Sunday, July 31, 2016

Defending Sellers

It's very weird. Wade Davis was closing for a World Series champion last year, and now he's in danger of being traded. Baseball is a fickle, merciless game, friends, but...obviously you all know that are you're divulging in its byproducts.

Wade Davis, if it hadn't been for a very conveniently timed injury, would have been one of the three-billion closers dealt this month. The guys that hadn't been able to grab Mark Melancon, Aroldis Chapman or Andrew Miller were probably aching for someone like Davis. I think the injury is stopping the conversations a bit, but...still, Davis should be on notice.

I do find this very weird- the Royals were obviously not going to repeat their 2015 success, but I didn't expect them to completely deflate. There may be one or two pitchers dealt by the Royals, like Edinson Volquez or Joakim Soria or someone. I mean, yeah, the Red Sox ended up dealing a few guys in 2014, but Davis is a pretty indispensable piece, even if Greg Holland suddenly returns to relevancy.

It's just...very weird. Between the Miller deal, the kemp deal, and now the possibility of Wade's just been a very weird 24 hours. Forgive me if I'm having trouble keeping up.

Coming Tomorrow- Probably someone else that will have been traded- an infielder for Cincinnati.

ARGH (or Jordan is not happy about the Andrew Miller Trade)


This season's confirmed that Brian Cashman must be easily distracted or something, because that must explain why he keeps going back on his promises. Just with this deal alone: 'we're not trading Miller, we're not trading Miller, we're not trading Miller, we're not- OOOOH! A MILLER DEAL!'

I was of the impression we'd be keeping the guy around for a bit. Sadly this was not in the cards, and Miller was shuttled to Cleveland today for a few prospects. Yes, prospects are nice and all, but I was thinking Miller would be sticking around.

Besides, I'm still not 100% comfortable with Dellin Betances closing games- he's better suited as a kickass middle reliever. But apparently that's what Cashman wants.

Maybe I'm a bit bitter because the Yankees aren't usually sellers at this time of year, but...I didn't see this one coming, and am still a bit miffed about it. Give me some time.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Feeding Time Again for the Phils' Rotation?

This time last year, Jerad Eickoff was just climbing up the minors in Texas, and waiting for a big break to occur. I did, but only when he, along with Matt Harrison and a few other prospects, was traded for Cole Hamels and sent to Philadelphia. Luckily for him, though, the Phillies were building their rotation on young arms, and Jerad was just the kind of young arm they needed.

Now, the rotation of Eickhoff, Jeremy Hellickson, Vince Velasquez and Aaron Nola has been...surprisingly potent when it comes to shutting down offenses. I mean, they're not perfect, and it's still the Phillies, but Jerad Eickhoff has become one of the more dominant, impressive starters in the repertoire.

I saw him start earlier this month, and, despite giving up a home run to Erick Aybar in the first inning, he was pretty proficient in striking out the majority of the Braves batters, and letting our Phillies run away with the win. He's definitely got the right kind of stuff, and if Aaron Nola gets his stuff back together, he and Nola could be a stellar 1-2 punch.

The buyers, especially Texas, are farming teams for pitching, and it's likely that someone like Eickhoff or Vince Velasquez could end up getting traded. I hope they hang onto Eickhoff- he's one of the few Philly pitchers who's doing his job correctly this year.

Coming Tonight- Speaking of inexplicable trade targets...the closer for the World Series Champion Royals, everybody!

Friday, July 29, 2016

There Must Always Be a Knuckleballer in Boston

From 1995 to 2011, Tim Wakefield was a solid, consistent, impressive part of the Boston Red Sox rotation, giving effort and impressive outings every year for a decade and a half. He was also, thankfully, a knuckleballer, and this made playing for this long so easy for him.

From 2012 to 2014 something very odd happened. There wasn't a knuckleballer ANYWHERE in the Red Sox' lineup. Oh, the knuckled wasn't dead- R.A. Dickey was still moving mountains with the pitch with the Mets and Blue Jays.

However, in 2015...the Red Sox brought up Steven Wright. And finally, solidarity was brought back to the Sox rotation. Not only was there another knuckleballer present, but it was a pretty damn nice knuckleballer, too.

Steven Wright's been having a pretty nice season, making an All Star team and being one of the top starters on a team that also has David Price on it. He also picked one of the best times to get hot. The Red Sox, while not currently a first place team, have been very hot this year with a killer lineup and some nice guys suddenly getting hot. Pitching is one of their few weak points, but with Wright, Rick Porcello and David Price pitching well (or, in Price's case, well enough), they're not as bad as they could have been.

Steven Wright could be a Red Sock for a little while. Maybe not Wakefield long, but...perhaps relatively long anyway.

Coming Tomorrow- One of the few pitchers in Philadelphia that hasn't completely fallen apart.

Pariah of a Piss-Poor Trade Deadline

As you can see, when Eduardo Nunez is one of the bigger names swapped before the deadline, you know they're having trouble making deals.

I mean, Aroldis Chapman, Drew Pomeranz, Fernando Rodney- there have been a couple, but, ASG nod notwithstanding, Eduardo Nunez doesn't exactly have a ton of star power, especially for a guy dealt three days before the deadline.

