Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Uncustomed Heroes of 2017: Indians

Even if they didn't win a World Series, the 2017 Indians were going to go down in history. With a huge winning streak, a Cy-Young winning pitcher, and a ton of talent and insanity, this was an Indians team that had everything the 2016 team had, except for the luck.

Michael Brantley had a great start, and an ASG nod to boot, but the injuries that have stopped him from becoming truly great hit again this year (must be a theme with Cleveland outfielders this century). Hopefully he'll stick around longer next year.

Yan Gomes, like it or not, was the starting catcher in Cleveland this year, as their other option, Roberto Perez, tanked in most categories this year. Gomes was a bit more consistent than he's been, but it wouldn't shock me if the Tribe figures out a way to improve their catching situation this offseason.

Danny Salazar scared a couple people by tanking some starts and winding up in the bullpen, but he rebounded and made it back to relevancy upon Josh Tomlin's decline, and had a relatively decent end to the season.

For my money, Lonnie Chisenhall is the single greatest bench player of this decade. He's not usually counted on to start games, but he's been a solid presence in Cleveland's roster since the early 2000s, and he had another great season this year, having some nice hits and keeping the bench strong. I don't know if 2018 means he'll be starting or not, but whatever position he's in, I imagine he'll do well.

Meanwhile, AUSTIN JACKSON OF ALL PEOPLE was the Indians' starting center fielder until Jay Bruce appeared on the scene, and he did a bang-up job, posting his best numbers since being in Detroit, and having one of the best catches of the year in Boston. His position diminished slightly once Bruce got here, but with Bruce likely going somewhere else, Jackson could be a good inexpensive choice for Cleveland.

Giovanny Urshela took over for Jason Kipnis at 2nd for most of the season, and while he wasn't perfect, he did a nice enough job that the Indians are probably going to look into having him as a bench choice for the 2018 season.

Cody Allen had another strong year as Indians closer, keeping the ninth safe and locking up the job done by a surprisingly passionate Indians bullpen this year (even with fluctuating Andrew Miller). Not sure about his job stability, but glad he's still pretty consistent.

Meanwhile, this guy cemented his status as one of the best pitchers in baseball, by winning his 2nd Cy Young and proving that he's not a one-season pony. The guy's done an excellent job carrying this rotation to the forefront, and this second Cy was the cherry on top. I hope he nabs a few more great seasons in Cleveland.

Coming Tomorrow- They might be on their way to an above-500 record in 2018, but it'll take more than a few little moves, which...admittedly, was their 2017 plan.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Uncustomed Heroes of 2017: Giants

I feel as though bottom-of-the-division finishes is becoming the norm for the San Francisco Giants, which is sad after three World Series titles. The core is too old, and the guys they're bringing in to supplant them aren't great. Denard Span isn't as playing as well as he was when they got him, and has become another aging member of the core, complete with greying beard.

Joe Panik had a relatively decent year, keeping things together as the perennial 2nd-baseman (hey, remember when that was Marco Scutaro?). I'm not sure if he'll have much else to do as a Giant, but hopefully he'll stick with the rest of the infield of Belt-Crawford-Panda (?)

Chris Stratton was a young starter that took some games after some of the more trusted arms got injured, and did...a decent job of it. I'm not sure what that means for his longevity, because having a good rookie year in the rotation didn't mean anything for Chris Heston or Albert Suarez.

Mark Melancon as the Giants' closer...was supposed to end up better than this. He was injured for half the year, underwhelming for the other half. I worry he's never gonna have a 40-save season again, which is sad.

Even sadder, Matt Cain, the guy who'd helped the rotation become as ferocious as it was during the numerous titles pitched his last game this year, after a few disappointing seasons of injuries. It'd sad that both he and Lincecum ended their careers so disappointingly.

Hopefully the Giants can eventually return to glory, though it may take a farm system revamp.

Coming Tomorrow- They didn't make the World Series, but they were absolutely ferocious, and chased my Yankees for five games.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

On the Veteran's Committee Picks

...They ain't bad.

For a team that won a World Series in 1984, it was slightly baffling that nobody from the 80s era of Detroit's baseball history had made the Hall of Fame. Hell, there were several potential candidates, too- Lou Whitaker, Kirk Gibson, and, of course, Alan Trammell and Jack Morris. They were on top of their game for several seasons, and were among the best defensive players of the 80s. Morris currently has three World Series rings, each one with a different team.

The argument that may have broken the camel's back may have been that, with all the current 'great, HOF-worthy' players that are getting passed over, it makes even more sense that Trammell and Morris belong in Cooperstown. And as someone who voted for Morris in several on-blog HOF ballots, I partially agreed.

