Expectations are high this year for the Yankees 

It’s easy to forget that just a short while ago, the New York Yankees were tabbed by many to be possible favorites in this division. After winning 92 games last year, this year I think that a +8-10 game change is very likely.

Their pitching should be good again. Gerrit Cole got off to a very good start and was the cog for the New York Yankees pitching staff overall. He posted a 3.23 ERA along with 243 Ks and he amazingly won games even when the offense scored 3 or less runs. His return brings them steadiness on the bump. Then there is the quintessential X-Factor. Which is Jordan Montgomery. He immediately springs to mind with his sinker that abuses the plate, and his wicked changeup that dances over the plate when it cruises over it. As long as he can continue what he is good at, and get some decent offensive help, he can be a huge key to this team’s season. While it’s far too early to say what kind of run the 30 year old pitcher is going to have, but after what we saw last year with his 162 Ks, his ERA, and innings pitched – all which were top 3 on the team, it’s easy to say why just a couple of tweaks here and there, could make him a real surprise stud.

The team also has to feel good about what they saw from Gleyber Torres during the 2021 campaign, in the time he got, he racked up a .259 avg and a solid .697 OPS. Although with a little more work he could be really productive for this team, as long as he keeps confidence at the plate, with his smooth swing and excellent hand-eye coordination, it wouldn’t surprise me for him to knock out 25+ HRs and rack up another 85 RBI again. Torres is on his way to becoming a great player – and him possibly moving to 2B could be a key – with good discipline along with more than just adequate plate coverage.  

Aaron Judge showed awesome power, yet again, and excellent hitting with 39 slammers and 98 RBI. The 6-7 powerhouse struggled early in the season, hitting just .246 in the first 30 games, then went off during the rest of the season, hitting .298 adding 80 RBI. The key for him will be trying to start off ready to go, and riding it for the year. If he can get off early, it would be a great help.

The Yankees are going to be betting on Judge and Torres coming through for them this year and I fully expect them to do as such. If they do as expected, they will be looking at a postseason berth. I wouldn’t be surprised if Judge gets at least 40 HRs if he gets the chance to open it up, and if Torres can stay confident it is going to be tough to handle this squad.

The Yankees turned it around later in the year, they played better baseball over the middle of the summer, getting red hot in July and August, plowing along at a 35-17 record. Helping them to finish 3rd in the AL East. They had a slow start going just 41-39 through June 2021, and that start definitely put them behind in the race. If they managed to play as well as they played for the middle of the season, during the first part of the year, they probably would have finished with around 100-105 wins. Expectations for New York this season should be a lot higher than they were in 2021 – now that they have shown what they can do. The Rays better be careful, because this team has a very high chance of causing some chaos in the division and getting to be the Top Dog in MLB.

Top 5 pitching rotations in MLB

Pitching is the ultimate power for a baseball team to harness. Having the ability to stifle and shutdown bats is an “X factor” – many teams have great batters, and have several guys who can hit HRs and chip away. But to have a one man who can win the game, if your team is off, or if your team hasn’t been particularly strong on the batting end. That’s the power.

These are VTD’s top 5 pitching rotations in the MLB, as of 6.17.2021.

5- Los Angeles Dodgers / Record; 41-27
* Clayton Kershaw / Lefty / 6-4
W/L; 8-5
INNINGS PITCHED; 82.1
ERA; 3.39
K’s;  95
Kershaw can throw it, and throw it really well – he has been putting up great numbers on a Dodgers team for many years, and his ability to sit batters is still awesome.

* Julio Urias / Lefty / 6-0
W/L; 9-2
INNINGS PITCHED; 84.0
ERA; 3.54
K’s;  90
If you’re looking for a budding rockstar – look no further than Julio Urias. With their starting staff – Los Angeles have been able to keep their pitchers well rested on a consistent basis, because they have several guys they feel confident with putting on the bump, the Dodgers have great confidence, and they should, especially Urias who has been putting up some really good winning numbers.