However...what Nunez will do as a member of the Giants will probably affect, in some way, the rest of the season.

The Giants have been dealing with injuries/slumps with Joe Panik and Matt Duffy, two guys that were supposed to make a killer infield this year but have only ended up making it an 'alright' infield. You put Eduardo Nunez into the equation...and SanFran can breathe a little easier. He can play second base, he can play third, he can play short when Crawford's got a day off. he gives this infield a ton more depth, and a ton more flexibility going into the postseason.

I mean, this does kind of shoot the Twins in the foot when it comes to THEIR roster flexibility...but they're not the ones going for a postseason this year.

And Now, An Absolutely Beautiful Hisashi Iwakuma Custom

Just wanted to brighten your day a little bit. Regardless of the Mariners' struggles, or whatever's going on in the least we can all agree on how cool this Iwakuma custom is.

That's all. Go back to what you were doing. I'll give you a post with some substance later tonight.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Reason #26 Why You Never Should Have Counted Out the Dodgers

The Giants made a huge splash last month, nearly dethroning the Cubs for 'best in baseball' honors. And yet, in the last few weeks, their star has faded thanks to losing some lay-up series, and the loss of some steam.

Enter Los Angeles.

Since given the opportunity, the Dodgers have moved to 2.5 games behind the Giants, and are gaining fast. Even without Clayton Kershaw, the rotation is strong, with Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, Kenta Maeda and Bud Norris all holding up a pretty strong ship amid all the injuries and catastrophes in the rotation. Kazmir is no Kershaw, but he's still an impressive anchor and is doing what he can to keep the momentum going.

No, the real strength is the lineup. Justin Turner, Corey Seager, Adrian Gonzalez, Yasmani Grandal and Chase Utley are all hitting, and the momentum is growing by the day. This is not the prime team- a lot of backups have been taking place, but we're eventually getting to a lineup that can win games.

Look, as much as this can be the Giants' year, the Dodgers can be even more of sleeper hit. Next month, Andre Ethier will return, and it's looking like they want Clayton Kershaw to return as well. The barricade's only going to strengthen as it goes along, and the NL West battle is just going to get tougher.

Coming Tomorrow- One of the few Mariners pitchers that hasn't gotten injured.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Pirates Game 7/27/16- Heart and Cole

I've been in Pittsburgh for the last few days, as I've been working with a traveling film camp around the East Coast. It's a really cool job, and I love it, but it brought me to Pittsburgh this week, and I figured, as I'm in town, I might as well pay a visit to one of my favorite places to watch a ballgame, PNC Park.

So...I did...and I was not disappointed.

First of all, one of the reasons why I love the park is the city is right in view, and the bridges and walk around the stadium is so fun. Plus, the fans are all into it, and tonight the entire place was packed- this was a complete 360 to how it was 5 years ago, when I sat behind home plate for a very cheap amount of money, mainly because it was still a foreseeable option.

Tonight...we sat along the third base line in some pretty nice seats, and got to see the Pirates take on the Seattle Mariners, featuring James Paxton on the mound.

Luckily...the Pirates pitched Gerrit Cole tonight, and the man was on the entire night. He pitched nine solid innings, only allowing four hits and one run, and completely shutting down an offense that can be deadly if underestimated. Cole is already an outstanding pitcher, but the fact that he could notch a CGV like that is pretty extraordinary, especially seeing as the Pirates aren't a perfect team all around.'s not like Cole did this alone. The entire lineup took great pleasure in bashing the ever-loving shit out of the Mariners pitching...especially James Paxton. All it took was some RBI stuff from Josh Harrison, Starling Marte, David Freese and Jung-Ho Kang to power the 3-run 3rd inning...and for a while, it looked like that would be all. But the seventh inning was even more explosive, and the hits kept coming, raining on new Mariner Drew Storen's parade.

The best moment for me was seeing Andrew McCutchen, one of my favorite players, absolutely MURDER a ball thrown by some Mariners reliever, sending it out late in the game, and basically sealing the game's fate. Cutch hasn't been having the greatest season, but he had a pretty impressive night, as if to remind everyone that he is, in fact, still Andrew McCutchen.

The team won 10-1, which is pretty impressive for a team skirting along the fine line of contendership. If they have games like this, when they can play extraordinarily well even WITHOUT John Jaso and Gregory Polanco...then brother, we're in for a hell of a fall.

Custom Card of the Morning: Bauer Edition

The Royals...are in fourth place, and completely out of the race.

The White Sox are in third, but are so far behind the second place Tigers that we've all kind of counted them out.

So...that leaves the Cleveland Indians...with a nice stronghold on first place. And I love the fact that I am saying this phrase in 2016, a year I thought would be dominated by the Royals again. The Indians NOT ONLY have built up a rather nice roster, including a RANDOMLY AMAZING OUTFIELD featuring Tyler Naquin and Rajai Davis (and...probably Marlon Byrd when he gets back from the suspension), but they have the strongest pitching rotation in the AL, hands down.

Danny Salazar, Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco I've already spoken about, I think, this season- all three are known strikeout artists, and they're all on this season, even if it doesn't show it, as usual, in the wins column for Kluber. Trevor Bauer, however...I've skirted along in the past, but now I get to talk about him- this is one of those guys I've been rooting for ever since his debut in Arizona.

