Author Archives: Matt Musico

Largest Contract in Franchise History for Each MLB Team

While there is unfortunately no baseball being played during the winter months, we normally have the Hot Stove to keep us warm with endless rumors and huge contracts being handed out by teams who will inevitably regret it. Until this past winter, that is.

The free agent market just wasn’t any good, and Yoenis Cespedes was the only player on the open market to secure a guarantee above $100 million (four years, $110 million, to be exact). Heck, we saw Chris Carter and Mark Trumbo, who led their respective leagues in homers last year, bring home a collective guarantee of just $41 million despite launching a total of 88 bombs.

This past winter was the first time since 2009 any team didn’t break a franchise record by rewarding a player with a monumental mound of cash. However, there’s been plenty of damage done in this category since the turn of the century.

Here are the players who have signed the richest contracts for each MLB team.

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2017 All-Value Team: Baseball’s Top Pre-Arb Players at Each Position

When it comes to the baseball diamond, we hear a ton about the ballplayers who are taking home the most money — whether it’s over the life of a certain contract or a singular season. After all, if we put together a lineup with the highest-paid players at each position, it’d be pretty expensive.

But with the youth movement that’s happening throughout baseball, there are a bunch of players providing top-tier production for just a fraction of the price.

Some teams have already locked up their young talent to extensions — Rougned Odor‘s deal with the Texas Rangers is the latest example — yet there are still plenty stuck in between while waiting to become eligible for arbitration. Until that happens, organizations can get an incredible deal when a player’s salary is compared to their actual on-field production.

With that in mind, we set out to find the game’s best pre-arbitration players at each position. The only criteria: they can’t be eligible for arbitration yet or be signed to a long-term extension. So, is this list somewhat subjective? Yes, it is.

Some 2017 contract figures haven’t been released yet, but we can at least make some rough estimates on what they will be.

Without further adieu, here is the 2017 All-Value Team.

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Troy Tulowitzki, Russell Martin Really Need to Have Strong Starts

Fresh off two consecutive postseason appearances, the Toronto Blue Jays are primed to compete for a spot in October once again in 2017. They’ll be doing it with some fresh faces, though.

Edwin Encarnacion and his powerful bat were a huge part of those two playoffs runs, but he plays for the Cleveland Indians now. The Blue Jays re-signed Jose Bautista, but have also brought in Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce to make up for the void Edwing has left in the lineup.

His absence will put some pressure on other parts of the offense, like Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin, who Roster Resource projects to hit fifth and sixth in the order, respectively.

While the starting rotation was surprisingly great last year, the offense collectively struggled over the first two months, posting a 90 wRC+ in April and 97 wRC+ in May before finishing with a mark of 102 for the entire season. The offense has to get off on the right foot this year to prevent another slow start (12-14 record on May 1 last year, 29-26 on June 1).

Tulowitzki and Martin will need to be a big part of that.

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Which MLB Teams Have Been in the Playoffs the Most This Century?

The 2017 MLB regular season is on the brink of getting underway, which means it’s another chance for team’s to re-write their history by making a deep run into October. Spring Training and Opening Day are the best times to be optimistic about that possibility — no matter how unrealistic it may seem for certain clubs.

But who could really use a fruitful playoff appearance the most?

A lot had been made throughout 2016 about the Chicago Cubs and the 108-year championship drought they finally ended against the Cleveland Indians last November. No professional sports team can come close to that kind of postseason misery, and we’re not going to try and compare anything to it.

We already know that teams like the New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals rule their respective leagues when it comes to all-time World Series titles, and even just playoff appearances in general. But since we’re well into this century, it’s a perfect time to take a quick look back at recent postseason history.

Below is a table ranked by a team’s number of postseason appearances. It also shows the year of their most recent postseason appearance, along with their number of trips to the World Series and whether or not they’ve brought home any titles.

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Nick Castellanos’ Improved Speed Could Lead to a Breakout Season

It appeared as though the Detroit Tigers were going to strip their squad down as much as possible this past winter. And after shipping Cameron Maybin to the Los Angeles Angels at nearly the first chance they could, he seemed to just be the first domino to fall.

Until he wasn’t. More or less, he was the only domino to fall.

Despite general manager Al Avila’s strong words and tons of trade rumors, they couldn’t even find someone willing to pay the price for J.D. Martinez, which shouldn’t have been shocking.

