Tuesday, May 23, 2017

False Alarm, Dodgers Fans

Nope, nevermind, turns out everything's pretty much fine- the Dodgers are still pretty great, regardless of early-season injuries.

At this point in the season, the Dodgers are so good that the only problems they have are trivial, third-worldy problems. Like, Chris Taylor, the 2nd baseman, is doing really well right now, but Logan Forsythe, who's also really good this year, is about to come off the DL, and you don't really wanna bench him for too long. Or 'who are we gonna move when Andrew Toles comes off the DL? Cody Bellinger's doing so well that we may just have to bench Joc'.

The only current starter that isn't up to par with the rest is Hyun-Jin Ryu...and that's mainly because Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, Brandon McCarthy and Rich Hill are all UNSTOPPABLE this year. Anyone else, by comparison, looks like a Braves starter.

I really have small qualms with this team. Adrian Gonzalez hasn't hit a home run yet, but he's still playing well, so I'm not too mad. Justin Turner's currently on the DL, but this is the kind of team that won't collapse without him. Plus, the second he gets back he's gonna be doing the same amount of pounding he did before.

The only worrying thing this Dodgers team has to contend with is the fact that the Rockies and D-Backs are still ahead of them...and even if the Dodgers do creep up, the other 2 teams have the advantage of the high ground. I am rooting for the Dodgers to do well, mainly because I love how well the team's doing this year, but it may not be a cakewalk.

Coming Tonight-  Another player for a third place team, though this one's a bit more out of the race.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Whirling Darvish

I turn away for a second and all of the sudden the Rangers are good again.

It comes with a bit of an asterisk though- the Rangers are doing a lot of things that landed them in last earlier this year- people are striking out too much, the pitching staff is letting too many runs go by, and there's a real lack of leadership with the exit of Carlos Beltran and the injury of Adrian Beltre. Yet, SOMEHOW, the Rangers are slowly trying to catch up to the Astros.

Yu Darvish is the catalyst of the comeback- after a few down seasons, he's FINALLY back to doing what he does best...which is mowing down batters like it's his damned business. He's racked up a ton of strikeouts, he's got a low ERA, and he's one of the few pitchers on the team that seems to have everything together (though Andrew Cashner and Martin Perez only need a boost in the wins category to join him).

This is interesting, because this is the first time anyone in the AL West this year has been anything resembling a challenge to the Astros. For a month and a half, everyone else was just lying back, losing games. Now that the Rangers are beginning to step up, it's becoming less and less immaculate for Houston, and they're going to need to switch out of autopilot.

Additionally, the Rangers need to start PLAYING like a 2nd place team, and get the guys hitting under .200 back up above average. They also need to get Adrian Beltre and Cole Hamels back so they can FEEL like a 2nd place Rangers team.

Coming Tomorrow- Infield rookie for a perennially good NL West team.

The Return to Trading (ft. Nachos Grande)

It's very, very hard being a baseball card trader when you're also dealing with anxiety.

There are a ton of unwritten rules and morays and subtle stuff that I never completely got, and I was always fearing that I'd screwed something up in past trades. in reality, this is definitely irrational anxiety, as this is the kind of community where nobody truly thinks that someone's screwed up, and everyone really helps themselves out gladly. But still, being anxious for all that time, I kept thinking that I'd do something wrong. So while I did accept some trades over the past few years, I got a bit too anxious recently in accepting a few.

That is until I swore that, as one of my 2017 blogging resolutions, I'd be more open to trading, and more mindful of the fact that it's insanely hard to screw up. So when I got an email from Chris from Nachos Grande a few weeks back, asking if he could send some card over, I couldn't say no.

There was a nice amount of helpful stuff in here- even the tag card, above, was actually a 1989 Score card I needed. I don't particularly mind the Sharpie-age on there, as it's a Red Sox card and it's not the worst thing that's happened to a Sox card in my house.

