Joe Nathan is showing major signs of decline at age 39

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Joe Nathan has been one of the best closers in baseball for a decade, saving 354 games with a 2.85 ERA, but at age 39 he’s finally showing signs of decline in his first season with the Tigers.

Nathan saved 43 games with a 1.39 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 65 innings for the Rangers last season, which convinced the Tigers to give him a two-year, $20 million contract as a free agent, but now he’s got a 6.86 ERA with four blown saves and two losses.

Nathan continues to miss a fair number of bats with 20 strikeouts in 21 innings, but he’s walked 11 batters and served up four homers. And perhaps most worrisome is that his average fastball velocity is down to 91.4 miles per hour compared to 94.0 mph in 2012 and 92.2 mph last season.

Predictably, the struggling closer told Jason Beck of MLB.com that he’s confident about turning things around:

This isn’t the first time I’ve gone through a funk and come out the other end. I’ve dealt with two injuries. I’ve pitched much worse than this, trust me. I’ve pitched much worse than this in Triple-A, got sent down to Double-A, got my butt back to the big leagues. I think having dealt with that, having–not the confidence, but at least the experience of knowing I can come back through this stuff definitely helps.

He’s right about coming back from a lot in his career, including Tommy John surgery in 2010 at age 35, but unfortunately Father Time remains undefeated and Nathan’s struggles appear to be more than simply bad luck or a rough patch. As a Twins fan who got to see Nathan dominate for a half-dozen years I’d love to be wrong, though.

Rangers, Rougned Odor finalize contract extension

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The Texas Rangers announced today that they have finalized a six-year, $49.5 million extension for second baseman Rougned Odor. There is an option for a seventh year that could bring the deal to $52.5 million. That a deal was done was reported over the weekend by Jon Heyman and Evan Grant.

The deal covers Odor’s first three years of arbitration eligibility. Odor had previously agreed to a $563,180 salary for 2017.

The 23-year-old second baseman tallied 33 home runs, 88 RBI, 14 stolen bases, and 89 runs scored in 150 games last season.

2017 Preview: Our Predictions

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By now I don’t need to tell you how silly it is to predict the outcome of a baseball season in which over 2,400 baseball games are played by over a thousand players, all of whom are subject to injury and/or wild variation from past performance or reasonable expectations. Baseball is freakin’ chaos, my friends. And while that is one of the top things to recommend it, it’s also the thing that makes predicting its outcomes a fool’s errand.

Let no one say that Bill, Ashley and I aren’t fools. We’re gonna make our picks anyway, because that’s what we do:

 

ASHLEY’S PREDICTIONS

AL East: Red Sox
AL Central: Indians
AL West: Mariners
AL Wild Cards: Astros, Blue Jays

NL East: Nationals
NL Central: Cubs
NL West: Giants
NL Wild Cards: Mets, Dodgers

ALCS: Astros vs. Indians
NLCS: Giants vs. Nationals
World Series: Astros vs. Nationals … Nationals win!

AL MVP: Mookie Betts
NL MVP: Kris Bryant
AL CYA: Chris Sale
NL CYA: Madison Bumgarner
AL ROY: Andrew Benintendi
NL ROY: Dansby Swanson
AL MOY: A.J. Hinch
NL MOY: Bruce Bochy

 

BILL’S PREDICTIONS

AL East: Red Sox
AL Central: Indians
AL West: Astros
AL Wild Cards: Rangers, Blue Jays

NL East: Nationals
NL Central: Cubs
NL West: Dodgers
NL Wild Cards: Mets, Cardinals

ALCS: Indians vs. Rangers
NLCS: Cubs vs. Dodgers
World Series: Dodgers vs. Rangers, Dodgers win in five games.

AL MVP: Manny Machado
NL MVP: Corey Seager
AL CYA: Chris Sale
NL CYA: Noah Syndergaard
AL ROY: Yoan Moncada
NL ROY: Dansby Swanson
NOTE: Bill did not pick Manager of the Year recipients because he is a communist who does not believe in honoring those who benefit from the labor of others. Then I shamed him about it on Twitter, so he pitched A.J. Hinch and Dusty Baker.

 

CRAIG’S PREDICTIONS

AL East: Red Sox
AL Central: Indians
AL West: Astros
AL Wild Cards: Mariners, Tigers

NL East: Nationals
NL Central: Cubs
NL West: Dodgers
NL Wild Cards: Mets, Giants

ALCS: Red Sox vs. Indians
NLCS: Cubs vs. Dodgers
World Series: Red Sox vs. Cubs, Cubs win in seven games

AL MVP: Mookie Betts
NL MVP: Yoenis Cespedes
AL CYA: Justin Verlander
NL CYA: Clayton Kershaw
AL ROY: Andrew Benintendi
NL ROY: Hunter Renfroe
AL MOY: A.J. Hinch
NL MOY: Joe Maddon

Mark it down, you guys. And then please forget it, because we’re gonna pretend these predictions never happened come October.