Here Comes The Pain!!!

People naturally try to avoid things they know will cause them pain. You only touch a hot stove once to understand it is not something you want to experience again. Getting hit by a baseball is not something people enjoy, it hurts. Baseballs can leave nasty bruises and broken bones if they hit a person just so. A batter’s natural reaction is to jump out of the way of the baseball when they believe the pitch is going to hit them. This is part of the reason most people have difficulty hitting a curveball. Your mind is telling you of the impending danger, yet you also know you need to hit the ball. The vast majority of people are never able to conquer this fear, stay in the box, and drive a curveball.

Baseball is a hard game played by hard people. It takes a toll on your body. Among those who are able to withstand the fear induced by curveballs is an even more select group, these players are those who turn getting hit by a pitch into an art form and a weapon. A run counts the same if you hit a home run or if you get hit by a pitch and then come around to score. These brave souls sacrifice their bodies to get on base. They are sacrificing themselves for the good of the team.

The official rule governing the hit by pitch (HBP), 5.05(b)(2), states:

“(b) The batter becomes a runner and is entitled to first base without liability to be put out (provided he advances to and touches first base) when:

(2) He is touched by a pitched ball which he is not attempting to hit unless (A) The ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, or (B) The batter makes no attempt to avoid being touched by the ball.”

It is the second part of the rule, “The batter makes no attempt to avoid being touched by the ball”, which often leads to heated debates about whether a batter attempted to avoid being hit by the pitch. Ultimately it is a judgement call by the umpire. This has lead to some players becoming creative in an attempt to be hit by the pitch. Some players are not afraid to be hit by a pitch and will subtly go out of their way to get hit.

The hit by pitch king is Hughie Jennings. He was hit by a pitch 287 times during his career. Jennings led the National League in HBP five consecutive seasons, 1894-1898. He was hit 51 times during the 1896 season, which remains the single season record. Jennings followed up his record setting season by being hit 46 times in 1897 and 1898, which are still the third and fourth highest single season HBP totals. Career record require longevity, Jennings played in the majors in 18 seasons, his last was in 1918 at the age of 49. However, he appeared in six or fewer games during his final six seasons, during which he had only one HBP. Jennings averaged 36 HBP per 162 games. All those bruises from being hit raised Jennings’ career OBP from .357 to .391. Was it all worth it? It is hard to judge but Jennings is forever enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. You be the judge.

The art of the HBP was not a weapon only during the dead ball era, it is alive and well today. Baseball could be in its Golden Age of the HBP. Eight of the top 20 in the career HBP rankings have played in Major League Baseball since 2002. The art and weaponization of the HBP was championed by Craig Biggio and today continues to be carried on by Chase Utley and Anthony Rizzo.

Utley.gif
Chase Utley will take a pitch to the shoulder if it means getting on base. (Jenny Goldstick and Gemma Kaneko/ MLB.com)

Craig Biggio made a career out of doing whatever was necessary to win a baseball game. He willingness to transition from catching to the outfield to second base to help the team with his defense skills wherever they were needed on the diamond. When it came to the offensive side of Biggio’s game he understood his job was to get on base ahead of teammates like Jeff Bagwell. Driving the ball and hustling out of the box or using his elbow guard, and the rest of his body, to reach first base did not matter to Biggio. During his 20 year Major League career, Biggio was hit 285 times, just two behind the all time record. He led the National League five times in HBP. He was hit by a pitch 16 times per every 162 games played during his career. This durability and toughness are what helped Biggio be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The same sort of durability and toughness Biggio displayed throughout his Hall of Fame career is seen in Chase Utley. Utley is playing his 16th Major League season and has been hit by a pitch 200 times. He is the active leader in HBP, he ranks eighth all time, and first all time among left handed batters. Utley’s willingness to use hit body to get on base has seen him lead the National League three times in this painful category. Averaging 17 hit by pitches per 162 games played, Utley has put together a career that will get him some serious consideration for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

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It hurts, but Anthony Rizzo uses hit body to get on base. (www.sportsonearth.com)

The old guard of players like Biggio and Utley have shown the younger generation of players the value of using their body to reach first base. Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo is positioning himself to make a legitimate run at the upper echelons of the record book. In his eighth Major League season, Rizzo has already been hit by 106 pitches, which ties him with Barry Bonds for 74th all time. He is currently ranked 22nd all time for left handed batters. Rizzo could threaten to break into the top 50 all time by the end of this season. He is averaging 18 hit by pitches per 162 games played, and as he enters his prime Rizzo is demonstrating his durability and toughness. Rizzo will turn 29 in August, he should have many more seasons of practicing this painful art ahead of him.

There is an art to getting hit by a pitch. Sometimes it is unavoidable, other times a batter attempts to avoid a fastball to the head. Some players willingly stick a leg or shoulder out on a hanging curveball to reach first base. No one enjoys unnecessary pain. However, baseball is a hard game played by hard people, at every levels. The willingness to endure pain to help the team win is a skill few possess. There are a select few who are willing and able be hit by a pitch if it means helping the team. Rizzo and the next generation of HBP artists need to remember one thing. Whatever you do, do not rub it.

DJ

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A Global Reach for a Global Game

Baseball is a global game so it makes sense for The Winning Run to have a global reach, sort of. Kevin has officially joined us as the head of our international bureau. He is currently living in the baseball hot bed of New Zealand. Kevin has long debated baseball with Bernie and myself dating back to graduate school, and now with Jesse and John. We collectively agree on only one thing, the Mets are always good for a laugh.

Bengyak
Bernie, Derek, and Kevin in Pittsburgh last year watching the Pirates play the Mets and the Diamondbacks. (The Winning Run/ DJ)

Here is how Kevin describes himself:

“I’m the forgotten stepchild of the blog. Partly because I love baseball so much, I thought I’d bring it to the world only to find out they call it “cricket” and play with it with funny bats and accents. I add a third Yankees fan to the blog, and take every opportunity to remind the founders of their superiority over the Braves. I have no patience for small ball and want to see dingers, taters, and mashes.”

