Wednesday, July 31, 2019
So...last night I told everyone to bring it, and...uh...they brought it.
A lot of players went in a span of 24 hours, turning this into a wild, live trade deadline after seeming positively dead for several days. I do think it was ironic that things didn't hit fever pitch until I landed in Cooperstown, NY, the supposed birthplace of baseball. It's almost narrative shifting.
Before I get into honorable mentions, and then my usual top 10, let's just congratulate the biggest names of this deadline season, including Noah Syndergaard, Madison Bumgarner, Zack Wheeler, Robbie Ray, Clint Frazier, Matt Boyd, Ken Giles, Hunter Renfroe, Kirby Yates and Alex Colome, who didn't get dealt. They may in fact be the real winners here.
Now, onto the honorable mentions:
-Martin Maldonado to Chicago for Mike Montgomery, THEN to Houston for Tony Kemp
-Trevor Richards & Nick Anderson to Tampa, Ryne Stanek to Miami
...and now...FINALLY...THE TOP TEN
How it Benefits Milwaukee: Jordan Lyles gave the Brewers stability in the bullpen last year, and was a crucial member of that playoff team. They now have Starter-Lyles, who has done extremely well in Pittsburgh, with 90 strikeouts in 17 games, despite some recent slip-ups. Lyles can work as a starter, and add to the dire-looking group of starters for the Brewers, and he could also contribute to the red-hot bullpen. This is the kind of two-way player the Brewers need now, and Lyles fits in some cool ways.
How it benefits Tampa: Gives them some serious NERD POWER. Brandon Lowe's out at 2nd, Wendle is struggling, and the Rays needed a sure thing at 2nd. Sogard gives them that, AND he can also play shortstop or third. Not only is he a jack-of-all-trades in the infield, but he's been on fire at the plate, and can be a Zobrist-esque contact bat throughout the year. Sogard, like Aguilar, fits SO WELL with the Rays lineup that I'm impressed.
How it benefits Arizona- I was initially skeptical on whether or not to include this on the list, because Leake going to a non-contender is a little anticlimactic...but then I looked back at it. Zack Greinke, as you'll see later, is gone. Robbie Ray, Merrill Kelly, Taylor Clarke and Alex Young are still in Arizona. Luke Weaver will be off the DL in a few weeks. And now Zac Gallen and Mike Leake are a part of that rotation. I imagine some pieces of this could be shifted to the bullpen or the minors, but...the top five pieces could be a DEADLY rotation. And Leake could be the ace, and fit very well into Greinke's shoes. This may not work for this season, but for the future? Damn.
How it benefits Chicago: Well...Nick Castellanos can fit either in the outfield or at third, and while the Cubs' lineup is a bit crowded right now, Castellanos gives them flexibility. He's still an alright defender, and he's still a great bat. Now, does this mean someone like Almora or Schwarber plays less? Does this mean Bryant plays at 2nd base more? It's too early to say. But a guy like Castellanos could be pretty deadly in the Cubs lineup.
How it benefits Oakland: The A's may be the under-the-radar winner of this deadline, netting Diekman and Bailey from the Royals, and now Roark from the Reds. We are now looking at a rotation of Mike Fiers, Brett Anderson, Tanner Roark, Chris Bassitt and either Daniel Mengden or Homer Bailey. Add Sean Manaea when he returns later this month, and going into September we could have a strong, cohesive A's rotation. And Roark may challenge Fiers for ace duties, as Roark was damn near an ace in Cincy, and had a 4.24 ERA and 108 strikeouts. They needed a guy like him.
How it benefits New York: Well...seeing as the Mets kept their entire youth movement, and only lost Jason Vargas? It REALLY helps them. Because now they have a rotation of DeGrom-Syndergaard-Wheeler-Matz-STROMAN. And now they're all healthy, and we're just heading towards the last few months, WITH EDWIN DIAZ AS WELL. So that could be dangerous. Stroman is nasty when he's on, and he's been on all year, and the Mets will use him to his fullest.
BET YOU NEVER THOUGHT THIS ONE WOULD BE SO HIGH!!!!
How it benefits the Phillies: The Phils have had an outfield problem all year. First Cutch gets injured, then Herrera gets suspended, then Bruce gets injured. We know Roman Quinn and Nick Williams aren't the answer, and as good as Adam Haseley is, he's definitely more of a backup. For right now, having Dickerson as an outfield bat AND an outfielder in general is a fantastic bet for the Phils. He's been hitting .317 since getting off the DL, he's been a contact-hitting hero in Pittsburgh, and...he's just likable enough for Philly. We may only use him for this fall, because Bruce and Cutch will be back soon, but...he's one hell of an upgrade
#3- THE MEGADEAL: Trevor Bauer to Cincinnati, Yasiel Puig, Franmil Reyes and Logan Allen to Cleveland, and Taylor Trammell to San Diego
How it benefits the Indians: So...the tribe won this trade. Just to be sure. They solved two of their main problems this year: they got a surefire outfielder for the foreseeable future in Yasiel Puig, and they got a guy who can be a permanent DH for them in Franmil Reyes. I do think they'll re-sign Puig as well. AND...they now have Logan Allen, who can be a decent starter option from now until Kluber and Carrasco's return. They got a windfall.
How it benefits the Reds: Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray and Trevor Bauer in the same rotation? That is some scary shit. I don't think it's gonna help them this year, but he will definitely guide them to some great seasons.
#2- Shane Greene to the Braves, prospects to the Tigers
How it benefits Atlanta: I'm gonna keep this very simple. The Braves desperately needed a closer. Now they have one of the best. It's really that simple.
...and, OF COURSE...the #1 move made this deadline...WITHOUT A DOUBT...
How it benefits Arizona: As my dad said, 'the Astros just won the World Series'. The one 'okay' aspect of the Astros has been the very back half of its rotation. Collin McHugh and Jose Urquidy have been...human. The Astros cannot look human if they want to be the best, which they've flirted with being. So they need to take things to the next level. Verlander-Greinke-Cole-Miley-Urquidy...is not only the next level, it's the next game. Plus, when Brad Peacock gets back, he's gonna fit right into Urquidy's spot, and make it the single deadliest rotation in baseball. Greinke is among the best, and him on the Astros is...a game-ender.
