Sunday, September 15, 2019

Ten Gallen Hat


Here's a fun fact- usually by this point in the year, I'll have done customs of some of the people traded at the deadline, someone like Zack Greinke, Nicholas Castellanos or Eric Sogard, but...because of the urgency of many of the people that have gotten customs in the last month or so, I haven't gotten around to any. Also, for the reason of wanting to farm good photos until I absolutely have to.

So, my first traded custom of the year ends up being...Zac Gallen.

It may seem like a weird pick, but...Gallen may be having the most under the radar, accomplished rookie year of them all this year. In seven starts, Gallen went from an unknown to the best starter in Miami to a trade target. Who the hell can do that over the course of seven starts? You can also chalk that up to the Marlins not having security over any of their assets, as they also managed to trade Nick Anderson, another rookie, to Tampa.

So Gallen does fantastic in 7 starts with Miami, gets traded to the Diamondbacks, has seven more starts where he basically has a slight edge over the first seven (2.72 ERA in Miami, 2.62 in Arizona, and other fun comparisons). And this team doesn't make it to the playoffs either. But he's still one of the best pitchers on it, and not like in a Marlins kind of way. You already have Luke Weaver, Robbie Ray, Mike Leake and Merrill Kelly contracted for a few years (Ray will be done after 2020), and the fact that Gallen just entered into this and is pitching like this? That D-Backs rotation may still be pretty ironclad after all.

[This is all if the D-Backs don't end up trading Ray or Leake to let someone like Alex Young or Taylor Clarke start games next year, but...I can't predict shit, so I'm gonna assume they won't for now]

The bottom line is that Gallen has had to endure more in the last year than most rookies, has accelerated with grace and skill, and this is only his first year in the bigs. This is his audition to other teams that he can be a huge asset, and may be such for the D-Backs next year. Hell, he's still one of the few things keeping the team sort-of/kind-of in the wild card picture, despite the unlikelihood of them getting it.

So even if Arizona didn't turn into a playoff team after trading for Mike Leake...at least they got Zac Gallen and Leake to cement an awesome looking 2020 rotation.

Coming Tomorrow- Another deadline trade. This one's looking even better for the guys who picked him up.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Will the A's Go the Distance?


The last time the Oakland Athletics won a playoff series, the year was 2006, and they were sweeping the Minnesota Twins in 3 games. I'm gonna just...assume that nobody left on the 2019 team was playing for the A's in 2006. Matter of fact, the most recent retiree on the 2006 team is Santiago Casilla, who retired last year...after finishing out his MLB career with the Oakland Athletics.

...we were one year away from actually having a 2006 Oakland A on here. We were that close.

Of course, after that 2006 season, the A's let go of everybody, including Frank Thomas, Barry Zito, Jason Kendall, Milton Bradley...and Jeremy Brown, the guy from Moneyball who had the single most embarrassing home run trot of all time. And then they became a punchline for 4 years, then had those nearly-good-enough playoff teams, lost a bunch of division series' and wild card games, then lost everybody again, became a punchline again...and then fought back last year AND this year to be right there in the wild card race.

If the A's didn't have to compete with the Houston Astros (like...if they were considered a Central team rather than a West team...so, like, pre-2013 rules), they'd be leading this division, looking at a solid third-seed in the playoffs, ANNNND a rendezvous with the Yankees in the playoffs, which would be prophetic considering the Yankees annihilated their playoff hopes in 2002. But...we're living in a weirdly-warped MLB, where the Astros are an AL team, Harold Baines is a hall of famer, and the home-run rate goes up without people blaming Rob Manfred for changing the balls.

Once again, this team has been built with the cheapest contracts possible, and only Khris Davis and Stephen Piscotty have built up multi-year deals that impact the team's future. Everyone else is either a couple year-deal, or waiting for arbitration. So guys who are ruling this team, like Mike Fiers, Matt Chapman, Mark Canha, Liam Hendriks and Ramon Laureano...are all doing this cheaply.

The A's currently have a leg-up on the competition, have a fun team pulled together, and have FINALLY gotten Sean Manaea back in the rotation, so they're cruising towards a potentially longer-than-usual playoff run. BUT...I do worry that because of the lack of strong contract options, this team could lose its base again, start at zero again and go through the same cycle we've seen three times now without any results. That's an extreme worry with a homegrown team like Oakland.

But something tells me they could be dangerous in the postseason this year. So I kinda hope something good happens to them this year.

Coming Tomorrow- How the hell is nobody talking about this guy for Rookie of the Year? He had a consistent run in Miami, he's having a consistent run in Arizona, and he's been stronger than both teams. Give him at least SOMETHING.

