If this is how a rebuild is supposed to go, then count me in

So it has been awhile since I did a baseball blog, and today is June 1st and already 1/3 of the season is over.

At the beginning of the season while I thought this Brewers team is not going to be a playoff team, I thought they would be better than many people think. I was not buying that this is instantly a 100 loss team.

The defense and fundamentals are much better than last year’s debacle. And they still (while not playoff contending) do have talent on this team.

I challenge each and every Brewers fan to just enjoy each game. Don’t worry about Wins or Losses and how many games this team is back out of a playoff spot. One thing I notice is this team puts bad (and yes there have been some stinkers) losses behind them and always competes each and every game. That is all you can hope as year one of the rebuild is underway.

Here are some good observations about this team I have notice in April and May:

Defense is much better. While they sometimes make boneheaded mistakes and bad decisions (which I admit does get to me), there are not the worst defensive team in the majors. Surprisingly their rival The St. Louis Cardinals earn that distinction and which is probably why A: They hover near .500 and B: Are and probably will be the best 3rd place team in baseball.

Jonathan Villar

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Milwaukee Brewers

Who is this guy we got from Houston? Apparently one of the top 5 Shortstops via his stats in the MLB. There is becoming talk that this guy should be placed in the All-Star game. With his batting average a little over .300 at .308, his OBP at .412 and 19 stolen bases, we may have found our new lead off hitter. This also gives time for Orlando Arcia, the highly touted and long awaited SS to get some seasoning in AAA before being brought up. If Villar can figure out how to play 3B or 2B, then we may have a surprising IF piece in the start of our rebuild.

Jimmy Nelson

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After a year of figuring things out in the majors, Jimmy Nelson already looks like a solid #2 or #3 piece that you can build the rotation around. One important thing that I notice about Nelson is whenever he gets into trouble, he has figured out how to limit and even in some cases eliminate the damage. I do think the guy has an outside chance of being a potential Ace in the making.

Josh Hader

Milwaukee Brewers non-roster invitee Josh Hader, points to help his catcher field a wild pitch, Wednesday, February 24, 2016, in Phoenix. Arizona.(Photo/Roy Dabner) ORG XMIT: RD037

Have you heard of him? If you don’t keep up with the minors, you probably have not. I suggest you keep an eye on the minor league teams. This is one of the reasons why I don’t think this rebuild will take as long as many think.

Hader is one of the pieces we got back in return from the Gomez and Fiers trade. This guy is legit and he is a southpaw. In AA this year he is 1-1 with a 0.88 ERA in 10 starts. Hader is the one to watch out for. While he still is probably 1-2 seasons away, if Hader keeps this up, we could have a nice 1-2 combo with him and Nelson.

The Veterans

BREWERS-PIRATES. The Milwaukee Brewers Ryan Braun, hits a three run homer in the first inning, driving in Rickie Weeks and Carlos Gomez in the first inning as the Brewers continue their dominance against the National League Central rival Pittsburgh Pirates, Sunday, May 15, 2011 at Miller Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Ryan Braun hit his National League-leading 12th homer, tripled and drove in four runs, helping a shaky Zack Greinke and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 9-6 Sunday for a three-game sweep.. Photo by MICHAEL SEARS/ Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Ryan Braun, Jonathan Lucroy, Aaron Hill, and Chris Carter:

The Brewers have leaned on these guys for a couple of reasons:

  1. Good clubhouse guys who can teach the young players how to play.
  2. Great possible trade chips.

Who would have ever thought tons of teams would show interest in Ryan Braun. While people still don’t forget his PED suspension, he is batting an incredible .348 and showing good hitters can always figure out a way to hit.

Jonathan Lucroy is starting to heat up. After a quiet early start to the season he is now up to .299 and has a .355 OBP. Lucroy is one of the biggest trade pieces for the Brewers as his contract is very friendly through next season.

Aaron Hill has also showed signs he can still hit. Additionally his defense has been better than advertised. His batting average is up to .275.

Hernan Perez

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During the Cubs-Brewers game that last 13 innings I got really upset at Perez for his poor at bat with the bases loaded and nobody out. Maybe he heard me. Lately he is showing Detroit made a mistake letting him go through waivers. He recently is starting to draw more walks and additionally is showing signs of power. This could be the future 3B if or when Aaron Hill gets traded.

