MLB Post-Season Awards

Prior to the season I had a lot of things to say about how I thought the season would go, some were very spot on (Orioles being a power house and the Red Sox sinking) and some were very far from the truth (Yankees taking the Series) but that is baseball, a very strange character who can flip its attitude and emotions in one twist of fate… or an ankle.

Manager of the Year

Buck Showalter (Baltimore Orioles) This team winning hinged completely on the pitching core holding it together.  It was apparent this team would score a lot of runs with Andrew Jones, Nelson Cruz, Chris Davis, and Manny Machado in the middle of a strong line up, but could the pitching staff hold the opposition to fewer runs.  Not only did they, but they did it 96-times, just two fewer wins than the best in all the major leagues and they did it in a traditionally difficult division where they were the one time whipping team.  Showalter’s management of his starters and bullpen was near perfect and wheter this is the beginning of something grand or a one time fluke the 2014 season belongs to the Baltimore Orioles.

Clint Hurdle (Pittsburg Pirates) The Pirates started the season 10-16 through April and 26-30 through May and were even still around .500 at the All Star Break; it was beginning to look like the haters were right that the Bucs just got lucky in 2013.  Then the second half started and the Pirates fought like their was no tomorrow and finished the season 14-games over .500 and nearly taking the Central Division.  It would be easy to argue that this is a good team and they should have won all along, but they weren’t and for a manager in this day in age, with prima donna players and big wallet players, to motivate winners where there had only been losers is a task whether the team was 90-73 last year or 65-97.

Honorable mentions:

  • Don Mattingly – He could win this award just for keeping Yasiel Puig out of trouble.
  • Ron Roenicki-What could have been.
  • Joe Girardi-A team that had so many injuries, a retiring superstar circus and a suspended distraction, 84-wins is pretty respectable.  They were one losing streak from the playoffs.
  • Mike Scioscia-Good option, but I wonder if this team could win just as many games without him, but then they go and have terrible seasons with all their talent.

Rookie of the Year

Jose Abreu (Chicago White Sox) While I disagree that players like Abreu and Masahiro Tanaka should be able to win an award for rookies when they have played at a professional level, until that changes and they make a first year international player award the rules dictate it is the best first year player and Abreu was without question that player.  Not only does he win the AL R.O.Y but he should also be in conversations for AL MVP with his .317/36/107 a line respectable for the best player in the game some years.

Jacob DeGrom (New York Mets) The AL might be a clear-cut winner, but the NL, not so much. While DeGrom may be the winner, his own teammate could steal the trophy on award night, or even a guy that was so good at stealing down the stretch.  To hold a pitching line of 9-6 with a 2.44era and 144Ks in 140 innings in the “other” New York you have to really tip your hat to the composure of the Mullet Man.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Billy Hamilton-Had Billy started the year half as good as he finished it he would have won no question.
  • Joe Panick-Might be the best player in this bunch when their careers are done and finished, but having only 73 games as a rookie makes it very difficult to select.
  • Dellin Betances-Showcasing his arm on the Leagues biggest mound and never showing a sign of weakness. 135Ks in 90 innings.  Will most certainly take over closing duties for a long time in the Bronx.
  • Masahiro Tanaka-One of the best starting pitchers in baseball rookie or veteran, his only downfall was losing 60 games to injury.

Reliever of the Year

Dellin Betances (New York Yankees) This kid played great not just for a 24-year old, but all relievers considered and managed an All Star nod along the way.  When you consider it was his first year and he threw 90 innings and struck out 135 you don’t just forget it is only his first season.  Nearly unhittable with a .149 opponents BA, only allowing more than 1 run in a game once and never giving up more than 2 hits in a game for the entire season.  Those are numbers you may confuse with Mariano Rivera, not a kid from Washington Heights.