Now that Maybin is gone, it leaves a void in the second spot of manager Brad Ausmus’ order. That’s always an important spot, but it’s even more important when it’s followed by hitters like Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez.

J.D. Martinez was reportedly the early favorite to take that spot, but he’d rather hit lower in the lineup. One person who does want to hit second, though, is Nick Castellanos. He’s not a prototypical no. 2 hitter, but he’s the perfect fit for this club.

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Eric Hosmer Must Stop This Trend to Truly Unlock His Power

The 2017 season is a critical for not only the Kansas City Royals, but also for first baseman Eric Hosmer. It’s his final year prior to hitting free agency, and he’s already built an impressive resume with his seventh big league season on the horizon.

After all, not many players can say that they’ve won three Gold Gloves (in consecutive years), appeared in an All-Star game (and took home MVP honors) and played in two World Series. Oh, and one of those trips to the Fall Classic ended with a bunch of champagne in his eyes.

While Hosmer claims to have never mentioned wanting a 10-year contract, it sounds an awful lot like something his agent, Scott Boras, would be asking for. He’s notoriously been one to set an exorbitant price for his clients, and someone eventually buckles more times than you’d think.

But will an organization buckle for someone like Hosmer? He’s put together a great resume thus far, but the journey into free agency this past winter for two reigning home run champions in Mark Trumbo and Chris Carter showed us that teams aren’t quite valuing players the same anymore.

And honestly, if one concerning trend continues into this season, it’d be surprising if Hosmer gets offered anything close to a 10-year deal.

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The AL West Race Is Full of Questions in the Starting Rotation

What’s the key to an MLB team beating out their competition en route to securing a division title? There are a lot of variables that go into a potential postseason run, but it’s almost always centered around pitching — both effectiveness and relative health.

Something that gets overlooked from last year was the incredible continuity the Chicago Cubs and Toronto Blue Jays had in their respective starting rotations — they were both top five in fWAR thanks to finishing first and second in total innings pitched. They accomplished that because each squad boasted five hurlers with at least 29 starts.

Virtually no teams can depend on that kind of consistency throughout the regular season.

Every division race has questions about pitching, but it seems like the American League West is just oozing with uncertainty in each of the team’s starting rotations — whether they’re a contender or not.

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Is Nelson Cruz Showing Any Signs of Slowing Down?

Like a fine wine, Seattle Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz has gotten better with age.

He had consistently been a force in the middle of the Texas Rangers’ lineup since becoming an everyday player in 2009, but he’s gone to another level in recent years.

The slugger never collected fewer than 22 homers or 76 RBI in a single season with Texas, but also never hit more than 33 dingers or drove in 90 runs while playing over 128 games just once.

Things have taken off since leaving the Lone Star state, though. Between his age-33 and age-35 campaigns, he’s enjoyed three straight 40-plus homer and 90-plus RBI performances.

In fact, his 127 homers during this time is the most in the majors and his 306 RBI are seventh most.

While entering 2017 as a 36-year-old will raise some eyebrows with what we know about aging power hitters, he’s still expected to be a major run producer in the middle of Seattle’s lineup.

Besides age, have there been any signs of decline that we can see?

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The 10 Best Cy Young Performances Since the 2000 Season

While there’s a certain amount of joy in watching two baseball teams slug it out for nine innings, not much can beat a good old fashioned pitcher’s duel.

The game hums along at a nice pace (the commissioner definitely likes that) and every play — whether it’s someone collecting a base hit, stealing a bag, executing a hit-and-run, making a play in the field or something else — gets magnified along the way.

Hitters are forced to face a lot of failure on any given night, and the chances of coming up empty always skyrockets when one of the league’s top hurlers toes the slab. Especially when they’re in the midst of a Cy Young season.

Every award-winning performance is a special one for pitchers, but they’re not all created equally. Since the dawn of the new millennium, we’ve been blessed with some truly dominant pitching performances, but which ones have been the most dominant?

Using FanGraphs’ version of WAR (referred to as fWAR here), we ranked the 10 best Cy Young seasons since 2000 (there was a tie at no. 10, so we handed it to whomever compiled their respective fWAR in the fewest number of innings).

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Jonathan Schoop Needs to Stop Swinging So Much

Every successful big-league hitter goes down their own path toward becoming productive at the plate, but the method in which that happens is normally rooted in plate discipline.

