Saturday, April 2, 2016

Key Dates for the 2016 MLB Regular Season

On Sunday, April 3 the 2016 MLB regular season kicks off with a rematch of the 2015 World Series between the New York Mets and the Kansas City Royals. Most everyone else is in action on April 4 as the 2016 season kicks off and here are a few more key dates for you for this upcoming season. Keep this bookmarked in case you need it.

April 18th, a Monday in case you were wondering, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs renew their rivalry for the new season with former Cardinals Jason Heyward and John Lackey making their debuts against their former team.

The first Yankees vs. Red Sox game is on Friday, April 29 in Fenway Park while the first game inside Yankee Stadium comes on Friday, May 6th.

On Friday, July 15 Zack Greinke and the Arizona Diamondbacks face off with his former team the Los Angeles Dodgers for the first time after leaving this winter in free agency. The Dodgers are many people’s pick to win the division but the Diamondbacks are not going to go down without a fight.

Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza take their place amongst the greatest in MLB history when the 2016 Hall of Fame induction ceremony goes down on July 24, 2016. That’s a Sunday by the way.

August 1st, not July 31st, is the trade deadline this season. Why? Because July 31st is on a Sunday. #LOGIC

Tuesday, September 27th will mark the final time David Ortiz steps into Yankee Stadium during the regular season. How will he be honored and will he get his standing ovation? Stay tuned. 

2016 Predictions - NL Central

     We are so close to the start of the 2016 season I can almost taste it! Now that we have established who our NL East winner is, Washington, it's time to dive into the Central Division. In 2015, we saw three teens represent the National League in the post season, Pittsburgh, Chicago and St. Louis. Will Pittsburgh continue their one and done appearance streak in the post season of 2016, as they have two out of the last three seasons? What will happen to the injury plagued Cardinals? Is it the Cubs year, finally? Let's get going.

5. Cincinnati Reds

     As I wrote about the Philadelphia Phillies and the Atlanta Braves, it appears as though Cincinnati has followed suit and done everything to completely overhaul their roster. It began last season by shipping off Johnny Cueto to Kansas City, Mike Leake to San Fransisco, and continued through this past winter when they sent Todd Frazier to the Chicago White Sox in a three team deal. The Reds even attempted to trade both Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce during the off-season, but were unsuccessful for various reasons. Cincinnati could not get a deal done for their second baseman, and, medicals got in the way of the Jay Bruce deal getting completed. The boys from the Queen City will have a very tough time competing this year with what little starting pitching they have. One of their few bright spots in the rotation is Brandon Finnigan, the main piece in the return package from Kansas City for Johnny Cueto. The bullpen is in rebuild mode as well. Even though they still have the likes of Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips in their batting order, it's hard to see them placing any higher then last in their division.

4. Mill walkie Brewers

    Similar to Cincinnati. The Brew Crew also did some major retooling of their own, beginning with the firing of their manager and hiring former Brewers star Craig Counsell to take over the reins. At the deadline last year, they began their  rebuilding process by sending Gerrardo Parra to Baltimore and Carlos Gomez and Mike Feirs to Houston. They've continued through this off-season by moving Adam Lind to Seattle, Francisco Rodriguez to Detroit and Jean Segura to Arizona. By moving the shortstop to the desert, Milwaukee has afforded the opportunity for one of their star prospects, Orlando Arcia, to make the team this spring training. Sending KRod to Motown has opened up the seemingly perennial question mark in the bullpen. Having Wily Peralta, Matt Garza, Jimmy Nelson and Chase Anderson in the rotation will help, but, not enough to help this team compete for anything higher than fourth place.

