Major League Baseball’s Review at the Two-Thirds Point

By Joe Hines
PSDC Staff & Chicago Guru

Mike-Trout

Major league baseball is at the 2/3 mark of the 2015 season and begs for a review. These are the dog days, heading into mid-August with sellers selling and buyers hoping to rent their way to top of the heap. Re: Toronto Blue Jays. [Read more…]

2015 MLB Predictions

By Joe Hines
PSDC Staff & Chicago Guru

mike-trout

Baseball season kicks off on Sunday night with the Cubs and Cardinals in the first ever opening night game at Wrigley Field. The Cubs are teeming with hope this year, as with every year. This year though, the hope actually has some actual talent with which to base itself on. This isn’t another Cubs story though, these are my predictions for the upcoming baseball season. Division races, wild cards and the World Series. As a bonus I’m throwing in the individual postseason awards. So sit back, take a look and then let me know what you think. Play ball! [Read more…]

2014 MLB Team Preview: Washington Nationals

By Keith Alrick
PSDC Writer

The Nationals enter 2014 trying to make up for failed expectations a year ago. Last year they were the preseason favorites to win the National League. Instead, they hovered around .500 for most of the season. Those failed expectations cost manager Davey Johnson his job. Former big leaguer, Matt Williams, is taking his place. He spent the last four seasons on the Arizona Diamondbacks coaching staff. This team needed to switch something up because there is way too much talent on the roster to not make the playoffs. First-year managers don’t usually get rosters with this much ability so it will be interesting to see how Williams handles it. It’s hard to determine how a new manager will affect his new team but one thing is for sure, I don’t think the Nationals will sit their best pitcher if they make the playoffs this time.

[Read more…]

PSDC Random Stat of the Day

By Johnny Griffith
PSDC Stat Man 

So yeah, Opening Day didn’t go quite the way I’d hoped it would for my Yankees, but as a consolation prize I got to watch my pick for NL MVP swinging his BOOMSTICK for the Nats.

Bryce Harper homered in each of his first two at-bats in the Nationals’ Opening Day victory over the Marlins, becoming the first player in major league history under the age of 21 to hit two or more home runs in his team’s season opener. Previously, the youngest player to homer more than once in an opener had been Don Money, who was 21 years, 305 days old when he did it for the Phillies in 1969.

Harper is only the third player to hit two homers in an opener the season after winning the Rookie of the Year Award. Carlton Fisk did it for the Red Sox in 1973 and Raul Mondesi followed suit for the Dodgers in 1995. Harper is the first player since Garrett Jones in 2010 to hit home runs in each of his first two at-bats of a season and the first player in Nationals/Expos history to do that. Only two other players in franchise history hit a pair of homers in a season opener: Al Oliver in 1983 and Vladimir Guerrero in 2000.

*Source www.espn.com

2013 MLB Team Preview: Washington Nationals

By Matthew Cafaro
PSDC Writer

Washington Nationals
Founded: 1969*
Division Titles: 2
National League Pennants: 0**
World Series Titles: 0 

2012 Record: 98-64, 1st Place in the NL East

Key Losses: Edwin Jackson and John Lannan
Key Additions: Rafael Soriano, Mike Morse, Denard Span, President William H. Taft

It’s (the real) Opening Day! Happy Opening Day, everyone! And with Opening Day, I present my final NL East team preview. The team I believe will win the NL East this year, the Washington Nationals.

The Nationals ended our long national nightmare last year, and finally allowed perhaps the greatest President in our nation’s history to finally win their appropriated (straight stolen, son!) mascot race. And now, they’ve added William H. Taft to the race, which is a strange choice. Not because, historically, Taft is one of the least remarkable Presidents in American history and a great disappointment to the aforementioned Teddy Roosevelt. No, it’s strange because all of the other Presidents represented in the race (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and TR) are on Mount Rushmore, meaning there is a theme to Washington’s President Races, which is now completely ruined by adding Taft to the mix.

It’s not like the Taft family was protesting nightly, demanding his visage be added to the race. So the Nationals have ruined a good (stolen) idea by trying to add too much to it.

Anyways… Milwaukee’s Sausage Race is better. Well, unless you’re Randall Simon.