So...that's my Top 10 deadline deals. Let's see how well these age.
Tuesday, July 30, 2019
This is the kind of trade deadline where trumpets blare and alarms sound over a reliever getting traded to the Braves. Like...wow. Breathtaking.
Unless everybody just goes tomorrow, which is likely but chaotic, then it's gonna be one weak-ass trade deadline. This is good for Topps, because that means they don't have to make too many late-addition photos to Update, but bad for me, because I kind of love these wild deadline deals.
Take Zack Wheeler. Any other year, he'd be gone like a week ago. But because so many people have been wishy-washy about whether or not they want to go, his case is suffering. The Mets are now looking to move Syndergaard instead of Wheeler, as Syndergaard has had more prevalent, and better, numbers recently. Wheeler is officially back from the IL, but now his ERA has dropped to 4.47, and he's got one more loss than Thor. If Thor leaves, Wheeler's numbers could improve, but...is that the way we risk it?
I do think it's very somber that this trade deadline involves siphoning off the members of the once-proud 2015 rotation. Wheeler or Thor could go. Possibly deGrom. Matz is injured, and Harvey's a free agent. I don't know how much longer we have with these guys on the Mets, now that they're getting guys like Stroman to be strong starters.
I just want something to happen. Zack Wheeler is having a great season, and I'd hate for him to not leave the Mets if he's making an effort to.
Coming Tomorrow- I'll be at Cooperstown for a bit, so this will be tomorrow night (I think), but probably a Royals breakout.
Here comes ol' Ken Giles, rattling some chains again.
Look, it's kind of surprising to me that a closer this...fine...keeps being part of big blockbuster deals every few years. First he gets shipped to Houston for a couple of nobodies and Vince Velasquez, wins a World Series but everyone starts complaining about 'is HE the best closer for a team like the Astros?', and that complaining bogs down his 2018 numbers, they trade him for Roberto Osuna, and he suddenly figures out how to close games again.
And now the conundrum rears its ugly head again: Ken Giles figures out how to be a great closer again at the exact moment the Blue Jays decide he's expendable, and that he should be pitching for a contender. Which is the exact thing that made his numbers go down in the first place. So...what I'm saying is that...maybe Ken Giles doesn't want the Jays to trade him?
Not that this excuse worked for Marcus Stroman, but...Giles is Giles, and therefore not Stroman. But maybe Ken Giles' status as a fringe guy is enough to get him to stay in Toronto for the rest of the year.
....well, that and the fact that Giles has missed his last few appearances with elbow issues.
However, Giles may have figured out the way to avoid being dealt in the new, hard deadline era of baseball: just...be injured the week of the deadline. Teams generally don't deal injured players (except for Arodys Vizcaino apparently). Zach Wheeler's stock went WAY down when teams found out he was having injury issues, and even though he seems to be back now, teams are skeptical. Do they want to bank the rest of the year on someone who may not be healthy for it? It's what robbed the Phillies of a month of Wilson Ramos, the A's a week of Shawn Kelley, and the Indians of all but 2 days of Leonys Martin.
So...if Ken Giles isn't able to throw by Wednesday, he could stay on the Jays for the rest of the season, continue to be a trusted closer, and end the year with numbers he's proud of. So maybe not being traded could be the best thing that could happen this year.
[Also, since this is a Blue Jays post as well, I have to get this in: Bo Bichette's gonna be awesome]
Coming Tonight: The biggest horse in the trade deadline race.
Monday, July 29, 2019
So...the San Francisco Giants might actually have a chance this year.
The Giants have won 7 of their last 10 games, are second in the NL West, and are 2.5 games behind the wild card pack. How?? Well...you know that massive drubbing I wrote about on here a few weeks ago, where the Giants came alive and slaughtered the Rockies 19-2? That...was only the beginning. The Giants have only lost 5 games in July, which is the same amount they lost during the first week of the season.
But...let's be honest, this would be a lot harder for the Giants if they hadn't been slowly retooling this team into a contender all along. Like...week one of the season, they trade Kevin Pillar for Alen Hanson and change, and Pillar's bat comes alive, eventually getting him to 54 RBIs and 95 hits, both team highs. If they didn't get Pillar, the thought of dominance wouldn't have ever occurred to them.
Or how about the reshuffling of the pitching rotation? Giving Shaun Anderson and Tyler Beede more starts has been an impressive idea, and both have done fairly well in the rotation. Removing Drew Pomeranz from the rotation has worked well on his numbers. And Connor Menez will be back with the rotation within no time. They're definitely beginning to get somewhere. And with Will Smith, Reyes Moronta and Tony Watson still killing it in the bullpen, it could be a lot worse.
And if they didn't plan on competing, they wouldn't have engineered the gradual come-ups of Donovan Solano, Mike Yastrzemski, Alex Dickerson and Austin Slater, all of whom are KILLING IT after call-ups, and invigorating the tired long-standing starting lineup. There's more spontaneity in this lineup than there has been in years, and it's giving the Giants a reason to abandon their plan to sell and instead start buying a bit at the deadline...which is insane.
I so want them to keep this up. I know it'll be harder for them to find a voice within the insanity of the Wild Card race, but...I kind of want this madness to keep going.
Coming Tomorrow- Another young rookie just got brought up, so the odds are that this guy will probably be traded within the next 2 days.
The AL West picture is shifting so fast that now the Angels have more of a chance at the wild card than the Rangers, who seemed to be just as streaky as I'd initially thought they were. Even still, both the Rangers and Angels are far removed enough from the race that, unless they pull a huge come-up, we probably won't be talking about them in October.
But with glimpses we've seen of greatness in the Angels...there is still a chance.
