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MLB Playoff Predictions: 1 Player Who Will Determine Outcome for Each Team

Normally, one player stands out as the undisputed key to a team’s championship run.

Last year, Madison Bumgarner stepped up and helped lead the San Francisco Giants to a third World Series title in five years.

Before that, David Ortiz launched a monster shot off Joaquin Benoit to help the Boston Red Sox gain momentum, surge past the Detroit Tigers and eventually win a championship.

Can someone put together a similar performance in 2015 and live in postseason lore forever?

Let’s take a look at a critical player for each playoff team.

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MLB Playoffs: Managers Who Will Be Feeling Pressure in October

Having a great manager doesn’t guarantee postseason success.

Games are still won on the field, but managers are tasked with putting players in the best position to succeed.

Bruce Bochy didn’t have a ton of success before joining the San Francisco Giants in 2007. Before arriving in San Francisco, Bochy managed the San Diego Padres for 12 seasons. 

His regular-season record was below .500, and he couldn’t guide the Padres past the National League Division Series. In four postseason appearances, Bochy’s club was 8-16, according to

The Giants didn’t make the playoffs in the first three seasons under Bochy but qualified in 2010 and turned into a dynasty. The team won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

Bochy’s decision to pull Tim Hudson in the fifth inning of Game 7 and bring in Madison Bumgarner is the perfect example of a manager pulling the right strings and putting his club in the best position to win a championship.

Here are five managers who will feel pressure to step up as a tactician and help guide his team to a World Series championship.

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Should the Detroit Tigers Bring Back Torii Hunter?

Leadership is an undervalued quality these days.

Just ask the Detroit Tigers.

It’s been a tumultuous season for a club that was expected to compete for a World Series Championship this year.

There are several reasons behind the team’s downfall: a shoddy bullpen, key injuries, little depth and a poorly constructed starting rotation.

Perhaps the biggest loss was a player the organization allowed to walk away last winter.

Torii Hunter.

Sure, he couldn’t have fixed the bullpen’s 4.52 earned run average or the rotation’s 4.80 ERA, both of which rank No. 27 overall in baseball, according to

Yet he could’ve helped solve the lingering issues that took place off the field.

Essentially, the front office chose to re-sign Victor Martinez over Hunter. After finishing second in the MVP voting in 2014 when he hit .335 with 32 home runs and 103 RBIs, the Tigers rewarded Martinez with a four-year, $68 million deal.

Former general manager Dave Dombrowski told George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press last November that there wasn’t room for both Martinez and Hunter on the 2015 squad: 

I called and said it just didn‘t look like it was going to fit the way the club was getting put together. Thanked him for everything. Absolutely love him. If something changes where we make some changes for one reason or another, that we’re not anticipating, we would still be open. It’s just probably not much of a fit right now.

Hunter opted to sign a one-year, $10.5 million deal to return to the Minnesota Twins, the organization that drafted him in the first round of the 1993 draft.

At the time of the signing, Hunter told Mike Berardino and Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press that he expected the Twins to win immediately.

“It’s just the right fit,” Hunter said. “This is home. It’s time for me to come home—to be fruitful and also to win.”

Initially, the thought of Minnesota winning in 2015 was met with laughter. The organization had lost more than 90 games in each of the past four seasons.

The club has a ton of young talent, but competing in the American League Central Division seemed a couple of years away.

After being outscored 22-1, which resulted in a three-game sweep at the hands of the Tigers to open the season, playoff aspirations didn’t seem a reality for the young club. The team bounced back and currently has a 78-74 record and sits 1.5 games out of the second wild-card spot.

Even if the Twins don’t reach the postseason, this year should be considered a tremendous success.

Manager Paul Molitor told Phil Miller of the StarTribune that Hunter’s veteran leadership is a huge reason behind Minnesota’s turnaround.

“You need guys who can lend a veil of experience, a veteran’s wisdom to your clubhouse, and Torii does all that,” Molitor said. “At the same time, he’s been able to lighten the mood when it’s necessary. … Guys respect him.”