Here are some not so good observations during April and May:

Inconsistent. With any rebuild you will notice a team will show signs that in some games they can be really good and other games not so good.

The pitching was all over the place in April and has since showed signs that they can compete. Now recently the offense seems to be struggling. Big innings are few and far away. While this can be maddening sometimes, I have had to learn to let it go just like the team is showing a good example of doing.

Wily Peralta

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It was not too long ago that Peralta was close to a 20 game winner. Now, who knows what we have. I can’t figure out the issue and neither can Craig Counsell or the Brewers coaching staff. He has shown times that he could turn the corner but the minute you think he will, there is a major setback. Peralta has been a disappointment this season. While fans talk about moving him to the bullpen, the best you can do right now is keep him in the rotation. If he still can’t figure it out by July, then it might be time to make changes or even think about if he needs a change of scenery through a trade.

Outfield

Minus Braun and Domingo Santana, the Brewers Outfield situation looks like a work in progress. Guys like Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Keon Broxton, and Ramon Flores bring good things to the table, however nobody has been solid enough in hitting and fielding to take over the position of CF. Alex Pressley has been nice however he is much suited as a bench player. This will remain a work in progress.

Overall, if you are a fan of baseball, you always want your team to compete every day. And Craig Counsell has this team fighting and playing hard. They are also quite fun to watch if you can let the bad play go. It’s all you can ask for a team in year 1 of their rebuild.

North of the Border baseball:

In April I was in Toronto and was able to see Rogers Centre for the first time in my life! What a cool stadium and atmosphere. It reminded me a little bit of how Miller Park is structured. If you love baseball like me and have a bucket list of visiting every stadium during your lifetime, I suggest if you find good airfare, update your passport if needed, and take a trip there.

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Best NCAA Championship Game of All Time?

I don’t know long term, but right now I see points of those who argue it.

Every year when you might have any doubt that this tournament is the best playoff system in all of professional and collegiate sports, it gives you something you have never seen before:

Side note: Isn’t it just great that Bill Raftery calls the NCAA Final Four on TV? His reaction was genuine and priceless. ONIONS!!

As soon as I saw the last shot, all of could think of was this, which is the last time a NCAA Championship ended on a last second shot.

What will go down as one of the most chaotic tournaments perhaps ever, had as fitting ending as you will ever see in sports.

And somewhere in America, the piccolo girl’s tears of sadness last year was not in vain.

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Piccolo Girl Story

Piccolo Girl Story 2

Notice the team Villanova lost to. It is moments like this which is the reason why we love sports!!

Historic First Round Friday and it may only be the Beginning…..

It’s been awhile since I posted a blog. This is actually my first blog posting of 2016. There are so many reasons why so many people, both sports fans and non-sports fans can never get enough of March Madness. It creates a playoff format where every one of the 64 teams each has (as equal of a chance as you can get) to win a National Championship game. It makes stories that no movie, TV show, or book can ever duplicate. Expect the unexpected is a understatement.

With this year’s parity in college basketball, before the tournament started on Thursday, I predicted that this year’s tournament will be one of the most chaotic in years. Boy was I right. It was more chaotic than I ever thought it would be.

Things turned on Thursday when this happened:

However it was only the appetizer of what was to come.

Friday March 18, 2016 may go down as one of the craziest and most entertaining round 1 days in the history of this tournament. Since no words can describe it, I will be mostly using videos and pictures to describe all that happened:

Practically everyone’s bracket gets officially destroyed at this point by MTSU vs a favorite national champion pick in MSU

Controversy in Temple vs Iowa. Offensive Foul or no foul on Iowa? No foul was called. Iowa wins.

SF Austin’s Thomas Walkup becomes a household name

Before I get to Northern Iowa vs Texas, here is how UNI got into the tournament by winning their conference:

Then they topped it with this in Round 1:

Which caused me to do this again….

 

WTF Face

And almost immediately after that happened, this happened which needs no explanation:

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One week earlier this happened to the Bearcats to cause them to lose their conference tourney in 4 overtimes.

It’s why this is the best playoff system in sports. One play can make you feel like this:

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or like this:

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Win and survive. What a game!

 

2015 was a great year in music

Uptown Funk

2015 might have been the first time in recent memory where I put away my favorite music from the 80s and 90s & listened to more current than past hits. Last year started the trend towards better music, and this year was a great music year in recent memory!