I mean, the Angels rotation has completely caved in on itself. Which, without being crass, is what happens when you start deciding which of your starters don't get to be starters anymore. Cahill, Pena, Barria and Cole are better doing long-man work out of the bullpen? Fine. See if you're still saying that after Heaney gets injured, Harvey gets DFA'd and Tyler Skaggs...well, you know. Now, Griffin Canning's the only literal starter on the roster. Yes, Jose Suarez is trying as well, but even he's not there yet.
It's really the lineup that convinces me we may have something here. Because even with Tommy La Stella on the DL, it's clear that they've found something. An outfield of Trout, Kole Calhoun and Brian Goodwin/Justin Upton has been pretty airtight. An infield of Pujols, Luis Rengifo, Simmons and David Fletcher has been strong, even with Pujols seeing more defensive time than he should. Kevan Smith has had a standout year as catcher since Lucroy went on the DL.
...and Shohei Ohtani is proving he's not a fluke by getting back to his old tricks, with a .288 average and 15 home runs in 69 games. Yes, it'd be nice if we were also seeing him pitch this year, but I do think it's better that we're getting some production from him at the plate than seeing none at all. Besides, he's establishing that he could do this for the rest of his career, which is a nice thought in LA.
The Angels may not amount to anything this year, but the lineup is giving me a millimeter of hope. Just a little bit.
Coming Tonight: As we wait for more trade deadline deals, a reminder that Toronto threw in the towel A WEEK INTO THE SEASON, by sending one of their marquee guys to San Francisco...which is looking pretty wise in retrospect.
Sunday, July 28, 2019
[A new music pun streak begins, because...I forgot about the one we had going when I wrote the earlier post]
Game of Thrones ended this year. You all know that.
The reason why people didn't like the end of this show is because when David Benioff and D.B. Weiss took over the writing responsibilities from George R.R. Martin, they had a vague idea about where to take the plot, which differed from what Martin had in mind. They had to take a story that had a beginning and middle that were so well crafted...and making an ending. So when the ending wasn't cohesive with what people wanted, people got mad because it seemed to lose the plot.
...what does this have to do with baseball, you might ask? Nothing, I just wanted to talk about TV for sec
...no, it does, it just...I don't wanna write this frigging post again
[Loud, exhausted sigh]
Once again, the Cardinals have wound up in first place. Why, when there are competent teams like Milwaukee and Chicago in the mix? Because life is cruel. And because baseball, like Game of Thrones, can occasionally lose the narrative and piss everybody off. It doesn't matter if the season started with the Brewers and Cubs being the stars. The Cardinals have the momentum in July, so I guess that means they're gonna run with it, and we're gonna get another goddamned Red Sox-Cardinals series, and...aughhh
Look...it's not that the Cardinals are bad this year. They're not. But the Cubs have 7 players over 2.0 WAR, the Brewers have 4. Cards have 3. DeJong, Wong and Goldy. With the exception of Goldy, they're not...carrying the team. They're not the big stars that make you go to games. They're just a pair of infielders who make good contact. If you're in first place, and you just have that, PLUS a 112-strikeout Paul Goldschmidt performance, you shouldn't be in first. I don't care who you are.
The Cards have lost 4 games since the ASG break, and with the exception of their most recent loss, they've all come at the hands of non-competitive teams, Arizona, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Their starters have progressed so that only Michael Wacha has an ERA over 5, but no one has an ERA under 3.50, and only Jack Flaherty has over 100 strikeouts. With the injury to Jordan Hicks, their only choices in the ninth are Andrew Miller and John Gant, who've given varying degrees of progress.
This is also a team without Matt Carpenter, Marcell Ozuna and Yadier Molina. So I doubt they'll be in first for long.
I don't know if this team is for real, but...with all the flaws, it's only a matter of time before the Cubs overtake them again.
Coming Tomorrow- So what if he's not pitching this year. He's still hitting like hell.
4 wins since the ASG break. Ughhh
I wanna be optimistic about the White Sox, because I have a feeling that this central core of Anderson-Moncada-Jimenez-Abreu is gonna get them places within the next few years. But...it's just not working this year. 3rd place under .500 is still under .500. One great starter doesn't compliment the existence of four other shitty ones. Having Alex Colome and Aaron Bummer throwing well doesn't save the rest of the bullpen from being meh.
So I imagine they wanna unload Colome. And I don't blame them, because Colome is still an elite closer, he still throws smoke, and he's still an impressive tool for any team, especially one that's competing, to have. The Sox ain't competing, so they're looking to trade him.
Only problem is we've got three more days til the deadline. And not just the soft, 'hahaha, seriously, don't trade anyone else but we won't enforce it' deadline. The hard deadline. And BECAUSE it's such a hard deadline, and because this is so important...people are holding out. They're not making moves, because they know that one will set off 20 others, and the people who want to leave aren't agreeing to things yet.
...sound familiar? Weren't we JUST going through this six months ago during the offseason? Aren't we TRYING to avoid things like this? I mean, remember, if you wait too long, people start scrambling, and the deals maybe aren't as well thought out as we thought they'd be.
So Colome is still on the market, but mainly because Edwin Diaz, Kirby Yates, Will Smith, Mychal Givens, Ken Giles, Shane Greene and Felipe Vazquez are all still on the market, and they're all just as good. And teams have four days to finish up those deals regarding acquiring them. Because...they couldn't just do any of that in the weeks leading up to the deadline, because the Royals are the only team who are actually taking this seriously.
Again, I could be challenging a hurricane, and the remainder of trade deadline deals could all hit one after the other, but...with four days left, I'm very concerned.
Coming Tonight: [sigh] Guess who's first in the NL Central now...
Friday, July 26, 2019
[Music Pun Streak #6. Yeah, it counts]
Yes, more with the Nationals. What fun.
The Nats are still in second place in the NL East, have a handle on a Wild Card spot, and are trying to push the Phillies out of the narrative. Granted, they're not as pompous as they were a few weeks ago because they've lost some games. But they have Scherzer back now, which means they have a Scherzer-Strasburg-Corbin-Sanchez rotation where they're all playing well. Which is definitely a start. That fifth position seems to be problematic, but...they're holding it open, so either they're just gonna bring up Fedde again or they're a trade brewing.
