Behind the Seams with Blake: MLB Playoff Scramble

Lightning-fast postseason rolls on as three of four LCS slots are clinched Thursday.

The Division Series round of the playoffs have lived up to our expectations, as there have been many fantastic games and hard-fought battles even through just the 2nd round of the postseason. As promised, the rounds are happening very quickly, due to the much more compacted schedule of the 2020 postseason compared to years past. Three of the four spots for the Championship Series round have already been filled, with the Dodgers, Braves and Astros all securing spots on Thursday. This leaves us with one spot left to be filled, which will go to either the Yankees or the Rays. Next, I will be breaking down each of these remaining playoff teams, along with which players to look out for when watching each game. 

Firstly, the Los Angeles Dodgers. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that it would be an outrage if this team did not make the postseason, as they are absolutely stacked top to bottom. The Dodgers ended up leading the MLB with 43 wins during the regular season, to go along with just 17 losses. Their big splash trade for OF Mookie Betts this offseason certainly paid off, as he is in the National League MVP discussion after posting 16 home runs and 10 stolen bases to go along with a .292 batting average in 55 games during the regular season. Betts and Co. have been hot out of the gates in the postseason, sweeping the Milwaukee Brewers in the best of 3 Wildcard Series, and then sweeping the San Diego Padres in a best of 5 Division Series. (Sheds tear) Like I was saying, they will look to keep the good times rolling in the NLCS against the next team I will be discussing; the Atlanta Braves.

The Atlanta Braves ended the regular season with the 3rd best record in the National League, going 35-25. They have gotten fabulous offensive performances from numerous players this season, such as OF/DH Marcell Ozuna, who led the NL with 18 home runs, 56 RBIs, .338 AVG, and a .636 SLG% in 60 games, and NL MVP candidate 1B Freddie Freeman, who hit 13 home runs, 53 RBIs, .341 AVG, and a .640 SLG% in 60 games. They have also gotten steady contributions from young OF Ronald Acuna and SS Swansby Danson (ahem, Dansby Swanson). They have also received some great pitching from Starting Pitchers Max Fried and Ian Anderson, as well as a rock-solid bullpen. The Braves have begun their postseason very much as strong as the Dodgers have, as they swept the Cincinnati Reds in the Wildcard round, and then in the Division round, they swept the Marlins, who were previously undefeated in a postseason series since the Marlins franchise began in 1993. The NLCS will surely be a great matchup, as both teams are yet to lose a game coming into the series. 

The third team that clinched a Championship Series spot on Thursday was the Houston Astros. This has been a very interesting year for the Astros, as their offseason was spent being the disgrace of MLB, after it was found that they cheated in various ways on the journey to their 2017 World Series victory over the Dodgers. They ended up with substantial fines and draft pick forfeitures and firing many coaches and front office workers as a result of the scandal. They decided to hire respected manager Dusty Baker in order to restore some order to their team. Though many of their superstars of prior years had worse than usual regular season performances, and ace pitcher Justin Verlander missed the rest of the season after just 1 start, they still were able to sneak into a playoff spot. The Astros have had a good postseason so far, with superstars SS Carlos Correa and OF George Springer coming alive on offense for the first 2 rounds, helping them to sweep the Minnesota Twins in the Wildcard Series and beat the division-rival Oakland Athletics 3 games to 1 in the Division Series. In the ALCS, they will take on the winner of the Yankees vs Rays, both of which I will discuss next. 

The New York Yankees started the 60 game season rather sluggish, as they were missing OF Giancarlo Stanton and/or OF Aaron Judge for the majority of the season. Things changed for the better for the Bronx Bombers in the final month of the season, however, as they finally started living up to their nickname, while getting outstanding hitting performances from 1B Luke Voit, who led the MLB with 22 home runs, and 2B DJ Lemahieu, who also led the MLB with a .364 average. The Yankees swept the Cleveland Indians in the Wildcard round, and have been led by OF Giancarlo Stanton thus far, as he has hit 6 home runs through 6 games. They will hope for more power out of his bat in game 5 of the ALDS against the Rays.

The Tampa Bay Rays are the final team I will be discussing, and they finished the 2020 regular season with the 2nd best record in the MLB, at 40-20. They employed their usual relatively low budget team with surprisingly great performances from players 95% of baseball fans have never heard of. The story of their postseason has been OF Randy Arozarena, who has 12 hits and 3 home runs through 6 games in the playoffs as of Thursday night. Arozarena’s magic bat has helped the Rays sweep the Toronto Blue Jays in the Wildcard round, and they will look to get a huge game out of him in the fifth and final game of the ALDS against the Yankees on Friday. 