Meanwhile, the Tigers will miss the postseason for the first time since 2010.

And they’ve had issues in the clubhouse. 

For instance, Jose Iglesias and James McCann exchanged words in the dugout during a game in early August. It appeared the rookie catcher was calling out Iglesias for a lack of effort on a key play. The words led to Iglesias shoving McCann before teammates separated the two. Afterward, Iglesias told the Associated Press that he wasn’t sorry for his actions.

“I just go by instincts, and my instincts tell me to do that,” Iglesias said. “I’m OK with it.

“I think I have a chance to make each and every play when I’m at short. There’s no doubt about it; I just try to come here and do my job. I don’t tell anybody how to play your position, so I just go out there and do my best.”

In mid-September, Victor Martinez called out fans for booing the team and told Chris McCosky of the Detroit News this season should serve as a lesson for fans.

“This is definitely a season that will teach a lesson to a lot of people,” he said. “Starting with this clubhouse, a lot of players and a lot of people in the front office. And, believe it or not, it will teach a lesson to the fans, too.”

Martinez went on to talk about the home crowd booing the Tigers in the 2014 playoffs when they returned to Detroit down 2-0 to the Baltimore Orioles in the ALDS.

“I remember,” he said. “You want to have your team in the playoffs, definitely. The fans want to win, everybody wants to win. But nobody wants to win more than we do. When we play at home, we want them behind us.

“Last year was tough. We came home down 2-0 and the fans were really hard. Now they won’t be angry. There’s no October baseball. That’s why I say this season will be a lesson to a lot of people.”

Finally, the organization announced it was sending relief pitcher Bruce Rondon home due to “effort issues” earlier this week.

“Bruce Rondon, because of his effort level, has been sent home,” Tigers head coach Brad Ausmus told McCosky. “And other than saying that [general manager] Al Avila and myself completely agreed on it, there will be no other details or comment.”

It’s clear that Rondon’s antics were irritating teammates. Fellow reliever Alex Wilson told McCosky that Rondon quit on the team.

“It’s kind of an unwritten rule, you never quit on your teammates and when you quit on yourself, you kind of quit on your teammates,” Wilson said. “From a clubhouse standpoint, it’s probably better to let him go on home and try to figure things out a little bit.”

It’s hard to remember a situation in recent years with this many incidents inside Detroit’s clubhouse.

This raises the question: Would this type of behavior occur if Hunter were still a member of the Tigers?

At least one current player doesn’t believe so. Nick Castellanos told Matt Dery of Detroit Sports 105.1 that Hunter would have taken care of Rondon‘s situation before anyone got wind of it:

I think it wouldn’t have escalated as it did. I feel like as soon as Torii somewhat disagreed with it, he would’ve made sure he took care of the problem immediately. That’s why you can’t put a value number on clubhouse leadership because it’s so important. Torii’s presence in the clubhouse is more valuable than his play on the field almost.

Even Ausmus recently told that the team missed Hunter’s leadership.

“It’s hard to quantify it. I think Torii was huge last year in the clubhouse. I think we do miss it somewhat,” Ausmus said.

On the field, Hunter is still a solid player. At 40 years old, his defense is a liability, but he can still play an important role in the lineup.

In two seasons with Detroit, Hunter hit .295 and averaged 17 home runs and 83.5 RBIs. His average has taken a large hit in Minnesota (.245), but he’s hit 22 home runs and 76 RBIs this year.

Will the Tigers bring the soon-to-be free agent back? It’s doubtful. Yet it’s ridiculous that Detroit’s clubhouse has become such a mess in less than a year since Hunter’s departure.


The team has to bring in veteran leadership this offseason.

It begins with the coaching staff. The team will likely pursue an experienced manager such as Ron Gardenhire to guide this group.

With so many holes to fill, bringing back Hunter for a year makes sense. The move would shift J.D. Martinez back to right field, but it would allow the organization to focus its major spending on the rotation and bullpen rather than jumping in a bidding war for a top-flight outfielder.

