The Best Players from Each State (Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan)

Maine

Saying that Maine hasn’t produced much baseball talent is quite the understatement.  Of the 78 players to come from The Pine Tree State, only two have a career WAR above 25.  By comparison, Jake Arrieta, who is in his 10th season, has won a Cy Young, but only has one All-Star appearance … currently has a WAR of 25.8.  And, to make it even less impressive, the two guys with the highest WAR played in the deadball era.

The lone All-Star from Maine is a pitcher named Bob Stanley.  Bob had an ok career with the Red Sox, primarily in the ’80’s.  He was a starter when he first broke into the league, but spent most of his career coming out of the bullpen.  He did save 33 games in ’83 (one of his All-Star seasons), and finished 7th in Cy Young voting in ’82.

But, the best player from Maine is (and it looks like it’s a title he’ll hold for a while since no one in the league currently is from Maine) …

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George Gore – he has more runs, hits, and RBI than anyone from the state. He played from 1879-1892, as the centerfielder primarily for the National League team located in Chicago – which is today the Cubs, but was then called the White Stockings – and the New York Giants.  He won a batting title in 1880, hitting .360 with an .862 OPS.

Maryland

While the state of Maryland hasn’t produced a large number of major leaguers (312 – 17th in the US), only 8 states have produced more Hall of Famers.  Well, that is, if you’re willing to count the most undeserving HOF election in history, which occurred a few months ago when a bunch of Harold Baines‘ friends got together and decided to put him in.  You know, in spite of the fact that he only appeared in 6 All-Star games spread across 22 seasons, only led the league in anything once (SLG in ’84), and never finished higher than 9th in MVP voting (only receiving votes of any kind in 4 seasons).

But, I digress.  The Old Line State (whatever that means), has produced some very talented players.  Even several non-HOF worthy players (like Baines) had quality careers. Men like Mark Teixeira, Brady Anderson, Brian Jordan, and Charlie Keller.  But, the Hall of Famers from Maryland (with one glaring exception), are some big-time names.

Home Run Baker (who actually only hit 96 HR’s), was legendary for his power, and led the Philadelphia A’s to 3 World Series championships.  Vic Willis won 249 games in spite of only pitching for 13 seasons (that’s an average of 19 per year!). Al Kaline was an 18-time All-Star, 10-time Gold Glove winner, and had over 3,000 hits.  Cal Ripken, Jr. won Rookie of the Year in ’82, and MVP in ’83, on his way to 3,184 hits, and of course 2,632 consecutive games. Jimmie Foxx had 534 HR’s, won 3 MVP’s, and ranks 5th all-time with a career 1.038 OPS.  And, Lefty Grove won 300 games, won an MVP, and led the league in ERA nine times.  But, the best player from Maryland was head and shoulders above the rest…

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Babe Ruth not sure what I could say that you haven’t already heard about this Baltimore native.  He still owns the career SLG (.690!) and OPS (1.164) records.  He also had a career .342 batting average, was a 20-game winner twice as a pitcher, and led the league in ERA in 1916.

Massachusetts

Can you believe this little New England state has produced the 7th most major leaguers in America (664)?  And, the 6th most Hall of Famers (14 – 11 players, 3 managers)?  That being said, however, 8 of those Hall of Fame players played most or all of their careers during the deadball era, around the turn of the 20th century.  And, when it comes to more modern players, the better ones from The Bay State are the likes of Mark Belanger, Greg Gagne, and Richie Hebner.  Not exactly household names even among avid baseball fans.

But, there are two names that rose to the top as I was looking for the best of the best from this state.  And, runner-up goes to Jeff Bagwell.  In spite of several injuries, and a career cut to just 15 seasons, he averaged 30 HR and 102 RBI for his career.  He finished with a .948 OPS, and won ROY and MVP awards.

The best from the state of Massachusetts, however, is a pitcher…

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Tom Glavine – 305 career wins, 2 Cy Young awards, 10-time All-Star, and World Series MVP in ’95.  Born in Concord, Glavine is only the 5th left-handed pitcher to win 300 games in his career.

Michigan

The Great Lakes State has produced some names you know:  Frank Tanana, Jim Kaat, Milt Pappas, Bob Welch, Kirk Gibson.  Respectable names … but, not exactly great names. In fact, despite the production of 434 players from Michigan, only 26 appeared in more than one All-Star Game, and only 4 have plaques in Cooperstown.

