Best second-half MLB teams of wild-card era

Whether it comes as a strong finish to an already dominant season or an amazing comeback, or it’s a newly emerged contender coming out of nowhere, there have been some remarkable finishes in the recent history of Major League Baseball. The wild-card era has ushered in far more opportunity for the postseason than ever before but also has raised the stakes within the pursuit.

With 2019’s pennant chase preparing to take shape, let’s take a look back some of the great finishes of baseball’s modern postseason era. 1 of 20

Seattle Mariners, 1995

After owning a 34-35 record at the All-Star break, the ’95 Mariners went from last to first place in the season’s second half. Ken Griffey Jr returned from a two-month absence to hit 10 home runs over the final two months, Edgar Martinez won the AL batting title and Randy Johnson won his first Cy Young Award. The Mariners bested the California Angels in a tie-breaker game to claim their first division title in franchise history. They reached the AL Championship Series, led by a legendary performance by Martinez against the Yankees in the ALDS. Seattle lost to Cleveland in the ALCS. 2 of 20

Chicago Cubs, 1998

While the summer of ’98 is best known for the home run race between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, it also is known for a tight NL playoff race. Sosa’s Cubs were one of the hottest teams in the game in the middle of the year before cooling off late. Meanwhile, Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants won nine of their last 12 games to catch the Cubs. The teams squared off in one-game playoff in which Bonds nearly hit a ninth-inning grand slam amid a Giants rally that fell short. The Cubs hung on to win, and they reached the playoffs for the first time in nine years. 3 of 20

New York Yankees, 1998

Not all memorable second-half performances included airtight races to the finish. Take the case of one of the greatest teams of all time, the ’98 Yankees. They were dominant from start to finish, winning 20 games in three separate months en route to a record 114-win season. They won the AL East by 22 games, with a breakout season for a young Derek Jeter, who hit .324 with 203 hits. They finished the season 66 games over .500 and set a record for most wins in a season, 125, after sweeping the San Diego Padres in the World Series. 4 of 20

Cleveland Indians, 2001

Aided by Minnesota’s huge collapse, the 2001 Indians staged an incredible comeback to claim an AL Central title. After reaching the All-Star break 23 games over .500, the Twins dropped 15 of their first 20 second-half contests, losing their grip on the division in the process. Meanwhile, behind a 49-homer season from Jim Thome, after being five games back at the All-Star break, the Indians finished six games ahead to win a sixth AL Central title since 1995, going 9-3 against Minnesota in the second half. 5 of 20

Oakland Athletics, 2001

In the wild-card era, no team has had more second-half success than the 2001 A’s. They set a 162-game schedule record by going 63-18 over their final 81 games, which included an incredible 29-4 record over the season’s final month. Led by their hallowed three-ace rotation of Barry Zito, Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson, along with a string of incredible starts from Cory Lidle, who went 11-2 after the break, the A’s set a record for most wins by a wild-card team with 102. It also was the most wins by a second-place club, but they still finished 14 games behind the record-setting 2001 Seattle Mariners.

6 of 20

Seattle Mariners, 2001

Led by an incredible jolt of energy from MVP/Rookie of the Year Ichiro Suzuki, the 2001 Seattle Mariners tied the 1906 Chicago Cubs for the most regular-season wins in history with 116. The team never posted a double-digit loss total in any month and saved the best for last. From Sept. 1 through Oct. 7, they went 20-7, with a 4-3 loss on the season’s final day, costing them a chance to set the outright record for most wins in a season. 7 of 20

Oakland Athletics, 2002

For a second consecutive season, in 2002 Oakland channeled second-half magic, going 24-4 in August, a run that included the bulk of one of the greatest winning streaks in MLB history. Oakland went undefeated from Aug.13 to Sept. 4, embarking on an AL-record 20-game winning streak — which included walk-off wins during the final three victories of the streak. However, taking over the division outright required a second, shorter winning spree, when Oakland won nine of its final 11 games over divisional foes to win the AL West. It was a season that changed the way the sport is perceived and inspired the book and movie”‘Moneyball.” 8 of 20

