Thursday, August 13, 2020

Moran Mountain

Three wins.

The Pirates have won three games in total. We've been at this season for 3 weeks, and the Pirates only have 3 wins. That almost takes skill.

As cheerily optimistic as I've been about the Pirates in recent years, especially after they  traded McCutchen and Cole in the same season, this team has just been getting progressively more dilapidated and rundown as the decade has gone on. Even the core this team has been depending on for 2020, Josh Bell, Bryan Reynolds, Kevin Newman and Gregory Polanco, has come up disastrously short. The only starter who was actually hitting well, Philip Evans, was carted off after a horrifying collision last week. Colin Moran is doing his best, and is hitting more home runs than everyone else, 5, but he's kind of one-dimensional, really. It's hard to get excited about people like Moran and Erik Gonzalez when the rest of this team is so underwhelming.

The pitching isn't much better. Trevor  Williams is the only starter with a competent ERA. Musgrove and Keller are injured, Derek Holland and Steven Brault are giving up too many hits, and Chad Kuhl and J.D. Brubaker are carefully examining  starting roles. The bullpen is also disastrous, as numerous guys keep getting injured, and long-term injuries at  that.

I haven't seen a team with this few upsides in years. And it's probably only going  to get worse over time.

Coming Tomorrow- A lights-out starter for a team that, as of today, officially  has usurped the Astros in the standings.

Purpose [Deluxe Edition]

Yeah, I'm still not above the obvious joke

Anyway, Shane Bieber's the best pitcher in baseball right now and it's not even close.

Like...we don't really need to do the rest of the season, Bieber has the Cy  Young in the  bag. He has 43 strikeouts in 4 starts, 3 wins and a 1.63 ERA. Tomorrow night his opponent is Ivan Nova and the Tigers. Conceptually, this is a win.

...except things haven't been too peachy for the Indians lately. First of all, Zach Plesac and Mike Clevinger aren't traveling with the team due to violating COVID rules. So they're down two sharp starters. Good news is, with the rotation being Bieber-Carrasco-Civale-Plutko, it could be a lot worse. And besides, considering  his recent callup, one would guess  Logan Allen has  the fifth starting position, which is  also a good thing.

But even if this rotation continues to surge, which  it probably will, the Indians, who were once in control of the AL Central, have now plummeted to fourth place. In recent weeks, the Tigers, in missing a series, have stayed at 9-7, and the White Sox, despite troubles, tie Cleveland with 10-9. It's not bad, and it's still a .500+ record with enough time to catch up, so it's not...impossible to come back.

The lineup, though, could be in better shape. Oscar Mercado, Jordan Luplow, Domingo Santana, Sandy Leon  and even Carlos Santana aren't hitting as well as they should be. Leon is covering  for an injured Roberto Perez. The Ramirez-Lindor-Hernandez-Reyes core is fine, but not at peak levels yet. This is a fine lineup, but it's not where the rotation is, and games are being dropped due to that.

I hope for some level of improvement, as this is a fine  team that would be  nice in the playoffs. But it's gonna take a lot of people exceeding .200 real quick.

Coming  Tonight: It's been a weird year for the Moran brothers. Bryan was shelved in Toronto only to find a job opportunity in Miami due to a lot of openings, and his younger brother found  himself as one of the main hitters of, yes, the worst team in  baseball.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The Other Buffalo in Baseball

Friend of my dad's is such a big Mets guy that he managed to get a cutout at CitiField. Tonight, he spotted himself. They should use that as a slogan 'Find yourself at CitiField'

Anyway, the Mets, the non-cardboard ones, are, uh...hanging in there. Without the heft of Pete Alonso's rookie  numbers, or the spontaneity of Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Marcus Stroman, the Mets are just another last place team trying to at least end the season with some dignity.

There are some bright spots in  this lineup, like Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto, but a lot of the guys they've banked on, like Alonso, Wilson Ramos, Amed Rosario and Brandon Nimmo, have been letting them down. Ramos, despite his RBIs, is still hitting below the Mendoza line. Alonso has only hit 2 homers. Robinson Cano, while having his best season in years, is hurt.

The rotation is marginally better, cause you have Jacob deGrom attempting to go 3 for 3, which he might, and David Peterson making a heavy case for Rookie of the Year. Porcello, Matz and Wacha...are concerning, yes, but Robert Gsellman is in  talks to join the rotation, and the Mets probably have one other trick up their sleeves as well.

The dreams people had of this team competing in 2020 probably aren't going to be realized. This is far from a bad team, but the Marlins have more of a shot right now.

Coming Tomorrow- Best pitcher in baseball right now.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Lowe Hear This

After an explosive first series in Toronto, the Tampa Bay Rays have become...a low-scoring team.

They've been  winning by  one-run margins, only scoring up to 5 runs in a game, making some close games possible for other teams. Despite stymieing the Yankee offense during their series last week, they still only one  those by a point or two. Which really speaks to the small-ball strategies Kevin Cash has been using even after this team got good. This team is very reliant on hits, bullpen, and intricate mechanics, and not exactly masters of the long ball.

Brandon Lowe, contact expert, leads the team in home runs. With 3. A team with Hunter Renfroe, Ji-Man Choi and Austin Meadows on it, and Lowe's leading in HR. Additionally, just Lowe and Jose Martinez are hitting over .250 right now. This  is a very low-key lineup, especially in comparison to the last few years, and the small-ball strategies are only gonna get them so far.