According to Nielsen, Top 40 radio is having a resurgence as the most popular radio format among the 18-34 and 25-54 crowd.

http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2015/tops-of-2015-audio.html

http://www.allaccess.com/net-news/archive/story/148897/nielsen-news-talk-top-40-most-popular-radio-format

 

Music is actually back to being fun to listen to again. This year’s top hits remind me of the days in the 80s and 90s when you heard a song for what it should be: Fun to listen to, have lasting power, & most importantly define a time period.

2015 also reminds me of the 80s and early 90s where you mention a song, and a majority of the people around you would say, “hey I know that song and I like it. This is my favorite one at the moment!”

It also is not hurting that many of the top hits this year have a very late 80s/early 90s retro sound to it.

Note: Remember Daft Punk “Get Lucky” back in 2013? The trendsetters who always seem to define what music may sound like years after they put a song out, may have done it again!!

Below are some of top hits of the year from the Top 40, Rhythmic, & Dance charts (courtesy of Mediabase) that are among my favorite this year! Also I will unveil my personal Top song of 2015!! Full chart is available at http://www.allaccess.com/mediabase/q/report/yearToDate/format/H1/panel/R (Free Registration Required)

Top 40 Charts

1 Mark Ronson f Bruno Mars Uptown Funk   -How could you not like a song that channeled its retro sound and made it sound not only fresh for 2015, but paid homage to those great funk songs of yesteryear!

2 Walk the Moon Shut Up and Dance   -This song was so catchy it got the ladies on the dance floor and the men following them!

3 Jason DeRulo Want to Want Me   -Jason DeRulo was back with a vengeance!

4 Maroon 5 Sugar   -Another retro sounding song that topped the charts from one of the most popular groups of this decade.

5 The Weeknd I Can’t Feel My Face   -When you first heard this song, I am sure some of you thought they uncovered a unreleased Michael Jackson song. Another retro sounding song and was one of the Top chorus anthems of 2015 along with Shut Up and Dance

Rhythmic Charts

1 Fetty Wap Trap Queen  -When I first heard this song, I was like WTF?? No denying that 1738 has been one of the top catchphrases of 2015!

2 Omarion Post to Be

3 Natalie LaRose f Jeremih Somebody

4 The Weeknd Earned It  -Who would have ever thought the song would get better reviews than the awful movie? And no I have not seen the movie, only heard how bad it was from word of mouth

5 Nicki Minaj Truffle Butter  -Raise your hands if you were blasting this song before you looked up the definition in Urban Dictionary……….

Dance

1 Major Lazer Lean On  –DJ producing top hits have defined this decade and that is fine with me. Keep it coming!

2 Armin Van Burin f Mr. Probz Another You

3 Audien f Lady Antebellum Something Better  – Always great when artists from different genres crossover on songs. This defined music this year and hope this continues.

4 Calvin Harris Outside   -Calvin Harris still as popular now as he became back in 2011

5 Tiesto & KSHMR Secrets

Honorable Mentions

Ellie Goulding Love Me Like You Do

Taylor Swift Style

Taylor Swift f Kendrick Lamar Bad Blood    -She has had a great two years. Her 1989 album defined this updated version of the retro sound that has top the charts.

Omi Cheerleader  – With songs like this, music is fun again!

Fifth Harmony f Kid Ink Worth It

Selena Gomez f ASAP Rocky Good for You  -More Hip-Hop artist collaborating with Pop artist has been a big trend for 2015.

Tove Lo Talking Body    -Sexiest song of 2015.

Pitbull Time of Our Lives

Taylor Swift Blank Space

Nick Jones Jealous

The Weeknd The Hills

Justin Beiber What Do You Mean    -It’s OK to like a Justin Beiber song. Trust me. Sorry might even be a better song It is currently the last Top 40 song to hit #1 in 2015!

Hozier Take Me To Church     -A song discussing faith can even be a big hit in 2015!

Demi Lovato Cool for the Summer   -Song=Summer of 2015!!

DJ Snake & AlunaGeorge You Know You Like It   -See more thoughts later in this blog.

Andy Grammer Honey I’m Good    -This song has some soul & good feeling to it!

Fl0-Rida GDFR–    Florida ummm I mean Flo-Rida was back in 2015 with more party anthems and my guess is My House will be one of the top hits of 2016!

Alessia Cara Here–   Wow, she came out of nowhere in the mid-late 2015 with an R&B smash.