Personally, I’d like to see a 2020 World Series Matchup of the Tampa Bay Rays against the Atlanta Braves.

Written By: Blake Koziel

Photo Source: CBS Sports




Behind the Seams with Blake: Postseason Preview

Hello readers, my name is Blake Koziel, and I will be coming at you with new insight about the baseball and football world in this non fan-friendly, crazy 2020 sports year.

Before we get started, allow me to catch you up on how I got here. I have been following baseball frighteningly closely since about age ten, and I quickly found myself obsessed with baseball statistics, while watching my local team, the San Diego Padres. My favorite player on the Padres was, understandably, Adrian Gonzalez, and I remember how amazed I was the first time I saw his statline of 40 home runs way back in 2009. I continued to be a huge fan of Age, as I called him, all the way through his post-Padres teams until he retired in 2018. You will find that I tend to follow and know how certain players are doing more than the teams they are playing for, and my love for certain players centers around the stats they put up.

In case you are wondering, I also played baseball myself. My main positions were centerfielder, first baseman, and pitcher, and I played up until sophomore year of high school, when I made the curious transition from JV baseball to D1 varsity tennis within a span of two weeks. However, my heart was still with baseball even as I aced 100mph serves past nationally-ranked tennis players (It didn’t go in quite that often, but hey, I had the velocity). I stopped playing tennis competitively after high school, but it was definitely a fun experience. I then moved on to just focusing my attention on studying baseball.

In future posts I will also be writing about football, a sport that I didn’t really follow at all until 2014, when my uncle got me to join a fantasy football league with him, and my study of the game and its players began. I adopted the Denver Broncos as my favorite football team, as they had my favorite player, running back CJ Anderson, to go with an amazing crop of wide receivers Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and redzone monster tight end Julius Thomas. And who can forget living legend, quarterback Peyton Manning, whose forehead is as big as his accomplishments (I say it out of love, Peyton). I was not yet following football when the Broncos were in the Super Bowl to conclude the 2013 season, and I always wish I had seen that season, because Peyton threw a single season record 55 touchdowns that season, but I did get to watch my Broncos win against the Panthers in the 2015 Super Bowl, and it was simply wonderful. The Broncos have had a rough stretch of seasons since then as they’ve struggled to find an answer at quarterback after Peyton retired, but I believe in Drew Lock, and I hope he will finally provide the Broncos with some stability at the position once again.

Now for the present-day sports discussion. In this first post, I will be sticking to baseball, giving a quick rundown of the journey that the Padres have made to get to the postseason in this 60 game season. 

Major League Baseball decided to raise the number of postseason teams from 10 to 16 for this season, and Commissioner Rob Manfred says that he will consider making the change permanent for future seasons too. To be truthful, I do not like that idea, as I believe that the best of the best teams should be in the postseason, so a smaller number than 16 teams would be better in terms of the “they earned their postseason spot” argument.

As of this post, 11 of 16 spots for the postseason have been clinched, those 11 teams being the Dodgers, Rays, Twins, Padres, Athletics, Braves, White Sox, Indians, Cubs, Yankees, and Blue Jays. I will now break down some key players for the Padres that have helped them get there.

The San Diego Padres are one of four teams tied for the 4th best record in the league with 34 wins. I must admit I’ve spent 1000% more time watching the Padres this season than any other team, as I can count on one hand the number of their games I didn’t watch this season. The story of the Padres season has centered around 21 year old phenom shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., as he was pretty much the biggest story of baseball for the first month or two of the season prior to the cold stretch he is currently in. Even with his current cold streak factored in, Fernando has still hit .278 with 15 home runs, 11 stolen bases, and a .561 SLG% through 55 games this season. Third baseman Manny Machado has turned in quite the performance as of late, and is really starting to look like he’s worth the 10 year, $300m deal he was given prior to the 2019 season, as he has hit .313 with 16 home runs and a .603 SLG%. Other honorable mentions for this team are OF Wil Myers, 1B/2B/SS Jake Cronenworth, and Cy Young award candidate SP Dinelson Lamet, who have all turned in fantastic performances this season after coming into the season with perhaps much different expectations of them. On a different note, Mike Clevinger, one of the many players whom the team acquired during their busy trade deadline, has been diagnosed with a sprained right elbow, and it’s still unknown how long he will be out for. Fingers crossed he will be able to contribute for the Padres in the postseason this year. Optimism is high in San Diego for a team that hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2006.