Jonathan Papplebon (Philadelphia Phillies) If Pap was still in  2007 Boston the media may be ranking his performance with the best ever, but when you play on a team that hasn’t won a playoff game since you arrived, you sort of get forgotten.  I won’t forget you, Jon.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Drew Storen-Really provided stability from starter-to-closer transition and a fill in spot closer.  His microscopic ERA will attract suitors for the 27-year old as a closer.
  • Craig Kimbrel-Much Like Pap, a great performance on a very bad team.  But the Braves will rebound once the pitching staff comes back from their Tommy John Retreat.
  • Greg Holland-Does he really deserve the award?  Possibly, but I have to go with who surprised me the most and where credit is due.  A lot of closers get undue credit for their stats, a save really means, “Horray you didn’t lose the game.”  Not to take away from their jobb, but to go in with a 2 or 3 run lead and your job is to let up less runs, I really have a hard time supporting the accolade sometimes.
  • Zach Britton-Filled in nicely after management almost blew the season spot with the Johnson/Balfour debacle.

Pitcher of the Year

Corey Kluber (Cleveland Indians) Probably the biggest moment in his career will be looked upon as the year he upset Felix Hernandez.  7.3 WAR, 269Ks and a 2.44 ERA is about the only way you beat the Cy Young Favorite.

Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers) If you watched any baseball this season you don’t need any reasons that Kershaw wins the best pitcher in baseball.  The only pitcher that can unseat Kersh was injured to early to make a mark.  But if Jose Fernandez recovers fully he will be the player that one day takes the driver’s seat as the best.  Until then Kersh is the only vote.

  • Johnny Cueto- How does one have an ERA just north of 2 and strike our 142 batters and not win the Cy Young?  He pitches in the same division as Kershaw.  Proving a year filled with injuries was nothing more than a year Cueto asserted his dominance across the season taking down batters one after another.
  • Madison Bumgarner-The Giant are back in the post season because of their youngest superstar ace.
  • Jordan Zimmermann-Fitting that Zimmermann finished the season with a no hitter,  Fourth fiddle to some very big names in baseball, Zimm might be their best.
  • Jake Arrieta-Unfortunate for Arrieta he is stuck in Chicago… for now.
  • Felix Hernandez- It is unfortunate that sometimes an amazing pitcher has to come in second, but this year The King was the prince.
  • Chris Sale-Another name that could have upset the balance, his only red mark on his resume is the amount of starts he was able to accumulate due to injury.
  • Garrett Richards-Much like Sale injury derailed his quest, only difference is that Richards was injured on the other end of the season.
  • Phil Hughes-If this is Hughes improving his name will climb with each year.

Most Valuable Player

Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels) – He was once considered the next big thing and compared to Miguel Cabrera as the best all-around player.  He is now the standard by which players are compared.

Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh Pirates)-The unequivocal leader of the Pirates and far and way their best player.  He led them to the NLCS last year and this year he will do it again, both the NLCS and the MVP.  Hopefully the NLCS will have a more positive outcome for the man they call Clutch.  People may argue that Kershaw deserves the award, I find it hard to award a player that only appears in 20% of a team’s games as their most valuable player.

Honorable Mention:

  • Clayton Kershaw
  • Giancarlo Stanton
  • Johnny Cueto
  • Adrian Gonzalez
  • Carlos Gomez
  • Devin Mesoraco
  • Jayson Werth
  • Paul Goldschmidt
  • Denard Span
  • Victor Martinez
  • Jose Abreu
  • Jose Altuve
  • Jose Reyes
  • Nelson Cruz
  • Felix Hernandez
  • Jon Lester
  • Garrett Richards
  • Robinson Cano

Future Legends FTW

image

Every few sets Topps really hits a Grand Slam with their presentation. This season the Tribute and the Tier One were phenomenal; and this set is likely as good if not better than the Tributes with a slight edge if you a rookie or future star fan.

The borderless, slightly distressed background look with the photography choice is top notch, Walter Iooss would be proud. The minimized close up while in browse mode and intensity of each shot actually may make the card just that much better.

