Thursday, September 21, 2017
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
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.
Still...at 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
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
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.
(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
(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.
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.
Saturday, September 16, 2017
Okay, I haven't been proud of a ton of the puns I've been making lately for titles for posts...but that one could go on my wall.
The Mariners have had sparks of greatness this season, in the lineup, pitching, and in the field. This has been a generally nice team that's had some truly awful luck, especially in terms of pitching. The whole starting rotation went down, and the team had to deal with backups that weren't all up to snuff, which explains why they're probably not going to make the playoffs. Even with a resuscitated King Felix and recently traded Mike Leake on the staff, it's not looking very good for the rotation, or the team.
Still, if anything can be taken from the Mariners' 2017 season, it should be the strength of the lineup, and the fact that veterans, like Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano, new additions, like Jean Segura and Yonder Alonso, and rookies, like Ben Gamel and Mitch Haniger, could all work together to form a pretty fearsome lineup. Hell, even Mike Zunino decided to hit, and that almost NEVER happens.
I'm not sure if this means a postseason run is in the Mariners' future from 2018 on, but...if they can fix their pitching, it'd be a nice thought.
Coming Tomorrow- Best Pitcher in Baseball.
The difference, by the way, between the Minnesota Twins and the St. Louis Cardinals...and why one's probably making a Wild Card and the other is falling out of their Wild Card race, is that the Twins were able to weave their youth movement in with the veterans. The Cardinals' plan seems to be to just call up everybody and just hope that everybody fits in.
Paul DeJong's doing great this year, and he's a fantastic rookie shortstop, but...what makes this problematic is that they just had a rookie shortstop last year, in Aledmys Diaz, and DeJong is up in spite of Diaz' injury. The question will be 'what will the Cardinals do once DeJong AND Diaz are both healthy. Who'll get to start games?' The same problem's been happening with Tommy Pham, as he's been having a phenomenal year...and it's fine if he gets to start in spite of the three proposed starters, like Dexter Fowler, Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty. But...now the Cardinals have brought up Magneuris Sierra and Harrison Bader as fellow outfielders. They're ALSO doing really well.
The problem isn't that they're bringing in rookies as replacements. The problem is that they're all playing well, and the people they were replacing aren't really established stars as much as guys that have only been playing for a few years. So when, say, all three outfielders are healthy next year, as well as the three younger ones that have been playing well...what's gonna happen? Who's gonna sit.
And what makes this even more frustrating is that the guy they might NEED to replace, Yadier Molina, has no successor like everybody else. They had Eric Fryer, but he's gone, and now they have Carson Kelly, and he's...not having a great year as backup. So they have 2018 replacements for everybody except for the guy who's probably going to NEED a replacement in 2018. It's maddening.
I don't know if 2017 is going to work out for them, but I feel like 2018 might be a mess, because they'll be trying to work everybody in the lineup.
Coming Tonight: Earlier this year he was an All-Star in Oakland. Now he's still not going to the playoffs, just on a different AL West team.
Friday, September 15, 2017
First of all, I wanna weigh in on all of these Players' Weekend uniforms, because a ton of them have been landing on the blog in customs lately, and you're probably wondering what I think of them.
Well...I like them. I think they're a really cool change of pace, similar to the 'Turn Forward the Clock' week back in the late 90s, and I think it's a nice way of paving the way for players' creativity and looseness on the ballfield. This can be a serious game, but those uniforms remind me that, above all else, the starting nines are there to have a good time.
Right. Onto the Wild-Card-contending Minnesota Twins.
The Twins are far enough ahead of the pack that you can guess that they'll be ending up in the postseason. Their closest competitors are the Angels, and as much as they're heating up, they haven't had the full, competitive season the Twins had. The Twins had some come-ups, some breakouts, some really nice performances, but we also saw the return of the 2015 ideology that simply good managing and good units can get a ton done. I'll give Molly some credit there, even if I thought he'd be out of a job by this year.
Byron Buxton's having a fantastic, full season, being a menace on the base paths and in the outfield, leading the team by example. Yes, old heroes like Max Kepler, Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer are also doing pretty well, but Buxton was one of those guys who we all worried would never live up to his status as a (sigh) TOP PROSPECT. And now he's leading the team into the Wild Card game.
The pitching worries me slightly, but Ervin Santana, Jose Berrios, and (GASP) even Bartolo Colon are doing pretty damned well, even if they probably won't have the pitching numbers to combat probable wild card rivals the New York Yankees.
This team has come so far in a year, and I'm excited that they have a chance to make it far this year, no matter how unlikely it may have seemed.
Coming Tomorrow- Hopefully the last one of those stinking Cardinals I need to make this year, this one a powerful rookie infielder.
So, the Braves didn't get a ton of results from their BIG ROOKIE CALL-UP from last year, Dansby Swanson, in a full year in the bigs. So what do they do? They...call up another big rookie around the same time of year?
