NL Preview: Cubs Look Like Superman, but Mets, Giants, Dodgers & Nats Hold Kryptonite

Cubs Celebration 2When the final out was made in the 2016 World Series, the baseball world was treated to not only a great final scene on the stage of Major League Baseball, but an overall hope for the world. If the Chicago Cubs can win a World Series after failing in 108 previous attempts, then there is hope for the rest of us.

The Cubs are back in 2017 and look just as strong, if not stronger than they did in 2016 when they won 103 games. Wade Davis comes over from Kansas City to sure up the closer role left empty when Aroldis Chapman went back to the Yankees. Since becoming a reliever in 2014, Davis has been lights out, posting a WHIP of 0.89 with an ERA of 1.18 in 182.2 IP over 185 games. Last season in his first full year as a closer, Davis saved 27 games for the Royals. He should get plenty of more chances with set up men Carl Edwards Jr., Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon, all who posted WHIP of under 1.00 in 2016.

The Cubs starting staff still possess one of the best Big 3 in baseball with Jon Lester (19-5, 2.44 ERA in 2016), Jake Arrieta (18-8, .194 Opp. BA in 2016) and Kyle Hendricks (16-8, 0.98 WHIP in 2016), with veteran John Lackey (11-8, 1.06 WHIP in 2016) to pick up any slack.

On offense the Cubs should be even stronger with the return of Kyle Schwarber (RotoChamp projects him to hit 34 HR in 2017) to their everyday lineup after missing most of 2016. Reigning NL MVP Kris Bryant (39 HR, 102 RBI, .939 OPS in 2016) leads a young lineup also featuring Anthony Rizzo (.929 OPS, 109 RBI in 2016), Addison Russell (21 HR, 95 RBI in 2016), Javier Baez and Jason Heyward – all players that are 27 or younger. World Series MVP Ben Zobrist along with Miguel Montero provide veteran leadership that makes this roster so complete.

Unless there is some major unforseen circumstance that befalls this franchise in 2017, the Cubs should repeat as NL Central Champions.

The Cardinals and Pirates should provide some resistance to the Cubs, but are not nearly as strong as the teams they were in previous seasons. Andrew McCutchen (24 HR, 79 RBI in 2016) and Gerrit Cole (7-10, 1.44 WHIP in 2016) need to rebound from off years in 2016 to help a Pirates team that finished under .500 in 2016 after making three straight postseason appearances.

The Cardinals lineup features the same players it did in 2016 when they led the NL in HR and finished 4th in the majors in runs scored. Dexter Fowler (.393 OPS, 84 runs in 2016) migrated over from the Cubs to provide OF defense and a consistent presence at the top of the lineup. However, the Cardinals pitching rotation and bullpen will keep them from seriously challenging the Cubs. Not that the rotation of Mike Leake, Carlos Martinez, Lance Lynn, Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha is bad, but when compared to the Cubs, Mets, Nationals or even the Giants – it looks a little more pedestrian. I wouldn’t count the Cardinals out of the postseason push though, because their offense will put up runs and if their starters and bullpen – especially Trevor Rosenthal (1.90 WHIP in 2016) – perform better than expected, they can make some noise.

The Brewers and Reds bring up the rear in the NL Central and it will be a little while before they are contenders again with all the talent in the NL. Fans should keep an eye on longtime members Ryan Braun (Brewers) and Joey Votto (Reds) as they both could be trade pieces to bring back needed prospects at the trade deadline.

Dodgers Seager

Moving to the NL West, the Dodgers look strong enough to win the NL West for the 5th straight season. After placing a major league record 28 different players on the disabled list in 2016, the Dodgers hope to be more healthy this season.

2016 NL ROY Corey Seager’s development (.308 BA, .877 OPS, 26 HR in 2016) is vital to a lineup that had its ups and downs in 2016. The Dodgers finished in the middle of the pack in most offensive categories and six of their 8 regulars all struck out 107 or more times. If Adrian Gonzalez rebounds from his 2016 season (.784 OPS, 18 HR, 90 RBI after averaging .866 OPS, 28 HR and 103 RBI from 2006-15), the Dodgers should have more than enough offense to get by. Joc Pederson, Yasmani Grandal, Justin Turner and Seager all connected for 25 or more HR in 2016. That should provide the Dodgers plenty of power and run production in 2017.

Andrew Toles is the latest of a long history of Dodger rookies that hope to be a difference maker in 2017. Toles won the LF job this spring with an impressive performance after hitting .314 in 48 games last season after spending time at 3 different minor league levels.

The Dodgers pitching is led by perhaps the best pitcher in baseball, Clayton Kershaw. Despite making only 21 starts in 2016, Kershaw posted career-bests in ERA (1.69), shutouts (3) and WHIP (0.73). Kenta Maeda (14 wins in 2016), injury prone Scott Kazmir and youngster Julio Urias round out the rotation.

Los Angeles brought back Rich Hill (0.79 WHIP in just 6 starts in 2016) and closer Kenley Jansen (0.67 WHIP, 47 saves, 13.6 K per 9 in 2016) to keep a strong staff and bullpen that should be close to the staff that led the majors in strikeouts and finished second in WHIP (1.19) in 2016.

A major key to the Dodgers ability to separate themselves from the pack in the NL West this season will be Yasiel Puig. If Puig can stay healthy both physically and mentally and be anywhere near the player he was when he posted an .888 OPS in 252 games in 2013-14, the Dodgers will be thrilled.

Odd year seasons usually mean trouble for the San Francisco Giants, who have won 3 World Titles and made the postseason in the last 4 even years, but have not qualified for the postseason in an odd year since 2003.

After winning the NL Wild Card last season, the Giants were just 3 outs away from forcing the Cubs to a winner-take-all Game 5 at Wrigley Field in the NLDS. However, their bullpen could not hold a 5-2 lead, which was the achilles heel for a team that blew the most saves in baseball during the regular season (30). In comes closer Mark Melancon. Since 2014, no player has more saves than his 131. Losing Will Smith to Tommy John surgery will hurt them, but in Hunter Strickland, Derek Law and George Kontos, the Giants should hold down the fort until Melancon takes the mound in the 9th.

Buster Posey (82 runs scored, 80 RBI in 2016) leads a talented offense that makes contact (struck out fewest times in the NL and 2nd fewest in MLB). The Giants don’t do anything great offensively, they just do everything well (6 of 8 regulars had at least 67 runs scored, while 6 of 8 regulars had an OPS of .700 or higher).

Madison Bumgarner (15-9, 2.74 ERA, 251 K in 2016) leads a terrific big 3 that also features Johnny Cueto (18-5, 2.79 ERA in 2016) and Jeff Samardzija (12-11, 3.81 ERA in 2016). If Matt Moore picks up on the momentum he built from his Game 4 NLDS start (8 IP, 2 H, ER, 10 K), this can be one of the best rotations in baseball. Remember that Moore is only 27, and was 17-4 for the Rays in 2013.