Topps decision to dedicate such a great looking set solely to future stars in my opinion makes this the must have set of the year.

Jose Fernandez
Dellin Betances
Marcos Stroman
Will Myers
Oscar Tevares
Jose Abreu

Just a portion of 15-card main set to pull and a 16th Jorge Soler bonus award card for collecting them all.

Sixteen astounding players all sure to be big names for the next 15-years in our National Pastime.

Kudos.

Player of the Week: PotW Cards

 

wpid-wp-1410026735093.pngPlayer of the Week Cards are great options for both players and collectors.

For collectors they offer a short run limited insert that can be part of a bigger set or collected for teams or favorite players.

These are one of the only inserts that benefit points players also because during their one week active rune the cards collect points at 3-times the active base score. A hitter or pitcher can easily score you over 500-plus points on a solid outing.

Both players will also benefit from the one week active 1,000 coin award.  The cards are regularly released on Monday afternoon based on MLB’s selection of the Player of the Week announcement.

 

Bill Buckner #TBT

wpid-wp-1409861248114.pngEach week Topps releases a #TBT or for the webcronym challenged, a Throwback Thursday card that features a classic card most of us had so many years ago.  Aside from a great card, the release gets you an award of 1000 coins and belongs to a collection of 30 inserts that will collect for an even grander prize.

This weeks release was a 1980 Topps Bill Buckner Chicago Cubs card (#135).  The 1980’s series was a fairly minimal design simply with a rounded yellow boarder and a pair of flags featuring the club and position of the player.  This particular release was more than just a throwback great, it was a twisted humor by the guys in the logistics room.

Buckner is a bit on the higher end of the count release at 1,986 copies. Why the odd release number you ask young fan?  For fans over 30 the answer is simple, poor Buckner booted a fairly routine grounder that happens every so often for a Major Leaguer, difference is Bill’s error came in Game 5 of the World Series with a 3-2 series lead over the Mets that may have cost them the title and an additional 24 years of waiting to raise their championship banner.

Thoughts on the new release?

Are you collecting the #TBTs?

 

 

What is TOPPS BUNT?

What is Topps BUNT?

Topps BUNT is part fantasy baseball, part card collecting put in a blender with the Amazon Kindle.  (Why Kindle and not Nook? Because I own a Kindle like 98% of eReaders).

Topps BUNT has the basic concept that you openly compete with all users for points based on a players on field performance.  What makes BUNT different from say ESPN Fantasy baseball is that in most fantasy concepts one person has Mike Trout, one person has Andrew McCutchen and some unlucky guy has B.J. Upton.  In BUNT everyone can have Mike Trout, they just have to pull him from a pack, which is pretty easy because he is the spokes man and everyone gets him… but we will get to packs in a little bit.

In fantasy baseball you set your team and once the game starts that is it, you are pretty locked in for the day. In BUNT you can change your players in real-time (save for a buffer time) and move from player-to-player until you reach your player limit which refreshes rather slowly. For the most part though you should not be exhausting this limit, if you are I suggest you take a small break from the webernets and go outside and see how the world has changed.

$_35The way to accumulate players is through packs, for your Average Joe Topps is very generous with free coins and unless you try chasing inserts from day 1, should have no problem amassing a respectable team in no time. You can also buy coins for additional packs to grow your team faster.

There is also the classic trading method as you did as a child, swap cards with fellow BUNTers for cards you need. Learn card values before beginning this strategy.

Each card has five base levels:

  • Common (White) scores at x1.00 base
  • Uncommon (Green) scores at x1.25 base
  • Rare (Red) scores at x1.50 base
  • Scarce (Silver) scores at x1.75 base
  • Super Rare (Gold) scores at x2.00 base

There are other boosts and tempory x3.00 base cards, but this is BUNT 101, save those for Junior year.