Florida Marlins, 2003

The 2003 Marlins are the definition of a team that got hot at just the right time. After losing eight of their final nine games in August, Florida entered the final month 13 games back in the NL East and barely in control of a wild-card spot. However, its “team of destiny” run — which included an NLCS victory aided by the “Bartman Game” vs. the Cubs and a stunning upset of the New York Yankees in the World Series — got underway quickly in September. Jack McKeon’s club went 10-2 to start the month and won seven of its last nine to claim the NL wild-card spot. 9 of 20

Minnesota Twins, 2006

In 2006, the Twins pulled off the biggest second-half comeback of the last quarter century, erasing an 11-game deficit in the process. With Johan Santana embarking on a 13-0 second half en route to claiming AL Cy Young Award honors, Justin Morneau capturing AL MVP and Joe Mauer being crowned as AL batting champion, the Twins went 49-27 in the second half. This allowed them to track down the Detroit Tigers, who had posted the game’s top record in the first half but stumbled south of .500 following the All-Star break. Ultimately the Twins won the AL Central on the final day of the season. 10 of 20

Colorado Rockies, 2007

On Sept. 15, Colorado was barely above .500 and 6.5 games back of the San Diego Padres. However, the Rockies soon turned the booster jets on, winning 13 of their final 14 games to incredibly reach 90 wins and force a one-game playoff for the NL wild-card spot. The game featured another incredible comeback, as the Rockies rallied from a two-run deficit in the bottom of the 13th inning, capped by Matt Holliday scoring a still-disputed run on a Jamey Carroll sacrifice fly to send the Rockies back to the postseason for the first time in six seasons.

By: Matt Whitener

https://www.yardbarker.com/mlb/articles/best_second_half_mlb_teams_of_wild_card_era/s1__29700269#slide_1

Ranking the 15 most significant MLB trades in July

A lot went down prior to Major League Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline. More deals could be coming in August, but for now, let’s rank July’s trades by how much impact the moves will have on each team’s roster:

Yankees Advance To ALDS

Written by Grant Brisbee at SB Nation.com

The Yankees and the Twins played a deathmatch on Tuesday, and it was interesting only because baseball was involved. Baseball is that college friend who’s always willing to throw an ashtray through a window for two minutes of laughs. The laughs end, the window is broken, and everyone starts to evaluate why they like him in the first place. And in that context, it was entirely plausible that the Twins could outscore the Yankees for nine innings.

They did not. The Yankees were the better team, and they won. Baseball did not have that many surprises in store. The Yankees’ plan this postseason is to hit dingers and go to the bullpen early and often, turning baseball into something of a Strat-O-Matic thought experiment by assembling half-dozen dominant relievers and shortening every game. In this case, the Yankees shortened the game to a third of an inning, and it worked. My stars, it worked.

There was some chatter earlier on Tuesday, spurred by Ken Rosenthal, that if the Yankees lost, there would be calls for change. It’s right there in the headline.

If Yankees or D-Backs lose, expect wild-card outrage—and calls for change

As a fan of the last team that will ever win 103 games and miss the postseason, my advice to the Yankees would have been to win their division. This will be my advice to the Diamondbacks if they should lose on Wednesday night. Baseball used to have a system so unfair that it made winning the pennant something that made Russ Hodges’ soul escape his body and join the public domain. Then baseball made it a little easier to win the World Series … a little easier to win the World Series … and then a little too easy to win the World Series …

And now we’re here. I’m here to argue that here is the best possible format.

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Yankee Vs Twins Wildcard Preview

Written by Joel Sherman at New York Post.com

There were four terrific teams in the American League this year, but five playoff teams.

The Red Sox, Yankees, Indians and Astros each won at least 91 games and all outscored their opponents by at least 117 runs. The Twins are the gatecrashers here.

Of the 58 teams that have qualified as wild cards since the format was installed in 1995, none has had a lower winning percentage than the 2017 Twins’ .525 — and that includes the last six seasons, when two wild cards have reached in both leagues.