No team had higher expectations than the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2016 after their offseason moves of bringing in Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller. However, Miller imploded (3-12, 6.15 ERA, 1.67 WHIP in 2016) and Greinke (13-7, 4.37 ERA in 2016) was OK, but fell far below his 2015 performance. Patrick Corbin (5-13, 5.15 ERA in 2016) failed to live up to the promise he showed in 2013 and 2015 and their young pitching prospects Robbie Ray (8-15, 4.90 ERA in 2016) and Archie Bradley (8-9, 5.02 ERA in 2016) struggled as well.

In 2017 the Diamondbacks rotation should be the same. Greinke, Miller, Ray and Corbin are all being counted on to being much better. A trade with Seattle brought in Taijuan Walker (8-11, 4.22 ERA in 2016) who showed some promise after being a first round pick in 2010. Fernando Rodney was brought in on a one-year deal to help sure up a bullpen that allowed the second most ER in the majors last season.

On offense, Arizona will miss Juan Segura, who was sent to Seattle in the offseason after leading the team with 203 hits last season. However, with the everyday return of A.J. Pollock (.315 BA, 111 runs scored in 2015) added to an impressive core of young players led by Paul Goldschmidt (.899 OPS, 24 HR, 95 RBI in 2016), the Diamondbacks should be explosive. Brandon Drury (16 HR, 53 RBI in 461 AB in 2016) will move back to the infield where he is more comfortable. Jake Lamb (.840 OPS, 29 HR, 91 RBI in 2016) and Yasmany Tomas (31 HR, 83 RBI in 2016) round out a very impressive group that could surprise if their pitching improves.

Colorado’s offense should be the same that saw them finish with the most runs in the NL and second most in the majors, but their pitching will keep them from winning more than the 75 games they won in 2016.

San Diego started a rebuilding project last season with the trades of Matt Kemp, Melvin Upton and Fernando Rodney. A solid offseason built around rebuilding their farm system has the Padres on the right track, but a few years from contending. Wil Myers, Yangervis Solarte and Ryan Schimpf provide hope for the future.

Harvey NLCS

The NL East could provide the majors best pennant race as the Mets and defending division champion Nationals should provide 19 memorable matchups. The Nationals starting five could be the best in baseball. Led by Max Scherzer (20-7, 2.96 ERA, 0.97 WHIP in 2016)  Washington puts an excellent starter out there every day. Stephen Strasburg (15-4, 11.2 K per 9 in 2016), Tanner Roark (16-10, 2.83 ERA in 2016), Joe Ross (7-5, 3.43 ERA in 2016) and Gio Gonzalez (11-11, 4.57 ERA in 2016) make up the rest of the rotation.

In the bullpen, the Nationals lost closer Mark Melancon in the offseason after obtaining him from Pittsburgh at the trade deadline. Despite that loss, the Nats bullpen should still have plenty of arms to choose from. Blake Treinen (2.28 ERA in team-high 73 games in 2016), Shawn Kelley (0.88 WHIP, 12.4 K per 9 in 2016) and Koda Glover are all capable of closing games.

On offense, the Nats bring back much of a lineup that scored the 4th most runs in the NL (4.7). Fresh off his amazing 2015 postseason performance, newcomer Daniel Murphy (.347 BA, 47 2B, 25 HR, 104 RBI, .985 OPS in 2016) was a revelation, leading the Nationals in every offensive category except runs scored. 2015 NL MVP Bryce Harper had an off year (.243, 24 HR, 86 RBI in 2016), but is just 24 and should rebound nicely in 2017. Adam Eaton (.362 OBP, averaged 94 runs scored over last 2 seasons) was brought in from the White Sox and should provide consistency in the OF along with a steady bat in the lead off spot. Trea Turner (.342 BA, .937 OPS, 13 HR, 40 RBI in 307 AB in 2016)  was excellent after his call up from the minors, providing the Nationals with speed and power.

After surprising the baseball world with a run to the World Series in 2015, the Mets looked like a cinch to repeat that success in 2016. However, a season filled with injuries saw the Mets 2 games under .500 and 5.5 games behind the second wild card spot on August 20. Starters Matt Harvey (4-10 4.86 ERA, 1.47 WHIP in 17 starts in 2016), Jacob deGrom (7-8, 3.04 ERA in 2016) and Steven Matz (9-8, 3.40 ERA in 22 starts in 2016) were all lost for the season by that point (deGrom made 2 more starts after that date, losing both, allowing 18 hits and 8 ER in 9.2 IP). The offense was hitting under .200 with RISP through August 19 and finished the season hitting just .187 with 2 outs and RISP.  David Wright (.226 BA in 37 games played in 2016), Lucas Duda (.229 BA, 7 HR, 23 RBI in 47 games played in 2016) and Neil Walker (.282 BA, 23 HR, 55 RBI in 113 games in 2016) all missed long stretches of the season (Wright and Walker did not play in September).

Despite facing such incredible odds, the Mets rebounded and went 27-13 after August 19 to reach the postseason, losing in the NL Wild Card game to the Giants. All the experience the Mets gained in 2016 will greatly help them in 2017.

Their starting staff has the depth and talent to be the best in the majors. In addition to Harvey, deGrom and Matz (all who start the regular season healthy), the Mets rotation is led by Noah Syndergaard (14-9, 1.15 WHIP, 10.7 K per 9 in 2016) who became the team ace last season. The fifth and final spot in the rotation will be between Seth Lugo (5-2, 2.67 ERA in 17 games in 2016), Robert Gsellman (4-2, 2.42 ERA in 7 starts in 2016) and Zack Wheeler. Wheeler, once a top prospect, has not pitched since 2014 after having Tommy John surgery in the spring of 2015.

In the bullpen, the Mets are led by Jeurys Familia (led the majors with 51 saves in 2016) who will miss at least 30 games due to a suspension for domestic abuse. Addison Reed (0.94 WHIP, 10.5 K per 9 in 2016) will get his closer job while he is away. Fernando Salas, Hansel Robles and Jerry Blevins are other arms the Mets will need to rely on consistently if they want to bridge the gap to Reed and Familia. Despite the strength of their starting staff, the Mets bullpen could be their weak point and something that GM Sandy Alderson might need to address come the trade deadline.

On offense the Mets faithful let out a huge sigh of relief when the team re-signed Yoenis Cespedes (.884 OPS, 31 HR, 86 RBI to a long-term deal in the offseason. With Cespedes in the middle of the lineup the Mets were clearly a different team, going 72-54 in games he started compared to 15-21 when he didn’t.