But if you look at everything else, it's not really too spectacular. Yes, Sean Doolittle is a force to be reckoned with in the 9th, but aside from that, the bullpen is pretty forgettable. Yes, Fernando Rodney's playing better than he was in Oakland, but is that really saying much? Matt Adams, Brian Dozier and Yan Gomes all have starting spots, and none of them are really doing anything with them. Gerardo Parra, Howie Kendrick and Kurt Suzuki are all better choices for their respective positions, and they're stuck on the bench.
You also look at this team, and you don't see a lot of power, especially after Harper's gone. Rendon has the most homers with 22, and he seems to be the only one here shooting for a 30-home-run season. Everyone else is really just a contact hitter who's gotten lucky, like Juan Soto or Victor Robles. Plus, they have guys like Jake Noll and Carter Kieboom who are KILLING IT in the minors, but can't seem to get a damn thing done in the majors, so they're stuck with what they've got.
So...even if they are kind of hot, they're still a very flawed team trying to make a name for themselves. In other words, they're the new 2016 Blue Jays. Which means this may not go well for all involved persons.
Coming Tonight (?): He's one of the best closers in the game, and he might be traded by the time I actually get to posting his custom.
Thursday, July 25, 2019
[Music Pun Streak #5. Never said all of these would be highbrow]
The AL Wild Card race has sort of come down to four teams, and what's funny is that two of them, the Red Sox and Indians, were more overdogs last year rather than WC faves. A's and Rays...this isn't new to them. They were in this same wild goose chase last year.
The Sox...are angry. Which is something you really don't want from them. They have a solid lineup, they've cut loose anyone that isn't working (Nunez, Thornburg and Swihart were cut, Jeremy Bleich was traded), and have the most polished, best versions of themselves they could have possibly concocted after a World Series win.
...and they're in third place. Behind the Rays.
It's got to be frustrating, especially as Rafael Devers and Mookie Betts are having great seasons, and Chris Sale and David Price have gained so much momentum. They're 8-6 since the ASG break, which...while okay, isn't especially the sort of racing start they needed. They went and got Andrew Cashner, as they're technically competitors, but Cashner has a 7.36 ERA in his first two starts, almost as if he's better playing for teams that aren't in the spotlight or something. Porcello's pretty spent in the last starter spot, and Eovaldi apparently isn't an option as a starter anymore (????). The bullpen is still vaguely a mess, and Jackie Bradley is only off the hook because the team found someone who can strike out more times than he can (Michael Chavis).
As much as this team is trying to be a part of the conversation...they're still very flawed. And unless the Sox make some big move (which, honestly they could), they will continue to be flawed.
(UPDATE: [long, tired facepalm])
Coming Tomorrow- DOOOOOOOOOOOO!
[Music Pun Streak #4. A stretch, but it applies]
I feel like 2019 has been the year of the Backup Catcher Insurrection. Now, maybe I'm noticing it more this year and it's been happening this frequently for a while, but this year more than ever, I'm seeing more and more backup catchers, or former backup catchers, getting handed the spotlight and absolutely killing it as a starter. This is a trend I like, because I am a fan of journeyman fringe players finally getting their due in the spotlight, no matter how long that lasts.
So, below, I'm gonna talk about some of my favorites, because why not:
-Carson Kelly, Diamondbacks. Kelly spent 2017 and 2018 as a backup in a city where you're really only ever going to be a backup, and that's St. Louis. As long as Yadier Molina is healthy, you're not starting games. And even in his opportunities in St. Louis, Kelly barely hit. But after a trade to Arizona, for Paul Goldschmidt of course, and after an injury to...professional glass-boned catcher Alex Avila, Kelly was handed the starting spot, and he delivered, hitting .264 with 12 home runs, and running with a 1.6 WAR. In a relatively strong lineup, Kelly has become a constant, which is a nice touch.
-Matt Wieters, Cardinals. Hey, remember when I said that as long as Yadier Molina is healthy, you're not starting games? Well...Yadier Molina's not healthy. So the Cards are lucky that their backup is perennial All-Star and former Topps holdout Matt Wieters, who's slugging like hell, with 8 home runs and 18 RBIs in 41 games. Though, seeing as Wieters has been injury-prone lately, you might wanna keep on the backup for the backup, Andrew Knizner.
-Pedro Severino, Orioles. Initially, the O's were thinking of starting professional starter Jesus Sucre, but after some disappointing showings from him, they turned to Severino, who'd made a name for himself as a backup for Wilson Ramos in Washington, and getting some playoff starts before sinking back into backup mediocrity. But Severino finally found his bat, holding the third-highest OPS+ in the lineup, and hitting 9 homers. With the rise of Chance Sisco, I'm not sure how much longer Severino will stay catcher in Baltimore, but he's done fine for them in this interim.
-Curt Casali AND Ryan Lavarnway, Reds. Yes, a rare double feature, because we're talking about people who've relieved starter Tucker Barnhart, who's missed time due to injury, but also the lack of numbers. Initially, the Reds turned to last year's sturdy backup Curt Casali to fill in, and he's done fantastic, giving much better numbers than Barnhart, with a .253 average and 9 home runs. But once Casali got injured, the Reds hastily brought up AAA-mainstay Ryan Lavarnway, who'd been a backup for Boston during their 2013 run. Thankfully, Lavarnway's numbers have been fantastic in 4 games, with 7 RBIs, including 2 home runs, in that stretch. I wonder how the Reds will operate once Barnhart and Casali return, but I kind of picture both backups staying in the picture.
-Travis d'Arnaud, Rays. This one goes back to my old theory: Mike Zunino sucks. He sucked for Seattle, and he's sucking for Tampa. What do people think they're getting with him? He's terrible. He has literally only finished with an average higher than .250 ONCE in his career. So imagine my surprise when the guy the Rays get to cover for him is former injury-prone Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud! I was counting the days til he got injured again, but that didn't happen. And I remembered...when d'Arnaud's healthy, he can be one hell of a hitter. I direct you to his 3 home runs against the Yankees. He's had 11 overall, with 33 RBIs and a .265 average. Welcome back, Travis.