And look, I'm not saying anything about the quality of either Swanson or Ozzie Albies in a bad light. I'm just saying if something led to a mistake one year, regardless of talent...maybe don't do it again. Maybe Swanson wasn't ready. Does that mean Albies will or won't do the same thing next year? I literally have no idea. Does that also mean that Swanson won't rebound next year? I still have absolutely no idea.
Right now, Ozzie Albies is playing pretty well, covering at 2nd base for the dearly departed Brandon Phillips. The team...isn't, but this is NL East baseball for you if you don't live in Washington. This is some pretty boilerplate, scraping-to-get-out kinda stuff. But the Braves at least are doing it with a smile on their face, and at least the Braves are trying to build a steady core around Freddie Freeman.
Again, I'd love to get to a point where both Albies and Dansby Swanson are playing well. They're both 'TOP PROSPECTS', and they both showed promise, and...I don't know what they can both do next year. But still...at least it looks promising now.
Coming Tonight: Two years after a disappointing rookie come-up as a 'TOP PROSPECT', he's FINALLY doing what he promised.
Thursday, September 14, 2017
So yeah. Despite Josh Donaldson's best efforts, this was the year where the Blue Jays decided it'd be easier to just not make the playoffs.
The core of this Blue Jays team, which was already problematic during the come-up, has aged to a point where competing probably won't be a thing for a while. Jose Bautista, the guy they bridged this whole rise around, has gotten too old, and too counterproductive, to even be a thing anymore. And plugging in people like Steve Pearce, Miguel Montero, Kendrys Morales and Darwin Barney into the lineup hasn't made the core any more youthful, as the youth movement they were trying to set up with Dalton Pompey and Devon Travis...didn't really work.
The top three in the pitching staff are safe bets, great arms, but...beyond that, you've got a mess. Chris Rowley has cooled down dramatically, Joe Biagini and Brett Anderson are mixed bags, and Aaron Sanchez is injured. There's no 'misfits that could' quality, especially when Marco Estrada is losing so many games.
So...the Jays are...cooling down. Maybe not 'done', but they lack the punch that got them into the ALCS two years in a row. So maybe some teams I like will make it there this year.
Coming Tomorrow- The snappy little rookie that's doing his best to save a failing NL East team.
...So J.D. Martinez is hitting 38 home runs this season, and we're gonna ignore that because it's split between two leagues? And don't give me that Cespedes bias. J.D. Martinez showed an insane amount of power in both Detroit AND Arizona, and his home runs are gonna propel the D-Backs further into the postseason than they had any right to. Plus, unlike Cespedes, it wasn't a one-man-effort. Like in Detroit, Martinez worked with a unit and mutually made this team watchable.
As the Dodgers are crumbling in first, the Diamondbacks are playing some amazing baseball, and growing so much as a roster. The star, of course, is Paul Goldschmidt, and maybe this will be the season where he FINALLY gets the respect he deserves. Additionally, performances by Jake Lamb, David Peralta and Ketel Marte are lifting the roster into the conversation, and lifting the lineup into relevance.
After a season of stuttering...Zack Greinke is finally the ace they signed him to be, and he's had another HOF-worthy season of 200 strikeouts and 15+ wins. The fact that they got him in this condition 10+ years into his career is fantastic. Also, Robbie Ray, Taijuan Walker, Zack Godley and Patrick Corbin have been equally impressive, making the Diamondbacks incredibly formidable going into a postseason they'll probably have to enter via the wild card game.
The D-Backs could do some amazing things in the postseason, but they've lost the last few games, and may be catching the same virus the Dodgers caught. If they want into this insane 2017 postseason, they're gonna need to decide how they want their season to end.
Coming Tonight: Won an MVP 2 years ago. He's still an absolute beast, and it's a shame his team isn't.
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
The best news that the A's got this month is that there are plans for the to get a new stadium in the near future. Yeah, it's got nothing to do with the team, it's just where they're gonna be.
This was not a great year to be an A's far. They traded away the established talent, and tried to reinvent the squad by piping in rookies and unknowns. It...sort of worked? Matts Chapman and Olsen made it to the forefront rather quickly, while Khris Davis, Jed Lowrie and Sean Manaea kept performing throughout the year. Also, the last half of the season was a chance for Marcus Semien to come back from an injury and get back to business.
The pitching staff...tried. But it was hard to keep everyone healthy and hot, when basically everyone was under-experienced and over-worked. So Jharel Cotton and Andrew Triggs sort of fell apart once the momentum was sort of placed onto their shoulders. Plus, Triggs and Paul Blackburn were doing pretty well until injuries happened, and now they're bringing up anybody they have, and not everybody's truly ready.
So...we're left with a mediocre A's team that doesn't have a lot to work with for 2018. Oh well. Go Raiders.
Coming Tomorrow- He's been hitting like hell, and his team's playing like they're in first. Maybe if they keep it up, they will be.
Now is NOT THE TIME for the Cubs to start losing games. But, sadly...they're not having a great week, and the Cardinals and Brewers are catching up. This is the exact thing they didn't want to happen.