Curtis Granderson (30 HR, 59 RBI in 2016), Michael Conforto (.220 BA, 12 HR, 42 RBI in 2016) and Jay Bruce (.219 BA, 8 HR, 19 RBI in 50 games after being acquired at trade deadline from CIN) make up a crowded outfield that should provide the Mets with plenty of power. Asdrubal Cabrera (.280 BA, 23 HR, 62 RBI in 2016), T.J. Rivera (.333 BA, 3 HR, 16 RBI in 33 games in 2016) Wilmer Flores (.249 BA, 16 HR, 49 RBI in 2016) and Jose Reyes (.267 BA, 45 runs in 60 games in 2016) should provide the Mets with depth and diversity on the infield in the event that David Wright can’t return.

After struggling most of 2016, the Atlanta Braves turned things around during the second half of 2016. Thanks to the acquisition of Matt Kemp (.855 OPS, 12 HR, 39 RBI in 56 games) and the call up of Dansby Swanson (.302 BA, 3 HR, 20 RBI in 38 games) the Braves went 24-14 after August 20th. Only the Mets and Cubs had better records in the NL. Freddie Freeman’s (.302 BA, 34 HR, 94 RBI, .968 OPS) year got lost in the Braves awful first 3/4 of the season, but he is quickly becoming a major superstar.

While the Braves might not be good enough to challenge the divisions elite in the Mets and Nationals, they will be improved enough to challenge the Marlins and Phillies for third.

The Marlins should put up a good fight and could surprise in the East if they get enough pitching. However, the shock of Jose Fernandez death last September is one that they will feel for a while. Christian Yelich (.298 BA, 21 HR, 98 RBI in 2016) is an emerging superstar with limitless talent and an eventual batting champion. He and Giancarlo Stanton (.240 BA, 27 HR, 74 RBI in 2016) provide an excellent 1-2 punch in the middle of the Marlins lineup.

The Phillies shocked many with their impressive first half performance of winning close games (went 28-23 in one-run games in 2016). On May 19 they were 7 games over .500 and a half-game behind the Nationals in the NL East. However, they folded after that going 47-74 the rest of the way.

On offense, Odubel Herrera (.286 BA, 87 runs scored in 2016) and Maikel Franco (.255 BA, 25 HR, 88 RBI in 2016) are young players who should be around for a while. On the mound, Jared Eickhoff (11-14, 1.16 WHIP in 2016), Vince Velasquez (8-6, 4.12 ERA in 2016) and Aaron Nola (6-9, 4.78 ERA in 2016) are all 26 or younger and provide hope for the future.

2017 NL Predictions

NL Cy Young Award Winner – Noah Syndergaard

NL MVP – Bryce Harper

NL Rookie of the Year – Dansby Swanson

NL East Champion – New York Mets – 98-64

NL Central Champion – Chicago Cubs – 101-61

NL West Champion – San Francisco Giants – 93-69

NL Wild Card – Washington Nationals – 95-67

NL Wild Card – Los Angeles Dodgers – 89-73

NL Champion – New York Mets

AL Preview: Tribe Locked Door, but Red Sox Hold the Key

Red Sox IndiansThere is something about the City of Cleveland and overcoming or blowing 3-1 series deficits. In 2007, the Indians were one win away from advancing to the World Series before losing the final 3 games to eventual World Champion Boston Red Sox. In 2016, the Cavaliers overcame a 3-1 series deficit to rally and defeat the defending NBA Champions Golden St. Warriors. That is what the City of Cleveland was settling down from when the 2016 MLB postseason started.

The Indians surprised everyone with the easy way they dismissed the Red Sox in the ALDS, who had finished the regular season with 100 more runs scored than the 2nd most team in the AL. Next up the Indians did away with the Blue Jays in 5 games, holding them to just 8 runs in the ALCS. The final obstacle was the Cubs, who are the only team that had a longer current streak of World Series futility than the Indians 68-year drought. When they defeated the Cubs 7-2 in Game 4 at Wrigley Field, Cleveland had won 10 of 12 postseason games posting a team ERA of 1.68 with 5 shutouts. They were sitting one game away from giving the City of Cleveland another championship in 2016, after going over 50 years without one. However, they were unable to close the deal, as the Cubs completed the historic comeback, while giving MLB fans a classic Game 7.

As we enter the 2017 season, the Indians and their fans realize that all the success they achieved in the 2016 season – winning 94 games and coming within 1 win of a World Championship – occurred without Michael Brantley (missed all but 11 games in 2016 after posting a .876 OPS with 181 RBI and 162 runs scored in 293 games over the 2014-15 seasons).  I already mentioned that in the 2016 postseason, they Indians held opponents to a 1.68 ERA while posting 5 shutouts in their first 12 games. They did that without young pitching studs Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar (combined for 50 wins and 10.0 K per 9 over last 2 seasons), who both missed the 2016 postseason due to injury. Those two join postseason heroes Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin to round out one of the best rotations in baseball.

As good as their starting staff could be, their bullpen is even better. Manager Terry Francona has the luxury of having Cody Allen (32 Svs, 11.5 K per 9, 1.00 WHIP in 2016) in the closer role, while using Andrew Miller (0.55 WHIP in 26 games w/CLE in 2016) in “moment of truth” situations. Bryan Shaw, Dan Otero and Zach McAllister round out the bullpen.

The Indians offense should be even better than last season when they averaged 4.83 runs per game (2nd to only the Red Sox) as they have added Edwin Encarnacion in the offseason. Encarnacion (.912 OPS, 39 HR, 110 RBI averages over his last 5 seasons) adds to a lineup that already has budding stars Francisco Lindor (.794 OPS, 99 runs in 2016), Jose Ramirez (.825 OPS, team-high 46 2B in 2016) and Tyler Naquin (.886 OPS in 116 games in 2016), along with proven vets Jason Kipnis (.811 OPS, 23 HR in 2016) and Carlos Santana (.865 OPS and 34 HR in 2016).

The Indians should be heavy favorite in the AL Central, as the Tigers and Royals both have aging rosters with free-agents to be that should be part of fire sales for each team if they struggle during the first half of 2017. However, both have rosters filled with players with postseason success that can push Cleveland if things fall right for them. Both teams will be looking to grasp one more season of contention before rebuilding their rosters in the offseason.

For Kansas City, the quartet of Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar will become free agents next winter. For the Tigers, only J.D. Martinez is a free agent after 2017. Ian Kinsler has a club option for 2018, while Victor Martinez is a free agent after 2018 as well. With Miguel Cabrera, both Martinez’, Justin Upton and a rotation featuring Justin Verlander, Jordan Zimmerman and ROY Michael Fulmer, Detroit has the best chance of challenging the Indians if things break right.