It's weird- when he got traded to the Indians initially there were thoughts of 'oh, this guy's gonna be their ace', and 'oh, he'll mop the floor with midwest batting'. But...for a while he was just an okay, strikeout-heavy pitcher in an okay rotation. The Tribe could not rely on Bauer for his stuff until they had a good enough rotation to base him around...and now they do, and now Trevor Bauer's throwing absolute fire.

The Salazar-Carrasco-Kluber-Bauer-Tomlin combination was one that was cooking for a little while, and throwing names like Cody Anderson and Zach McAllister didn't do too much other than establish the dominance of those prime five- Tomlin, while definitely bringing up the rear, has a killer win-loss ratio and is still a fantastic big-game pitcher, so it doesn't worry me.

What worries me however is my fear of the Indians peaking in August. They're amazing now, and they're killing everyone now...but I'm worried that their huge lead's gonna catch up to them, and somebody like Detroit is gonna catch up. What they NEED to do is secure a trade deadline deal, like Jonathan Lucroy or somebody, that can bolster the roster while also keeping the momentum going. Heck, they could trade for Chris Sale or Julio Teheran if they wanted to, and push Tomlin to the 'pen- that'd just piss off the league and rid them of prospects, but if they wanna win NOW...that's the way to do it.

The 2016 Indians are a wonderful baseball story...and I'd rather die than see it burn out this early.

Coming Tonight- Well...I'll be at a baseball game, odds are, a recap of that. Until then, Go Bucs!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

An Ode to the Last-Place Braves

if one receives a chance to play to lose,
In favor of success in later days,
It helps to make this choice worthwhile to choose,
Instead of failing in two billion ways.
There's only one left-hander that can pitch,
And only one third baseman that can bat.
The rest have left all of Georgia to bitch,
And all of sports to say 'imagine that'.
The team's this bad to help the prospects grow
By letting aging rejects play the field
At this rate, it's impossible to know,
What results losing ninety games will yield.
Still, for Braves fans, there isn't much to fear.
Besides- they get a new ball-field next year.

Coming tomorrow- A pitcher for one of the deadliest rotations in baseball right now...and I'm not talking about the Mets.

Even with Marco Estrada, it's not Toronto's Year

Last year, the Blue jays, at least in my opinion, had no business being unstoppable when they were. Halfway through July they decided 'hey, we're just gonna be amazing now', and the rest of the league kind of went along with it, didn't ask any questions. Hell, the Rockies even HANDED over Troy Tulowitzki.

This season...even the stuff that was working in 2015 is kind of failing them now. With the exception of Josh Donaldson and a SURPRISINGLY FANTASTIC Michael Saunders, as well as some insane pitching from Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ, and Aaron Sanchez...not a whole lot to talk about as far as Toronto is concerned.

Yeah, Edwin Encarnacion's been surging, but he's been doing that midseason so many times that we're all kind of fatigued about it. Tulo's been injured, Russell Martin's been slumping, Kevin Pillar had an amazing start and sort of...plummeted back to Earth, and Jose Bautista is juuuuuust getting back off the DL. The pieces for an insurrection aren't especially in place.

It's also not really their year. I mean, last year the division was sort of waiting for some kind of massive takeover, but here...the Orioles and Red Sox kind of have it locked up. There doesn't especially need to be a third team ruling the roost in here, because we've already got a division winner and a probable Wild Card sitting around there.

The Jays aren't even in the position to be buyers or sellers this week, either. They have no real needs to fill, and no real commodities to give away. Being in third place has kind of doomed them, in a way.  They can't really do anything about it until after the season ends, which, I will say, is kind of sad.

All they can do is keep playing as well as they've been doing, and some nice Marco Estrada starts will probably help that case.

Coming Tonight- A player for one of the worst teams in baseball.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Giants Are That Good (Again.)

What else do you want me to say? The Giants have spent the past year or so perfecting the lineup, putting the best guys up in the rotation, and fine-tuning the infield and outfield. And they're still pretty damn good. may be predictable, but I don't care. It's still happening.

Last season the infield flourished because Matt Duffy entered the equation in place of Pablo Sandoval, but also because Brandon Crawford FINALLY started hitting, and the guy has not stopped. Brandon Belt's been lucky enough to catch the bug as well. Panik and Duffy have been inconsistent, but I'm not really too worried- there's enough good on that lineup to prevent two wavering infielders from being a catastrophe. No need to Panik, that is.

Look, the rotation is absolutely spot on, even with Matt Cain being...himself as of late. Bumgarner, Cueto, Shark and Peavy are all fine, and Casilla and the bullpen aren't a problem either.

The team has enough momentum, and enough sheer talent, to be a serious force in the postseason. Only problem is the Dodgers are in danger of catching up, and could be a sleeper hit in the playoffs. They have to contend with how September usually goes for them, to get to what's usually a lively October.

Coming Tomorrow- The Blue Jays are right in the middle. This guy's been in the middle of the rotation for too long...he's enjoying a season on top.

Yeah. Sounds About Right.

You're asking my opinion on Aroldis Chapman landing on the Cubs?