It doesn't help that this team isn't as outwardly powerful as the 2016 team, but the Cubs have had some structural flaws, a few guys slumping, and a pitching staff that isn't as consistent as last year, leading to some losses, and sliding further and further down, closer to competitors. And, no, this would NOT be a great year for the Cardinals to take 1st place. They don't even deserve it.
Plus, Javier Baez has arguably been having a more masterful season than the one where he won the Series. He's been taking 2nd base more consistently, hitting really well, and making a case for permanence when Zobrist inevitably leaves. He's been a part of a nice infield, even with Addison Russell injured and Zobrist and Tommy La Stella filling in.
This isn't a bad team, it's only one that needs to build back its momentum for the playoffs. The Cardinals and Brewers are far enough away that it's not a huge problem, but enough that it must be discussed.
I don't know if the Cubs will be as good as they were last year in the postseason...but I'm just glad they're being discussed to make it.
Coming Tonight: A shortstop for the too inexperienced to compete Athletics.
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
(Yeah, that one's worthy of a Daily Show lower third)
And now, another moment with the Detroit Tigers. They're not the worst in the AL Central, but...everybody good on this team is either gone, injured or slumping. They honestly have NOTHING to work with. Even Jose Iglesias and Ian Kinsler are getting a wee bit tired of holding the whole team together.
It's been noted that teams like the Giants and Blue Jays are sinking due to aging cores, but...the Tigers have absolutely nothing to start with, and the guys that HAVE stuck around are aging themselves. The youth can only do so much, and Jeimer Candelario is being forced into the picture, but with an injured Michael Fulmer and...just a great deal of disarray, there's not much to do in Detroit but assess the damage and wait for the season to end.
The fact that there were so many holes left by departed players that Mikie Mahtook is a valued starter says everything I need to. When Mikie Mahtook, destined for 'Fringe Player Hall of Fame' next to Karl Rhodes and Steve Sparks, is getting a substantial amount of playing time, you know things are dire.
So yeah. The other side of the 'the Indians can win 20 straight games' fold is that teams like the Tigers and White Sox can COMPLETELY fall apart as the season goes on.
Coming Tomorrow- While his team isn't sinking as fast as the Dodgers, he does need to buckle up and keep his lovable underdogs in the picture.
Monday, September 11, 2017
It's gotten to the point of the season in Philadelphia when it's a ton easier being a Philly sports fan by just watching Eagles games and forgetting about the Phils for a bit.
Not to discredit the Phillies...too much. The way Rhys Hoskins, Aaron Altherr, Nick Williams and Aaron Nola have performed this year has impressed me, and makes me excited for the years to come. That doesn't change the fact that the team's a mess, the pitching's stocked with injuries and overinflated ERAs, and...they're still gonna end up as the worst team in baseball. It's happening. They're already preparing for the 2018 draft.
And it's nice that at this exact moment, where the Phillies' season is absolutely hopeless and they have no chance of doing anything else groundbreaking this year, that the Eagles' season has begun, they had a big win over Washington, and the eyes are becoming fixed on them. Yes, Rhys Hoskins is wonderful, but Carson Wentz is our lord and savior and he deserves our undivided attention.
So...we're just gonna assume the Phillies are gonna keep doing what they've been doing all year. Win a few games, lose several. Have one good performance, as well as several poor ones. And then, hopefully the exploits of those birds in green are gonna make us forget about the 2017 Phillies' season.
Coming Tomorrow- The Tigers have absolutely nothing left. This guy falls under 'absolutely nothing'.
This is the part of the season where the plot thickens for the New York Yankees.
They're playing well. True, they're not in 1st right now, but they're winning games, and playing really well. Plus, Todd Frazier is a pretty nice addition...even though the reason they traded for him is now playing amazingly again.
Now, the Yankees' season is going to go one of two ways. One of those ways involves going in as the Wild Card pick, winning that game, and playing the first seed, which...will probably be the Cleveland Indians. This could be extraordinarily difficult for them, but it will likely have to happen if they want to make it all the way.
The other option would involve the Red Sox continuing to slip down the standings, and for the Yankees to take the AL East. If that happens, they'll probably play the Astros. They've done this before, and it's been...fine. The momentum for the Astros seems to be slipping a bit, so if the Yankees are going to pick up some themselves, they need to do so this month.
They've got one more game against the Rangers, then a series against the Rays, which may be relatively simple for them (MAY be; they just beat the Sox). They definitely have a shot at making a move. They just need to be sharp over the next week or so. This is a truly great team...and it better not come short of a playoff gig.
Coming Tonight: A member of those building-but-ill-fated Philadelphia Phillies.
Sunday, September 10, 2017
2010: World Champions
2012: World Champions
2014: World Champions
2017: Last Place in the NL.
That escalated rather quickly, d'ya think?
I feel bad for the Giants, but at the same time...it's a plausible downslope. The core got old and beat up, and a lot of the pitching was either too burnt-out or too inexperienced. Hell, the late season "trade" for Pablo Sandoval was basically an excuse to land old-school fans back in seats...even if he did continue to hit below the Mendoza line.
