MLB Week in Review (April 8-14)

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The sports world is one that consistently changes and as the path to success is far from a straight line.

Teams are always trying to find a way to win games and championships with most copying successful teams and others taking a different path.

The copycats create the patterns in all sports including the MLB where the patterns have been clear for decades.

In the 1990s, it was all about the offence as teams looked to create the best group to overwhelm other teams.

Some teams simply couldn’t compete as home run hitters became few and far between and far more expensive after the steroid era.

To compete with the offences teams began to find young arms and develop them into great starters.

The arms race was on and teams tried to find the best pitchers to eliminate the offensive baseball that had been dominating the game.

For the last few years the battle to get the best starting pitchers raged on and once again became very expensive for teams.

So once again they tried to find new ways to win championships with Moneyball beginning to take hold.

It wasn’t Moneyball that began to truly change the way the game is played as the Kansas City Royals forced the change.

The last two years saw the Royals take their unique brand of baseball to the World Series and last year they took home the ultimate prize.

The Royals did this in a different way than most teams as they didn’t build the best offence or the best starting rotation.

Instead, they focused on parts of the game that had long been ignored by most of the big teams.

Their offence lacks power in a big way with no big home run hitters and yet they are extremely successful.

They are great hitters despite a lack of power as the organisation built up a team that plays in their ballpark.

They continue hitting and put up runs with multiple hits strung together along with the odd home run.

What makes them even more unique is their concentration on the bullpen to go along with their unique offence.

In a time where every team essentially needs an ace, the Royals have a collection of good but not great starters.

Many teams like their pitchers to go deep and give them the chance to use their one or two great relief pitchers to finish the game.baseball-sidebar

The Royals are different though as they don’t care if their starters go too far into games because their bullpen is so good.

The Royals flipped the way many teams think about their pitching staffs as their bullpen can carry the staff to plenty of wins.

This new formation of a team is what made the Royals so successful last year as teams need to pitch very well against a team that just hits while they had to put up runs early to avoid the bullpen.

The rest of the league took notice and now many teams are looking to do the exact same as the Royals.

The theories on offence remain different depending on the teams involved as richer teams can afford more expensive offensive players.

Where the influence is coming more than ever is in the bullpen as teams are looking to build the monster bullpen that made the Royals so successful.

Everyone has always looked for a great closer but now it is all about finding the handful of reliable relievers.

Teams all over the league are looking to load up the bullpen and so far it has been working.

Teams with great bullpens continue to do well because they don’t have to rely on a pitcher going deep into a game.

They can have a pitcher struggle and not panic as their bullpen can sweep up the mess.

Teams without it are slaves to their starters playing well and if they don’t a game can quickly fall apart.

For now, the bullpen is the biggest part of any team but like any trend in the MLB, it won’t last forever.

The time of the bullpens is now while teams that can’t put together that bullpen look for new ways to win and one theory is sure to come through at some point in the future.

Extra Innings
(More on this week in baseball)

Rookie To Watch
Trevor Story was not given the Kris Bryant treatment as he was an immediate call-up for the Rockies who were still looking for a Tory Tulowitzki replacement and they found him as Story started his career with 8 home runs in his first seven games

Unique Pitching
The Blue Jays continue to make adjustments to a struggling bullpen and they looked to Pat Venditte to help them add a new left-handed pitcher, but with the move, they also get a righty as Venditte is the only switch pitcher in the MLB

Health in the League
Pablo Sandoval made some blooper reels this week when his belt broke after a swing but the Red Sox didn’t find it too funny putting him on the DL with a shoulder issue, despite no MRI, it seemed to feed the rumours that they want him to lose weight if he wants to be effective

standings-w2.fw

Key Series:
New York Yankees 1 – 1 Detroit Tigers
– Amid frigid temperatures and a snowstorm that postponed the final game of the series the Yankees and Tigers were battling for some early momentum with both teams showing some offensive fireworks but the Yankees spoiling opening day in Detroit

Baltimore Orioles 2 – 1 Boston Red Sox
– The Orioles took the first two games of the series to move their undefeated streak to seven games at the start of the season but the Red Sox ended it in the finale with their only win of the series against one of the best teams to start the season

Kansas City Royals 3 – 1 Houston Astros
– Last year both teams faced off in the ALDS with the Royals showing that experience helps in the postseason and they did the same in the regular season taking three games in the four-game series and showing that the Astros might have some more development in store

Los Angeles Dodgers 2 – 1 Arizona Diamondbacks
– The hype surrounding the Diamondbacks this year got its first big test as they took on a team they need to beat to get to the postseason and came away with two losses as the Dodgers continued to show that they are the team to watch

Upcoming Series:
San Francisco Giants vs. Los Angeles Dodgers [Apr 15-17]
– One of the classic rivalries continues as the Dodgers and Giants battle for the second time this season both looking to take an early advantage in what is sure to be an interesting division battle with both teams near the top

Seattle Mariners vs. New York Yankees [April 15-17]
– The Mariners travel east where they take on the Yankees as Robinson Cano returns to New York and tries to lead his team in the place where he built his game while the Yankees look to shut him down

Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals [Apr 18-20]
– If the Cubs want to play in the World Series this year there is a good shot that they will need to go through the Cards and they get an early chance to take an advantage over their old rival as they test how far they have come against one of the best in the league

Houston Astros vs. Texas Rangers [April 19-21]
– The battle of Texas turned into a great rivalry that determined the west last year and it might again this year as both the Rangers and Astros try to prove that they will be the team to beat in the division

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