Tag Archives: Michael Pineda

2016 Season Preview: Division Winners

Ah, Spring. There’s something special in the air this time of year. It’s that deceivingly warm April sunshine—pleasant for now, but you know better than to not pack a jacket. It’s the freshly-mowed grass that just smells like hope. Hope for a new baseball season, a fresh start, and for the 29 teams that aren’t defending World Series champions, hope that maybe, just maybe, this could be the year.

But the most beautiful thing about this time of year are the picks. It’s preseason prediction week, and this is when the claws come out. Everyone’s got an opinion about which teams will over- or under-perform this year, and thanks to the wonder of the internet, we get to read every last one of them.

As you read about the teams which I expect to excel in 2016, please note that my picks are probably wrong—just like yours, as well as the rest of the predictions out there. Let’s face it: no one can ever predict this sport. An unexpected contender will emerge from obscurity and make the playoffs. Expected 100-win teams will plummet, and start eyeing next year’s early draft picks. The real beauty is in the unknown, and that’s why we watch.

National League Wildcard: Diamondbacks over Cardinals

The Diamondbacks are the tailgating drivers in the rearview mirrors of the usual NL West contenders—obnoxious, and closer than they appear.

A somewhat under-the-radar breakout season by A.J. Pollock last year should’ve removed any doubts about these guys being for real, as he and perennial MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt look to terrorize the league all the way to a playoff spot. New additions Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller give them a very formidable rotation—don’t be surprised if the D’backs hang around for a while this Postseason.

The Cardinals find a way every year. They’ll withstand the departures of Jason Heyward and John Lackey with the help of a new infusion of youth—Kolten Wong, Carlos Martínez and Randal Grichuk are now the core of this team, and will be for several years to come.

With the veteran guidance of Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright, count on the Redbirds to be around come October, but they’ll need some luck if they want to advance.

American League Wildcard: Rays over Royals

The Rays finished a distant fourth in the AL East last year, but in a division that is pretty much up for grabs, they have a good shot.

They’re built on the defensive wizardry of Kevin Kiermaier, and a very strong pitching staff whose 3.74 ERA ranked fourth in the AL last year. Keep an eye out for the long-awaited return of pitcher Matt Moore, and a potential breakout season for fellow lefty Drew “seriously, that’s all we got for David Price?” Smyly, who since joining the Rays in Mid-2014 has quietly posted a sub-1.00 WHIP in 114.1 innings.

The defending champion Royals will be tough to oust in the Postseason, but I’ll take Rays ace Chris Archer any day in a winner-take-all Wildcard match.

National League Division Series: Nationals over Diamondbacks

There’s no reason to think the Nationals, who were NL East favorites across the board a year ago, should be any less so in 2016.

When ace Max Scherzer is on his game, he’s the most unhittable pitcher in baseball. Anthony Rendon will be looking to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2015, and his .412 spring batting average is an indication that he’s planning on starting the new season strong.

New manager Dusty Baker is a proven winner in October, and he should be able to guide his new club to a first-round Postseason series victory.

National League Division Series: Giants over Cubs

The Giants’ mix of established veterans, boosted by the signing of free agent pitchers Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, will make them a very well-balanced team.

People know about Buster Posey, but the real MVP of this ball club might be Joe Panik. With only 42 strikeouts last season, his ability to put the ball in play is the key to the Giants’ offense.

The Cubs put the nation on notice last year that these kids are truly ready for the big stage, with an NLCS appearance that capped a very successful season. Despite the playoff run being cut short, that experience will only make them more of a force.

Expect Kris Bryant to build on his Rookie of the Year campaign, and for Jake Arrieta to silence the critics by showing that last year’s Cy Young season was no fluke.

The Giants are the favorites in this series, because the Cubs’ youth has been shown to be volatile in the Postseason. But a Bumgarner/Arrieta matchup in Game 1 will be one for the ages.