Welcome to The Winning Run Kevin. Play ball!   

DJ

Joey Bats: Bat Flipping Pitchers

As we approach the end of May it’s the perfect time to canonize the one of the rarest feats in baseball — the pitcher bat flip. Even with the increase in bat flips around the game, pitchers rarely flip even refusing to make the most of the few times they do get a hit, let alone a home run.

To encourage more of this glorious celebration of triumph, below is a definitive ranking of all pitcher bat flips found during an exhausting 40 minutes of googling. Each bat flip is ranked on a Joey Bats Scale, with a maximum of 19 points overall and 3.8 points in each category:

 

Tom Lawless Meter – Game situations matter

Bill Butler F@ck You Meter –

The lead up to the bat flip

The bat flip

10-7

James Shields – Spring training Bat Flip

Image result for james shields bat flip

James Shield’s bat flip

Frozen Rope – Dinger Scale: Full Dinger (3.8)

Yasiel Puig Hit Admiration Ranking: Flamboyant (3)

Bat Drop – KBO Bat Flip Scale: KBO-esque (2.8)

Tom Lawless Meter: Spring training (0)

Billy Butler F@ck You Meter: Angry at the ball (.5)

Joey Bats Score: Disqualified

In the highlight of their season, then Padres pitcher James Shields uncorked an impressive bat flip, but it’s immediately disqualified for coming in spring training batting practice. Kudos for being the only highlight real I’ve seen from the 2016 Padres.

Matt Harvey Game 1 2015 NLCS

Frozen Rope – Dinger Scale: Sac bunt (0)

Yasiel Puig Hit Admiration Ranking: None (0)

Bat Drop – KBO Bat Flip Scale: Bat fling (.25)

Tom Lawless Meter: During the NLCS but a sac bunt in the NL (.2)

Billy Butler F@ck You Meter: Extremely boring play(0)

Joey Bats Score: .45 or 0 Batmans  

During a standard NL small ball play, Matt Harvey pulled out a bat flip halfway up the first base line. Given he is a worse base runner than Bartolo Colon (confirmed by in-person scouting), it’s possible that he forgot the bat was in his hand and was desperately flinging it away. His Dark Knight moniker should have been revoked after this flip.

Zack Greinke – 2015 versus Brewers

Frozen Rope – Dinger Scale: Frozen Rope-esque Double (1)

Yasiel Puig Hit Admiration Ranking: Robotic (1)

Bat Drop – KBO Bat Flip Scale: Solid bat flip (2)

Tom Lawless Meter: Midseason against Da Brew Crew (.2)

Billy Butler F@ck You Meter: Sighing on 2nd base (0)

Joey Bats Score: 3

A bat flip is acceptable on any decent hit by a pitcher, but the low-stakes combined with the lack of intensity from Greinke and the crowd makes this unmemorable to anyone but the MLB intern who posted it on YouTube. Loses additional points for not having Vin Scully call the play.

6-4

Zack Greinke – Dodgers vs Reds, 2015

Frozen Rope – Dinger Scale: Dinger (3)

Yasiel Puig Hit Admiration Ranking: Peyton Manning-esque (.75)

Bat Drop – KBO Bat Flip Scale: Less Solid bat flip (1.70)

Tom Lawless Meter: Reds won at most 2 games that year (0)

Billy Butler F@ck You Meter: No sigh! (.5)

Joey Bats Score: 5.55

Greinke here looks like a Peyton Manning robot doing his best imitation of Puig. Despite hitting a home run, even the MLB intern passed over this one. It also came during in an August game against the Reds, who, I am sure, were awful outside of Votto in 2015 (I refuse to look this up).

Jeff Samardzija –  2017

Frozen Rope – Dinger Scale: Solid Double (3)

Yasiel Puig Hit Admiration Ranking: Alright, Alright, Alright (1.7)

Bat Drop – KBO Bat Flip Scale: Nut seeking  (2)

Tom Lawless Meter: 2017 Giants (0)

Billy Butler F@ck You Meter: The facial always says f’ you (1)

Joey Bats Score: 6.7

I am amazed he didn’t hit himself in the nuts with this bat flip. That’s some impressive spin, but next time he may want to flip it a little further out to avoid any issues on the bounce back. Pretty impressive, with the ‘70s creeper vibe adding to the cockiness of bat flipping on a double.

Hyun-jin Ryu – 2014 Bat Flip

Frozen Rope – Dinger Scale: Double (1.8)

Yasiel Puig Hit Admiration Ranking: Standard (1.2)

Bat Drop – KBO Bat Flip Scale: Great rotation  (2.9)

Tom Lawless Meter: Summer game against the Rockies (1)

Billy Butler F@ck You Meter: Low-pressure (1)

Joey Bats Score: 7.9

I am now thinking that the Dodgers (and Puig) must encourage their pitchers to flip bats. Still only the 2nd best bat flip by a Dodger pitcher, though.

3-1

Hung-Chih Kuo – 2007

Frozen Rope – Dinger Scale: First Home Run in MLB Dinger! (3.1)

Yasiel Puig Hit Admiration Ranking: Vin Scully Admired the Flip (3.7)

Bat Drop – KBO Bat Flip Scale: Great range, great rotation  (3)

Tom Lawless Meter: 3rd of 3 dingers (2)

Billy Butler F@ck You Meter: That flip screamed hell yeah! (2)

Joey Bats Score: 13.8

Easily, the best bat flip by a Dodger pitcher, even got Vin Scully to admire it.