In the AL East, the Red Sox finished an active offseason by trading for Chris Sale (averaged 14 wins, 10.0 K per 9 and 1.06 WHIP over last 5 seasons). Sale joins perhaps the majors best Top 3 with David Price (17 wins, 228 K) and 2016 AL CYA Winner Rick Porcello (22 wins, 1.00 WHIP). The big 3 might need to be put on hold for a while however, as Price’s elbow has the Red Sox concerned he might miss major time in 2017.

The Red Sox bullpen figures to be solid with the addition of setup man Tyler Thornburg (0.94 WHIP, 12.1 K per 9 in 2016), who should provide plenty of save opportunities for Craig Kimbrel (31 Svs, 14.1 K per 9 in 2016).

The only thing more scary than the Red Sox starting staff is their offense. Yes, they will miss David Ortiz who finished his career with perhaps the greatest final season in MLB history (team-leading 1.021 OPS, 38 HR, 127 RBI). However, with Mookie Betts (.897 OPS, 31 HR, 113 RBI), Jackie Bradley (.835 OPS, 26 HR, 87 RBI) and Xander Bogaerts (.802 OPS, 21 HR, 89 RBI) along with Baseball America’s #1 rated prospect Andrew Benintendi, the Red Sox figure to pick up right where they left off in 2016 when they led the majors in runs scored.

While the Orioles and Blue Jays figure to challenge the Sox, Boston should have enough to hold them off. Perhaps the team to raise the AL East flag will be the one who can win the most games against the Rays and Yankees.While the Yankees posses a scary amount of young talent moving forward, its unreasonable to expect them to develop quickly enough to make noise in 2017. However, with Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Aaron Judge and with Clint Frazier in the wings, the pinstripes focus now moves to developing the pitching depth that can help them become a major player for years to come.

In the AL West, the Houston Astros look to right the wrongs of 2016. After dominating the regular season for almost all of 2015 and coming within 5 outs of eliminating the eventual World Champion Kansas City Royals in the ALDS, the Astros missed the postseason last year.

Missing the postseason last year made the Astros very active in the offseason to secure a postseason berth in 2017. Houston brought in Brian McCann and Josh Reddick, along with bringing back Carlos Beltran, whose half season with the Astros in 2004 earned him a major free agent deal with the New York Mets.

In 2017 the Astros will get a full season out of Alex Bregman (8 HR, 34 RBI in 49 games) being added to an already strong core of Carlos Correa (.811 OPS, 20 HR, 96 RBI) Jose Altuve (3 straight 200-hit seasons, leading the majors in each of the last 3 seasons) George Springer (.815 OPS, team-high 116 runs) and Evan Gattis (32 HR in 477 AB). The Astros lineup could be the best in baseball.

Despite the prospects of having an explosive lineup, the Astros pitching staff is what will keep them from running away with the division. After winning the Cy Young Award in 2015 with 20 wins, Dallas Keuchel struggled, going 9-12 with a 4.56 ERA last season. Collin McHugh (team high 13 wins), Mike Fiers (11-8, 4.48 ERA) and Doug Fister (12-13, 4.64 ERA) all have shown promise, but each posted a WHIP of at least 1.35 in 2016.

In the bullpen, the Astros have many arms that can get outs and throw hard. Ken Giles (15 Svs, 14.0 K per 9) will start the season as the closer, but Will Harris (12 Svs, 1.05 WHIP) and Luke Gregerson (15 Svs, 0.97 WHIP) also can close if necessary and each recorded at least 12 saves in 2016.

carlos-Correa2

The Texas Rangers provide the division with perhaps the best 1-2 punch in the starting rotation with Yu Darvish (7-5, 1.12 WHIP in just 17 starts) and Cole Hamels (15 wins, 200 K), providing that Darvish can stay healthy. The rest of their rotation is shaky with Martin Perez and AJ Griffin with a cast of thousands filling in the #5 spot.

Despite having issues with their bullpen all season long (finished with 6th highest bullpen ERA in the majors at 4.40), the Rangers 41 wins were the most in MLB. They were also dominant in one-run games, going 36-11. That type of oxymoron cannot be counted on again in 2017, but with Sam Dyson (38 Svs) and Matt Bush (0.94 WHIP) the Rangers do have some live arms to rely on in late innings.

The Rangers lineup should be fine, led by youngsters Rougned Odor (33 HR, 88 RBI), Nomar Mazara (20 HR, 64 RBI) and Jurickson Profar. Trade deadline acquisition Jonathan Lucroy (.885 OPS after coming over from Milwaukee), will now enjoy a full season in Texas and his ability to frame pitchers for the Rangers staff will prevent innings from extending. Offseason free agent Mike Napoli (34 HR, 101 RBI) returns to Texas for the third time and should be an upgrade over Mitch Moreland. Finally, there is ol’ faithful Adrian Beltre, who quietly has gone on to have a remarkable career. If he stays healthy, Beltre should become the 6th player in MLB history to record 3,000 hits (58 away) and 500 HR (55 away) before he retires.

In Seattle, the Mariners have tried just about everything to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2001. Richie Sexson, Adrian Beltre, Jose Guillen, Erik Bedard, Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz are all big name free agents the Mariners have brought over in the last 10+ seasons. However, Seattle has finished last or next to last in the AL West 9 times since 2004.

Since taking over as GM in 2015, Jerry DiPoto has revamped the Mariners roster which now includes many young promising players. The change resulted in Seattle having the best run differential in the AL West last season (+61). SS Jean Segura was acquired from Arizona in the offseason (.867 OPS, led NL with 203 hits in 2016) and will should provide a major upgrade to an offense that already includes Cano (.882 OPS, 39 HR, 103 RBI), Cruz (.915 OPS, 43 HR, 105 RBI) and Kyle Seager (.859 OPS, 30 HR, 99 RBI).

If the Mariners are going to take the next step, they need production from a group of youngsters led by Mitch Haniger and Dan Vogelbach. Offseason acquisition Jarrod Dyson should provide the speed and defense the Mariners need to control the outfield.

Felix Hernandez (11-8, 3.82 ERA in just 25 starts) Hisashi Iwakuma (led team w/16 wins) should provide the consistency needed at the top of the rotation, assuming Hernandez stays healthy. He’s not the same pitcher he was 2-3 years ago, but at 31 there should still be some gas left in the tank. Drew Smyly leads the back end of the rotation that includes James Paxton and Yovani Gallardo.

Edwin Diaz will get the call as the early season closer for Seattle, while Steve Cishek recovers from offseason hip surgery.

The Angels might have the best player in baseball right now, but AL MVP Mike Trout (.991 OPS, 29 HR, 100 RBI)  is only one person and the Angels should continue their trend of losing seasons that started after posting 98 wins in 2014.