The Nationals have the best combination of pitching and hitting in baseball. Like the Braves, they will strike out often, but they should finish with a higher team OBP than the breathtakingly free-swinging lineup that Atlanta has put together. Jayson Werth should hit for more power than he did coming off his broken wrist last year, and he’s always good in the field. With the Braves’ Johnny Venters perhaps starting the season on the DL, Washington should begin the year with the best bullpen in baseball, with Soriano closing and Drew Storen setting him up. Don’t expect to score on this team after the seventh inning. The ascendant is Bryce Harper, he of the immortal, “That’s a clown question, bro,” can afford to be a cocky so-and-so that many, many fans in opposing cities will hate, because he’s quite possibly the most naturally talented young ballplayer to come into baseball since Mickey Mantle. Well, he and Mike Trout. And I don’t see any outfield drainage grates appearing out of nowhere to send Harper spiraling down into a booze-filled depression any time soon, so National fans don’t have to worry about his career trajectory matching the Mick’s.

[Read more…]

Why the NL East is the Best Division in MLB

By Matthew Cafaro
PSDC Writer

I know ESPN, and even more reputable entities like Yahoo! Sports want you to believe the AL East or perhaps the NL West is the best division (or best two divisions) in baseball going into this year, but I’m here to tell you that is patently false and driven by hallow reasons like TV ratings and big-money free agents. The best division in baseball is the NL East, and much like the SEC in college football, they’re the best because they have two of the best teams in baseball leading from the top. What’s at the bottom (Miami) doesn’t matter, because what’s at the top (Atlanta and D.C.) is so good.

Think about it… is the AL East really the best division in baseball? Yes, everyone is saying Toronto is better (seriously, signing a pitcher closer to 40 than 30 is that big a deal?), but don’t they say that every year? Yes, Baltimore could perhaps make another run at a Wild Card, but do you trust that franchise with that owner to hold up under the strain of 162 games? Yes, Mo is back to close out games in the Bronx, but what is he now, 900 years old? Even Methuselah never had to come back from an ACL tear at that age!  Tampa Bay will do as Tampa Bay does: tease with great prospects, possibly make a run at the postseason, and then sell those young players for more, albeit younger and cheaper, prospects. And Boston, well, Boston still has insane chemistry problems and a question mark at manager. Ownership let Larry Lucchino chase away Theo and Tito and any other driving force that could take credit away from Larry Lucchino for those two World Series titles. They may have Dice-K’s money off the books, but they’re on the hook for something much worse: replacing the talent they shipped of last year.  In this division, the only real threat to actually win the World Series is the Yankees. And Mo isn’t the only old guy on the team. They’re all old and creaky, and dropping like flies in Spring Training. One team with a chance to win does not the best division in baseball make. This division is like Big Ten in college football. A lot of 10, 9, and 8 win teams that will beat up on each other and make it look impressive, but when they step outside of their own confines, they’ll have absolutely no chance of winning a title. [Read more…]

2012 NLCS: What Are You Guys Doing Here?

By Chris Patton
PSDC MLB Correspondent

“I’m not even supposed to be here today!” – Dante Hicks, “Clerks”

The line above, uttered repeatedly by the main character in Kevin Smith’s “Clerks,” can easily be applied to the 2012 National League Championship Series. The Giants and Cardinals weren’t supposed to be here. Where are the Reds and Nationals? [Read more…]

MLB Playoffs Preview: Intensity in 10 Cities, Volume I (National League)

By Chris Patton
PSDC MLB Correspondent

Under the new MLB postseason format, the intensity levels just got kicked up a notch in 10 different cities. With apologies to Ted Nugent, I decided to rank all 10 potential matchups in each league on a scale of 1 (matchup with the least history and backstory) to 10 (matchup with all the ferocity of a steel cage match between Hulk Hogan and “Macho Man” Randy Savage). [Read more…]

PSDC MLB Power Rankings

By John Imossi
PSDC Contributor

Here is the first edition of MLB Power Rankings on ProjectShanks.com…

30. Houston Astros: The Astros are trying to revamp their team as they prepare to jump to the American League next year.  The last of their useful veterans were traded away at the trade deadline to bring in prospects to help what had been a barren farm system. They now have plenty of flexibility going forward but are certainly the worst team in the league now.

29. Chicago Cubs:  Since arriving to be the general manager, Theo Epstein has been tearing down the Cubs in an effort to rebuild. Unlike the Astros, the Cubs were unable to get rid of all of their veteran contracts leaving them slightly better on the field, but a little behind with prospects.