Miles to go Before October


Once again, I am confused as to how THIS is a playoff team, as no one in the starting lineup OR the bench is batting over .290, or that the staff's ace, Miles Mikolas, is having a very okay year leaving the team to rely more on Dakota Hudson and Jack Flaherty (perhaps spreading them a bit too thin), or that their marquee guy Matt Carpenter is being unseated by a guy no one has heard of.

...I'd say that the Cardinals are only winning this division by default, but since that seemed to piss off a bunch of Orioles fans when I did so 5 years ago, I'm not doing it now. Hell, if the 2014 Orioles got to the World Series, the world would be a better place right now.

But we're not talking about the Orioles, we're talking about the 2019 Cardinals, who...unless something goes wrong, or right, and they let the Cubs, who are 4 games behind them, catch up, are going to win the NL Central, in a year where at multiple times the Cubs, Brewers and Cardinals have been contending.

And...I'll say this lightly...the Cardinals are the only one who hasn't had things go absolutely haywire internally. The Brewers' pitching exploded midway through the year, and around August they just decided they'd had enough of...competing. The Cubs are a fine team that may still be in the Wild Card race, but their lack of wins away from home, plus the slow dissolution of every starting pitcher except for Yu Darvish, has left them questionable for an NL Central title.

Which leaves the Cardinals. To their credit, they've done a lot to stay on top, as their pitching has improved drastically since April, with Flaherty and Hudson coming into their own, Wainwright having an impressive, classic-Waino season, Carlos Martinez coming into his own as closer, and great relief work from Giovanny Gallegos, John Gant, John Brebbia, Ryan Helsey and Andrew Miller. There's enough good pitching on this team to make up for a lineup that, while still interesting (Goldy, DeJong, Wong and Ozuna are all great), has a few too many weak spots to be taken seriously as a playoff threat.

If the season ended today, the Cards would be seeded third, and would play the Atlanta Braves in a division series. From a statistical standpoint, I can imagine this not going well for them, though since the Cards have a habit of winning when they're not supposed to, it could be close.

Coming Tonight: As the wild card race thickens in the AL, a fringe outfielder emerges as a powerhouse...as does his team.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Sano Regrets


Hi. Remember this guy?

Remember how it was refreshing to see this guy hitting a ton of homers back in 2017? Well, too bad, because now everyone on the Twins is hitting a ton of homers and it's barely special anymore.

This has gotten very out of hand. The only Twins starter who doesn't have 20+ home runs is Byron Buxton, and not only is he out for the season, but he's a contact hitter. Meanwhile, Kepler and Cruz are chasing 40, Mitch Garver just broke 30, Eddie Rosario and Sano are looking to break 30 within the week, and C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop are looking to break 25. Yes, this means that only a few players will finish the season with less than 100 strikeouts in this lineup, but at least nobody's too close to 200 strikeouts, or at the very least Jorge Soler's standard of 161 strikeouts. Though Sano, with 56 less games than him, is still catching up with 138.

Even with this uptick in power, as well as the fun quality of guys like Luis Arraez, Schoop, Willians Astudillo and Marwin Gonzalez getting hero moments, there's still a concern for guys like Sano. Yes, he hits 30 or so homers a year, but A.) has never played more than 116 games in a season, B.) has struck out over 100 times in each season (Marcus Semien has 28 home runs this season, and he only has 93 strikeouts), and C.) has never topped .270 in a season. For a guy the Twins have been banking on for a while, Miguel Sano has only delivered in flashy, broad moments, rather than being a five-tool player that, honestly Byron Buxton is closer to.

For everything Sano can deliver, there are three guys (Eddie Rosario, Max Kepler, Nelson Cruz) doing it even better this year. Which can't be a good thing for him. 26 years old and a guy 12 years older's having the better season? That'd suck.

Also, semi-unrelated, but Nelson Cruz's 40th home run of the year will not only mark his fourth career 40-home-run season, and first since 2016, but it will also mark his 400th home run, which isn't the worst milestone for a career DH.

Anyway. Twins are rolling, the hitting is gonna power them well into the postseason, and Sano needs to have a fuller, more consistent season one of these days.

Coming Tomorrow- [sigh] another Cardinals ace.

The Benefits of Holding Out


So...Dallas Keuchel spent the first month and a half of the season in waiting because he didn't like any of the deals being presented to him. At the time, this felt like a failure of the free agency system, as well as indictment not only on Keuchel's demeanor, but on his overall abilities. So much of his lack of a deal was overanalyzed, overthought and over broadcast.

...to the point where once he eventually signed with someone, and started doing really well, nobody said anything.