3. St. Louis Cardinals

     It must have been an extremely difficult off-season for any fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, and even more so difficult for the organization itself. To start off, the team announced that one of their most effective starting pitchers, Lance Lynn, will miss the entire 2016 season due to Tommy John surgery. Based on this knowledge, the Cardinals attempted to get in on the David Price sweepstakes, but lost out to Boston. To make matters worse, they saw their division rivals, the Cubs, acquire both former Cardinals John Lackey and Jayson Heyward. They even moved one of their better outfielders, Jon Jay, to San Diego in attempts to improve their infield depth. One year after the tragic loss of their star prospect, Oscar Tavarez, the Red Birds find themselves lacking in outfield depth yet again. They did sign Mike Leake to aid in the starting pitching department. Randall Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty are two players that saw a lot of time in the big leagues last year with all of the Cardinals injuries. And, that experience could help them to become solid Major League contributors this year, as they showed last season. Despite the fact that this team has been in contention perennially, I don't believe they have the make-up to get it done this year.

2. Chicago Cubs

     This is one of the few National League teams that is built like an American League team, based on the slew of sluggers they have in their lineup and on their bench. As previously mentioned, they stole two major pieces from the rival Cardinals to help bolster their rotation and lineup in Lackey and Heyward.  By signing the Jay-Hey Kid and re-signing Dexter Fowler to go along with the young studs Kyle Shwarber and Jorge Soler, the North-Siders have created somewhat of a logjam in their outfield. The cubbies signed one of Joe Maddon's all-time favorite players, Ben Zobrist, who could contribute in either the outfield or the infield. If he does, in fact, play second base, the Cubs will have one of the best infields in all of baseball. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo are superstars,  and Addison Russell is one of the better shortstops in all of baseball, already and his second season. The acquisition of Zobrist allowed Chicago to send Castro to the Bronx for Adam Warren, who will be of service for either their rotation or their bullpen.  The Cubs addition of Lackey to a rotation that already includes last year's Cy Young Award winner, Jake Arieta, and Jon Lester will add some much welcomed depth to their rotation. They have one of the best lineups in baseball and a pretty good rotation, but, I believe their bullpen will be there Achilles' Heel in the 2016 season.

1. Pittsburg Pirates

    This is one of the best all-around teams in the entire National League. Whenever your lineup revolves around a superstar like Andrew McCutchen, good things are bound to happen.  Unlike the Angels, the Pirates have built successfully around there centerfielder. The other two outfielders, Starlin Marte and Gregory Polanco, are both five tool player is capable of changing the outcome of the game. They traded Neil Walker to Queens for big John Neise,  which will allow Pittsburgh to utilize the services of Josh Harrison to play multiple positions, which is where he thrives the most. The Bucos  found a gym when they signed Jung Ho Kang last season to play shortstop, and, despite his season-ending injury, he looks to be the real deal. They chose not to re-sign Pedro Alvarez, but instead, signed John Jaso and Mike Morse to facilitate the role of first base.  Their ace, Garit Cole, is one of the top 10 starters in the National League and Fransisco Leriano is about as good a number two as there is. Mark Melancon, former Yankee, had a breakout year in 2015 last season and looks to continue his dominance of the closer role this season. An excellent lineup, a good rotation and an even better bullpen is the perfect formula for a championship-caliber team.

Predicting the AL & NL MVP Award Winners

The most prestigious and honorable award in all of Major League Baseball, the Most Valuable Player Award. Unlike the Cy Young Award a pitcher, either reliever or starter, can technically win an MVP Award in either league while the positional players look to make that not even a discussion at the end of this season. Which players will specifically make it difficult for a pitcher to win the award in either league this season according to my “spot-on” predictions? Let’s take a look.

In the American League there isn’t many times I go against the safe pick in the Angels Mike Trout but you know what, I’m feeling it today. I’m feeling either incredibly foolish or incredibly lucky today so I will not pick Trout even though he’s as likely a candidate as anyone to win the award year in and year out and instead I will move to Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox. Abreu has had little in the way of true protection in his years in the Major Leagues but with Todd Frazier hitting somewhere in the lineup around him or behind him I can see a lot more fastballs and a lot more home runs and RBI this season for the Cuban-born star.