Look...I made peace with the fact that Aroldis Chapman wouldn't be playing for my team for too long...some time ago. I'm not exactly...distraught. Am I sad? Yes, of course I'm sad- if I ran the world Aroldis Chapman would be a Yankee for eternity and there'd be tons of cards of him as a Yankee. But, this is the 2016 season, and the Cubs need a closer than isn't Hector Rondon.

And the Yankees just took Chapman as a means of stopping everyone else from getting him anyone- Cashman saw the discount, took it and ran. He already had a perfectly good closer in Andrew Miller, who..will be closing a few more games now that Chapman's gone. But the Three-Headed Monster idea was the best lemons-to-lemonade scenario they could have dreamed of.

Once Hector Rondon began the season by blowing saves, I kinda knew Chapman would end up closing for Chicago eventually. The writing was on the wall. So I'm not too broken up about it. If anything, Chapman to the Cubs is a bit obvious. I would have loved to see a rogue team jump in and snatch him.

So yeah...Aroldis Chapman's not a Yankee anymore. Boo hoo. But at least now he might be closer to a World Series.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Don't Call it a Comeback...because it really isn't one...

Tim Lincecum, for a 2-3 year radius, was one of the best pitchers in baseball by far, bringing an entire rotation and team to the forefront, and winning three World Series rings in the process.

However...after a while, Tim Lincecum, as some of the greatest pitchers have, lost his stuff. He came back season after season and people were hitting him, and he was showing up like a shell of his former self. And it was very sad to see him float down the rotation to 2nd starter...4th starter...5th starter...and into the bullpen...and off the team. It was very sad, because for a guy who won two Cy Young awards, you never want this to happen. This was essentially the Denny McLain effect, or the Mickey Lolich effect.

So...Lincy drops out, while still being able to occasionally throw strikes, and even no-hit the Reds on two occasions, even during his slumping years. And he sits around...waiting. And then, somehow, the Angels picked him up, gave him a chance, and threw him onto their rotation. most movies, this would be built up as the ultimate comeback, with so much riding on it, that the eventual success in that game would be so triumphant that fans would run onto the film, and you'd have to cut to Pat Morita nodding his head approvingly in the crowd or something. However...this is real life. I have to keep reminding myself of that whenever I hear about the election, but this is INDEED real life. has Tim Lincecum done on the Angels?

Um....he's been alright, I guess?

Look, his ERA is not impressing, and his record isn't very impressive either, but he's still throwing strikes and doing what he can- it's not the Wandy Rodriguez situation where you bring him in for one game and he gets hit on every goddamned pitch. He's...okay. Not great, but okay. Employable, I guess.

The Angels right now are in last place, their top starter, Garrett Richards, is out for the year, and their other top starter, Jered Weaver, has lost his peak fastball. Their lack of pitching help has been dooming them this season, so even if Lincecum can help a little bit, it's fine. It's doable.

It's not the COMEBACK OF THE CENTURY or anything (that would be Rich Hill), but it's still a nice touch that Lincecum is still pitching, and still trying to strike people out years after his prime.

Coming Tonight- Speaking of Lincecum's former team, a guy who's been doing an adequate job for a little while, and has finally been breaking out in the last two years.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Custom Card of the Day: Wainwright Edition

Adam Wainwright has been in the major leagues for ten years now, and in that time he's established himself as one of the most consistently awesome pitchers in baseball, and one of the most consistently snubbed pitchers as well, for having fantastic seasons the same year that Tim Lincecum, Roy Halladay and Clayton Kershaw has their extreme breakthroughs.

Stats-wise, he's already a legend in St. Louis- he's won 19 games 4 times, has three 200+ strikeout seasons, and has a career 3.06 ERA. The guy's won two World Series titles, one as a closer, and the other as...essentially an absentee.

The sucky part about Wainwright is, at least in the early part of his career, he'd get injured at the most inopportune times. He missed the entire 2011 season with injuries, costing him a chance to start for the World Series winning Cardinals, and he missed the 2015 season, costing them a chance to...well, get to the NLCS like usual.

Heck, he's been doing well enough in 2016, but hasn't gotten to his usual, earth-shattering levels, mainly due to his coming back from the DL. He's still fantastic, but he's not where he usually is by this point in the season, and, likewise, neither are the Cardinals.

Still, Wainwright's a pitcher you want on your team, and hopefully he'll have some terrific seasons in the future.

Coming Tonight- One of the guys who beat Wainwright to a Cy Young...only he's had a lot less good luck in the years since.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Crouching Tigers, Not Especially Hidden Miggy

Would not have thought so, but the Tigers have an extreme handle on second place, and are making sure that the Royals aren't moving below them. Especially in a year where their pitching staff, for the most part, isn't up to par.

Still, with a lineup like Detroit's, it's not too bad- Miguel Cabrera is back to pounding the crap out of the ball, and people like Cameron Maybin, Nick Castellanos, Ian Kinsler and Jose Iglesias are all impressing. It's a fine-tuned roster of people a lot of people thought wouldn't fit, and one of them, Justin Upton, has taken longer than we've wanted to really do that.

Cabrera's comeback is an excellent one, especially since he's been comparatively dormant since his double-MVPs in the early half of the decade- he's still one of the best players in baseball, but it's taken him a little bit to fully come back and remind us all of that- his reign in Detroit will be turning 10 next year, and the fact that he's remained consistently excellent for the Tigers for this long is pretty damned impressive.