Some Kid – 2016

Frozen Rope – Dinger Scale: Dinger (3)

Yasiel Puig Hit Admiration Ranking: Puig and then some (3.8)

Bat Drop – KBO Bat Flip Scale: Sharp shooting, full KBO  (3.7)

Tom Lawless Meter: 5-year old playing wiffle ball? Full Lawless in his mind (3)

Billy Butler F@ck You Meter: Surprised he didn’t flip the bird (3.8)

Joey Bats Score: 17.3

This is a bat flip. I have no idea if he is a pitcher or not, I am assuming yes, but MLB pitchers could learn from this kid.  Hope to see him in the show in 17 years.

The bat flip that will never be

The best pitcher bat flip is the one we can only dream of, the one that broke our hearts when its chance at life was squashed this offseason. The one from the sexist pitcher playing today – the Big Sexy bat flip.

The man who gave us one of the most improbable home runs, followed by what has to be the longest home run trot done in earnest, and the only reason for watching the Mets from 2014-2016 selfishly signed with an AL team this offseason. At 45, it’s likely he will never bat again, but we can dream.

Just picture this man, who once carried his bat to 1st base after nearly losing his helmet and the most memorable home run by a Met ever flipping a bat. Watch those video again, there is no doubt in my mind that this would be the bat flip we need. The sheer sexiness of it would result in Colon having at least 3 more families to feed.

We’ll update as the rankings as more pitchers flip more bats in 2018.

KB

They Called Me God

Every umpire, regardless how long they have been calling games, wants every call to be correct. Perfection is the unattainable goal. Knowing the rules is only half the battle, umpires must enforce the rules, often quickly, otherwise a baseball game can descend into a night at the fights. Hall of Fame umpire Doug Harvey might be as close to a perfect umpire that baseball has ever seen. He quoted rules by verse like a theologian. It is little wonder he earned the nickname God. In his book, They Called Me God, written with Peter Golenbock, Harvey recounts his path to and his long tenure in the major leagues. The ups and downs along the way, both on and off the field.

Harvey
Doug Harvey was born to be an umpire, no one ever doubted that. (The Doug Harvey Collection)

Harvey, like so many umpires, fell in love with the game and umpiring was a way to stay in the sport long after his playing abilities ran out. His ability to call baseball, and basketball, games at the highest level left no doubt about his abilities. The Called Me God reads like a best practices handbook for all umpires, but especially those early in their careers that are working hard to improve. Harvey not only talks about making the time to study the rule book, but he also shows how those long hours of studying the rule book over and over again makes you a better umpire. The ability to cite rules, such as the balk rule or the legality of the third to first move enabled Harvey to handle a manager who was trying to argue that Harvey made a mistake. Once Harvey turned the tables on the manager few ever questioned his authority again. Harvey’s dedication to his craft meant players and managers had little choice but to give him the respect he demanded. Doug Harvey also expected professionalism from everyone on the field and he exuded professionalism. Harvey earned the nickname God from his near infallible judgement on the field, his mastery of the rule book, which caused few people to question his calls; plus the draining of a flooded dugout essentially parting the waters helped too.

The Called Me God is an easy read for everyone. There is excellent information and insight for those who umpire, yet the information is accessible to everyone who loves the game of baseball. Reading the rule book is necessary to understand how to properly umpire a game, but Harvey wrote a case book that takes you out of the rule book and onto the field for real life application. It is this honest story telling that engages the reader and draws them in, leaving them wanting to know more. Harvey tells the good with the bad, he does not sugar coat the toll umpiring takes on the individual physically and emotionally, as well as their family. The long hours at the ball field, the late nights followed by the early mornings push people to exhaustion before they even step onto the field to be judge and jury. Umpiring is demanding, and for those who dedicate themselves to the craft the game of baseball will provide them with love and memories for a lifetime. If umpiring has taught me anything it is how little I know about the game of baseball. So who better to learn about calling the game than God himself?

DJ

The Summer of 1998: 20 Years Later

It has been 20 years since the dawn of the 1998 baseball season. The season would see one of the great teams of all time as the Yankees marched towards the World Series, meanwhile Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were chasing the single season home run record. Knowing what we know now about many of the players who helped revive baseball that summer does diminish some of the fondness. However as Mark McGwire famously said before Congress, “I am not here to talk about the past.”

The 1994 players strike severely damaged baseball. The cancellation of the World Series and the delayed start of the 1995 season saw fans turn their backs on the game. Arguing who is blame, the players or the owners, for this dark time in baseball is for another day, what mattered then was how would the game win back the fans it lost. Some fans still see 1994 as the death of baseball, don’t believe me check out this Facebook group which has more than 22,000 members. Right or wrong baseball needed a season to get its fans back.

File photo of Baltimore Orioles Cal Ripken Jr. hittng a base hit in the eighth inning of his 2, 131st consecutive game in Baltimore
Cal Ripken Jr. gave baseball a moment it needed to draw fans back to the game. (REUTERS/ Gary Hershorn/Files)

Baseball got a much needed boost when Cal Ripken Jr. played his 2,131st consecutive game, passing Lou Gehrig for most consecutive games played on September 6, 1995. This was a moment baseball desperately needed showing the good of the game. It was however, a moment. Baseball needed more than one night of glory, it needed a season of suspense and wonderment.

The 1998 New York Yankees are one of the greatest teams ever assembled. The Boston Red Sox won 92 games, yet finished 22 games behind the Yankees in the division. The Yankees finished the season 114-48. The Bronx Bombers had eight players with at least 17 home runs, five players with at least 84 RBI, and eight players with 21 or more doubles. The Yankees hit .288 as a team. On the mound, all five Yankee starters had at least 12 wins, a team ERA of 3.82, with the starters averaging 6 ⅔ inning per start, plus Mariano Rivera nailing down 36 saves out of the bullpen. In the Playoffs, the Yankees swept the Texas Rangers in the American League Divisional Series three games to none, allowing only one run. In the American League Championship Series, the Yankees dispatched the Cleveland Indians in six games. In the World Series, New York swept the San Diego Padres in four games. The 98 win Padres were no match for the Yankees. The biggest team in baseball helped put the game back into people’s lives as they rolled through the season and playoffs. Yankee dominance helped, but the primary attraction was in the National League.