Drake Hotline Bling   -Drake proving time and time again that he can appeal to all audiences. He even had Donald Trump dancing to this in a SNL skit.

Selena Gomez Same Old Love   – The older Selena is the more catchy her songs get

Ariana Grande & The Weeknd Love Me Harder

Adelle Hello    -One of the best voices in music today blew up with this song literally overnight

Rachel Platten Fight Song

Lillywood & Robin Schulz Prayer in C

Mr. Probz Waves

Chris Brown & Tyga Ayo

Jidenna Classic Man   – Fun & catchy hip-hop. Reminds me of the early 90s

Ne-Yo She Knows      -Simply a great voice over a great beat

Kid Ink f Dej Loaf Be Real    -Midwest Hip-Hop may be back for good!

David Guetta f Nicki Minaj Hey Mama

Rich Homie Quan Flex   -Ooh Oohh  Ooohhhh. Like I said earlier, fun Hip-Hip is back.

Big Sean f E-40 I Don’t F with You    -One of the Top Hip-Hop catchphrases of 2014/2015!!

Rihanna BBHMM     – You could argue the answer to Big Sean’s song above and another one of the Top Hip-Hip catchphrases of 2015!!

Silento Watch Me   – The top crossover anthem of 2015 that brought everyone together on the floor!! Oooo Watch Me watch me Ooooo watch me watch me….

Jeremih Don’t Tell ‘Em

Beyonce 7/11

IloveMakenon f Drake Tuesday   -The song that made it OK to party….. on a Tuesday!

Tech N9ne Hood Go Crazy

Rae Sremmund f Nicki Minaj Throw Some Mo   – Congrats for not becoming a one hit wonder.

Nelly f Jeremih The Fix   -Remember what I said about Midwest Hip-Hop making a comeback?

Trey Songz About You

Big Sean f Drake Blessings   -Midwest Hip-Hop w a side of Canadian…….

Rihanna/Kanye West/Paul McCarthy FourFiveSeconds   -Who would ever thought Paul McCarthy would collaborate with 2 major hip-hop artists. More of this please!!

Skillrex & Diplo f Justin Beiber Where Are You Now  -There is that concept of artists crossing over on a song again

KYGO Firestone

Galantis Runaway (U & I)

Zedd Beautiful Now

Martin Garrix f Usher Don’t Look Down

Zedd f Selena Gomez I Want You To Know

Martin Solveig & GTA Intoxicated –  For those of you Cubs fans who don’t know, this song was one of Anthony Rizzo’s walk-up songs. You welcome!!

Calvin Harris f HAIM Pray to God

And here is my favorite song of 2015:

DJ Snake f AlunaGeorge I Know You like It

 

This song defined the year in my opinion.  I Know You Like It was originally was released in 2011. This year’s version was a  collaboration between AlunaGeorge and remixed by DJ Snake.

The song is my top song for 2015 because

  1. It has great lyrics –
    Some people want me to be heads or tails
    I say no way, try again another day

    I should be happy, not tipping the scales
    I just won’t play letting my life get away
  2. An awesome hook
    You know you like it but it drives you insane
    You know you like it but it drives you insane
    You know you like it but you’re scared of the shame
    What you want, what you gonna do?
    You know you like it but it drives you insane
    Only because you know that you wanna feel the same
    You know you like it but it drives you insane
    What you want, what you gonna do?
  3. Lets you escape into the beat for the last part of the song.

It was also big enough to crossover on the top 40, Rhythmic, and Dance charts. Let’s hope more of this type of music continues in 2016 making next year as great as this year was!!! Happy New Year!! Wishing you all the best in 2016!!

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World Series Preview

New York Mets vs Kansas City Royals All games on Fox

It has now come down to two teams. The New York Mets who many said would not even make it to the playoffs and the Kansas City Royals which was a big pick to repeat back to the World Series.

For the Mets let’s just say Daniel Murphy has had quite a October, in some respects being called “Babe Murphy.”

USP-MLB-NLCS-CHICAGO-CUBS-AT-NEW-YORK-METS-76811106

Which team has the edge to win the World Series and be declared best in the world? Here is my preview:

The Mets will win if:

Their pitching continues its dominance that has carried them through the NLDS and NLCS. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Sydergaard, and Steven Matz are many of the reasons why the Mets are where they are. One of the best performances in the playoffs was when deGrom out pitched both Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.

