30 thoughts on “Peanuts and Cracker Jack: MLB 2018

  1. I won’t write anything until after Mitchell sets his picks, but this: Mitchell loves to pick my Phillies at the bottom of the NL East. My guess is not this year, though.

  2. Here are my picks. Unless things get crazy, I think everyone’s going to be correct in their picks this year with some variations in the wild cards. So for once, I didn’t look at anyone’s predictions (not even Kurkjian’s) before making mine.

    AL East
    New York
    Tampa Bay

    AL Central
    Kansas City

    AL West
    Los Angeles

    NL East
    New York

    NL Central
    St. Louis

    NL West
    Los Angeles
    San Francisco
    San Diego

    AL Wildcards: Boston, Los Angeles
    NL Wildcards: New York, Milwaukee

    World Series: Washington over Cleveland

    AL MVP: Carlos Correa
    NL MVP: Paul Goldschmidt
    AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander
    NL Cy Young: Stephen Strasburg
    AL Rookie: Shohei Ohtani
    NL Rookie: Ronald Acuna

    Commentary later. I have a deadline!

  3. Giancarlo Stanton just hit his first home run as a Yankee. In his first at-bat. Opposite field. This is going to be a great season for the Yankees.

  4. All the contenders from last year have returned: Cubs, Dodgers, Nats, Indians, Astros, Red Sox and Yankees. And unlike in the past recent years, there really seems to be a group of haves and have-nots.

    The Red Sox adding JD Martinez to an already loaded lineup seems ridiculous.

    The Ringer stated that the Indians may have one of the best pitching lineups in history. That’s shocking. Best bullpen in history may not be crazy, but best pitching lineup in history seems crazy.

    The Giants intrigues me a lot. They are an all-star team, but from five years ago. They brought in Evan Longoria, Andrew McCutchen, and brought back the Panda, adding these guys to the playoff-experienced players of Belt, Brandon Crawford, Panik, Posey, and Pence. Bochy can do magic with these guys especially if they make the playoffs. I think most give them no chance, and that’s probably closer to correct being that they are in arguably the toughest division in baseball with the Dodgers and Diamondbacks and the Rockies. But they will be fun if they make it in the playoffs.

    My Phillies will be much improved (or should be). Their signings of Arieta and Santana don’t really excite me, but their young guys are supposed to be pretty good. Plus they added some arms in the bullpen, which should be better than average this year. Playoff bound baby…

    Of course the talk of the season is Ohtani, the first true two way player since Babe Ruth, and the Yankees with Judge and Stanton. When talking about the Yankees power though, you have to also add Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius. These four could be a defensive front for the Giants (maybe not Gregorius).

    I wrote the above before reading Mitchell’s predictions. He is right that everyone has the division winners the same with the only outlier being whether or not the Red Sox or Yankees will win. I did notice Mitchell has the Giants second behind the Dodgers. I think most people won’t have that, but as I stated above they should have a shot.

  5. Here’s the commentary I said I would provide.

    Don, I completely agree with your assessment of the Giants. They’re going to be an interesting team to watch because they could be horrible or they could contend for a wildcard spot. As you can see, I went with the latter, mostly because I thought I should pick one team in each league to be a surprise wildcard contender.

    The Red Sox vs. Yankees situation is the most interesting, standings-wise. I’m leaning toward the Yankees only because I kind of have an anti-BoSox bias lately. It’s ebbing, now that David Ortiz is finally gone. I really like Jackie Bradley Jr., so I’m really pretty close to getting over my distaste for his team.

    I love this Cleveland team and I love its manager. I love the Astros and I love their manager too. What a competitive top four that is: Yankees, Astros, Indians, Red Sox. It’s a good time to be a baseball fan.

    I have the Angels finishing second in the AL West as my AL surprise wildcard contender.

    Yes, Philadelphia is on the rise; no doubt. I think they’re still a year or two away, as are the Braves. Atlanta has this year’s Kris Bryant, a rookie named Ronald Acuna who’s starting in the minors so the team can delay his eligibility for free agency. He’ll be up mid-season and expectations are ridiculously high. But they were for Bryant and he was amazing.