Members of the New York Yankees pile on each other
There was little drama as the Yankees swept the World Series. (Jeff Haynes/ AFP/ Getty Images)

Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa later became the poster children for what was wrong with baseball, but in the summer of 1998 they were what made baseball relevant again for much of the country. Divisional rivals on two of the most prominent teams in the sport, McGwire and Sosa embarked on a home run race that captured the attention of the country. When Roger Maris broke the single season home run record held by Babe Ruth, there was backlash. People felt Ruth’s record should be left alone. When Maris ultimately hit home run number 61 in 1961 he did it in game 162, which many believe meant his record deserved an asterisk as he took more games than Ruth’s 154 game schedule in 1927. If McGwire, Sosa, or some other slugger could hit 60 home runs fewer than 154 games they would hold the record.

McGwire hit 11 home runs by the end of April, only to hit 16 in May to bring his season total to 27 as the calendar turned to June. On May 22nd, Sosa had only 9 home runs against McGwire’s 24. Over the next six weeks Sosa got red hot, hitting 24 home runs. Heading into the All Star Break, McGwire lead Sosa 37 home runs to 33. The race for 62 was on. McGwire hit his 50th home run of the season on August 20th, Sosa followed with his 50th three days later on August 23rd. However in between a whirlwind began on August 22nd regarding McGwire’s use of Androstenedione. McGwire maintained his use of Andro was legal and it did not give him any added benefits on the field. This is perhaps the clearest beginning of the steroid era entering public knowledge. The use of Andro did little to distract the public from the frenzy of the home run chase. September 8th saw McGwire hit his shortest home run of the season, 341 feet, just clearing the left field wall in Busch Stadium. McGwire and the Cardinals were hosting Sosa and the Cubs that night. After initially missing first base in the midst of his joy, quickly retreating to touch the missed base, McGwire rounded the bases to officially set the new single season home run mark at 62. Sosa would tie McGwire at 62 home runs on September 13th. As the 1998 season wound down the question turned to how high McGwire and Sosa would push the home run record. For the only time all season Sosa took the lead on September 25th, when he hit his 66th and final home run of the season. McGwire would finish with a flurry, hitting five home runs in the last three games of the season to finish with 70 home runs.

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The home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa helped revive baseball one home run at a time. (AP Photo/ Beth A. Keiser)

There was no doubt both McGwire and Sosa broke the single season home run record, Ruth’s and Maris’. Sosa would be named the National League Most Valuable Player, while McGwire got his name in the record books. The summer of chasing Ruth and Maris brought baseball the excitement back it lost in the 1994 players strike. The chase between McGwire and Sosa, coupled with the total dominance of the Yankees gave baseball the season it needed to win back fans and rebuild trust.

20 years have passed since the summer of 1998. We have learned so much about the men who played that summer. Far too many had their abilities aided by steroids and other performance enhancers. The steroid era was on full display, we just did not know it yet. The revival of baseball was both helped and hurt by the steroid era, many players have since fallen from grace. The game continues to grow and much of the magic I remember as a kid has returned. The summer of 1998 helped revive baseball, and yet my most vivid memory from that summer is having no interest in any of it. 1998 was my last season playing organized baseball. I had a coach who took the fun out of the game. He would scream and yell when the players, myself included, did not get a hit. He changed my batting stance over and over again. I came to dread going to baseball practice and games. The joy of playing baseball was gone. A year or so later I wanted to play for a travel team, but I was late to the tryout we did not get out of the car. This is how my baseball career ended. I am under no illusion I was good enough to play professionally, maybe not even in high school. However, one person ruined baseball, it took years for my love of the game to return. I hope he still remembers how great those handful of victories were for our Spring 11/12U rec league team 20 years ago.

DJ

Predictions Sure To Go Wrong 5.0

A new season is here and despite a lukewarm stove during the offseason, there are some interesting changes that should make our predictions even more misguided than before. Here’s a breakdown of how we see the final standings and playoffs going down. Bernie’s providing a “scouting report” based on our averaged predictions this time around.

National League

NL East Derek Jesse John Bernie Kevin The Winning Run
1 Nationals* Follies* Nationals* Nationals* Nats* Nationals *
2 Braves Gnats Phillies Phillies Marlins* Phillies
3 Mets Braves Braves Marlins Braves Braves
4 Phillies Mets Mets Braves Mets Mets
5 Marlins Fish Marlins Mets Phillies Marlins

 

1st Place- Washington Nationals

The  Nationals seem to be suffering from the curse of most Washington sports teams with their inability to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs. After last season, this led to a hasty change in management. Any moron with a working foot and hands can drive a Ferrari fast. That’s what this team is and why they’ll win the division.

2nd Place- Philadelphia Phillies

We rag on them a lot. It’s been ten head-scratching years since they won the World Series looking like they could have been contenders for several years. So it’s well-deserved. This time, they cleaned house a bit with a lot of cash-in-hand to build a team on the fly.

3rd Place- Atlanta Braves

They’re rebuilding too but the rebuild has had some setbacks. Shelby Miller and Alex Wood floundered. Wood may not have been comfortable in Atlanta but Miller was left out to dry without run support far too often. The front office traded away the pitching staff (giving up Kimbrel for what!?) to get hitters but also gave up one of the best defensive shortstops in the Majors – Andrelton Simmons. Nothing has worked yet but they’re still not the head case that are the Mets.

4th Place- New York Mets

They still have formidable pitching if they can stay healthy. Their lineup isn’t drastically different than the one that made a World Series appearance in 2015. In some ways, this lineup has some serious slugging potential. But they’re the Mets. As long as there’s a lurking sideshow like Tim Tebow, you can bet these guys can’t stay out of their own heads long enough to hold it together for a season.

