MLB 2021 Predictions: National League

April is almost here, and when the month begins, so will the MLB season. Just like in my last 7 years writing this blog, I have put together predictions for the season. We only got 60 MLB games last year, but for this year we’ll have a full 162 game season. I just went on my cousin Michael Philipkosky’s podcast, the Master Plan, to discuss all 30 teams, with one episode for the AL and one episode for the NL. Monday, I posted the AL podcast alongside my predictions. You can check out the NL podcast here, and I have my full NL predictions below.

NL East

  1. Atlanta Braves (100-62, #2 seed)
  2. New York Mets (91-71, #5 seed)
  3. Philadelphia Phillies (89-73)
  4. Washington Nationals (82-80)
  5. Miami Marlins (78-84)

This might be the best division in baseball. The Braves and Mets will be competing for the division title most likely. Atlanta has a great duo of star hitters in first baseman Freddie Freeman and outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. Their rotation is also starting to come together between younger pitchers like Ian Anderson and veterans like Charlie Morton (signed this offseason). The Mets were purchased by Steve Cohen this offseason, and he told Mets fans that the Mets would leave mediocrity behind them and act like the big market team they are. Cohen hired a new GM, and the team made a ton of moves, highlighted by a trade for shortstop Francisco Lindor and starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco. You also can’t forget that they have Jacob deGrom who’s arguably the best pitcher in baseball.

That doesn’t mean the other teams won’t be competitive. It will be difficult to secure a playoff spot in the NL, but the rest of these teams will at least fail trying. Philadelphia has their flaws, but between outfielder Bryce Harper, first baseman Rhys Hoskins, and a nice top two starting pitchers in Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, they have a lot of talent. This should be a somewhat competitive team, but the bullpen among other minor problems could hold them back, similar to how the Celtics have struggled this season in the NBA. The Nationals experienced a World Series hangover last year, and I think they’ll see some improvement in 2021 even though that will be tough in this division. They brought in first baseman Josh Bell alongside outfielder Juan Soto and an amazing rotation. Washington has as much star power as most teams in baseball, but they lack the depth to make a run in this NL East.

The Marlins were the joke of the division back in 2019, but they saw many young pitchers break out and lead them to a 2020 playoff spot. The outfield has really come along as well with Adam Duvall joining Starling Marte and Corey Dickerson. I think the Marlins have definitely made progress in their rebuild, more so than the Tigers and Orioles who saw surprising starts to the season last year. However, it will be hard for Miami to make the playoffs again now that they are back down to 10 teams (you never know though).

Even though the Mets and Braves are frontrunners, I wouldn’t be shocked to see any of these teams in the playoffs.

NL Central

  1. Cincinnati Reds (88-74, #3 seed)
  2. St. Louis Cardinals (87-75)
  3. Chicago Cubs (80-82)
  4. Milwaukee Brewers (65-97)
  5. Pittsburgh Pirates (53-109)

I doubt more than one team makes the playoffs out of this division. Compared to the depth of the NL East and the star power of the NL West, the NL Central is not in a good spot. I think the Reds and Cardinals will be competing for that spot. The Reds lost starting pitcher Trevor Bauer, but the lineup is still strong and the rotation is still serviceable despite depth problems behind Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo. The Cardinals were already decent last year. Now they brought in star third baseman and MVP candidate Nolan Arenado. That could put them in a position to contend, but I still don’t see them dominating this division.

The Cubs were looking like they were in for a long rebuild after cutting contracts early in the offseason. However, after lots of rumors they decided to hold on to third baseman Kris Bryant and add some rotation depth. If they were trying to rebuild, they halted that effort. If they’re trying to contend, I don’t see them achieving that goal. The Cubs haven’t really chosen what direction to go in, and I expect that they will decide by the time the Trade Deadline rolls around. If not, they’ll be stuck in the middle for now.

The Brewers may have 2018 NL MVP Christian Yelich in their lineup, but this rotation is not anywhere close to the other teams in this division. They’ll need to add pitching before they think about contending again.

They’ll still be better than Pittsburgh, a rebuilding team in their own realm. They already traded first baseman Josh Bell and I bet outfielder Gregory Polanco will be gone by midseason. That will leave an inexperienced roster with no sign of improvement anytime soon. They’ll need some prospects to develop before they contend again. That development will start by letting the MLB ready prospects like third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes start.

NL West

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers (107-55, #1 seed)
  2. San Diego Padres (94-68, #4 seed)
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks (81-81)
  4. San Francisco Giants (77-85)
  5. Colorado Rockies (65-97)

The Dodgers are another team that will be in their own realm: a realm of dominance. This lineup is highlighted by outfielders Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger but has a lot of talent and depth around those two including Corey Seager and Justin Turner. The lineup isn’t even the best part here. The Dodgers have David Price, Dustin May, and Julio Urias competing for their final two rotation spots! That’s because they have Clayton Kershaw, Trevor Bauer, and Walker Buehler as their top three. No team in baseball has a rotation that can compete with that. The Dodgers are the closest thing I’ve seen in a while to a lock for the best record in baseball. The question is whether the Dodgers will choke in the playoffs like they did in 2017, 2018, and 2019 before winning it all in 2020.

Everyone’s been debating whether the Dodgers or Padres will win this division. I don’t understand how you can have that debate. The Padres are a really good baseball team. In some other divisions they’d come out on top. In this division they seem to be a lock for a Wild Card spot. The Padres rotation went from inconsistent at best to one of the better rotations in baseball. This offseason they brought in Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, and Joe Musgrove to bolster the pitching staff. The lineup was already strong, headlined by third baseman Manny Machado and the young Fernando Tatis Jr. at shortstop. However, you can’t put them on the same level as the Dodgers.

Behind those two teams, this division isn’t anything spectacular. The Diamondbacks might be the definition of average. They don’t have many standout players, but they have a serviceable lineup and a serviceable rotation. This is a high floor, low ceiling team. They will most likely be close to, if not exactly .500. They should beat up on the Giants and Rockies but cannot come anywhere close to competing with the Dodgers and Padres.