-Kevan Smith, Angels. For years, this guy was a backup choice in Chicago, usually passed over for people like Alex Avila or Omar Narvaez. And he'd always be a stellar backup as well, hitting into the .280s over his lack two seasons. But he was waived by the Sox last year, wound up in LA, and after an injury to Jonathan Lucroy, Smith became the starting option. Unsurprisingly, Smith has made the most of it, hitting .270 with 27 hits. His backup is coincidentally another 31-year-old journeyman, Dustin Garneau.
-Roberto Perez, Indians. Possibly the most important one on this list. After the loss of Yan Gomes, the Indians decided to continue as a competitor, but...did not sign a name at catcher, even with Jonathan Lucroy, James McCann and Matt Wieters in the picture. They figured they had something with longtime backup Roberto Perez, and thank god they were right. Perez has 16 home runs in 73 games, and a 2.2 WAR with an 8 fielding variable. He's one of the most important pieces of a team that's only been getting better.
I'm tired, but pretend I talked about Tony Wolters and Austin Barnes here. You could probably tell they were gonna become great starters eventually, but...pretend I did writeups for them.
Coming Tonight: On a Red Sox team determined to prove themselves...this guy may be their best player this year.
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
[Music Pun Streak #3. Yes, I'm going with Alicia Keys. Why not?]
I kinda love Mike Minor's career renaissance. I dunno why I've championed the 'starter who comes back after a prolonged period of time and is still awesome' thing, like Scott Kazmir and Rich Hill, but Mike Minor may be the best version of this yet, because right now he's better than he ever was with the Braves. Like, his best season in Atlanta was a 13-9 year in 2013, with 180 strikeouts.
And what's Minor on pace for now, in Arlington? Well, he's got an 8-5 record, a 2.86 ERA, his lowest as a starter (he had 2.56 in relief in 2017 with Kansas City), and he's leading the AL in complete games and shutouts...because nobody does complete game shutouts anymore. He and Lance Lynn have finally brought some substantial pitching to Texas for the first time since Darvish and Hamels left. He also helped them get to a nice point in early July to secure three ASG nods...despite the team collapsing immediately after that.
So now, as the Rangers will probably be selling, Mike Minor is a trade target. Which is a great thing to say in 2019. But, a guy like that, who's pretty much the Rangers' ace, is attracting attention from people like the Yankees, and he'd be an awesome fit for us...but would it be the best fit for him? Or would be better off someplace like Milwaukee or Philly, where he could be a trusted member of a rotation without being relied on too much. Minor's done fine as a relied-upon ace, but if he didn't have Lance Lynn he'd be spread very thin, as he was during the second half of last year.
And what would the Rangers be without Minor? Assuming Lynn sticks around, which he probably will, they'd go with a rotation of Lynn-Sampson-Jurado-Chavez-probably-Joe-Palumbo. Which is fine for now, but would have to really be retooled in the offseason. I don't think this team will be completely handicapped by Minor's leave, as they still have a kickass lineup filled with several people they'd never get rid of (Andrus, Gallo, Choo, Odor).
And if it turns out that Minor sticks around, maybe the Rangers wind up back in the AL West race, and subsequently the Wild Card race. Bottom line is, either way, Mike Minor has a legitimate shot at the playoffs. I just think he's better off leaving than staying.
Coming Tomorrow- More proof that great things happen to players that get the hell out of St. Louis; this guy gets a starting catching job!
[...Well, seeing as I used a Bieber title for Shane Bieber, and a Hendrix song title for Kyle Hendricks, I guess the music pun streak is up to #2...]
Okay, experiment time. So...imagine all five of these players in their prime: Cole Hamels in 2007. Jon Lester in 2010. Yu Darvish in 2012. Kyle Hendricks in 2016. Jose Quintana in 2016.
...now imagine they all wound up in the same pitching rotation at that same time. How insane would that have been?
And that's why it's so satisfying that this Cubs rotation is finally working out. Once Cole Hamels gets back off the DL, which should be soon, we could be back at capacity. Until then, we have Alec Mills starting games, who's fine, but...he's no Cole Hamels. Meanwhile, the other four average 3.40 to 4.50 ERAs, Lester is 9-6 and doing his usual thing (sidenote: how come he doesn't have a stronger HOF case?), and Yu Darvish, who's already been leading the team in strikeouts, is finally starting to get his velocity together, finally notching his first win at Wrigley. I wish it hadn't taken this much time to get together, but...it's still there now.
Perhaps the one constant of this year's rotation has been the strength of Kyle Hendricks, after an insane appearance on May 3rd, throwing a 'Maddux' in 81 pitches and carrying that to a 1.145 WHIP, the lowest in the rotation. Hendricks is flirting with some major dominance this year, and despite occasional shakiness he's still a needed tool in Chicago, and he's definitely gonna have more great starts further down this stretch.
The Cubs currently have 1st place, but must fend it off from incoming scoundrels from St. Louis. Hopefully they can do so gracefully.
Coming Tonight: The Yankees have reportedly gained interest in this dangerous starter from Texas. Knowing what he's been up to lately, I'd be all for seeing him in pinstripes.
Tuesday, July 23, 2019
Yeah. Had to.
Look, if the Nationals are gonna play the 'WE'RE THE BEST TEAM IN BASEBALL SINCE MID-MAY' schtick, then the Indians should do theirs: they've lost 8 games since June 14th. And they've been rolling like hell ever since.
I'm not exactly sure what made this team click after a few months of okayness. They're still without Kluber and Carrasco, and really all they've done is drop some loads like Leonys Martin in favor of rookies like Oscar Mercado. Plus, somehow, in the last month, Jose Ramirez has figured out how to hit for contact again, and is getting his average back up again. And while it's still very much the Santana and Lindor show, getting utility guys like Jordan Luplow and Mike Freeman into the mix is a solid idea.