I honestly don't know how they're gonna rebuild, because a lot of the youth that saw playing time this year wasn't especially good, and can't really inherit the team right now. Buster Posey's still the best catcher in baseball, but is keeping him around to be the Joe Mauer the best idea? There's a ton of instability, and there aren't a ton of easy answers to questions, unlike a fellow NL last place team.
Bottom line is I'm not sure if the Giants will be 'back' next year, or anywhere else in this decade. Yes, they won 3 World Series', but...if the core can't survive a few years after, then what's the point?
Coming Tomorrow- One of two people named Frazier currently playing for the Yankees.
Back on the endless quest to be the team that loses to the Yankees, the Angels are still trying to catch up to Minnesota, while the Rangers and Orioles are catching up to the Angels. It's this neverending chase that's probably only going to end when the proverbial music stops.
The Angels might be the strangest case, though. They're not working with a hell of a lot, and have accumulated a ragtag team of acquisitions, cheap bench guys, and people you wouldn't expect to be playing for a competing roster, to help them fight the Twins. So far, the acquisitions of Brandon Phillips and Justin Upton have been working out well for them, and even bit players like Eric Young and Tyler Skaggs are being pushed into high gear.
The pitching is still problematic, as despite Parker Bridwell doing a pretty nice job, the other options of Ricky Nolasco, Jesse Chavez and Andrew Heaney are far from exceptional. The good news is...Garrett Richards SEEMS TO BE coming back! He started a game a few days ago, it went...alright. Like, good for him, bad for the team. So the bottom line is that if the ace, if Garrett Richards, can get back to his full form in this last month of the season....maybe they'll be alright?
I don't know, it's hard to say. The momentum that the Twins have right now counteracts the Angels' momentum, as the Angels have been losing games and the Twins...haven't. The Twins get to play the Padres this week, while the Angels are probably gonna have 3 taken away from them by the Astros. So the way this schedule's working out...might not happen. But I'm impressed with how far they came this year, and I'm impressed by their desire to have a team with great performances that are not just limited to Mike Trout.
Coming Tonight: He may not be doing too spectacularly since the trade, but at least they can go back to selling Panda hats at AT&T Park.
Saturday, September 9, 2017
There's really nothing more to say about the 2017 Cincinnati Reds other than to eulogize them.
The lineup was great, the bench had some depth, Joey Votto had one of his best seasons since his won the MVP in 2010, and added to his Hall of Fame case in a big way. Adam Duvall had another 30 home run season, Scooter Gennett had a great year when he could have slid into obscurity, Scott Schebler, Eugenio Suarez and Jose Peraza had solid seasons, and Zack Cozart started an All Star Game. There's promise in the future, with Phil Ervin having some great games, and Jesse Winker giving a taste of his abilities before landing on the DL.
Of course...the Reds had...the absolute worst pitching staff in baseball this year. Even the Padres' was better than that, because at least they had someone competent that didn't get injured. It was a mess, and it prevented them from actually having a nice season. The injuries, not just to the staff but to people like Billy Hamilton, were insurmountable. This team could have been way better than a last place mess. Plus, I don't know how long it's going to take them to rework that pitching staff. It could take another few seasons, and they could lose the lineup.
But yeah...the Reds season was not great, and hopefully they'll be able to learn from it...soon.
Coming Tomorrow- A catcher for a team that...MIGHT make the playoffs? Too soon to say.
Nothing is more efficient in signaling the end of your team's playoff run than a DWI from the injured ace.
The Royals had a nice comeback season, with star turns from Lorenzo Cain, Jason Vargas, and ESPECIALLY Mike Moustakas. The main point of this season was to prove that the main core of this team, the one that had been to two World Series' and dominated the league, was still intact and capable of winning games, and not worthy of dismantling. This team is nowhere near Philly 2013 levels of age...nor are they near Philly 2017 levels of age, so, it's a nice sweet spot to be in.
But the lack of consistent competent pitching is what did them in. Ian Kennedy, Jason Hammel and the barrage of rookies that were called on to fix the staff were...not great. They may have sunk the team. Plus, Danny Duffy was having a great season...then he got injured...AND THEN HE GOT CAUGHT WITH A DWI. Even if the Royals are still capable of maaaaybe catching up to someone...there are too many teams in the Wild Card race that HAVE momentum.
The Royals probably aren't going to make the playoffs, so the goal is to ensure that A.) the core of the lineup sticks around, and B.) There's enough of a competent pitching staff for 2018 that it doesn't get embarrassing with every division matchup.
Coming Tonight: He's quick, he's dangerous, and...he's injured, leaving his team even more hopeless than they were.
This is Amed Rosario. He's been doing pretty well for the Mets, being a solid rookie shortstop, getting a nice amount of hits, and teaming with the slightly-less consistent Dominic Smith to lead a youth movement in New York.