    The Nationals’ window is closing. Everyone’s saying this is the last year, although I kind of think Bryce Harper will re-sign with Washington.

    Boy, the good teams this season and last are so, so good.

  6. Mitchell,

    When I saw Ohtani as your AL rookie, I was wondering what you knew, because he was supposed to have had a terrible Spring Training. But he has been pretty special so far this season.

    By the way how do you guys treat Ohtani in your fantasy league? If you have him, you can use him as a pitcher and hitter? Or are there two Ohtani’s in your league, one pitcher, one hitter?

  7. Ohtani is having an unreal couple of weeks, but he has to come to earth eventually. Pitchers always have the advantage over hitters the first time through the league.

    Still, I knew he threw hard, and in today’s MLB, throwing hard where you want to is almost guaranteed to succeed, at least moderately.

    The homers were a surprise. He only hit 48 homers across five seasons in Japan, with a .286 batting average. I’ll be pleasantly surprised if he goes over 21 homers this season.

    Good question about fantasy! I haven’t played fantasy for a few years. Now I need to find out what leagues are doing. However, I’m guessing that Ohtani only exists once per league, and owners can play him as a hitter or a pitcher in any given week, but not both. In leagues where you can adjust your lineup daily, it’s only fair that owners can start him as a hitter on non-pitching days, if the software allows it. If it doesn’t, it should.

  8. The Dodgers put Trayce Thompson (Klay’s brother) on the waiver wire a little while ago. The Yankees picked him up, and then recently put him on the wire. The A’s claimed him and signed him just last week.

    Trayce is living in Klay’s house in Oakland. 🙂

    He got his first start in CF last night and robbed Yasiel Puig of a homer. It’s a nice grab, ‘though not exactly spectacular. I like Puig’s doff of the cap as he trots back to the dugout.

    No embed code from MLB (it didn’t add this clip to its YouTube channel), but here’s the link.

  9. Agree. And I don’t think I ever noticed what a nice swing he has. Or maybe it’s the angle.

    Oh, I just remembered that Puig is Thompson’s former teammate. I wonder if that was part of the doffing of the cap. Either way, still cool.

  10. Without actually doing the math, I think the Yanks and Red Sox are on pace to both win over 100 games. I wonder what is the most combined wins they have ever had.

  11. The top AL teams are amazing this year. Just as everyone predicted, the Astros, Red Sox, Yankees, and Indians are pretty much just dominating. The Ms have been interesting (although I don’t expect them to keep going like this), and I knew the Angels were going to be stronger than people were predicting, so the wild card is going to be interesting.

  12. Buster Olney asked Tim Kurkjian a few quick questions I wanted to save the answers to.

    Who’s your favorite player you ever covered?
    Mike Flanagan.

    Who’s the best player you ever saw?
    Willie Mays is the best I’ve seen.
    Barry Bonds is the best I’ve covered.

    What’s the strangest story you ever covered?
    That Camden Yards game with no fans in the stands.

    What was the angriest a player ever was at you?
    Rick Burleson asked me not to run something, but I said the editors make that decision. It was an inflammatory story about how bad the Orioles were doing. When the editors ran it, the next day Burleson screamed his head off at me for a couple of minutes. You just have to stand there and take it.

    Who was the toughest manager to interview after a tough loss?
    Gene Mauch.

    Michael Jordan or LeBron James?
    Michael Jordan but when James’s career is done, I will likely have a different answer.

  13. The season is playing out pretty much as everyone predicted. The AL division leaders (Cleveland, Boston, Houston) and wildcards (New York and Seattle) only really have one mild surprise in the Ms. Cleveland hasn’t looked as good as expected, but they’re still leading a pretty weak division and don’t have any contenders for that spot.

    The NL, clearly the weaker league, has a few surprises. Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Arizona lead the divisions, with Chicago and Atlanta owning the wild cards, at least for today. The Brewers and Diamondbacks were expected to contend for wild cards, not win the divisions, and there seems to be agreement that the Cubs will probably overtake Milwaukee, while the Dodgers will overtake the D-Backs.