The Giants have improved between developing young talent and bringing in a couple of veterans. This isn’t their year though. Maybe next year they’ll see more improvement and cook up some even year magic. The Rockies have actually regressed since last year. They dealt away Arenado and shortstop Trevor Story and outfielder Charlie Blackmon could be gone soon too. The core of the lineup is beginning to disband and though the rotation saw some success last year, it’s nothing spectacular.


That’s all for my MLB predictions this year. Stay tuned for more baseball coverage soon, including my MLB playoff bracket which I’ll be posting at some point on Twitter.

MLB 2021 Predictions: American League

April is almost here, and when the month begins, so will the MLB season. Just like in my last 7 years writing this blog, I have put together predictions for the season. We only got 60 MLB games last year, but for this year we’ll have a full 162 game season. I just went on my cousin Michael Philipkosky’s podcast, the Master Plan, to discuss all 30 teams, with one episode for the AL and one episode for the NL. You can check out the AL podcast here, and I have my full AL predictions below.

AL East

  1. New York Yankees (96-66, #2 seed)
  2. Toronto Blue Jays (89-73, #5 seed)
  3. Tampa Bay Rays (84-78)
  4. Boston Red Sox (80-82)
  5. Baltimore Orioles (58-104)

I think the Yankees are in a good position to win this division. They lost some of the pitching depth they had last year, but this lineup is still on another level compared to the other teams in the AL East. Even with some injuries last year, the Yankees were able to dominate the AL East, and I expect the same this year. The question is whether they have the pitching staff to go all the way.

This should be a competitive division behind the Yankees. The Blue Jays, Rays, and Red Sox should all finish somewhat close in the standings. The Jays are really starting to come together. The young talent in the lineup is improving and they’ll be supplemented by new outfielder George Springer and new middle infielder Marcus Semien. Their rotation is also really starting to look sharp.

Tampa was the AL pennant winner last year, but this was a team that was highlighted by its dominant rotation and the Rays lost two of their top three starting pitchers. As a small market team, they tend to subtract in the offseason as opposed to adding. As they lose a key element of their 2020 team, they will see a significant World Series hangover.

The Red Sox should get Chris Sale back towards the end of the year, and when they do they could force the Rays into 4th place. After bringing back Alex Cora and making some underrated signings, I see the Sox finishing around .500 like they did back in 2019. However, this team is hard to read. They have a low floor (they could be a repeat of last year), and a high ceiling (they could potentially contend for a Wild Card). The signings by GM Chaim Bloom have included multiple utility players. Bloom, a University of Pennsylvania alumnus, explained some of his reasoning behind this in a Q&A at a UPenn event on Wednesday. He stated that in the past, utility players were often limited to utility role because they weren’t good enough to play a position every day. However, in modern baseball, there are utility players who can play every day at a variety of positions, like Enrique Hernandez and Marwin Gonzalez who he signed. These players likely flew under the radar due to the fact that they’re utility guys.

I can’t really see the Orioles competing with these teams. The Orioles have improved since 2019, but their early 2020 success was a bit of a fluke. I think the young talent is starting to come along but it won’t be enough to make a noticeable difference just yet.

AL Central

  1. Chicago White Sox (101-61, #1 seed)
  2. Minnesota Twins (90-72, #4 seed)
  3. Kansas City Royals (77-85)
  4. Cleveland Indians (75-87)
  5. Detroit Tigers (66-96)

The White Sox are really starting to come together. They have a good ace in Lucas Giolito. The lineup is looking great between young talent like Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez, and Nick Madigral and more experienced players like Jose Abreu and Yasmani Grandal. I think they have what it takes to make a deep playoff run this year. I have them ahead of the Twins, who choked in the playoffs last year. Minnesota has a strong rotation headlined by Jose Berrios, Kenta Maeda, and Randy Dobnak, but their lack of elite lineup talent compared to other top teams is going to hold them back from more than a Wild Card. The Twins should be able secure 2nd place though, as the rest of this division is unlikely to compete.

The Royals have added talent, including starting pitcher Mike Minor, and they have a decent core led by Hunter Dozier and Whit Merrifield. However, I don’t think they have quite enough firepower to contend. I think they will get third place over the Indians, who dealt away Carlos Carrasco and Francisco Lindor in an effort to lower payroll. Star hitter and third baseman Jose Ramirez is still in Cleveland, but the Indians don’t have any other big name hitters. They also lack rotation depth behind defending Cy Young winner Shane Bieber. Aside from Bieber and Ramirez, the Indians lack star power. The Tigers got off to a strong start last year thanks to the emergence of outfielder JaCoby Jones. They should perform better than they did in 2019, but I still don’t think they’ll be anywhere close to playoff contention in a 162 game season.

AL West

  1. Los Angeles Angels (87-75, #3 seed)
  2. Houston Astros (84-78)
  3. Oakland Athletics (76-86)
  4. Texas Rangers (65-97)
  5. Seattle Mariners (63-99)

This division is not nearly as strong as it was last year. The Angels always tend to disappoint with a lack of success surrounding star outfielder Mike Trout, but I think they’ll be able to win this weakened division. That doesn’t necessarily imply playoff success. The Angels did add some pitching help and that should put them in position to win the AL West but taking down the Yankees or White Sox will be a difficult feat. The Astros should come close as well, even though they lost outfielders George Springer and Josh Reddick. This lineup’s success between 2017 and 2019 was likely boosted by sign stealing, and the depth of the rotation is slowly dwindling, so I have the Angels edging out Houston here, but it will be close.

The A’s will probably have the biggest drop off in the division. They have a very talented young rotation, but without shortstop Marcus Semien and designated hitter Khris Davis, this lineup is lacking standout hitters. Corner infielders Matt Olson and Matt Chapman are improving at the plate, but that’s not enough lineup talent for a playoff team. I have them falling to third place, but finishing ahead of the Rangers and Mariners.

The Rangers failed to contend last year with an awkward mix of young talent and older players, so they’ve torn it down and prepared for a rebuild headed into this season. Joey Gallo is still here but I don’t expect him to stay for long. Seattle has some young talent that is starting to develop and could have a very strong outfield soon once Kyle Lewis and top prospect Jarred Kelenic fully develop alongside Mitch Haniger. Even with the outfield and the rotation improving, this isn’t the year for Seattle to contend.