Fixing the chaos in the clubhouse should be the No. 1 priority going forward.

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Kansas City Royals’ World Series Hopes Rest on Johnny Cueto

A strong starting rotation is normally a necessity for any team with hopes of winning the World Series. Just ask the San Francisco Giants, who rode Madison Bumgarner to the 2014 World Series championship.

Bumgarner was terrific in both of his starts and returned as a reliever in Game 7 on just two days’ rest to throw five scoreless innings and help the Giants win their third title in five years.

The team that watched Bumgarner and his teammates celebrate from the losing dugout were the Kansas City Royals.

The Royals came close to winning their first championship since 1985 with strong defense and an electric bullpen, but their starting pitching left a lot to be desired.

Fast forward a little less than a year later, and the Royals have a commanding lead in the American League Central Division and have the second-best record in baseball. In July, the front office shocked the baseball world when they pulled off a trade for Johnny Cueto from the Cincinnati Reds.

The club gave up a trio of prospects for the pending free agent. The move was made with the expectation that Cueto would provide the team with something it lacked during its 2014 postseason run: an ace to anchor the rotation.

To this point, he’s been a total flop in a Kansas City uniform. It’s critical for the right-hander to figure things out because he’s an integral piece if the Royals hope to win a World Series championship.


What’s wrong with Johnny?

The Royals need Cueto to pitch the way he did before he was dealt to Kansas City. In 19 starts with the Reds, the righty had a 2.62 ERA with 120 strikeouts and a 0.934 WHIP in 130.2 innings pitched. Since the trade, the 29-year-old is 2-6 with a 5.43 ERA and 1.420 WHIP in nine starts, according to Baseball Reference.

Things have gotten worse as of late. As Fox Sports indicates, Cueto has struggled mightily in his last five starts. He’s 0-5 with a 9.57 ERA and a 1.97 WHIP while serving up eight home runs.

He was acquired to finally give the Royals a top front-line starter, but he’s in danger of pitching himself out of the team’s postseason rotation.

The organization insists it isn’t a health issue, and trainer Nick Kenney tells Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star that Cueto is working hard to figure things out.

“This guy’s never come off the mound,” Kenney told McCullough. “He’s never skipped a bullpen. He’s never done any of that stuff. And all you do is you work with him on a daily basis. We put our hands on him each and every day. There’s been no indication, in regards to the work that’s we’ve done with him, that shows us that he is.”

ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted out a video of the Baseball Tonight analysts discussing Cueto’s recent struggles. They point out that Cueto’s location is the source of his issues. The analysts questioned whether or not Cueto will start Game 1 of the American League Division Series if he doesn’t bounce back quickly, but Tim Kurkjian said that the club’s other options aren’t much better.

As the video shows, the entire rotation has been putrid in September. They have a combined 6.50 ERA, according to Baseball Tonight. Kansas City lost eight of its past 11 games.

Here’s a look at the starters’ ERAs this month:

  • Cueto: 9.39 ERA
  • Yordano Ventura: 4.50 ERA
  • Edinson Volquez: 7.20 ERA
  • Kris Medlen: 6.94 ERA
  • Danny Duffy: 4.50 ERA

Despite acquiring Cueto, the team’s starting pitching is even worse than it was in 2014. The club’s ERA among starters was 3.60 in 2014, and they averaged 6.08 innings. Currently, the Royals rank No. 21 in Major League Baseball with a 4.40 ERA and average just 5.65 innings per start, according to Fan Graphs.

As Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets, the Royals have a tough decision to make if Cueto’s struggles ensue over the next couple of weeks.

If the Royals can’t figure out his issues, the team won’t make it far in the playoffs even with a deep bullpen and strong defense.


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MLB Playoff Picture: What Twitter Is Saying About Slumping and Surging Teams

This has to be what general manager Sandy Alderson envisioned when he acquired Yoenis Cespedes at the trade deadline.