5th Place- Miami Marlins

Part of me would like to call this karmic retribution for ruining perfectly good World Series championship teams from the past. That part is because I don’t want to disparage Jeter but, to be fair, this also feels like certain teams flexing some influence to manufacture winners and losers. Or this could be a genius move to truly build from the ground up…I’m not holding my breath.

 

NL Central

Derek Jesse John Bernie Kevin The Winning Run
1 Cubs* Reds* Cubs* Cardinals* Cubbies* Cubs*
2 Brewers* Cubbies* Cardinals* Brewers* Brewers Brewers*
3 Cardinals Brewers Brewers Cubs Reds Cardinals
4 Reds Pirates Reds Reds Cardinals Reds
5 Pirates Cardinals Pirates Pirates Pirates Pirates

 

1st Place- Chicago Cubs

Yu Darvish and Jose Quintana are in. Jake Arrieta is out. Kyle Schwarber looks like he was stranded on a desert island during the off-season but in a good way. There’s far too much young hitting and defensive talent on this roster to think that turnover in the rotation is going to do much of anything. Heck, if Schwarber can run down a fly ball better, Cubs fans should be rejoicing because he showed in Spring Training that he can hit for power just from his shoulder rotation.

2nd Place- Milwaukee Brewers

These guys were knocking on the door to the playoffs. I think they added some solid improvements to both sides of the ball with Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain, and Jhoulys Chacin.

3rd Place- St. Louis Cardinals

These guys are like the San Antonio Spurs. They capitalize on their experience and reload. However, the reloading hasn’t quite been adapting to the rapid changes going on in other places. Molina is still a machine but that’s relative to his age. Same goes for Carpenter, Fowler, and Wainwright (who’s currently hurt). Tommy Pham has a lot of hustle and if Wacha, Gyorko, Wong, and DeJong can find an extra gear to raise their game, third place is going to be off.

4th Place- Cincinnati Reds

One guy north of 30 on the top of their depth chart for fielding but a whole lot of questions about their rotation. If this team could gel together this season, the NL Central will probably be the most exciting division to watch this season.

5th Place- Pittsburgh Pirates

Heart doesn’t win games if you can’t keep them close. There isn’t enough depth here to contend with the rest of the division. Doubt they’ll come in last in the National League but they rest of the Central provides a big obstacle to move forward.

NL West Derek Jesse John Bernie Kevin The Winning Run
1 Dodgers* Dodgers* Dodgers* D-backs* Dodgers* Dodgers*
2 Rockies* D-backs* Rockies* Dodgers* D-backs* D-backs*
3 Giants Giants D-backs Rockies Rockies Rockies
4 D-backs Padres Giants Giants Giants Giants
5 Padres Rockies Padres Padres Padres Padres

 

1st Place- Los Angeles Dodgers

Let’s give the 2017 National League Pennant winners their due. There’s little else to that’s necessary to mention.

2nd Place- Arizona Diamondbacks

I think Zack Greinke is ready to crush it this season. Taijuan Walker is a solid pick up to round out the rotation. Paul Goldschmidt and Jake Lamb are a powerful one-two punch in a pretty formidable lineup. A healthy A.J. Pollock and an added bat with Steven Souza Jr. gives them a credible threat to unseat the Dodgers this year.

3rd Place- Colorado Rockies

The Rockies didn’t do a whole lot to solidify the impressive season they had last year. Blackmon has been on a steady increase over the last four seasons so he may regress this season. Their rotation is really well balanced without an elite ace.

4th Place- San Francisco Giants

The Giants added Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria to the lineup. Two guys whom many would have expected to be one-team guys for their HoF contending careers. Not sure if that’s a solution or snake oil for their woes that now include an injured (again) Madison Bumgarner.

5th Place- San Diego Padres

There are some shining examples of talent on this team with Brad Hand, Dinelson Lamet, Eric Hosmer, and Hunter Renfroe. Yeah…that’s about it.

paul-goldschmidt-arizona-tri.jpg
Paul Goldschmidt and the Diamondbacks have been waiting in the wings, could 2018 be there time to win the National League West. (Justin K. Aller/ Getty Images)

American League

 

AL East Derek Jesse John Bernie Kevin The Winning Run
1 Red Sox* Yankees* Yankees* Yankees* Yankees* Yankees*
2 Yankees* Jays* Blue Jays Red Sox* Red Sox* Red Sox*
3 Blue Jays Orioles Red Sox Orioles Jays Blue Jays
4 Orioles Sox Orioles Blue Jays Orioles Orioles
5 Rays Rays Rays Rays Rays Rays

 

1st Place- New York Yankees

Luis Severino made the case for being an elite ace to lead the Yankees’ rotation. They had one of most formidable bullpens in the Majors and they didn’t lose it. They dropped a Todd Frazier and picked up a Giancarlo Stanton. Can Aaron Boone lose with this team? It’s New York and odd things happen when you have that kind of pressure.

2nd Place- Boston Red Sox

Chris Sale is probably grinding his teeth a little bit about Corey Kluber getting the Cy Young. There’s also a healthy David Price. Rick Porcello is an enviable 3rd man in the rotation. Mookie Betts might be the most athletically gifted player in the Majors. They won the division last year and lost to the eventual World Series Champs.

3rd Place- Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays retooled their lineup a bit but they’ll have to do a lot in order to take any attention away from the Yankees or the Red Sox.

4th Place- Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles are losing depth on both sides of the ball as Chris Davis and Adam Jones have become the elder statesmen of the team. Having one of the best closers in the game being stuck on the DL again shouldn’t be a concern if they’re going to struggle to keep games close going into the later innings. Manager Buck Showalter is a crafty guy though and somehow gets his teams through a lot more than expected. But this is a pretty stacked division.

5th Place- Tampa Bay Rays

Carlos Gomez was a surprisingly good pickup to replace Steven Souza Jr (especially since Souza’s starting the season on the DL). The Rays have a solid rotation with Archer, Snell, Faria, and Eovaldi but there’s an extreme of old journeyman and hopeful prospect talent on the other side that doesn’t bode well for a good season.