After having a revival that saw them reach the postseason 3 straight years from 2012-14, the Oakland A’s are compiling another group of young, talented players led by Khris Davis (40 HR, 102 RBI), Marcus Semien (27 HR), Ryon Healy (.861 OPS in 72 games) Franklin Barreto and Matt Chapman.

Sonny Gray should have a much better 2017 after struggling most of last season (5.69 ERA in 22 starts). He leads a young staff that is counting on the promise of Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton. Their bullpen should be a major strength with the return of Sean Doolittle, offseason acquisition Santiago Casilla and Ryan Madson.

Final Predictions:

AL Cy Young Award: Marcus Stroman

AL MVP: Mookie Betts

AL Rookie of the Year: Jharel Cotton

AL East Champ: Boston Red Sox (95-67)

AL Central Champ: Cleveland Indians (98-64)

AL West Champ: Houston Astros (92-70)

AL Wild Card: Seattle Mariners (91-71) & Detroit Tigers (89-73)

AL Champion: Cleveland Indians

Where Do Warriors Rank All-Time?

Tonight in Oakland, the Golden St. Warriors have a chance to win their 2nd NBA Championship in the last 3 years. Many people have been debating where this team ranks, not just in NBA history, but overall in the four major sports.

Approaching this topic with as much honesty as I can, I think that many fans and critics hold last years collapse in the NBA Finals against these same Cavaliers, against the Warriors. After winning an NBA record 73 games in 2015-16, the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals, losing 2 of those final 3 games at home, including Game 7.

In the offseason the Warriors added superstar Kevin Durant to their already historic lineup. While the Warriors did not equal the regular season success this season that they had last season, they have dominated opponents in the postseason. Entering Game 5 tonight they have outscored opponents by 13.8 PPG. They set a record for the four major sports with a 15-game postseason win streak. They are one win away from dethroning the defending champs with one of the greatest players in the history of the game who has appeared in each of the last seven NBA Finals.

hi-res-d0dc5cfe932cdfcf2c381809b6e1354e_crop_exact
Entering Game 4 of the NBA Finals, the Warriors had outscored their playoff opponents this season by an average of 16.2 PPG.

So…Where does this team rank?

In NBA history, its hard to say that they haven’t been the most impressive. Entering Game 4 they were outscoring opponents by an average of 16.2 PPG, which was the highest in the history of the NBA Playoffs. However, their 21-point loss in Game 4 dropped that total a bit.

Best PPG Diff in Single Postseason

195556 Lakers            +15.5                                                                                                                 197071 Bucks             +14.5                                                                                                                   201617 Warriors       +13.8>>                                                                                                               200001 Lakers           +12.8                                                                                                                   199091 Bulls              +11.7                                                                                                         >>Was 16.2 PPG Entering Game 4

Matching them up against other teams in NBA history and the four major sports based on their postseason success, it’s  hard not to put them at the top of that list. The 2001 LA Lakers (15-1) and the 1983 Philadelphia 76ers (12-1) are the only teams in NBA history to lose 1 game in winning the NBA title.

Among the other major sports, the Warriors rank among the best also. In MLB, only the 2005 White Sox (11-1) and 1999 Yankees (11-1), under the current format, lost 1 or fewer postseason games. Going back to when the MLB playoffs started in 1969, only the 1976 Cincinnati Reds (7-0) finished a postseason with a perfect record.

493765_crop_650x440
The 1999 Yankees lost only one game in the postseason in winning the World Series.

In the NHL, the 1968 and 1976 Montreal Canadiens (both 12-1) are the only teams to win a Stanley Cup (since expansion) with 1 or fewer losses.  The 1988 Edmonton Oilers (16-2), under the current playoff format, had the most dominant run.

In the NFL the 1972 Miami Dolphins are the only team to finish a season undefeated. It’s hard to enter any of the other teams that lost just one game in route to winning the Super Bowl (1976 Raiders, 1984 49ers, 1985 Bears), when you had an undefeated team.

Longest Postseason Win Streak By League – 4 Major Pro Sports

                                                                          League                                                                           2017                             Warriors<<        15    NBA                                                                               1992-93                        Penguins           14    NHL                                                                               1927-32, 1998-99        Yankees             12    MLB                                                                                 2002-06                         Patriots              10    NFL                                                                  >>Active streak                                                                                                                   >>>Source: Elias Sports Bureau

When looking at the fewest games lost, one isn’t even necessarily looking at domination as far as PPG or run differential, but then we need to break this open even further. However, even looking at that, this Warriors team excels in both of those categories.  If they can wrap up the NBA Finals tonight, that makes them a great argument for the best team in history of the four major sports.

NHL: Cups Won Before and Since Expansion Needs to Be Recognized

As the hockey world prepares to crown another Stanley Cup champion as soon as tonight in Nashville, I think its time we look at how the NHL records their history.

The Stanley Cup goes all the way back to 1893 when it was called “the Challenge Cup”. It was donated by the Governor General of Canada Lord Stanley of Preston in 1892, and is the oldest professional sports trophy in North America.

images (2)
Sidney Crosby can raise the 5th Stanley Cup in Penguins history if they finish off the Predators in Game 6.

However, many hardcore NHL fans still get confused with when exactly the “official” tally of Stanley Cup winners goes back to. The history of the league is very confusing also with the amount of teams that came and went going back to 1917 when most NHL publications began registering Stanley Cup championships to teams.

What I’d like to do is break this down into two eras. First there is the era from 1915 to 1966-67. During the first part of that era, the NHL changed the number of teams almost every season. The NHL had as few as four teams from 1922-24 to as many as 10 teams from 1926-31.

When World War II started, the NHL then contracted to the “Original Six” teams. The Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs were the only teams that participated in the NHL “Golden Era” from 1942-43 to 1966-67. Needless to say, having only six teams in the league can add up championships very quickly.

Stanley-Cup-1987-Edmonton-Oilers
The Edmonton Oilers 5 Stanley Cups won since expansion started in 1966-67 are the second most to the Montreal Canadiens 10. 

In 1966-67 the NHL introduced modern expansion and doubled the size of the league. The “Original Six” played in one conference and the expansion teams played in the other. Since that year, the NHL has continued to add teams and next season will add the 31st team when Las Vegas takes the ice.

282412_502781a6ed438ea53f04ac78dbdf551ceb8a00e0.jpg
The Montreal Canadiens have won the most Stanley Cups overall (24) and since expansion (10).

Looking at how the NHL has tallied the number of Stanley Cups won, I get bothered by the fact that there aren’t any asterisks involved. Clearly, it’s a lot easier to win a Stanley Cup when you have a 1/6 chance as opposed to a 1/30 chance. Before the NHL diehards get crazy on me, its not that I’m saying you need to asterisk every time the NHL adds teams, but I do think there should be a VERY CLEAR recognition of Stanley Cups won BEFORE and SINCE expansion.