Adding a big bat to the middle of the New York Mets lineup was necessary if the club seriously hoped to contend for the playoffs. The addition of Cespedes transformed the Mets from possible playoff team to World Series contender.

The Cuban outfielder is one of the hottest hitters in baseball at the moment and has helped give the Mets a seven-game lead in the National League East.

On July 31, the Mets sat just three games above .500 and trailed the Washington Nationals by two games in the division. The team is 25-11 since the trade and just finished a three-game sweep of second-place Washington.

Since the Detroit Tigers shipped the outfielder to New York, Cespedes is hitting .312 with 14 home runs and 36 RBIs in 36 games, according to

Kelly Johnson told Anthony DiComo and Bill Ladson on that seeing a player get on this type of hot streak is fun to watch.

“When guys with this much talent get on these kinds of rolls, it’s unbelievable,” Johnson said. “It’s so much fun to watch. It really does kind of remind you of some throwback player, like your dad used to tell you about Clemente or Mantle.”

Richard Justice of notes that Cespedes turned the Mets offense into a powerhouse.

“The Mets were the lowest-scoring team in baseball before getting Cespedes. Since then, they’re the highest-scoring team. In New York’s first 103 games, the team scored 365 runs and averaged 3.54 per game. In their past 36 games, the Mets have scored 221 runs and averaged 6.14.” Justice writes.

Cespedes is turning a career year into an MVP-caliber season. He’s hitting .298 with 32 home runs and 97 RBIs in 138 games with the Tigers and Mets, according to Teammate David Wright told Maria Guardado of that Cespedes deserves consideration for the NL MVP Award.

“I’m not sure how that works, but he should be in discussion for the National League MVP,” Wright told Guardado. “I mean it’s impressive. He’s been a big-time run producer for us. It just seems like those big situations find him and more often than not, he comes through.”

There is plenty of excitement among the fanbase and some believe the team is going to win the World Series this year.

The 29-year-old’s performance has helped skyrocket expectations for this group. After the three-game sweep of the Nationals, manager Terry Collins told DiComo and Ladson this isn’t just a hot streak.

“We’re legitimate,” Collins said. “This is not a fluke.”


Season fading

Things aren’t going so well for the Nationals.

The club entered 2015 with World Series aspirations after the front office signed starting pitcher Max Scherzer to a seven-year, $210 million deal.

Washington is 17-21 since the trade deadline and its playoff hopes are nearly extinguished. The team’s two-game division lead at the deadline has turned into a seven-game deficit as mid-September nears. The Nationals trail the second wild-card spot by 9.5 games.

Shortstop Ian Desmond told DiComo and Ladson that the three-game sweep by the Mets was disastrous.

“It’s pretty devastating,” Desmond said. “We put ourselves in a good position coming into this series. We were a lot more optimistic coming into this series than exiting it. Is it over? No. Until the numbers tell you it’s over, it’s not over. We still have jobs to do. We prepare for tomorrow and try to put our best foot forward tomorrow.”

One of the bigger problems for the Nationals is their slumping ace. After recording a 2.11 ERA in the first half of the season, Scherzer has a 5.12 ERA in the second. The team has lost 10 of his last 13 starts, according to ESPN.

Scherzer gave Deron Snyder of the Washington Times a clue as to why he’s struggling.

“I’m leaving the ball thigh-high instead of getting the ball to the knees,” Scherzer told Snyder after a recent start. “That’s something that’s been symptomatic in the second half. I have to get the ball back down to knee level. That’s what’s going to keep me up late tonight, figuring out how I’m going to do that.”

Fans have voiced their frustrations with the team on Twitter.

One of the bright spots for the Nationals in an otherwise puzzling season is Bryce Harper, who is an MVP candidate himself. He’s hitting .336 with 36 home runs and 85 RBIs in 132 games, according to

Despite the club’s postseason dreams fading, Harper told James Wagner of the Washington Post that players can’t get too down on themselves.