Of those 4, two were great hitters. Kiki Cuyler had a career .322 batting average in the 15 full seasons he played.  He also led the league in stolen bases 4 times, helping his team to the World Series 3 times (’25, ’29, and ’32).  Charlie Gehringer has a career .320 average, and had over 200 hits in 7 different seasons.  He won the batting title in ’37, as well as the MVP (though, it’s a bit of a strange win, since he wasn’t even the best player on his own team – Greenberg clearly was).

But, the best to come from Michigan are two pitchers.  Hal Newhouser had an outstanding career with his hometown Tigers that was cut short by arm injury – winning just 18 games after his 30th birthday.  But, he was a force to be reckoned with prior to that – winning back-to-back MVP’s, leading the league in wins 4 times, and ERA twice.

Another injury-plagued pitcher is, in my opinion, the best to come from the state…

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John Smoltz – despite multiple injuries, surgeries, and numerous games missed due to being on the disabled list, this Detroit native won over 200 games, saved over 150, struck out more than 3,000 batters, and owns the NL record for most saves in a season (55).  He was an 8-time All-Star, and won the Cy Young in ’96.

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The Best Players From Each State (Delaware, Florida, Georgia, & Hawaii)

Delaware

I suppose it shouldn’t come as a great surprise that a state that ranks as one of the smallest in both land mass and population, would not have produced a great number of MLB talent.  56 players in history were born in The First State.  But, only 3 ever appeared in a single All-Star Game.

Perhaps honorable mention here could go to Sadie McMahon.  He pitched for the Philadelphia Athletics of the American Association for a couple years, before spending 7 years with the Baltimore Orioles.  But, not those Baltimore Orioles.  Sadie was a part of the Orioles team that was a part of the National League from 1882-1899.  It was a successful team (Sadie was on the championship team in 1896), but after the 1899 season, the National League contracted from 12 teams to 8, leaving the Orioles behind.  Two years later, the American League was formed, and the reorganized Orioles were a part of it.  But, that’s not the Orioles you’re familiar with either.  Because two years later, the team had ceased play again, and two men purchased the franchise, moved it to New York City, and renamed it the New York Highlanders.  Which is the team you likely know as … the New York Yankees (a name change that occurred in 1913).

So, aside from some ancient baseball history, choosing the best player from the state of Delaware was actually quite easy.

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Paul Goldschmidt – It really isn’t even close.  McMahon is the next best player from the state, and Goldschmidt is going to continue to put distance between himself and the rest of the pack.  He leads all Delaware natives in HR (234), RBI (768), OPS (.918), and even batting average (.293) among anyone with at least 100 plate appearances.

Florida

The state of Florida produces a large number of athletes.  Many play football or basketball, but it should not be overlooked when it comes to great baseball talent.  Many excellent players from the past have come from The Sunshine State.  Including Gary Sheffield, Dwight Gooden, and Fred McGriff.  There are also several Florida natives that are currently playing in the majors.  And, some of them are some of the best in the game – Zack Greinke, Chris Sale, Andrew McCutchen, Manny Machado, and Josh Donaldson.

But, we’re looking for all-time best, so I had to limit it to players in the Hall of Fame.  There are 4 players from Florida that have been inducted into Cooperstown.  The runners-up include Andre Dawson, Tim Raines, and Chipper Jones.  Each of these were great talents in their era.  Power, speed, defense, a switch-hitter.  It’s all represented here.  But, ultimately, the best player from Florida was a pitcher.

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Steve Carlton – Carlton is among the 3 best left-handed pitchers to ever play the game, no matter which metric you use.  329 wins, 4,136 strikeouts, 10 All-Star Games, 4 Cy Young Awards.  The Miami native spent all or part of 24 seasons in the majors, and was a part of 2 World Series champions (Cardinals in ’67 and Phillies in ’80).

Georgia

Florida may have more players that have played in the majors, and have more All-Star Game appearances … but, Georgia actually has more players in the Hall of Fame, with 5.  The one player/manager on their list is Bill Terry, who played for the New York Giants from ’23-’36, and also managed them to a World Series championship in 1933.  He hit .341 for his career!

