What’s Wrong With the Celtics?

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What in the name of Red Auerbach is wrong with the Boston Celtics? The preseason favorites to win the Eastern Conference have gotten off to an inconsistent start now sitting at 7-6, 6th place in the East. There’s still plenty of time to turn it around but something needs to happen soon to prove that they are still among the elite teams.

The return of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward: This isn’t necessarily anybody’s fault but eventually this team needs to mesh together, or someone will get traded. Kyrie has regained his pre-injury, all-star caliber form recently. Gordon Hayward just started playing regular 5 on 5 basketball in September after basically never playing with his Celtics teammates. He is starting to shake off the rust and trust his ankle more, which is good. Eventually however, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown specifically need to settle in and play in unison with Kyrie and Hayward. They occasionally make to many extra passes and put themselves in position to settle for bad shots. With more practices and games with each other this problem should fix itself but if it doesn’t expect someone, most likely Jaylen Brown or maybe Terry Rozier to be traded to shake up Brad Steven’s rotations.

Can’t hit a wide-open shot: Many Celtics offensive possessions are resulting in shots that are basically as open as playing by yourself, but they continuously miss them. Classifying wide open shots as no defenders within a 4-5 foot radius the Celtics are tops in the NBA with about 40% of their shots being this open but they are towards the bottom in making them. Marcus Morris is all around (for 2 pointers and 3 pointers) the Celtics only player making an acceptable amount of these shots. This is nothing Brad Stevens can fix; the players have proven they can make these shots and hopefully eventually this is a collective slump and the will bounce back into form.
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Clutch Defense: Despite having the best defensive rating in the NBA the Celtics are among the worst clutch time defensive teams in the league. They are 5-6 in close games this season allowing their opponents to shoot 50% from the field and 42% from 3-point range. They will dig themselves into a hole early on with a lack of offense but good defense then storm back with good defense and offense and finish with good offense and poor defense. This just seems like a lack of effort on the Celtics end for not finishing out games.

There is still time to fix all these issues and they are showing signs of breaking through but the need a couple statement games in a row to prove that they are still the same team people expected them to be. Whether it be starting to shoot better then the late defense comes next or vice versa but something needs to step up first to prove that the Celtics won’t lie down and accept that they aren’t good right now.

2018 MLB Award Predictions

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It is MLB’s Oscars season, best director candidates such as Alex Cora and Craig Counsell, best actor candidates featuring perennial candidate Mike Trout and first timer Javier Baez. I am officially all out of Oscars metaphors to use so let’s get to the analysis.

AL Manager of the year: Alex Cora deserves recognition leading the Red Sox to a franchise record in wins, but he will not win this award because the voters do not take playoffs into consideration where Alex Cora could do no wrong. Kevin Cash took a subpar team with low expectations and made them a playoff contender. I do wonder how much of the bullpen game strategy can be attributed to him and how much can be considered to the analytics department. He is a great in game manager but not really standout. I think Bob Melvin wins this award, he took a subpar team into the playoffs despite multiple pitching injuries. An offense that didn’t seem like anything impressive before the season was able to produce runs and hit home runs. They were fighting with the Astros down the stretch for first place something that the Rays weren’t doing.             1. Melvin 2. Cora 3. Cash

NL Manager of the Year: Craig Counsell lead the Brewers to an NL central title over the heavy favorite, reigning division winners, the Chicago Cubs. Another team lead by a strong bullpen and a dominant offense. The additions of Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich (more coming on him) helped this team reach that next level. Bud Black took the Rockies to the playoffs in back to back seasons, despite losing the division in game 163 they took a wildcard spot. Playing in a tough environment for pitchers and a favorable one for hitters the Rockies were a team that beat out teams that were more favored to make the playoffs. What Brian Snitker did with the Braves however, locks up this award for him in my opinion. He turned a young Braves team that was viewed as being a couple years away from serious contention into NL east champions. They were able to dethrone the virtual locks to win the division again, the Washington Nationals. They were able to revive Anibal Sanchez’s career while bringing young pitchers to the next step, they were led by Freddie Freeman, rookie Ronald Acuna Jr, sophomore Ozzie Albies and a reborn Nick Markakis.                                                                                                            1. Snitker 2. Counsell 3. Black

