Grading the N.L West

With the Postseason right around the corner, I’m going to give each team a letter grade for how their season has been up to this point. I finished the American League now it’s time for the National League to be graded.

Going from the East Coast to the West Coast.

Los Angeles Dodgers: B+ 

It has been a tough year for this team with injuries to their pitching staff. Clayton Kershaw has not pitched in a game since June 26th and has plans to return this season at some point. Another Hollywood let down this year has been Yasiel Puig. The 25 year old outfielder was demoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City on August 2nd. Even though this team has major issues, they are sitting at the top of their division.

MLB: New York Mets at Los Angeles Dodgers

Pitcher Clayton Kershaw & Outfielder Yasiel Puig

San Francisco Giants: C+

“It’s an even year everyone be ready, San Fran is already a World Series Champ,” – Every Giants fan during Spring Training. The Giants were hot in the beginning of the year, after the Mid Summer Classic they have tanked. At the time of grading them, they have gone 14-26 and have lost their division lead. Bruce Bochy’s crew needs to step it up if they want to make a Postseason run this year. Currently they own the top Wild Card spot with a 2.5 game advantage over the St. Louis Cardinals.

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Skipper Bruce Bochy’s body language sums up the Giants season so far.

 

Colorado Rockies: D

Not much to really say about the Rockies other than they need help. Pitching is bad, hitting is good that’s due to playing at Coors Field, and the only real bright spot is Nolan Arenado. The third baseman is hitting .291 with 35 homers and 111 RBIs this season. The Rockies are clearly not in contention but can take these last couple months to work out some of their kinks and look forward to a productive off-season.

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Nolan Arenado is having an MVP like season this year.

San Diego Padres: D

They seemed to have all the puzzle pieces in place to be contenders this season. Pitching was in line, defense was there, and they had offensive power but then POOF, it was all traded away. They sit 4th in their division with a record of 55-75. In a season of terrible play, Wil Myers seems to be the the only consistent part of the team. He has 23 long balls, 73 RBIs and a .262 average.

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Wil Myers

Arizona Diamondbacks: F 

Remember when the D-Backs went out in the off-season and acquired Shelby Miller AND Zack Greinke? That seems to be the last time they made the news. Oh other than the team dealing top bullpen arms, Brad Ziegler and Tyler Clippard. This was not the type of season that was expected for Arizona. Paul Goldschmidt is very quiet,  A.J.  Pollock is back off of the DL and the miserable season is almost over for the Diamondbacks.

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A.J. Pollock broke his elbow two days before Opening Day. 

 

 

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                                   Michael Allen                                      @Mike_Allen1218

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Northside Mailbag

Northside Mailbag

 

  1. In your opinion, Anthony Rizzo or Kris Bryant for N.L. MVP?

It’s hard to argue against either, but I’m going Bryant. First half of the season it looked like Rizzo was on fire, on target for an unbelievable clip. Bryant, after the All-Star game, has been insane. His numbers continue to get better as September approaches, and that’s vital for this Cubs group. Bryant is averaging .305 with 35 homers and 89 RBI’s, hard enough to argue with that but let’s look at his last 7-15 games. In his last seven games, Bryant is averaging .400 with four home runs, but in his last 15 is averaging .431 with seven home runs and 17 RBI’s. There’s no pace, it’s just performance. It’s hard to argue against that when these votes come in.

 

  1. September is almost here, who do you see being brought up?

I don’t know if I see anyone being brought up, honestly. The Hammel issue is something of concern, but not looming too large. As we push into September, and eventually to the end of the regular season, the lineup for postseason play will be set, eventually. What we’re seeing, becomes more and more what we can expect for the last month. I don’t expect Joe to really test any young guys. If he does, you think of veterans who’ve been useful at times, but even then I doubt it.

 

  1. Do you see any weak spots as we near the end of the regular season?

Every team has their weak spots. If the outfield is set, and you can trust a guy like Contreras behind the plate, they’re fine. It’s been a struggle of a season for Montero, to say the least. If Contreras can continue to perform then I think there’s not much that needs to be shored up. Relief was an issue for them in the past few weeks and it can rear its head sometimes. Moving closer to postseason play, that has to be a focus. Having confidence in all four starters to be able to pitch well, pitch deep into games in the post season, is key. Then the ability to have relief that you know can finish off opponents.

 

  1. What are your thoughts on Jason Heyward?

Jason Heyward is a frustrating thought to say the least. Offensively, he’s been non-existent this season, and that’s hard to believe for a guy who’s raked through his careers. Knowing he’s not a homers guy, that’s fine, but his inability at times this season to find his swing is troubling. These last three games, he’s shown glimpses of that form, so here’s to hoping he can continue that.

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Connor Ulrey @ConnorUlrey

 

September Call-ups

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Albert Almora Jr.