There are some notable names not in Cooperstown from The Peach State.  Kevin Brown, Tim Hudson, Moises Alou.  And, among those still active, there’s Buster Posey, Adam Wainwright, and Lorenzo Cain.  But, the Hall of Famers from the state of Georgia include some of the absolute best of their generation:  Frank Thomas, Johnny Mize, and Jackie Robinson.  You would think that with names like these, it would be difficult to choose the best from the state of Georgia.  But, there’s only one “Georgia Peach.”

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Ty Cobb – The man with the highest career batting average in history (.366) is from the small town of Narrows, GA.  He hit over .400 not once, not twice, but three times in his career (1911, 1912, and 1922 at the age of 35!).  And, even with 4,189 hits, Cobb was far more than just a singles hitter (unlike the only man in history with more hits).  Cobb’s career SLG is over .500, because he led the league in doubles and triples several times.  His career OPS is .945.  And, he stole an amazing 897 bases!  He may not have been the nicest guy – but, he was definitely the best ever from Georgia.

Hawaii

The Aloha State has only produced 44 major league players, most of whom have had less than remarkable careers.  No Hall of Famers, and only six have ever appeared in an All-Star Game.  But, there are a few players who had decent careers over the years:  Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez (one of just two that appeared in more than one All-Star Game), and Charlie Hough.

There are a couple current players that were born in Hawaii that are decent contributors to their teams:  Kurt Suzuki (who has spent much of his career as a high-quality back-up catcher), and Kolten Wong (who is right around a league-average hitter, and one of the better defenders at second).

But, the Wailuku native with the nickname “Flyin’ Hawaiian” was the clear choice here…

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Shane Victorino – he was a 2-time All-Star, 4-time Gold Glove winner, and an important part of two World Series championship teams (Phillies in ’08, Red Sox in ’13).

Opening Day … What A Day!

And so it begins.

The 2018 season began with a BLAST as Ian Happ launched the first pitch he saw from Jose Urena into the right field seats. And Marlins Park erupted … thanks to the overwhelming presence of Cubs fans in Miami. So, the first pitch of the Major League season included the first strike, first hit, first extra-base hit, first run scored, first home run, and the first (of what looks to be many) Marlins deficits.

Giancarlo Stanton hit his first HR as a Yankee – and, wouldn’t you know it, he did so with a little flair. In his first AB in the new uni, he hit the hardest opposite field home run in baseball, since 2015. Oh, and just for kicks, he also was the first Yankee to have 3 XBH and 4 RBI on Opening Day since Roger Maris.

The Orioles’ pitching dominated the Twins all day long. And, with a 2-0 lead going into the 9th, the Orioles sent in their closer. But, a lack of control by Brad Brach, led to some very patient at-bats by the Twins hitters. And, after giving up 2 walks and 2 hits, the game was all tied up. But, two innings later, it was Adam Jones who stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 11th. And, on the first pitch he saw from Fernando Rodney … swing, drive, home run, game over. 3-2 Orioles.

The Red Sox looked like they were going to cruise to an easy victory over the Rays, as they were up 4-0 heading into the bottom of the 8th. But, the Rays scored six runs in the inning. It culminated in an impressive at-bat by the veteran, Denard Span. With the bases loaded, a full count, and two outs in the inning, Span turned on a pitch, and drove a triple into right field, giving the Rays a 5-4 lead. They would go on to win 6-4.

The A’s came from behind twice to tie up the Angels. Once, when they were trailing by 4 in the 5th inning, and again in the 7th when they were down a run. Then, it was a wild 11th inning. With one out, Boog Powell hit a drive that just barely went off the top of left-fielder Justin Upton’s glove. Powell hustled out a triple, on a close play at 3rd. Then, Scioscia decided to walk the next batter, and go with a 5-man infield, with a slider-pitcher on the mound – hoping the batter would roll over a pitch and into a double play. Marcus Semien didn’t oblige – hitting a line drive into center-field (where no one was located) for a walk-off single.

The Phillies were up by five going into the bottom of the 6th. But, after 2 runs by the Braves in the 6th, and 3 runs in the bottom of the 8th, it was a whole new ballgame. Then, in the bottom of the 9th, with 2 outs, and a runner on 2nd, the Phillies decided to intentionally walk Freddie Freeman. So, what does Nick Markakis do? He drives a 3-run walk-off HR into right-center.

Extra innings, walk-off home runs, 21 runs scored in a single game . . . this is why Opening Day is one of the best days of the year.