Now, if there was anybody competent left in New York to play with Amed, we wouldn't have so many problems.
Look, it's not without lack of trying from Mets ownership. Wright, Cespedes, Thor and Conforto are injured. Jose Reyes is slumping like hell. Asdrubal Cabrera doesn't wanna play. And everybody that was actually doing well for the Mets...is no longer playing for the Mets. So cheap shots and rookies like Rosario and Smith are literally the only ideas the Mets have left. Nothing is working, and they're sinking further.
...Not that it matters. The outcome in the NL East has been foregone since April. The Nats have been far and away the best team in the division, and everyone else has been scrounging for table scraps ever since. So the Mets losing ground isn't a terribly big deal, but it is considering how close they were to winning a World Series 2 years ago. I knew they'd need to rebuild, but not THIS SOON. Even the Royals are still competing with the base of that 2015 team.
So, til the end of the year, the Mets are gonna have to keep winning with absolutely nothing. Amed Rosario may be the future, but right now they're gonna need to working in order to get to that future.
Coming Tomorrow- They may still theoretically have a shot, especially thanks to this trusty starter, but right about now might be the time to pour one out.
Friday, September 8, 2017
Oooooooh, taking some cues from the Patriots, are we Red Sox?
I'm sorry, but as a Yankee fan, and as a human being, I can't NOT make fun of this. As good as the Red Sox are, and as certain as their playoff chances are...who am I kidding, they cheated. They stole signs from the Yankees...which, by the way, didn't work 3/4ths of that series, and they got caught. And now they're sort of being scrutinized by the entire league, which...of all teams...
Maybe it's the fact that I actually got to see this team live this year, but...there's a shred of sympathy. I saw how this team was building up. The unbelievable duo of Rafael Devers and Eduardo Nunez had shook up this team and made them even tougher to beat. Chris Sale kept perfecting his Cy Young caliber season. The inevitability of the playoff run was strengthening. If it wasn't for the last two weeks, I'd be firmer in saying how dangerous this team might be in the playoffs, but right now they seem to be taking a passive approach. The Yankees are regaining ground, and the real story in the AL is how many more games the Indians are going to win.
Right now the Indians are at the bottom of the 'protected' teams, so they'll likely be going in seeded third, which means they'll have to defeat whoever is seeded 2nd. I'm not gonna pin down who that's gonna be, because one's rising fast, so...assume you have to play either the Astros or the Indians...and you're the one that's losing momentum. So yeah. I'm thinking it MAY not end well for the Sox. Of course, if the Yankees break past the WC, they'll have to play the 1st seed, so...either way, it's gonna be tough for the AL East.
Still, the Sox' scrutiny is the cherry on top of their shit sundae that was this week.
Coming Tonight: Step One for the Mets was to trade away most of the established stars on the roster. Step 2 is looking like it's bringing up the big rookies and seeing if they can carry the team. And so far, one of them's been doing pretty well.
Thursday, September 7, 2017
(And now, the ceremonial 'Augh' at Jordan's realization that the Cardinals are, indeed, back in the playoff race)
I understand that pretty much anyone left in the Wild Race is essentially competing to be Arizona's bitch, but...the St. Louis Cardinals, after lapping the Brewers, despite ignoring EVERY SINGLE SIGN that they're not really supposed to be competing this season, are scooching up on the Rockies for that last spot. And...I...no. Just no. This shouldn't be a thing we have to talk about in September. The Cardinals aren't a playoff team, they were just selling pitchers. We don't need to go through another year of this.
Besides, the Rockies have had a better all-around season, always volleying for some piece of the NL West hierarchy, and having a consistently solid year, with great pitching and a solid lineup. Plus, the Rockies used the deadline to strengthen the team, picking up Jonathan Lucroy as a solid catching option, replacing the inefficient Tony Wolters. Plus, with the seasons that Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon and DJ LeMaiheu are having, they have every right to be there.
What the Brewers need to do in this last stretch of the season is cement their status as a playoff team, and defend their spot from anyone who's trying to take it away from them, even those pesky Cardinals.
Coming Tomorrow- Stealing? What stealing? Let's instead talk about their newly-acquired and streaking infielder.
(As a New Jersey resident, you have no idea how badly i had to cringe in order to make that the title.)
We cannot ignore how horrible the hurricane in Houston was last week. Even baseball noticed the destruction, as a few Astros games had to take place in Tampa, until everything boiled over. There was talk of the storm trying to kill the feel-good story of the unstoppable Astros. And yes, since their unstoppable start to the season, the Astros have cooled down a bit, losing a few too many matches, and coming down from the high horse, now at 85 wins, as the Indians try to catch up to them for the first seed.
The pitching in Houston may be what separates them from the pack. In addition from Cy-caliber Dallas Keuchel, a surprising breakout from Brad Peacock, and the astonishing returns of Lance McCullers and Collin McHugh...Justin Verlander is now pitching for the Astros, and last night he had a phenomenal debut performance. Even with mega-rotations like Cleveland and New York showing up on the horizon, the Astros look like they're gonna do their damnedest to hang onto that seed.