That’s all for these American League predictions. I’ll have my NL predictions out in the next couple days. In the meantime, feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Celebrating 7 Years of Boston Sports Mania

Today marks 7 years since I took a book out of the library and decided to start this blog, posting an MLB 2014 Preview. That’s pretty fitting considering my sports fandom began with baseball.

Just like I did in 2014 and have done in every year since, I’ll be posting my MLB season predictions before the season begins. For the second year in a row, I collaborated on these predictions with my cousin Michael. I made an appearance on his podcast, The Master Plan. I’ll have a post up about those this weekend. In the meantime, I have some special announcements to make.

I designed this new logo in commemoration of this 7 year blog anniversary as well as the upcoming Autism Acceptance Month this April:

When I was first diagnosed with autism at the age of 2, my parents were told I may never speak. I have made lots of progress since then, from learning to talk, read, and write, to discovering my passion for sports, to starting this blog. After starting this blog, I realized I wanted to become a professional sports journalist, and I have been lucky enough to have some experiences in the industry thanks to connections I’ve made through this blog.

I wouldn’t be where I am today without the supportive communities that helped me along the way. That’s why I’ve launched a apparel fundraising campaign featuring this new logo to help give back to the autism community this April.

Click here or watch the video below for more information on this campaign:

I’m excited to be celebrating 7 years of Boston Sports Mania and Autism Acceptance Month with this campaign, and I look forward to keeping this website active for many years to come.

Red Sox Spring Training Preview: How much improvement should we expect?

It’s been a long winter, but somehow, some way, baseball is already around the corner. As snow melts and temperatures warm up north, the Red Sox and every other MLB team are down south getting ready for the season. The regular season begins on April 1, and leading up to that date I’ll have multiple preview posts out.

That all starts today. I’ll be giving my thoughts on Boston’s offseason moves as well as what the team needs this season to succeed. Feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Off-season in Review

Garrett Richards' stuff reminds Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora of  six-time All-Star Kevin Brown; 'This might be cool' - masslive.com
Garrett Richards is at Spring Training with the Red Sox after joining the team this off-season. Photo via Mass Live

The Red Sox will lose outfielders Jackie Bradley Jr. and Andrew Benintendi as well as multiple relievers, but Chaim Bloom was busy making moves this off-season and managed to bring in a good number of players while still staying under the luxury tax threshold. Here are my thoughts on his signings:

OF Hunter Renfroe

Renfroe was Bloom’s first signing of the offseason. His price was low considering a rough 2020 season. At his worst, Renfroe is still a rotational outfielder and depth piece. At his best, he can be an everyday starter. Considering the depth the Red Sox have added, it’s unclear how much Renfroe will be used, but he’s likely to have a significant role with the team. I’m not huge on this signing. It’s hard to tell how Renfroe will perform and I feel the Red Sox could have gotten more with the money they spent on him. He does have potential to contribute something meaningful to this team though.

UT Enrique “Kiké” Hernandez

Hernandez, a long time Dodger, was one of the top utility players on the free agent market and one of two that the Red Sox signed. The Red Sox will likely give him time at second base and in the outfield. The Red Sox were in need of extra personnel at both of those positions, so a jack of all trades like Hernandez is a great fit for the Sox and he came at a bargain, just $7 million per year. 2020 was a down year at the plate for Hernandez. However, he is normally not only a versatile defender but also a reliable starter at the plate. I think the Sox will try to use Hernandez almost every day, it’s just a matter of where he plays.

SP Garrett Richards

The prime of Richards’ career came in 2014 and 2015 with the Angels, when he posted a 3.19 ERA across 58 starts. Injuries derailed Richards over the next handful of years until he underwent Tommy John Surgery in 2018. Richards returned to the mound in 2020 with the Padres, posting a 4.03 ERA in 10 starts. No, it wasn’t a full on bounce back, but it was impressive for someone coming right back from surgery. I’m expecting him to improve upon that performance this year now that he’s had more time to recover. Early reports out of camp have been optimistic about a Richards bounce back year. This is an underrated signing by Chaim Bloom that will make a big difference for the Sox rotation.

RP Adam Ottavino

Bloom acquired Ottavino from a crowded Yankees bullpen. In Boston I think he has the potential to be a reliable late inning reliever. He had a rough 2020 season, but dominated in both 2018 with the Rockies and 2019 with the Yankees before that. Ottavino will have the chance to rebound this year and potentially even become the Red Sox closer if he’s able to do so.

RP Hirokazu Sawamura

Sawamura is coming straight from Japan, where he was a successful late inning reliever. He’s a low risk signing by the Red Sox as he comes at just $1.2 million per year. He has the potential to compete with Matt Barnes, Adam Ottavino, and others for the closer role but even if he’s not able to do that, I don’t mind the signing at that price. I think the Red Sox could have done more to seek out a true closer, but there are some decent options in the current bullpen.

OF Franchy Cordero

Cordero came to the Red Sox in the Andrew Benintendi trade. I expect him to get some playing time as an outfielder, especially in lefty-heavy lineups. Cordero has showed potential in his career thus far but hasn’t had a big break through yet. Until that happens, he’ll be limited to a rotational role. He provides good depth in the outfield though.

UT Marwin Gonzalez

Gonzalez, the long time Astros super-utility, has spent the last couple of years in with the Twins. He has regressed since his Astros days, but he’s still a versatile player and a reliable utility guy. This signing didn’t make too much sense after the signing of another utility player in Hernandez. However, the Red Sox still needed more depth and this is one way to add it.

What the Team Needs to Succeed

Red Sox re-hire Alex Cora as manager despite cheating scandal
Alex Cora was re-hired as manager of the Red Sox after a one year suspension. Photo via USA Today

Last year was an ugly one for the Red Sox. However, Alex Cora is back and this roster is very different from what it was last year. When I look at this roster, I see an average team, but I also see the potential for more (or less).

At their best, this team can compete for a wild card. The lineup contains big names like Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and J.D. Martinez in addition to lots of depth. I don’t expect many traditional positional battles in the lineup, as I expect Cora to experiment with different lineups as he utilizes the versatility of Hernandez, Gonzalez, and others.