Also the Mets will win if Curtis Granderson (The Pride of University at Illinois-Chicago) can be the all around player he was during the NLCS, Yoenis Cespedes can be clutch, and Daniel Murphy continues his epic Home Run streak he is on.

The Mets will lose if:

They revert back to the hitting team they were before the July 31st trade deadline, and their young pitching loses steam through pitching so many innings this season (keep an eye on Matt Harvey).

The Royals will win if: 

They continue to play these playoffs like it is personal. There following videos show how they act like they have a chip on their shoulder and something to prove.

I think part of the reason why the Royals got to where they are is because of how they play. From the time they looked like they were set to be eliminated in Game  4 of the ALDS, the Royals play like they are in any game no matter the lead of or inning of the game. The balance attack of hitters like Eric Hosmer who can hit it out of the park along with the speed and contact of hitters like Lorenzo Cain need to continue their never say die swagger. Also, Johnny Cueto has to pitch like he is capable of pitching.

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The Royals will lose if:

Ned Yost makes questionable decisions like he was widely criticized last year. This year has been a different story. He has not really made much headlines. As a former Brewers fan, it is crazy to think he could arguable be called among the best managers in baseball currently, however there is no denying the fact that he always seems to have his players going all out for him.

The Royals will also lose if they struggle offensively just as much as the Cubs did. The difference between the Cubs team that was shut down completely offensively and the Royals team is that the Royals can change their offensive personality depending on the game. They are able to play for contact and hit for power, forming a more balanced attack. Additionally, if the Royals continue to allow Daniel Murphy to beat them, they won’t be finally getting that elusive title.

Verdict: What a trip we have been on during these MLB playoffs. We have had exciting games, great pitching performances, home runs that immediately changed the game, and unfortunate miscues that was the difference between moving on and sending people home.

Even though some people may not watch this series because their favorite team is no longer playing, I would challenge the baseball or sports fan in you to watch this series. On paper, this could be a epic series. The Royals last year in game 7 was one of the best closings to a World Series in recent history. They were 90 feet away from tying the game in a winner take all moment. You can’t get much better than that.

This year’s World Series has the chance to top that. Daniel Murphy two weeks ago was not a household name. Today he is. Lorenzo Cain added to his legacy by his (first base to home) game winning scoring run in game 6 of the ALCS.

Players have made these 2015 playoffs must see TV and I expect nothing more or less now. While the Mets have proved everyone including me wrong knocking off two favorites to get to this place, I just think that experience wins in the World Series as was proven by the Giants last year.

Kansas City has been there, had an off season to think about going back and was determined to make this season a World Series or bust campaign. They are 4 games away from completing that goal, and I think they have the most balance attack offensively and defensively to finally bring home its fans a winner for the first time since 1985. They also have the starting pitching and bullpen to do it as well.

Two years ago, many people would have never thought they would be here, and now they are my favorites to win the World Series.

Kansas City in 6

 

 

 

NLCS Preview

Chicago Cubs vs New York Mets TBS

The Chicago Cubs have all the momentum coming into this series. Before losing to St. Louis on October 9th, the last time the Cubs lost was back on September 26th. That was also the last time they lost two in a row.

Watching the game on last Monday, someone asked me why am I giving the Blue Jays so much love offensively but not the Cubs? Well, for the season, the Cubs ranked #16 in runs scored per game (4.25) while the Blue Jays ranked #1 (5.50).

2015 MLB Runs per game

As this article below defends me, the Cubs offense for much of the 1st half of the season always had trouble scoring runs. It was not until they promoted Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, and Addison Russell to the majors that the offense took off. More on why 2nd half stats are important shortly. Unfortunately the loss of Addison Russell hurts the Cubs offensively and defensively.

BLOGSCHWARBER-tmagArticle

Cubs Offense Concern 1st Half of season, now a strength

Pitching wise: Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta. These are simply the reasons why the Cubs are where they are and they need both to step up in order to take them where they want to go.

About that bullpen and my term for it #bullpenroulette. Maybe one Pedro Strop is reading my blogs.

On a serious note, he certainly shut me up last Monday and Tuesday. Good for him. Still the term sticks because while Trevor Cahill pitched fantastic in game 3, he blew the save in game 4. The #bullpenroulette term sticks with me and they win despite that. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it so I will keep saying it.