Written By: Blake Koziel

Photo By: Denis Poroy

Breven’s Blog: MLB All-Star Snubs

The 2019 MLB All-Star starters and reserves were announced this past week for the annual Midsummer Classic. Every year, there are those that do not get in, but deserved to. They are called snubs.

Typically, there are a few snubs, but this year, there was an unprecedented amount. And they affected more than just the San Diego Padres. The Padres’ closer Kirby Yates, who has an MLB-leading 27 saves (entering July 1), was the only one who made the team. This means no Fernando Tatis Jr., no Manny Machado, no Eric Hosmer and no Hunter Renfroe.

Even if Fernando Tatis Jr. missed a month due to injury, he changes the hometown team from good to great. He does it all. Speed. Strength. Power. Awareness. Energy. The energy that he brings to his teammates, his coaches, the fans and to this organization is electrifying and attracts people to watching him and this team play. Even MLB Network Insider Ken Rosenthal said Tatis Jr. is an All Star, while CBS Sports has called him “special.”

In his first year, Tatis already has a 3.0 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), has scored from third base on a fly ball to the second baseman and scored from first on a single to right, and he became the first rookie shortstop since Nomar Garciaparra to record ten home runs and ten stolen bases before the All-Star Break. These are remarkable achievements in baseball, and it is unfortunate that his talent (including the other Padres that did not return) cannot be seen to the rest of the sport.   

Throughout MLB, there were snubs all across the league.  

In the National League, one of the biggest names besides Machado to not make the team is Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper, who signed a 330 million dollar contract this past winter. 

There is also Los Angeles Dodgers’ infielder Max Muncy, who hit a walk-off homerun in Game 3 of last year’s World Series. Muncy is tied sixth in the NL in WAR and 18 of the top 21 position players made the roster. 

Furthermore, Milwaukee Brewers’ starting pitcher Brandon Woodruff did not make the team and his numbers are one of the best so far in 2019. Woodruff leads the National League in wins with ten and is also in the top spot in WHIP (Walks plus hits divided by innings pitched) with a whopping 1.14. 

The American League is much of the same, whether a team is in a big-market city or not. 

That includes the New York Yankees. First Baseman Luke Voit, who suffered an abdominal injury last weekend during the London Series, was one of the biggest snubs on the American League side. Voit was outlasted by Chicago White Sox’s Jose Abreu and Seattle Mariners’ Dan Vogelbach. What makes this surprising from this is that Abreu is one of three White Sox (pitcher Lucas Giolito and catcher James McCann) to make the team, despite only having a 39-42 record. 

A couple other snubs comes at the shortstop position with Boston Red Sox’s Xander Bogaerts and Yankees’ Gleyber Torres. Both players are hitting over .290, getting on base more than 36% of the time and slugging at least 54%. Torres, along with Voit, were playing and not one to get hurt, like most of their teammates.  

The Minnesota Twins, one of baseball’s surprises in 2019 with a 53-30 record have two All-Stars.  

That was starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi and shortstop Jorge Polanco. However, a couple others from the team had the potential to also be on the team. One of those is outfielder Max Kepler. He already has a career-high 21 home runs. 

It is surprising that the Twins, who are in first place of the AL Central by eight games to the Cleveland Indians, the host team, and 13 games to the Chicago White Sox, only have two players going, but the Indians and White Sox each have three members.  

Even though the reserves were announced this past Sunday, players that had already received the invitation, have the option to decline and not participate in the game for any reason (injury, personal, etc.). Most likely, a couple of players from each side will back out opening it up for some of these players to make a dream turn to reality and be a part of a showcase with the game’s best players. 

Written by: Breven Honda

Breven’s Blog: Reflecting on the Life of Tony Gwynn

Tony Gwynn swinging a bat

Sunday was not just Father’s Day for Tony Gwynn Jr. That day marked five years since the passing of his Dad, Anthony Keith Gwynn, a legend in San Diego.