It takes certain players longer than others to make improvements in that area, but when the light switch goes off, everything falls into place — they start hitting the ball hard with more frequency and see a rise in multiple offensive categories. Or, if they were already an established hitter, something unexpected could result from it, like an increase in power.

Jose Altuve and his unique 2016 campaign is a great example, but that’s not the only way a hitter can find success — sometimes, being more aggressive is the key, like it was for Robinson Cano.

However, a lack of plate discipline can also prevent some from potentially taking their game to the next level, and that’s what’s happening to Baltimore Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop.

Compiling a career-high 647 plate appearances in 2016 enabled him to set a few personal highs in various offensive categories, like in home runs (25), doubles (38) and RBI (82). But despite ranking amongst the top-7 among qualified hitters at his position in each of those categories, his wRC+ (97) and fWAR (2.0) don’t even rank among the top 15.

The key to watching his offense kick it up a notch is by improving that plate discipline.

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Wil Myers Can’t Keep Disappearing on the Road in 2017

The 2016 season was one Wil Myers and the San Diego Padres had been waiting for.

After failing to play in more than 88 games during each of his first three MLB seasons, the outfielder turned first baseman suited up for a career-high 157 ballgames and earned his first-ever All-Star selection last year. It seems as though this kind of performance took forever, but that happens with top prospects — we hear about them for so long that we forget how young they actually are.

Myers is a perfect example — he’ll be just 27 years old on Opening Day with the sky being his limit as he prepares to embark into the physical prime of his career. San Diego is very much in the midst of a rebuild after selling off most of their MLB talent, but the front office wants to build around their first baseman.

At least, that’s what it seems like after the two sides agreed on a six-year, $83 million extension this past winter instead of going through the arbitration process.

But while his overall stats from 2016 make it appear as if he’s arrived, it wouldn’t be telling the whole story.

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Ranking the Worst MLB Teams From Each Season Since 2002

By the time each MLB season comes to its conclusion, there are only certain things we remember. Our thoughts are mostly dominated by who just won the World Series or how our favorite team performed. Unless it directly impacts us, we rarely remember who exactly was the worst team in baseball for any given year.

Win-loss record and winning percentage are what’s mostly used to determine who takes home this dubious honor — along with the top overall pick in the following summer’s draft — but it should go a little deeper than that.

So, while taking this particular trip down memory lane, we felt it was more appropriate to use run differential as the determining factor, which is the number of runs a team allows subtracted by the number of runs they score. After all, the whole point of baseball is to score more runs than you allow each night.

More often than not (11 out of 15, actually), the worst record in baseball was accompanied by the worst run differential, but there were a handful of times when a team didn’t accomplish both.

Below are the worst teams in terms of run differential from each season since 2002, ranked from least to most soul crushing.

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5 MLB Starting Pitchers Who Need to Build off a Strong Second Half

With Grapefruit and Cactus League games officially underway, everyone in baseball gets that coveted clean slate. The 2017 season presents endless opportunities for players and teams, no matter how good or how bad 2016 was to them.

Some are taking the field with the hopes of completely changing the narrative surrounding them, while others simply want to continue showing the progress they displayed just a few months ago is indeed the new normal.

The MLB regular season is a grind — as if 162 games in about 180 days doesn’t say that enough — and quick starts don’t always mean certain performances are sustainable over the long haul. The same also goes for poor starts, too.

The five starting pitchers below each saw their respective 2016 campaigns start on the wrong foot, but that didn’t stop them from having a strong finish in the second half.

Now, they’ll each try to use that momentum to produce from start-to-finish this season.

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Jean Segura Isn’t the Only Hitter Fighting Regression Following a Unique Performance

After being a pleasant surprise at the plate for the Milwaukee Brewers during the 2013 season, Jean Segura‘s production completely went down the drain — until he got a fresh start in 2016 with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

He didn’t earn an All-Star selection for his efforts, but it was such a unique performance that the Seattle Mariners acquired him in one of the 1,000 trades they made this winter.

How unique was it, exactly? Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto accurately put the middle infielder’s accomplishments into perspective to Bob Dutton of The News Tribune:

“The year that he had is one of just five seasons in this century where a hitter was able to throw out 200 hits, a .300 batting average, 20 home runs, 40 doubles, 30 stolen bases and 100 runs scored.”