The main piece of this trade were a bunch of Archives set needs that Chris had been saving for me for a little while. This 2013 Mike Olt card completes the non-short print extent of the 2013 Archives set for me. Now, I'm gonna have to bulk up on finances if I want to nab the rest of the short prints.

He also knocked out a ton of my 2012 Archives needs, including these two cards of people that aren't really doing too much in baseball this year.

How I still needed the Cutch is absolutely beyond me, but it's still very welcome. These three are still pretty relevant in baseball, even with some comparatively down seasons happening in 2017. The Zo takes me back to a weird era where he didn't have facial hair.

These three, however, are having much better years. Hellickson's been a standout for my Phils, Shields, while injured, is helping the White Sox, and Belt is still on a tear. Belt's is probably my favorite of the three, though.

And then there's this guy, the last non-SP card in the set, and a guy I'd needed, despite being a Yankee fan with access to people who don't like Archives or the Yankees. Even two years before retirement, Jeter was still one of the best.

In addition to set needs, Chris threw in some Yankees he was ready to part with. This CC, which I'm shocked that I hadn't seen before, displays all the joy and merriment of pre-2013 CC. At least he's been doing better this year.

Two Update Yankees I didn't have. Romine had a nice season taking over for Gary Sanchez.

However, the most important development came with a little bundle of Bowman cards. Now, I haven't collected Bowman in 9 years, as I became more and more disillusioned with how little effort Topps was putting into the design of the set. I also didn't really start nabbing 'prospect cards' of players since last year.

It's nice getting these ones, even if Vicente Campos, the other piece of the Michael Pineda trade, is the only one that's still in the majors- Peter O'Brien's still bopping around in, oddly enough, the Reds organization, Caleb Frare is still in AA, and Santana's out of the bigs entirely.

These two I knew a bit more fondly, also from the 2012 Bowman set- Austin had a decent enough debut stretch last season, even if there hasn't been a ton of room for him in the 2017 roster. Ty Hensley was our pitching prospect for a while, and after a few Tommy John surgeries, he's wound up in the Rays' minor league facility.

This guy probably elicited the best reaction from the trade.

Greg Bird, even if he hasn't had the greatest 2017 season so far, is our heir apparent at 1st Base. The guy had an astounding rookie season in 2015, taking over for Mark Teixeira, and now he's got the position to himself. He's been injured and struggling so far, but he's definitely got some power and stamina in him, and I think it's awesome that I have his Rookie Card now.

Thanks to Chris again for a really nice package of cards. I think this one was nice enough to get me back into trading again.

I Don't Want to Hate Dexter Fowler...

...but damn, he's not making it easy.

Dexter Fowler's been a favorite of mine since he came up. I cheered when he had a comeback season with the Cubs in 2015, and I cheered louder when he helped them win a World Series last year. Of course...he had to get greedy, and he had to piss me off by signing with the enemy, the St. Louis Cardinals.

Now...he's not having the greatest season so far, and he's been piling up a ton of strikeouts, but he's still definitely a presence in St. Louis. Also, the Cardinals aren't in first anymore, thanks the the absolutely inexplicable rise of the Milwaukee Brewers, and the Cards seem to be coming back down to earth. So Fowler's place in the team might become a bit more needed, and hopefully he'll step up.

To be honest, what may have been helping the Cards get to where they ended up was the rotation- four out of five of those guys had insanely good ERAs and were striking people out right and left- Adam Wainwright was a bit depleted, but Leake, Wacha, Lynn and Martinez have all been great. It's just the lineup that can't seem to get out of the hole they're in. Stats are trying to convince me that Matt Carpenter and Yadier Molina are having good seasons, but they're not giving much. Jedd Gyorko's been playing well, but he's not really enough.

It's tricky- I want Dexter Fowler to do well, but I don't really want the Cardinals to do well.