 

AL Central Derek Jesse John Bernie Kevin The Winning Run
1 Indians* Indians* Indians* Twins* Cleveland* Indians*
2 Twins Royals* Twins* Indians* Twins* Twins
3 White Sox White Sox Royals Royals White Sox Royals
4 Royals Tigers Tigers White Sox Royals White Sox
5 Tigers Twins White Sox Tigers Tigers Tigers

 

1st Place- Cleveland Indians

The Cleveland Indians were a game and a series away from being right back in the action everyone thought they were going to coast into. They were stopped a team on an ascendant run while battling some tough late season injuries. 2017 Cy Young winner, Corey Kluber, leads a strong rotation that should hold things down for a bevy of young talent in Francisco Lindor, Tyler Naquin, and Bradley Zimmer to really break out while hustlers like Jason Kipnis and Yonder Alonso keep the wheels on track.

2nd Place- Minnesota Twins

Paul Molitor managed the Minnesota Twins like a Leonard Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic. Jake Odorizzi and Lance Lynn shore up a strong rotation with Ervin Santana looking more like he did eight years ago and a young firestarter in Jose Berrios who just needs to bring his home game focus on the road. Brian Dozier, Byron Buxton, and Miguel Sano have some devastating bats that will keep the pressure on opposing pitchers.  

3rd Place- Kansas City Royals

This team is rebuilding and it seems like they’ve got a plan. They’ve got some cash to pull in some talent later but only if they think they can make a run. It’s unlikely so third is an optimistic place that’s based more on their divisional opponents’ savvy and struggle.

4th Place- Chicago White Sox

Yoan Moncada has a lot of promise but it hasn’t been cashed in yet. Jose Abreu is either stuck or coasting. The White Sox rotation is patchier than a 12-year old’s security blanket.

5th Place- Detroit Tigers

The Detroit Tigers are at least trying to hold it together and present some semblance of a team. I’m still sore about the way they let go of Dave Dombrowski and I hope they’re kicking themselves repeatedly for it.

AL West Derek Jesse John Bernie Kevin

The Winning Run

1 Astros* Astros* Astros* Astros* Astros* Astros*
2 Angels* Angels Angels* Mariners Angels Angels*
3 Mariners A’s Mariners Angels Mariners Mariners
4 Athletics Rangers Rangers Athletics Rangers Athletics
5 Rangers Mariners Athletics Rangers A’s Rangers

 

1st Place- Houston Astros

They’re the champs. Let’s give them their due. They reloaded this offseason because there really wasn’t anything to rebuild.

2nd Place- Los Angeles Angels

The Angels probably aren’t putting all of their eggs into the Shohei Ohtani basket. They got Zack Cozart and Ian Kinsler to add some firepower to the lineup. The rotation looks awful to me but maybe they think Garrett Richards is finally due to bounce back into his 2014 form. They’ll still need to tweak that bullpen.

3rd Place- Seattle Mariners

The Seattle Mariners resigned Ichiro Suzuki. I really hope he can mentor some of their young talent. What I would love to see is that they ask him to start hitting for the fences instead of leading off so we can see some of his fabled home run hitting ability. There are some solid elements in Jean Segura and Robinson Cano, speed in the outfield with Dee Gordon, and if they can keep things close an excited closer in Edwin Diaz.

4th Place- Oakland Athletics

Moneyball doesn’t work when everyone else has the analytics you have now.

5th Place- Texas Rangers

The Rangers sold the farm and now they’re using some of their prize bulls to till the field for the next team to come in.

miguel-cabrera-d778d3f66afa5458.jpg
Will one of the best right handed hitters of all time, Miguel Cabrera, play for a last place Tigers team in 2018? (AP Photo/ Carlos Osorio)

Wild Card

NL WC Winner Rockies Cubbies Rockies Dodgers Dbacks Brewers
NL WC Loser Brewers D-backs Cardinals Brewers Marlins D-backs
AL WC Winner Yankees Royals Twins Red Sox Red Sox Angels
AL WC Loser Angels Jays Angels Indians Twins Red Sox

 

Divisional Series

NLDS 1-4 Winner Dodgers Dodgers Dodgers Dodgers Dodgers Dodgers
NLDS 1-4 Loser Rockies Cubbies Rockies Nationals Dbacks Brewers
NLDS 2-3 Winner Nationals Follies Cubs D-backs Cubs Cubs
NLDS 2-3 Loser Cubs Reds Nationals Cardinals Nats Nationals
ALDS 1-4 Winner Indians Indians Astros Astros Red Sox Astros
ALDS 1-4 Loser Yankees Royals Twins Red Sox Astros Angels
ALDS 2-3 Winner Astros Astros Yankees Yankees Yankees Yankees
ALDS 2-3 Winner Red Sox Yankees Indians Twins Cleveland Indians

 

Championship Series

NLCS Winner Nationals Dodgers Cubs Dodgers Dodgers Dodgers
NLCS Loser Dodgers Follies Dodgers D-backs Cubs Cubs
ALCS Winner Astros Astros Yankees Yankees Yankees Yankees
ALCS Loser Indians Indians Astros Astros Red Sox Astros
01Sox1.jpg
Red Sox fans should be excited. The Winning Run picked the Yankees to win the World Series. We all know that means the Yankees have no chance for another ring. (AP Photo)

World Series

World Series Champ Nationals Astros Yankees Yankees Yankees Yankees
World Series Runner Up Astros Dodgers Cubs Dodgers Dodgers Dodgers

 

Sorry in advance to the New York Yankees because this means they’re probably not going to win the World Series this year.

BL, DJ, JJ, & JB

Predictions That Did Go Wrong 4.0

After four seasons of attempting to predict how the Major League season will play out, one would think we would improve. Instead we were pitiful once again. The only consistency continues to be we are individually and collectively terrible at predicting the baseball future. Below is all the proof you need.

