2015 Wildcard Games
AL – Tuesday Oct 6th: Astros (Keuchel) @Yankees (Tanaka)
Keuchel is undefeated at home and just an average pitcher on the road, still he’s the likely AL Cy Young winner and a lefty, Yankee Stadium heavily favors lefty pitchers. Keuchel is also throwing on only 3 days rest, which is never a good thing. He also leads the league with 232 IP, more than a 30 IP increase from last year. However, in the extremely small sample size of 24 IP, Keuchel has shutdown the Yankees. If Keuchel can’t pitch at 100% or can’t remain in the game too long then the Yankees have a very good shot at beating this weak Astros bullpen, and on short rest this task doesn’t seem so insurmountable. Tanaka should at least perform decently, I was down on him going into the season, but he’s been above average all year. The bullpen is a huge strength for the Yankees and it’s where they have a huge advantage against Houston.
The Yankees are injury riddled and limped into the playoffs, but it’s not like the Astros were riding a hot streak either. There’s no lefty slugger in the Houston lineup, their top 3 hitters are all rightys, but that only means they can’t take advantage of the dimensions in Yankee stadium. The Astros have a losing record on the road and in a toss up between a young team getting their first playoff experience on the road vs a veteran team at home, my money would be on the Yankees here. I’ll be rooting for Astros but wouldn’t mind seeing a rematch of Yankees vs Royals from their late 70s/early 80s bouts. Blue Jays vs Rangers promises to be a showcase for hitting, but the Blue Jays seem like the favorites for the AL.
NL – Wednesday Oct 7th 2015: Cubs (Arrieta) @Pirates (Cole)
Pirates vs Cubs showdown will arguably feature one of the best pitching matchups in Arrieta vs Cole. Winner gets the Cardinals, meaning from the 3 best teams in the NL only one can make it to the NLCS. It may seem unfair, but the wildcards aren’t usually so dominant, the Giants only had 88 wins last year as a wildcard and won it all. The Cubs have an advantage with Arrieta on the mound, he has a .75 ERA in the 2nd half! He had no trouble mowing down the Pirates all year, but he didn’t win every game he started against them so it isn’t a death sentence.
Gerrit Cole is no slouch either, and would be marveled for his great year if the NL Cy Young race weren’t so loaded. I would say offensively that the teams are about even, team OPS is actually identical for the two this year. In a match between youthful anxious curse breakers and an angry Pirates team looking to not repeat what happened to them last year I’d say the Pirates have a slight edge here. First Bumgarner and now Arrieta, poor Buck fans. I’m rooting for a Mets vs Pirates NLCS, so despite the Cubs having a better story I’ll be rooting for the home team.
Awards (Current Picks / Mid-Season Picks)
NL MVP – Harper, Goldschmidt, Arenado / Goldschmidt, Harper, Scherzer
Harper just had an all-around great year, too bad his teammates all choked, with one literally choking him…I always hated Papelbon. Most valuable player doesn’t have to be on the winning team, and Harper has been the best player in the NL, he had a .330/.460/.649/1.109 slash line, which is absurd. Most players on steroids don’t hit that well. Goldschmidt was the only NL player over 100 runs and RBIs. He also had 33 HRs and surprisingly 21 SBs. Arenado led the league in both HRs (tied) and RBIs, 2 of 3 Triple Crown categories. He may not get the same attention as other players because he doesn’t walk and people discount his inflated Coors numbers, but he was actually better on the road this year.
NL Cy Young – Arrieta, Grienke, Kershaw/ Scherzer, Grienke, deGrom
Wow. You could pick any one of these 3 guys and you couldn’t complain. It’s amazing that MadMax is clearly behind these 3 despite having 3 near perfect games on his resume. Each player leads in various pitching categories, but I’m going with Arrieta because the other two get to pitch in Dodger stadium half the time while Arrieta gets the friendly confines of Wrigley field. Kershaw’s 300 Ks are impressive though.
NL Rookie – Bryant, Duffy, Kang / Pederson, Bryant, Heston
The year of the rookie – Bryant had all the hype and attention coming into the year and he delivered. Pederson really struggled in the 2nd half, but at least he has coming in 2nd place at the HR Derby! That game is cursed I tell you! Duffy and Kang surprised many and the fact that Syndergaard isn’t on this list shows how strong of a crop it was. It wouldn’t shock me if Thor was the best pitcher on the Mets as soon as next year.
NL Manager – Matheny, Hurdle, Maddon / Matheny, Bochy, Mattingly
The 3 best teams in the NL, all in the NL Central, and in that order. I’ve been impressed with what Terry Collins has done with the Mets, but maybe it’s because I can listen and see so many Mets games, but I wouldn’t vote for him as the best NL manager in the NL despite how well he did with Mets. I know people love Maddon, me included, and he took a “terrible” Cubs team to 97 wins this year, but I’m still sticking with that order.
AL MVP – Donaldson, Trout, Davis / Trout, Donaldson, Archer
Donaldson lead the league in Runs & RBIs while playing great defense. He was the star of the offensive juggernaut, and while Trout produced another great year, he’ll probably come in 2nd for a 3rd time. Still, I honestly think Donaldson deserves it and unlike those years where Sabermetric nerds clamored for Trout>>>Cabrera I think it’s much closer this year. Davis had a fantastic 2nd half, led league in HRs, but he’s a distant 3rd place to the two I talked about above.
AL Cy Young – Keuchel, Price, Gray / Archer, Keuchel, Gray
Tight race for AL Cy Young, but Keuchel edges out Price. He’s undefeated at home and their numbers are almost identical the tie goes to the almost out of nowhere performance. Gray is the only other AL pitcher with an under 3.00 ERA, so it’s only a matter of time before Beane trades him away.
AL Rookie – Correa, Lindor, Sano / Burns, Souza, Correa
Big debate between Correa and Lindor but I’m going with Correa. He’s a big reason the Astros are in playoffs and I know Lindor has been a beast defensively, but I still don’t trust defensive metrics enough to give him the nod over Correa’s offensive prowess. Sano had great debut with Twins, fellow rookie teammate Buxton may have the brighter future, but this year Sano was a huge part helping to keep the Twins competitive much longer than people expected.
AL Manager – Yost, Gibbons, Molitor/ Yost, Hinch, Cash
That crafty bunt-happy Yost had Royals beating any sophomore jinx. Molitor had Twins in playoff hunt until last weekend with no pitching all year long. Seriously I am very impressed with what Molitor was able to do and I bet Twins fans can’t be disappointed with how they played this year.
5×5 Fantasy All-Stars (Yahoo position eligibility)
C- Buster Posey
1B- Paul Goldschmidt
2B- Dee Gordon
3B- Josh Donaldson
“SS”- Manny Machado
OF- Bryce Harper, AJ Pollock, Mike Trout
DH- Nolan Arenado
SP- Jake Arrieta, Zach Grienke, Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Dallas Keuchel
RP- Wade Davis, Mark Melancon, Jeurys Familia