Plus, Trevor Bauer has stepped up in a big way since the departure of the aces, on his way to 200 strikeouts within his next few starts. And Shane Bieber has been just as impressive in a full year of MLB play, with a 9-3 record and 156 strikeouts in 20 starts. If Bauer leaves, which is looking more and more likely, and Cookie and Kluber are still gone, Bieber could be a fine ace for this team. Plus, they still have Adam Plutko, Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac starting some stellar games, so...once again the rotation isn't an issue.
Hell, even the bullpen, the thing that arguably stopped Cleveland from making it far into the postseason last year, is amazing this year. That says something.
It's gonna take a week or so more of this momentum in Cleveland, and possibly some more losses from Minnesota, and the AL Central battle will really be on. I'm excited to see how it shakes out, as well.
Coming Tomorrow- A guy part of a rotation that sounded great in theory, but is FINALLY beginning to rise past its potential.
Remember...back in the preseason, when we got Bryce Harper, and the #1 criticism of the team was 'oh, so now we have too many competent outfielders, ha ha'
I miss those days. All our outfielders are either injured, slumping, or suspended for beating their wives. Thankfully we've landed on two, Harper and Kingery, who can play well, but that third spot is gonna be hard to fill over the next two weeks. I just hope Adam Haseley can get his average up, because starting Nick Williams when he's hitting .169 is NOT a good move.
It's hard to say shit about these guys when they actually still have a chance at the wild card spot, and are technically still competitive. Like, the Phils are after pitching at the deadline, and are gonna try to talk to Matt Boyd while they're in the motor city, or get some relief help or something. So they're still in the race, and they still want to compete, but...when the Nats are doing better than them, you know something needs to be done.
Look, thank god Aaron Nola has found his velocity, because I was worried the dream was over for him. Nola, like Chris Sale, was plagued by some nasty April starts, but has since doubled down and gotten back to dominance...which is nice, because we like having an ace, and Zach Eflin's not cutting it anymore. Nola's at 8-2, with a 3.77 era and 138 strikeouts, which is pretty nice. Yes, Gerrit Cole already has 200 Ks, but...that's cause he's insane.
The Phils have a two-game series against the worst team in baseball, and then they have to play the best team in the NL East. Talk about burning the candle at both ends. But I'm still optimistic that they'll be able to ascend the standings again, because...dammit, they deserve it.
Coming Tonight: After a middling start, and a loss of the team's two aces...is it too late now to say sorry?
Monday, July 22, 2019
I get the sense that a lot of the Tampa Bay Rays this year are guys that didn't make it in the majors immediately. Brandon Lowe had a quiet rookie year last year, Tommy Pham bopped around before making it in 2017, Meadows was traded halfway through his rookie year, Yandy Diaz was a backup infielder, and Blake Snell struggling before his 2018 Cy Young year.
So that's why it's so important that all of them are working right now. Because there's a solid foundation being built by a bunch of players that haven't worked in other places, or for better teams. Sort of like a baseball version of the Guardians of the Galaxy: apart, they're meek, but together they're unstoppable.
Plus, with Lowe, Meadows and Avisail Garcia leading the team, the rookies that are coming up are actually doing well enough to fit with this team, like Mike Brosseau and Nate Lowe, or Brendan McKay and his tricky pitching material. Hell, even people that usually get injured, like Mike Zuni...okay bad example- TRAVIS D'ARNAUD! He's doing great! He just hit 3 home runs against the Yankees, so we're not on great terms, but he's still having his best season since I erroneously called him one of the best catchers in baseball.
The only issue with the Rays right now is the injuries, which are hitting Ji-Man Choi, Kevin Kiermaier, Ryne Stanek, and...yes, and Brandon Lowe. And even without these guys, the Rays are slipping fast and in a series with the red-hot Red Sox. So...if the bubble's gonna burst, it might happen this week.
Coming Tomorrow- Darling you go to let me kneaux
Should I stay or should I geaux.
So the first-half mojo that propelled the Padres through a strong start in April and May? Yeah, that hasn't lasted especially long, seeing as the Padres are currently back in last. Which is exactly why they beefed up their roster in the first place.
I mean, what's the issue here? Is it the inexperienced pitching? Not really- Chris Paddack, Cal Quantrill, Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer are all doing pretty well, even if adding Dinelson Lamet to the fold hasn't exactly helped (that Morejon kid looks good though). The main problem is the lack of bullpen options, as most of them are dropping out due to injuries, and more options, like Kirby Yates and Craig Stammen, might be gone soon anyway. Do YOU want a Padres team where Trey Wingenter is your best option in the ninth? Me either.
The real problem might be too many people who are paid to hit not giving great overall numbers. Eric Hosmer's been a disappointment in San Diego, Margot and Reyes' numbers are still lacking in well-roundedness, Ian Kinsler's cold, Wil Myers has 109 strikeouts, Austin Hedges STILL can't get it together, and rookies like Francisco Mejia and Luis Urias are still struggling. For a team that seemed to have it in April, the Padres seem to have absolutely nothing figured out now.
The only good things to have come out of this season in San Diego seem to have been the Machado-Tatis combo...and Hunter Renfroe, who's come from a bench position to lead the team in home runs with 28, and lead all non-Fernando-Tatis Padres in WAR with 3.0. This may be a Chase Headley case where he gets lucky for one year, but...at least somebody's doing well for them, especially now, at their direst point.
I don't know if this means the Padres end in last, but...I really hope not.
Coming Tonight- That big Tampa rookie everyone was treating like he'd been in the league for years.
Sunday, July 21, 2019
Well, the Oakland revolution seems to be starting back up again, and just in time, too: we're about to hit the trade deadline, and the A's and Rangers seem to be deciding that they want to compete for that wild card spot. This is also a year where the Indians, Rays and Red Sox also seem to want the spot, so if the A's REALLY want it, they'll need to shift into overdrive like they did last year around this time.
And...to their credit, there does seem to be some shifting going on.
First of all, one of the first moves of the deadline season was theirs, snatching Homer Bailey from the jaws of Kansas City, plucking him into the rotation in place of an opener strategy that turned out to be short-lived, and having him get a win in 6 innings with 6 strikeouts, which is not bad for a guy we all counted out last year.