28. Minnesota Twins: Once a shining example of how a small market team can succeed in Major League Baseball, the Twins have fallen on hard times. Justin Morneau has not been the same since suffering from a concussion two years ago and Joe Mauer, after signing a huge contract to stay in Minnesota, has been their sole offensive strong point. With a poor pitching staff to go with it, the Twins look to be the worst team in the American League.

27. Colorado Rockies: Decimated by injuries, the Rockies offense has been unable to lend any help to a pitching staff that has been downright awful with a 5.27 team ERA. Carlos Gonzalez has put together a strong season, but other than that this team is just waiting for the season to end.

26. Cleveland Indians: The Indians have seen Jason Kipnis turn himself into one of the better second basemen in the American League this year. Unfortunately there isn’t too much else for the Indians to brag about. With the worst pitching staff in the American League and bottom rung offense, the Indians have done well to keep themselves out of last place in the American League Central.

25. Kansas City Royals: The Royals have a lot of good young position players such as Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer but after showing up well last year both have struggled at times this year. The pitching staff could use some talent but the Royals are on course to be a good team if their prospects continue to develop.

24. Miami Marlins: In what was supposed to be a big year for the Marlins, it seems everything possible has gone wrong. Beginning with Manager Ozzie Guillen’s comments about Castro, things have gone downhill in a hurry. Heath Bell was given big money to be their closer and has been nothing short of a disaster.  Hanley Ramirez never seemed to be happy with being moved to third base and eventually needed to be traded.  The Marlins will need to do a lot of work in the offseason as they are a last place team that is now locked into a bunch of big contracts.

23. New York Mets: After a strong first half to the season, the Mets have fallen apart completely in the second half.. Johan Santana has been shut down for the season and RA Dickey is struggling while the offense has been anemic. There seems to be no relief in sight as the Mets continue to plummet to the bottom of the standings.

22. Philadelphia Phillies: The end seems to have come very quickly for the Phillies. With star players struggling all over the roster, the Phillies were sellers at the trade deadline for the first time in recent memory. With many older players locked into long-term contracts, this is a team at a crossroads who very well may need to get rid of players in the offseason.

21. San Diego Padres:  Petco Park has always caused the Padres to struggle offensively. Unfortunately with a pitching staff that is worse than mediocre, they have been unable to take advantage of their low-scoring home park. After trading away Adrian Gonzalez and Mat Latos, the Padres have put themselves solidly in rebuild mold. Until this point their talent has yet to show itself leading to a 59-70 record.

20. Milwaukee Brewers: After losing Prince Fielder in free agency, the Brewers offense was bound to suffer, but they managed to excel in this area as they lead the National League in home runs. Unfortunately their pitching staff has let this team down, especially in the bullpen where closer John Axford has had a horrific year. Playing in a division with two of the worst teams in baseball has kept the Brewers looking respectable, but if this team is to contend again they need to find some solutions for the pitching staff.

19. Seattle Mariners: With King Felix at the top of the rotation and a fantastic defense behind him, the Mariners are two-thirds of the way to a winning team. But the team’s offense has been so bad that they still seem miles away from being a contender as their 506 runs scored is ten less than the next worse team.  Although they are playing well lately, they will never be able to compete on a regular basis until they can give their pitchers some run support.

18. Arizona Diamondbacks:  The Diamondbacks have gotten a huge year out of Jason Kubel and seen Paul Goldschmidt begin to develop into a quality major league hitter.  The pitching staff has also been solid thanks to a very good year out of Wade Miley. They will probably be a little bit short this year but may develop into a dangerous team in the National League West within a few years.

17. Toronto Blue Jays:  In last place in a very tough American League East division, the Blue Jays have been plagued with poor pitching all season long. Injuries to star outfielder Jose Bautista and young third baseman Brett Lawrie hasn’t helped either. They have proven to be a tough team in the past and with better luck they certainly could be again in the future.

16. Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox’s season has been marred with controversy and infighting, now in 13.5 games out of the division lead and in fourth place it seems that the end is near. Rebuilding seems to be their new plan as they shipped off Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto.

15. Oakland A’s: The A’s have hung in the wildcard race to this point with their pitching, but with their ace Bartolo Colon being lost for the rest of the season because of a PED suspension it is going to be a struggle to remain relevant with an offense that is second-worst in the American League with 510 runs. Young pitchers Jarrod Parker and Tommy Milone have both had strong seasons raising hope for the future if some hitting can be found.