The Cubs will win if: The offense continues on the tear that it is currently on, Lester and Arrieta pitch like they are capable of pitching, and the bullpen limits the amount of mistakes they give to the other team.

The Cubs will lose if: They stop hitting, and begin to pitch poorly obviously. Also, the bullpen is key in this series. The Cubs will get good pitching from its starters and I doubt they will be shut down again like John Lackey did in game 1 of the NLDS. Joe Maddon obviously can trust Trevor Cahill and Travis Wood which is why they were used so heavily in the NLDS. Unfortunately this is a 7 game series and you can’t keep going to the same well and expect the same results. Others will need to step up. It would be a shame if the bullpen is what keeps this team from a birth.

For the New York Mets, much will be said about losing the season series 7-0 vs the Cubs. Don’t let that stat fool you. Both teams played before the trade deadline as mentioned in this article.

Mets Season Series vs Cubs

Only 4 players in the current Mets lineup played against the Cubs in their head to head series.

David Wright, Yoenis Cespedes, Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Conforto are now in the current lineup for the Mets.

And let’s talk about Cespedes for a moment. Much has been said about the Cubs callups but since the July 31st trade deadline, this player has completely changed the face of the offense for the Mets.

The Mets pitching has also been a strength. All of their starters are legit which includes Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Matt Harvey.

On average good pitching stops good hitting. Mets top to bottom have the better pitching. We shall see.

The Mets will win if: Cespedes and the Mets offense can win in multiple ways, out-slugging Chicago and outplaying Chicago in small ball. Also, the Mets win if their pitching grows up before our eyes.

The Mets will lose if: That highly touted great pitching the Mets have can’t stop the offensive zone the Cubs are in.

Verdict: Would I like to see the Cubs win their first trip to the World Series since 1945? Yes. Am I all into the aura that is from the movie Back to the Future, the 19:08 military start time of the NLDS, and any other coincidence that could prove the stars are aligning to make this happen? No. Just not that superstitious.

Like the ALCS, these teams are very even which makes it hard on who to pick, but also makes for exciting baseball which so far has exceeded expectations.

I still do not trust the Cubs bullpen. Hey, if they prove me wrong again, then props. Til then this is a toss-up and I think the Mets just have a little bit more consistency.  The Mets-Dodgers series was also the only series I was wrong about in these playoffs. Hopefully my Cubs friends won’t get upset for me picking this.

Mets in 7

ALCS Preview

The 2015 Postseason which has been the best top to bottom in years heads to the League Championship Series. Tomorrow I will preview the NLCS.

Toronto Blue Jays vs Kansas City Royals Fox/FS1

The Toronto Blue Jays are coming off one of the craziest 7th innings to decide a game ever. I wrote enough about that in my last blog. For the Blue Jays, they are probably from April to October, have the best offense and power as ranked #1 during the season at 5.49 per game.

2015 MLB Runs per game

As we saw on many occasions with the ALDS, they are always in the game with that offense. Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion, and Jose Bautista is as formidable as any team left.

Pitching wise, while David Price did not have as good of a game in the start he had, I think at times his trade in July overshadows the fact that Marco Estrada, RA Dickey, and Marcus Stroman have been effective as well.

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The Blue Jays will win if: Josh Donaldson proves again why he is in the running for AL MVP, David Price pitches like he did during the 2nd half of the season, and the Blue Jays offense top to bottom get in a hitting zone.

The Blue Jays will lose if: The score stays low due to good pitching from the Royals, the hitters stop hitting, and they can’t emotionally move past their crazy come from behind ALDS game 5.

Can you believe that if anyone told you in 2013 that the Kansas City Royals would be the big team at the top of the AL defending its turf, I am sure many would laugh. In game 4 of the ALDS, I think Kansas City proved itself that they are good, 2014 was no fluke, and they will be a tough out because they do not quit. While many will argue the decisions of its manager Ned Yost at times, this team has a balanced attack. Oh and Monday during their comeback 8th inning they did it without hitting a home run.

That’s not to say that they can’t. Eric Hosmer can be as clutch as the best of them with his insurance HR in the 9th inning of the game 4 ALDS.

hoz

Their balance attack of speed and power also includes Ben Zobrist, Alex Gordan, Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, and Jarrod Dyson to name a few.

And let’s not forget a veteran like Kendrys Morales. You could tell the ALDS Game 5 was over once he hit that HR.