AL Rookie of the Year: The Yankees youth movement continues as rookies Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar showed up big for the Yankees this year. Then “the Japanese Babe Ruth” in Anaheim, Shohei Ohtani, showed why he was such a highly touted free agent. The two favorites are Andujar and Ohtani. Torres was solid most of the year, but time missed from injuries and then slumps when he came back from those injuries settles him in third place. Ohtani was a solid pitcher when he pitched and a good hitter when he hit. If he had the same amount of plate appearances as Andujar he would’ve put up the same or better numbers in just about every category. While pitching well in limited action. Andujar’s downfall will be his lack of defense. He was not a good fielder this year and being so one dimensional this year will cause his downfall.                              1. Ohtani 2. Andujar 3. Torres

NL Rookie of the Year: The race for NL Rookie of the Year is just as close as its AL counterpart. Walker Buehler was a phenomenal rookie pitcher for the Dodgers but is a comfortable pick for third place, he pitched in big games for the Dodgers and delivered with a good fastball and solid breaking pitches and if he can adapt to teams that know how he pitches and still be good he can have a great career. Juan Soto and Ronald Acuna are the top to in this race. To be as young as Acuna and Soto and hit as well as they did is incredible, and they are both special talents. This means that their offensive numbers just about cancel each other’s out. Acuna was more of a threat on the base path and a better fielder, so I think that’ll give Acuna the edge.                                                                   1. Acuna 2. Soto 3. Buehler

NL Cy Young: Every award is a tight race, but this may be one of the more obvious ones. While Aaron Nola put together a big season for the Phillies as they contended for a good portion of the season the other two guys were so good that they established themselves as the two real contenders. Max Scherzer put up a 300-strikeout season for only the third time this century, the other two belonging to Chris Sale last year and Clayton Kershaw in 2015. He also led the NL in innings pitched and won 18 games even though that’s a very flawed measure of pitcher success. It’s a flawed measure because of Jacob DeGrom’s season, my clear-cut winner. He didn’t have double digit wins because the Mets were terrible and failed to score him more than 1-2 runs for most of his starts, and in some of them he even had to plate the runs for himself. He led the world ERA with a minuscule 1.70, the lowest among qualified starters since Zack Greinke’s 1.66 in 2015. He displayed pure dominance all season and deserves this award.                                                                 1. DeGrom 2. Scherzer 3. Nola

AL Cy Young: Corey Kluber had another solid year but hit a sizable slump in the middle of it with knee problems that basically takes him out of contention for first place. Justin Verlander continued his regained dominance since going to Houston last season. Leading the AL in strikeouts for a record setting Houston pitching staff. Then out of nowhere came the dominant season of Blake Snell. In a division full of stadiums that inflate offensive stats and home to two juggernauts of the AL, the Yankees and Red Sox, Snell put up a phenomenal season. Leading the AL in ERA, as one of they only mainstays in a fluid Tampa Bay pitching rotation. He dominated Boston, New York and just about any great offense he faced all year and has earned this award.                                                       1. Snell 2. Verlander 3. Kluber

NL Most Valuable Player: A Rawlings platinum glove award winner and a guy who hit .298 with 38 homers will probably finish 3rd for this award, sorry Arenado. Despite phenomenal play at third base and being one of the only consistent/healthy hitters for the Rockies this year some other guys put up monster numbers. Another defensive wizard and finalist by the name of Javy Baez really busted out this year. Facing criticism for his approach at the plate, he changed nothing and came back this year and put up a monster season. Hitting .290 with 34 homers for a Cubs team who also had injuries and inconsistent offensive performance, Baez also played phenomenal defense all over the field and stole 21 bases. But oh my goodness, did Christian Yelich set the NL on fire. While he was known as a good hitter and fielder in Miami, but he became an all-around force in Milwaukee. He won the NL batting title while hitting 36 homers and stealing 22 bases while playing above average defense at all three outfield spots for the NL Central champion Brewers. He also hit for 2 cycles this year.                                                                 1. Yelich 2. Baez 3. Arenado