The weird part is that the only starting pitcher that's really nailing it for the Rays so far is Blake Snell. Morton and Chirinos are hurt, Yarbrough and Glasnow have slightly inflated ERAs. And even  then, Snell hasn't won any games. The still-strong bullpen, and guys  like Chaz Roe, Pete Fairbanks, Aaron Loup, Diego Castillo, and, yes, Nick Anderson, have been keeping games in  line and doing a lot of the work, which is why the games are so close. The team doesn't have  to do much, but the pen  can keep any opposing offense at bay. Which, in a division  with Aaron Judge, J.D. Martinez, Renato Nunez and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., helps.

Unless the Yankees take a plunge, or unless somebody else usurps them, I expect the Rays to stay in the  game and squeeze into a wild card spot.

Coming Tomorrow- One of the best catchers of the 2010s, still hitting well in Queens.

A Yastrzemski Hitting Over .300? Been There.

Caught this guy playing for Norfolk a few years ago. It was at the point where he was in his mid-20s and it looked like he'd just be a career minor leaguer, so my dad and I just enjoyed the novelty of seeing Carl Yastrzemski's grandson  playing ball.

Fortunately, the Giants have continued their uncanny ability to save minor league farmhands from extinction. They did it with  Ryan  Vogelsong back in the day,  they did it with Alex Dickerson last year, they're doing it with  Darin Ruf this year apparently, Mike Yastrzemski is the best player on the Giants. How do they do it?

It's great that Yaz is hitting .300, because the veteran-based lineup the Giants had been going  with is finally beginning to cave in  on  them. Crawford, Sandoval, Pence and Belt are not hitting. Jeff Samardzija is tanking and now injured. Buster Posey isn't even playing this year. The Over-30 strategy has failed for the Giants, and they are pretending it's not. Meanwhile, the younger guys  in the lineup, like Yaz and Austin Slater and Donovan Solano, are doing great. The pitching youth movement is succeeding finally, as Logan Webb has turned into a great starter and Connor Menez is sharp in relief. Hell, some of the younger recent signings, like Wilmer Flores, Kevin Gausman and Tyler Anderson, are working for this team as well. They're just trapped under so many impenetrable contracts.

There's a younger Giants team trying to squeeze through, and there are parts of this team that will, and do, actually work this year. But the reality exists that the Giants will probably have to wait until all of these contracts expire to really make a run at things, and for everyone that's doing well NOW, that's kind of sad.

Coming Tonight: Second-baseman for a team that just reduced  my Yankees to low-scoring.

Monday, August 10, 2020

The A Stands for August

...No other way to say it. The Oakland Athletics haven't lost a game since July.

The last  9 games, all taking place in August, have been wins for the A's, including a series with the  Astros. This has propelled them into the lead in  the AL West, and given them the best win/loss percentage in the AL.

After the last two seasons of Wild Card appearances, we shouldn't be too shocked. Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, Ramon Laureano and surprisingly Robbie Grossman have all been off to fantastic starts. Chapman and Olson have picked up where the last  few seasons have left off and are still some of the most compatible corners in the  game. Marcus Semien is slowly catching up, but had a bit of a rough  start. Mark Canha and Tony Kemp are gaining traction  as well.

The big shocker from this team as been Frankie Montas, a year after getting busted for illegal drug use, continuing his early dominance from last  year by having 22 strikeouts and a 1.57 ERA over four starts. In a season where Mike Fiers and  Sean  Manaea are slumping, it's good to have someone  like Montas who's doing well. Additionally, Jesus Luzardo and Chris Bassitt are in peak form in their starts, Joakim Soria, T.J McFarland, Burch Smith and Jake Diekman have yet to allow a run, and Liam Hendriks already has 5 saves.

This team has learned from its past two seasons, and has put the steps in place to win games NOW, rather

....okay now this makes more sense.

BUT  REGARDLESS. This is a really good  A's team, they're 5 games ahead of the  Astros, they have the only  winning record in the AL West, and I'd love to see them keep plowing over opponents.

Coming Tomorrow-Nobody can believe the start this guy has gotten off to. His grandfather must be proud.

Absolute Bauer

Why the hell did we ever doubt this guy?

I'm not even talking about his first few years with the Indians, I mostly mean last year when Trevor Bauer pitched for Cincinnati and couldn't keep his ERA down. Why did that fool us into thinking that somebody like Luis Castillo or Sonny Gray would  have  to carry the rotation  for the Reds this year?

Cause Trevor Bauer has been untouchable so far. .93 ERA, 32 strikeouts in 19 innings, a .569 WHIP. Absolutely insane, and he's leading the  charge of a pretty impressive Reds rotation that includes Sonny Gray continuing his Cincinnati goodwill tour with 3 wins, Anthony Desclafani with no earned runs through 2 games, Tyler Mahle and Tejay Antone having lethal starts, and Luis Castillo being less stellar but still striking people out. I know people said this was gonna be the best rotation in the leagues when they thought Wade Miley would be competent, but now that  we  see the depth, it genuinely might be the best.

Only problem is the lineup hasn't entirely caught up. The guys the team is centered around, like Suarez, Votto, Moose, Barnhart and Galvis, aren't hitting. Moose is now on the DL. Yes, Nick Castellanos is hitting up a storm and on a pace to set the whole league on fire, but he and Jesse Winker are the only starters hitting  over .250. Which is unsettling for a team that was supposed to be chasing the frontrunners.

Anyway, they're in fourth. Thanks to the Pirates, they don't have much of a chance to end in last, but...I really  wish they'd work on getting the lineup back to peak position, because this isn't looking good. It can't just be Castellanos' job to lift the lineup on a team with  future Hall of Famer Joey Votto on it. Something needs to even out.

Coming Tonight: Starting third baseman for the team that's been kicking Houston's ass in more ways than one.