4- Milwaukee Brewers / Record; 38-30
* Freddy Peralta / Righty / 6-4
W/L; 6-1
INNINGS PITCHED; 68.0
ERA; 2.25
K’s;  98
Strong armed 21 year old Peralta and their pitching squad gives manager Craig Counsell a lot of looks to work with.
I continue to be amazed by his awareness when pitching, his potential is unparalleled.

* Brandon Woodruff / Righty / 6-4
W/L; 5-2
INNINGS PITCHED; 83.0
ERA; 1.52
K’s;  97
These 2 keep batters confused and a steady dish of K’s on a consistent basis for Milwaukee. These are factors supporting Milwaukee as having one of the best pitching rotations in baseball today. Woodruff’s arm is an elite cannon without question with his fastball, and his sinker is nasty. Freddy Peralta, and Brandon Woodruff round out an impressive group for Milwaukee.

3- New York Yankees / Record; 35-32
* Gerrit Cole / Righty / 6-4
W/L; 8-3
INNINGS PITCHED; 81.2
ERA; 2.31
K’s;  113
Cole has been devastating on the mound, especially the past 3 seasons, posting over 70% win pct over those seasons. Since 2018 he has been a lockdown pitcher who can solely win games on his arm – that’s nothing to forget.

* Jonathan Loaisiga / Righty / 5-11
W/L; 6-2
INNINGS PITCHED; 35.1
ERA; 1.78
K’s;  27
Jonathan Loaisiga has shown that he can pull a low scoring, 3-1 win out, and he knows when to pitch aggressively and when to make batters swing. The Yanks lack of bats gets a lot of the blame for their struggles, and at some point a team’s offense has to win close games. 

2- Chicago White Sox / Record; 43-25
* Carlos Rodon / Lefty / 6-3
W/L; 6-2
INNINGS PITCHED; 66.2
ERA; 1.89
K’s;  97
Whatever problems that Rodon was having last season, definitely appear to have been worked out – as his pitching game has been stellar.

* Lance Lynn / Righty / 6-5
W/L; 7-2
INNINGS PITCHED; 71.2
ERA; 1.51
K’s;  80
Chicago had a pretty strong pitching staff even before they signed Lynn – now with the 6-5 righty, the White Sox have a group that can dominate teams, as shown by their 3.16 team runs against average.

1- New York Mets / Record; 35-25
* Jacob deGrom  / Righty / 6-4
W/L; 6-2
INNINGS PITCHED; 64.0
ERA; 0.56
K’s;  103
deGrom has a 1.91 ERA in 556.0 innings over the last 4 years – along with 739 K’s. He had a 1.70 ERA and a lethal 0.912 WHIP in 2018 – he appears to be coming back stronger than ever showing off his experience and great pitching ability on the bump.

* Taijuan Walker / Righty / 6-4
W/L; 6-2
INNINGS PITCHED; 68.0
ERA; 2.12
K’s;  72
New York have been very reliable with their pitching unit, especially in the late innings. The Mets, without question, have one of the best ERAs in baseball, at 3.12 as a team, currently putting them at the top spot in the majors. Walker has been an ace in the hole. They have several legitimate options on this team, including Walker and deGrom in particular. Personally, I would not want anyone over the Mets staff, as they are the ultimate assurance.

Gerrit Cole has been weaving a path of destruction

Gerrit Cole signed a massive $324 million dollar contract in 2019 with the New York Yankees. Cole was with the Houston Astros for 2 seasons prior, and was a great pitcher, leading the American League with a 2.50 ERA in 2019, along with a 20-5 record and leading MLB with 326 K’s. Since coming to New York – Cole has been magnificent – and has been worth every giant penny they shoveled at him as a sports team. For 3 years, from 2018-2020, he has been showing his stuff – with a 42-13 record and a 696 K’s and a 2.71 ERA. This year the big righty leads the Yankees with 104 strikeouts through 12 starts, along with a nice 2.26 ERA.