Tonight the Pittsburgh Penguins will be looking to win their fifth Stanley Cup. They entered the league during the first year of expansion in 1966-67. That would tie them with the Edmonton Oilers for the second most Stanley Cups won since expansion. If they wind up skating around Bridgestone Arena with the Stanley Cup tonight, I think that distinction between Stanley Cups won before and since expansion needs to be understood and celebrated.

leafs stanley cup
The Toronto Maple Leafs have not won a Stanley Cup since expansion started in 1966-67, yet have the second most Stanley Cups won in NHL history.

Looking at total Stanley Cups won overall, the Montreal Canadiens blow away everyone with 24. However, the next team on that list is the prime example why these distinctions need to be recognized. The Toronto Maple Leafs are next with 13, however, NONE of those Stanley Cup championships have come since expansion started. All 13 of those championships came when there were eight or fewer teams in the league. The fact that there is no mention of that really bothers me.

Stanley Cups Won Overall (Since 1917)

Montreal Canadiens                24>>

Toronto Maple Leafs               13>>

Detroit Red Wings                   11>>

Chicago Blackhawks                 6>>

Boston Bruins                             6>>

Edmonton Oilers                        5

>>Original Six Teams

 

Stanley Cups Won Since Expansion in 1966-67

Montreal Canadiens         10

Edmonton Oilers                 5

Detroit Red Wings               4

NY Islanders                         4

Pittsburgh Penguins           4

NewYorkIslandersSC_
The New York Islanders won 4 straight Stanley Cups from 1980-83, setting a record with 19 consecutive playoff series won.

So while you are watching the Stanley Cup tonight, please keep in mind the totals you see on graphics and what they mean. Honoring the teams that have won Stanley Cups in expansion with a deeper, much more grueling regular season and playoffs, really matter.

Mets Need A Quick Fix To Get Back in Race

More than any of the  other four major sports, the Major League Baseball season is a marathon. Just because your team is out of it on Memorial Day, doesn’t necessarily mean that they need to pack up and prepare for next season.

Looking at the standings on June 10, the New York Mets find themselves seven games under .500, 11.5 games out of first place in the NL East. How can this be for a team that was predicted to win at least 90 games and win the NL East in some preseason publications?

Many reasons. Lets start with injuries. Lost for most of the season so far has been their best offensive player (Yoenis Cespedes – only 19 GP), best starting pitcher (Noah Syndergaard – 5 GS) and closer (Jeurys Familia – only 11 GP). While Cespedes should be back today, Syndergaard and Familia will be out until at least August.

Next is their pristine starting pitching. Heading into today (June 10) the Mets starters ERA of 4.99 ranks 27th in the majors. Their starters have logged the 3rd fewest innings of any team. Only 25 times in the Mets 58 games this season have their starters gone 6 or more innings. That number looks even worse after May 1, as only 12 times since then have starters gone 6 or more innings.

download (1)
Jacob deGrom has allowed 15 ER in his last 2 starts.

Since their starters have done so poorly, their bullpen has been overused and exposed. Their 4.89 bullpen ERA ranks 27th in the majors and their 13 blown saves is the most in the majors.

Mets Pitching Ranks – 2017 Season

Starting ERA                4.99       27th

Starters IP                   314.0      28th

Overall ERA                 4.95        T-Last

Bullpen ERA                4.89        27th

Blown Saves                  13         Last

The Mets are winless in games they score 2 runs or less (0-13), while losing four games when they scored at least seven runs. We haven’t even mentioned the offense yet, where of the regulars, only Michael Conforto is hitting over .270 (and he is hitting just .173 in his last 14 games).

How did this team get so bad? What can the Mets do from here to clean this mess up and make the rest of the season worthwhile to fans in Flushing? Here are a few ideas.

KEEP TERRY COLLINS

Early on this season Terry Collins passed Davey Johnson for the most career games managed in Mets history. Despite Collins many attempts to ignite a fire under his team, his voice has grown tired to this bunch. At 68 Collins doesn’t need this aggravation anymore. However, I still think, looking at the lack of possible candidates to replace him, that he needs to stay.  If there was a Wally Backman ready to step in, I would say go ahead. However, Backman is now in Mexico as a bench coach for Pericos de Puebla of the Mexican Baseball League.

CLEAN UP THE LINEUP

Looking at the everyday ball players, one can get bored when going over the Mets boxscores. Curtis Granderson, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jose Reyes have been awful all season. Time for them to take a seat. If the Mets can get something for either Cabrera or Granderson, I say do it, but they unlikely would be able to get much.

The future at SS is waiting in Las Vegas and tearing up the league. Amed Rosario is hitting .339 and leads the organization in hits (84), RBI (43) and is second in slugging percentage (.500). The Super 2 cutoff date has most likely passed (judging from past dates). Stop wasting time and give the Mets fans the player they have been hearing about for the last few years. His input in the leadoff spot should ignite some life into a very old, boring lineup.

MiLB: JUN 18 2016 Florida State League All-Star Game (LoMoglio)
18 June 2016: St. Lucie Mets shortstop Amed Rosario (1) during the 2016 Florida State League (Advanced Class-A) All-Star Game at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, FL. Mark LoMoglio/MiLB

 

Having a consistent lineup with Cespedes, Conforto and Bruce in the OF (with Lagares filling in defensively late) along with deciding how to consistently get Wilmer Flores and T.J. Rivera at bats (Rivera could platoon at first with Lucas Duda) should give the Mets more of a spark.

REPLACE THE BULLPEN

Why on earth do Mets fans still have to see Fernando Salas and Addison Reed taking turns giving away games? Reed had his value as a setup man, but his season is spiraling out of control as a closer. He already has been overused and if he stays on the staff, needs a long rest.

I suggest Salas be released. As for Reed, if the Mets can shop him around to a contender who needs another arm, then so be it, but I think his time closing out games for the Mets should be re-examined.

Going from there, that creates some room for the Mets to give some minor leaguers with live arms a chance to change the chemistry in the bullpen. Since it’s really hard to gauge a pitchers worth in Las Vegas, I prefer to look at each pitchers overall minor league records to determine if they deserve a shot in the majors. Alberto Baldonado and Tim Petersen are both live arms who can strike people out and potentially close games. Rotoprofessor.com identified Baldonado as a “sleeper” candidate for a major league closing job a few weeks back (Closers of the Future) , while Petersen has consistently posted excellent strikeout to walk totals in his minor league career (4.41 SO/BB in his 157 minor league games).

Alberto-Baldonado-1-1-e1469153236321-400x316
Alberto Baldonado is one of the relievers in the minor leagues the Mets can turn to.

LET THE STARTING STAFF DEVELOP

Now that Steven Matz and Seth Lugo are back and ready to pitch, the Mets finally have some options to hold over people’s heads. While Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom aren’t going anywhere in the rotation, now they have a reason to look over their shoulder if they have a hard time getting back to success.

