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: 2019 Summer Recap

Panoramic view of Petco Park in East Village with a sunset backdrop

What a long and eventful summer it has been for San Diego’s sports teams. Let’s run it back.

It all began with San Diego State pole vaulter Bonnie Draxler finishing her Aztec career on a high note with a silver medal at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. 

Another Aztec made headlines the following week. Men’s Basketball player Jalen McDaniels was drafted in the second round by the Charlotte Hornets.

Former Aztec Kawhi Leonard won his second NBA championship and NBA Finals MVP with the Toronto Raptors as they beat the Golden State Warriors in six games. One month later, he joined Paul George and signed with the Los Angeles Clippers. 

The San Diego Padres continued to build hype with the duo of Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. on the left side of the infield. Tatis Jr. impressed fans, coaches, and media personnel with his acrobatic plays both at shortstop and on the base paths. However, the Padres lost Tatis Jr. to injury last week and he might be done for the season. Padres’ fans and members of the organization liked the aggressiveness and tenacity he has had, thus far in 2019. Also, first baseman Eric Hosmer has continued to find his stroke and is hoping to finish the season strong. He is currently second in the National League among first baseman with 139 hits (as of Aug. 19).

The Padres traded away a clubhouse guy in Franmil Reyes for Cincinnati Reds’ top prospect Taylor Trammel before the July 31 trade deadline. The Padres’ fans will always love you, Franmil.  

Even Major League Baseball’s famous rivalry between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees took the field for the first game ever played in Europe. I appreciate how professional sports (i.e. MLB, NFL, NBA, etc) are expanding internationally as people are becoming more accepting of American sports.

In addition, the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates brought back memories to their Little League days by playing in Williamsport, Pa.

The MLB All-Star Game took place in Cleveland and Padres’ closer Kirby Yates represented the team. Although the National League did not win, Yates had the opportunity to hang out with some friends and enjoy a game with the best players in the sport.

Back to the Aztecs, men’s basketball player Nathan Mensah needs surgery to heal an injured hand. He is expected to make a full recovery before the season begins in November. 

SDSU Football is in full swing with their first game on Aug. 31 against Weber State. They have moved to a spread offense, so the formations; however, what stays the same are the plays. The spread will help the lineman know who to block faster, especially for the running backs like Juwan Washington and Chase Jasmin. 

In the world of golf, former Aztec Xander Schauffele qualified to play in one of the sport’s most historic events, the President’s Cup. He has continued to play exceptional heading into the final tournament of the year, the PGA Tour Championship, this weekend. He finished eighth in the FedEx Cup Standings. 

Although this summer is finally coming to an end, the major sports teams did not disappoint and kept fans on their toes. It was fun and I can’t wait for what the 2019-20 school year has to offer.

Written by: Breven Honda

Breven’s Blog: Tony Gwynn’s Early August Successes and Defeats

Tony Gwynn swings and hits a baseball

Early August meant a lot to Mr. Padre.

August 6 was his mother’s birthday and on that same day 26 years ago, he recorded his 2,000 career hit at Qualcomm Stadium. Six years later to the day in 1999, he would record his 3,000-hit in Montreal.

But 25 years ago, the 1994 Major League Baseball season was good and bad.

The strike ended the season (including the Montreal Expos’ franchise and Michael Jordan’s baseball career), and to add more fuel to the fire, it was the first time since 1904 that the World Series was not played. The National League, however, won the All-Star Game for the first time in six years (Gwynn scored the winning run).

In addition, the hitters did not allow the season to go into a full disappointment. For example, Gwynn had a season for the ages, as he attempted to achieve a feat that has not been accomplished since 1941 – have a .400 batting average by the final game.

The strike stopped Gwynn from accomplishing a historic feat.

August 11, 1994, was the final day of the season due to the strike and Gwynn finished six points behind a mark that has inevitably stood since San Diegan Ted Williams hit. 406 for the Boston Red Sox, 78 years ago. He missed .400 by just three hits. 

Before Gwynn passed away in 2014, the question arose: Would he have hit .400 in ’94?

With (supposedly) six weeks left in the regular season, Padres fans and those who followed Gwynn (media personnel, MLB executives, etc.) knew that nothing would stop him from achieving that feat. 

Nothing but a strike that would end the season early.  

Gwynn finished the 1994 season with a .394 batting average, 165 hits, 35 doubles, 79 runs, and (only) 19 strikeouts. He had an on-base percentage of .454 and a slugging percentage of .568. He also finished seventh in the National League MVP voting but received one of his seven Silver Sluggers that season.

The key stat that stands out, besides the batting average, is the strikeouts.

Just 19 strikeouts. Today, 19 strikeouts for a player comes within a few weeks. But Tony Gwynn was that good to put the ball in play and not go down by way of the ‘K’. 

The Hall of Famer only struck 434 times in his career and struck out three times only once during his career. Some players get to 434 strikeouts in 2.5 seasons. Never once did Gwynn strikeout to the arguably-best pitcher of his generation, Greg Maddux, which Gwynn hit .429 off him.

So the question is not just, “What if Tony Gwynn hit .400 in 1994,” but it is, “Could you imagine the season Tony Gwynn could have ended up with had the entire season been played?”

Written by: Breven Honda