AL Most Valuable Player: Why Jose Ramirez will finish third is beyond me. He had a great year with 39 homers and 34 stolen bases for the AL Central champion Indians but had a really rough September and most of August. I would have given Bregman third place for carrying an injury riddled Houston offense for a good chunk of the season but that’s just me. Then there is Mike Trout. The guy is a one in a lifetime talent and is establishing himself as one of the all-time greats already but a season with some injuries and inflated on base percentage related numbers will be his downfall, despite hitting .312 with 39 homers and 24 stolen bases. The problem is that on a team as bad as the Angels Mike Trout can get intentionally walked and it won’t hurt the other team most of the time. The hitters around him aren’t good enough or consistent enough to be able to be consistently relied on so team will take their chances with that hitter and Mike trout on base rather than nobody on base and Mike Trout batting that’s why some of his numbers are inflated. Mookie Betts set the Al on fire after a somewhat subpar 2017 season. Alex Cora stuck with his plan to keep Mookie hitting leadoff, unlike John Farrell, and it payed dividends for Mookie and the Sox. He’s an elite defender in arguably the hardest right field to play in the league. He won the AL batting title hitting .346 with 32 homers and 30 stolen bases, the first Red Sox 30-30 season since Ellsbury in 2011 and, along with Jose Ramirez, the first one in the AL since 2012, Mike Trout’s first full season. 1. Betts 2. Trout 3. Ramirez

 

2018-2019 MLB Free Agency Preview

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As the 2018-2019 free agency gets under way there are a lot of storylines that surround top players, wild card signings and almost every major league club.

Bryce Harper: The man who will undoubtedly get the biggest contract this year and quite possibly of all time. Harper has had inconsistencies throughout his career but at his best he is a perennial MVP candidate, as evident in 2015. Despite 7 years in the majors with the Washington Nationals, Harper is just recently turned 26. With the track record he has before really hitting his prime someone will pay him big time money for around 10 years. I really like the prospect of him signing with the White Sox, being talented enough to speed up the rebuild but young enough to tank another year or so to get that last piece to contend. The Phillies are also interesting It’s a little crowded in Philly with Herrera and Hoskins, since he is forced to the outfield with Santana at first base. But Harper could be the missing piece in a Phillies lineup that needs some pop in the middle of their order.

Manny Machado: “Johnny Hustle” will hustle some team for big money as well. He won’t command the big money Harper, he has less of a career resume, but he is only 26 as well. A bit of an above average defender at shortstop but elite at third base, the willingness to play either position may open the door to new suitors. He is a top of the line hitter and hopefully will hustle if he can get his money. I think Machado is the better fit for the Phillies because they have a lot of money to spend and spending on Machado leaves plenty of room to fill up some other holes. Harper leaves cap space but Machado leaves more. Machado could also fit in Chicago as another big bat option.

The pitching market: An interesting pitching market will shape this offseason. The only real front of the line starter is Patrick Corbin who will command a nice deal from a pitching needy team. Nathan Eovaldi is a wildcard pitching well in Tampa then pitching excellent for Boston, in the postseason especially. Eovaldi undoubtedly has the best velocity on the market in terms of starters to go with some nice offspeed pitches he will be a hot commodity despite the health concerns with two tommy john surgeries under his belt. Some solid middle of the rotation pitchers are available, like Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, J.A. Happ, Hyun-Jin Ryu. My sleeper of the offseason pitching market is Drew Pomeranz. Coming off an All-star caliber 2017 season, hopes were high for him but injuries derailed his 2018. He has been good most of his career, and with an offseason to get his elbow right he could be a very worth while signing since he will come cheap. Health will restore fastball velocity thus making his nasty curveball much more effective. The reliever market is top of the line, Craig Kimbrel is an elite closer with nasty stuff on his pitches, physics says fastballs cant rise but physics has never seen Kimbrel throw a fastball. David Roberson, Adam Ottavino and Andrew Miller are to top of the line late innings guys who have consistently produced no matter where they are or how they’re used. If Miller can get is knee right he will be a big factor where ever he signs. Zach Britton and Jeurys Familia are also reliable late inning guys and Britton seems to have reclaimed his pre injury form but he wants to be paid like an elite closer no matter what role he plays. Even versatile guys like Joe Kelly and Sergio Romo will get good money, especially after Joe Kelly’s elite playoff run. It’s a deep market for relievers for this year and their are elite ones who may not come around every year.

Tampa Bay Rays: With more cap flexibility than normal the Rays are primed to add to a successful 2018 team. Surprising the world and winning 90 games while being in playoff contention most of the year Tampa can fill a few holes to contend for a wild card spot. They just filled a big hole at catcher by making a trade with Seattle centered around Mike Zunino for Mallex Smith. Zunino is a great defensive catcher with an above average throwing arm. He has 20-25 home runs a year potential at the dish and now that he is in a division with more hitter friendly fields that number can potentially jump to 30. I think they should go all in on slugger Nelson Cruz. He fills the DH hole and is a great hitter despite his age of 38. His putting up stats similar to David Ortiz in his age 38-40 seasons. Getting back in the AL East will help him, once again it traces back to hitter friendly ballparks. If they can get Cruz and a little pitching, between the bullpen and cheap starters the rays can contend for a playoff spot.