“We just got to keep rolling,” Harper said. “Keep trying to play games. Keep having fun and enjoy the season. Really just come in every single day with a plan to win ballgames. Just gotta grind it out to the end, and when it’s over it’s over.”

New York has the pitching to win in the playoffs, but can this offensive hot streak last through September and into October? The Mets need Cespedes to continue slugging like one of the best hitters in baseball if they hope to hoist a World Series championship.

The Nationals should start looking ahead to 2016 because losing three straight to the Mets was a dagger. It’s tough to waste a strong season by Harper, but getting Scherzer back on track as well as others should be a point of emphasis. The team has enough talent to contend in 2016, but a managerial change should be on the horizon. 


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Indians at Tigers Live Blog: Instant Reactions and Analysis

The Detroit Tigers had no answers for Josh Tomlin.

The right-hander threw a complete game and gave up one run on four hits to lead the Cleveland Indians to an 8-1 victory.

The only knock on Tomlin came in the sixth inning when he gave up a leadoff double to Dixon Machado. After retiring the next two hitters, he gave up an RBI single to Miguel Cabrera.

Jerry Sands led Cleveland’s offensive outburst and put the Indians on the board with a two-run home run in the third inning. The 27-year-old started a four-run fifth inning with a triple and finished the game 2-4.

For the Tigers, starting pitcher Kyle Lobstein gave up six earned runs on eight hits and lasted just 4.1 innings. The left-hander became the third consecutive starting pitcher who couldn’t make it through five innings for Detroit.

Thanks for following our live updates and analysis.

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Detroit Tigers at Kansas City Royals Live Blog: Instant Reactions and Analysis

Justin Verlander led the Detroit Tigers to a 6-5 victory over the Kansas City Royals. The right-hander gave up four runs (two earned) on seven hits in 6.2 innings.

The win gave the 32-year-old the 20th victory of his career against the Royals.

For Kansas City, Johnny Cueto’s struggles continued. It became apparent early that Cueto’s command was off and the Tigers’ offense jumped on his mistakes. The ace gave up four earned runs on nine hits in six innings of work.

The Royals were able to put the tying run in scoring position in the ninth inning, but Bruce Rondon shut down the rally and earned the save.

For the Tigers, Miguel Cabrera is swinging a hot bat and went 2-for-5 with an RBI. He has a .359 batting average and seems likely to win his fourth American League batting title (2011-13).

Thanks for following our live updates and analysis.

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MLB Playoff Picture: How Injuries Might Affect Postseason Standings

As Major League Baseball’s 2015 season winds down, injuries have a chance to affect the postseason standings.

Some clubs are counting on potential returns to spark their postseason push, while others face the reality of what a devastating injury means to their chances.

Can the New York Yankees capture the American League East if Mark Teixeira lands on the disabled list? Will Denard Span’s return give the struggling Washington Nationals a lift in the National League East?

Let’s take a look at a major injury from one team in each division and examine what it means for that particular club’s playoff hopes.


AL East

New York Yankees

The division race between the Yankees and the Toronto Blue Jays is the tightest in baseball. The Yankees lead the surging Blue Jays by one game.

Inconsistency has plagued the Yankees in August. The club is 5-5 in its last 10 games, but the offense put up 16 combined runs in back-to-back wins over the Minnesota Twins in a recent series.

The biggest question mark moving forward is the health of Teixeira. The All-Star first baseman fouled a ball off his leg and had to be removed from Monday’s game. 

Manager Joe Girardi told Mike Rose of Newsday that the injury is a bone bruise.

“He’s got a pretty good bone bruise,” Girardi said on Wednesday.

Rose noted that it doesn’t appear Teixeira can play through it.

“Girardi added that Teixeira is ‘not a whole lot better’ and couldn’t even pinch hit Wednesday if needed.”

Girardi told Chad Jennings of The LoHud Yankees blog that a trip to the DL isn’t out of the question.

