Thursday, September 21, 2017

Keep it Gray

Remember a few weeks ago when those Wild Card races looked impenetrable. Well, the Brewers are one away from catching the Rockies.

And it's a shame, because as amazing as the lineup has been the whole year, and as booming as the homers have been...again, it's the shortcomings of the rotation that are bringing this down. And even if we have some truly talented pitchers, like Kyle Freeland, German Marquez and Antonio Senzatela, throwing smoke for the Rockies, it doesn't mean anything if the air's thinner in Denver and all the balls end up flying out. It's very hard to overpower that inevitability.

The only pitcher who, for the second year in a row, has fought successfully against the wind change, is Jon Gray. The guy is a strikeout artist of the highest caliber, and even after missing a few months with an injury, he zoomed back, racking up wins, a low ERA, strikeouts, and a few other great things pitchers don't usually get at Coors Field. He's, once again, the ace, though there have been a ton more great pitchers here than usual, to this squad's credit.

Still, with the momentum the Brewers have had recently, and the non-Coors-Field consistency of THEIR rotation, it's right to be a bit scared if you're a Rockies fan, as the Brewers team could rack up enough wins to unseat the Rox and play the D-Backs in the wild card game. Plus, now that THEIR momentum has lessened, it's no longer a guarantee that the D-Backs will advance, so the Rockies will now be playing for a relatively even playoff game against the division rival Diamondbacks.

I'm kinda hoping the Rockies can pull this one off, though either outcome would be really cool.

Coming Tonight: One of the pitchers in a sharp-enough looking AL East squad.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Verlander: Back to October

I didn't think it was possible, but all you needed to do was pluck Justin Verlander out of Detroit, and he'd quickly become the most dominating pitcher in the AL.

Weird thing is the Astros' rotation was already fantastic, with Keuchel, McCullers, McHugh, Peacock and Morton. Throwing Verlander in makes the Astros even more of a playoff threat, as they'll be going in seeded second, set to play whoever ends up winning the AL East, be it Boston or Bronx.

Even worse, the whole team is picking up a scary amount of momentum, with not only the pitching staff, but the lineup, led by 'just-give-him-the-MVP-trophy-already' Jose Altuve, and George Springer. The whole lineup is hitting, the bench is hitting. Everybody, except maybe for Cameron Maybin, is doing a great job, as they've one their last few games and are heading into the last weeks of the season.

I want the Astros to do well, and they've done so well with the insane amount of talent this season, but...even if they are streaking, I can't bank on a team that's doing this well still surging in three or four weeks' time. It doesn't guarantee anything. I want them to do well, but I'm not sure if they will. this point, all we can hope for is Verlander's Houston ERA to stay below 1.

Coming Tomorrow- Rockies pitcher. Long hair. Not Thor.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Thrill of the Chase

Okay, so the Brewers technically aren't out of it yet, as they're 2.5 games away from the Rockies, so it would take momentum by them, and some losses from Colorado, to ensure that the Brewers make the playoffs for the first time since 2011. But...either way, they still came further than they had any right to go.

I mean, I started this season thinking they'd just be the 'Eric Thames' team, like they'd win some games and such but they'd just be known for Eric Thames and his homers. Far from it. The Brewers grew some depth, in establishing Travis Wood as a leader, bringing up Orlando Arcia and Jesus Aguilar as younger pieces, while still maintaining the 'ragtag' sensibility. Eric Sogard came in and started playing beautifully. The two catchers were guys that had never really started games before, and both did really well, with the emphasis on Manny Pina, even if Stephen Vogt is phasing into his job. Heck, they were even buyers at the deadline, adding Neil Walker and Stephen Vogt and improving the quality of the bench.

The biggest surprise, though, was the rotation. Who would have thought that Zach Davies, Chase Anderson, Jimmy Nelson, Brent Suter and Brandon Woodruff, four guys that nobody had really heard of before the season, would be able to band together to make one of the most surprising young rotations of the year. Even with assists from Junior Guerra and Matt Garza, this rotation powered this team as much as the lineup did. Chase Anderson may, in fact, be an ace in the making.

Will the 2017 postseason happen for them? Not sure, but they need to work for it, and hope the Rockies can drop some games. It'd be great if they could sneak in for the Wild Card game. It'd be a great end to a Cinderella season.

Coming Tonight: One of the best active pitchers...returning to his former glory in a new stadium, a new uniform...and the same supermodel girlfriend.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Smooth (ft. Corey Kluber)

(Too easy?)

Cleveland Indians: Best Team in Baseball. I love it.

The streak was amazing enough, but the fact that even after the streak the team seems absolutely colossal...that should be scary. The Indians have a whip-tight lineup with a fantastic bench, a phenomenal lineup and a strong bullpen. I'm not seeing flaws. Not one. If we can bottle this momentum and let it loose on October, we may have a title in Cleveland.