The Tigers are also one of the teams that, assuming the Indians' stronghold on first sticks around, will likely be in the running for the Wild Card- they do have a TON of details to shore up, but they can definitely be a formidable presence. Still, with the Red Sox, Royals and Astros looming, they'll have to do SOMETHING big.

Coming Tomorrow- One of the best pitchers in baseball with the worst luck in baseball.

The Legend at Work

Somewhere in the next week or so, I'm guessing, Ichiro Suzuki is going to hit is 3000th hit in the US.

This may be one of the last chances we all get to see Ichiro in his element, in his complete glory. He's one of the best hitters of our time, and he's a definite Hall of Famer, so every opportunity to see Ichiro be amazing is a good one.

Plus, this is probably one of the best customs I've made in years, and I wanted to make sure Ichiro got an amazing custom to accent what's probably going to be his last year in the bigs.

Til he bows out, though, I'm gonna keep watching. Especially the next 6 hits...

Coming Tonight: Another future Hall of Famer, this one still in his prime, and still hitting 'em out in Detroit.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Deadlocked Again

Well, for the umpteenth time this year, the AL East has worked itself into a huge, sprawling tie for first place, with teams that could potentially take hold of the division. Unlike the other few times, this time the Blue Jays are entered into the the mix with the Orioles and Red Sox. And knowing what happened this time last season, when we all thought the Blue Jays had no business being in the conversation, they entered and wouldn't leave.

I think the team that has the best chance of overall success of the three is the Orioles. Almost everyone on the team is playing really well, and people like Jonathan Schoop and Matt Wieters, guys that aren't always the focal point of the team, are powering the team. I mean, obviously they're being lifted by people like Machado, Trumbo and Crush who are hitting a ton of home runs, but when the little guys, the fringe players, are raising know you're doing something right. Heck, even Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman and, when he's healthy, Yovani Gallardo are pulling some great stuff out of the rotation.

The Red Sox are in danger of spoiling, because their main threat is hitting for average, and half the team is pulling that off, from the obvious threats like Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley, to guys you've never heard of like Sandy Leon. They have a MONSTER lineup, and they could be dangerous in the postseason. Their main problem is their rotation- yes, Price, Porcello, Pomeranz and Wright are locked in, but there's not a ton of depth, and even Price doesn't have his best stuff this year. They're not all the way there, and might need one or two more tuneups.

The Blue Jays don't have as much going for them as the other two, aside from some surging lineup guys like Michael Saunders, Edwin Encarnacion, and, of course, Josh Donaldson. Heck, the rotation may be the best part of this season, with JA Happ, Marco Estrada, RA Dickey, Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez all doing really well. They don't have a lot of sure things in the roster, but this is the kind of team that can catch fire at the worst possible time, without a rhyme or reason. They can strike regardless of whether or not they deserve it, and that's why they're dangerous.

I'm still pulling for the O's, but it could be a pretty tricky race to the finish.

Coming Tomorrow- One of the greatest hitters in MLB history.

Not Entirely Rocky, but Rocky Enough

Last year, the Colorado Rockies, despite having a generally nice roster, were in last place, mainly due to their pitching.

Now...I mean, at least they're in third...

I think the Rockies have severely perfected their roster by making very subtle changes. Throwing Mark Reynolds and Trevor Story into the mix have allowed for a smooth, cool little well-hitting infield. The outfield combo of Carlos Gonzalez, Gerardo Parra and Charlie Blackmon, when all three are healthy, has led to some really nice offensive and defensive progress. So, as far as the lineup is concerned, I'm not especially worried- almost everyone is hitting, and not at all scaring me.

This year, in terms of pitching, the Rockies have Jon Gray, Tyler Chatwood and Tyler Anderson with positive accomplishments, which is more than I can say for past years of Rockies' rotations. It's a tough city to be a great pitcher in, but Jon Gray is actually pretty nice, and when these three guys are on, the bloodloss is not as bad.

This is not a perfect team, and they're well under .500, but they're still one of the more impressive teams in the NL West, by being in third basically. Not a lot of this team is falling apart, although the trade deadline could do some serious damage.

Coming Tonight- A veteran pitcher who's finally got his stuff together in Toronto.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Good Gravy, The Astros Might Have a Chance!

(Wow, as per the blog-wide theme, I included an exclamation point in my post title!

At the beginning of this season, the standings were kind of evident in the AL West, and they quickly sort of cemented themselves. The A's and Angels would be sticking to the bottom of the division, and the Mariners and Rangers would be bubbling to the top. Which left the Astros, the guys that made it to the ALDS last year and damn near made it further, sort of...disjointed.

For a good month or so, the Astros circled last. It was hard to watch- the other teams figured out how to hit Dallas Keuchel, Carlos Gomez and Evan Gattis were hitting below the Mendoza line, and the momentum, save for a short-lived Tyler White streak, was nonexistent.

But...suddenly, the Mariners dropped, which gave the Astros the perfect opportunity to strike. And thanks to a revitalized roster, a much better pitching staff, and people like Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve playing like absolute gods, the Astros made it to second place.