American League Division Series: Indians over Rays

The Indians finished 2015 just a game above .500, but that doesn’t tell the whole story: they ended the season on a 32-21 run, much of which was keyed by the performance of rookie shortstop Francisco Lindor, who was called up midseason. Now, with Lindor leading the charge, the Indians are one of the strongest teams in the league, both offensively and defensively. Jason Kipnis, who also started to find his groove in the middle of last season, will also be a major contributor, along with Michael Brantley, who will be on the Disabled List to start the season, but should return in early May.

On the pitching side, don’t count out Carlos Carrasco for Cy Young consideration, whose 10.6 K/9 last year ranked third in the American League.

This will be an excellent series if you like good defense, but the Indians are just a bit more of a well-rounded ball club.

American League Division Series: Rangers over Yankees

The Rangers won the AL West last year thanks in part to the midseason acquisition of Cole Hamels, who solidified the rotation, the main weak spot of the team. Now he’s back for another year, and Yu Darvish, who should still be considered one of the best strikeout pitchers in the game, will rejoin the rotation this summer.

If their offense, which was never a problem, can hold up, the Rangers will have a very formidable Postseason squad.

The Yankees squeezed a lot of value out of aging veterans last year, and you have to wonder how much they realistically have left.

But what they’re expected to lose from the old guys, they’ll make up for with young talent. 22-year-old Luis Severino will be one of the kids on whom the Yankees pin their playoff hopes. 27-year-old Michael Pineda should be hitting his prime years, and, one would hope, his full potential. And maybe, just maybe, a change of scenery is all Starlin Castro (still just 26!) needed to regain his All-Star form.

National League Championship Series: Giants over Nationals

The Giants get to face their old manager, and the Nats get to face their old center fielder. I foresee a well-fought series in a rematch of the 2014 NLDS, but the Giants have been here before, and will prevail.

American League Championship Series: Indians over Rangers

The Indians have the edge in terms of pitching and defense, which is what wins in October.

World Series: Indians over Giants

A rematch of the 1954 Series, which the Indians are probably still sore about losing?

Juan Uribe trying to win his third ring with as many different teams?

Carlos Santana playing the National Anthem AND playing in the game? (Okay, it’s two different guys, but still)

This series will have it all, and will probably go the full seven games. I’m giving it to the Indians, who deserve to see an end to that nagging championship drought.

My only question is whether they’ll bring back Coach Lou Brown for an on-field ceremony—or hell, even let him manage the series. It’s what the world needs.

New York Yankees 2015 Season Preview

This is one of a series of posts in which I will be breaking down every team in baseball. I am by no means a credible source—merely a casual fan who knows a little about baseball and would like to share my observations.

Today we look at the Yankees, whose tradition of excellence has fallen short in recent years, the team not having made the playoffs since 2012. With Derek Jeter, the last remnant from their dynastic run of championships, now gone, it’s time for new faces to usher in the next era of Yankee greatness.


Projected Lineup: CF Jacoby Ellsbury, LF Brett Gardner, RF Carlos Beltran, 1B Mark Teixeira, C Brian McCann, 3B Chase Headley, DH Alex Rodriguez, SS Didi Gregorius*, 2B Stephen Drew

Projected Rotation: RHP Masahiro Tanaka, RHP Michael Pineda, LHP CC Sabathia, LHP Chris Capuano, RHP Nathan Eovaldi*

* new additions

The only storyline anyone will be focused on this season for the Yankees is the A-Rod parade, which is a shame.

No matter your stance on his alleged wrongdoings, the one fact upon which everybody can agree is that his impact on this year’s Yankees will be essentially “meh”. If the Yankees contend this year, it won’t be because of him.

So, shouldn’t we shift our focus to some of the brighter spots on the team?

Here’s the thing about the Yankees: They were actually quite good last season. They finished just five games out of a playoff spot. They’ll be even better now that they’re not running Derek Jeter out at shortstop every day. That fact alone makes them a 90-win team.

But let’s go deeper.