It’s concerning. I was concerned when he did it right away because of where it hit. Forget the padding that you put on, but there’s no padding when you hit it off your shin. That’s straight bone. I was concerned last night.

Losing Teixeira for an extended period of time isn’t good for the team’s hopes of capturing a division title. The slugging first baseman leads the club with 31 home runs and 79 RBI.

With the Yankees playing the Blue Jays seven more times in September, getting Teixeira back quickly is important. The Blue Jays and Yankees have the No. 1- and No. 2-ranked offenses in baseball according to ESPN.

With Teixeira, the Yankees would have a tough time holding off the new-look Blue Jays. The club was swept by the Blue Jays in early August and was limited to just one run in three games. Add in that the Blue Jays are relatively healthy and on an 11-3 tear in August.

Without him, it’s difficult to imagine the Yankees winning enough games to capture the division title.


AL Central

Minnesota Twins

The AL Central race is essentially over. 

The second-place Twins trail the Kansas City Royals by 13.5 games, but the second wild-card spot is within reach.

The Twins trail by three games, but injuries are beginning to take a toll. The biggest question mark for the club entering 2015 was pitching. The Twins lost their best reliever and arguably their best starting pitcher in recent days.

Glen Perkins is dealing with a neck injury that’s reportedly been bothering the closer for nearly two months.

Derek Wetmore of 1500 ESPN reports that Perkins is scheduled to receive a cortisone shot in his neck prior to Wednesday’s game. 

He’s struggled recently and has allowed eight runs in his last nine appearances.

Phil Hughes landed on the 15-day DL with lower-back pain. 

The right-hander was pulled from his last start with the injury after giving up seven runs on nine hits in just three innings of work on Sunday.

Manager Paul Molitor told ESPN that he wasn’t aware of any discomfort prior to Hughes’ start.

“Quite transparently, I knew nothing,” said manager Paul Molitor. “And I don’t think that anybody thought anything was going on until he got out there on Tuesday.”

If the Twins hope to continue their postseason push, the pitching staff needs to step up. Rookie Tyler Duffey and reliever Trevor May are being promoted to the starting rotation and need to provide the Twins with solid performances. 

Even though the pitching staff improved immensely this season, the loss of Hughes and Perkins seems too much to overcome.


AL West

Houston Astros

The Astros are enjoying their best season in a decade.

There’s still plenty of work to do as the Los Angeles Angels trail by just 2.5 games. 

The offense has struggled over the Astros’ last 10 games and averages just 2.7 runs during that span. The club went 4-6 during that stretch.

Help is on the way in the form of George Springer. The outfielder has been on the DL since early July with a fractured wrist. 

According to Brian McTaggart of, Springer played catch on Tuesday and is progressing in his rehab.

Springer told Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle that he’s nearing a rehabilitation assignment.

I didn’t really know what to do, to be honest with you. I prepared myself for no and yes. I got told yes and it was just kind of a relief. It’s obviously been hard these last six weeks to not be able to play out there with these guys. I’m almost there.

The right fielder could return in late August or early September. His presence gives the Astros a powerful bat in their lineup. Houston leads the league in home runs and Springer offers another threat in that department. 

With seven games remaining against the Angels, Springer will likely be available for all of them if he continues progressing. With the way Houston is pitching and the offensive boost it will receive with Springer, the club should make the postseason.


NL East

Washington Nationals

The Nationals have slumped to become a .500 baseball team. The club is 4.5 games behind the New York Mets in the NL East.

The offense continues to sputter without Span. The Nationals’ .248 batting average is six points below league average. Before Tuesday’s 15-6 win over the Colorado Rockies, the club lost six games in a row and showed no signs of busting out of its slump.

Span has been sidelined with a back injury since early July. He’s been on a rehab assignment with the organization’s minor league affiliates and could return in late August.

Before the injury, Span hit .304 with five home runs for the Nationals. 

Span told Fox Sports that he felt good following his latest rehab game.