What makes it more satisfying is the fact that it took a little while to get going, and the momentum took place mostly during the second half. Guys like Carlos Santana, Trevor Bauer and Austin Jackson didn't start their amazing tears until after the ASG break. Plus, the additions of Joe Smith and Jay Bruce at the deadline have worked well, bringing depth to both portions of the roster.

I want to see this team do what they did in 2016, but actually win that 4th game. I think they can do it this year. If they can trailblaze through everybody, including, sadly, the Yankees, then they'll be able to take whoever the NL has this year, even if it is a rematch.

As great as they were in 2016...the Indians are better right now than they've arguably ever been.

Coming Tomorrow- His team may not be making the postseason, but he lead the pitching staff, and the roster, far further than it had any right to go.

Nat That Innocent

(Okay, not a 'with fire' pun, but close enough.)

The Nats are officially going to the playoffs. I mean, it was official back in, like, May, but still.

The Nats have overcome injuries to the entire outfield, and at shortstop, and are still fighting to get somewhere they've not been in years (the NLCS). It helps that even when Trea Turner is injured, Wilmer Difo can slip in instead and start doing some truly great work. Now that Turner's back, there's not a TON for him to do except hit off the bench, but seeing as the bench is also featuring Adam Lind, Howie Kendrick and Victor Robles, it's not the worst place to be.

In the place of Bryce Harper, the Nats have Howie Kendrick making the main offensive, and Victor Robles slowly making his way in, and both are doing INSANELY well, mainly because Kendrick has been on fire this whole year. Harper is gonna be back for the postseason (hopefully), but I imagine they're still gonna use the hell out of both guys.

The injuries haven't especially rocked the rotation, save for the 5th-spot, but Joe Ross is expendable. The Scherzer-Strasburg-Gio-Roark combo is working wonders, and Edwin Jackson and A.J. Cole are perfectly fine cleaning up after them. Also, how about SEAN DOOLITTLE working the ninth like an absolute pro? How about that?

This is a team that's ready for the playoffs, and is only gonna get stronger as the road grows thinner. I will say that they should be happy they don't have to play the Dodgers anymore this season.

Coming Tonight: Not sure if you heard, but they had a record-breaking win streak going. They're not top seeded in the AL, and looking pretty damn unstoppable. Here's there hard-hitting first baseman.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Trey With Fire

(Oh yeah, I'm gonna keep that going.)

So yeah...the Baltimore Orioles are not going to be making the playoffs this year. And sadly, you can kind of blame the Yankees for that one.

Many AL East teams haven't been kind to Baltimore's pitching...but the Yankees damn near obliterated everybody. They've scored more runs against the O's than any team has scored against any other team in 50 years. Like, it didn't seem fair after a while. I think the Yankees singlehandedly ejected the Orioles from the Wild Card race.

And sadly, even before the Yankee-ing, the cracks were beginning to show. The pitching was becoming even more lackluster, the lineup was too bloated with strikeouts and not enough production, and only Trey Mancini and Manny Machado could save the team from being completely unsalvageable.

This isn't an all-is-lost situation, because there's a chance that everybody who slumped this year will be back next year in full form, and that the pitching will be improved with some minor adjustments (like finally telling Ubaldo Jimenez when to f--king leave). This isn't a 'truly bad' team yet, and their 2018 season could be the rebound they're waiting for.

Coming Tomorrow- Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Maryland/Virginia metropolitan area, the inevitable becomes even more palpable for a rookie shortstop and his monster team.

Clay With Fire

They lost 11 in a row, and then they won 4 in a row, so all the fans can calm down, and all the news media can shut up.

The Dodgers may have needed the 11-game wake up call to shock them into really working towards a playoffs that seemed carved in stone for them. They'd been coasting thus far, and this skid needed to prove to them that the World Series that seemed inevitable for them wouldn't be as such if they kept the same lax attitude. Even Clayton Kershaw had a bad start in that stretch...and now that he's back to his old tricks, I imagine they won't expect that sort of thing from him again.

The Dodgers don't have a ton of structural problems. The rotation is pristine. The bullpen is pretty great. The only problems are one or two guys like Joc Pederson and Enrique Hernandez, who aren't hitting, but have alternative options that CAN hit. This is a team that can rock the game if they all keep the momentum they've had throughout the season.

The best part was that they didn't have Clayton Kershaw for the entire season, but they still had guys like Alex Wood and Yu Darvish who were willing to step into the ace position while he was gone, and guys like Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda who could keep the back half of the rotation sharp. This wasn't the Trout scenario where the Great One gets injured and everyone spirals into panic.

No, the Dodgers, losing streak behind them, seem to be heading towards great things.

Coming Tonight- He spent his rookie year trying to legitimize a team that may have been dead on arrival without him.