Why the Angels Should Do the Unthinkable

I remember reading something (or maybe hearing some analyst) last winter talking about Mike Trout.  Of course there was a great deal of praise to be given, considering he has yet to finish lower than 2nd in MVP voting in any full season of his career.  But, then something was said that I thought was absolutely insane – should the Angels trade him?  My initial reaction was, “You don’t trade arguably the best player of this generation while he’s in his prime!”  It was an absurd suggestion.  Unheard of.  Unthinkable.  But, then . . .

15133579244_7652b07359_oThe same Angels team that finished just 1 game out of the playoffs last season, has turned in one of the more disappointing first halves this year.  At the time of my writing, they are 14 games below .500 (36-50), 16.5 games behind division-leading Texas, and 11 games behind in the Wild Card standings.  They possess the 3rd worst record in the American League – in spite of having the 6th highest Opening Day payroll in all of baseball.  If this could all be explained away by injuries to key players, then there would be no need for this article.  You would expect a bounce-back year in 2017, if not sooner.  But, that simply isn’t the case.  Yes, they’ve had a reasonably high number of pitchers with injuries.  But, it isn’t like they were lighting it up before going on the DL.

So, the injury bug isn’t to blame for this team’s lackluster performance.  They simply don’t have much talent surrounding Trout.  The greatest evidence to that point is the fact that Trout is the only All-Star representing the Angels on Tuesday.  How does that happen?  You have one of the best players in the game (at 24 years old).  You’re operating in the 2nd largest TV market in the country (giving you a significant revenue advantage over most of the teams in the game).  And, yet you have only been able to put it all together once in this player’s 5-year career – a brief playoff appearance in 2014, when you were swept in the ALDS.  I feel bad for Mike Trout.  I feel bad for a guy who goes out there and plays as hard as he does, and who performs at such an incredibly high level – and has nothing but individual awards to show for it.

And, do you know what makes it even worse?  It isn’t getting better any time soon.  The Angels have the consensus WORST farm system in baseball.  If you look at any ranking of current minor league systems, you’ll see the Angels at the bottom every time.  I read one analyst who said that not only were the Angels the worst farm system right now, but they might be the worst system in baseball history.  The absolute best prospect they have right now is a catcher currently playing in A-ball, who isn’t even ranked in the top 100 prospects in all of baseball.  One analyst went so far as to say that he didn’t think the Angels’ best prospect would even crack the top 10 of any other team!  So, not only is there little-to-no help coming up from the minors any time soon, but they have no trade chips to offer teams willing to trade high-quality players.

So, maybe the Angels could just spend more money to get better, right?  Not this offseason.  Strasburg signed a new contract with the Nationals, so the one legit ace that was going to be on the market is no longer available.  And, if you’re looking for significant offensive help, there’s only one real option this year:  Yoenis Cespedes (assuming he opts out of his Mets contract).  And, considering how thin the free agent market is, someone is going to significantly overpay for his services.  Not that the Angels are unfamiliar with doing that very thing (Pujols, Wilson, Hamilton, etc.), but one bat is not turning this team around.  And, once you get past Cespedes, this free agent class really looks more like a list of quality pieces that will help a team on the cusp of the playoffs.  And, the Angels need a lot more impact than that.

What’s the answer?  What should they do?  In case you didn’t see it coming:

The Angels should trade Mike Trout.

The longer they hold on to him, the longer it is going to take for this team to become relevant again.  Trout is the kind of franchise player that would help the Angels restock their farm system.  His talent level is so high, that I wouldn’t be shocked to see a team willing to offer 4-6 A-list prospects, and perhaps a couple B-listers, too.  That kind of return on a trade could potentially make the Angels competitive as early as 2018.  Because they’re already going to have a top-5 pick in the 2017 draft, which would likely add to their haul for Trout.

The tricky part of a trade like this is deciding who has the talent in their farm system to offer what the Angels need, and who would be willing to take on Trout’s salary (which isn’t going down anytime soon – $20 mil. in 2017, and $34 mil. in ’18-’20).  Considering how much the Angels should be looking for ways to win sooner rather than later, I would think they should be willing to pay a portion of Trout’s salary, if the right prospects are coming back in return.  After all, when have the Angels shied away from spending money?