As you collect a team you will year that good player does not always mean good points scorer. Much like fantasy baseball it is about hitting the points categories, so focus on RBIs, HRs and low strikeout rates when looking into hitters. Unlike most fantasy games putouts and playing the field does add some points, but nothing that will every tip the scales for winning a trophy for you.

img_1693Besides the points aspect of the game Topps has also taken your card collection and virtualized it.  Much like your bookshelf in a Kindle you can take 3000 cards with you on your phone and browse 45 Derek Jeter cards with your pals without Clumbsy McDonttouch nicking the corner of your formerly Gem Mint 10.

Besides the cards you play in the fantasy side of the game Topps is growing their insert side of the app.

Topps regularly rotates sets for fans to chase for exclusive reward cards and coin prizes for collecting the cards within a set time span.  Most card chases last a week or two depending on the set size, usually 10 or so cards.  But some sets run for the entire season with a card selling out in usually a week until the next in the series is released.

This is where deciding to be a player or a collector. You can chase both, but for most of the games population you can not have a super insert collection and a top tier points collection. Reason being you have to pick packs to buy or trade your cards and to get one you need to give up the other.  Myself I collect, I like to play, but because I don’t have a thousand Gold cards my points put me somewhere around #2000 each week. This sounds low, but compared to 100,000 users this is respectable. On the other side of the argument, the points difference between 1st place (150,000 pts) and 2000th place (25,000 pts) you can see what an insert collection does to your chance to aim for first place.

Whatever you chose the game will be fun for your tastes.

Download on Android and iOS today and start collecting.

Android users, bear with it, there are several devices that are struggling with the app and desperately need an update to increase performance. It creates long wait times for trades to appear and load.  When the game is moving it is top tier full, and still is, but frustrating at time when you miss trades because the game refuses to load.

NEXT UP: Batters v Pitchers… What should I play?

Topps BUNT iOS and Android App: A new direction for Destination: October

mzl.vkwvymsw.175x175-75The speed of news on the internet is overwhelming for bloggers with a job. So by the time “Player A” is traded or news of “Player B’s” injury has spread and a blogger with a 9-to-5 is home so many opinions on an issue have spread that the want and meaningfulness of an armchair fans opinion on a topic is near useless.

But this isn’t a pity party or a call anyone to tell me they love my opinion on Martin Prado’s arrival in the Bronx. In all honesty I too would rather hear Peter Gammon’s professional take on the impact of a trade than a 39-year old baseball nerd’s opinion. Again, not self-loathing, just the truth.

Why am I writing this and what does it have to do with Topps?

I will tell you, there are literally 100 professional news websites (i.e. ESPN, SI, Yahoo!) to get box scores and thousands of fan created sources (Trade Rumors, Bleacher Report and Yardbarker) some as great as any elite source and some about as reliable as a train schedule. Judging by the click data, I am in the unreliable train schedule, such is life. But this is when you look at the data and find your niche. When I write about non-main stream topics like great baseball related songs or best sports movies I actually get heavy traffic.Why? Because in 2014 the New York Post has more to write about than how “Bull Durham” ranks against “Field of Dreams” or if “Glory Days” is better musically then “Tessie.”

I love writing left-field post about music and movies but you can’t live off media related sports, there is only so much space. During the off-season when you really miss baseball that is when you write about things that make you yearn the green grass and the musty smell of leather. I will also force my opinions on the season preview and playoffs down your throat, that is my passion. But for the immediate future I am going to rant, rave and review the semi-new, not so much, but only to Android users phone app Topps BUNT.

See my coming post about what BUNT is and why you can fill an entire blog about a phone app.

Prospect Watch: Yordano Ventura

Leagues are clearing out Yordano Ventura quick, in ESP this AM he was up to 64% and that is up 23% from his last start.  If he is out there and you can drop anyone for a pitcher this is the prospect you want.