The rotation looks to be stronger than it was last year. Eduardo Rodriguez is back and Chris Sale should return by June or July. Behind those guys are Nathan Eovaldi and new addition Garrett Richards. The Sox will have the option to use a promising youngster in Tanner Houck, returning veteran Martin Perez, and/or failed Phillies starter Nick Pivetta to round out the rotation. The Sox will likely make their decision on the starting five in Fort Myers. If everyone plays at their best, this could be a great rotation, but that would be a big ask considering Sale is coming off Tommy John surgery and E-Rod is coming off a lost 2020 season due to myocarditis.

The bullpen doesn’t have a clear cut closer now that Brandon Workman is gone, but has late inning options in Matt Barnes, Adam Ottavino, and Japanese reliever Hirokazu Sawamura. The Sox would be an even better bet to succeed if they added another bat through free agency, but there aren’t many guys left on the market and they can probably piece together a strong season without that.

The Red Sox aren’t going all in on contention yet. They aren’t rebuilding either though. This is a year in which they have a chance to find their footing and gain momentum towards future playoff runs. If they can craft good lineups utilizing the rotational players they have and some of their starters rebound, they do have a chance to be a wild card team, but I’m not necessarily expecting that. I’m expecting an improvement from last year, but that improvement could range anywhere from simply surpassing the Orioles in the AL East to snagging a playoff berth.

I’ll have an official MLB predictions post out later in the spring, so stay tuned for that to see where I have the Red Sox finishing.

2020 Sports: Which changes from this year should stick around?

2020 was not an easy year for the sports world.  From March to July, there were no sports.  Sports looked very different in the second half of the year.  Some of these differences should stick, while others will not.  Below is a change I liked and a change that I didn’t like so much for each of the four major US sports. 

MLB

What Should Stick Around: Universal DH

The concept of universal DH has been in talks for years.  2020’s modified schedule involving more inter-league play was just the final factor that convinced the MLB to implement it.  Before universal DH, it was almost like Major League Baseball was two separate leagues.  The World Series was a matchup of an AL champion and NL champion who got there playing slightly different versions of the game.  The NL champions tended to have more pitching because they didn’t need as good of a lineup, while the AL champions usually had to have strong lineups.  The NL is still more pitcher-heavy than the AL, but at least this unites the MLB under one rulebook.  It was long overdue, and it needs to stay this way.  

What Should be Left Behind: The Endless Negotiating

The MLB could have started the season safely as early as the end of June and they would have the whole sports market to themselves for about a month.  Instead, they delayed the start of the season even more because of what was essentially a lockout.  Rob Manfred did not handle the preseason negotiations well, and in the process he probably lost some MLB fans.  If the MLB and MLBPA don’t get their act together and come to faster agreements, it could jeopardize the long term success of professional baseball.  The financial toll on the league is already having an impact, as this off-season seems to be even slower than previous baseball off-seasons.  Most of the top free agents are still available (I’ll have an article about that out soon).

NFL

What Should Stick Around: Expanded Playoffs

The 14-team playoff bracket causes more exciting late-season action and allows more teams to stay competitive throughout the year.  Only the worst of the worst have really given up on this season, and even they might still be trying if it weren’t for Trevor Lawrence.  The expanded playoffs also make the #1 seed more valuable, as only the #1 seed gets a first round bye.  The only bad idea surrounding these expanded playoffs?  That would be putting one of the extra wild card games on Nickelodeon to try to get more kids interested.  Plenty of kids watch football without Nick having to get involved.

What Should be Left Behind: The Lack of a Preseason

While the season generally went well without a preseason, there were definitely more injuries than usual.  Teams with lackluster offensive lines were especially vulnerable, like the Giants (who lost RB Saquon Barkley to an ACL tear) and Bengals (who lost rookie QB Joe Burrow to an ACL tear and RB Joe Mixon to a foot iniury).  In addition, many talented rookies, such as Vikings WR Justin Jefferson, got off to extremely slow starts.  Jefferson posted an 1000 yard season and even broke some of Randy Moss’ Vikings WR rookie records, but he barely participated at all in the first two games of the year.  Yes, the preseason should be cut down a bit, but I think you need to have at least a couple preseason games to get the players ready to go.  I’d propose a two game preseason, one preseason game as a dress rehearsal for the season, and one preseason game prior to roster cut down day.  

NBA

What Should Stick Around: The 2020-2021 Schedule

I’ve got to be honest with you all, I like this year’s NBA schedule more than the normal NBA schedule.  Shifting the start of the season to Christmas is smart, as the NBA playoffs can cut into sports viewership ratings during the dog days of summer when baseball is the only other sport on TV.  Having a different season timeline than the NHL and stretching across winter, spring, and summer makes the NBA a little more unique than other leagues.  Who knows, maybe outdoor summer playoff games are in the NBA’s future.  In addition, I like the simple breakdown of the schedule: 2 games against every team in the other conference and 3 games against every team in your own conference.  Divisions in the NBA are barely utilized to begin with, and shifting to a more balanced conference schedule without extra division play is a smart idea.  

What Should be Left Behind: Universal Location Playoffs

The NBA bubble worked extremely well during the pandemic.  It’s not going to work in the future.  The lack of home-field advantage was probably a factor in the insane amount of upsets in the NBA bubble.  Yes, a universal location playoffs might be a good way to check the power of super teams, but taking away home field advantage entirely is not the answer.  I think the NBA bubble may have given an unfair advantage to certain teams.  Lowering the salary cap might be a better idea.

NHL

What Should Stick Around: The Realigned Divisions

I actually really like the idea of an all-Canadian division.  It was utilized this year to minimize border crossing, but it’s also going to revive classic Canadian hockey rivalries.  It’s not going to work when the Seattle Kraken join the league, but the Arizona Coyotes were already going to have to change divisions.  Why not stick with this realignment, put Seattle in the Western Division, and have the Coyotes pack their bags and relocate to Quebec City?  The Coyotes don’t have a very good hockey market in Phoenix.  In Quebec City, there are more hockey fans, and the Videotron Centre would easily be able to host an NHL team.  I could see the North Division sticking around if the Coyotes move to Quebec. It may take a couple years, but I think the all-Canadian division should return in future seasons.

What Goes: The 24 Team Playoffs

Some of the teams in the NHL’s bubble did not deserve to be there.  I don’t think there’s any reason to expand the NHL playoffs.  16 teams is plenty in what’s soon to be a 32 team league.  If anything it’s too easy to make the NHL playoffs, but the 16 team bracket works.  If they realign the league like I was talking about, they could even make the playoff bracket a four quadrant bracket by division (like they did in the NHL bubble) and make a big event out of the “Final Four” with the four divisional round winners.  

To Conclude…

2020 has forced and inspired a lot of change in the sports world.  Along the same lines, this website is about to undergo some change.  At certain points during the year, I didn’t have much to post about, and I think the entire sports world is ready to move on from this crazy year.  To begin 2021, I will be upgrading to WordPress Premium and changing my URL from andrewr1008.wordpress.com to simply be bostonsportsmania.com.  This is to make my website more accessible by making the URL easier to remember.  I may make some other changes to the site and start with some new kinds of posts as well, so be on the lookout as 2021 begins.  In the meantime, I hope you all have an enjoyable and safe New Year’s Eve.

MLB Trade Deadline: What Red Sox, other teams should do

The Red Sox return to the field to this weekend following a boycott due to longstanding systemic racism in America. But they may be in their final days before some significant changes to their roster. The MLB trade deadline is coming up, and as a 10-21 team, the Red Sox are likely to be one of a handful of sellers. However, the Red Sox are in a different situation compared to other teams with a similar record.

Teams like the Orioles, Royals, Tigers, Mariners, Giants, and Pirates are in the midst of multi-year rebuilding phases. Teams like the Angels and Red Sox, who are also struggling mightily, are likely out of contention for this year, but could contend in the near future if they make some moves to put them in that position. No, I’m not suggesting the Red Sox should buy at the deadline. But there’s a certain way to go about selling that could allow the Sox to contend in the next year or two.

Chaim Bloom is not new to situations like this. He rebuilt the Rays very quickly, in just a couple of years, by trading older players for underrated players on the verge of cracking the majors, also known as 4A players.

Next year, the Red Sox will have Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez back to join Nathan Eovaldi and Martin Perez. In addition, prospects like Jeter Downs, Bobby Dalbec, Jarren Duran, Tanner Houck, and Bryan Mata are on the cusp of cracking the majors. With a couple good trades, the Red Sox can keep the future bright by adding some younger players in exchange for older players with soon expiring contracts.

I think the team needs to build around four players, and it appears that the front office agrees. These four players are SS Xander Bogaerts, 3B Rafael Devers, OF Alex Verdugo, and C Christian Vazquez. Devers and Verdugo are younger players who can contribute a lot to this lineup for years to come. Bogaerts is our superstar, and he’s in his second year of an 8 year contract. Vazquez is a top 5 catcher in this league, and would be hard to replace.

You could make a case to trade OF/DH J.D. Martinez, as he has a player option at the end of the season. He’ll likely want to stick with his $22 million per year contract though, and he can put up good production for this lineup in 2021 and 2022. It would also be unwise to trade starting pitchers, as starting pitching has been our downfall.

But there are a handful of players we could trade. Below I have proposed two trades the Red Sox should make at this year’s deadline:

Red Sox: Mitch Moreland is making the best out of the MLB shutdown
1B Mitch Moreland could be traded by the Red Sox at this year’s deadline.

  • Twins get: 1B Mitch Moreland
  • Red Sox get: SP Devin Smeltzer, MiLB P Dakota Chalmers

  • Padres get: OF Jackie Bradley Jr.
  • Red Sox get: RP Adrian Morejon, MiLB OF Jeisson Rosario

I’ll explain each of these trades. So, the Twins are legitimate World Series contenders with a pretty balanced roster. However, they have needed to use a platoon of other infielders at first base, including Miguel Sano and Marwin Gonzalez. Gonzalez is a utility guy, and Sano could be used at third base until Josh Donaldson returns. Donaldson and Gonzalez also both have experience at second base, where youngster Luis Arraez starts most days. Having a true first baseman like Moreland adds more depth to this Twins lineup and allows them more flexibility. Moreland is under contract for this year and he has a club option for next year too.

In return, I have the Red Sox receiving SP Devin Smeltzer and pitching prospect Dakota Chalmers. The Twins have a lot of young pitching talent, a group that is headlined by Jose Berrios, Randy Dobnak, and prospects Jhoan Duran and Lewis Thorpe. They can afford to give up Smeltzer, who is a capable mid to back end starter but likely no more than that. Him and Chalmers are valuable for the Sox though, who are in desperate need of pitching depth. Smeltzer could be given his chance in the Sox rotation right away and be considered for the #5 spot next year when Sale and E-Rod return. Chalmers is a longer term investment but should be ready for 2021.

The second trade is a smaller one, in which the Red Sox send OF Jackie Bradley Jr. to the Padres. With Tommy Pham hurt, the Padres could use more OF depth. In turn, they can give Boston young reliever Adrian Morejon as well as OF prospect Jeisson Rosario. Rosario, however, would have to be classified as a player to be named later, since he is not in the Padres 60-man player pool.

With JBJ leaving, the Sox still have Kevin Pillar for the rest of the year. But they could try and work current OF prospect Jarren Duran into the mix. For San Diego, these are both expendable players, so the trade would be worth it for both sides. The Sox can start Michael Chavis at first down the road while using Jose Peraza among others at second. Soon, they’ll also have Downs and Dalbec to work with in this infield, and there’s no harm in giving them some MLB experience this year if need be. I could also see pitching prospect Tanner Houck making his debut.

I’ve also included three other potential trades that could happen around the league:

1. Braves acquire SP Kevin Gausman

  • Braves get: SP Kevin Gausman
  • Giants get: C Alex Jackson, MiLB P Daysbel Hernandez, MiLB OF Greyson Jenista

Like Rosario in the Sox-Padres deal, Hernandez and Jenista would need to be classified as players to be named later. But the Braves could absolutely contend for a title with some more starting pitchers, and they are familiar with Gausman, who’s one of the better options on the In return, the Giants get three young players, including C Alex Jackson. With Buster Posey getting older by the day, the Giants would be smart to add more young catching options alongisde Joey Bart. The Giants could theoretically buy at the deadline, but I don’t see them as being in a good spot to make the playoffs, and Gausman is in a contract year so he’s somewhat expendable, especially with all the young pitching talent in the Giants system right now.

