Baseball in 2018 – My thoughts on the state of Major League Baseball

Baseball in 2018 is certainly different than the baseball I grew up watching primarily from 2006-2010.  In this blog post I’ll give my thoughts on the current game, what I like about things, and what I’m not a fan of.

The Home Run Explosion

As most of you probably know, 2017 was truly the year of the long ball, as MLB set a new record for total home runs hit during the season.  They seem to want us to think that the balls are not juiced, but the pitchers and tons of statistics say otherwise.  I’m definitely inclined to believe the ball is juiced, which is not necessarily a bad thing.  It is true that offense gets more fans in the seats and watching on TV, and to me it can make the stats more fun to look at.

However, I feel that it may be going too far.  When you’ve got a normal or possibly even below-average crop of hitters across baseball, and they end up breaking home run records set in the heart of the steroid era, you know something is up.  My problem isn’t so much the total number of home runs, but the players who are hitting them in abundance who would not thrive in this way in any other year or era.  To me it makes the stats a bit artificial if someone would normally hit 10-15 home runs but can now consistently pop 25 and have a greater legacy simply because the ball was juiced.

Overall I’m fine with it.  I especially enjoyed it in the 2017 Postseason, when the Yankees hit a handful of big and memorable home runs, not to mention the insanely epic Game 5 of the World Series.  Moments like those are what make it worthwhile, but to me some of the regular season stats have become somewhat absurd for the level of player producing them.

Mike Trout going deep
Unlike Mike Trout, who would be a superstar in any era.

Rule changes

I’m very happy that MLB is working to address the pace of play issues.  Mound visits can be frustrating to sit through in the late innings of a regular season game, so limiting them is a good idea.  I don’t like the idea of baseball being a timed sport with any kind of clock, but certain pitchers do take a long time to deliver the ball.  I’m not sure how best to address that problem outside of a clock.

Great Postseasons

This is just about my favorite thing regarding the sport.  It seems as though every year there are classic postseason moments.  Matchups that make dreams come true.  Aces coming out of the bullpen to sink or swim.  Players like Charlie Culberson, Pete Kozma, and Alex Bregman delivering huge hits that turned games or series around.  

October baseball has reached a height that excites me.  From 2006-2009, I didn’t notice as many epic moments.  This could be some recency bias on my part, and of course I was overjoyed when the Yankees won the World Series in 2009.  However, there have been a string of great postseasons, arguably from 2010-2017.  It’s these classic games and moments that make me love baseball so much and get me excited about watching every fall.

Reggie Jackson in October 1973
Reggie Jackson before a 1973 World Series game.

Conclusion

Overall I’m extremely excited about baseball going forward.  There is an exciting youth movement, more home runs than ever before, epic postseasons just about every year, and the Yankees look like they’re set up for success in the near future!  😀

My (late) MLB Baseball Predictions for 2018

I know it’s June 2nd, but back in high school I used to do baseball predictions at the beginning of every season.  Myself and a couple other friends would fill out pieces of paper with small dollar amounts for each spot, though we never actually agreed to bet on it and pay each other at the end of the season.  Still, it was a fun exercise, and one that I’ve gotten away from as I know less about Major League Baseball players and teams since 2012 and prior.

Ben’s 2018 MLB Predictions

AL East

  1. New York Yankees (could it really be any other team?)
  2. Boston Red Sox
  3. Toronto Blue Jays
  4. Tampa Bay Rays
  5. Baltimore Orioles

AL Central

  1. Cleveland Indians
  2. Detroit Tigers
  3. Minnesota Twins
  4. Kansas City Royals
  5. Chicago White Sox

AL West

  1. Houston Astros
  2. LA Angels
  3. Seattle Mariners
  4. Oakland Athletics
  5. Texas Rangers

NL East

  1. Washington Nationals
  2. Atlanta Braves
  3. Philadelphia Phillies
  4. New York Mets
  5. Miami Marlins

NL Central

  1. Chicago Cubs
  2. Milwaukee Brewers
  3. St. Louis Cardinals
  4. Pittsburgh Pirates
  5. Cincinnati Reds

NL West

  1. LA Dodgers
  2. Colorado Rockies
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks
  4. San Francisco Giants
  5. San Diego Padres

Awards

AL Most Valuable Player

  1. Mike Trout
  2. Mookie Betts
  3. Aaron Judge

NL Most Valuable Player

  1. Nolan Arenado
  2. Bryce Harper
  3. Ozzie Albies

AL Cy Young

  1. Justin Verlander
  2. Corey Kluber
  3. Luis Severino

NL Cy Young

  1. Max Scherzer
  2. Aaron Nola
  3. Mike Foltynewicz

AL Rookie of the Year

  1. Shohei Ohtani
  2. Gleyber Torres
  3. Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

NL Rookie of the Year

  1. Walker Buehler
  2. Ronald Acuña Jr.
  3. Christian Villanueva

Postseason Bracket

 

Sure there’s some Yankees bias, but who can blame me for that?  I feel that the Angels could finally make another postseason push, but the heavyweights of the past 2-3 years will be far too much for them to overcome.  The Red Sox are sometimes all over the place, and I feel the Yankees are more clutch and ready to roll this year.  I really feel like the Red Sox missed their chance in 2016 in Big Papi’s final year.  They looked incredible going in but got swept by the Indians.  Speaking of the Indians, they had an amazing chance that year but came up just short of the title.

Houston is just insane between their success last year and their crazy rotation this year.  However, until a team can prove wrong the championship funk (even the Giants’ short dynasty couldn’t win two in a row), I’m going to not put them as the champs.  I think the Yankees are hungrier and have a higher ceiling than the Astros.

In the National League, there is much more parity and uncertainty, even 2+ months into the season.  The Brewers never seem to keep up their early season pace, so I think the Central will eventually be overtaken by the Cubs.  I’ll admit that the Dodgers were my pick to win the World Series going into 2018, but they’ve been a complete disaster and look unable to make another pennant run.  The Braves and Rockies would be fun to see in a Wild Card game.  I think the Braves lineup would overcome the Rockies and Nolan Arenado’s brilliance (hopefully he’ll win at least one MVP sometime).

All that said, the Nationals have a deep team and I think this year is when their pitching staff will hold up and pitch them deep into October.  With the Cubs and Dodgers not looking like themselves, it’s time for the Nationals to capitalize, end their NLDS woes, and make a serious challenge for a title.

Lastly, some miscellaneous categories that are fun to ponder.

American League

Surprising team: Angels

Disappointing team: Twins

Surprising player: Mitch Haniger

Disappointing player: Chris Davis

National League

Surprising team: Braves

Disappointing team: Giants

Surprising player: Matt Kemp

Disappointing player: Marcell Ozuna