So, as the Veteran's Committee decided, Alan Trammell and Jack Morris are heading into the Hall of Fame. Not too bad.

Morris was getting outcry from sportswriters for the last 10 years, so it's all-but necessary for him to finally gain entry. Trammell I'm a little less convinced on, as he was never an undisputed amazing perennial player to me. He never really screamed Hall of Fame to me, though his defense and hitting abilities were pretty good, and he was one of the highlights of that 1984 squad, nabbing the World Series MVP (kind of like Morris did).

So while I'm not 100% there like other sportswriters may have been, I'm happy they allowed some players (not executives for once) to join the Hall, and it makes me even more excited to see who gets in come January (crosses fingers for Jim Thome).

Uncustomed Heroes of 2017: Dodgers

It didn't happen. But that doesn't mean it won't.

The Dodgers collected a cavalcade of players, being amazing all in the same single, solitary moment. Only reason they lost is the Astros managed to be better than them by the deciding inch. I do think the Dodgers have what it takes to come back, because the people that are leaving (with the exception of Yu Darvish) are not the important members of the team.

I made a Corey Seager card earlier this year, but I wasn't happy with it, so I made a better one. The guy's got legs, which is nice.

This guy was only a presence towards the end of the season, but he's still an LA hero, and wanted to spend his last season as a Dodger doing something beneficial. The Dodgers are gonna miss Andre Ethier, and I doubt he'll make an impact like he did in LA, but his 2017 stretch run was welcome.

Kenta Maeda's 2016 theatrics took a bit of a backseat this year, as a rotation of Kershaw-Darvish-Wood-Hill came to be, and Maeda found himself fighting with Hyun-Jin Ryu for the last spot. While Maeda had the more consistent season...

...Ryu was arguably scarier in the clutch, and was able to work more strikeouts and crafty stuff despite not having a ton of time on the mound this year. However, the offseason shakes out, I feel like Ryu and Maeda will at least have a place somewhere in LA.

We've all come to terms with the fact that 2015 Joc Pederson might not be coming back, and his subpar 2017 season proved that, but he was able to make some nice clutch moments late in the year. I doubt he'll be starting next year, as Andrew Toles might even be a better bet than Pederson. But his stuff was still appreciated when it was good.

Due to injuries and Cody Bellinger, Adrian Gonzalez had a down 2017, but when he was healthy he gave his all, and gave a veteran perspective to the postseason that was much-needed. A-Gon's one of those respected veterans that have never won a World Series, and even if his stuff wasn't 100% perfect this year, he was a great presence in the dugout...

...Much like this guy. As much as I don't enjoy saying bad things about Curtis Granderson, his performance with the Dodgers post-waiver-deal left a lot to be desired, with more strikeouts than his Mets tenure, and not a ton of positive offensive energy, leading to a diminished role in the postseason squad. I certainly hope he can continue his bat work somewhere, but part of me thinks it might be the end for him this year.

If I had to pick the most surprising standout member of this WS Dodgers team, it'd have to be Brandon Morrow, who went from subpar 5th starter in Toronto to shutting them down in relief for LA when it counted. I don't know if he'll ever have a season like this, but it was very impressive, and in a season with many fingers being pointed at the Dodgers' bullpen (especially Pedro Baez), Morrow's work was appreciated.

...And then there's the Rookie of the Year.

Cody Bellinger came in with the odds sort of muddied, and made an insanely beneficial situation out of it, not only having a fantastic rookie season but powering his team to the World Series, somewhere they've flirted with going to for a while but hadn't been since 1988. Bellinger will hopefully keep this insane plate work up, as I'd hate for him to be a one-year thing (like Pederson).

Coming Tomorrow- Next year's an even year, but I'm doubting these guys will factor into the conversation.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Uncustomed Heroes of 2017: Diamondbacks

After years of just barely getting by on Paul Goldschmidt, the Diamondbacks finally built a team ready for October, and though they fell a bit short of everyone's expectations, they were still a sight to behold this year. Chris Owings was injured for a bit, but he was still capable of some clutch moments throughout the year.

Nick Ahmed spent most of the season playing off the bench, as he's become sort of the weaker link of the original core-four infield (Goldy-Amhed-Owings-Lamb). He still had some nice moments this year, though.

Another big piece of the team that spent the year on the DL, Yasmany Tomas, did as well as he could in the outfield and third, but was employed for his bat, which was pretty trusty when he was healthy.