Since he literally doubled his wRC+ (63 in ’15 to 126 in ’16), there’s a lot of attention on Segura with his new team. Is this the type of hitter they can expect to see moving forward? Dipoto said himself that given the rarity of this particular performance, it wouldn’t be realistic to expect it to be sustainable.

While Seattle’s new shortstop is one of just five players this century to produce like he did in the above six categories, he wasn’t the only hitter to do it in 2016 — Jose Altuve also accomplished the same feat.

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MLB’s 10 Best MVP Seasons Since 2000

What makes a player so valuable?

The answer to this question varies depending on the person asked. However, it always becomes a hot-button topic of debate in baseball throughout the latter part of every season when discussing potential National League and American League MVP candidates.

We’re not here to discuss the definition of Most Valuable Player, though. We want to know which players have put together the best overall seasons while earning the award since 2000.

The best way to figure this out is by using Wins Above Replacement (WAR). While the statistics shown below focus on offense, WAR takes a player’s offensive and defensive contributions into consideration before providing an overall value for their performance.

FanGraphs’ version of WAR (referred to here as fWAR) will be the metric used to create our rankings. The definition of “Most Valuable Player” may forever be up for debate, but there’s no debate in figuring out which MVP winners have enjoyed the most success since the turn of the century.

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Is Matt Kemp’s Late-Season Revival With the Braves Sustainable?

Matt Kemp isn’t the MVP-caliber ballplayer he used to be with the Los Angeles Dodgers earlier in his career. Despite that, the Atlanta Braves have high expectations for the right-handed hitting outfielder in 2017.

Those expectations aren’t coming without them getting a glimpse of what he could do for the offense, though.

After the San Diego Padres shipped him to Atlanta at last summer’s non-waiver trade deadline, Kemp was one of the reasons behind the Braves offense going from being historically awful to finishing as a top-performing unit.

His arrival also spurred a personal boost in production — he hit 23 homers in 431 plate appearances with San Diego, but produced just a 102 wRC+. Once the trade took place, that number jumped to 120 in 241 plate appearances (while hitting 12 more homers).

Yes, the Braves are technically still rebuilding, but with a new ballpark opening and their flurry offseason moves, they’re aiming to at least be competitive this year, and Kemp’s performance will play a significant role.

The big question with Spring Training now underway is whether or not his two-month stretch of above-average offensive production is sustainable for an entire season. If it’s going to be, he may need to make a few changes.

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Todd Frazier’s Goal for This Season Should Be Pretty Simple

When the Chicago White Sox acquired third baseman Todd Frazier from the Cincinnati Reds last winter, the organization’s goal was to find some lineup protection for first baseman Jose Abreu. Frazier responded with a power surge he hadn’t yet experienced during his young MLB career, but didn’t do much else outside of that, leading to a rather mediocre overall performance at the plate.

Given the lackluster free agent market this winter — especially at third base — one would assume that a player fresh off a 40-homer, 98-RBI season like Frazier would’ve been a hot commodity on the trade market.

That wasn’t the case, though, and the rebuilding White Sox still have him on their roster with the hopes he can improve from the 102 wRC+ and 2.4 fWAR he produced in 2016.

Where exactly can Frazier’s game improve? There’s not always a simple answer to a question like that, but he needs to stop hitting the ball in the air so freakin’ much.

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Can These 11 MLB Hitters Continue Making the Most of Their Fly Balls in 2017?

You’d be hard-pressed to find a baseball fan who doesn’t dig watching home runs. If you indeed dig them, the 2016 season was one of the best years to track the long ball in recent memory.

There were 111 different players who reached the 20-homer plateau, which is a new record and a substantial increase to 2015, where only 64 players slugged that many baseballs over the fence. The most beautiful part of it all? Not all 20-plus homer hitters are created equally, which we’ve touched upon a couple of times this winter.

While they can also happen on line drives, the home runs usually result from fly balls. Obviously, for someone to accumulate a lot of round-trippers in any given season, a healthy fly-ball rate (FB%) is necessary.

So, it makes sense as to why 100 of the above players produced a fly-ball rate in 2016 north of 30% (including 53 with a fly-ball rate of at least 40%). That also leaves us with an interesting group who didn’t put the ball in the air as frequently, and they probably wouldn’t mind it happening again in 2017.