It's helped that, aside from Keuchel who's not as on as we was last year, the rest of the pitching staff has come alive, thanks to some nice work from a back-on-top Doug Fister. Lance McCullers and Collin McHugh have come back from early slumps in BIG ways. Plus, the lineup's stretching itself out and Luis Valbuena's doing a ton better.

The problem here is, of course, the Rangers have been guarding first for the past month, so the Astros are 4.5 games back. And between the Tigers, Royals, and the Sox-O's battle, it will be TOUGH AS ALL HELL to get back to the playoffs, even via the wild card. So if they want to make a move, they need to make a big one and force themselves into the conversation. They can do it- they're pretty great already. But they need to become something with even more momentum than the Rangers.

It's tough...but they're the Astros. They've done it before.

Coming Tomorrow- Former strikeout king, current average-hound, sweeping the floors in Denver.

Jake Arrieta Can Save The Cubs

Throughout most of the season, it looked like the Cubs were going to absolutely dominate, with the best lineup, the best pitching, and some amazing wins early on.

Now, it's July, and the other teams have caught up...which isn't the best news for Joe Maddon and the team.

I'm not gonna act like the Cubs are out of it, because they're not, not even by a longshot. Despite the Giants, Nationals and Indians catching up, the Cubs are still one of the best teams in baseball. But what worries me is that the momentum they had early on may be waning. They're beginning to lose some important games to big teams, and they're beginning to let their losses catch up to them- for every great game with a walk off by Anthony Rizzo or something, there's a start blown by Jason Hammel not having potato chips.

The only real constant that's gonna get the Cubs far into the season is, well, Jake Arrieta. He's one of the best pitchers in baseball, he's having a fantastic season, and he very well might be able to carry the Cubs away from the rest of the league.

Again, the game-changers will be a lot of these division match ups, as well as match ups with guys that are also potential playoff threats like the Mets, Dodgers and Cardinals. If they can keep them at bay, as well as building the momentum back up throughout the rest of the season, they will probably be fine. Also, getting back may involve stealing one of the Yankees' relievers, but that's a completely different story.

If Arrieta can give a bunch more amazing starts that the Cubs can rally behind, it could recharge the rest of the rotation, as well as the lineup (Kris Bryant's been striking out a lot lately), and get the team back. And for a guy who'd really love to see the Cubs do great things this season, that's a pretty intriguing prospect.

Coming Tonight- The Astros are still sleeper favorites in the AL West- here's one of their undercover pitching successes.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

What if the Royals Can't Make it Back?

One of the most intriguing races in baseball right now is the one going on in the AL Central, because RIGHT NOW...YOU GOT...

-A team nobody expected to be in first, completely dominating everyone
-A team that a few people expected to be in first making some nice progress
-A team everyone expected to be in first slowly losing ground
-A team everyone thought would be out of it by now still struggling to stay afloat.
-The Minnesota Twins.

It's all insane and the best part is 4/5 teams are competing, and trying to win. Even the White Sox, who have fallen far from where they were in April, are still winning games and making progress, while in fourth. It looks like this is the Indians' division to lose, though, which leaves the Royals, in third, wondering where the hell they fit in.

It's very odd- the Royals, going into the season, were the favorites to repeat and continue the dynasty. But, thanks to some injuries, and some players not being as hot as they'd like, the Royals are simply...okay this year. Not spectacular. Just...just okay.

The Indians are well-built, surging and have a ton of pieces working for them- even the Tigers have the right kind of momentum, and could be a sleeper for a Wild Card spot. That leaves the third. Unless they make a late-season push and pick up a few people at the deadline, that's where they're gonna stay. I'm doubting both Wild Card teams will be from the AL Central, especially with the Astros comeback, and with the O's-Sox battle.

So the Royals have to contend with the fact that they...really can't contend this year. Unless the closeness between the Tigers, Royals and Sox catches up to one of them- you can't say anything definitely yet, but it's not looking pristine for the Royals.

Coming Tomorrow- Best pitcher in the NL? Best pitcher in the NL.
(Besides Kershaw)

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Traded Set Showcase: 1991 Upper Deck Final Edition

This is the first in a new series, one I'm certainly willing to keep going for a while, as I've come into contact with quite a few overproduction-era traded sets lately. Today, I wanted to take a closer look at one of them, because you don't get to see a ton of publicity from them, especially compared to flagship sets.

This set, 1991 Upper Deck Final Edition, is different from 1991 Upper Deck High Series, which acted as a true Update set, with traded players and everything. This one was released later in the year, and had a more impressive lineup of rookies, All-Stars and traded guys. As I don't have High Series, I'm not 100% sure the difference.

Still, this is an impressive set, with a lot of great photos and great effort put in.

We'll start the Showcase with card #1...

 Card #1 this year was UD's pick for the top two rookies in the game, Reggie Sanders and Ryan Klesko, two players that were pretty great for their respective teams, but wouldn't last beyond 2007.
Now, the real impressive rookies don't come in until card #2...

 Pedro Martinez' rookie card is Card #2, and it's a pretty great one- aside from being a rare issue of him on the Dodgers, it's a cool looking card, and one of the few true 'ROOKIES' that exist of Pedro.

 A couple interesting rookies- Rondell White's expression is pretty great, looking comically focused, and Ryan Klesko's just happy to be here.