Zack Wheeler has been the Mets most consistent starter over the last 2 months, but his innings limit (somewhere around 125) will be approaching before you know it, so this also gives him a chance to miss a start and not be done by mid-July. This also puts added pressure on Robert Gsellman, who has already stepped up his game in the last few starts.

Now its open season again for the starters, just like spring training. Since the Mets starters have been awful this season so far, Collins has the option of sitting someone who doesn’t get his act together and can’t afford to let anyone work their way out of a slump with consistent poor outings. If you pitch poorly over a 3-4 start period, you either miss a start or go the bullpen. Hopefully this can get the Mets starters back to being what they were projected to be when the season started.

 

 

 

 

Dan Marino vs Tom Brady the False Robotic God vs the Luckiest GOAT

More than ninety days away from the 2017 football season, four months removed from the greatest Super Bowl comeback, and more than year removed since we had someone other than Tom Brady win a Super Bowl, the Internet is still buzzing about who the true Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) really is. If you base GOATs truly on a position vs position, then major positions like Wide Receiver or Running Back are pretty locked up (Jerry Rice and Barry Sanders respectively). However the Quarter Back debate has been brewing ever since the 80s with many different names. Would it be Dan the Man Marino or Joe Cool Montana or John Never Say Die Elway or even Brett Ironman Favre? Then 1998 rolled around and the Sheriff rolls in with blaze of glory from his family, and a few years later the unknown King of the East would join as well. So who is the best quarterback of these six men?

If you look at this as a cold calculated machine (a robot) and look solely on stats, the race shrivels down to two men with one slightly better than the other. However if you look at it solely on Super Bowl wins there is also a clear cut winner slightly a head of number two. Finally if you look at it as what the race truly is then you will see the GOAT position is barely hanging on by a few lucky threads.

Dan-Marino-3-Profile-resize

Dan the Man is highly regarded as the GOAT due to his extreme performance on the field and much like a robot he did his job well. He was the first to hit 5000 yards in a single season, and averaged nearly two touchdowns a game. However he also had a winning season every year but twice in his career including his final season. When it came to playoffs though he was a total different player. In eighteen games, he has more multiple interception games than wins! In fact he also has eight games with one or less touchdowns in the same time frame. He made it to the big game once after blowing out Pittsburgh the week before only to get blown out by Joe Cool Montana.

la-sp-sn-joe-montana-49ers-silicone-deflategate-20150608Joe Cool Montana is also highly considered to be the GOAT mostly due to his four Super Bowl trips and wins. Unfortunately he was a very average quarter back. He had proven to be the ultimate team player and without a cap room the extremely dominant San Fransico 49ers helped him get his four Super Bowls. Once he was traded to the Chiefs he was no longer was Joe Cool.

Brett Iron Man Favre was considered at one point to be the GOAT but he proved to be the most electrifying quarterback to grace the field. John Never Say Die Elway has been considered the quarterback with the most heart but very few consider him to be the GOAT, top 5 though.

9319e96a14f59f2faba0f4645d0debfa

This leads to the Sheriff. Highly exceptional college quarterback goes number one overall to the Indianapolis Colts. He destroyed defenses with a superior intellect that was highly unrivaled. He averaged thirty five touchdowns and forty two hundred yards a season, while taking over the leader boards in most yards ever and most touchdowns ever. However much like Dan the Man, Peyton Manning had a choking gene when it came to playoffs.

Tom-Brady-Lombardi-Trophy-thumb-660x512-137312Finally the King of the East gets picked up at 199. What makes the King of the East so popular is a major connection that is astronomically rare. You had an extremely hungry young quarterback, a coach whose lackluster performance in Cleveland left him wanting to prove his worth, and a franchise that had literally nothing else to lose. Drew Bledsoe goes down and Tom Brady finishes the job, so history is done right? Wrong. Brady then proves he earned the right to start over Bledsoe the next year. Brady’s stats are not spectacular but the winning fire Brady brought to New England and sparked inside Belichick. Between 2001-2004, that fire alone gave enough breaks to give a failing franchise a new hope. Tuck Rule luck, and rules changed to benefit stats are the breaks that were absolutely necessary achieve the dominance all fell perfectly in line. It was almost as if the stars fell perfectly in line. Almost too good. Then nearly a decade long gap in Super Bowl wins allowing the Sheriff, Aaron Hail Mary Rodgers, Big Ben, Russel Wilson, Drew Brees, and even Eli Manning to all showcase the skills they had. Finally the King of the East, gets not one but two more lucky breaks in the Super Bowl so that a GOAT can finally be named.

So in conclusion, the quarterback position and sometimes the running back position will always be debated for another millennia mostly due to where you want to pick your poison. Tom Brady is the Luckiest GOAT while Dan Marino was the robot who did his job. The true GOAT is the one with all the records. Keep it in mind.

Gennett’s Accomplishment Truly Rare

Last night one of the most rare occurrences happened in the Reds 13-1 win over the Cardinals. Reds 2B Scooter Gennett became the 17th player in MLB history to hit 4 HR in a MLB game.

Entering the game, little had been known about Gennett and his career. This is his 5th season in the majors and first with the Reds after spending the first four years of his career with the Milwaukee Brewers.

How rare is what Gennett did last night? Like I said earlier, only 16th other players in MLB history had accomplished that feat. Compared to other “rare” feats in a MLB, hitting four HR stands by itself. There have been 315 cycles, 273 no-hitters (not including perfect games) and 23 perfect games. Looking at that, Gennett accomplishment is impressive enough.

However, looking further, Gennett feat is even more impressive. Entering the game, Gennett had just 38 career HR in his 502-game MLB career. Only Bobby Lowe, who hit four HR for the Boston Beaneaters back in 1894, had fewer career HR at the time of his four-HR game. Gennett also made MLB history by becoming the first player to collect 5 hits and 10 RBI in a four HR game. Entering the game, he had just three HR and 20 RBI total on the season, so he surpassed his HR total and collected half of his RBI total for the year in this game.

Fewest Career HR Entering 4 HR Game
1894 Bobby Lowe            28
2017 Scooter Gennett     38
1993 Mark Whiten          38
1896 Ed Delahanty          53
1950 Gil Hodges               54
>> Source: Elias Sports Bureau
Who knows where Gennett’s career will go from here, but his accomplishment last night will forever put him among the rarest of the rare when talking about single-game accomplishments.