Here are the 11 hitters who managed to enter the 20-homer club last year without a fly-ball rate above 30%.

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Christian Yelich Is an Under-the-Radar NL MVP Candidate in 2017

Making a name for yourself in the Miami Marlins outfield in recent years hasn’t been all that easy, but Christian Yelich has found a way to carve out some attention for himself in South Beach. Probably not enough yet, though.

It’s tough when Giancarlo Stanton grabs headlines every time he punishes a baseball, or when Marcell Ozuna‘s name is either swirling in trade rumors or being called out at the All-Star game.

Yelich quietly goes about his business on a daily basis, and while he may not generate the most headlines, he’s probably the most valuable outfielder on the Marlins’ roster.

After posting a 4.5-fWAR season in 2014, he didn’t progress like Miami hoped in 2015, producing just 2.4 fWAR. He flipped the script back in a positive direction last year, though.

He didn’t earn an All-Star selection, but posted a 4.4 fWAR, won his first Silver Slugger award and placed 19th in National League MVP voting. Climbing up the ranks in this award category won’t necessarily be a walk in the park — after all, that Kris Bryant guy is still pretty good, as is his teammate in Anthony Rizzo, along with other studs like Corey Seager and Freddie Freeman, just to name a few.

Although he’s fresh off a career year, Yelich is exactly the kind of player that can come out of nowhere to be a legitimate candidate for the award in 2017 because there’s still a ton of room for improvement in his game.

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Colorado Rockies Missed a Golden Opportunity With Mike Napoli

The Colorado Rockies haven’t experienced a winning season since 2010 and haven’t participated in the playoffs since 2009, but that hasn’t stopped them from making some bold moves this winter.

Bringing Bud Black on as manager to replace Walt Weiss was the first domino to fall before they did some free-agent spending. Colorado then signed Ian Desmond to a five-year, $70 million deal to further bolster the offense, along with fortifying the bullpen with Mike Dunn (three years, $19 million) and Greg Holland (one year, $7 million).

Combine this with a young core that includes Jon GrayNolan ArenadoDJ LeMahieuTrevor Story and a few others, and the Rockies are indeed set up to attempt making a run at the postseason in 2017. With Spring Training approaching quickly, the heavy lifting of their offseason is done.

However, given the state of this winter’s free agent market, they missed out on a unique opportunity to acquire a veteran player who’d help them both on the field and in the clubhouse.

No, I’m not talking about catcher Matt Wieters — they could’ve really used first baseman Mike Napoli, who finally just agreed to a one-year deal with the Texas Rangers.

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Boston Red Sox Need Consistency From Xander Bogaerts in 2017

The Boston Red Sox had one of MLB’s most potent offenses during the 2016 season, which was made possible because of a relentless lineup.

Anchored by the insane final year of David Ortiz’s career, manager John Farrell also had the joy of having Dustin Pedroia, a resurgent Hanley Ramirez, out-of-nowhere production from Sandy Leon, a full-year breakout from Jackie Bradley Jr. and an MVP-caliber season from Mookie Betts on his lineup card each night.

He also watched a stellar season from his young shortstop in Xander Bogaerts.

After hitting just 7 home runs to go along with 35 doubles in 2015, he tapped into some of that power potential by slugging a career-high 21 over the fence this past year, while his doubles output basically remained the same (34). This was also accompanied by a decent uptick in OPS (.776 to .802).

Despite 2016 serving as a breakout of sorts for Bogaerts, it didn’t come without the frustration of a prolonged slump that began in the middle of June and carried through to the end of the regular season.

So, what happened?

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Rougned Odor’s 2016 Performance Was Awfully Unique

The 2016 season was a fascinating one for Texas Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor, and contrary to popular belief, it has nothing to do with punching Jose Bautista. What actually made it fascinating was the connection between his power production and plate discipline (or lack thereof).

Through 632 plate appearances last season, Odor hit 33 home runs while drawing just 19 walks, giving him a HR/BB ratio (1.74) that has an interesting spot in history.

While that in itself is impressive, it’s only the beginning. When looking through his FanGraphs page, a few things caught my eye:

— His 47.3% pull rate was one of the highest among qualified hitters in 2016.

— His 35.4% hard-hit rate was also among some of the best in the league.

— His minuscule 3.0% walk rate was the lowest among all qualified hitters last season.