The Royals will win this series if: Their balance attack keeps hitting, they don’t get into a slugfest, and Johnny Cueto and the Royals pitching staff can limit how many times the ball does not leave the ballpark.

The Royals will lose this series if: They simply try to outslug Toronto. While Kansas City can hit home runs, they are better suited at playing small ball. Also the Royals bullpen has to step up and play better than it played at times during the 2nd half of the season.

Verdict: If you thought the Rangers-Blue Jays series was intense, you have not seen anything yet. Much will be said of the NLCS series due to the Chicago Cubs (rightfully so), however this series has all the makings of being epic and a classic. Look at what happened in a regular season game August 2nd:

 

 

The Royals claim they will not shy away from pitching inside, and the Blue Jays as seen on Wednesday will let them know they do not like it. While I will never advocate for benches to clear especially in the playoffs, it will not be surprising if it happens a few times in this series.

For me, this series has to go 7 games. It was exactly 30 years ago in 1985 these teams both met for a trip to the World Series, and this could be another major chapter in both teams playoff history. Still, I slightly like the Toronto Blue Jays offense a little bit more than the Kansas City pitching. I think that will be the difference since Toronto is never completely out of a game.

Blue Jays in 7.

Craziest 7th inning of all time?

What a Division series of games we are watching. Some of the best in a long time.

And Wednesday, we saw perhaps one of the craziest 7th innings of all time in MLB history.

I love this sport and when I don’t think I could love it anymore, the unthinkable happens.

What a game. Here is a couple great recaps that the box score does not do justice!

Top of 7th Play

Bottom of 7th Play

CBS Sports did a great recap, however if you can watch how it all took place in its entirety, I suggest searching for it!

Entire 7th Inning CBS Recap

NL Division Series Preview

Chicago Cubs vs St. Louis Cardinals All games on TBS

For the first time ever, one of baseball’s oldest rivalries meet each other in the playoffs for a trip to the NLCS.

The Cubs are ahead of schedule in their rebuilding plans to be perennial playoff contenders while the Cardinals are the veterans who are always in the conversation of playoff contention.

The only thing I know for sure is that at some point someone is going to get hit by a pitch. Hopefully unlike the Wild Card game it won’t turn into this.

Both teams have their strengths. The Cubs are the better road team, have the better younger talent (Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, and Anthony Rizzo), and have the better offense.

Cardinals have the better overall team pitching while the Cubs have Jake Arrieta.

For the Cubs to win this series, Jon Lester (who will probably pitch twice) needs to pitch like what his contract is worth. While at times he has shown signs of that, he is not the best pitcher on this team. Jake Arrieta is only available for game 3 and possibly game 5 in the bullpen (which I think this series will go to).

For the Cardinals to win this series, they need to score much more consistently than they have had all year. For a team that won 100 wins which was the most in the majors, they were one of the worst scoring teams in baseball ranking 24th (0ut of 30) with 647 total runs (averaging 3.6 runs per game).

Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright are also big wild cards (no pun intended) in this series. If they play anything like they do when healthy, St. Louis will be a tough out. Wainwright will pitch out of the bullpen.

You also have to be concerned about the unpredictability of the Cubs bullpen which I have titled “bullpen roulette” since they are inconsistent depending on the day. You just don’t know what you get until you go to them.

Even Arrieta and Joe Maddon were honest in saying Wednesday they had no thought of using the bullpen. That is a telling admission that even the team knows the Cubs biggest weakness is their bullpen.

Since I am a rival of both teams, my heart says the Cubs because of the couple times St. Louis has broken the Brewers World Series dreams. My head says to go with St. Louis because you have to go with the team that always competes for a title, right? Brewers fans are split 50/50 on who they think will win this series and so am I.

Since I have to pick, and since all road teams have been successful so far in the playoffs for the first time since 1970, the slightest edge goes to the Cubs.

Cubs in 5

New York Mets vs Los Angeles Dodgers All games on TBS

East coast vs West Coast. Biggie vs 2 Pac, Atlantic vs Pacific, #1 Market vs #2.

Mets vs Kershaw and Greinke.

That is what I feel is the key in this series in a nutshell.

The Mets before the trade deadline had fantastic young pitching but could not hit to save their lives. They before the trade deadline were ridiculed for having both their 3rd and 4th hitter batting under .250 even to the point of sports writers suggesting that MLB should investigate them for not spending money on better talent.