So, after looking through several farm systems, considering what the team has on its payroll in the next few years, I believe there’s one team that stands out as a potential trade partner:

The Atlanta Braves.

Think about that for a minute.  The Braves are opening a new stadium next season.  Isn’t a trade like this something that can get fans excited again?  Especially a trade for a guy that would immediately become the face of your franchise for the next 4 years (at least).  The Braves also have one of the deepest farm systems in the game right now.  They are consistently ranked in the top 2-3.  And, it’s a system that is absolutely loaded with pitching talent – something for which the Angels have a desperate need (starting rotation with an ERA well over 4.00, closer with an ERA approaching 5.00, etc.).

The Braves are in the #9 television market in the U.S. – right behind Boston, and just ahead of Houston.  What this means is that they don’t have to be stingy with their payroll.  They may not want to climb into the $175 million echelon (where the Angels actually are), but a payroll in the $140-150 million range sits comfortably in the middle of the league, right around where other competitive teams sit (Royals, Blue Jays, Orioles, etc.).  And, to offset some of the cost, initially, the Braves could send Nick Markakis to the Angels, which eliminates $11 million over each of the next two seasons.  If the Angels are willing to cover some of Trout’s salary, in exchange for the right prospects, even better.

A move like this, for the Braves, would give a much needed spark to a fan base that has grown weary of seeing their favorite stars traded away.  It’s also reasonable for a team like Atlanta to take on a contract the size of Trout’s, because the vast majority of their core players are young, and will be making league minimums for the next 3-5 years.  Not to mention the young players that are coming up to the majors in the next year or so – like Dansby Swanson, Rio Ruiz, etc.  Just think of it, Braves fans . . . an outfield of Ender Inciarte, Mallex Smith, and Mike Trout.  That could be one of the best defensive outfields in the game.

Of course, the Angels wouldn’t let go of Trout for nothing.  On the Braves’ side, I would say the only player in their system that should be “untouchable” is Swanson.  He’s a top-of-the-order talent that you just don’t trade away (ahem – are you listening, Arizona?).  Outside of that, though, the Braves should be willing to offer almost anything the Angels want.  They have another top-tier shortstop (Albies) in the system that could be blocked by Swanson, unless he switches to 2B.  They have a 3B prospect (Riley) that has great potential, but will take a year or two longer to develop than the previously mentioned Ruiz.  Either or both of these guys could be on the table.  Depending on what position players the Angels might expect in return, seven of the Braves’ top 10 prospects are pitchers.  I would see no problem in sending a couple of those on in a trade for Trout.  Especially since the Braves just drafted a top-tier prospect with the #2 pick in this year’s draft, and look to be set up with a top-5 pick in next year’s draft as well.

So, why not send Nick Markakis, Austin Riley (3B), Kolby Allard (LHP), Tyrell Jenkins (RHP), and Braxton Davidson (OF)?  The Braves farm system is one of just a handful that could absorb a blow like that.  And, it would make the Braves relevant their first year in their new stadium.  Particularly if they went after a quality free agent piece like a Neil Walker, for example.  Consider a lineup with Swanson, Trout, Freeman, Walker, Inciarte, and Smith.  Plus, the Angels would immediately begin building toward the 2018 season, instead of languishing through another 3-4 years (or more) before they finally start seeing results from having high draft picks.

It’s time.  It simply is time for the Angels to pull the trigger, and do what’s right.  Not only what’s right for Mike Trout (who deserves better than what he has around him in LA), but also what’s right for the fans who have little desire to watch Mike Trout and a bunch of also-rans lose for the next 4 years.

2016 Top 10 First Basemen

When compared to the previous two posts in this series, deciding who the top 10 first basemen are is a much more straightforward task.  This is an offense-first position.  Not to say that defense is entirely irrelevant – we will certainly consider it.  But, it will not weigh nearly as heavily on the decision-making process as it did for CF and SS.  Let’s take a look at the list from MLB Network’s “Shredder.”

  1. goldschmidtPaul Goldschmidt (ARI)
  2. Joey Votto (CIN)
  3. Miguel Cabrera (DET)
  4. Anthony Rizzo (CHC)
  5. Edwin Encarnacion (TOR)
  6. Jose Abreu (CHW)
  7. Adrian Gonzalez (LAD)
  8. Freddie Freeman (ATL)
  9. Chris Davis (BAL)
  10. Brandon Belt (SF)

Perhaps it’s because of the more singular focus of the position – but, when I first look at this list, I don’t see any glaring weaknesses.  I might re-order a couple of them – I know Adrian Gonzalez has an excellent glove, but his age makes me think he might slide down on my list.  I love Eric Hosmer as a leader and clutch player,  but I would be surprised if his stats from the last couple years will be enough to push him into the top 10.

