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

Stargazing: A Baseball Hall of Fame crystal ball

Here are major leaguers with three or fewer service years, minor leaguers, collegiate and high school stars and international prospects who could end up in Cooperstown in the distant future.  1 of 23

Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta Braves OF

After a breakout rookie year as a 20-year-old, Acuna became the youngest $100 million man in baseball history. He etched his name in the history books when he became the youngest player to hit a postseason grand slam, in Game 3 of the 2018 NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. During his Rookie of the Year campaign, Acuna hit 25 home runs and stole 15 bases, becoming the fourth 20-or-younger player to accomplish the feat. (He joined Alex Rodriguez, Orlando Cepeda and Mike Trout.) 2 of 23

Jo Adell, Los Angeles Angels OF prospect

Adell has put on a five-tool talent show early in his professional career, rising to become the top homegrown Angel prospect since Mike Trout. His game is reminiscent of that of his potential future teammate, as Adell is a gifted defender who makes high-quality contact at the plate. He hit 20 home runs across three different levels in his first full pro season as a 19-year-old. 3 of 23

Pete Alonso, New York Mets 1B

Alonso has wasted no time making an impact as rookie. His 26th home run, on June 22, set the National League first-half rookie record. In the process, “Polar Bear” tied Darryl Strawberry’s full-season rookie home run record. He has 31 HRs, more than halfway to Aaron Judge’s 2018 rookie record of 52. 4 of 23

Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers 1B/OF

Bellinger’s career is off to a torrid start. The third-year big-leaguer captured NL Rookie of the Year honors in 2017, after hitting an NL-rookie-record 39 home runs. In 2019, Bellinger set an April record with 97 total bases and tied the record for home runs (14) and runs (32). 5 of 23

Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher

Buehler made an immediate impact upon arrival in L.A., becoming the latest in an increasingly long line of recent Dodger prodigies. In 2018, he capped a terrific rookie year (8-5, 2.62 ERA, 151 strikeouts) with a dominant, seven-shutout-innings performance in Game 3 of the World Series. On June 21, he became the first Dodger pitcher to turn in a 15-plus strikeout outing (16 overall) with no walks. 6 of 23

Matt Chapman, Oakland Athletics 3B

A dazzling defender on the hot corner, Chapman has turned into one of the most dependable highlight creators in the game. Chapman’s presence at the plate has continued to grow as well, as he has produced an .870 OPS since 2018. 7 of 23

Jasson Dominguez, Dominican Republic OF

The 16-year-old Dominguez is widely considered the top international amateur prospect. The multiskilled outfielder is a switch-hitter with a strong, 5-foot-10, 190-pound frame and the ability to hit for power from both sides of the plate. He’s also fast. The Yankees gave him a $5 million signing bonus earlier this month. 8 of 23

Wander Franco, Tampa Bay Rays SS prospect

The game’s next great prodigy, Franco has been sensational in his first year-and-a-half as a pro. As a 17-year-old, he hit .351 with 11 home runs and seven triples to claim MVP of the Appalachian League. He was three years younger than the league average age. He has kept his foot on the gas in Year 2, recently inheriting the mantle of the game’s top prospect despite just turning 18 in March. 9 of 23

MacKenzie Gore, San Diego Padres pitching prospect

Injury plagued last season, Gore has firmly established himself as one the game’s top coming attractions on the mound. The southpaw — who drew comparisons to Clayton Kershaw en route to becoming the third overall pick in 2017 — is dominating minor league foes as a 20-year-old. 10 of 23

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays, 3B

There may be no more naturally talented hitter to emerge in the past 20 years than Vlad Jr. He famously destroyed minor league pitching over the past two years, hitting .323 and .381, respectively, with a number of tape-measure homers mixed in. Few 20-year-olds feel like they are overdue to reach the majors when they did, but Guerrero Jr. fit that bill. On May 14, he became the youngest Blue Jay to homer. For good measure, he hit another one that night.

By: Matt Whitener

Mets sign Jed Lowrie to two-year, $20 million deal

The New York Mets are adding another infielder to the mix.

The Mets have signed Jed Lowrie to a two-year deal worth at least $20 million, as first reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan. The move makes sense for new team GM Brodie Van Wagenen, who previously served as Lowrie’s agent and obviously believes in his former client.

Lowrie, who turns 35 in April, is coming off his first season as an All-Star. He had consecutive seasons in Oakland in which he posted an OPS over .800.

The surprise here is that the Mets signed another second baseman after already acquiring Robinson Cano in a trade with the Mariners, indicating one of the two will be switching positions.

Lowrie and Cano can both play second. Amed Rosario is the Mets’ shortstop, while Todd Frazier is set to play third. Lowrie could play shortstop or third base and mix things up with Rosario and Frazier, depending on who’s healthy and playing well. Another option could be Cano playing some first base, mixing with Jeff McNeil and whoever else the Mets end up keeping on the 25-man roster.

Original Article

By: Larry Brown

Athletics Interested in Christian Yellich and Marcell Ozuna

Written by R.J. Anderson at CBS

With new ownership in tow, the Miami Marlins are expected to slash payroll this winter. In an ideal Marlins-centric world, that would mean moving the contracts of Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Gordon, and Martin Prado. This is far from an ideal world, however, and it’s conceivable the Marlins could instead have to trade Christian Yelich or Marcell Ozuna to fix their budget.

One surprising team who will be calling to check on the likelihood of that scenario? The Oakland Athletics. That according to a report from Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle:

One item on Oakland’s wish list this winter is an outfielder with several years of team control remaining, sources told The Chronicle on Wednesday. And with Miami’s new ownership looking to shed payroll, the A’s have interest in Marcell Ozuna and, though their preference is for a right-handed hitter, possibly Christian Yelich.

As we’ve detailed in the past, both players are appealing due to their skill set and contractual situations. Yelich is locked to a team-friendly deal for the next four years, while Ozuna has two more seasons of cost control remaining before he hits free agency. Either would give the A’s lineup a boost — an A’s lineup, which, for whatever it’s worth, looks promising on paper.

The A’s would seem closer to a .500 club than one who can realistically compete in 2018. Yet that’s never stopped them from pushing forward in the past, and a few breaks here and upgrades there could theoretically place them within range of 85 wins — the same amount the Minnesota Twins qualified with for this postseason.

Obviously the A’s wouldn’t be alone in pursuing Yelich or Ozuna, so there’s no telling what their actual chances of landing either is — nor is there any telling how likely it is that either of them are dealt. But it’s a fun and interesting rumor, and that’s what the offseason is mostly about.

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Red Sox Trade For Rajai Davis From Oakland

Written by R.J. Anderson at CBS

On Tuesday, the Boston Red Sox lost Jackie Bradley Jr. to a sprained thumb — an injury that landed him on the disabled list. In response, the Red Sox have made a move to reinforce their outfield.

Boston has traded for Rajai Davis of the Oakland Athletics in exchange for minor-league Rafael Rincones, according to the teams:

Davis has hit .233/.294/.353 in 100 games on the season. He’s stolen 26 bases on 32 tries while playing center field more often than not. While Davis has possessed top-notch speed throughout his career, his defense isn’t as good as it could be due to his questionable route running. Nonetheless, Davis gives the Red Sox another option in the outfield to pair with Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, and Chris Young — as well as a potential pinch-running specialist come postseason time.

It does not appear the Davis addition indicates Bradley Jr. is likely to miss more time than expected:

Rincones is an 18-year-old who didn’t rank in’s top 30 list of Red Sox prospects. He’s hit .258/.373/.369 while playing for the Red Sox’s Dominican Summer League team.

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Mariners Trade for Yonder Alonso From A’s

Written by Mike Axisa at CBS

The Seattle Mariners have baseball’s longest postseason drought, and with a wild-card spot within reach, the club has added a big bat for the stretch run.

Sunday afternoon the Mariners acquired All-Star first baseman Yonder Alonso from the Athletics for outfield prospect Boog Powell. Both teams have announced the trade.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports the Mariners claimed Alonso on trade waivers, then worked out a deal. Here’s how trade waivers work. The short version: players claimed on trade waivers can only be traded to the claiming team while players who go unclaimed can be traded anywhere.

Alonso, 30, will be a free agent after the season, so he is a rental for the Mariners. They figure to platoon him with Danny Valencia at first base. The left-handed hitting Alonso is hitting .266/.369/.527 with a career high 22 home runs this season, including .286/.391/.557 with 18 of those 22 home runs against righties. Valencia, a righty batter, is hitting .297/.368/.505 with four homers against lefties.

The 24-year-old Powell returns to the team that initially drafted him. He was Oakland’s 20th round pick in 2012, then was traded to the Rays in the big Ben Zobrist/Yunel Escobar deal in January 2015. Tampa Bay then flipped him to the Mariners in the Brad Miller/Logan Morrison trade in November 2015.

Powell, who is not related to former Orioles great Boog Powell, made his MLB debut earlier this season and is hitting .194/.310/.194 in 23 games. He put up a .340/.416/.490 batting line with six home runs in Triple-A before being called up. The A’s figure to plug him right into their lineup down the stretch.

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Yankees Get Sonny Gray From A’s

Written by Brian Hoch at

The Yankees believe that they significantly improved their chances of securing championship No. 28 on Monday, pulling off one of the afternoon’s biggest moves by acquiring right-hander Sonny Gray from the Athletics in exchange for three top prospects.

With about an hour remaining before the 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline, the Yankees agreed to swap outfielder Dustin Fowler, infielder Jorge Mateo and right-hander James Kaprielian to Oakland in exchange for the 27-year-old Gray, widely viewed as one of the top available starters in the marketplace.

“On behalf of this fan base, this team has shown it’s got the ability to allow us to push a lot of these chips in the middle of the table and recognize 2017 has a chance to be special,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said.

Fowler, Mateo and Kaprielian were ranked as the fourth-, eighth- and 12th-best prospects, respectively, in the Yankees’ farm system by The Yanks are also receiving $1.5 million in international bonus pool money.

Gray will be joining a Yankees club that, with a 57-47 record, holds a half-game lead over the Red Sox in the American League East after Monday’s 7-3 victory over the Tigers.

“We kind of went back to our same old Yankees — the goal is to win the World Series,” CC Sabathia said. “We’re here now.”

Manager Joe Girardi said that Gray will make his first Yankees start during the team’s upcoming road trip, which begins on Thursday at Cleveland. Gray’s arrival will shake up the rotation, as Girardi said that he will not use six starters. The odd man out could be Jordan Montgomery, who lasted just 2 2/3 innings in Sunday’s 5-3 loss to the Rays.

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Manfred: No Expansion Until A’s and Rays Get Stadiums

Written Ronald Blum at Yahoo 

The Athletics’ search for a new ballpark will be confined to Oakland, and Major League Baseball will put off any expansion talks until it solves its two outstanding stadium issues.

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday the exact site is up to the team’s owners, but he made clear the sport has no intention to allow a move outside the city.

”I am committed to Oakland as a major league site,” he told the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Tuesday. ”I think that if we were to leave Oakland, I think 10 years from now we would be more likely than not looking backwards saying we made a mistake.”

Unhappy with the Oakland Coliseum, which opened in 1966, the A’s considered building a ballpark in the southeast bay city of Fremont and then scrapped that plan in 2009. They hoped to move to San Jose but were blocked by the San Francisco Giants, whose territory includes that Silicon Valley city.

”I think that Oakland is more likely than not to be a better market five years from now than it is today,” Manfred said. ”So I certainly have not given up on Oakland.

Manfred said the A’s should go ahead with their stadium efforts, independent of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders, who also want to leave the Coliseum for a new facility.

The Tampa Bay Rays also want a new ballpark, and were given permission by the St. Petersburg City Council to search for sites in the area outside the city.

Manfred said any move to add teams beyond the current 30 must wait because of the stadium searches.

”Both of those clubs need new major league quality facilities,” he said, ”and until that’s resolved, I think expansion has got to be on the back burner for us.”

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Tim Lincecum Returns to MLB, Don’t Be Too Excited

Written by Dayn Perry at

On Saturday, Angels right-hander Tim Lincecum made his first major-league start since June 27 of last year, and it seemingly went well, as he allowed one run over six innings against the Athletics (LAA 7, OAK 1).

Needless to say, this is noteworthy. Lincecum, beloved as a quirky and undersized two-time Cy Young winner for the Giants, is a welcome presence in the game for a number of reasons. He’s also worked his way back from offseason hip surgery, and his post-surgery showcase led to his signing a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the pitching-starved Angels.

In those senses, it was good to see Lincecum’s keeping runs off the board against a major-league lineup. However, let’s not yet bellow from the rooftops that Lincecum is back and capable of rotation excellence. After all, we’re talking about a single start, which, as data samples go, is infinitesimal.
Also, keep these things in mind about Lincecum’s Saturday efforts:

1. The A’s are a really bad offensive team.

Oakland this season ranks last in the AL in OBP with a .302 mark. They also rank 11th in the AL in slugging percentage. Yes, their home ballpark — the site of Lincecum’s start — suppresses run scoring, but they also rank 12th in the AL in Weighted Runs Created+ (wRC+), which is park-adjusted. Against right-handers like Lincecum? Thus far in 2016, the A’s rank last in the AL in OBP versus RHPs, 14th in slugging percentage, and tied for last in wRC+. So they’re even worse against righties.

2. Lincecum’s outing wasn’t as strong as you might think.

As noted, Lincecum held the A’s to one run over six frames. However, he struck out just two while walking two and hitting one batsman. He also needed 98 pitches to get through those six innings. Yes, Lincecum’s ERA for the game was a nifty 1.50. However, according to FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), which is scaled to look like ERA but reflects just those outcomes that have nothing to do with fielding — i.e., strikeouts, walks, and home runs allowed — Lincecum’s ERA for the day should have been a more pedestrian 3.96. Again, though, we’re talking about a single isolated start.

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The Worst Contracts in Baseball

Written by Cliff Corcoran at

Don’t look for Ryan Howard in the Phillies’ lineup this weekend; he won’t be there. Instead, he’ll be on the bench, where manager Pete Mackanin has stationed him for what has been reported as “at least the next three games.” This is the closest the Phillies have come yet to acknowledging that Howard and the $125 million extension they signed him to in 2010 is a sunk cost. Indeed, that extension will go down as one of the worst contracts in major league history. With just four months remaining on the contract, Howard has been worth 4.4 wins below replacement since the extension kicked in in 2012, making every last cent of that $125 million wasted money.

Inspired by Howard, below is a position-by-position listing of the worst current contracts in baseball. It has been done systematically, calculating the dollars per marginal win (that is, each win above replacement level or point of WAR, using’s formula) for full term of each contract using accumulated WAR through Thursday’s games and projecting future performance. The latter was calculated by pro-rating each player’s performance this season over 162 team games to get full-season figure for 2016. I then used a 5/4/3 weighting of the 2014 to ’16 seasons to project a ’17 value, then—following the same system used for our off-season What’s He Really Worth series—deducted 0.5 bWAR per season for hitters age 30 or older and 0.7 bWAR per season for pitchers age 30 or older.

Research was limited to contracts with a total value of $50 million or more. Billy Butler has been every bit as bad as Howard since signing with the A’s (-1.4 bWAR in just one and a third seasons), but, even to a small-market team like Oakland, his three-year, $30 million contract isn’t crippling. I also did not consider any contracts for which less than a full year has elapsed. That means you won’t see any of this off-season’s big signings here, nor will you see extensions that just kicked in, such as those of Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera or Red Sox pitcher Rick Porcello.

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