    Philadelphia and Atlanta are surprises, showing up one and two years ahead of schedule. With Washington’s injury problems, they’re still expected to make a run, but I don’t think anyone expected this division to be so competitive. It could be a super exciting September in the NL.

    I’m really typing all this to lead up to Oakland. The A’s are six games behind Seattle for the wild card, and third in the AL West. I think this reflects a best-case scenario for the A’s this season, but the big surprise is that yesterday they were 11 games above .500. I don’t think anyone thought they’d win their 50th game in early July.

    They’ve hovered right above or below .500 all season, but then they had Detroit, Texas, and San Diego in consecutive series. It’s an illustion! But hold on: they won 2 of 3 from Cleveland, then beat Houston Monday for their second shutout in a row.

    They lost last night to Houston in the 11th on a walk-off error, one of the stupidest plays I’ve ever seen.

    I actually think Bregman is out because you’re not allowed to run away from first to avoid a tag, but whatever. What the video doesn’t show is that LuCroy’s throw actually hits Bregman in the head, so this play is stupid on many levels.

    Anyway. The A’s have two all-stars, closer Blake Treinan and 2B Jed Lowrie. I’ve been telling people all season that I hope the A’s don’t make very many off-season or late-season moves this year: although they’re getting good contributions from some old guys, the young talent is getting better seemingly every day. Oakland has the 4th best bullpen in the league and the only thing I don’t like about this team is its questionable D. If they stand pat, they’ll be better next year just because of experience.

    Ten games over .500 is nice at mid-season, but if they go .500 the rest of the way, they finish what feels to me a middling 86-76, which is really what this team is at best.

    Anyway. A fun season so far. Seattle’s had killer injuries and suspensions, so a wild card run for Oakland isn’t out of the question. Oakland’s run differential is +18 while Seattle’s is +11 (compared to Houston’s ridiculous +187).

  14. My surprises:
    I didn’t think Seattle would keep up this pace. They are probably right on pace to win 100 games. Huh? King Felix hasn’t been doing much and Cano has been out, but this team hits.
    Diamondbacks had started red hot and not is sort of falling back to earth a little, giving hope to Dodger fans. Yes maybe the Diamondbacks was hotter than expected, but this is a good team, a playoff team from last year and I am surprised by how the Dodgers were able to catch them so quickly. I will not be surprised if they can hold off the Dodgers.
    How can I be surprised by a Red Sox team? A team I touted for the last couple years that had unbelievable hitters. I thought their hitting hasn’t been as good as their talent level the last couple years so maybe that’s why I’m surprised at how well they are playing now. With the addition of JD Martinez’s power numbers and Betts having a MVP year, they are finally living up to the hype. Best offense in baseball and that’s with the Astros and Yankees having an unbelievable line up.

  15. Right, Seattle is a huge surprise because of what happened to them once the season started, but I don’t think many would have been surprised before the season started if you’d said they’d be in the wild card at midseason.

    The Athletics beat Houston Wednesday, giving them the 2-1 advantage in the series. They’re down 4-0 after four innings right now. Winning the series would be huge for them. Tying the series would still be nice.

  16. Bartolo Colon has been pitching in the majors for so long that when he pitched in Fenway last weekend, the Red Sox coaching staff had more career at-bats against him than the entire Red Sox roster. 66 to 55.

  17. Playoff time…
    I guess I would pick the Yankees and Cubs in the wild card games setting up couple showdowns of interdivision series between the Yankees and Red Sox and Cubs and Brewers. That would make all of the playoff series super interesting with the best match up probably being Cleveland versus Houston. I really have no clue what’s going to happen in these playoffs. If I had to choose, I would pick Houston just because they were unbelievable last year. But the Red Sox were crazy good all year. In the NL, give me the Brew Crew with that bullpen. I have no idea who is good on their team, but they are supposed to have pitching.

  18. I was listening to last nights game on the radio. The Cubbies were down 1-0 with four outs left. I went to cut hair, eat dinner, and I came back and the game was still going on. Huh? The Brewers should win game 1 after this marathon.