Here is my top 10, after crunching the numbers:

  1. Paul Goldschmidt
  2. Anthony Rizzo
  3. Joey Votto
  4. Miguel Cabrera
  5. Edwin Encarnacion
  6. Jose Abreu
  7. Lucas Duda (NYM)
  8. Brandon Belt
  9. Freddie Freeman
  10. Adrian Gonzalez

thedudejpg-6ae460fd45583e12The first thing I did after compiling my list, was go look at what the various analysts on MLB Network did with Duda.  Not a single one had him ranked in their top 10.  I don’t get it.  I mean, I understand that he doesn’t belong in the top 5.  But, the guy ranks in the top 10 in every offensive category I considered over the last two years at first base – something none of the guys ranked below him can claim.  And, he’s not a detriment defensively – I’d say he’s average.  I can’t, for the life of me, explain his exclusion.

The inclusion of Duda meant someone was going to be left out – and, for me, that was Chris Davis.  I know he has the excellent power (ranks 7th in SLG at 1B), but he just doesn’t quite have enough in the other categories to overtake any of the others.  When it came down to Davis or Gonzalez, it actually came down to defense.  They are neck and neck offensively, and Gonzalez is the Gold Glove winner.  As I expected, Gonzalez did move down on my list, due to his age.  Belt & Freeman’s overall offensive production is better than Gonzalez – and Gonzalez is one of the worst baserunners at 1B.  Plus, Belt has the best UZR at 1B the last two years, while Freeman is no detriment defensively.

Anthony-RizzoThe biggest mover on my list (aside from Duda) is Anthony Rizzo.  There’s only one first baseman who ranked in the top 5 in every category I considered – wRC+, OBP, SLG, BsR, DRS, UZR – and, it’s Rizzo.  A couple guys might have the upper hand on him in one or two categories, but Rizzo is the more complete player.  Add to this the fact that he’s entering his age 26 season, and there are a lot of reasons for him to move up the list.  Goldschmidt has a strong hold on the #1 spot (his #7 ranking in UZR is the only spot he wasn’t ranked #1 or #2 over the last two seasons), but Rizzo might be closing the gap.

2015 Predictions: NL East

NL-EastThe NL East has been one of the busier divisions this offseason.  Of course, everyone knows about the Scherzer deal, and the Stanton contract, and all the moves the Marlins have been making.  But, is it really going to make a difference in the playoff picture?  Well, that remains to be seen.  I’ll be revealing my playoff picks after reviewing each division.  If Shields signs with Miami (one of the rumored suitors), then that would likely change things.  But, for now, here is how I see this division playing out:

  1. Washington Nationals (96-66)
  2. Miami Marlins (84-78)
  3. New York Mets (79-83)
  4. Atlanta Braves (76-86)
  5. Philadelphia Phillies (67-95)

I’m not very surprised by these standings.  Even before I did my own statistical analysis, this is about what I would have predicted.  You might could make the argument that the Braves and Mets could be switched.  But, that’s about it.  Here’s where I came down on each team…

Washington

They will finish with the best record in baseball for a number of reasons.  They have the best starting rotation – not just in their division, but also in all of baseball.  They have the best bullpen, offense and defense in the division as well.  And, as if that wasn’t going to make life easy enough, they have possibly the worst team in baseball in their division, and two of the worst offenses in the entire game in their division.  The Nationals will get some competition out of Miami, but the rest of the division pales in comparison.