Then the Mets had traded for Carlos Gomez, got mad it got linked to the media, claimed they never traded or were interested in Carlos Gomez, and ended up acquiring Yoenis Cespedes. The anemic offense got a huge lift and surged into the playoffs over favorite NL East pick the Washington Nationals.

The concern is that as recently as the 2nd to last game of the season, the Mets got no hit on their own field by Max Scherzer. The Mets will get that similar kind of pitching at least three times this series from Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.

Kershaw is quickly gaining the title of great pitcher in the season until the playoffs where he pitches like the Buffalo Bills teams of the early 90’s. He has something to prove. If this Dodgers team does not make it out of the Division Series, you also have to start questioning if Don Mattingly is the right manager for the job.

Saying that, I don’t think the Mets have enough offense to beat the tandem of Kershaw/Greinke 2 times over a 5 game series.

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Dodgers in 4

AL Division Series Preview

Texas Rangers vs Toronto Blue Jays FS1 & MLB Network

Rangers: Around July 30th when it was announced that the Rangers acquired Cole Hamels through a trade, many people including me were scratching their heads. The Rangers were 49-52 and 8 games out of first place. Many people thought this trade was for next year.

Quietly the Rangers got the last laugh as Hamels helped the team surge to not only make the playoffs but win he AL West title.

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This year has also be a year of revivals for the Rangers. Prince Fielder returned to form after being injured for the first time in his career last season. Also kudos to Josh Hamilton being given another shot with his former team after moving on from his personal issues.

Yovanni Gallardo also was a under the radar trade that worked for the Rangers. He will pitch in game 1.

Blue Jays: There is so much to say about this team. They are the most dangerous offensive team in baseball led by possible MVP candidate Josh Donaldson.

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And if you pitch around Donaldson, you have to deal with Edwin Encarnacion. And if you pitch around him, here’s Jose Bautista, and if you pitch around him, there’s Troy Tulowitzki who may fully return from injury.

Jul 5, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista (19) celebrates with third baseman Josh Donaldson (20) after hitting a two run home run in the fifth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

That’s not all. Through some trades that reminded me of the Brewers in 2011, they went all in acquiring David Price who goes on the mound in game 1.

Edge: You can argue that either team has better pitching. However for offense, there is nobody in this playoffs that has a deeper 1-9 lineup than the Blue Jays. Honestly there might not be any team this half decade. Good pitching does beat good hitting in the playoffs, but for the Rangers to win this series, they are going to need better than good pitching to really have a chance.

Blue Jays in 4

Houston Astros vs Kansas City Royals FS1 & MLB Network

If anyone would have told you in 2013 they knew that Houston and Kansas City would be in the playoffs today, they must be lying.

This series is why pure baseball fans love this sport. This series will be exciting on so many levels.

Houston: The Astros have a great core of young players (Correa, Altuve) and some veteran guys like Mike Fiers and Carlos Gomez who were acquired from Milwaukee. Also you can’t forget Scott Kazmir who was acquired from Oakland who will pitch in game 3. One thing that the Astros proved back on Tuesday is that this team is not afraid of the big stage. They appeared to easily outplay the Yankees to move on to this series.

Kansas City: As a Brewers fan, I know Ned Yost very well from his days managing the team. He will drive you nuts with his (at times) stubborn baseball decisions, however you can’t doubt his players always wanting to play hard for him. Side note: Can you believe that in 2015, we are talking about a Kansas City Royals team that actually might be favored??

This team has a balance offensive attack that includes speed and power from Lorenzo Cain, Jarrod Dyson, Eric Hosmer, and Mike Moustakas. Johnny Cueto acquired at the deadline will need to pitch like he did earlier in the season. The Royals got him for the big stage so he will need to step it up.

Edge: Like I said with the Cubs and Pirates, the Astros and Royals are very even. Both have good pitching and timely hitting. The only difference is that Kansas City has the veteran experience now. They went through the AL playing in one of the most amazing playoff game in recent memory last year, and now have had a taste of the World Series.

They will be eager to return or this will be a disappointing season. The Astros were probably never expected by anyone to get this far, let alone a ALDS.  I think this series is the most intriguing from a pure baseball fan perspective and proves that smaller payroll market teams can succeed in baseball unlike some of the other professional sports. I see this series going the max.

Royals in 5

Coming up tomorrow: The NLDS Preview.

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