The 2017 MLB Season in Review Part 1
It may seem like a long time ago, but at one point, there were in fact 30 teams vying for that championship trophy handed out just this week. 30 teams means 30 stories, and one trophy means that 29 of those stories ended in failure. Only 1 will be immortalized, but let’s do our best to recap as many of those stories as possible starting with the National League. The best way to do so is by noting what surprised me and/or many others by simultaneously reviewing my predictions given at the beginning of this year. Let us take a trip down memory lane!
National League West “The Division of Surprises”: Last year from worst to first: Padres, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Giants, Dodgers. This year: Giants, Padres, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Dodgers. The Padres were slightly better than I thought and managed to not finish in last, but their season was barely noteworthy and was over well before September rolled along.
The Dodgers, as expected, rolled to a division victory. However, they were even better than I thought with the greatest stretch I or possibly anyone has ever seen. As a result, their mark would be all over the postseason. More on that later, because now I have to talk about the three big surprises. First, the Rockies. Some saw this coming, but I was skeptical. People were talking about the additions they made to the lineup, but fewer mentioned their young pitching, which was brilliant. Many will only remember that pitching fading as the season went along and being terrible in the playoffs. But they made the playoffs on the back of that pitching and Arenado and Blackmon’s great seasons. They managed to finish 17th in the Major Leagues in pitching in the absolute worst ballpark for pitchers . That is unbelievable! The 2nd biggest surprise was the Diamondbacks who no one was talking about at the beginning of the season. I thought they were a decent team, but said that Robbie Ray and Taijuan Walker needed to take big steps forward in order for them to compete. That is exactly what happened as the Diamondbacks had a very good, underrated season. They won 93 games in the best division in baseball. They probably could have won 3 out of the 6 divisions because 93 wins was enough to win the NL Central and AL East, and they probably would have won more games in a weaker division. What I have to say was the biggest surprise in all of baseball was the San Francisco Giants who were absolutely terrible. I thought there might be some regression as the team was declining from their dynasty years, but they completely fell apart. Melancon was awful, which meant their bullpen was just as bad as last year, but their offense was a lot worse and Bumgarner getting hurt dirt biking killed their rotation. To sum it up, they were terrible.
NL Central “The Division of Mediocrity”: Last year’s standings: Reds, Brewers, Pirates, Cardinals, Cubs. This year’s standings: Reds, Pirates, Cardinals, Brewers, Cubs. The Reds were awful – still no pitching as I thought. The Pirates are in fact heading in the wrong direction as I suspected, and were even worse than I thought. The Cardinals did not bounce back as well as I thought they might, and missed the playoffs. I missed that prediction, but I don’t count it as a big surprise because many did not like them. The second biggest surprise in this division was the Cubs who played uninspired baseball all year long. I thought there would be a regression, and it was a little worse than I thought. They simply coasted all year long and relied on the fact that they had more talent, and could still win games without the motivation they had last year. They contributed to this division mediocrity because they never took command, and were actually trailing the division’s biggest surprise for most of the year. My apologies to the Brewers who were supposedly “nowhere near contending” as some clown of a writer wrote earlier this year. They showed off their young talent, but still did not have enough to make it to the postseason despite giving the Cubs and Rockies a run for their money. They got off to a good start, but were only able to play .500 baseball for most of the year. Their mediocre play along with the Cardinals’ and Cubs’ mediocre play gave this division the moniker – “The Division of Mediocrity”.
NL East “The Worst Division in Baseball”: Last year: Phillies, Braves, Marlins, Mets, Nationals. This year: Phillies, Mets, Braves, Marlins, Nationals. The Phillies, Braves and Marlins were all not surprisingly bad. I said the Phillies would be somewhere between bad and terrible. They were pretty terrible for most of the year. The Braves were actually worse than I thought they would be and still appear to be a couple years away from making an entrance into the competition because their pitching is a big question mark. Pitchers like Bartolo Colon and Jaime Garcia did not get the job done for them this year. By the way, has there ever been a worse defensive outfielder than Matt Kemp? Every ball hit to him is a double. The Marlins were also worse than I thought despite a herculean effort by Giancarlo Stanton in August in what would have been a riveting race to 61 if not for PED cheaters. The loss of Jose Fernandez clearly has set that franchise back. The only surprises with the Nationals were that they did not find a way to underachieve in an odd year and that they won the division in July (if not earlier). They were in cruise control for a ridiculously long time as the only good team in the division. Now for the 3rd biggest surprise in all of baseball and the worst pick I made before the season. The New York Mets were just terrible. They were so reliant on their starting pitching and it failed them. Harvey was just bad; Syndergaard and Matz were not healthy; and Lugo and Gsellman were much worse than they were last year. Their lineup continued to be inconsistent and had injuries as well. But their season really feel apart when Jeurys Familia went down, and the unstable bullpen blew several leads in what became a 7-game losing streak. It was their only losing streak before they traded away their veteran position players at the trading deadline. It was all over after that as they were on their way to a 92-loss season.
The National League Playoffs “Dodger Domination”:
Wildcard game: Rockies at Diamondbacks
Two very good offenses dominated pitchers who we thought were good. To the Rockies credit, they would not go down easily. But Archie Bradley amazingly had the crushing below. The relief pitcher had a huge triple at the end of the game, which allowed the Diamondbacks to slug their way to an 11-8 victory.
Diamondbacks at Dodgers:
I really thought that the Diamondbacks had a shot with their strong lineup that was on a roll, but their starting pitching fared much worse than expected. The Dodgers easily disposed of them in 3 games.
Cubs at Nationals:
One of the best series in what was a great postseason. Both offenses struggled and just when the Nationals seemed to break out of in game 4, so did the Cubs in game 5. Ultimately, the bullpen was the Nationals’ demise, despite their regular season additions, as I predicted. Of course, that is misleading because starting pitcher Max Scherzer was pitching out of the bullpen and was the biggest culprit. So ultimately, the Cubs came out on top in 5 games, but that will be forgotten because of the NLCS.
NLCS: Cubs at Dodgers
Just as they did in the regular season, the Dodgers cruised through the National League playoffs. The 2017 version of the Cubs was no match for the Dodgers. There were only 2 close games, 1 of which was the 1 game the Cubs won. The first three games featured a once again silent Cubs offense before great pitching performances from Jake Arrieta and company gave them the game 4 victory. But if there was any thought of a miracle comeback, that was quickly erased by Kiki Hernandez’s three homerun performance and an 11-1 Dodger victory in game 5.