He has given the Yankees an incredibly stout pitcher, they can count on every time he takes the mound. In fact, the Yankees have not had a dominant pitcher like him, the way he is playing, since CC Sabathia back in the 2009-2012 era – and even he wasn’t as unbreakable as Cole. He has single handedly been able to keep the Yankees ahead, while they are still figuring some things out with their bats, as they are sitting at only 26th in the majors with a pitiful .228 team batting avg. He has won games 3-1, 2-0, and 1-0 this year, when New York hasn’t been giving run support, he has been enough to get the W’s.

He has been ripping it with a well balanced combination of changeup, slider, curveball and a wicked fastball. Keeping batters uncomfortable and off balance with his lethal and advanced arsenal, he gets batters out in so many different ways. And when at a full count, which hasn’t been often, the 6-4 pitcher keeps batters to a dismal .105 batting avg.
It seems that regardless if ahead, or behind – there is no quit in him.

The 30 year old recently hit the historic 1500 K mark for his career and becoming the Top Dog in Baseball. And he achieved this in 212 games – the only pitcher who hit that number faster was “The Big Unit”, Randy Johnson, he hit his in an astonishing 206 games, achievements like that aren’t to be taken lightly, it certainly puts things in perspective. As of 6.3.2021 – Cole has had 6 games of 4 hits or less, along with 5 games of 9 or more K’s, and has only walked 11 batters, on the season.

With his marvelous play this season, the Yankees can approach a game offensively differently when he is on the mound. In honesty, the Yanks can focus on scoring even just 2-3 runs – they aren’t bogged down with pressure to score 5+. A team always wants to score as many runs as they can, of course, but it has to be a huge relief to know that if you are struggling finding the hit zone, and not able to get some runs on the board – your pitcher is whiffing bats on the other end, keeping them from crossing the plate. And when a pitcher is throwing the ball the way he has – it also makes things much more easier for fielders. They know what they are expecting throughout the game, and it makes their job that much easier.

Cole has been incredible this year, and if he keeps going on this path of destruction he is weaving to opponents – the Yanks very well may have a CY Young winner on their hands.

Top 5 MLB players under the age of 24

MLB has a whole bunch of young guys playing today, with a load of talent. Every season baseball brings a new cluster of young players who are more than ready to take over as future stars. The storm is coming, so get ready – these are the 5 who are poised to make huge impacts from the potential that we have seen so far in their short careers.

5. Gleyber Torres  / 23 years old / SS / New York Yankees
335 games / 65 HRs / 190 RBI / .477 slugging pct
Gleyber Torres showed his budding power skills off with great swing and a .480 slugging pct in 2018, and his 24 HRs in his rookie campaign showed he has the power to set off a pitch. His on the ball defense needs some work and he has to get faster making decisions – but his swing has been good. HIs 90 RBI in 2019 was 2nd on the team – which was behind only DJ LeMahieu – he has shown the ability to get runners home. He smashed 38 HRs and went off for a .535 slugging pct in 2019 was 2nd only behind their power-man, Aaron Judge, his potential is truly off the charts

4. Luis Robert, CF, White Sox   / 23 years old / CF / Chicago White Sox
80 games / 12 HRs / 39 RBI / 76 hits
Robert looks like he can become a velvety solid hit machine, in his 1st season he racked up 47 hits in 56 games played – it is unfortunate his 1st season was the 2020 season, there could have been so much more shown. With what he showed, I expect the special hitter to be one of the top players for many future years to come. He can be described as fire – with his eye and swing- he is someone that most opponents don’t like seeing in the box.

3. Juan Soto / 22 years old / LF / Washington Nationals
327 games / 71 HRs / 225 RBI / .553 slugging pct
Soto has some massive power, with 71 HRs in 1160 at bats in his short career, in 2020, during the shortened season, he led the league in batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, not too bad as a 21 year old. He rolled up into 5th in MVP voting – as a 21 year old, I think it is very easy to say, he has a very realistic shot to land himself a couple of those in his career. Soto can be a steady 40 HR player under regular circumstances – the 225lb lefty should have a fantastic career. He is as close to a can’t miss stud as anyone imaginable.

2. Fernando Tatis Jr.  / 21 years old / SS / San Diego Padres
162 games / 46 HRs / 109 RBI / .294 batting avg
Tatis is a big physical player at SS
Tatis has a great eye and has been absolutely magnificent with early pitches – which is tough to handle for anyone on the bump. The 21 year old ran into 4th place in NL MVP voting in 2020, as he led the Padres in HR in 2020. Tatis was formidable posting a solid .277/ .366 / .571 slash line with 17 home runs, 45 RBIs and 50 runs scored in his 2nd major league season. Tatis showed better plate discipline by walking more often and striking out less

1. Ronald Acuna Jr  / 22 years old / OF / Atlanta Braves
338 games / 90 HRs / 213 RBI / 64 stolen bases
Ronald Acuna was Rookie of the Year in 2018 after having a marvelous 1st season, with 26 HR, a .293 avg, 127 hits and 16 stolen bases. He has shown off speed with the sneaky ability to grab bases and can make teams pay when playing deepened defense. He found a way to lead the league in RBI with 127 in 2019 at just 21 years old – he knows how to run the bases and when to send the ball out to get his guys home. His speed has been lethal – tallying 37 stolen bases in 2019 was 7+ ahead of dangerous bases stealers, Christian Yelich and Starling Marte. He is a guy who can do it all with lightning speed, good power and a great clutch bat.

When it comes to young exciting superstars they are all over the MLB – they all have such great promise to show up and entertain for years to come. But, these are the few guys who are on their way to truly taking over the game over the next several years.
Sit back and enjoy the show – there’s a ton to see.

Who is more valuable to their team – Dodgers Justin Turner or the Reds Nick Castellanos

The Los Angeles Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds are both playing well this season. The Dodgers are sitting in the 1st spot in the NL West  – and Cincinnati is sitting proudly in the top slot in the NL Central. Cincinnati has been a struggling team over the last handful of seasons – and the Dodgers have been a steady threat since 2015 – but this year has been different so far. Baseball is a numbers game – and every guy on the field is responsible for their own production as well as the team’s production as a unit.  Justin Turner and Nick Castellanos are both sitting as top hitters in the MLB this season so far.

In the 2021 baseball season – which of these players has been the bigger key for their teams early success?
Let’s take a look.

Justin Turner / 3B / .412 avg / 2 HR / 9 RBI / 1.183 OPS /  .447 OBP / .735 SLG
Los Angeles Dodgers

Justin Turner has been rock solid for Los Angeles since he put on cleats for them in 2014. His bat has been awesome and his power is underrated. He takes charge on the field and has been great getting well timed hits when needed. He hits when guys are in scoring position as well as anybody at .333 and can bring his guys in as shown with his 8 RBI. Turner has always been very patient on the plate – taking an average of 3.94 pitches per plate appearance – he has been on point as well with 3.91 this season.

Turner has hit over .300 in 5 seasons, and an average of 21 home runs since hitting age 30 and getting 365 or more at bats.
So he has had a career of being a good player, and has always been more than willing to send the ball deep to drive home guys – he is unselfish

The 36 year old vet has been key with getting hits – with a .293 career batting avg. He has been lights out this season with a hefty batting average – on pace for 120+ hits and 30 HRs – helping the Los Angeles Dodgers to a top notch record. He gets his job done on the field.

Nick Castellanos / RF / .364 avg / 4 HR / 7 RBI / 1.248 OPS / .400 OBP / .848 SLG
Cincinnati Reds

Castellanos has been red hot this season – he has been a solid player since entering the majors – but his 2021 start is looking more in tune as a HOf’er. His career best season was back in 2019 – when he hit .289 and had 27 dingers – this season so far, he is on his pace for 30+ HRs and 120+ runs and Cincinnati are in 1st place in the NL Central.

Castellanos didn’t come to Cincinnati with much spark when he arrived in 2020 – but so far in his second season – he has shown more than the expected magic that Cincinnati was hoping for when he was picked up with his 27 HRs and hitting .289 in 2019.

Nick has shown the uncanny ability to connect with the ball – he has hung 7 games with a hit or more as of 4.10.2021 – that is something that is definitely a positive. Castellanos also doesn’t hit into double plays very frequently – he makes teams earn their outs, as he has only hit into an average of 8 double plays over the last 5 seasons, so he doesnt help defenses out.

The Reds were only 31-29 last year – this year they are playing high octane offense and have been wrecking teams. If Cincinnati can get into the playoffs again this year playing like they have been – it could be fun. Castellanos played down last year – and the Reds were not a good team – this year, he is playing top notch baseball and sharp – and the Reds are looking very good and competitive so far.

It’s a long season, but Castellanos has been excellent for Cincinnati so far. It is obviously too early to say who will be the biggest key for their team – but as of now, at the very early stage of the year – it’s hard to not say Nick Castellanos. The season will determine which team is better in the end but anyone who doesn’t see Castellanos as a highly competitive and excellent reason for the Reds success is just blind.

Nick Castellanos has a career .275 batting average – so his white hot start is more unlikely. Justin Turner has a career .293 batting average – so him ending with a .300 or higher batting avg is far more likely – as his teams have been top threats in his career – one has to think that the current game of Nick Castellanos this season so far, has to be the key. Castellanos has been clutch and highly surprising, Justin Turner has not been able to make the difference quite as much as Castellanos has. With that being said – I find it very hard to say Turner is more valuable to Los Angeles than Castellanos is to the Reds. If I had to choose between Justin Turner and Nick Castellanos right now – give me Nick Castellanos – he will get on base more and be able to make plays for my entire team.

MLB is back, and it’s bringing the DH with it

Baseball is coming back towards the end of July, officially on the 23rd or 24th. I am genuinely really looking forward to it, it’s going to be great to have competitive team sports getting back.
We are getting a much shorter season, of 60 games, I feel cutting the season down to less than 40% of the normal season will give it more importance in regular season play. Baseball is a traditional summer sport, and has always been a great American pastime, but, for me, it’s slow patient pace has always left it behind football, basketball, and hockey.
All much faster paced sports.
But, here I am, and I couldn’t be happier about baseball coming back, sure it is going to be a strange season, with just 60 games. We are getting sports back, and that’s great!
Now, not to be “that guy” – but players did come off pretty greedy during the negotiations – the entire labor negotiation between everyone involved, actually, was pretty derisive to the fans. Personally, I was turned off by the greed on all sides, with players saying that they just wanted to play, and then blaming the owners. Meanwhile, then saying they won’t play – unless they get their 30 million. The whole thing was a mess and didn’t paint the players in a good light – but, I digress. I think in the end, we are long overdue for a serious salary cap to be put in place.
But, anyway, in the end, they were able to hammer it out, and get us games on the field.
The season is going to be bringing in a big change and some are not looked at in the most favorable light. The one I think is the most intriguing and bugs traditionalists the most, is the universal designated hitter.
There will be a DH on every team.
Personally, I love the universal DH idea. For years, we have been watching pitchers struggle to make any sort of contact with the ball – it is beyond embarrassing. When you have .135 and .156 averages coming to the plate, it is not competitive, and it is extremely downtrodden when there are 2 outs already. I feel the DH is better for the game, bringing a player who you know can swing the stick.
I feel the introduction and coming of the DH to the National League was coming either way, so I am all for the universal DH adjustment. And I don’t think anyone should be shocked if it sticks around after this season is over. I think this is going to be the norm, going forward, after this is over. The players seem like they all want it – and it is great for guys that can’t really play a position on the field anymore, but can still hit.
Especially the older guys, like Ken Griffey Jr. and Albert Pujols played parts of their great careers at DH. Does anyone think any less of them?
I don’t think so.
It seems that the ones that don’t want it – are the traditional baseball fans. I understand the culture – but maybe it is time for a change.
A change to improve upon a sport that America holds dear, but can use some changes and upgrades. And, as far as a batting pitcher goes – when a team is paying a guy $30 million a year to pitch – it’s irresponsible to risk losing him to injury from running the bases or going to bat.
Don’t get me wrong – change isn’t always good.
But, sometimes it isn’t so bad.
After all this quarantine and absurdity that we have been dealing with for the last 3 months and then with no sports, for sports fans, it has been rough. It is inspirational and outstanding that we’re slowly trying to get back to normalcy, Japan and China have been playing baseball for some time now – so, so can the MLB.
I strongly think that every team has a chance to get in, if I were a team, I wouldn’t even focus on looking to get the best record, I would aim more for about 35 wins. I think that will be a solid number to get to the postseason. The MLB didn’t have to bring back the season – I am grateful that they are bringing us something. I will truly appreciate having some baseball in this weird year – even with all the complaints that are coming with it.

MLB is coming back, and it’s bringing the DH with it

The 2020 Major League Baseball season will begin on July 23 and is scheduled to end on September 27. The postseason will begin on September 29. The World Series is set to begin on October 20 and a potential Game 7 will be played on October 28.

I am genuinely really looking forward to it, it’s going to be great to have competitive team sports getting back.
We are getting a much shorter season, of 60 games, I feel cutting the season down to less than 40% of the normal season will give it more importance in regular season play. Baseball is a traditional summer sport, and has always been a great American pastime, but, for me, it’s slow patient pace has always left it behind football, basketball, and hockey.
All much faster paced sports.
But, here I am, and I couldn’t be happier about baseball coming back, sure it is going to be a strange season, with just 60 games. We are getting sports back, and that’s great!
Now, not to be “that guy” – but players did come off pretty greedy during the negotiations – the entire labor negotiation between everyone involved, actually, was pretty derisive to the fans. Personally, I was turned off by the greed on all sides, with players saying that they just wanted to play, and then blaming the owners. Meanwhile, then saying they won’t play – unless they get their 30 million. The whole thing was a mess and didn’t paint the players in a good light – but, I digress. I think in the end, we are long overdue for a serious salary cap to be put in place.
But, anyway, in the end, they were able to hammer it out, and get us games on the field.
The season is going to be bringing in a big change and some are not looked at in the most favorable light. The one I think is the most intriguing and bugs traditionalists the most, is the universal designated hitter.
There will be a DH on every team.
Personally, I love the universal DH idea. For years, we have been watching pitchers struggle to make any sort of contact with the ball – it is beyond embarrassing. When you have .135 and .156 averages coming to the plate, it is not competitive, and it is extremely downtrodden when there are 2 outs already. I feel the DH is better for the game, bringing a player who you know can swing the stick.
I feel the introduction and coming of the DH to the National League was coming either way, so I am all for the universal DH adjustment. And I don’t think anyone should be shocked if it sticks around after this season is over. I think this is going to be the norm, going forward, after this is over. The players seem like they all want it – and it is great for guys that can’t really play a position on the field anymore, but can still hit.
Especially the older guys, like Ken Griffey Jr. and Albert Pujols played parts of their great careers at DH. Does anyone think any less of them?
I don’t think so.
It seems that the ones that don’t want it – are the traditional baseball fans. I understand the culture – but maybe it is time for a change.
A change to improve upon a sport that America holds dear, but can use some changes and upgrades. And, as far as a batting pitcher goes – when a team is paying a guy $30 million a year to pitch – it’s irresponsible to risk losing him to injury from running the bases or going to bat.
Don’t get me wrong – change isn’t always good.
But, sometimes it isn’t so bad.
After all this quarantine and absurdity that we have been dealing with for the last 3 months and then with no sports, for sports fans, it has been rough. It is inspirational and outstanding that we’re slowly trying to get back to normalcy, Japan and China have been playing baseball for some time now – so, so can the MLB.
I strongly think that every team has a chance to get in, if I were a team, I wouldn’t even focus on looking to get the best record, I would aim more for about 35 wins. I think that will be a solid number to get to the postseason. The MLB didn’t have to bring back the season – I am grateful that they are bringing us something. I will truly appreciate having some baseball in this weird year – even with all the complaints that are coming with it.

Mike Handzelek’s Late Summer MLB’s & Football Summary

Late season MLB action.

Clayton Kershaw’s has been MORE than excellent @ home. He’s been even tougher against the patsies! The Los Angeles Dodgers can hit much better than last year’s rendition. In fact, they’ve pulverized RHP over the long haul going 42-9 @ home. There’s no Monday hangovers for Kershaw as witnessed by a superb 23-7 record on Tuesdays. He’s also looked super-sharp his last 3 outings posting a 3-0 slate accompanied by a get-out-of-my-way 1.35 ERA! On the flip side, the Blue Jays are a PERFECT 0-6 in inter-league play along with a no-show 2-12 versus the NL West. With Toronto 26-54 versus LHP, we’ll gladly go to Dodger Stadium in Chavez Ravine to lay & play the LOS ANGELES DODGERS as my 8* MLB Earlybird Dependable!

The St. Louis Cardinals look to solidify their momentary percentage-point hold on 1st place in the NL Central over Chicago. They have MORE than a great chance here when they take on a team with an exhausted pen – the Milwaukee Brewers. Things are looking up with Dakota Hudson & the Cards who are 4-0 their last 4 when he takes the hill. Over the long haul, Hudson is responsible for a super-solid 13-3 St. Louie run in his last 16 starts. The flip side of the coin finds Zach Davies on the mound for the Brew Crew. Davies’ mechanics have looked more than shabby over his last 3 starts posting a ballooned 11.77 ERA. When it counts, he not only struggles mightily versus winning teams going a putrid 4-12 his last 16 but also has lost his last 3 starts versus these same Red Birds. The kicker for us has to be St. Louis being the 2nd-best team in overall pitching among the NL along with holding bragging rights to the #1 bullpen in ERA in the Senior Circuit. Let’s gladly go to Busch Stadium to play the ST. LOUIS CARDINALS as my 9* MLB Earlybird Dependable!

Don’t forget to sign up for a football package that best suits your needs. Last season, we finished 1st in NFL win percentage @ VegasTopDogs with 64% (31-18) along with ALSO ending the CFB season in a 3-way tie for best win percentage @ 62% (29-18). Review articles from Week 1 on for accurate records.

Mike’s MLB Record the last 6: 6-0 100%

Jeff’s 2019 MLB Predictions and Awards

AL EAST

1) New York Yankees (97-65)

2) Boston Red Sox (89-73) WILD CARD

3) Tampa Bay Rays (85-77) WILD CARD

4) Toronto Blue Jays (76-86)

5) Baltimore Orioles (59-103)

AL Central

1) Cleveland Indians (97-65)

2) Minnesota Twins (82-80)

3) Chicago White Sox (73-89)

4) Kansas City Royals (68-94)

5) Detroit Tigers (66-96)

AL WEST

1) Houston Astros (97-65)

2) LA Angels (81-81)

3) Oakland A’s (79-83)

4) Seattle Mariners (78-84)

5) Texas Rangers (70-92)

NL EAST

1) Washington Nationals (92-70)

2) Philadelphia Phillies (90-72) WILD CARD

3) New York Mets (87-75)

4) Atlanta Braves (84-78)

5) Miami Marlins (67-95)

NL Central

1) St. Louis Cardinals (90-72)

2) Milwaukee Brewers (88-74) WILD CARD

3) Chicago Cubs (84-78)

4) Cincinnati Reds (81-81)

5) Pittsburgh Pirates (79-83)

NL WEST

1) Los Angeles Dodgers (95-67)

2) Colorado Rockies (85-77)

3) San Francisco Giants (80-82)

4) San Diego Padres (79-83)

5) Arizona D-bax (73-89)

AL Champion: New York Yankees

NL Champion: LA Dodgers

World Series winner: LA Dodgers in 7

AL MVP: Mike Trout (LA Angels)

NL MVP: Bryce Harper (Philadelphia)

AL CY Young: James Paxton (NY Yankees)

NL CY Young: Aaron Nola (Philly)

AL Rookie of the Year: Vladimir Guerrero Jr…….Easily! (Tor)

NL Rookie of the Year: Victor Robles (Wash)

AL Comeback player: Carlos Correa (Hou)

NL Comeback player: Corey Seager (LAD)

AL Manager of the Year: Kevin Cash (Tampa Bay)

NL Manager of the Year: Gabe Kapler (Philly)

Good Luck this baseball season!

Follow Jeff on Twitter @ jhsportsline

2019 NL Best Bet for Baseball

Look for 2nd year manager Dave Martinez to have a big season for the Washington Nationals.

Washington slumped to 82-80 last year, its worst mark since 2011.

The Nats have still yet to get past the NLDS since moving to Washington despite arguably having the best team in the majors in a couple of those four seasons.

Washington opens the regular season March 28th at home vs. the rival Mets.

Nationals have one of the best offensive outfields in baseball in left fielder Juan Soto, mega-prospect Victor Robles in center and Adam Eaton in right. Soto was runner-up to Atlanta’s Ronald Acuna Jr. for NL Rookie of the Year honors in 2018. All Soto did at age 19 (now 20) was hit .292 with 22 homers, 70 RBIs, a .406 OBP and 79 walks in just 414 at-bats.
The sky is the limit for Soto. Robles, who is currently 21, tore up the minors and hit .288 with three homers and 10 RBIs in 59 big-league at-bats. Eaton is also a great offensive player.

Washington took a one-year flier on former Twins and Dodgers second baseman Brian Dozier this off-season. He hit 21 dingers last year but just .215. During the 2016 and ’17 seasons, Dozier finished in the Top 13 in voting for the American League Most Valuable Player award. He can’t play defense, but neither could incumbent Daniel Murphy (traded to Cubs last August). The team also upgraded at catcher – Washington’s backstops had a combined WAR of 0.5 last year – in trading for Indians All-Star Yan Gomes and signing free-agent Kurt Suzuki. Gomes posted a .762 OPS with a career-best 26 doubles, 16 home runs and 2.2 WAR, seventh best in MLB in 2018. Suzuki hit .271 with 12 homers and 50 RBIs, good for a WAR of 2.1. That’s a great duo.

The projected lineup will be: OF Eaton, SS Trea Turner (a solid longer-shot MVP bet), 3B Anthony Rendon (poised for big season with free agency on tap), OF Soto, 1B Ryan Zimmerman, 2B Dozier, OF Robles, C Gomes/Suzuki. Strong!

As good as that lineup looks, the rotation has a chance to be the best in baseball. It’s led by the incomparable Max Scherzer (18-7, 2.53). It looked as if he might win a third straight Cy Young last year and fourth overall, but he was passed down the stretch by the Mets’ Jacob deGrom. All Scherzer did was lead all NL pitchers in strikeouts (300), strikeouts per nine innings (12.24), strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.88), WHIP (0.91) and innings (220 2/3). He also became just the fifth pitcher since 2001 to strike out 300 in a season.

Stephen Strasburg is fabulous when healthy, but at this point we have to assume he will spend at least one stint on the DL. He finished 10-7 with a 3.74 ERA and 156 strikeouts in 130 innings last year.

The Nats took some of the Harper money and signed the top free-agent pitcher on the market in former Arizona lefty Patrick Corbin. He got six years and $140 million. Corbin comes off his best season, going 11-7 with a 3.15 ERA and 246 strikeouts to just 48 walks. He made the NL All-Star team for a second time and finished fifth in the voting for the NL Cy Young Award.

The back end featured free-agent addition Anibal Sanchez, who had a terrific bounce-back season in 2018 for the Braves, and the solid Joe Ross.

The Washington win total is 88.5 and I love this to go OVER THE TOTAL.

Be sure to grab our MLB Early Bird Baseball deal.