Miami

The Marlins’ front office has done a nice job this off-season, in putting together their major-league team.  Granted, I do believe that it was at the expense of their farm system, which may come back to bite them in a couple years.  But, they have put together a very competitive team at the major league level.  While the Nationals are running away with the best . . . well, everything . . . the Marlins are right behind them in this division with a very nice starting rotation (Fernandez, Alvarez, Cosart & Latos).  That alone would lead to a lot of wins.  But, even though they have probably the second best offense in the division, once you get past Stanton, it isn’t exactly going to make pitchers nervous.  Morse was a nice addition, but he’s getting older, and you’re counting on his out of the ordinary production from last year (his highest OPS since 2011, and one of only two seasons he has remained healthy his entire career).  Beyond that, the lineup has some above-average hitters (Ozuna & Yellich), but it’s certainly not a dominant offense.  And, what concerns me even more is the fact that the bullpen in Miami is not stellar.  It isn’t ugly.  But, it is going to allow a decent number of hits and walks (average WHIP among the best relievers is 1.21). In a different division, I’m not sure how well Miami would do.

New York

Mets fans should be excited about the future – just, not 2015.  They have some very nice young pitching (Harvey, DeGrom, Wheeler) that’s likely to get even better when prospects like Noah Syndergaard make their way to the majors.  But, that’s about the extent of what there is to be excited about in New York.  The bullpen might be the second best in the division (Parnell, Familia & Edgin are very good), but it’s still not exactly elite.  And, the offense, which was middle-of-the-pack in the NL last year, isn’t getting any better.  The addition of Michael Cuddyer sounds nice.  But, closer inspection reveals that he’s going into his age 36 season, only played 49 games last year, and has had inflated stats from playing in Colorado.  Until they can bring in (or up) some quality offensive production outside of Duda, this team won’t get very far.

Atlanta

2017.  I believe that’s the target.  That’s when the Braves will move into their new stadium north of Atlanta, and that’s likely the next time they will field a competitive team.  I think the Braves have made some good moves that have provided some quality prospects (3 of their top 6 prospects have come as a part of the Gattis & Upton trades).  But, it has left an already weak offense with just one batter to be excited about – Freddie Freeman.  So, here’s my question:  how close do you think Freeman gets to a .400 OBP this season?  He’s going to be pitched around so often that, if he can be patient, he’ll draw well over 100 walks.  But, don’t be surprised if his power numbers drop even more from last year.  Because he is the Atlanta offense, and even an aging Nick Markakis can’t help.  Kimbrel is phenomenal, and Teheran, Wood & Hale look to make a decent rotation.  But, those guys are likely going to lose a lot of 2-1 and 3-2 games with this offense.

Philadelphia

If it wasn’t for Atlanta’s putrid offense, the Phillies would be the worst in the division in every single category.  Once you get past Hamels, you may not have even an average pitcher left in the entire rotation.  Other than Papelbon, the bullpen is littered with guys whose WHIPs are 1.34, 1.40, 1.42.  And, the only reason I rank their offense a notch above Atlanta’s is because they have some young guys that played decently last year, and who look like they may improve to be above average batters (Ben Revere & Cody Asche).  The Phillies’ farm system isn’t terrible, but it could use a boost.  Why a team headed toward almost 100 losses is trying to hang on to Papelbon and Hamels, I do not know.  Those two could net the quality and volume of prospects that could have this team competing again in just 2-3 years.  If this team loses less than 90 games – Sandberg should be manager of the year.

All-Time Greatest: Atlanta Braves

Next up in this series is a franchise that has been around since 1871, though they went through a variety of name changes early on, and have been relocated twice.  What we now know as the Atlanta Braves, originally began as the Boston Red Stockings.  They also were known as the Boston Beaneaters (my favorite!), Boston Doves, and Boston Rustlers, before finally settling on Boston Braves in 1912.  There was a brief period in the ’30’s when ownership tried to reshape the team’s image by changing their name to the Boston Bees, but it was short-lived.  In 1953, owner Lou Perini moved the team to Milwaukee where their top minor-league team (the Brewers) played.  After Perini sold the team in 1962 to a group led by William Bartholomay, the new ownership immediately began looking for a larger television market to move into.  Atlanta turned out to be the spot, and (a year after having to put things on hold because of an injunction by the state of Wisconsin), in 1966, they officially became the Atlanta Braves.

What that means for today’s post is that there is a lot of history to this team.  There may be names you aren’t as familiar with, on this list.  So, take a couple minutes, and enjoy the history lesson.  Here are the 5 greatest Atlanta/Milwaukee/Boston Braves players in history:

Eddie_Mathews_(1960_Braves_-_auto)5. Eddie Mathews (’52-’66) – this HOFer is the only player to have played for the Braves in all 3 cities.  His rookie year was in Boston, he moved with them to Milwaukee, and his last year with the organization was in ’66, when they moved to Atlanta.  Mathews ranks 2nd all-time (behind you-know-who) on the Braves’ HR list, with 493.  He’s also 3rd in hits (2201), 5th in SLG (.517), and 3rd in OPS (.896).  Mathews appeared in 9 All-Star games, and finished in the top 10 in MVP voting 4 times, though he never won.