Many leagues drafted Ventura, but because of a rain out the Royals coaching staff decided to skip Ventrua’s first start rather than push him back a day.  The reasoning likely has to do with an inning limit and they might as well get the most out of later starts as possible.  In any case, most leagues seen a drop in his roster percentages and educated managers hung on to him and took the 5 game lapse.

His 2 starts since have been anything but evidence he was worth the wait.  In his first start he tossed 6 innings in a no-decision, striking out 6 and walking none, allowing no runs against the Rays.  His second start this past week Ventura pitched 7 innings against the Astros in a win giving up only a HR to Omar Infante while striking out 8 and walking one batter.

His fastball can hit 3 digits and his late innings are high 90s so his velocity is always testing a batters reaction.  Aside from (maybe) Tyler Skaggs this is the best pitcher you don’t yet know.

Prospect Pickup: George Springer

If he is on your waiver wire and you have the space this kid is worth the pick up.  He is as big a prospect name as Byron Buxton and Archie Bradley, but expect him to make a huge impact immediately with all the playing time Houston has to spare.

As big as a defensive back and as fast as a wide receiver this kid wide receiver, this kid could be as great as Mike Trout if he can hit as good.

Don’t wait on his production or he will be gone.

I Have Never Seen Jackie Robinson Play Baseball

I have never seen Jackie Robinson play baseball, he died years before I was born.

I have seen a few highlights of his career but can only recall one clip I have ever seen of him playing baseball and it is probably the most well known clip, Jackie steals home against the Yankees in the World Series.  Robinson played 10 seasons in the Majors and I have probably seen less than 10 minutes of game footage.  That goes across the board for most players before my time, watching old footage unless it is part of a documentary is just not something I have a desire to sit down and watch, I prefer to read about old-time baseball.  As the man with the waxed mustache would say it has a certain je ne sais quoi. 

By the numbers baseball historians will tell you he was a tremendous player, he hit .311 stole about 200 bases and drove in 730 runs, winning an MVP, a batting title, the rookie of the year, 6 all-star selections and one World Series ring.

They will further say Jackie Robinson accepted an offer from Branch Rickey to join the Brooklyn Dodgers organization in 1946, and worked his way through the system to debut with the Dodgers the following year on April, 15 1947.

As a kid growing up I knew the name Jackie Robinson, but I really didn’t know much about the man until I started reading baseball history books in high school.  Many people enjoy Revolution history, WWII history and early settler history.  My hobby has always been as I like to call it train-era baseball when players spent hours together between stations.  Books began to tell a tale of heroics of a man I never seen play.

In 1997 Major League Baseball universally retired his number across baseball.  That same year Ken Griffey Jr. asked permission to wear number 42 on the anniversary of his first game to honor Robinson; in 2009 it became a tradition league wide.  And in 2013 one of the most amazing films not just about baseball, but in cinema history was released with Chadwick Boseman portraying Jackie Robinson wonderfully in 42.  I have seen more film of Boseman portraying Robinson than Robinson portraying himself on the field.

Today you will hear many African-American players admit that they owe their place on the field to Robinson.  In the past Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and Ken Griffey Jr. to name a few have made statements that without the efforts of Robinson they probably would not be playing baseball.   Even Martin Luther King Jr. himself credits Jackie Robinson for his part in the civil rights movement just by playing baseball with the Dodgers in the late-1940’s.

Andrew McCutchen, Derek Jeter, David Ortiz, Starling Marte and Curtis Granderson are some of the players in baseball I really enjoy watching anytime they are on tv.  Rickey Henderson, Harold Reynolds, Tony Gwynn and Willie Randolph are just a few of the players I loved growing up.  I may not have seen much of Robinson on film, but every time I seen Rickey steal a base, every time McCutchen dives to make a catch, each time Jeter make a great play, when Gwynn chased .400 and Ortiz rip a ball over the monster I see Jackie play.

Thank you for making the journey, Jackie.

“I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me … all I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”  ~Jackie Robinson

Focusing on the Playoffs everyday of the year.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 404 other followers

%d bloggers like this: