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MLB 2019 season recap

bracket showing the postseason MLB matchup
Ryan Lemerman, 42Fifty

A fulfilling Major League Baseball season has come to a conclusion, and we are now through the best part of fall: October baseball. 162 games and  two Championship Series later, and we finally have the chance to experience the 2019 World Series.

Confirmed on Sept. 27, the official group of postseason teams were announced. This year’s field of heavily skilled rosters included the Atlanta Braves, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Minnesota Twins, St.Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros, and the wild teams consisting of Milwaukee Brewers, Washington Nationals, Oakland Athletics, and the Tampa Bay Rays. 

Throughout the regular season, we witnessed the New York Yankees continue to crush all year, literally, hitting a home run in 31 consecutive games between June and July, and blasting 74 in August, both of which were MLB records. 

Local fans are not pleased, with the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs being left out of this year’s postseason. Cheesehead Milwaukee Fans were appreciative to see their team officially clinch on Sept. 25, in a 9-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds. 

There are many more questions following the departure of regular season baseball that fans around the country need answers to. 

The first, which everyone is wondering…

Did the MLB juice the baseballs?

This season alone, all 30 MLB teams combined for 6,776 home runs, absolutely shattering the 2017 record of 6,105 at a staggering rate. It has been a topic that has been up in the air for a couple of years now, with the total amount of home runs continuing to grow exponentially. 

Back in July, 2018 runner-up and potential 2019 Cy Young Winner Justin Verlander said, “100 percent”, calling it a “f—ing joke,” proclaiming that the league just wants to populate themselves, manipulating baseballs to increase offensive production. 

He continued to say, “they own the f—ing company. If any other $40 billion company bought out a $400 million company and the product changed dramatically, it’s not a guess as to what happened…Manfred the first time he came in, what’d he say? He said we want more offense. All of a sudden he comes in, the balls are juiced? It’s no coincidence. We’re not idiots.”

Verlander, 36, has been in the league for 15 seasons and as a pitcher, he definitely has the right to speak his opinion.

What happened to the Red Sox? 

Next, everyone is aware of the dominant championship run by the Boston Red Sox, being victorious in the 2018 World Series. A victory over the Dodgers, in a 4-1 series, gave the boys in red the number-one power ranking to start the year. Month to month, that number decreased, only to have Boston missing out on the postseason. Many are wondering, what happened to the Red Sox?

With Mookie Betts, the 2018 Most Valuable Player; J.D. Martinez, the 2018 Triple Crown Winner; and Chris Sale, who finished in fourth-place in Cy Young Voting, all returning for another championship run, it isn’t hard to notice what went wrong in Boston. Simply enough, it was the pitching.

A starting rotation made up of Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, David Price, Rick Porcello, and Nathan Eovaldi seemed to contain various amounts of depth to start the year. Early on, injuries and inconsistency just piled on week to week, with Eovaldi landing on the Injured List after just his 3rd start on April 17. Rick Porcello showed nothing but insufficiency, always being helped by run support, which led to his 22-4 season in 2016. He has a career earned run average (ERA) of 4.36 in 11 MLB seasons. Porcello ended this year finishing 14-12, and an ERA of 5.52. Chris Sale, one player well-deserving of a World Series title after being stuck in Chicago for 7 seasons, did not look anything like himself. The sale started the year 1-7, but still emerged in strikeouts. An unthinkable year came out of nowhere for him, having to end his year short due to soreness. Lastly, David Price has always been plagued with injuries throughout his dramatic career, while  Eduardo had an extremely impressive year, going 19-6 with 213 strikeouts, both career highs. Alex Cora’s offense looked good enough to give Boston an AL wildcard spot, but lackluster pitching set up a heavy underperformance for the Red Sox. 

Where did the Cubs go? 

The Chicago Cubs have been the dominant professional sports franchise in Illinois for the past five years, after a decline from the Blackhawks and Bulls.  The Bears might now have that title, but we are not here to talk about that. 

The baseball team down at Wrigley Field finished similarly to the Red Sox, just short of a postseason appearance. After a 2016 World Series victory over the Cleveland Indians, many expected the Cubs to dominate the National League for many years, or at least be the best in their own division. Really, where did the Cubs go?

Finishing third in the NL Central, the Cubs vanished their last 10 games, going 2-8, to finish the year at 84-78. 

I took the time to interview OHS student and die-hard Cubs fan, senior Carter Crokin, to see his point of view of the season. He started off describing the “devastation” behind getting swept by the Cardinals, in what would have seriously helped their cause of clinching a wild card spot. 

On the offensive side, Carter stated, “Javier Baez was the MVP before he got hurt, carrying the team.” 

In terms of rebuild, Crokin believes that trading Kris Bryant is something he can’t see happening, partially due to the chemistry and dynamic duo of teammate Anthony Rizzo and Bryant. In taking responsibility and firing manager Joe Maddon, an “improved pitching core” is next on the list to improve for next season.

The Cubs will now rely on a huge offseason, and a handful of beneficial acquisitions, in hopes of returning to their 2017 World Series form.

How soon until we see the White Sox compete again? 

Switching gears to the other Chicago team, the White Sox have not made the postseason since 2008, being staged in rebuild mode since then. So, generally speaking, how soon until we see the White Sox compete again?

The South Side arguably has the youngest core in baseball, and playing experience will only make them better. Finishing 72-89, fans should not be disappointed with the team’s result, especially after Shortstop Tim Anderson won the AL Batting Average title and First Baseman Jose Abreu won the AL RBI title. In the minor league, the Sox have No. 3 overall prospect Luis Robert, No. 17 Michael Kopech, No. 21 Andrew Vaguhn, and No. 40 Nick Madrigal. 

Then, the active roster is loaded with young talent, up and down the order on both sides. For pitchers, Chicago has 23 year old Dylan Cease, a master of the changeup, Reynaldo Lopez, a 25 year old righty that can throw any pitch, improving his strikeout game start after start, and Lucas Giolito, an MLB strikeout leader who made a serious run at the Cy Young award, at the age of 25. For offense, there is Tim Anderson, Eloy Jiminez, who is a 22-year-old rookie slugger, and Yoan Moncada, former No.1 overall prospect in 2017. White Sox fans, there is no need to stress, the hard part (rebuilding and tanking) is done with, and a turn around is approaching.

Who were the biggest disappointments of the 2019 season?

The last topic that can not go unnoticed is the performances of the players in both the NL and AL. 

The 2019 Offseason had been hyped up immediately after the 2018 season ended, containing players like Charlie Morton, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and other top-notch assets. 

Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies 

The Philadelphia Phillies were one of the most hyped-up teams heading into the 2019 season, ending 2018 with an 80-82 record. They added all-stars, Jean Segura, JT Realmuto, and Carlos Santana. But we are going to target the real superstar that really underperformed, in Bryce Harper. Personally, I am a Washington Nationals fan, and it was heartbreaking to see him leave DC. Described as the “snake” of the MLB by many, Harper chose to sign with the Phillies for an annual salary of $330 million for 13 years. Extremely high expectations were given for Bryce, and he finished the year with a .260 batting average (the third lowest in 7 career years), a reasonable 35 home runs, and a career-high 178 whiffs. For a team that had one of the biggest acquisitions in MLB history, it is a joke that the addition of an MVP-caliber player won them only one more game than last season. 

Manny Machado, San Diego Padres

Another disappointing player was Machado, on a similar contract with the San Diego Padres for $300 million over 10 years. He finished the year with a .256 batting average, 85 runs batted in, 32 home runs, and 128 strikeouts. Along with the Phillies, these two teams probably could have used their money more wisely. 

Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians

Last season, the Tribe won the division by a landslide, thanks to Ramirez and infield teammate, Francisco Lindor. Usually known for his plate ability, he maintained his second-lowest batting average of his career, with a .255 at age 27. Had Ramirez played better offensively, the Indians could have snuck into the playoffs considering they were just three games out.  

Giancarlo Stanton, New York Yankees

It would be fair to say that Stanton disappointed everyone this year, but at the same time he battled injuries for most of the season, New York still won the AL, and no one likes the Yankees. 

The pinstripe slugger still deserves a spot on this list, while Stanton went from a 34 home run season in his first year in New York last year, to a three-home run season through 18 games. Unfortunately, a bicep injury and a strained PCL, hurt his chances of blowing up again. High expectations were set for Stanton, who hit 59 home runs for the Miami Marlins in 2017. It is a shame we still haven’t seen Giancarlo reach his full potential playing for a team that resembles home-run record-breaking hitting.

Edwin Diaz, New York Mets

Heading into 2019, few expected the Mets to pull away with the division, considering the toughness of the Phillies, Nationals, and Braves. They capped off the 2018 season going 77-85, with room to improve. One of the biggest issues was the bullpen, as the organization took matters into their own hands by acquiring Diaz from the Seattle Mariners. A very skilled closer, he received the AL Mariano Rivera Award, given to the best closer, after getting a league-high 57 saves, through 73.1 innings, and a stellar 1.96 ERA with 124 strikeouts. This year, Diaz struggled with the Mets, getting just 26 saves and 99 strikeouts, accounting for 7 losses and a 5.59 ERA.

Who were the biggest breakouts of the 2019 season? 

Jack Flaherty, St. Louis Cardinals 

Statistics are not eye-widening for the 23-year-old Cardinals pitcher, but his credibility comes from his game by game contribution. He posted an 11-8 record with a 2.75 earned run average, and 231 strikeouts. The ace received plenty of love and acknowledgment from a teammate, Michael Wacha, when he spoke to the media. 

Without his dominance, the Cardinals assumably would not have locked up the NL Central, let alone a postseason run. Flaherty will be a crucial factor as the postseason gets deeper, and without him, they will suffer a burden of substandard pitching. 

Jorge Soler, Kansas City Royals

Yes, it is surprising to see a Royals player achieve any recognition this year, but Jorge Soler impressed many this season. A player not known for bringing power to the plate, Soler crushed away criticism, along with a third highest in the MLB, 48 home runs. Previously in 5 total seasons, he hit 38 home runs between the Royals and Cubs organizations. That’s over 307 games, compared to this year’s 162. Talk about improvement. 

Lucas Giolito, Chicago White Sox

Apart from the 2016 Adam Eaton trade package, Giolito, 25, was a top prospect in the Nationals organization. His pitching style delivers many strikeouts, but trouble retiring hitters through consistency. When called up in 2018, he went 10-13, with a 6.13 ERA, and 125 strikeouts through 32 starts. Looking like a new pitcher, Giolito finished 14-9, with a reduced ERA of 3.41, and 228 strikeouts. As mentioned before, the White Sox young core has an immense future, especially with Giolito leading at the ace position. 

Ketel Marte, Arizona Diamondbacks

A player never truly recognized with his time in Seattle, Marte hoped to breakout in 2019. He did just that, overachieving expectations from Diamondback manager, Torey Lovollo. In July, he was named to his first All-Star game, being the best offensive player on Arizona. Marte batted .329, a .069 increase from 2017 and 2018. He also blasted 32 home runs with 92 RBIs, leading Arizona to an impressive 85 wins, for a team that traded their franchise player, Paul Goldsmidt to the St. Louis Cardinals. The Ketel will look to continue to be piping hot in 2020, see what I did there.