Masahiro Tanaka may be a ticking time bomb. There isn’t a Yankees fan in the world who won’t be on edge every time he as much as blinks in a weird way. But the Yankees believe that he is the key to contending this season. Otherwise, they would’ve gone through with the surgery and been done with it.

This spring, Tanaka has appeared nothing short of excellent, making the Yankees’ gamble look like the right move. In four starts, Tanaka put up a 0.96 WHIP, with 13 strikeouts to just one walk allowed. It’s unclear as to whether manager Joe Girardi will restrict Tanaka’s innings at all this season, but he is reported to be on a pitch count for the season opener.

Don’t read too much into that, though—Girardi is likely just building Tanaka’s strength up slowly, so that within a few weeks or so, he can be unleashed at full force.

The Yankees are also looking forward to seeing a full season from Michael Pineda. Pineda is reportedly healthy and keeping the pine tar under his hat these days, so there should be nothing of concern this season that would keep him from the baseball field.

Another guy in the rotation who may be on the cusp of a breakout year is newcomer Nate Eovaldi. Don’t underestimate him just because he’s never had a season ERA under 4, or a WHIP under 1.30. A big thing that came around for Eovaldi last year were his walks. He allowed a career-low 1.9 walks per nine innings, down from a previous career mark of 3.7.

Both Pineda and Eovaldi have also had very good spring showings, and appear primed to hit the ground strong in April.

In the bullpen, the Yankees plan to continue using the giant they keep chained in the basement to pitch in games, but this season, it’ll be in the ninth inning. Yes, the 6’8” Dellin Betances will be taking over the closer role left vacant by the departed David Robertson.

What makes Betances scary isn’t his imposing frame, nor his video game numbers that last year included a 1.40 ERA and a 0.78 WHIP. No, what makes his scary is how many innings he can pitch. The 90 innings he logged in 2014 led all full-time relievers, and the fact that he only did it in 70 games means that he frequently threw more than one inning. Which makes sense, really—a man who is 30% larger than most humans should be able to throw about 30% more. But what a weapon he’ll be for the Yankees and Joe Girardi, who will have the freedom to call for his closer in the eighth inning if he so chooses.

The rest of the rebuilt bullpen includes new set-up man Andrew Miller, who probably won’t be quite as good as his numbers from last year, but only because he doesn’t get to face the Yankees any more, whom he absolutely owned. Rumor has it they only signed him so they wouldn’t have to face him.

The position players will still make the team look like an Old-Timers’ Game, with Didi Gregorius the only starter under 30. However, a few of the old guys still know how to ball.

Brett Gardner had a transitional year in 2014, in which he came to terms with his game not being based entirely on speed any more. But that’s okay—Gardner put on some muscle and started hitting for power, which became more apparent in the second half of the season. After July 1, Gardner hit 10 of his 17 homers on the year, and stole only six bases. Expect his power surge to continue into this season.

Third baseman Chase Headley has also looked like a new player ever since he put on pinstripes. His power has awoken, and his on-base percentage of .371 is in line with his career best. Maybe it’s the hitter-friendly ballpark, or just the change of scenery, but Headley should once again be considered one of the better switch-hitters in the game. And if a guy like Carlos Beltran can’t pull his weight, Headley could be moved up into the heart of the Yankees’ batting order.

The Yankees’ pitching is their main strength, but don’t count out their offense. If a few hitters can get on a roll, it’ll go a long way towards propelling the Yankees into October.

Projected Finish: 91-71, First place in AL East

AL East Preview

AL East Preview

by

Resident Asian Baseball Columnist

Alex Hom

My name is Alex Hom, I live and breathe baseball. I started writing about baseball two years ago, doing season previews and postseason analysis. The blog stopped due to the writers and myself being incredibly busy with work around the height of baseball. Now my good buddy Woody has signed me off the streets to write an article for everyone to enjoy.

The AL East is the toughest division in all of baseball boasting 4 teams that can claim playoff spots and a Toronto Blue Jays team that would probably be a .500 team if not for being in the AL East. Here’s my breakdown of each team:

Continue reading