And again, I don't know if that says more about the system or Keuchel. Keuchel's numbers, while inconsistent, have been largely strong, and he's definite had more dominant seasons than disappointing ones. His year in Atlanta is no different, with an 8-5 record with a 3.35 ERA over 16 starts. This does mean he'll have a career low strikeouts with less than 100 so far, compared to his previous low of 123 strikeouts in 2013. It's still strong, and his numbers have been right up there with Teheran, Soroka, Fried and...for the most part Folty.

Now, would Keuchel's season gone any better had he gone the entire season? Let's say he joins the team in March and makes as many starts as Julio Teheran, which is 30 as of now. Using high-school-level math, this means he'd have 15 wins and 151 strikeouts in a full season, which is still not bad. It'd also mean he'd have an ASG gig and more Cy Young votes. But, because he held out, his season is seen in a different light, and even if he has some nice postseason starts, which is very likely, the writers will take that into consideration.

At least Craig Kimbrel made it easy by sucking balls this season.

Anyway, Keuchel has made the Braves stronger, and they're a better postseason team with him, but I wish he would have signed in February so that we could have seen more numbers from him in Atlanta.

Coming Tonight: He was hitting a ton of home runs before the rest of his team made it cool.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Domingo German Crashes the Party


Yeah, when we started this season, I was not thinking that the Yankees starter with the most amount of wins by September would be Domingo German. I don't think German was thinking that either.

But, there he is, 17-4, with a 4.21 ERA and 146 strikeouts. Not bad at all, especially for a guy who got chewed out in multiple 2018 starts. Now, he may not the most potent and powerful starter on the Yankees right now (that...quite clearly is James Paxton), or the best innings-eater (that would be Masahiro Tanaka), but he is a strong, dominant starting option, and the kind of pitcher that makes up for the loss of Luis Severino.

However...what happens when Severino comes back, as he will be next week? What happens when the Yankees go into the postseason relying heavily on Severino, Paxton and Tanaka, and then potentially German if they need to? What happens when the guy with the most wins ends up a long-man in a postseason roster? We may find out. Because that's honestly where I think German is on the depth chart, and that may be where we go if Sevvy returns in full force.

Meanwhile, the Yankees' postseason lineup is beginning to straighten out- with Tauchman gone til next year, that final outfield spot is between Clint Frazier and Cameron Maybin, and honestly I think Maybin has the edge. Yes, Stanton's coming back, and they'll probably want him to start games, but...after two aborted seasonal runs by Stanton this year, how sure are we that Stanton's better numbers will be back this year?

Additionally, Edwin Encarnacion was removed earlier today with an oblique strain, so...his status could be in jeopardy. Which means we may have some DH flexibility, which is good for Frazier and Maybin, because then Stanton can just take DH and they can get OF starts. Also, Voit can do games at DH, LeMahieu can do games at first, and so on. This is only if Edwin misses substantial playing time, which is likely but not definite. It is good that we have this kind of flexibility going into a potential playoff run.

Good that we're having this conversation in September about the Yankees. Hope we go further than usual.

Coming Tomorrow- One of the two holdouts from the free agent season that signed mid-year. This is the one that flourished...and it's not the one that any of us thought.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

So, You've Clinched the NL West for the Seventh Straight Time


...now what?

I mean, the Dodgers have had some incredible playoff teams in the last 7 years. They've farmed players like Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Walker Buehler and now Gavin Lux. They've briefly accumulated Manny Machado, Yu Darvish, Josh Reddick, Chase Utley and Jedd Gyorko.

...and they've won 0 World Series.

I hate to be a broken record and go 'THIS is the year they do it', but...seeming kinda likely considering how overpowered this roster is. The rotation is stellar and expansive, and can recover from curveballs like Ryu's slumping and May's beaning. The lineup is awesome across the board, and has benefitted from overhauls like Will Smith's switch to starting catcher and Joc Pederson's promotion back to starter. The bench seems unlimited, even with guys like Kris Negron and Gavin Lux showing up and impressing. The elites, like Justin Turner, Clayton Kershaw, Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager, just keep repopulating.

And yet the Dodgers have had teams like this before, that have seemed unbeatable, and yet have been beaten. Even last year's, which gained unbelievable momentum late thanks to Walker Buehler and Max Muncy, still ended up losing to Boston. So what will it take?

Honestly? Luck. Little things need to swing the Dodgers' way, like Ryu regaining his footing, Rich Hill staying healthy either as a starter or a reliever, Muncy and Verdugo returning in full health, and lots of things we can't even predict. If the Dodgers are gonna win it all, they can't do what the 2016 Cubs do and 1st-seed their way all the way down (or maybe they can, idk). They're going to have to win y surprising people, seeming human before seeming like the only option to win it all.

In a perfect world, the Dodgers win the 2019 World Series. Yes, more perfect than a Yankee win. Hope it happens.

Coming Tomorrow- Luis Severino's been out all year...lucky for the Yankees, they have the next best thing.