There are only 4 pitchers in the American League that have sub .300 ERA’s. Heading into August, there is no clear-cut favorite for the award. The National League is the complete opposite. In the N.L, there are 15 pitchers with sub 3.00 ERA’s. So let’s take a look at who could be the potential CY in the American League.

First on my list would be Aaron Sanchez of the Toronto Blue Jays. Sanchez is 11-1 with a 2.72 ERA in 20 starts. His WHIP is 1.149 and his K/9 is 7.8. The 24 year-old is getting his first opportunity to pitch as a starter in the big leagues and is quickly becoming the ace of the Toronto staff. The problem with Sanchez is he has an innings limit and most likely will be moved to the pen sometime in the next month. I say let him pitch, monitor how he feels, and throw this innings limit crap out the limit.

Chris Sale is next on my list due to his strong start. He started the season 9-0 and was dominating hitters. Sale has not been the same dominant starter that we saw in the first two months of the season. He had a 3.93 ERA in June and has a 4.85 ERA in July. Despite his recent struggles, he is 14-4 with a 3.17 ERA. He does have a 1.029 WHIP and an 8.6 k/9. Sale will need a good 2 month stretch to secure the CY award.

Danny Salazar would be third on the list. He is quickly becoming one of the top righties in all of baseball and was selected to his first All-Star team this summer. He is 11-3 with a 2.97 ERA in 19 starts and has a 1.205 WHIP and 10.1 K/9. I think Salazar has the best chance to be the CY heading forward because he has been consistent all season long. Also, the Indians are going to be in contention for the A.L. Central which should help his case.

Could Cole Hamels be the guy? He is 12-2 with a 2.84 but I feel like no one talks about him. He is having a very solid season in Texas but he is not dominating. There are three starters that are all having similar seasons. Rick Porcello is having a bounce-back season at 14-2. Chris Tillman is 14-3 for the Orioles. J.A. Happ is 14-3 as well but I don’t think any of these three starters are poised for a CY award. There is still plenty of games left for these pitchers to improve upon their resumes.

The A.L. CY award race is wide open. There is not a favorite as of now to win the CY or a pitcher who has separated himself from the rest of the field. It will be an interesting final two months of the season.

Is Velocity or Aggressiveness the Problem for David Price?

 

Yesterday was another bad outing for the Red Sox ace David Price. He only lasted 4.2 innings as he gave up 6 runs to the New York Yankees. Some fans may say that this is just another horrible outing from Price and others may say that he was two pitches away from getting out of jams and giving up 1 run. Either way, something is off for Price.

There has been a lot of talk about Price’s velocity so far this season as it is down about 1 mph over 7 starts from last season. Today, I think he topped out at 92 mph. It’s strange seeing that from a guy who normally sits in the mid 90’s. After watching Price’s start today, I do not think the lack of velocity is the main problem. The main problem is the lack of aggressiveness. Multiple times today Price walked a guy after being ahead in the count 0-2 or 1-2. The main problem today is once he got ahead, he nibbled on the corner and missed by a few inches. It is much easier for hitters to hit when the count is 3-2 than 1-2. Didi Gregorius got price in the 4th when he lined a mistake down the right field line to clear the bases and Carlos Beltran drove in two runs after working the count from 1-2 to 3-2.

The problem today was that once Price was ahead in the count, he stopped attacking. The top pitchers in baseball are never on the defense. They are constantly in attack mode and besides the Atlanta start, Price has not been on the attack all year. It is possible that Price knows he does not have his usual fastball and does not want to attack but that cannot be his mindset. Price needs to get back to being the attacker for the entire at-bat. The next time Price takes the mound it will be the middle of May and he will have a 6.75 ERA! That is not going to get it done, especially when he is making 30 million dollars.

 

  • Last night Bartolo Colon became the oldest player to hit his first career home run at the age of 42 passing Randy Johnson in the record books when he did it when he was 40. If you have not seen the video yet, take a look.

http://m.mlb.com/news/article/176830856/bartolo-colon-hits-first-home-run-of-career

That was one of the best home run calls that I have heard in a long time by Gary Cohen. Bartolo is always entertaining when he steps into the batter’s box and I guess it was just a matter of time before this happened.

  • The Cubs beat the Nationals yesterday 8-5 to move them to 23-6 on the season. They are the first N.L. team to win 23 of their first 29 games since the 1977 Dodgers. The Cubs are running away with the division and it’s only May.

 

  • Chris Sale moved to 7-0 through 7 starts on the young season after beating the Minnesota Twins. Not sure this guy can be stopped right now

Weekend Review

 

Some thoughts about the weekend:

  1. The New York Yankees starting rotation needs help. Right now Tanaka has a 2.87 ERA and every other starter has an ERA over 5! That is not going to get the job done and it shows with their 8-15 record. Their offense has been scuffling and with that rotation, they do not have a winning formula.
  2. Chris Sale is an early favorite for the A.L. CY. Sale improved to 6-0 after his Sunday performance. He did not have his best stuff on Sunday but still only allowed 1 run in 5.1 innings. That’s what the best pitchers in baseball do: win games when they don’t have their best stuff.
  3. It’s only May 2nd but we need to give credit to the Philadelphia Phillies. who are 15-10. They have won 6 in a row and 9 of 10. In the beginning of the season, many thought the Phillies were destined to lose 100+. It still could happen but the young Phillies are competing and have no pressure other than show up and play.

 

Matchup of the Week:

Los Angeles Dodgers (13-13) at Pittsburgh Pirates (15-10)

Pitching Matchup of the week:

Tuesday: Steven Wright  (Boston) 2-2, 1.37 ERA

Jose Quintana (Chicago) 3-1, 1.47 ERA