The lineup's not worrying me either. Springer and Correa are healthy, Altuve's still on his way to an MVP, Reddick and Bregman are still hot, and the bench is pretty nice. Plus, Ken Giles finally gets to close games for a competing team, which I couldn't be prouder of.
So yeah...the Astros have strapped in for the last bit of this season, and I couldn't be more excited.
Coming Tonight: Improving catcher, now playing for a potential Wild Card team.
Wednesday, September 6, 2017
(Whatever, at least I get my references.)
The race is still on for the final Wild Card spot, and while the Rockies seem to have a hand on it, the Brewers cannot be counted out. With the insane pitching from Chase Anderson, Jimmy Nelson and Zach Davies, and some star turns from Orlando Arcia, Domingo Santana and Travis Shaw, the team that everyone counted out is shaping up to make one last stab at glory.
Part of the reason why they're fighting is the addition of Neil Walker to take over for a slumping Jonathan Villar, and he's been an improvement. Not only does he not have to play in Queens anymore, but he's a sharp bat, picking up where he left off in Pittsburgh, and he fits into a cohesive, building infield that could use some veteran leadership.
The problem I'm seeing is that the Rockies may stand still in the next few weeks, and not let the Brewers even think about taking the wild card spot. But still, they've come a very long way as a team, and are definitely back on the upswing.
Coming Tomorrow- An oddly-named pitcher for those red-hot Astros
Thirteen wins in a row. Which means everyone who earlier on thought 'uh, maybe they're not a playoff team this year' is looking mighty foolish.
It's not the kind of thing that happened overnight. The Indians' season was building from the moment it started, even if it took them a while to get past the Twins to secure 1st place. And then slowly, those Indians that made the playoffs so fun to watch last year began to appear. Jose Ramirez was playing better than he ever had. Carlos Santana started hitting home runs. Corey Kluber started throwing smoke like he did in the playoffs. Even Trevor Bauer was having a nice season, and when that's happening, you know something special's going on.
It must be mentioned the presence of acquisitions in Cleveland, such as the appearance of Jay Bruce in that lineup, because he's been playing brilliantly. The presence of Joe Smith in the bullpen is also helping the fans grieve the loss of Andrew Miller for the next few weeks. But the main thing to get from this is that the Indians had enough in the tank before July 31st that the guys leading the charge right now were there all along. They didn't need many trade deadline deals or waiver deals, because they were already in some pretty pristine shape.
When your team has SEVEN viable options for starting pitchers...and this is a month before the playoffs start, you know they're preparing for something big. I mean, of course they are. This is a Terry Francona team. That guy knows how to get to the postseason. He knows how to make teams win, even if they hadn't in decades. The guy has built a franchise that can last, that can consistently make it far. And that is dangerous, especially in a league that has a few fading division leaders, and one big chess piece the Tribe knows they need to take out.
I'm saying the Indians could repeat. I'm also saying they could win it all. But it's up to them as to how far they can take it this year.
Coming Tonight: Another guy who got out of Queens, this one doing pretty well for a Wild Card fighting team.
Tuesday, September 5, 2017
Welp, once again, it's looking like the mantle of 'best team to miss the playoffs' might be going to the Miami Marlins. Even with the best hitters in the game, even with some pretty impressive young pitchers, even with a roster that'd even improved itself after a solid 2016, the Marlins are buried deep enough beneath Washington that their Wild Card chances are quite slim.
And it's sad, because the Marlins actually have a ton more promise than a lot of the teams in front of them in the standings (especially those bloody Cardinals). But the WC race seems to be relatively decided, with the Diamondbacks holding onto that first spot like a life preserver, and the Rockies and Brewers volleying for the second spot. Pretty much everyone else in the race hasn't a chance, which is a shame, as the Marlins have some great stories cooking.
Giancarlo Stanton has 53 home runs, and is chasing Maris like nobody who hasn't taken steroids ever has. Marcell Ozuna's making a case for consistent legitimacy, with another 30+ home run season. Dan Straily is taking full advantage of his second chance, hedging out injured players to become the team's ace, followed by converted-starter Jose Urena. Even Dee Gordon has learned to emphasize hits over homers, and is slowly building his redemption arc after last season. Plus, they just brought up this kid Dillon Peters, and he had a phenomenal debut, with 8 strikeouts and no earned runs. Maybe he could be the future ace?
Bottom line is the Marlins are far from a low-end team. They just got thrown back thanks to injuries, and a ton of Nationals wins. But, like last year, I still think they can become great very soon.
Coming Tonight: One of two consecutive customs of guys that got out of Queens, New York. This guy gets to play for a team that's gonna be frigging terrifying in the playoffs.
Monday, September 4, 2017
Right now in the AL East, you have the Red Sox and Yankees quarreling, trying to figure out whose year it is, wrestling back and forth for all to see. And quietly, in the background, the Orioles are going 'hey, we're trying to compete too'.