Gwynn came to SDSU on an unpredictable basketball scholarship, but once his basketball coach let him play baseball, he would be lights out both on the hardwood and on the diamond. The Long Beach native was a star point guard and still hold the records for most assists in a season (221), assists per game (8.2) and in a career (590). In Gwynn’s final game as an Aztec basketball player, he would have a career game, posting 16 points and 16 assists against New Mexico in 1981.

Although he came to SDSU as a basketball player at Montezuma Mesa, he still wanted to contribute to the Aztec baseball team. When he got the OK to play baseball from former SDSU basketball head coach Tim Vezie in his sophomore year, he became a two-time All-American. He would go on to play with teammates that would go on to play or partake some role in Major League Baseball (MLB), including MLB umpire Kerwin Danley (Gwynn’s roommate at SDSU), former pitcher and Colorado Rockies Manager Bud Black, former player and coach Bobby Meacham, and former player and two-time World Series Champion Al Newman. Gwynn received Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year honors in both basketball and baseball, making him the only athlete in WAC history to accomplish that feat.

Before professional sports were a televised event, Gwynn was able to accomplish things that only few people have ever achieved.

In June of 1981, Gwynn would get drafted by the then-San Diego Clippers (now Los Angeles Clippers) and the San Diego Padres on the same day. Gwynn would choose to stay in San Diego and play for the Padres. He would make his debut one year later in July of 1982 and from that moment on, he would wear the brown and gold, the blue and orange and the pinstripes up until his final season in 2001.

For 20 seasons, Gwynn was known for his hitting, but during his first slump he started a trend – video. In 1983, he was in a slump and asked his wife to get a camera to film his at-bats. From then on, he would never have a slump like what he went through and it was the beginning of video in the game of baseball. With Gwynn initiating the aspect of film in the sport (in terms of looking back and studying the video), people would call him “Captain Video.” Gwynn would finish his 1983 season with a batting average .309 and for the next 18 years of his career, he would never hit below .300. In 1984, it was a great year for the Padres and Gwynn himself. He would go to his first All-Star Game, win his first batting title and go to his first World Series.

As Gwynn would continue to go to All-Star Games, he would also win batting titles, Silver Sluggers and receive Gold Gloves.

When the 1990s came around, he would continue to get better by talking to retired players, such as Hall of Famers Joe Morgan and Ted Williams. After his conversations with both of them, his best year were on the horizon. From 1994 to 1997, he led the National League in hits three times, won four batting titles, went to four All-Star games and only struck out 79 times in those four years. And in those four years, he had a slash line of .371 (batting average)/.415 (on base percentage)/.511 (slugging percentage), an ideal spot for hitters, the iconic .300/.400/.500 line. His batting average would also include getting a chance at hitting .400 in 1994, the closest anyone has accomplished that feat since Williams hit .406 in 1941. Gwynn would finish with a .394 batting average in a shortened-season due to a strike.

In 1998, Gwynn and Padres would have another magical run in the postseason, like what they through in 1984.

They would win 98 games and the division, beat future Hall of Famers like Randy Johnson from the Houston Astros, who won 102 games in the NL Division Series. Then, they outlasted the Hall of Fame trio of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz from the Atlanta Braves, who won 106 games to get to the World Series and face a New York Yankees team that won 114 games during the regular season. At the end of the 2001 season, Gwynn would call it a career as he would finish with a .338 lifetime batting average, record 3,141 hits, go to 15 All-Star games, win five Gold Gloves, seven Silver Sluggers, and eight batting titles. Another thing he also won was respect; respect from players, coaches, fans and the media from around Major League Baseball because of the humbleness and person that he was, more than a baseball player.

Gwynn’s favorite memory came from the postseason and that was hitting a home run at (old) Yankee Stadium in Game One of the World Series. He cared about his family; he wanted to stay in America’s Finest City and not be traded or take a new contract in a different city. He spent his career in one town for an entire career, was a part of two World Series teams and will forever known as “Mr. Padre.” After Gwynn finished his baseball career, he would continue being on the field by coming back to Montezuma Mesa to be the head coach of the Aztec baseball team beginning in 2002.

In 2007, he would be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. by getting 97.6% of the ballot.

Gwynn will forever be known as “Mr. Padre” and an Aztec For Life. Ever since he came to San Diego in 1977, he never wanted to leave the city and the fans never wanted him to leave. It was the bond that he was able to create with players, coaches, fans and the media that made him stand out. June 16 has been a day to never forget Tony Gwynn for Padre fans, Aztec fans, and MLB fans that admired him.

Written by: Breven Honda