Coming Tonight: The quintessential Rangers fireballer.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Defying Convention in Minneapolis

I don't get it. In 2015, the Twins had a contending, sneaky little team. In 2016, they were absolutely terrible. Now they're suddenly fantastic again, looking even better than their 2015 selves. I can't in any way explain this double-spectrum inconsistency, because it's just plain odd.

Not much has changed, too- with the exception of Trevor Plouffe and Kurt Suzuki, pretty much everyone that made the 2016 team so...ineffective is still on the team. They're just all playing so much better all of the sudden. Miguel Sano, who was striking out all over the place last year, has found the strike zone and has locked onto it. Robbie Grossman and Max Kepler are doing better than they did in their breakout seasons last year.

Plus, Ervin Santana took a decent enough post-HGHs season in 2016 and turned it into a massive start to the season this year, with some terrifically pitched games. This rotation has needed leadership ever since Johan Santana left, and Santana's expertise is helping the rest of the staff come into line. Jose Berrios has pitched two fantastic games so far this year, coming back from his subpar rookie year. Hector Santiago's also had some nice games so far. It's not a perfect rotation, but the front half is pretty strong.

The fact that the Twins are accomplishing this in a division that held last season's league champions is even better- they're neck and neck with the Indians, and possibly have more of a case than they do for first right now. The wheels are turning in Minneapolis, and I don't know when they'll stop.

Coming Tomorrow- A sentimental favorite of mine, now playing for my absolute least favorite team.

R.A. on Duty

I think we all eventually figured out that R.A. Dickey was never going to replicate the success of his astonishingly good 2013 season. HOWEVER...I didn't use that as a reason to stop collecting the guy. He's a fun player, one of the few knuckleballers left in the game, and he's still getting starting gigs into his 40s. Any player who's still pitching into his 40s...whose name isn't Bartolo Colon, you know, deserves some attention.

The Braves may have gambled a bit in picking up Dickey, but they needed strong pitching, and with Dickey on the rotation they're a little better off. I mean, to be honest, the entire Braves rotation is a bit  waterlogged this year, with a lot of inflated ERAs and a ton of allowed home runs. Dickey does have one of the lower ERAs on the squad, and even if he's not having a perfect season, it's still admirable.

The Braves, by the way, are somehow in 2nd place in the NL East. I don't know how. I don't know why. But the Mets dropped down for long enough that the Braves were able to sneak in for a bit. It's kind of a no-prize at this point, as the Nationals are so far in first that they're beginning to lap the rest of the goddamned division, but the Braves are still doing their best to LOOK like a first place team...despite having a shaky rotation and an injured star power (good luck, Matt Adams!)

The team's a dire situation, but as long as Dickey and Colon are there, I'll have reasons to watch Braves games.

Coming Tonight: Top starter for a first place team...man, it's gonna be weird when you realize how odd it is that that statement describes this player.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Exactly Even

I don't exactly know how to feel about being beaten by a team that's 22-22.

I mean, the Rays aren't doing as horribly as the fourth place standing projects, but...it still hurt to be schooled by the guys 3 places below us. I don't care who you are, it still hurts.

Generally, everyone's doing pretty well. The pitching staff is surprisingly solid, and it's not really just Chris Archer who's pitching well- Matt Andriese, Alex Cobb and Jake Odorizzi are actually up there with him this year. Evan Longoria's also not the only offensive standout, as Logan Morrison, Tim Beckham, Corey Dickerson and Steven Souza are also doing well. If it weren't for a few people in the lineup who aren't hitting, and a few bullpen players, this would be a better team.

It's mostly just the fact that they're sitting below the Yankees, Orioles and Red Sox. They're a good team, but they're in the wrong division to be TOO good. Even if people like LoMo and Dickerson do well, they're still gonna struggle to even stop the 3rd place Sox. But still...I commend them for trying, and I'd appreciate it if they had another method of trying that didn't involve killing my Yankees this week.

Coming Tomorrow- One of my favorite fringe players, still throwing knucklers in Atlanta.