Considering how he arrived at his numbers (.271/.296/.502 with 33 homers, 88 RBI and a 106 wRC+), I was curious as to whether or not the above profile was a common one in recent years. Using FanGraphs’ splits leaderboard, I set out to find all the hitters who had at least 400 plate appearances with a walk rate less than 5.0%, a hard-hit rate greater than 35%, pull rate of at least 45% and 20-plus homers in a single season.

As it turns out, these results have been produced just three times since 2002: Khalil Greene in 2007, John Buck in 2010 and Odor in 2016. That’s it.

How do these performances compare to one another? And, more importantly, how did Odor arrive in this exclusive club after his third big-league campaign?

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2017 All-Money Team: The Highest-Paid MLB Players at Each Position

While it may not feel like spring is on the way in certain parts of the country, it’s closer than you think. Why? Well, the start of Spring Training is less than three weeks away, and we all know that the mere sight of players on a baseball field gives people the warm and fuzzies — no matter what the thermometer says.

Another year of MLB action means there will be lots of money earned by the league’s best players. But who gets the honor of being the top earner at their position this season? That was a question we wanted to answer with the 2017 All-Money team.

Thanks to Spotrac, it was easy to check out the payroll salaries at each position to see who is bringing home the most bacon over the next few months. Here’s a squad that would be pretty darn good overall, but just a tad bit expensive.

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The Los Angeles Angels Have Had a Great Offseason

Outside of watching Mike Trout dominate on a nightly basis, there wasn’t much else to be happy about in 2016 with regard to the Los Angeles Angels.

They went a disappointing 74-88 and missed the playoffs for the fourth time since 2012, which was Trout’s rookie season. To make things worse, it’s also been hard to feel optimistic about the organization’s future in recent years.

It’s getting better, though.

ESPN’s Keith Law (subscription required) no longer views them as baseball’s worst farm system, but coming in 27th out of 30 teams isn’t anything to party about. On the big-league level, big contracts to C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver have come off the books, leaving just one more year of paying Josh Hamilton and another five years (womp womp) of Albert Pujols.

Without the financial means to throw money at a free agent or the farm system to offer a boatload of intriguing prospects in a trade, general manager Billy Eppler had to get creative this winter, which is exactly what he’s done.

Are the Angels now playoff contenders? Probably not, but they look better on paper for 2017 than they did in 2016.

Let’s see how much of a lift the roster could have with a series of moves that haven’t grabbed a ton of headlines over the past few months.

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The Texas Rangers’ Outfield Has a Ton of Questions With 2017 on the Horizon

If the general premise of this sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve talked about this before.

On the heels of the Texas Rangers returning to the playoffs in 2015, I noticed they had similar roster uncertainties in advance of 2016. All they did once Opening Day rolled around was win the American League West with ease by posting an AL-best 95-67 record.

While they proved to be masters of winning one-run games, having just a +10 run differential made some wonder if they’d be able to hang in the playoffs. And before there was an answer, they were packing up for the winter after getting swept by the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALDS.

The 2017 season is fast approaching, and the AL West will be interesting to follow. After all, Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto won’t stop making trades and the Houston Astros are doing whatever they can to make Sports Illustrated look like a bunch of geniuses.

The Rangers still have some roster questions to answer ahead of Spring Training — like, is this Mike Napoli reunion happening or not? — but one area that’s set is the outfield.

Texas will go to battle with 21-year-old Nomar Mazara in left, Carlos Gomez in center and Shin-Soo Choo manning right. This looks good on paper, but it’s far from a sure thing judging from each player’s recent history.

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Robinson Cano’s 2016 Season Was a Flashback to His Yankee Days

Handing out a lucrative, multi-year contract to a player is always risky for an MLB organization, no matter how much of a no-brainer it appears to be. That risk factor goes through the roof when it’s a 10-year, $240 million deal, like the one Robinson Cano signed prior to the 2014 season.

Outside of a dip in power, his first season in Seattle was a success. He hit .314/.382/.454 with 14 home runs and 82 RBI, producing a wRC+ of 137 and a 5.2 fWAR – the fifth consecutive year he surpassed 5.0.

It was the first half of 2015 when people likely started to freak out, to a degree.