 Todd Van Poppel, the Webster's definition of a disappointing prospect, actually has a pretty nice action shot as his rookie card.

 This is one of the last of the true worthwhile rookies in the set, at least in the Diamond Skills subset of the series- Jim Thome, looking impressive in his spring training uniform, would hone an impressive career as an Indian.

 Now onto the regular base set, starting with Kenny Lofton, pictured before his trade to the Indians, looking pretty cool in a ST Astros shot.

 A lot of this set is giving showcase to lower-tier players who shone in '91, or guys who got traded midyear, like Candy Maldonado, seen here with a pretty cool flexing shot in the batter's box.

 A pair of relatively cool cards- Darren Lewis hitting off a tee in an empty Candlestick Park, and Scott Coolbaugh in a really nice fielding shot.

 There was a special insert card, commemorating Dennis Martinez' perfect game, which was presented as a pretty cool drawn highlight card, like a lot of major highlights in early UD history.

 A couple of nice base cards- Oil Can Boyd after a warm-up session, in Arlington, and a nice shot of Glenallen Hill fielding.

 One of the other major rookie cards in this set, of Ivan Rodriguez, who'll most likely be joining the Hall of Fame next year, in a pretty nice red-accented card.

 Still, UD was still capable of throwing in some pretty fun cards, like this one of Roger McDowell cooling off at the sprinklers.

 A couple of nice shots of Phillies, including a rare shot of Andy Ashby on the team.

 Before we get to the ASG subset, I did want to point out this Mark Whiten card- it's a static shot, but it's pretty fun, and it's got the right kind of lighting. UD could do no wrong in this era.

 This card, of both reps from each team, starts off the All Star Game subset- Griffey and Sandberg look great here, and both are in opposite parts of their career- Griffey's just entering his prime, Ryno's just exiting.

 A nice assortment of AL All Stars- the photos varied from batting practice shots to actual in-game shots. The Robby is a pretty nice one, as is the memory of Jack Morris' time on the Twins.

 More AL guys. Reminds me of how many A's were on this team, including a really fun shot of Hendu fielding. Cal seems happy to have gotten the MVP, and Griffey's Batting Practice shot is a nice one.

 What's noticeable is how much less star power the NL squad, compared to the Al squad. Glavine was one of the starters, and Sandberg, of course, started at 2nd base.

Rounding out the NL guys is a great shot of Tony Gwynn signing an autograph, a cool shot of Ozzie Smith, and Ivan Calderon focusing. No real losers here.

So, those were the highlights of that insert set- a cool, quick little foray into the last quarter of the 1991 season. A lot of good stuff in here, and a few really nice rookies. I'm glad I looked at it.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Can the Mets Repeat the Leap?

This time last year, the NL East struggle was basically taken care of- the Nationals were on top, had things locked up, and were planning on taking this whole thing to the end. It took the July-August area for the Mets to catch up, usurp, and gain a TON of momentum in order to make it to the playoffs.

This worked because the Mets had the kind of team worthy of a playoff run- the rotation was on, and the guys in the lineup, like Daniel Murphy, Lucas Duda and Curtis Granderson, were all clicking, as WELL as pickup Yoenis Cespedes.

So, do the Mets have a chance this year to repeat their slide from last year and overtake the Nationals?

Well...they have a chance...but not as much.

There's a ton less momentum right now in the lineup, because the majority of the guys that were hitting last year are dead cold- Duda's injured, and Conforto and Grandy aren't hitting. At least Cespedes has some momentum, but he's getting back from an injury. Matt Harvey's out for the season, and Thor is trying to come back from his own injury. Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera have been good, but not wall-to-wall great.

They have a nice team, but I don't think it's enough to catch the absolute behemoth that is the Nationals- unless they make a serious push or make a huge deadline deal for someone.

Coming Tomorrow- The DH for a defending champion struggling to stay afloat.

Where do the Yankees go from Here?

Right now, it's incredibly unlikely that the Yankees are going to anything noteworthy this season, other than ending up in 4th place. So, right about now the management is wondering whether it's worth while to become, for once, sellers at the trade deadline.

Carlos Beltran, who's having an outstanding last hurrah this season, may be one of the guys they let go- he's in his late 30's, and has never won a World Series (though he came rather close in 2013), and maybe they're figuring out that he'd be better on a competitive roster. As much as I've adored Beltran in the Bronx, maybe this would be a good way to restructure the farm system and give us a few guys that WON'T get injured the second they come up.

But the big question is whether they break up the Three Headed Monster in the bullpen. Chapman or Miller could be courted by the Cubs, and it's looking like it's going to be one or the other. I don't see the Yankees dealing both, and right now they have to make the decision as to whether or not ANY of them are going.

I think there's more of a chance of the Yanks giving up Miller- despite how excellent he's been for them, he's only been used in the 8th, and can be a pretty nice closer for the Cubs, if used that way- I do think they'd want to keep Chapman, because...if they Cubs get Chapman, game over man.

They're not gonna give up both, because I don't particularly see them giving the ninth to Betances. And they're certainly not giving up Dylan Judge- that's not happening.