2. Dodgers acquire 2B Jonathan Schoop

  • Dodgers get: 2B Jonathan Schoop
  • Tigers get: MiLB OF D.J. Peters, MiLB P Edwin Uceta, MiLB P Brett de Geus

The Dodgers haven’t gotten much production out of 2B Gavin Lux, and it seems he needs more time to develop. Acquiring a rental second baseman would not be a bad idea for the Dodgers. In return, the Tigers get three lower end prospects, one of which (de Geus) would need to be a player to be named later. Peters could contribute right away for Detroit, while the others would need more development.

3. Brewers upgrade rotation, catching staff

  • Brewers get: SP Julio Teheran, C Jason Castro
  • Angels get: 2B Luis Urias, MiLB P Trey Supak, MiLB P Zack Brown, MiLB C Payton Henry, MiLB P Alec Bettinger

The Brewers are right around .500 right now. If they want to contend, they need to upgrade their starting rotation. Teheran has struggled this year, but a change of scenery might be what he needs to bounce back. I also have the Brewers getting Castro here, as C Omar Narvaez has not lived up to expectations at the plate. In turn, I have the Angels getting a package of 5 young players, all of which are ready or almost ready to play in the majors and are in Milwaukee’s player pool. Urias will be joining his third team in two years, adding depth to the infield. Supak, Brown, and Bettinger will help brighten the Angels future as they could all be future rotation contributors. Henry is a longer term catching option for the Angels, and he’s not even Milwaukee’s top catching prospect so he’s expendable.

That’s all for my coverage of this year’s trade deadline. I’m intrigued to see what the Red Sox and other teams will do, and I’m intrigued to see what will differ from normal at the deadline in this unique season. Be sure to check out my updated MLB power rankings and MLB update podcast from last week.

Update on the MLB 15-20 Games in: Podcast, Power Rankings

We’re about a third of the way through this shortened baseball season, and already, the contenders are separating themselves from the pretenders. I went on another episode of my cousin Michael Philipkosky’s podcast, “The Master Plan”, to discuss the state of each MLB team at this point in the season and talk about teams that have surprised us. Teams like the Rockies have exceeded our expectations, while teams like the Angels and our hometown Red Sox have struggled more than we expected. You can listen to the podcast on Apple Podcasts or Spotify with the links below:

Apple: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/mlb-update-podcast-find-out-why-red-sox-stink-andrew/id1495662343?i=1000488294222

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/episode/4J5fdqnOIosOz8KkGqdck1

I’ve also included my current MLB power rankings. These rankings are a combo of my updated projections and my reaction to the performance of teams so far this year. Check them out below:

Note: Records as of August 18, 2020 at 12:00 PM EST

1
New York Yankees
(16-6)
They got off to a really strong start. Despite injuries to Stanton, Judge, and LeMahieu after dominance at the plate, they’ve won 6 in a row to stay comfortably atop the AL East and remain one of the top teams in the league.
2
Los Angeles Dodgers
(17-7)
Kershaw came back from his injury looking good as new, and Dustin May is also throwing the ball very well. Bellinger has struggled all year, but the rest of the lineup has made up for it. Betts, Seager, Pollock, and Turner led this team to surge to the top of the NL West this past week.
3
Minnesota Twins
(15-8)
The Twins have one of the most balanced rosters in the league, but their success has been driven by a few surprise standouts. Nelson Cruz has been playing as if he’s in his prime, and starters Randy Dobnak and Kenta Maeda have performed surprisingly well.
4
Atlanta
Braves
(14-10)
The Braves have been very streaky, losing 4 in a row before taking their last 3. The team has been hitting the ball very well, and Swanson is having a career year. The rotation has been riddled by injuries, but Max Fried has been dominant so far, and they’ll be better if they can get similar success from other pitchers.
5
Chicago Cubs
(14-7)
Despite losing Quintana and Chatwood to injury, the rotation has been on fire. In addition, OF Ian Happ is having a breakout year. This has led the Cubs to what’s arguably their best season since 2016.
6
Oakland
Athletics
(16-7)
This team started slow but they are 13-3 since the start of August. Much of last year’s core has struggled but Grossman, Laureano, and Canha have had career years. Meanwhile, Frankie Montas and Chris Bassitt have led a strong rotation filled with young talent.
7
Tampa Bay Rays
(14-9)
The Rays have taken 9 of their last 10, a stretch that included a sweep of the Red Sox. Brandon Lowe has only improved upon his strong rookie year, and fellow infielder Willy Adames has also been hitting well. The rotation struggles have held them back though.
8
Cleveland Indians (13-9)
The White Sox have been streaky, and Detroit came back down to Earth after a strong start. This allowed Cleveland to take second place in the division. Shane Bieber has led the pitching staff to dominance. Lindor has struggled at the plate, but power hitters Franmil Reyes and Jose Ramirez are making up for it.
9
Chicago White Sox
(12-11)
They started slow but are starting to put things together after a big off-season. Young stars Moncada, Jimenez, and Robert are starting to hit the ball well. Keuchel has proven to be a worthwhile addition, and Giolito and Cease have pitched well despite occassional rough days.
10
Houston Astros
(12-10)
They were never punished for cheating, but they have been hit by a lot of pitches and got into two bench clearing brawls. Correa and Gurriel are still hitting well, but much of this lineup has struggled after the scandal. The rotation is lacking depth despite the success of Greinke and Framber Valdez.
11
New York Mets
(10-14)
We hear the same story year after year here: tons of talent, lack of execution. This team has hit the ball rather well, and the young David Peterson has made for a dynamic rotation duo with deGrom. But the Mets have blown many games this year, and rotation depth is a concern too. They have had a tough schedule though, and that will get easier.
12
San Diego
Padres
(12-12)
Fernando Tatis Jr. has had an MVP-caliber year so far, and Wil Myers and Trent Grisham have backed him up in the lineup. The young rotation has also met expectations. They did recently lose 5 in a row though, which was because of bullpen struggles without closer Kirby Yates and a good stretch by the D-Backs.
13
St. Louis Cardinals (5-5)
The Cardinals are behind schedule this season due to a COVID outbreak, but they’ve done alright in the games they have played. The rotation has a good balance of youth and experience, and Paul Goldschmidt has returned to prominence at the plate. They’ll be competing for second place in their division.
14
Cincinnati Reds
(9-11)
They made some serious upgrades this off-season, and it hasn’t made a huge difference so far but this team has showed promise. Winker and newcomer Nick Castellanos have led the lineup. The rotation has done well, but its inconsistencies has held the team back. Eugenio Suarez’s slump has also been a major setback.
15
Colorado Rockies (13-9)
So far, everything has gone right for Colorado. The young rotation is playing to the best of their ability. Arenado and Story have been strong as usual at the plate, and Blackmon has done especially well, batting .429. The question is whether they can keep this up, as they fell apart late into last season.
16
Arizona Diamondbacks (12-11)
The D-Backs have played some very competitive baseball. But they’re stuck in a division with the Dodgers, Padres, and Rockies who are all performing well too. All three starting outfielders (Marte, Peralta, and Calhoun) have hit the ball well, and the young Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly have been near unstoppable on the mound.
17
Washington Nationals
(8-12)
The problems here go beyond the absences of Juan Soto and Stephen Strasburg. Soto has mashed 7 homers since his return, and Scherzer and Corbin have pitched well with Strasburg out. Rotation depth is a growing concern, and with Rendon gone the Nats lack other good bats around Soto.
18
Texas Rangers (10-11)
Everyone knew Lance Lynn could pitch well, but he’s been unbelievably good. However, their other pitchers are struggling and aside from Gallo, the lineup has underperformed. This team has been a .500 team so far, as I expected. But their season could go in either direction from here.
19
Milwaukee Brewers
(10-10)
Yelich is starting to rebound from early struggles, and the rotation has done better than I expected. But Milwaukee will need to continue to impress if they want to secure a playoff spot.
20
Los Angeles Angels (8-15)
Trout and Rendon have been living up to expectations, and the rotation is a bit better than last year. But a bad bullpen and inconsistent pitching as a whole has led this team to a rough start that has included some embarrassing losses.
21
Toronto Blue Jays (8-11)
The Blue Jays lineup is loaded with young talent. Grichuk, Biggio, Hernandez, and Bichette have led them. Pitching is still a concern though. Ryu has been good but was better in LA. Pearson had a nice debut but hasn’t been able to replicate it.
22
Philadelphia Phillies (8-9)
Bryce Harper is finally playing like a $30 million/year player, and J.T. Realmuto has done just as well. Nola and Wheeler are a nice duo atop the rotation. But this team is seriously lacking in the depth department, and won’t contend unless that improves.
23
Boston Red Sox (6-17)
The rotation has been among the league’s worst since Sale and E-Rod are out for the year. The lineup has showed promise, but Devers has failed to replicate his 2019 success. Despite the talent of Moreland, Verdugo, and Bogaerts, execution has been a problem. Putting together a good season with this bad a rotation takes even better hitting and better execution.
24
Miami Marlins (9-7)
Despite being sidelined with a COVID outbreak, Miami has been surprisingly good so far. However, they haven’t beaten out any top teams, and nearly half of their wins came against Baltimore. Don’t let the early success and the strong record mislead you. Starters Elieser Hernandez and Pablo Lopez have been pleasant surprises, but I’m not buying this team as a contending team yet.
25
Detroit Tigers
(9-11)
They fought for second place in their division after giving the Reds a very hard time. They’ve seen OF JaCoby Jones and SP Spencer Turnbull break out. I think they’ll beat out Kansas City, but can’t see them contending quite yet, even after the Mize call-up.
26
Kansas City Royals (9-14)
The Royals have essentially performed how most expected them to. They’ve had their moments despite overall struggles. They did give the Twins a good challenge, but I don’t see any reason to move them higher than this.
27
San Francisco Giants (9-16)
Like the Royals, the Giants have had their moments. But every other team in their division has the capacity to contend for a playoff spot. Even with Mike Yastrzemski and Donovan Solano posting career years, I expect the Giants to remain in the division’s basement.
28
Baltimore Orioles (12-10)
Don’t let Baltimore’s record fool you. The best team they’ve succeeded against is Washington, and that was when Soto and Strasburg were both out. They were swept in a 4 game series by the Marlins, and that’s not a good sign. I don’t think they’ll be anywhere close to contention by the end of August.
29
Seattle Mariners
(7-17)
I didn’t expect much from Seattle this year, and they haven’t done much as they’re in the midst of a rebuild. Kyle Seager has been good, and Kyle Lewis, Dylan Moore, and Marco Gonzales have showed promise. But this team just doesn’t have many proven players yet.
30
Pittsburgh Pirates (4-14)
I thought Josh Bell would be a bright spot for this team, but he’s struggled to repeat his 2019 numbers. The rotation is banged up and the lineup just doesn’t have much talent, so I can’t see the Pirates doing much of anything this year.

That’s all for my latest update on this MLB season. The first quarter of the season is complete, and it’s starting to become clear who will buy and who will sell at the deadline. Stay tuned for my article about the strategy the Red Sox and other selling teams in their position should go through with.

Pitching struggles as Sox lose series, Sox play Mets next

After an encouraging 13-2 win on Opening Day, the Red Sox dropped 2 straight against the Orioles, losing the series.

Their losses were primarily a result of pitching struggles. After Nathan Eovaldi’s strong start on Friday, Martin Perez gave up 5 runs in 5 innings on Saturday as the Sox fell 7-2. Boston’s only runs that day came from a solo shot by Mitch Moreland and a few base hits that followed. Alex Verdugo did go 3 for 4 in his debut, and J.D. Martinez and JBJ also hit well. But it just wasn’t enough as Perez struggled and Orioles veteran starter Alex Cobb looked like his old self, shutting down most of the Sox lineup in the first 5 innings.