I haven’t sprinted like that or reacted like that to a ball in a month, so it felt good considering I haven’t done anything like that in a month. My legs felt a little like Jell-O because I haven’t played in awhile. … But overall, a good day.

His return could provide the Nationals a spark. With Span, the Nationals are 35-24 but just 23-35 without the outfielder.

The team’s morale is low, but the Nationals still have a ton of talent, and the return of a key player can help turn things around. The club has struggled finding an ideal leadoff hitter during Span’s absence, but his return will solve those issues while helping to raise the team’s low batting average.

With the type of talent that’s on the roster, it wouldn’t be surprising if Span’s return sparks a September charge.


NL Central

Pittsburgh Pirates

It’s unlikely the Pirates will catch the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals, but the club continues trying to strengthen its grip on a wild-card spot.

The team boasts one of the best rotations in baseball and should benefit from the return of A.J. Burnett. The Pirates have the third-best ERA in the majors at 3.21.

Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports that manager Clint Hurdle says that Burnett is feeling well and could return to the mound soon.

The 38-year-old has a 3.06 ERA in 21 starts. 

His return should boost an already superb rotation and give the Pirates an opportunity to win ballgames in the postseason.


NL West

San Francisco Giants

The Giants aren’t healthy. 

The club has multiple players missing from its starting rotation and lineup. The biggest might be Mike Leake, who the Giants acquired at the trade deadline this year.

Leake is dealing with a hamstring strain that’s cost him his last three starts. He was expected to rejoin the rotation on Tuesday, but soreness continues to keep him on the DL and he’s listed as day-to-day.

Alex Pavlovic of reports that the club’s plan is to have him return this weekend against the Pirates.

“Each day it gets better,” Leake told Pavlovic. “It’s just not ready. You can only go as fast as your body lets you.”

Outfielder Hunter Pence was placed on the DL on Tuesday with a moderate oblique strain according to Pavlovic. He’s expected to miss a few weeks with the injury.

One could throw a dart at a list of names and find an injured player that’s important for the Giants’ postseason push. Yet Leake was acquired at the deadline in hopes of solidifying the rotation. The organization gave up young prospects for the pending free agent to help the club down the stretch. 

The Giants trail the Los Angeles Dodgers by two games and the final wild-card spot by three games. The return of Leake, among others, gives the Giants a strong chance of pushing past the Dodgers for the NL West title.


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Detroit Tigers’ Dave Dombrowski Puts Club in Position to Compete in 2016

This is unfamiliar terrain for the Detroit Tigers.

The club has enjoyed a smooth ride for nearly a decade. From 2006-14, the Tigers averaged nearly 88 wins per season, captured four Central Division championships and made two World Series appearances.

It’s been a different narrative in 2015.

After jumping out to a scorching 12-3 record to start the season, the seemingly effortless ride has been derailed by pothole after pothole. Calling the Tigers’ season a struggle is an understatement. It’s been a disastrous journey for a team with World Series expectations.

Prior to the trade deadline, the road ahead was foggy. The club was bogged down by expensive contracts, aging veterans, a poor farm system and more questions than answers. After necessary maneuvering, the organization seems poised to travel less bumpy roads in 2016 and beyond.

General manager Dave Dombrowski was at a crossroads. The long-time executive was in a difficult position. On one hand, his club sat just 3.5 games behind the second wild-card spot and hardly out of the playoff race. On the other hand, the Tigers hadn’t put together a three-game win streak since early June and continued to struggle against the American League’s bottom feeders.

Dombrowski continued to wait.

Just four days before the deadline, his club sat four games under .500, trailed the Kansas City Royals by double digits in the standings and just got blown out by the Tampa Bay Rays in a game started by David Price.

A decision was needed. Buy or sell?

With owner Mike Ilitch desperate to bring a World Series title to Detroit and Dombrowski operating on an expiring contract, it would’ve been easy to try to salvage a fading season by further depleting an already-vacant farm system and attempt to win as many games as possible.

Multiple news outlets reported the organization was leaning toward making a push for the 2015 postseason.