14. Atlanta Braves: While their offense has struggled at times this season, the Braves have had a very good pitching staff to fall back on. Even with a starting rotation that has seen Tommy Hanson struggle with a 4.40 ERA, the Braves still have the fourth best team ERA in the National League. This is thanks in large part to Craig Kimbrel and a very strong bullpen.

13. Pittsburgh Pirates: In the playoff hunt for the first time in many years, the Pirates are riding an MVP caliber season from Andrew McCutchen and a resurgent year from AJ Burnett. The Pirates have struggled lately but are still only in the hunt for a wild card spot.

12. Baltimore Orioles:  Fast starts are a common occurrence for the Baltimore Orioles. This year however they have managed to carry their momentum into the second half. While they are no longer really in contention for the AL East division, they currently hold the second wild card spot. Manager Buck Showalter is getting the most out of his young team and they should be contenders for years to come.

11. Los Angeles Angels: All the pieces are in place for the Angels and yet they do not seem to be the team they appear to be on paper. Their pitching staff has struggled as of late, allowing four or more runs in eleven of their past thirteen games, and now with Albert Pujols suffering from a calf injury their playoff hopes are in danger of fading entirely despite perhaps having the most talented team in the majors.

10. St. Louis Cardinals: The reigning World Series Champions lost their manager and their franchise player in the offseason and yet they are still in position for a wild card spot.  With the best batting average and most run scored in the National League, they will certainly be in the race until the end of the season. For a team that has come out of nowhere to win the World Series twice in the last decade, they are a team that bears watching.

9. Detroit Tigers: A team that has been unable to play up to its talent level all season long, the Tigers are in a bunch of teams that are in the running for the American League wild cards. With Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera in the middle of their lineup and Justin Verlander as the ace of the staff, they can be dangerous if they can overcome the bullpen woes that have hurt them so far.

8. San Francisco Giants: Pitching is the main component of every Giants team. While Tim Lincecum has been having a down year, Ryan Vogelsong, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner have more than picked up the slack. Losing Melky Cabrera to a PED suspension will severely hurt the Giants offense, putting even more pressure on the pitching staff.  With only a small lead on the Dodgers, the pitching will need to remain strong to capture the NL West.

7. Chicago White Sox:  With the rest of the American League Central struggling this season, the White Sox have played consistent baseball all the way to first place. While there is nothing overwhelming about the White Sox, they have been a solid, all-around team. Chris Sale has shown the potential to be a future ace, while Adam Dunn has bounced back from a historically terrible 2011 season to be a very productive hitter.

6. Los Angeles Dodgers:  Since changing ownership the Dodgers seem to be on a mission to add all the talent they can and are steadily making their way up the standings. They just added even more talent from the Boston Red Sox — Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto — combine that with the fact the first-place Giants have just lost their best hitter and they have a great chance to win the National League West.

5. Tampa Bay Rays:  It seems that the Rays are making the late season charge a regular thing. After going riding a hot streak of late, they are only four games behind the first place Yankees. Carried by a strong pitching staff with the best ERA in the American League (3.24) this is a team that is built to make a late season run.

4. Cincinnati Reds: The Reds have combined strong pitching with a powerful lineup to give themselves a commanding lead in the National League Central.  Johnny Cueto is establishing himself as an ace with a fantastic year, but the real strength of this team is the bullpen that is led by Aroldis Chapman and Sean Marshall.

3.  Washington Nationals: After years as a losing franchise, the Nationals have taken a huge step forward this year as their recent draft picks are looking like cornerstones for this franchise. With the best record in the majors and an outstanding starting rotation, they look like the team to beat for the pennant. If they can figure out how to get use out of Stephen Strasburg in the playoffs, they might very well be heading to the World Series.

2. New York Yankees:  After sitting comfortably atop the American League East for most of the second half, they are suddenly finding themselves in a race with the Rays. They have overcome injuries to many key players and still have played very well. Now with players such as CC Sabathia coming back from the DL, they look ready to be a force in the playoffs once again.

1. Texas Rangers:  Owning the best record in the American League, the Rangers have the best offense in baseball to go along with a solid rotation. After winning the American League pennant the last two years, they have all the playoff experience anyone could want.  If they can hold off the Yankees for the best record, they will be in great position for a third straight trip to the Fall Classic and ensure that the road to the World Series goes through Arlington.