The Sox lineup showed more signs of life on Sunday. But the team couldn’t score enough to recover from the struggles of starter Ryan Weber, who gave up 6 runs in 4 innings.

In the 1st inning, Rio Ruiz hit his 2nd homer of the year off of Weber, a 2 run shot that went all the way to the Orioles bullpen. Christian Vazquez responded in the bottom of the 2nd by crushing one over the monster. In the 3rd, it was a Jose Iglesias double that drove in a run for Baltimore. Iglesias went 4 for 5 on the day after giving Red Sox pitchers a hard time throughout the series. In the 4th, Weber gave up a handful of hits and walks. A run was driven in on a sac fly by Austin Hays, and that was followed by a 2 run homer into right by Anthony Santander.

The Sox started to climb their way back into the game in the 5th and 6th. Kevin Pillar hit another solo shot over the monster in the 5th. In the 6th, JBJ started things off with a base hit and advanced to third on a Rafael Devers double. Bogaerts drove in both of them with a single, his only hit of the day. He nearly hit an opposite field homer earlier in the game, but it was just short.

The Red Sox ended up losing Sunday’s game 7-4. They are now 1-2 after the series with Baltimore. Losing a three game series to one of the league’s worst teams at Fenway is not an encouraging sign for the Red Sox. This series will mean more than usual, as this series counts for almost 6 losses in my MLB PACE Standings. But the team will have a chance to rebound in a home and home series against the Mets.

With Eduardo Rodriguez hurt, the Sox plan to use Josh Osich as an opener today at Fenway, while the Mets will start Michael Wacha. Tomorrow at Fenway, both teams will have a starting pitching dilemma as the Mets are without Marcus Stroman and the Sox lack starting pitching depth.

Wednesday and Thursday’s games will take place at Citi Field. Nathan Eovaldi and Jacob deGrom take the mound on Wednesday, followed by Martin Perez and Steven Matz on Thursday. How many games can Boston win against the Mets? Will they be unable to rebound if they struggle in this series? Will the season even continue, as two of today’s games (Yankees-Phillies and Orioles-Marlins) are canceled due to a Marlins COVID outbreak? This next week could be very telling for the fate of the MLB season and the fate of the Red Sox if the season continues.

Martinez, new bats lead Sox on Opening Day

The Sox started off their season strong on Friday when they took down the Orioles 13 to 2, in a game where they hit 8 doubles and four of their batters had at least 3 hits.

Nathan Eovaldi looked sharp, pitching 6 full innings. He didn’t allow a run until the 6th when Anthony Santander doubled into the left field corner and Renato Nunez did the same to score Santander. The only other Orioles run was scored in the 7th, when Rio Ruiz hit a solo shot.

While Eovaldi’s pitching was better than we’ve seen in a while, it was the Red Sox lineup that led the way in this easy victory.

The game was scoreless through two innings and included an excellent leaping catch by new Sox OF Kevin Pillar. But the Red Sox knocked out Orioles starter Tommy Milone after scoring 4 runs in the 3rd. It started with an opposite field double by left handed hitter Jackie Bradley Jr. Righty and newcomer Jose Peraza hit another similar looking double into left to score JBJ. J.D. Martinez hit another double that scored Peraza.

Milone walked 3B Rafael Devers, and a wild pitch allowed both Devers and Martinez to advance into scoring position. It was yet another similar double into left, this time by Kevin Pillar, that scored both of them and made it 4-0.

Reliever Cody Carroll came in for Milone to start the 4th, and he walked consecutive batters before a Jose Peraza hit loaded the bases. Carroll’s troubles finding the plate continued when he walked Andrew Benintendi to make it 5-0 Red Sox. Ex-Red Sox reliever Travis Lakins came in to face Martinez with the bases still loaded. Martinez hit an opposite field shot deep into right field, and it nearly left the park for a grand slam. He ended up with a ground rule double to knock in two more runs.

But that wasn’t the end of it for this huge 4th inning. Xander Bogaerts got on base and knocked in an additional run. Kevin Pillar also got his second hit of the day to score another. Christian Vazquez made it 10-0 with his own RBI single. After 6 runs, Lakins finally made it out of the inning by striking out consecutive Red Sox.

The Sox added to their lead in the 6th inning, an inning started by a second ground rule double, this time by Vazquez. JBJ hit another double into the left field corner to score Vazquez, and Peraza got his second double and third hit of the day, scoring JBJ on another shot into the left field corner.

The Red Sox finished the day without a home run, but they made up for it with 8 extra base hits (all doubles), 2 of which were ground rule doubles. Newcomers Pillar and Peraza each had three hit days in addition to DH J.D. Martinez and OF Jackie Bradley Jr. Ironically, the Sox did this with Mitch Moreland, nicknamed Mitchy 2-Bags, sitting on the bench.

It was really exciting to see all these big hits on Opening Day, even though it is against Baltimore and expectations for the rest of the season are low. If the Sox can beat Baltimore 13-2, maybe their big bats will be able to make some noise against top contenders like the Yankees and Braves.

The Sox continue their series against Baltimore with a day game today. Martin Perez will be on the mound for Boston, and Moreland is back in the lineup but Bogaerts will have the day off. In addition, Alex Verdugo, who came here in the Mookie Betts trade, will make his Red Sox debut today. The Sox will hope to have another strong day at the plate with Alex Cobb on the mound for Baltimore. Will Verdugo’s debut be anything like Pillar and Peraza’s?

Predicting the Shortened 2020 MLB Season: AL and NL West

Baseball is back tomorrow, and before the season begins, my cousin Michael Philopkosky and I have put out one more MLB prediction podcast, covering the AL and NL West. We covered the AL and NL East in the first one, and the AL and NL Central in the one released on Sunday. All of them were released as a part of his podcast, the Master Plan. You can listen on Apple Podcasts and Spotify at the links below:

Apple: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/al-and-nl-west-predictions-for-the-2020-mlb-season/id1495662343?i=1000485744926

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/episode/0Ub7QPMIQvZXgQc3t80LsQ

This episode is sponsored by Anchor, the software Michael has used to record his podcasts.

I have added both of our standings predictions below alongside my brief breakdown of each of these 10 squads. Keep reading to check that out, as well as a special surprise at the end.

Continue reading