And yes, this has been the month of the killer B's- Dylan Bundy pitching strikeouts, Zach Britton and Brad Brach late in the came, and Tim Beckham hitting home runs whenever he can. But the rest of the team has been...alright. People are doing well in the lineup, but there's still a ton of strikeouts. The pitching is still a problem, and it's not sure when it WON'T be for this team. Plus, they're far enough behind both teams in the rivalry that it's hard to see them making the Wild Card game.
...they're gonna try, though. Right now, the O's are behind the Angels in line for the 2nd spot, which the Twins currently have. The Rangers and Rays are a game or so behind them, so while seeing them in the playoffs isn't ENTIRELY out of the question, it only happens if the Angels AND Twins completely lose momentum in the next 30 days, AND the O's keep theirs going. A lot of moving parts need to be with them in order for this to work. I'm not sure if they're gonna get all of that.
Still, I do appreciate that the Orioles were better than just a hapless team by the end, and managed to improve themselves as the season went on. Sad it didn't work out as well as it usually does.
Coming Tonight: Son of a Kansas City legend, hitting them high in Miami.
Sunday, September 3, 2017
...I really don't have anything to say, other than 'thank god we've got a month left of the regular season. Making Padres customs is tough, especially when nobody's playing well enough to deserve one.
Coming Tomorrow- Best closer in baseball, finally getting back to what he does best.
If you've been reading the blog for a while, you probably can tell that I'm not a big fan of teams that have no right being competitors trying to sneak into the playoffs. In my eyes, you can't get far into the playoffs without a reason to be there. You have to earn it. I think about the 2016 Cubs, or the 2009 Yankees. They earned it. They deserved to be there. I think about the Dodgers and Astros, how much they deserve their shots.
And then I think about how awful it would be if someone who didn't deserve to be there, like the Texas Rangers, took it all away from them and stole their glory.
There's an argument that baseball complements the underdog, but the real underdog is some team that's been fighting the whole time, up against the best, and sneaks in after getting robbed from 1st. The Rangers were circling last for most of the season. Their lineup is scattered, they've given away some pretty big guns to competitive teams. Despite the fact that they have a pretty solid rotation, and a few good bats, they have no reason to even be anywhere near the conversation for the Wild Card spots. They haven't had the season for it.
The Angels I can kind of get, because while they've not been fantastic, they've been circling second, and they've been building off of nothing, and they just got Justin Upton, and they could theoretically make it past the Twins. But the Rangers were a bad team for most of the season. What's the use of them getting good now and jumping into the playoffs with the best teams of the year?
I don't think this will escalate to the point of a playoff spot, but if it does...I will not be happy.
Coming Tonight: The Padres suck. I only have to do one or two more of their players until December. Here's one of them.
Saturday, September 2, 2017
...and his name ain't 'Joe'.
While I'm sad that the Pirates weren't really able to do a great deal this season, thanks to a lack of a solid core, I am excited that some of the youth movement is beginning to bloom, thanks to Josh Bell's fantastic rookie season, and a similarly great sophomore effort from Adam Frazier.
And look, while this Pirates team isn't great, we are NOWHERE NEAR the amount of sheer ineptitude that they hit in the 2000s. Back then, whenever someone became anything resembling a star, they were sent out of Pittsburgh on a rail. Now, people like Gerrit Cole, Andrew McCutchen and Jameson Taillon can bloom into great star players and hold onto the team without it turning into an every-man-for-himself situation, like in 2009.
I'm not entirely sure if this team's going to look any better for 2018, though. I assume the feeding frenzy in St. Louis will have begun after the inevitable departure of Yadier Molina, and it will be tough for the Brewers to sustain what they've kept this year, so...that could leave a hole for an improved Pirates roster to step in. It just takes some reestablishment of the core, and letting a few older, more injury-prone people out. But I'm still not sure if this rebuilding process will work by next year.
I am pulling for these guys, because I've spent a nice amount of time in Pittsburgh, but practicality is going to have to take a backseat in order for a comeback to happen next year.
Coming Tomorrow- A man with his name struck fear into the hearts of Yankee fans 20 summers ago. Now...the new holder of the name is trying to bring a team that's been gutted, scraped and dulled into a postseason that will most likely not be kind to them.
So yeah, the Twins, while they've come so far this season and have built a surprisingly nice team, need to come even further in order to avoid the slowly building Angels and suddenly surging Orioles. We should only point out that this barrage of Wild Card teams is only a game away from the Yankees at their first spot. It's implied that they're going to hold onto it, but...we can't really imply anything in baseball.
So, the Twins...yeah, the Twins are doing alright. They've hit 70 wins, and have come further than anybody would have thought they would back when the season started. The youth movement has mixed well with the veterans that they'd been stockpiling, and Byron Buxton, Jose Berrios and Miguel Sano FINALLY decided to start having nice seasons. This is also the year where Bartolo Colon made the rotation and Chris Gimenez switched from catcher to pitcher, and Kyle Gibson limped along after signing a baseball with a bible scripture for a certain baseball card blogger of another faith. It's been strange, but they've managed to outdo the odds and win a ton of truly tough matches.