  19. I watched game 7 of the Dodgers, Brewers series. The Brewers scored one early and got shut down the rest of the game. Both teams were making some interesting moves. For example the Brewers threw their closer in the third through fifth inning, trailing by one run. I thought it was a good move, but their bats got shut down so they didn’t have a chance.


    Why did Ryan Madsen get the win in that game? Buehler pitched four and some innings and when he left the score was 2-1, and the game ended 5-1. I guess I don’t know all the scoring rules.

    Oh and who you got in World Series? I think Dodgers starters will dominate and they will win the series.

    1. Sorry Don. I kept meaning to respond to this and then suddenly the post-season was over!

      The rules about wins changed recently, if I understand correctly. It’s up to the official scorekeeper to decide now which pitcher was most responsible for a team’s win. The scorekeepers almost always stick with the old standard (leaving the game with the lead after 5 innings, I think) but sometimes they go off that. It’s the same way they’ve been deciding the All-Star Game winning pitchers for ages.

      I expected Boston to win, much to my annoyance. That team has just been too good all season long.

      1. That’s a weird rule that a starter have to go 5 innings to get a win, but can lose the game at any point. That’s correct though right, a starter can lose a game without getting a out?

        What was weird about the Boston’s win, is none of the stars really stood out. Pearce won the MVP and it was the other non-stars that carried them. I would also say that Boston’s bullpen is underrated.

      2. Yeah, the criterion for determining the losing pitcher is easy: the pitcher who gives up the winning run, or the pitcher whose baserunner is the winning run, even if he’s not on the mound when it comes across the plate.

  20. I’m curious–what are Kershaw’s post-season stats like? My sense is that it’s not really that good, especially relative to how good of a pitcher he is.

    1. They’re not horrible but they’re not great. He’s been fair to middling. I’ll get the numbers for you later.

  21. This year’s Cooperstown inductees: Mariano Rivera (unanimous election), Roy Halladay (posthumous), Edgar Martinez (finally), and Mike Mussina (Moose!). I’m good with all of them. Rivera is the first player in the history of the Hall to be elected unanimously. This very fact makes the whole voting process kind of the sham it is.

    1. I’m happy that Edgar got in. Mussina looks like a good pick, but I’m wondering about David Cone. Did he get in?

    2. Cone was always a borderline pick. The argument could be made that his post-season performances plus one Cy Young should tip him over; I would say his post-season performance and one Cy Young are what get him up to the boder.

      There’s a wonderful metric called JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score), which is a player’s career WAR (this helps the players with long careers, like Don Sutton) averaged with his peak 7-year WAR (which helps players with shorter careers, like Sandy Koufax). It was developed specifically to analyze a player’s worthiness for the Hall of Fame.

      David Cone’s JAWS score is 52.9, good for 64th of all time at his position. The average JAWS score of all 63 starting pitchers who are in the Hall is 61.8, so Cone is close but he falls short. That measurement alone shouldn’t disqualify him, of course, because it’s one metric. In fact, 8 of the 9 starting pitchers DIRECTLY above him on the list (and therefore very close in score) are in the Hall (including John Smoltz, who is just above him in the list with 53.9 as a starter, but I think his contributions as a closer also factor in). The one who isn’t is still active (Justin Verlander).

      However! There are some legendary Hall of Famers on the list below him, including Sandy Koufax (who is generally considered the greatest lefty of all time), Whitey Ford, Catfish Hunter, and Dizzy Dean. The next six starters on this list after Cone are not in the Hall (including Bret Saberhagen, who I consider Cone’s equal but not Hall-worthy), which I think puts him right on the line. Should the World Series titles nudge him over into the Hall? Maybe!

      Mussina is two spots below Curt Schilling who should be in someday. Mussina has a JAWS score of 63.8. Schilling’s is 64.1. 29th and 27th of all time. That’s quite a ways up from Cone’s 64th place.

      Oh, and no. Cone was mysteriously one of the one-and-done candidates. Not enough votes in his first year to keep him on the ballot for a second chance. He can still get in by vote of the players’ committe, which is how (ridiculously) Harold Baines is going in.

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