September is right around the corner, actually it’s closer than “right around the corner” (I can’t believe it). September 1st is this Thursday and that is the day the rosters are allowed to expand to 40 players. Cubs manager Joe Maddon said there hasn’t been any important discussions with the front office about September call-ups but he does have an idea about what type of players he wants joining the team. “Maybe a speed guy,” Maddon said. “You want an extra catcher but we have three. That’s a good number. Bullpen depth (as well).” Maddon also pointed out that players on the 40-man roster who have seen time with the Cubs already this season would be obvious choices. That would include outfielder Albert Almora Jr., infielders Jeimer Candelario, Munenori Kawasaki and Tommy La Stella. Left-handed reliever Gerardo Concepcion could be back while non 40-man roster players like right-handers Armando Rivero, Josh Collmenter, and outfielder John Andreoli would need to be added. The most important thing is having enough arms. “We can always look to augment the bullpen,” Maddon said. “In a bad game you don’t want to throw guys. Even in a good game you don’t want to throw guys you don’t want to throw.” The Cubs will use Rob Zastryzny and Felix Pena often until help arrives, and the team will be getting some arms back from the disabled list soon.

John Lackey will throw a bullpen session Monday and will need at least one more side session before he will be put back into the Cubs’ rotation. Lackey, on the disabled list with a right shoulder strain, could be ready by the end of the next homestand or the start of the team’s next road trip on September 5th against Milwaukee. “He’s doing well,” Joe Maddon said of Lackey. Left-hander Mike Montgomery has done well in Lackey’s spot in the rotation and he will make his third start on Wednesday against the Pirates. Reliever Hector Rondon could be ready to join the Cubs during the weekend. Reliever Joe Smith has started his minor league assignment for Triple-A Iowa and Pedro Strop has been making good progress since his left knee surgery. He could be rejoining the team within the next three weeks. Let’s not forget that infielder Tommy La Stella and outfielder Chris Coghlan are also in Iowa. I would be happy to see some relievers added to give the regulars some rest, but I would also love to see Almora Jr. and Candelario back with the big league team, they really performed well when they were called up.

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John Andreoli

Outfielder John Andreoli has been shining in the minors and did well in spring training. Andreoli could be that stolen base threat, he’s swiped 33 this season for Triple-A Iowa. Whatever the Cubs decide to do, I know it’ll be the right decision. Also something to keep in mind: due to disabled list replacements, any player in the organization on September 1st regardless of their 40-man status, is eligible for the postseason roster.

 

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Gabriella Garcia @gabybabyyy

 

Grading the N.L East

With the Postseason right around the corner, I’m going to give each team a letter grade for how their season has been up to this point. I finished the American League now it’s time for the National League to be graded.

I’m going to start with the N.L East.

Washington Nationals: B 

Bryce Harper went a couple of weeks without hitting a homer, which seemed like a month and a half. Jonathan Papelbon walked. Stephen Strasburg is on the DL. They are sitting atop of their division with an eight game lead. I expect them to win the division without too much of a fight.

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Bryce Harper

Miami Marlins: C 

Losing Stanton was a huge blow to an already weak lineup. With missing some power in the lineup, the Marlins will have a tough time heading into the last few months. The second wild card spot might be their’s if they can figure out ways to win.

MLB: Miami Marlins at Atlanta Braves

Giancarlo Stanton out for the season

New York Mets: C-

Remember how the Mets were somewhat good last year? This year hasn’t been their year. The Mets have been plagued by injuries all season long and they just don’t look in sync with each other.

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Yoenis Cespedes hasn’t been safe from the injury bug

Philadelphia Phillies: D 

Ryan Howard seems to be on his last life in Philly. The seasoned vet hasn’t been the same since he’s returned from his injuries. This team has no outstanding pitching and really doesn’t have an arsenal of power bats. The team wants to get back to the winning ways as quick as they can before it’s too late.

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Ryan Howard

Atlanta Braves: D

What a year it’s been for the Braves. Firing their manager at the beginning of the season to having the worst record in baseball. On the bright side, the Braves can look forward to seeing Dansby Swanson play. This young kid is going to be a stud in this league, which is exactly what ATL needs.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Arizona Diamondbacks

Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson

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Michael Allen @Mike_Allen1218

Grading the A.L East 

With the Postseason right around the corner, I’m going to give each team a letter grade for how their season has been up to this point. I’m going to do this by division starting with the American League.
From the West Coast to the East Coast we go!

Boston Red Sox: A

David Ortiz is putting on a show for his last year. The 40 year old is breaking records left and right this season. He has shown no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Other bright spots this year have been Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr, and Hanley Ramirez. This team will be fun to watch come October.

Big Papi can still do it all.


Toronto Blue Jays: A

They’re a good team this year but with Jose Bautista and Kevin Pillar both spending some time on the DL it’s been a rough stretch. Pitching was rough in the beginning but now J.A. Happ, who has a 3.05 ERA in 150 innings pitched this season, is a real CY Young contender.

J.A. Happ is having one of the best seasons in his career.


Baltimore Orioles: A

For only being 2 games behind the Red Sox and Blue Jays, the O’s are going to make these last couple months a lot of fun in the East. Chris Tillman has been good on the mound but the greatest success has come from sluggers Mark Trumbo and Manny Machado.