National League

National League East

Reality Derek Jesse John Bernie
1st Washington Nationals Washington Nationals New York Muttz Washington Nationals Washington Nationals
2nd Miami Marlins New York Mets* Washington Gnats Atlanta Braves New York Mets
3rd Atlanta Braves Miami Marlins Atlanta Bravos New York Mets Miami Marlins
4th New York Mets Atlanta Braves Miami Fish Miami Marlins Atlanta Braves
5th Philadelphia Phillies Philadelphia Phillies Philadelphia Follies Philadelphia Phillies Philadelphia Phillies

 

National League Central

Reality Derek Jesse John Bernie
1st Chicago Cubs Chicago Cubs Chicago Harry Caray’s Chicago Cubs Chicago Cubs
2nd Milwaukee Brewers Pittsburgh Pirates Pittsburgh Buckos* St. Louis Cardinals* St. Louis Cardinals*
3rd St. Louis Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals Cincinnati Fighting Vottos Pittsburgh Pirates Milwaukee Brewers
4th Pittsburgh Pirates Milwaukee Brewers St. Louis Deadbirds Milwaukee Brewers Pittsburgh Pirates
5th Cincinnati Reds Cincinnati Reds Milwaukee Brewniversity Cincinnati Reds Cincinnati Reds

 

National League West

Reality Derek Jesse John Bernie
1st Los Angeles Dodgers Los Angeles Dodgers Colorado Silver Bullets Los Angeles Dodgers San Francisco Giants
2nd Arizona Diamondbacks San Francisco Giants* Los Angeles Vin Scullys* Colorado Rockies* Los Angeles Dodgers*
3rd Colorado Rockies Colorado Rockies San Padres Big Macs San Francisco Giants Colorado Rockies
4th San Diego Padres Arizona Diamondbacks Arizona Trouser Snakes Arizona Diamondbacks Arizona Diamondbacks
5th San Francisco Giants San Diego Padres San Francisco Gigantors San Diego Padres San Diego Padres
Turner.jpg
Justin Turner and the Dodgers won the National League Pennant, we didn’t see that coming for some reason. (Richard Mackson- USA TODAY Sports)

American League

American League East

Reality Derek Jesse John Bernie
1st Boston Red Sox Boston Red Sox Toronto Canucks Boston Red Sox Boston Red Sox
2nd New York Yankees Toronto Blue Jays* New York Spankees New York Yankees* New York Yankees*
3rd Tampa Bay Rays New York Yankees Baltimore Riots Toronto Blue Jays Baltimore Orioles
4th Toronto Blue Jays Baltimore Orioles Steve Irwin Killers Tampa Bay Rays Toronto Blue Jays
5th Baltimore Orioles Tampa Bay Rays Boston Dead Sux Baltimore Orioles Tampa Bay Rays

 

American League Central

Reality Derek Jesse John Bernie
1st Cleveland Indians Cleveland Indians Kansas City Monarchs Cleveland Indians Cleveland Indians
2nd Minnesota Twins Detroit Tigers Cleveland Up Three Games To None* Detroit Tigers Kansas City Royals
3rd Kansas City Royals Kansas City Royals Chicago Black Sox Minnesota Twins Detroit Tigers
4th Chicago White Sox Minnesota Twins Minnesota Twinkies Kansas City Royals Minnesota Twins
5th Detroit Tigers Chicago White Sox Detroit Militarized Zone Chicago White Sox Chicago White Sox

 

American League West

Reality Derek Jesse John Bernie
1st Houston Astros Houston Astros The Acute Angels of Anaheim Seattle Mariners Houston Astros
2nd Los Angeles Angels Seattle Mariners* Houston Colt 45s* Houston Astros* Seattle Mariners
3rd Seattle Mariners Texas Rangers Oakland White Elephants Texas Rangers Texas Rangers
4th Texas Rangers Los Angeles Angels Texas Dangers Los Angeles Angels Los Angeles Angels
5th Oakland Athletics Oakland Athletics Seattle Seamen Oakland Athletics Oakland Athletics
Yankees.jpg
The Yankees were a surprise in 2017, which seems weird to say now. (Ben Solomon- New York Times)

The Playoffs

National League Wild Card

Reality Derek Jesse John Bernie
Winner Arizona Diamondbacks San Francisco Giants Pittsburgh Buckos Colorado Rockies Los Angeles Dodgers
Loser Colorado Rockies New York Mets Los Angeles Vin Scullys St. Louis Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals

 

American League Wild Card

Reality Derek Jesse John Bernie
Winner New York Yankees Seattle Mariners Cleveland Up Three Games To None Houston Astros New York Yankees
Loser Minnesota Twins Toronto Blue Jays Houston Colt 45s New York Yankees Baltimore Orioles

 

National League Divisional Series

Reality Derek Jesse John Bernie
Winner Los Angeles Dodgers Washington Nationals Colorado Silver Bullets Washington Nationals Los Angeles Dodgers
Loser Arizona Diamondbacks San Francisco Giants Pittsburgh Buckos Colorado Rockies Chicago Cubs
Winner Chicago Cubs Chicago Cubs New York Muttz Chicago Cubs San Francisco Giants
Loser Washington Nationals Los Angeles Dodgers Chicago Harry Caray’s Los Angeles Dodgers Washington Nationals

 

American League Divisional Series

Reality Derek Jesse John Bernie
Winner New York Yankees Boston Red Sox Kansas City Monarchs Cleveland Indians New York Yankees
Loser Cleveland Indians Seattle Mariners Cleveland Up Three Games To None Houston Astros Cleveland Indians
Winner Houston Astros Cleveland Indians The Acute Angels of Anaheim Seattle Mariners Boston Red Sox
Loser Boston Red Sox Houston Astros Toronto Canucks Boston Red Sox Houston Astros

 

National League Championship Series

Reality Derek Jesse John Bernie
Winner Los Angeles Dodgers Washington Nationals Colorado Silver Bullets Washington Nationals San Francisco Giants
Loser Chicago Cubs Chicago Cubs New York Muttz Chicago Cubs Los Angeles Dodgers

 

American League Championship Series

Reality Derek Jesse John Bernie
Winner Houston Astros Cleveland Indians Kansas City Monarchs Seattle Mariners New York Yankees
Loser New York Yankees Boston Red Sox The Acute Angels of Anaheim Boston Red Sox Boston Red Sox

 

World Series

Reality Derek Jesse John Bernie
Winner Houston Astros Washington Nationals Colorado Silver Bullets Seattle Mariners New York Yankees
Loser Los Angeles Dodgers Boston Red Sox Kansas City Monarchs Washington Nationals San Francisco Giants
Bregman.jpg
Some how none of us had the Astros in the World Series, much less winning it. WHY???!!!! (Eugene Garcia/ European Pressphoto Agency)

Breaking down how we did individually shows some bright spots here and there, but overall we were terrible. Here is a breakdown of everything we correctly predicted before last season began.

Jesse was the worst at predicting the season. He correctly predicted the final regular season standings of just seven teams, a sad showing at 23%. His correct predictions focused primarily on which teams would not contend. He was correct twice in the National League East, his best division, predicting the Braves would finish third and the Phillies would finish last. In the National League Central, he found his only correct prediction with the Cubs winning the division. Jesse looked into his crystal ball and saw the Giants finishing last in the National League West long before the rest of us. Moving over to the American League, the Yankees produced the second place finish he foresaw last April. In the Central, the Tigers followed through by finishing last. Finally, in the American League West, Jesse nailed it with his prediction of the Rangers finishing in fourth place. None of his playoff predictions were correct, and thus Jesse finished last in The Winning Run’s prediction standings.

Derek managed to finish with the bronze medal based on his predictions for the 2017 season. He predicted the final regular season standings for 12 teams, an impressive 40%, tied for the most. His predictions included picking every division winner before the season started. Consistency is the key to success in playing and predicting baseball. Derek was correct on the Nationals winning and the Phillies finishing last in the National League East. In the Central, Derek showed his prediction prowess as he was spot on with the Cubs winning, the Cardinals finishing third, and the Reds finishing last in the division. In the National League West, the Dodgers and Rockies came through finishing first and third respectively. The American League East was the weakest division for Derek, as he was correct only in predicting the Red Sox would win the division. The Indians and the Royals made Derek’s predictions true by finishing first and third in the American League Central. He was correct that the Astros would dominate and the Athletics would be left behind in the American League West. Success during the regular season is great, but as any Nationals fan know, success in the playoffs is what matters. Derek managed only two correct predictions in the playoffs, both concerned the Cubs. He was correct in predicting the Cubs would win their matchup in the National League Divisional Series and would lose in the National League Championship Series. Success in the playoffs is what matters, he will have to wait until next year to see if he climb higher on the podium.

Coming in second place, just missing the gold medal was John. While John managed only 10 correct regular season predictions, a respectable 33%, against Derek’s 12, his success in the playoffs earned him the silver medal. John got off to a good start with the Nationals winning and the Phillies finishing last in the National League East. His success continued in the Central as he again bookended the division with the Cubs and the Reds. The National League West saw him only predict the Dodgers winning the division. Moving over to the American League East we found John’s strength. He correctly predicting the Red Sox winning the division, the Yankees finishing second, and the Orioles finishing last. The rest of the American League was not as easy. In the Central, John managed to only predict the Indians winning. In the West he only correct prediction was the Athletics finishing last. However, once the calendar rolled over to October John made up for last time. He was correct, like Derek, in predicting the Cubs would win their matchup in the National League Divisional Series only to lose in the National League Championship Series. However, John predicted the Red Sox would be kicked out of the playoffs by losing in the American League Divisional Series. While his regular season predictions were a step behind, John was able to make up for his mistakes and use his predicting power to take silver with a solid playoff showing.

SI cover.jpeg
All four of us missed the most obvious sign to pick the Astros to win the World Series last season. (Sports Illustrated)

This leaves Bernie alone at the top of the podium. His success in the regular season and the playoffs earned Bernie the gold medal in predicting the 2017 Major League season. Bernie tied with Derek by correctly predicting the final regular season standings for 12 teams, 40%. In the National League East he had the Nationals winning with the Phillies bringing up the rear. The Central was his strength in the National League, as Bernie was spot on with the Cubs winning, the Pirates finishing fourth, and the Reds finishing last in the division. In the West Bernie found success with the Rockies finishing third. Once again the American League East was a source of strength, as Bernie had the Red Sox winning, the Yankees second, and the Blue Jays finishing fourth in the division. The Central was an easy pick at the top with the Indians, but below Cleveland his predictions missed. In the American League West, the Astros and Athletics finished as predicted first and last for Bernie. A strong regular season only gave way to an even strong playoff run. Bernie was correct in predicting the Yankees would win the American League Wild Card game. He was also correct in picking the Dodgers to win and the Nationals to lose in the National League Divisional Series. The gold medal winning push came in the American League Divisional Series. Bernie was perfect in predicting the four teams who would meet. He predicted the Yankees winning and the Indians losing in this round. If Bernie had only flipped his prediction to have the Astros winning over the Red Sox, he would have been perfect. Bernie found success in the playoffs while the rest of us faltered. The irony is Bernie lives in Washington D.C. and his local team is the Nationals, who are known for failing in the playoffs after a great regular season.

Collectively The Winning Run showed once again the more you know about baseball the less you know. Each of us love baseball and follow it religiously, yet we are terrible at these predictions. We all had the Cubs winning the National League Central and the Phillies finishing last in the National League West. Collectively, we failed at everything else. We failed to predict either the Dodgers or Astros would play in the World Series, even though we recognized both teams would be a force in 2017. We fail at predicting the baseball season every year, so why should this past season be any different?

DJ, JJ, JB, & BL