Additionally, the A's rotation is working without Sean Manaea, Marco Estrada and Frankie Montas, out due to injuries, injuries and cheating respectively. Mike Fiers has become the ace, and what a mighty good ace he's become. Daniel Mengden, Brett Anderson and Chris Bassitt have been solid starting options as well, all three sporting positive W/L percentages and ERAs below 4.50. And then you have your solid relief options with Liam Hendriks, Blake Treinen and Yusmeiro Petit all doing super-well, and Taiwanese journeyman Wei-Chung Wang doing some solid stuff when no one's looking.
Really, my one criticism with this team, especially in comparison to last year's team, is the lack of shocking developments in the lineup. Yes, you have Matt Chapman, Marcus Semien and Matt Olson all doing well, but there hasn't been someone jumping into the lineup and making huge plays or moves. Even Ramon Laureano has mellowed out after a while. They need a sneaky bat, someone who could maybe fit into the outfield that would push them just a tad further past the Rangers.
Another insane A's comeback could happen, and I really hope it does.
Coming Tomorrow- Of all the outfielders in San Diego, it's THIS GUY that's having the best season.
The Milwaukee Brewers have been insanely fickle this year. After spending a week or so at first, they'll be knocked back down to second thanks to the Cubs, and then repeat the cycle over there. But for most of July, the Cubs have just...been in first. They just have. And looking at the Cubs, it's easy to see why; their lineup's strong, their rotation's withstanding injury, and they've improved so much since the early games of April.
Whereas the Brewers have regressed.
It's become less evident with the return of Gio Gonzalez, but the lack of a substantial back half of a rotation has been glaring, with Jhoulys Chacin struggling, and the revolving door of Adrian Houser and Freddy Peralta not giving especially great results either. Having a solid trio of Brandon Woodruff, Zach Davies and Chase Anderson definitely helps, but even Anderson will have his off starts, as he's not the ace the Brewers banked on two seasons ago. And even Davies, with his 8-2 record and 2.79 ERA, only has 68 strikeouts, compared to Brandon Woodruff's 118. And as nice as Gio Gonzalez' start was, his showing yesterday leaves a bit to be desired.
You're also dealing with a team that's had to completely regroup the squad that made a name for themselves last year. Now Travis Shaw isn't hitting, and is in the minors, so their goes the hero figure they'd established in 2017. Also, Jesus Aguilar isn't hitting, and is losing playing time to Eric Thames, so there goes the hard-hitting first baseman they'd been trying to set up for 2 years. And Hernan Perez, their perennial utility-man, is now toiling in the minors after nearly being released. And it has to be frustrating that Orlando Arcia, who they've tried EVERYTHING with, still can't hit during the regular season.
There's enough of a solid lineup core that they can win games, and thank the gods that Christian Yelich, Mike Moustakas, Eric Thames, Yasmani Grandal, Ryan Braun (!) and Keston Hiura are all playing really well right now, but...for a team that's made it to the NLCS, and has retooled their team thusly, you'd think they'd have more things really working right now.
It's too early to say if they're planning on making a second-half push, but...I really hope so. This was a fun playoff team last year, and I'd hate to see them miss that chance this year.
Coming Tonight: He threw a no-hitter earlier this year, which was the exact thing he needed to turn his season around.
Saturday, July 20, 2019
So, back with the Twins. Since June they've been acting a bit more human, losing more games, performing...like a regular ballclub.
I mean, the Twins have still usurped the Yankees as the home-run-hitting leaders of baseball, which is expected when you have Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, Max Kepler, Nelson Cruz, Jonathan Schoop, CJ Cron and Mitch Garver on the same team. Everyone has over 13 home runs in the lineup except Byron Buxton. Miguel Sano has the least RBIs with 25, but he's only been here for 47 games and is just now getting hot, so it's fine.
This is also the best season yet for Max Kepler, who's had his highest average yet with .260, his most homers with 23, and some good RBI numbers with 60, a team high for people who are not Eddie Rosario. He's proven in the past few years that he can be a trusted asset, but this season he may be more than just a Twins standout; he might be establishing himself as a legitimate hitting threat for the MLB in general, which is nice. Germany could use some good press.
They've also figured out the pitching situation, with a retooled bullpen and Taylor Rogers as closer, and...the potential to get more assets before August. They've also balanced the rotation, with Berrios, Gibson, Odorizzi and Perez all doing equally great, and Pineda slowly regaining his control as well.
This is a solid playoff-ready team, but it's gonna take some retooling and momentum to get to where they should be in October, and they're gonna have to figure out why they've been losing so many June and July matches. I do think the Twins could rock the postseason if given the opportunity, but they need to get to that point.
Coming Tomorrow- His team may be wobbling through the wild card standings, but at least he's finally become a trusted starter for them.
How's about this comeback season?
Josh Donaldson was worrying me, in that I was getting worried he'd never be able to get back to his Toronto numbers after some injuries, and I kept thinking he was just gonna mellow out and not get back to MVP caliber stuff with Atlanta, even if he was a perfect fit for their offense.
I mean, thankfully that's all unfounded, because...Donaldson has a 3 WAR, 22 home runs, and he's part of an ensemble of Braves hitters that are dead-set on repeating in 2019.
You look at this lineup, and it's one that's remained pretty intact since about May, with only Austin Riley and Brian McCann making less than 60 games so far. Only Markakis and McCann have less than 10 home runs, nobody has an average lower than .250, only one hitter has over 100 strikeouts, and it's Ronald Acuna and his ASG-caliber play, only Donaldson, Riley and McCann haven't hit 100 hits yet, and Freddie Freeman is already at 76 RBIs. And it's July.
And this is one of those teams where even the bench is tough. I knew Culberson would be back to his old tricks, but even Johan Camargo, Matt Joyce AND Tyler Flowers have been sensational off the bench. There's only one hitter on this team who's been relegated to the 40-man, which means everybody else is hot AND healthy.