These Twins outscored opponents by 27 runs, but were 12-26 against the other four AL playoff teams, outscored in those 38 contests by 104 runs.

One of these AL playoff clubs is not like the other.

There were just five AL teams above .500 and Minnesota is one almost because some team had to be the best of the worst. The Twins could be offended by such a statement, except even their front office didn’t believe in the team, trading closer Brandon Kintzler at the July deadline and also Jaime Garcia to the Yankees.

If the Yankees and Twins played 100 times, my suspicion is the Yanks would win at least 65. But they are going to play just once on Tuesday night, and let’s face it: You wouldn’t want me to tell you that you had a 35 percent chance of getting hit by lightning tomorrow. But that is the situation the Yankees are in. A bad three hours, and the Yankees’ season is over.

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Twins Make Playoffs After 100-Loss Season, Year Ago

Written by the AP at ESPN.com

From worst to wild card, the Minnesota Twins have completed a most remarkable reversal.

Their unexpected turnaround season has a new destination — the playoffs.

Unable to clinch on their own after losing 4-2 to the Indians, the Twins earned an AL wild-card berth and meeting with either New York or Boston when the Los Angeles Angels lost 6-4 in 10 innings to the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday night.

A season after winning just 59 games, the Twins became the first team to lose at least 100 and then make the postseason the following year.

October, here they come.

Moments after the Angels lost — and almost two hours after they were beaten — Minnesota’s players, coaches and manager Paul Molitor celebrated in their clubhouse with champagne and beer, dousing each other during a party that didn’t seem possible just a few months ago.

They threw on dark blue T-shirts, two-tone caps along with the obligatory goggles before spraying each other down.

“It’s been awesome watching this team come together all season,” veteran first baseman Joe Mauer said amid the clubhouse chaos. “This is the best sound in the world. It’s been one of the most fun years that I’ve ever had.

“I like our guys. This is the culmination of a lot of hard work over the last few years.”

The Twins defied the odds, and they’ll now enter a tournament where are all bets are off and where one bad bounce or big inning can propel an underdog to the top.

On Tuesday night, they’ll play at either Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park in the wild-card game. Boston holds a three-game lead over New York in the AL East race.

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Twins Close To Trade For Jaime Garcia

Written by Phil Miller at Star Tribune.com

The Twins, only a half-game out of first place in the AL Central, might be close to shoring up their biggest weakness: starting pitching.

Minnesota “is in the final stages of making a deal” for Braves lefthander Jaime Garcia, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the negotiations, and an announcement could come Friday. Garcia is a nine-year veteran, eight of them with the St. Louis Cardinals, who owns a career 3.65 ERA, though it has slipped to 4.33 this season.

Garcia earns $12 million this season, and is still owed roughly $4.7 million for the remaining two months. He can be a free agent after the season. The teams are believed to be negotiating over whether the Twins will pay the entire amount.

The Twins are asking for an additional Braves player in the deal as well, the source said, though not necessarily a major leaguer. Atlanta is expected to receive a Twins prospect in the deal, which was first reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.

Medical issues are being explored by the Twins as they close in on an agreement. Garcia has had an injury-plagued career, including surgery to correct thoracic outlet syndrome in 2014, and groin and shoulder issues the past couple of seasons. Garcia has never pitched more than 194 innings in a season, and that was in 2011, when he was 24. But the 31-year-old Garcia has not missed a start for the Braves this season, and has nine quality starts among his 17 appearances, including last Sunday’s one run allowed over seven innings in a victory against Arizona.

Garcia, traded by St. Louis to Atlanta last winter for pitcher John Gant and two minor leaguers, has seven games of postseason experience, including starts in Games 2 and 6 of the 2011 World Series against Texas. Garcia’s postseason record is 0-3, but with a respectable 3.94 ERA.

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MLB Power Rankings After Two Months Of Baseball

Written by Matt Snyder at CBS Sports.com

Wednesday marks the final day of May, so we’re just about through two of the six months of the Major League Baseball season. Yes, mathematicians, we’re about one-third of the way through the MLB season.

For many, getting through Memorial Day is the right time to start looking at the standings and taking them seriously. For me, I’ve made it an Official Power Rankings rule that you aren’t allowed to say things like “it’s early” once we get to June. There are surprises and there will be turnarounds — both in the positive and the negative — moving forward for sure, but we’ve got a nice chunk of baseball banked.

Let’s zero in on the most surprising things so far and if I expect it to continue.

Twins are tied for AL Central lead

I liked the Twins to be better than last year, but how could they have possibly been as bad? They didn’t even win 60 games last year. To look at the AL Central this season without a horse in the race, it seemed pretty obvious the Indians would win it. They still probably will (that would be my prediction), but kudos to the Twins for this early-season run. Ervin Santana is throwing like a Cy Young candidate, Miguel Sano is hitting the ball harder than anyone, Robbie Grossman is an on-base machine and Jose Berrios has been filthy since his call-up.

Brewers lead the NL Central

The consensus coming into the season was that the Cubs would win the division with ease. If offered a fall-back option, most people would have likely taken the Cardinals. The Pirates have recently been a contender as well. The Brewers are still in the midst of a bit of a rebuild.

And yet, the Brewers hang onto first place past Memorial Day. Thanks in part to a ridiculous April from Eric Thames, the offense has exhibited great power throughout the season while getting fine rotation work from Jimmy Nelson and Chase Anderson. Corey Knebel has settled in as closer and done an outstanding job.

Alas, I don’t see this holding. The only reason the Brewers are still in first is the Cubs can’t get themselves together. But they will. Even if the Cubs only win 85-88 games, it’ll be enough to take the Central again. The Cardinals will finish second. The Brewers, though, continue to make progress with GM Doug Stearns’ rebuild. They won 73 games last year. Let’s assign them a .500 record this year, which is an eight-game improvement.

Last September, I said the Rockies were set up to be a sneaky contender this year, and nothing we’ve seen so far gives me any reason to change my mind. In fact, they’ll get back Jon Gray in the rotation and my hunch is Jeff Hoffman builds off his last outing at some point. The Rockies would then actually have rotation depth with those two, veterans Tyler Chatwood and Tyler Anderson and then young guns Antonio Senzatela, Kyle Freeland and German Marquez. With their offense and the Greg Holland-led bullpen, that’s enough to grab the top NL wild card.

Yes, I have the Dodgers winning the NL West again. Again, though, I’d pick the Rockies as the top wild card right now.

Can the Diamondbacks remain in the mix for the second one? In my estimation, yes they can. The Cardinals will be there as well and the Mets probably find a way to hang around. Arizona’s success so far, though, seems real. They have a legit MVP candidate in Paul Goldschmidt and ace in Zack Greinke along with lots of other good pieces.

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5 Trades That Should Happen Before Spring Training

Written by Chris Bahr at FoxSports.com

You smell that? For some, it’s the scent of spring. But for others, it’s the aroma of urgency. With Grapefruit and Cactus League camps just over two weeks away, there’s some unfinished business to tackle on the trade market.

It isn’t necessarily panic time for every contender with a void – not with some talented free agents still available. And sellers simply can wait for a need to develop (see: spring training injury) or hold their chips until the nonwaiver deadline draws nearer.

But there are some loose ends to address. Chief among them:

Potential Deadline Deals for MLB Trade Deadline


Written by Matt Snyder at CBS Sports.com

As we surge toward the Major League Baseball non-waiver trade deadline (Aug. 1 this year), we’ll continue to hear all about which players might be traded. For fun, because that’s what we’re all about here, let’s go in the opposite direction and check out some of the most untradeable players in baseball.

Caveats? We have caveats.

Bad players with low contracts won’t make the cut

Those type of players aren’t tradeable, but they are immensely releasable. Thus, there’s no reason to discuss their tradeability (lots of invented words here, which is fun).

No player is truly 100 percent untradeable

Look at James Shields, for instance. He would have made this list, but he’s already been traded. Being on the most untradeable list doesn’t mean a player is untradeable. How does that make sense, one might ask? Just use common sense. We’re all smart here. Being the fastest sloth doesn’t make said sloth fast, right? Apply similar logic here.

Just being past prime with big deal not enough

Yeah, that’s not going to cut it here, either. Justin Verlander is 33 years old and making $28 million per season through 2019, but I don’t think it would be overly difficult for the Tigers to deal him if they decided to take that route.

Similar sentiment goes for Joey Votto, who is due $172 million from 2017-23 with a team option ($7 million buyout) for 2024, when he’s 40. There’s no doubt in mind something could be worked out if the Reds tried to deal him.

This isn’t a highest-contract list, either

Giancarlo Stanton has that deal and it wouldn’t even be remotely shocking to see the Marlins find a huge list of suitors should be be made available. I also shied about from including Elvis Andrus (six years, $88M left) and Troy Tulowitzki (three years, $60M) due to playing shortstop. Someone would jump.

Onto the list!

The 10 most untradeable players:

10. Joe Mauer 1B / Minnesota Twins

He’d be higher on this list, but his $23 million annual salary only runs through 2018. Still, with a pretty extensive history of injury issues and having a first baseman with so little power that his on-base percentage rivals his slugging percentage, there is virtually no trade value here at all. If the Twins were willing to eat almost all the remaining money on the deal, maybe it would work, but it’s hard to see that happening.

9. Jacoby Ellsbury CF / New York Yankees

There’s always value in a center fielder on defense, but Ellsbury costs $89.56 million through 2020 to provide below-average offense and he’s not even a great base-stealer anymore, as he’s been caught seven times in 24 tries this season. He hasn’t exactly been a poster child for durability in his career either.

8. Matt Kemp RF / San Diego Padres

Kemp’s home run and RBI totals are gaudy, but he provides no value outside of power. He is a poor defender, hasn’t even attempted a stolen base, has a terrible .280 on-base percentage and has struck out 93 times compared to 13 walks. That’s a worthwhile six-hole hitter — preferably a DH — for a contending team that gets on base frequently in front of him, provided the salary isn’t big. Instead Kemp is playing right field and will make $62.25 million total from 2017-19.

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Byung Ho Park: Will he Succeed in MLB?

Written by Zachary D. Rymer at Bleacher Reports.com

Byung Ho Park was basically the Bryce Harper of the Korea Baseball Organization. In his last four seasons, in particular, many baseballs were obliterated by his bat.

But now with the Minnesota Twins, Park is already raising the question: Does he have the goods to translate his talent to Major League Baseball?

Nobody on the 0-8 Twins is having a fun time so far in 2016, but Park has arguably endured the worst of it. Through six games, he’s hit just .143 with a .536 OPS and one home run. Things are going so poorly for Minnesota’s $25 million man, in fact, that manager Paul Molitor even pinch hit for him on Monday.

“I’m sure it has happened when I was younger,” Park told Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press through an interpreter, “but I couldn’t really say exactly when.”

There certainly wasn’t much need to pinch hit for Park when he was in Korea. The 29-year-old gradually morphed into an unstoppable slugger, peaking with two amazing seasons for the Nexen Heroes in 2014 and 2015. All told, he posted a 1.136 OPS and slugged 105 home runs.

According to legend and this video, one of those long balls traveled a mind-boggling 522 feet:

On paper, the main reason why Park is having such a difficult time tapping into the power in MLB is obvious: he’s striking out a lot. He’s whiffed in 12 of his first 24 plate appearances.

This isn’t too surprising. Park did have a strikeout habit in Korea, after all, whiffing 24.5 percent of the time. And since that was against inferior pitching, more strikeouts in MLB were likely inevitable.

A relevant case study would be Jung Ho Kang, Park’s countryman and a breakout star for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2015. He had a career 16.9 strikeout percentage in Korea, but came over here and posted a 21.2 percent K rate last season. Even for a talented all-around hitter like him, adjusting to MLB pitching was tough.

To his credit, Park knows what he needs to do to start making more contact.

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