Seattle and the rest of the trade market: Jerry Dipoto has made it clear that the mariners are ready to sell off some pieces, but he’s not ready to break the club’s long streak of seasons without a playoff appearance apparently. After trading the aforementioned Zunino, players like James Paxton, Dee Gordon and Jean Segura will definitely interest rival teams. They will probably be stuck with Robinson Cano and his $24 million dollars however. Other players could hit the market, star players at that. Depending on the deals Manny Machado and Bryce Harper receive the Rockies are in a tough spot with their superstar, Nolan Arenado. 2019 will be his last season under contract and he will command a lot on the open market that the Rockies may have trouble giving him. The Giants may rebuild, which would explain the big deal they gave new GM Farhan Zaidi, and suddenly that may put Madison Bumgarner on the market. Who has a great regular season track record and a legendary postseason one. The Indians may listen to trade offers on some of their starting pitching in attempts to patch up their weaknesses to get back to the World Series, while I don’t see any reason why they may trade Kluber someone like Carrasco or Bieber, the pitcher not the singer, may get them a nice return without harming their World Series aspirations. Last but certainly not least, I think it is time the Angels move on from Mike Trout. They are incapable of giving him any help and that must be frustrating for him. He has 2 years left on his deal and he will without a shadow of a doubt get the biggest deal ever. He is a once in a lifetime talent. Despite the $33 million a year on his current deal someone will want him, that can almost be considered a bargain for someone of his talent. The Angels should sell high on Mike Trout to jumpstart a rebuild because he will certainly get the Angels an impressive return.

A Look Back on Your 2018 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox

As Chris Sale struck out Manny Machado to put a satisfying end to the 2018 MLB season the Boston Red Sox were crowned World Series Champions. In a season where many national sports media outlets crowned the Red Sox as a wild card spot favorite in spring training the Red Sox casually had the best spring training record, won a league leading, franchise record 108 games and went 11-3 in the playoffs, where they were an impressive 7-1 on the road and 7-0 after being taunted by their various opponents.
This Red Sox team is deservingly in the conversation for the best team in franchise history. With a powerful yet relentless offense, strong starting pitching and solid bullpen play all tied together by rookie manager phenom Alex Cora. They won an aforementioned 108 games and are the only team to beat two 100-win teams in the playoffs. The 100-win rival Yankees were dismissed in 4 games despite setting an MLB record for homeruns hit in a season. This was the first indication that this year, the playoffs were going to be different for the Red Sox. They then defeated the reigning champions and 103-win Houston Astros in 5 games. An Astros team said to have the edge in Stating and relief pitching was handled by the potent Red Sox offense lead by none other than the eventual ALCS MVP Jackie Bradley Jr despite Boston media calling for his head after a rough first 2-3 months of the season. After that series the Red Sox took on the back to back NL champion Los Angeles Dodgers. They beat them in 5 games as well. As some of the best postseason legacies in recent memory for the Sox were formed and finalized, the likes of Josh Beckett’s ’07 run or any David Ortiz postseason. Nathan Eovaldi was stellar all postseason with his competitive spirit backed by a 100-102mph fastball and some devastating offspeed pitches. Steve Pearce provided many clutch moments as he won WS MVP. None as large as David Price. The man who couldn’t catch a break in the postseason the few times he pitched well showed up. After a rocky first outing against the Yankees he rebounded by winning 3 out of his next 4 playoff starts including outpitching Cy Young candidate Justin Verlander to clinch the ALCS and dominating the Dodgers in the World Series clincher against Clayton Kershaw.
This season could not have happened if it wasn’t for the offseason prior to the 2018 season. The Red Sox fresh, off a second straight ALDS swiped Alex Cora away from the champion Astros to be their new manager. He brought along Houston bullpen coach Craig Bjornson to fulfill the same role. Former bullpen catcher turned bullpen coach Dana LeVangie was promoted the Pitching Coach to continue his long tenure with the club. Tim Hyers, the former Dodgers hitting coach and analytics savant was brought in to fulfill the same role as well. With a new coaching staff fluent in the current state of baseball the Sox ha one big hole left to fill, and that hole was shaped like David Ortiz.
After his retirement prior to the 2017 season the Red Sox missed his production dearly, having an offensive threat of his caliber with his reputation is incredibly rare. It makes everyone better and as expected not having him made everyone worse. John Farrell tinkered with the lineup but along with poor health the Sox offense never became a strength. In comes one Julio Daniel Martinez. Fresh off an MVP caliber season between the Tigers and Diamondbacks the Red Sox seemed like a natural fit for him from the beginning, the Sox has money to spend and needed a player of his offensive caliber. It took a painstakingly long time, but it happened and then JD blew away everyone, even those who had high expectations. With a big time bat in the top/middle of Alex Cora’s lineup everyone benefitted. Mookie Betts won the batting title and should probably win AL MVP with his excellent offensive performance, gold glove defense and elite baserunning. Andrew Benintendi had an all-star caliber season with excellent defense as well. Xander Bogaerts set career highs in homeruns and RBI’s to go along with improved defense. A finally healthy Brock Holt recaptured the performance of his best years.
However, as the 2016 Red Sox proved, you need pitching to win in October. Well the Sox had that too. Despite an injury riddled second half, Chris Sale was dominant, David Price had his best full season with the Sox pitching like an ace during the second half especially, picking up for Sale. Rick Porcello had a solid season bouncing back from a terrible 2017. Eduardo Rodriguez returned from injury to pitch like and all-star for the first half until a freak ankle injury derailed his second half, but he got his moment providing a much need solid World Series start after the 18-inning game. The Sox flipped through depth starters all year as Pomeranz struggled returning from an injury after an all-star caliber 2017, Steven Wright was great in an injury limited season and Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez filled in just fine for the Sox. The bullpen had an underrated year despite a rocky second half. Anchored by All-star closer Craig Kimbrel and other reliable arms like Matt Barnes and another man who would be a key to the playoffs, Joe Kelly. The breakout of Ryan Brasier was also a big boost.
The Sox cruised through most of the first half, sending 5 All-stars to the All-star game, Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, Mitch Moreland, Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel. They won a lot because they never counted themselves out of a game. They would put themselves back into many games by great play across the team. The offense came back from 5+ run deficits multiple times if the pitching was off then when the offense was cold the pitching won them plenty of 2-1 type games. There were some holes that needed to be filled however.