With all of those starters on the DL, it was up to bench heroes like Daniel Descalso (former 2011 Cardinal, eeeerrggh), to step into the lineup and start lifting things. He was also a really nice presence when it came time for the playoffs. He may have been used to that sort of time of year.

This year's closer in Arizona was Fernando Rodney. It's become clear that Rodney's consistency is less than it used to be, but when the team's in first and close games are being saved, it doesn't matter. Rodney was as good as he could be in the ninth, though I'll be surprised if he has another nice season left.

Of course, this guy was the true catalyst for everything. As per usual, Goldschmidt had a great season, racking up MVP votes and raising the team. Unlike past years, it wasn't all on him- J.D. Martinez, Jake Lamb and Zack Greinke were also scarily tough this year, and Goldy was able to thrive in a more consistently great environment. Hope this stays a thing.

Coming Tomorrow- They nearly won the World Series. Maybe they will for the 30th?

But What if this Stanton Thing Actually Happens???

Brevity's usually a thing with my dad.

I get a lot of text messages from him that are just '?'. '?' can mean a lot of things. 'What's going on?' 'How are you doing?' 'Where'd my chocolate ice cream go?' 'What is the answer to life, the universe and everything', but he mostly just does that when he doesn't want to type a lot of things. In texting or messaging, he thrives on one-word answers. 'good'. 'really?'. 'gah'. 'sure'.

I sent him the headline that Stanton was working on a deal with the Yankees. And what did I get in return?


My thoughts exactly.

You see...when a team is trying to build on a farm system, and keep their prospects in a steady conveyor to the bigs, so that they can build on themselves and strengthen the franchise...it doesn't make a ton of sense to undo a lot of that building in order to get a guy that strikes out a lot and hits 50+ home run seasons in between being injured.

Stanton wants to go to LA. The Dodgers will most likely have a space open for him, with Ethier's departure- if not, they can very easily make Andrew Toles a Miami Marlin. That can definitely be a thing. Everything is banking on Giancarlo Stanton going to the Dodgers. And yet...the Yankees talk has 'intensified'.

The talk is that they'll be trading Ellsbury, but...you know it won't stop there. They're gonna want Gleyber Torres, and all the really nice prospects they've been stockpiling since Mateo got knocked from #1. The Yankees don't need to give those prospects up, the reformation isn't complete yet. There's still some spots left for people to take before they complete the cycle. So trading some of those guys isn't gonna help, even if it is for Stanton.

Also, Giancarlo Stanton...I can't help but feel will be a disappointment, wherever he lands this year. Those injured seasons are scaring me. They're scaring me into thinking 2017 will be his last hurrah. They're scaring me into thinking they're gonna be paying for Josh Hamilton again. I don't know if the Yankees want Stanton unless they're absolutely sure he's gonna keep playing like he did in 2017, and not like he did in 2015-6.

It's a vexing issue, one with a lot of corners and variables, but...as cool as it would be, I don't want to see Giancarlo Stanton as a Yankee. If I do, I don't think I'll ever see him hoisting a World Series trophy.

If it goes through, fine. I just don't think it'll work as well as they think it will.

UPDATE: Looks like it's gonna go through, with Starlin Castro ending up in Miami. Stanton needs to okay this. I'm hoping that if he does, he'll be a success, and not another hefty contract.

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Angelic Welcome of Mr. Ohtani

In 2012, the top man on the board was claimed by the Anaheim Angels. In 2013, after getting Pujols, they did it again with Josh Hamilton. Something about the Angels can drive them to chase players regardless of need.

So today, in spite of teams like Seattle and St. Louis making serious runs, the Angels once again arrived out of the clutch, and signed Shohei Ohtani to a long-term deal to hit, and pitch, for them for the foreseeable future. And everyone acted surprised.

The Angels, even though they landed in 2nd place by the skin of their teeth this past year, can be very ferocious. Even when they're not winning games, they're striving for more. They're attempting a rebuild that will put the youth at the forefront, restacking the rotation to emphasize Richards, Shoemaker and Bridwell, and giving Mike Trout less of a 'one saves all' kind of thing. Having Ohtani will definitely help this- that gives a third selling point, from 'SEE THE GREAT MIKE TROUT', 'SEE HALL OF FAMER ALBERT PUJOLS'...and now 'SEE THE GREAT JAPANESE STAR SHOHEI OHTANI'.

If they can get an entire team like that, they won't even have to resort to those selling points.

I'm glad the Angels did this, I think Ohtani will do well in Anaheim, but...if they want him to stay there, they're gonna have to work. Because that didn't work for the Rangers, and now Yu Darvish is shopping for a new team.