Trumbo and Machado are a one two punch.


New York Yankees: B

Everyone freaked out when the front office in the Bronx decided to sell before the trade deadline. Then with the unexpected news on A-Rod being done had fans speechless. Since all of that went down the Yanks have went young. They’ve added catcher Gary Sanchez and outfielder Aaron Judge who have made their presence known.

With A-Rod gone, the Yankees have started a youth movement.


Tampa Bay Rays: D

Playing a Spring Training game in Cuba seems to be the only positive thing this season for the Rays. Chris Archer has been off and a possible change of scenery might help him excel. Archer is 7-16 with a 4.18 ERA in 26 games this season. The offense isn’t there and they are 18.5 games back of the division leaders (BOS/TOR).

This sums up Chris Archer’s season.

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Michael Allen @Mike_Allen1218

 

A Look at the Standings: A glimpse at the Postseason

Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field

With the TV dates being announced with the MLB’s deals with TBS (NL) and FOX (AL), the postseason feels so close. With just over a month left in the season, literally just a bit over, it’s getting real again. We all remember that feeling when the Cubs eliminated the Cardinals last season.

Let’s tell a fun story with that. At the time, I, for some reason, worked in a dining hall. Yeah, a dining hall. I was working the night they finally sent St. Louis packing. There was no way I wasn’t listening to the end of this game right? I snuck it into my apron as I wiped down tables and did “whatever I could” to help out near the end of the night. Louder and louder I got as Rondon pitched those last few pitches. Anxiety sweeping over me, I wasn’t exactly discreet. Blasting this game from my phone, that final out rang loud inside this building. Worth it? Always.

That aside, I’m ready for that feeling again. Aren’t we all? I won’t be working this go around, so there’s that. The Cubs are firm ahead in the Central, at the time of writing sitting 12.5 games ahead of the Cardinals, and 15.5 ahead of the Pirates, who seemed to be pushing before their recent skid. The Central is basically a lock and we can accept that. How’s everything else in the league look?

Two divisions hold the tightest races in Major League Baseball. The AL East is more competitive than in recent memory, with the Red Sox pulling into a tie with Toronto atop the division, and home run bashing Baltimore just two games back. Both Wild Card spots from the AL East like the Cubs and Pirates did last year? Most likely.

The Dodgers and Giants play the weirdest game of tag week to week. LA holds a one game lead over the “even-year” kings as we head down the home stretch. Expect it to come down to the last two weeks of the regular season to decide that one.

In the Wild Card races, it’s like we thought. Boston and Toronto both technically hold a spot, being tied atop the division. Baltimore holds that second WC spot, but the surging Mariners sit just a game and a half back. Tight races looming.

Could it possibly be tighter in the NL? Yeah it could. The Giants hold the top spot at the moment in the WC race, a game and a half ahead of the Cardinals. The Cardinals have battled Miami for that second spot over the last few weeks, but with the Giancarlo injury the Marlins are struggling to stay with them, sitting a game and a half back there.

The Cubs keep focused, perform well, and it’s great. It’s also interesting to keep an eye on what else is going on. What a crazy regular season finish we’re coming down to. Can the playoffs really top this?

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Connor Ulrey @ConnorUlrey

Grading the A.L West

With the Postseason right around the corner, I’m going to give each team a letter grade for how their season has been up to this point. I’m going to do this by division starting with the American League.

Going from the A.L Central to the A.L West.

Texas Rangers: A+ 

This team knows what it wants and that’s a  Championship in Arlington! They’ve taken a few blows by losing Prince Fielder and how Yu Darvish has been going on and off the DL this year. But by adding Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Beltran the Rangers have the last missing parts for this team to go deep into the Postseason.

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Yu Darvish

Seattle Mariners: B

Teams better keep an eye on the Mariners. They are a good team that has the ability to make the postseason but they need another bullpen arm or two. Robinson Cano is hitting .237 with seven homers and 19 RBIs since the All-Star Game. He needs to get back on track fast if the Mariners want to end their 15 year playoff drought.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Detroit Tigers

Robinson Cano

Houston Astros: C

Where is Dallas Keuchel? He has an 8-12 record with a 4.64 ERA. Last year he was the Cy Young Winner and he went 20-8 with a 2.48 ERA. Now the Astros are losing Luis Valbuena to season ending surgery. With how good the Rangers and Mariners are, a postseason appearance isn’t looking too good for them.

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Dallas Keuchel

Oakland Athletics: C-

Billy Beane and his “Money Ball” antics back fired on him big time. Players can’t get on base. Pitchers can’t pitch. Fans don’t even want to go to games. The only bright side for this team this year they most likely won’t finish last in the West.

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The Fans Are Not Happy

Los Angeles Angels: F

Mike Trout and Albert Pujols are the only bright spots in a year of baseball that seems to be dragging. The Angels starting pitchers have been hit with the injury bug. The offseason cannot come fast enough for them.

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Trout and Pujols

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Michael Allen @Mike_Allen1218