Domingo German, New York Yankees

A breakout 2019 season was cut short for German, being under investigation for domestic abuse.  Speaking baseball terms, Domingo put together an 18-4 record for the Bronx Bombers, with a 4.03 ERA and 153 strikeouts. He may have received a lot of run support, but this jump is widely impressive for a pitcher that had a combined 2 wins in 2017 and 2018. 

Jake Odorizzi, Minnesota Twins

A lackluster Twins rotation was the perfect fit for Odorizzi, serving a compliment to Jose Berrios and a dominant offense. He finished with a 15-7 record, 3.51 ERA, and a career-high 178 strikeouts. Odorizzi was a pitcher that lacked consistency, but he delivered when the team needed it most, helping the Twins reach a vast 101 wins, the most in franchise history since 1965.

Who will win the MLB Awards from the 2019 season?

American League:

Most Valuable Player: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

Cy Young: Gerrit Cole, Houston Astros

Rookie of the Year: Yordan Alvarez, Houston Astros

Manager of the Year: Rocco Baldelli, Minnesota Twins

National League:

Most Valuable Player: Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers

Cy Young: Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals

Rookie of the Year: Pete Alonso, New York Mets

Manager of the Year: Dave Roberts, Los Angeles Dodgers

Recently, the National and American League Divisional Series came to a conclusion, in a Houston Astros defeat of the Tampa Bay Rays, 6-1. Gerrit Cole admiring pitched another masterful stat line, with an eight inning, 10 strikeout appearance. Then, the Yankees easily cruises through the Twins, thanks to Didi Gregerious’ strong presence. Lastly, on Aug. 9, the Nationals and Cardinals picked up exhilarating upsets in Game 5, over the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves.

With the postseason underway, it is now safe to say there will be a new World Series champion, with the Boston Red Sox failing to clinch a postseason appearance. On Oct. 3, MLB fans witnessed the Washington Nationals defeat the Milwaukee Brewers for the National League Wild Card game 4-3, in an enticing comeback win. The following night, the Tampa Bay Rays dominated the Oakland Athletics in the American League Wild Card game, winning 5-1. From the 8 teams remaining, this is what I predicted, upon the conclusion of a dramatic and exciting 2019 postseason. 

At 10:56 p.m. on a far-from-exhausting Tuesday evening, the Washington Nationals swept the Cardinals, in a 7-4 Game 4 victory. Each game was pure dominance, while the nation’s capital had never trailed in any game of the series. While many expect the upset over the Dodgers was impressive, the Nationals proved why they deserve to be in their World Series, only a week after clinching their very first championship series.

The Yankees were not be able to take home the World Series title, despite being favored in what could potentially be their first since 2009. On Thursday night, George Springer and Carlos Correa lead the way offensively, demanding a 3-1 series lead. Then, Friday night, New York took matters into their own hands to defeat Justin Verlander. He did not look like himself, giving up four early runs in the first inning. Finally, Saturday night the Astros walked it off in the 9th inning. Jose Altuve showed off his clutch genes yet again, soaring a deep home run in center field to the Houston train tracks, off of Arolis Chapman’s high speed fastball.

Below, I took the time to predict who will become victorious, along with how the World Series will end. 

World Series:

Houston Astros defeat Washington Nationals (4-2)

2019 World Series Champion: Houston Astros

After a fulfilling postseason, we have an AL champion and NL champion. The Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros are the two idealistic teams with all-around rosters. Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto, and Howie Kendrick have been automatic all postseason. However, the influence of pitching will be enough to dominate DC. Having immaculate starters Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, and Zack Grenke will give them the edge over Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin. Houston’s bats serve as the ideal complement to the defense, night after night. It’s hard to predict the postseason, but I can guarantee that this year’s World Series will be better than the last. Overall, Houston is a very dangerous team, when the hitting can stay dominant, whenever one of the three Cy-Young caliber starters are not in.  An Astros franchise has come a long way after losing to the Red Sox in 2018, turning another title with such storied accolades will have more to add to their dominating legacy.

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