...I mean, the pitching's a bit more problematic, and you have people like Arodys Vizcaino, Jonny Venters and Jesse Biddle who had to be swapped in order to fix the bullpen (Anthony Swarzak has helped). And you had to go through Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb having starting problems, and Bryse Wilson not being ready yet, in order to get to Max Fried and Mike Soroka getting their numbers, and Dallas Keuchel finally getting his ERA below 4. Now we're at the point where the rotation is pretty set, the bullpen will be solidified with one or two more deadline deals, and Alex Jackson could close big games.
The Braves could be the sleeper playoff hit that we're not paying attention to because we're so blinded by the Dodgers. As indestructible as LA looks, the Braves have a killer lineup, they've fixed their pitching, and...they're hot. And if they stay this hot the rest of the year, it'll take something huge to stop them.
Coming Tonight: It says something about a player if they're still listed as a team hero and a trusted asset their first three years...and then NOW they're having the best season of their career. Like, it makes the previous seasons, where they were still good, look diminutive by comparison.
Friday, July 19, 2019
...you know how the Nationals have been bragging nonstop that they've been the best team in baseball since May 15th?
Yeah, well the Nats are 18-7 since JUNE 15th...while the Yankees are 20-6 in that same period. Which is the best record since June 15th.
But you don't see them bragging about it everyday on Twitter. Because...well, they have enough to brag about as is.
Here's something else: the Yankees have the best W/L ratio in baseball, better than the Dodgers. They have the lowest amount of losses in the majors. All of their starters have a positive W/L ratio, and none of them have an ERA higher than 5.
And they are doing this without Giancarlo Stanton, Luis Severino or Miguel Andujar.
The most important part is that despite missing a month and a half due to injury, Aaron Judge has returned to New York fully intact, and is hitting .304 with 10 home runs, which is not a bad truncated first half. The biggest part of this is that the Yankees don't need to rely exclusively on Judge anymore; they've developed a spread-out offense where Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres, DJ LeMahieu, Edwin Encarnacion, Didi Gregorius, Luke Voit and Aaron Hicks can alternatively plug in material. It's not a one-horse show, though it arguably never was.
And the outfield combo of Judge-Hicks-Gardy, with occasional contributions from Mike Tauchman, still really works, even without Stanton (and Ellsbury but screw him at this point). You still get great innings out CC Sabathia even in the last innings of his HOF career. Domingo German has finally become a trusted starter. Zach Britton and Adam Ottavino are still untouchable in relief. So much on this team is going well that I really hope we're not peaking too early.
The Yankees are lucky enough to still be awesome right now, despite everything that's happened. And I really hope they can keep rolling like this.
Coming Tomorrow: Bringer of Rain, still making it pour in Atlanta.
I was...sort of at a Phillies game the other night.
I say 'sort of' because me and a friend were there for a few innings, it rained, the delay lasted an hour or so, and we left before the game re-started because he had work the next day. But it was a fleeting glimpse at one of the toughest lineups in baseball, those nasty Los Angeles Dodgers. My friend, who's not a huge baseball guy, was amazed at the fact that there were only two players in the lineup, Enrique Hernandez and Russell Martin, who were batting under .250, and that everybody else had a ton of home runs.
I kinda wish I could have seen more of this team. I mean, obviously they did end up winning that night, because...look, Nick Pivetta's on the mound, what d'you expect is gonna happen, but I didn't see any feats of offensive strength in person. Bellinger and Muncy walked. Maeda pitched two solid but quiet innings. Pederson struck out. I mean, the Dodgers came alive after I left, but...I wish they could have done something while I was there. I blame the rain.
I do think I am eventually gonna see firsthand how awesome this LA team is, because something tells me this core group is gonna be around for a while. They're definitely gonna be able to wrap up people like Buehler, Muncy and Bellinger, and they're gonna build a solid core that'll withstand the eventual wave of vanishing contracts. What intrigues me about this team is that even the guy's they're bringing up to work the bench, like Matt Beaty, Will Smith and Edwin Rios, are all pretty much MLB-ready, and are just waiting for crevices into the madness.
Martin, Hill, Freese and Ryu will be free agents next year, and Turner, Pederson, Hernandez and Pedro Baez will be free agents in 2021. That means either a lot of other free agents will be pasted over those holes, or, and this is probably more likely, the kids waiting in the still-strong farm system are gonna come up, repopulate this team, and make them contenders well into the 2020s.
I still think the Dodgers could win a World Series this year. Knowing who they'd probably have to play to get one (awkwardly scoots away), it may be tough, but...they might be tougher.
Coming Tonight: All Rise...
Thursday, July 18, 2019
I think the most interesting part of the Astros' success, especially this year...is that none of the starting pitchers are homegrown.
Think about it. Verlander came from Detroit's farm system, McHugh was a Mets farmhand, Peacock came up with Washington and Oakland, Miley was an Arizona product, and Gerrit Cole, quite famously, was drafted first overall by the Pittsburgh.
And what I find very intriguing indeed is that with the exception of Verlander, none of these guys really hit their peak until joining the Astros. I mean, with McHugh and Peacock you can't dispute that, but...Miley had one good season with Arizona, bopped around for like 4 seasons with varying degrees of success, and finally found his footing again this year.
And then Cole...even coming into vogue during some strong years of Pittsburgh success, could never really give a consistent glimpse at his true talents there. He did have the 2015 season, where he won 19 games, hit 200 strikeouts, and helped the Pirates stay in the Wild Card race, but...other than that, he was at the mercy of the offense.
And then he gets to Houston, where he doesn't need to worry about run support, and his career reaches its apex. Last year he was unstoppable, notching 276 strikeouts, a career high, winning 15 games, and finishing the year with a 1.033 WHIP, his lowest to date. And right now he's leading the leagues in strikeouts with 196, as well as strikeouts-per-9 with 13.5. Honestly, one of the reasons why he's doing so well might be that he's not the staff ace, and he's not the #1 starter, so the pressure is slightly off, and he can do some more damage as the 2nd starter, surprise people.
The Astros have regained some of their momentum, and thanks to Cole they're still a major threat in the AL.
Coming Tomorrow- Other than Cody Bellinger, he might be the most dangerous Dodger right now.