The question remains as to whether they'll end up making it to the Wild Card game...and if they do, whether or not they'll have any effect on the postseason. Remember, the WC winner has to play the first seed, which, right now, is the Astros, and the way they're playing, I don't think anybody WANTS to. So the Twins will need to man up and become a truly great club if they do make it through the WC race.
Coming Tonight: A solid rookie for the Pirates, who, despite not really being anywhere near contention, is still doing his best to keep the team semi-afloat.
Friday, September 1, 2017
Right now, Max Scherzer and Jayson Werth are back with the Nationals after some injuries. Trea Turner's also just gotten back. So at this point, the Nationals are waiting on Bryce Harper to return some time in September...but even if he doesn't, they're still doing pretty damn well. Even an outfield without Bryce Harper, but still featuring Werth, Michael Taylor, and the still-blazing Howie Kendrick, is worth celebrating.
More importantly, Max Scherzer's back on his feet, and back in the race for the NL Cy Young. At this point, the race is filled with the usual suspects, like Clayton Kershaw, who's probably gonna have some points docked for the injury-filled August, and Zack Greinke, who's probably going to come in second like he does every year, but right now Scherzer has a 7.0 WAR, a league-leading 230 strikeouts, an insanely low ERA, and a 13-5 record that's only gonna grow as the Nationals continue to incline. To say a Scherzer repeat could happen is a safe bet.
But...to say the Nationals could finally win a division series? I'm not making any definitive statements yet. Every time I do, they get clobbered. They have worse October luck than the Cubs used to. It's looking like their postseason matchup will square them against the Cubs, which seems doable at the present moment, but this is without accounting for the momentum that could accumulate or diminish from either team in the next 30 days. I have no idea what teams we'll be dealing with, who'll be healthy/hot/cold/injured, and what the picture will be. As is, I'd back on Washington, but you can't predict that when the October matchup will be completely different.
The only thing I can predict with few trepidations is that people are definitely going to vote for Max Scherzer to win a third Cy Young.
Coming Tomorrow- The Twins aren't dead! Neither is their former-rookie-phenom outfielder.
With Lucas Duda, Adeiny Hechavarria, Wilson Ramos and Sergio Romo entering the fold with good numbers, you'd think the Rays would still be in the race, but thanks to the surging Orioles, aided by Tim Beckham...the guy they traded away...they're stuck in fourth place, with no real chance to succeed further this season.
Sad, because they actually did a lot of nice work this year. Steven Souza and Kevin Kiermaier continued to boost the exploits of the brief youth movement the Rays have collected, while Logan Morrison and Corey Dickerson hit a ton of home runs without sinking the franchise. Jacob Faria and Matt Andriese added themselves to the fold of impressive young pitchers, while Chris Archer did his usual thing of getting a ton of strikeouts.
Honestly, it was just some weird stuff, like Derek Norris' atrocious gameplay, Colby Rasmus' sudden leave from the game, the presence of Jesus Sucre as the only option at catcher for a little while, and a random turn from Rickie Weeks as the DH, that kept the Rays from being truly great. And while they're not completely out of the race, especially considering the power coming from Lucas Duda, it's safe to say they won't be going much further into the Wild Card race.
Still, there's a ton of promise coming from this lineup that's keeping me optimistic.
Coming Tonight: The guy that's probably gonna win his 2nd Cy Young award in a row.
I just looked back at Baseball Reference and saw that the Mariners traded for Zach Lee to get rid of this guy. That was a good laugh.
So look...the Dodgers have four consecutive losses. But none of them were blowouts. None of them were losses without some trying. So it'd be great if none of those 'ARE THE DODGERS DONE BEING AMAZING' articles could pop up. It's bad enough that 'Albert Pujols is the Worst Player in Baseball' was on the front page of ESPN for a day. I just wanna get rid of the pessimism in sports news media.
The Dodgers's loss of a few games doesn't mean they're not powerful, by the way. They've just been forced to use Ross Stripling and Hyun-Jin Ryu as starters for a few games, while Clayton Kershaw, Brandon McCarthy and Alex Wood are on their way back from injuries. Kershaw and Wood will be back in the next week, and McCarthy will be back very, very soon. So, what's the problem? Lineup's still hot. Bullpen's still strong.
We've even gotten to the point where Adrian Gonzalez is back, Curtis Granderson is hitting homers off the bench, Chase Utley is finally playing better, and Austin Barnes is having a hell of a time as backup catcher. This team has gotten even better over time, and there's so much flexibility and depth in the lineup. Chris Taylor came in as a backup and he's been fantastic, playing great in the outfield and hitting really well.
Inevitability may be this team's one weakness, but if they continue to completely overpower every opponent, it may also be their way to the end.
Coming Today: Not too long ago he was the Mets' 1st baseman. Now he's playing for another 4th place team...but he's actually doing a ton better?