Biggest Winners and Losers of the 2014 MLB Regular Season
From the historic dominance of Clayton Kershaw to the epic collapses of the Milwaukee Brewers and the Atlanta Braves, it's been a memorable 2014 MLB regular season.
Simply put, there have been major winners and serious losers from all around the league. Jon Lester falls onto the right side of that equation thanks to a brilliant second half, which has set him up for a winter payday.
There's even room on the list for an ace and an executive who could still end up in either the winner's or loser's camp.
Winner: Jon Lester
Jon Lester is on his way to cashing in.
The left-handed pitcher finished the 2014 regular season with a 16-11 mark and a career-best 2.46 ERA. The starter has been lights out since June 12, posting a a 10-3 record and a 1.68 ERA until his last start. According to the Oakland Athletics Twitter account, that's the second-best ERA in baseball and the best in the AL during that stretch.
Manager Bob Melvin explained to John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle just how important Lester has been since arriving in Oakland.
“Every game he goes out there, we feel we’re going to win."
Lester already looks like a lock to net a $100 million-plus deal this offseason, and yet another strong October run will raise that price tag even higher.
Loser: The Milwaukee Brewers
The Milwaukee Brewers face-planted in the second half.
After leading the way in the National League Central for 150 days, the club is set to finish in third in the division and will be on the outside looking in when the playoffs kick off. As Adam McCalvy of MLB.com notes, Stats LLC reports that just five teams have accomplished that infamous feat dating back to 1969.
Following that debacle of a second half, manager Ron Roenicke's seat should be extremely warm. To make matters worse for the fans, some even received their postseason tickets the day that the Brewers were eliminated from October baseball, per Samer Kalaf of Deadspin.
Winner: Nelson Cruz
Last winter, Nelson Cruz was nearly unemployable. The 2014 AL All-Star won't have that problem this time around.
The 34-year-old, who scooped up the Baltimore Orioles MVP award, has cracked 40 home runs to lead all of baseball. The veteran outfielder/designated hitter would like to remain in Baltimore, as he explained via David Wilson of MLB.com.
"Hopefully, I stay here, we work something out. We have an important thing going on in front of us—so after the season is over, we'll figure it out."
If the O's are going to make that happen, the team will need to open up its checkbook. Cruz's prodigious power is sure to spark a bidding war this offseason.
Loser: Fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers
It hasn't been easy for fans to catch Los Angeles Dodgers games on TV in 2014.
As Meg James of the Los Angeles Times notes, just one-third of homes in the Los Angeles area have been able to get the action on SportsNet LA thanks to an ongoing dispute involving Time Warner Cable and its competitors.
For now, a temporary solution has been reached. According to James, Timer Warner Cable has been simulcasting the games on KDOC-TV over the final week of the season, which has allowed a significantly higher number of fans to watch the NL West winners.
Winner: Albert Pujols
Albert Pujols hasn't quite returned to his vintage form from his days with the St. Louis Cardinals, but he's still had a big bounce-back season in 2014.
The 34-year-old has cracked 37 doubles and 28 home runs while driving in 105 runs. According to Zach Helfand of the Los Angeles Times, that makes Pujols the fifth player in the history of baseball to record 12 100-plus RBI seasons by the age of 35.
As his teammate C.J. Wilson recently explained, the first baseman has also been making crucial contributions in the clubhouse.
I think Albert, having won a couple of World Series, is probably one of the best guys you could have in a locker room. He's a commanding presence, and if he gets up and says something, everyone's going to listen. He has the respect of everybody. He's one of the best players of all time.
Pujols' experience and on-field production will be very important for the Los Angeles Angels as they embark upon their first postseason appearance since 2009.
Loser: Atlanta Braves
The Atlanta Braves have stumbled through a forgettable second half of the season.
Entering the All-Star break, the club was tied atop the NL East standings with the Washington Nationals. Now, the Braves are 17 games behind the Nats and tied with the New York Mets and Miami Marlins for the second spot in the division. General manager Frank Wren has already been axed as a result of the team's slide.
The most fundamental issue facing the Braves has been the team's inability to score runs. Atlanta ranks second to last in baseball in that department.
WInner: Clayton Kershaw
Clayton Kershaw has been unreal in 2014.
The Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander became the first pitcher since 1880 to win 21 starts in 27 or fewer games, per ESPN Stats & Info. With a 1.77 ERA, the 26-year-old is also set to lead the NL in that category for a fourth consecutive season.
Kershaw's name should already be etched on the NL Cy Young Award trophy, and he should get the nod for the MVP Award, as well. In Kershaw's starts, the Dodgers are 23-4, which works out to a .852 winning percentage. That's about as valuable as it gets.
Loser: The New York Yankees
Derek Jeter's final game at Yankee Stadium was perfectly scripted.
Unfortunately for the New York Yankees, the same can't be said for how the team's 2014 season worked out. The AL East club was mathematically in the wild-card race up until Wednesday, but that was only because the teams ahead of it like the Kansas City Royals, Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners have been playing subpar baseball in September.
For the second year in a row, the Yankees won't be taking part in October. That's inexcusable considering that the team dished out a small mint in the offseason to bring in the likes of Masahiro Tanaka, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury.
TBD: David Price
David Price hasn't exactly been an ace since joining the Detroit Tigers in a deadline-day blockbuster.
In 10 outings, the left-hander has posted a 3-4 record with a 3.97 ERA. After a recent loss against the Minnesota Twins, Price shared his frustration, via Patrick Donnelly of MLB.com.
"I'm a better pitcher than this."
The lefty will have the chance to prove his point in the postseason. However, it's worth noting that Price doesn't have a particularly impressive playoff resume. In nine games, the 29-year-old owns a 1-4 mark with a 5.06 ERA.
TBD: Billy Beane
Billy Beane gambled big-time at the end of July.
The Oakland Athletics GM jettisoned Yoenis Cespedes, the club's cleanup hitter, to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for Jon Lester. The starter has been been dealing since arriving at O.co Coliseum, but the team's offense has vanished ever since that move was made, sending Oakland into a free fall.
One of the main reasons why Beane made the trade for Lester is the fact that the left-hander has an impeccable playoff track record. There's still time for Lester to lead an October charge and redeem this trade, but for now the jury is definitely still out.
Note: All stats and videos courtesy of MLB.com.
If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.