He limped into the All-Star break with a lackluster triple slash of .251/.290/.370, accompanied by just 6 home runs, 30 RBI and an wRC+ of 86. Providing power as a second baseman had always been one of his best attributes, but a .118 first-half ISO showed that the only thing his power was doing was continuing to deteriorate.

Cano did start to look like himself again following the midsummer classic — he hit .331/.387/.540 with 15 home runs, 40 RBI, a wRC+ of 157, and most importantly, his ISO jumped back up to .209.

That second-half performance ended up being a sign of what was to come.

Were there any similarities between 2016 and his prime years in the Bronx from 2010-12 when Cano’s ISO never dipped below .214 while posting a .311/.370/.539 line with a combined 90 homers and 321 RBI?

Yes, but there are also some interesting differences showing how his game has transformed over the years.

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Who Were the Top-Performing Hitters at Each Lineup Spot During the 2016 MLB Season?

All baseball players – whether they’re amateurs or professionals – are creatures of habit. When you have a game to play every day, routines form (some on purpose, some by accident) and once a player notices those routines, they typically like to keep them as they are.

Advanced statistics have helped organizations and coaching staffs justify tinkering lineups on a daily basis, but one thing is for certain – most hitters like coming to the ballpark knowing exactly where their name will be penciled into the order.

It makes mentally preparing a lot easier, and they don’t have to wonder when they’ll get their first plate appearance of the night.

With that in mind, I was curious as to which hitters performed the best in 2016 at each particular lineup spot. The only criteria was sample size – 1-5 hitters needed at least 400 plate appearances to qualify, but it dropped to 250-plus for the six-hole and 200-plus for the bottom-third to generate players to choose from.

Here are your most dominant hitters at each lineup spot from 2016, ranked by wRC+.

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Carlos Correa Is the Most Important Part of the Houston Astros Offense in 2017

After ending their excruciating rebuilding process a year earlier than many expected with a playoff appearance in 2015, the Houston Astros were supposed to take another step forward in 2016, but it didn’t happen.

Jose Altuve put together an MVP-caliber performance, but Houston experienced regression from some of its young core and ultimately couldn’t overcome a 7-17 start. Their 4-15 record against the Texas Rangers didn’t help, either.

One of those young players who experienced a bumpy year was shortstop Carlos Correa.

Now, it’s tough to say a player who posted a 122 wRC+ and a 4.9 fWAR had a bad year, and Correa didn’t have a bad year – it just wasn’t what the organization was likely hoping for.

After an active offseason (which still may not be finished), expectations are high for the Astros to return to October. There are plenty of important offensive contributors on the roster, but Correa just may be the most important of all.

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MLB’s Best Hitters in Each Inning During the 2016 Season

According to Earl Wilson, the game of baseball is simply a nervous breakdown divided into nine innings. Regardless of the team you root for, just about every fan can relate to that in some way.

While it takes a full nine innings – or, nine nervous breakdowns – for a game to be complete without suboptimal weather sabotaging it, there are countless moments within each inning that can alter the eventual outcome, whether it’s in the top of the first or bottom of the ninth.

With that in mind, I was interested in finding out which hitters mashed the most in each inning throughout the course of 2016. Thanks to FanGraphs’ Splits Leaderboard, it was pretty easy to do.

Using the very arbitrary benchmark of 80-plus plate appearances for the first through sixth innings, 50-plus plate appearances for the seventh through ninth innings and 20-plus plate appearances for extras, below are the top three hitters from every inning in 2016, based off wRC+.

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It Shouldn’t Be Surprising That J.D. Martinez Is Still on the Detroit Tigers

Talking a big game and actually backing it up with action are two very different things. Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila has certainly learned that lesson throughout this offseason.

Almost immediately following the conclusion of Detroit’s regular season schedule, Avila was clear that “changes are coming” in the way the organization conducts its business. Also, since they have been working “way above” their financial means for a while, the goal was to start getting younger.

Obviously, that meant being open to potential trades for just about anybody to clear some payroll. The selling started by shipping Cameron Maybin to the Los Angeles Angels, and then… things halted.

Detroit’s biggest stars – Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlandersaw their names briefly pop up in the rumor mill, but they died down quickly. One available player who seemed all but traded was J.D. Martinez, and it wasn’t hard to see why.

But here were are, with the holidays over and 2017 officially upon us, and he’s still a member of the Tigers. It doesn’t look like he’s leaving anytime soon, either.

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