Still...whatever happens to the Yankees by the end of this month, it'll be weird...but it'll be necessary

Coming Tomorrow- In the last two years, he's become a MONSTER in the ninth. Now, he hopes to get his team back to the playoffs.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Trade Analysis: No, I Guess It's Not Too Early So Come On In Edition

Drew Pomeranz had an amazing start with the Padres, posting a great record, an awesome ERA, and giving some extreme legitimacy to the Padres' rotation after a subpar 2015.

So, naturally, Drew Pomeranz was one of the first big trade deadline deals, and the first of what will probably be an ongoing series of TRAAAAADE ANALYSIS.

So, Pomeranz was traded to the Boston Red Sox, in exchange for a pitching prospect. This is a small, well-balanced and interesting trade that I really don't have a ton of problems with, and believe me, this will be a RARITY this month.

The Red Sox, up to this point, have had some MAJOR problems with pitching- it's been the only low spot in their red-hot team. Aside from Rick Porcello, Steven Wright, and David Price's strikeout levels, there's been a ton of guys who've disappointed, such as Clay Buchholz, Eduardo Rodriguez and Joe Kelly, so they DEFINITELY needed some pitching help. So, Pomeranz is definitely able to plug into the roster and give them some much-needed help.

Only question that arises is whether or not this prevents the Red Sox from trying to trade for bigger trade target pitchers like Jose Fernandez (who they'd LOVE to snag). Pomeranz is great, but I don't know if he's a top-of-the-rotation starter, and the Sox probably still need that.

Still, this DEFINITELY helps, is even, and is probably going to change the direction of the AL East maybe a little bit...

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Lamb Lies Down in Arizona

(I know that pun is tacky, but...just let me have it. It's too geeky not to pass up.)

The Diamondbacks, at least in the first half of 2016, haven't been the comeback team we were all hoping- there's a disconnect between the guys who came in and the guys who'd been here. Only Jean Segura has really made an impact as a newcomer, as most of the progress of this squad is coming from the veterans, the guys who've been coming up on this team- Paul Goldschmidt, Chris Owings, Welington Castillo, Robbie Ray. They haven't made a ton of progress, and a lot of their brighter spots are either injured or have been traded, but there are still signs of life.

For instance...Jake Lamb has been absolutely unstoppable this season, with an impressive batting average, and some renegade home runs. This comes out of nowhere, as while Lamb has been a hits guy for the last few seasons, he's never been a huge home run hitter. Right now he has 20. I don't know what kind of gatorade he's been drinking, but it's been doing him well.

Look...the only two guys that have truly been on for the Diamondbacks have been Paul Goldschmidt and Jake Lamb. Zack Greinke's been flirting with it, but his ERA is WAAAY down from last season. This is a team that might have worked if there was more consistency in the lineup, but right now they're not a lot of that, which is sad.

Still, I can see Jake Lamb being a 2nd-half performer, keeping the momentum going.

Coming Tonight- The one reason to talk about my New York Yankees

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Your 2016 MLB All Star Game Starting Lineups

As usual, I will detail the lineups of both teams, featuring some of the customs I've made so far this year, for this All Star Game. Despite all that's happened, I think we'll get a good game in.


Leading off for the NL, the Second Baseman, from the Chicago Cubs...Ben Zobrist!

Batting second, the right fielder, the REIGNING MVP, FROM THE WASHINGTON NATIONALS...BRYCE HARPER!!

Batting third, the third baseman, from the Chicago Cubs...KRIS BRYANT!

In the cleanup position for the NL, the Designated Hitter, from YOUR SAN DIEGO PADRES...WIL...MYERS!!!!
(lots and lots of fans cheering)

Batting fifth, and catching tonight, from the San Francisco Giants, BUSTER POSEY!

At sixth, the first baseman, from the Chicago Cubs...ANTHONY RIZZO!

Seventh in the lineup, the center fielder, from the Miami Marlins...Marcell Ozuna!

Batting eighth, the left-fielder, from the Colorado Rockies...CARLOS GONZALEZ!

Batting ninth, and playing shortstop, from the Chicago Cubs...Addison Russell!!

And warming up in the bullpen, your starting pitcher tonight, from the San Francisco Giants...JOHNNY CUETO!!!


Leading off for the AL, the second baseman, from the Houston Astros...JOSE ALTUVE!

Second on the lineup, the center fielder (the crowd already starts cheering)...FROM THE LOS ANGELES ANGELS...MIKE...TROUT!!

In third tonight, the third baseman, from the Baltimore Orioles...MANNY MACHADO!!

In the cleanup position...the Designated Hitter (a huge applause and standing ovation begins), from the Boston Red Sox...DAVID...ORTIZ!!!

Batting fifth, the shortstop, also from the Boston Red Sox...XANDER BOGAERTS!

Batting sixth, the first baseman, from the Kansas City Royals...ERIC HOSMER!

In the seventh position, the right fielder, from the Boston Red Sox...Mookie Betts!!

Batting eighth for the AL, and catching tonight, from the Kansas City Royals...SALVADOR PEREZ!!

And batting ninth, the left fielder, from the Boston Red Sox...Jackie Bradley!

And warming up in the bullpen, tonight's AL Starter, from the Chicago White Sox...CHRIS...SALE!!!

Here's to a fantastic game, boys.