In the National League I have gone with Giancarlo Stanton using the whole “I’m going to keep picking him until he proves me wrong” philosophy and every year he proves me wrong. He’s injured or he simply gets outperformed by Andrew McCutchen of Pittsburgh so I’m going to go against the grain once again here, but not by much. What about Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks? He’s probably the best first baseman in the game and probably the best hitter in the National League but he hasn’t received much attention due to the fact that his team has struggled. With Shelby Miller and Zack Greinke now in the desert that shouldn’t be the case any longer. 

The FINAL Exhibition/Spring Game in 2016

And it all comes down to this. The New York Yankees and the Miami Marlins play their final meaningless game of the year before Opening Day on Monday. The Yankees will send Luis Severino to the mound in his final tuneup before the 2016 campaign. Not much to be said, just don't get hurt.

Predicting the AL & NL Cy Young Award Winners

And so begins the meat and potatoes of the award predictions here on The Greedy Pinstripes, the American League and National League Cy Young Award winners. This award goes out to the best pitcher, either starter or reliever although it is generally reserved for starting pitchers, in each league every single season so who will win it this season? Truth be told I have no idea, so much can happen between then and now, but here is who I predict right now.

The award, as much as I hate to say this, has to go to the Boston Red Sox ace David Price. Give David Price two runs of support or more and on most days that’s in the bag. While Boston did little to improve their offense on paper their core is getting a year older and closer to their prime while Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval almost can’t be as bad or worse for Boston then they were in 2015. The Cy Young can be an individual award sometimes more so than a team award and Price is the kind of pitcher to throw you eight or nine innings and win the game himself or hand it off to Craig Kimbrel in the 9th. Price for Cy Young, again.

In the National League the award has to go the new ace of the staff in Pittsburgh, and former New York Yankees draft pick, Gerrit Cole. Cole is an elite starter with an elite defense behind him and an offense that can win him games even on his off nights. Cole won 19 games last season with a 2.60 ERA and it seemed like many didn’t blink an eye thanks to Jake Arrieta, they will blink an eye this season as Cole takes the next step forward in his career. 

MLB and Play Ball to Renovate Fields All Over America

Major League Baseball draws in a ton of money, probably literally, each and every year but the one thing that separates MLB from other huge businesses is that they are constantly giving back. The league and the Play Ball association are giving back as they launch a new community program to refurbish ballfields all across the country over the next three years.

MLB will work side-by-side with The Scotts Company to renovate diamonds with new grass, fences and other enhancements such as scoreboards and dugouts. Big league teams will have a say in which local fields receive makeovers and I’m sure other fields will be made over as well during the course of the new program, not all the details have been released at this time though.

MLB says participation in baseball was up 4.3 percent last season over the 2014 season so the interest is there and so is the initiative by the league to not see this momentum stall. Good for the league and good for all those kids and young adults that benefit from the program. I love it!

This Day in New York Yankees History 4/2: Todd Zeile & His Yankees Home Run

On this day in 2003 Todd Zeile hit a home run in his first at bat as a Yankee becoming the only major leaguer to hit a home run for ten different teams passing Tommy Davis and his nine clubs. Zeile's list of teams he has homered with includes the Yankees, Cardinals, Cubs, Phillies, Orioles, Dodgers, Marlins, Rangers, Mets, and Rockies.

Also on this day in 2001 on Opening Day Roger Clemens became the all-time American League strikeout leader moving ahead of Walter Johnson when Roger struck out the Kansas City Royals Joe Randa for his 3,509th K of his career. Roger was now in seventh place in Major League history in strikeouts.

Also on this day in 1996 Derek Jeter hit a home run off Dennis Martinez in a Yankees 7-1 victory over the Indians. The 22 year old infielder became the first rookie Yankee shortstop to start the season since 1962 when Tom Tresh filled in for Tony Kubek. Joe Torre also won his first game as the Yankees manager on this day, the first of 1,173 victories in his 12 season tenure.

Finally on this day in 1972 New York Mets manager Gil Hodges suffers a fatal heart attack and dies after a round of gold in West Palm Beach. The Mets would name Yogi Berra as the manager to run the team after the strike ends.