4. Warren Spahn (’42-’64) – Spahn spent all but the final season of his HOF career with the Braves organization.  He started out in Boston, moved with them to Milwaukee, and retired just before they moved to Atlanta.  He ranks 5th on the All-Time career wins list (363) – and, that’s all-time, not just among Braves pitchers.  He’s obviously at the top of the Braves’ win list, with 356 of his wins coming with them.  He led the league in wins 8 times – the last time in 1961, at the age of 40!  The Cy Young award wasn’t introduced until 1956, when Spahn was already 35 years old.  But, he won it the very next year at the age of 36.  And, based on where he finished in the MVP voting, I think it’s safe to say he likely would have won 2 more in ’49 & ’53.  He represented the Braves in 14 All-Star games.  And, among pitchers that pitched at least 1000 innings for the organization, he ranks 9th in ERA (3.05), 11th in win pct. (.609), 7th in WHIP (1.19), and 3rd in K’s (2,493).  All of this, in spite of missing three full seasons during his prime, as he served in WWII.

greg-maddux3. Greg Maddux (’93-’03) – if Maddux had spent his entire career in Atlanta, then we might actually have some debate about who belongs at #1.  But, he still accomplished some amazing things in the 11 seasons he played there.  In spite of pitching over 800 fewer innings than everyone ahead of him, he still ranks 6th on their all-time wins list (194).  Among pitchers to pitch at least 1,000 innings for the Braves, he ranks 4th in ERA (2.63), 1st in win pct. (.688), 1st in WHIP (1.05), 4th in K/9 (6.51), 5th in K’s (1828), and 2nd in K/BB ratio (4.77).  He won 3 Cy Youngs in Atlanta (while finishing in the top-5 four more times), 10 Gold Gloves (his most underrated stat), and appeared in 6 All-Star games.  All this, in just 11 of his impressive 23 years playing.

2. Chipper Jones (’93-’12) – it’s a shame that Chipper played in the era he did.  If hitting 50+ home runs hadn’t become so commonplace, he would get so much more credit than he does.  There’s a reason he made my “Most Underrated” list last year.  When you start comparing him to some of the all-time greats, you realize just how special Larry Wayne Jones was.  He should be considered the 2nd greatest switch-hitter of all time, behind only Mantle.  And, he’s in the discussion for 2nd greatest third-baseman of all-time, behind Schmidt (it just depends on whether you favor offense or defense, to decide between Chipper and Brooks Robinson).  But, all that aside, there’s no question he’s the 2nd greatest Braves player in history.  In Braves history he ranks 14th in batting (.303), 2nd in OBP (.401), 3rd in SLG (.529), 2nd in OPS (.930), 2nd in hits (2726), 3rd in HR (468), 2nd in RBI (1623), and 2nd in runs created (1965).  An 8-time All-Star, he won the MVP in ’99, and had 5 more top-10 finishes.  It was quite the career, and there’s no doubt in my mind he should be a first-ballot HOFer.

1545195615_AaronHenry1_answer_1_xlarge1. Hank Aaron (’54-’74) – the legitimate all-time HR king spent 21 of his 23 seasons with the Braves, split between Milwaukee and Atlanta, smacking 733 of his career 755 HR with the organization.  Interestingly, the last two seasons of his career, he went back to Milwaukee to play for the Brewers.  I imagine that there will be several teams throughout this series of posts that will have 2 or maybe 3 guys that have a legitimate argument for being ranked as the best to ever play for an organization.  But, there’s no debate here.  Aaron ranks 3rd on the All-Time hits list (3,771), only trailing Cobb & Rose (1st on the Braves’ list with 3600); and he still holds the All-Time RBI record (2,297 – 2,202 with the Braves).  He also ranks 1st all-time with the Braves in SLG (.567), OPS (.944), Doubles (600), and runs created (2465 – 500 more than 2nd place!).  Aaron is one of the all-time greats.  No doubt he belongs at the top of this list.