Three days before the deadline, Jayson Stark of ESPN tweeted out that other teams were told the Tigers weren’t selling.

Still, Dombrowski realized his club was riding on a flat tire with no spare in the trunk. Acknowledging the Tigers’ season was over before the calendar flipped to August was a tough sell. Waving the white flag wasn’t easy for an organization with a heavy payroll.

Yet it became evident things weren’t turning around. The team is plagued by inconsistent offense and mediocre pitching. The Tigers fearsome lineup has a knack for hitting into double plays and stranding baserunners. According to, the bullpen and starting rotation rank among the worst in baseball with a 4.30 ERA and 4.45 ERA, respectively.

Unlike some teams currently in the wild-card chase, simply qualifying for the playoffs isn’t the Tigers’ goal. The organization’s sole focus is winning a World Series championship.

Dombrowski told Chris McCosky of The Detroit News that his decision to sell stemmed from his belief the Tigers weren’t equipped to challenge for a World Series title this year.

We’ve won the division four years in a row but, however you would like to say it, unless you are in a position to win a world championship—that’s where we are at this time. In my heart, I didn’t think we were there with the club.

The Tigers’ trade chest was stacked with tremendous pieces to sell: David Price, Yoenis Cespedes and Joakim Soria. The three represented arguably the best starter, hitter and reliever available on the trade market.

With Price, there was no indication a contract extension was imminent and most analysts expected him to join a different organization in the winter. With playoff hopes dim, the Tigers couldn’t afford letting a premier pitcher walk away for nothing more than a compensatory draft pick.

The fear of losing Price to free agency was confirmed by Dombrowski when he told Chris Iott of MLive Media Group that negotiations were far apart.

We like David. We said we wouldn’t discuss it publicly as far as dollars. But we did approach him at that point. It just was not really where we wanted to go from a financial perspective.

Less than 24 hours after informing other teams that Price was on the market, Dombrowski agreed to a deal that sent the left-hander to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd and Jairo Labourt.

The trio represents a major haul for Dombrowski, especially Norris, who ranked as the Blue Jays’ top prospect by Baseball America.

Next, the front office flipped Soria to the Pittsburgh Pirates for shortstop JaCoby Jones. Then, minutes before the deadline, Dombrowski sent Cespedes to the New York Mets in exchange for Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa.

All six prospects immediately filled the Tigers’ top 15 list by MLB Pipeline.

The Tigers received favorable reviews from most media outlets with Jim Bowden of ESPN leading the praise for Dombrowski.

Daniel Norris and Michael Fulmer are can’t-miss rotation starters, while Matt Boyd, Jairo Labourt and Luis Cessa all have good arms. Taking advantage of the Pirates’ minor league depth at shortstop to grab JaCoby Jones was also a shrewd move.

With $110 million invested in just five players for 2016, adding young, inexpensive talent was necessary. Norris, Fulmer and Boyd are expected to compete for rotation spots next season, while Labourt and Cessa project as bullpen arms.

Dombrowski told Iott the trades put the organization in a better position moving forward.

We have traded so many guys in the past. Ideally, you don’t want to be in this position, but based on where we were, we think this gives us an influx of guys who can help us going into next year. It puts us in a good spot going into next year.

The departure of its soon-to-be free agents gives the Tigers an estimated $46 million in payroll flexibility heading into the offseason.

Adding a veteran starter and bullpen arms are the top items on Dombrowski’s to-do list. He confirmed to Iott the organization is still committed to winning in 2016.

Our starting pitching will need to be addressed in the wintertime. But I assure you that our goal going into next year will be to try to win a world championship.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweeted the club is expected to pursue Cespedes on the free-agent market and the interest is mutual.

A few potential impact free-agent signingsmixed with the recent youth infusion to go along with an already-promising coreindicates the future is bright in Detroit.

For the Tigers, the road ahead is clearer today than it was last week. Dombrowski is working to ensure the Tigers experience a smoother ride in 2016.

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