At the trade deadline the team needed a boost and Dealin’ Dave Dombrowski delivered. The veteran, AL East journeyman, first baseman/outfielder, and soon to be World Series MVP Steve Pearce was first to join the club. Imagined to be a platoon first baseman against left handed pitching he became a lot more as Moreland dealt with injuries and slumps in the second half and most of the playoffs. Then came the wild card in Nathan Eovaldi and his rocket of a right arm. fresh off his second tommy john surgery Eovaldi was pitching well for the Tampa Bay Rays and was shipped up to Boston to become a folk legend. Then long-time veteran Ian Kinsler was brought in to patch up the defense hole at second base, allowing Brock Holt to move back to his super utility role, move Nunez back to his natural position of third base and create some more depth for the Sox. As these new acquisitions got settled in arguably the biggest series of the regular season rolled along and guess who it was? The red-hot Yankees. Yankees GM, Brian Cashman, was confident in his ball club stating:

“You wonder what their record would be if they weren’t playing us… Because when we go head to head, we do some damage against them and it doesn’t seem like anybody else is capable.”

Big words that the Sox would eventually make him eat. With the AL east lead down to 5 and 1/2 the critical 4 game series felt like it could decide the division and it was only the beginning of August. Then something happened that only this writer saw coming. The Red Sox swept the series. Steve Pearce hit 3 home runs in a first game blowout, Rick Porcello threw a 1 hit/ 1 run complete game, Nathan Eovaldi threw 8 scoreless innings and then the Sox rallied off of Yankees All-star closer Aroldis Chapman to have Andrew Benintendi walk off the 4th game. Red Sox really damaged the Yankees season didn’t they Mr. Cashman? Then about a month later the Sox clinched to division in New York to go to the playoffs. The rest of the damage done by this team is history.

Next: Be on the lookout for an MLB free agency article, My MLB awards predictions and then some Pats and Celtics news.

The Start of Something Special

I’m no formal writer, there will be sarcasm and humor throughout my writing so if you’ll put up with my sometimes weird sense of sports humor I’m glad you’re here! I’m Just a college kid looking to share his opinions about his passions. It’s an exciting time to be a Boston sports fan and I’m glad you’re here to hear more about it.

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