Music City Dances with First Stanley Cup Appearance

When the city of Nashville was awarded a Stanley Cup team in 1998, very few fans paid attention to hockey’s latest expansion team. That didn’t change much for the city and team through the franchise’s first 17 seasons. Despite recording five 100-point regular seasons and qualifying for the postseason nine times, the Predators only won three playoff series and never advanced beyond the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. – Colton Sissons notched the second hat trick in Predators postseason history, joining teammate Filip Forsberg from 2015 against Chicago.  He also joined the likes of Hall-of-Famers Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri and Mike Bossy in recording a hat trick in a Conference Finals clincher.

gettyimages-686987660
Colton Sissons hat trick helped the Predators to a 6-3 win in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals.

Entering this season the Predators were one of five current franchises to not reach a Stanley Cup. Now, only Winnipeg, Columbus, Minnesota and Phoenix (Poor Winnipeg gets the worst of it, cause they are involved in two of those franchises as the Phoenix Coyotes were the original Winnipeg Jets and the original Atlanta Thrashers are the “new” Winnipeg Jets).

So, what exactly changed this postseason for the 8th seed in the Western Conference? Why did the owner of three total playoff series round wins, equal that total this postseason?

Equal Scoring – Last night, Colton Sissons became the second Nashville player to record two game-winning goals this postseason. He and James Neal are the only players to record more than one GW goal this postseason. In the last five seasons, the only teams with more players scoring game-winning goals in the playoffs than the 2017 Predators won the Stanley Cup (2016 Penguins and 2014 Kings, both with 11 players).

Great Goaltending – Pekka Rinne has a .941 save percentage entering the Stanley Cup Finals, to go along with a 1.70 GAA and two shutouts. His .941 save percentage ranks as the 4th best mark in the last 30 postseasons. Overall, the Predators 1.81 GAA is the lowest in the postseason.

ct-pekka-rinne-predators-blackhawks-spt-0416-20170415
Pekka Rinne stopped 123 of 126 shots, which included 2 shutouts, in the Predators First Round sweep over Chicago, the top seed in the Western Conference.

Even Strength Scoring – Although the Predators have only outscored the Ducks and Blues in the last two rounds by five goals combined in even strength situations, they dominated the Blackhawks, outscoring them 12-1 in the Predators opening round four-game sweep of the number one seed in the Western Conference

 

Even Strength Goal Differential By Round                                                                                 Nashville Predators, 2017 Postseason

Conference Finals       Anaheim         +4

Second Round              St. Louis          +1

First Round                   Chicago          +11

Home Ice Domination – The Predators are 7-1 at home in this postseason, outscoring their opponents by a 25-13 score. Before their 3-2 OT loss in Game Four of the Western Conference Finals, the Predators had won 10 straight playoff games at home. That’s the longest streak by any team since the Red Wings also won 10 straight during the 1997-98 postseason and it’s tied for the 8th-longest home playoff winning streak in the expansion era (since 1967-68). Also, entering that Game Four the Predators had allowed exactly 1 goal in 5 straight home playoff games. The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that the last team to allow no more than one goal in 5+ straight home playoff games was the Maple Leafs (5 straight in 2004 postseason); the last to do it in 6+ straight home playoff games was the 1996-97 Avalanche (8 straight).

Head Coach Who Has Playoff Success – Peter Laviolette is the fourth different coach to lead three different teams to Stanley Cup Final. Laviolette won with 2006 Hurricanes and lost with 2010 Flyers. He’s the first American to do it.

Head Coaches to Take 3 Different Teams to Stanley Cup Final

Peter Laviolette<<      Hurricanes, Flyers, Predators

Scotty Bowman           Blues, Canadiens, Penguins, Red Wings

Mike Keenan                Flyers, Blackhawks, Rangers

Dick Irvin                      Black Hawks, Maple Leafs, Canadiens

>Only U.S.-born coach

cut
Peter Laviolette is the fourth different coach to lead three different teams to Stanley Cup Final. Laviolette won with 2006 Hurricanes and lost with 2010 Flyers. He’s the first American to do it.

The Predators will open the Stanley Cup Final on Monday at either the Penguins or Senators. They are trying to become the first team from Tennessee in the four major North American pro sports to win a title. Although they did not have a team until 1997, Tennessee is the only state with three active major pro sports teams and no championship.

Major Pro Sports in Tennessee

                    1st Season  Titles

Titans              1997           0

Predators    1998-99         0

Grizzlies      2001-02         0

>>Only state with 3 active pro teams and 0 title

 

 

 

 

Warriors Sweep Into NBA History 


The Golden State Warriors have achieved many milestones in the past 3 years, and now you can add best start in NBA Playoff History. On Monday night in San Antonio the Warriors completed their 3rd sweep of the NBA Playoffs. The Warriors are 12-0 in this postseason, having previously swept Portland in the first round and Utah in the conference semifinals. They also made history with the best average scoring margin 16.3 PPG Diff. The Warriors had an incredible run the previous 2 years, but this year adding Durant this team looks unstoppable. The Warriors have 4 All-Stars in their starting lineup, and that’s extremely intimidating for any team.kevin-durant-stephen-curry-draymond-green-klay-thompson

For the Spurs and many NBA fans this series will be remembered as what could’ve been if Leonard didn’t get hurt in game 1. The loss of Leonard was insurmountable for the Spurs and they just never could put it back together. The Spurs were already down Parker from a torn tendon and lost David Lee in game 3 with a torn tendon as well. Injuries are all part of the game, but when you’re going up against the Warriors you can’t do it missing core players. I’m not going to make this another article about Leonard, but this shows how much of an MVP he is to this team.

The greatness of the Warriors is just how fast they are, and how many weapons they have on the court. Just when you think that you have them on the ropes they start raining three’s and you’re in a hole again. The acquisition of Durant has become a match up nightmare for teams. Now you have to pick your poison, if you guard Durant then Curry steps up. You can switch it up and Guard Curry then Durant steps up, and oh your thinking guard them both now Thompson, and Green are right there waiting. The Warriors mainly Durant took a lot of heat for this offseason, but right now this looks like one of the best career moves ever.

Durantx-large

This will be Durant’s second chance at a championship, and this team is nothing like the team in OKC he went to the finals with last time. When OKC went to the finals vs the Heat in 2012 that was a very young inexperienced team compared to the playoff tested Warriors team he’s on now. The Warriors have wanted nothing more then to get to the finals and avenge the devastating loss to the Cavs last year.

LeBron James

However 1 team that has a real shot at taking out the Warriors are the Cavaliers.           If…better yet when the Cavaliers join the Warriors in the finals it will be the first time in the NBA Finals history, and only the 2nd time in all of sports  history (1921-1923 Yankees vs Giants) that you have a three straight years the exact same teams battling for the championship. The Warriors swept the regular season matchup against the Cavaliers this season, but this is really a different Cavaliers team since the start of the playoffs.

Can the Warriors keep the sweeping going in this years playoffs we will have to wait and see June 1st when game 1 of the NBA Finals tips off.

championshipteam2_cle_20150616