Thursday, August 31, 2017

The #12 Section Can Wait

Hold the phones, Seahawks fans! I know it's tempting to hop onto the NFL bandwagon, but there's still a month of baseball left, and the Mariners might actually have a shot!

It's tough to tell, as the M's have been doing everything to fix their rotation, even grabbing Mike Leake from the Cardinals, and now the lineup's beginning to fall apart. There's still some amazing stuff there, like Jean Segura, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Ben Gamel, but injuries and slumps are beginning to come down hard on the bench. Yes, adding Yonder Alonso to the fold works, but he can only do so much, just as he could with Oakland.

Like with the Angels, I don't know what else could make them a playoff team, because I see a ton of flaws, even amidst some really great aspects of this team, and I'm not sure if they can overcome said flaws and make it to October. Plus, they'd have to get past the Yankees, and they couldn't really do that last week.

It's very hazy right now, and the Mariners might continue to slump themselves out of the race, but the Seahawks fans should wait a little bit longer, take a breather...and then go back to waiting on Russell Wilson.

Coming Tomorrow- A rookie everyman for, yeah, the best team in baseball.

It's Only Waiver Thin

Something about the AL West just owes itself to waiver-wire deals, as three teams have made some nice moves to try and up their game in the race. Both the Angels and Mariners want to play the Yankees in the Wild Card game, and the Astros want to play....uh, either the Yankees, or hopefully the Angels or Mariners, in the playoffs. They're bobbing for seeds, and want to make the best of their playoff cases.

The Angels made the biggest move, in acquiring Justin Upton from the perpetually sinking ship known as the Detroit Tigers. Upton's been having one of his best seasons in years, but not only does he get to compete for the first time in a little while, but he gets to help a generally blah team improve its name, by having something else to talk about other than Mike Trout. Honestly, an outfield of Trout-Calhoun-Upton is a pretty nice idea, and Upton will help to elevate them from being a so-so squad.

Then, there's the other vier for the WC race, the Mariners. They went with another help area..

Yes, the Ms knew their pitching was a weakness, so they nabbed Mike Leake from the 'finally realizing they're not competing' Cardinals. Leake's been having a great year, but the fear is that he'll perform similarly than the way he did back in 2015 when he was spun into a competing Giants squad. The fact of the matter is that Leake's never been great on a truly pennant-chasing team, but the M's have a lineup to die for, and a rotation that's been aided. This was more of a utility need then an 'oh-my-god' need, but this will definitely help the Mariners' playoff case.

And then we have the Astros, who actually managed to disarm a competitor..

Cameron Maybe has slowly become one of the great unsung heroes of the MLB, stealing bases left and right, swapping teams every December, and never having a truly bad season, even on the direst of squads. Giving him to the AL West Champion Astros is an idea that may wind up pushing them further into the playoffs.

The lineup in Houston's already really good, but there's been an emphasis on bulky, 30+ home run hitters, even as the infield's full of young, speedy hits guys. Maybin's presence will spread the youth towards the outfield, as well as bringing versatility, immense speed, and likability, to a team that could use that. He's basically this year's equivalent of Coco Crisp landing in Cleveland- we didn't know how good it would look until it happened.

These are some pretty nice moves. As a card-collector, it's a bit annoying to see these guys not making the Update set, but if that's my only problem, it's not bad.

THERE'S the Cubs we know and love!

It took a bit, but the 2016 Cubs have surfaced in 2017, and the Cubs are finally making a serious case for the postseason. And it's all thanks to Anthony Rizzo, who's having an even better season than the one they had when they won the series.

I became a fan of Rizzo because he seemed like the only symbol of optimism in the dreary, decrepit Cubs teams of the early 2010s. When the Cubs got good in 2015, he was the guy leading the torch, even as Kris Bryant became the crowd pleaser and Jake Arrieta became the ace. Riz was hitting the home runs, leading the youth to the title by being the experienced yet still youthful leader.

Look, the guy's hit 30 home runs in his last 4 seasons, and he and Kris Bryant are helping the team get back to where they were. I don't think that Rizzo's star has gone down since Bryant's rise, as I still see Rizzo shirts and fans that love his stuff. Without him, we would have no youth movement, no World I guess we kinda have Andrew Cashner to thank for that...

The Cubs could be a sleeper favorite this postseason. If all goes according to plan, they'll start the postseason against Washington, and while it seems downright cruel to predict that Washington will continue to fail to win a division series...the Cubs could overpower them and get back to the NLCS for the third year in a row. The pitching's there, the lineup's there, the bench is there. The team, while not as good as the 2016 team, still has a chance to win big. It's just a chance of how prepared the rest of the NL will be.

Coming Tonight: Last year he had an amazing season in Arizona...and now he's having an amazing season in Seattle, pulling them toward what very well may be a Wild Card spot.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Panic in Detroit

This year more than any other, guys who've been on teams for a while have been pining to compete again. Adrian Beltre did it. Joey Votto did it a little. And I can only imagine Justin Verlander's been doing it, as he's used a few starts as 'auditions' for the Astros' rotation, only to wind up still pitching for his beloved Tigers. Yes, it'd be nice if this was still 2012, and the Tigers were still a powerful, World Series-caliber team, but now that the only things to go to games include Justin Upton, and...Mr. Kate Upton, it's all feeling very glum for Tigers fans.

Like...what do they have right now? They have two good pitchers, Verlander and Fulmer, and some surging players like Upton and Mikie Mahtook, but...honestly, there's a whole lot of blah. There's two guys that could be playing well, Miguel Cabrera and Ian Kinsler, but various controversies are keeping them from having immaculate, positive seasons. Some guys, like Jordan Zimmermann and Nick Castellanos, are just disappointing this year. Some guys who were doing really well, like Alex Avila, JD Martinez and Justin Wilson, are now doing really well for better teams. Not a ton is left that's even worth writing about.

Plus, it's not even a season where Kate Upton can do some lobbying for her boyfriend to get another Cy Young. If anybody's gonna get any end-of-the-season praise, it'll probably be Upton, but Verlander might look to get out of Detroit if he can. The guy's a great pitcher, a potential future Hall of Famer, but there's a feeling that he's potentially one more truly great season away from being a sure shot. Still, even finishing out this season, it's clear he's one of the best.

Coming Tomorrow- Even five years later, he's still one of the reasons people come to Cubs games.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Rhys Hoskins Saves Philadelphia (sort of)

As the resident Philadelphian, I feel the need to address the sudden spark of awesome coverage the team is getting. Not because we're doing well- far from it. I mean, that's not supposed to happen until 2020 when the Nationals finally evaporate. But right now, Rhys Hoskins is doing what no rookie has done in Philadelphia, by nabbing 11 home runs in his first 18 games, and making Trevor Story look like a PANSY.

I'd known of Hoskins' superiority before, as he was absolutely KILLING IT in the minors last year, and he was getting really hot in AAA this year. It was only a matter of time, and trade that sent Howie Kendrick packing, as well as the umpteenth injury to Aaron Altherr made this one possible (though, at the expense of Daniel Nava I presume). The guy's been absolutely explosive in the majors, hitting home runs, except actually hitting for average as well (unlike a certain first baseman).

I have to acknowledge what the Phils have been setting up, because Hoskins, Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr, Aaron Nola and Ben Lively have been the stars of the show this year (and, to a lesser extent Odubel Herrera and Cesar Hernandez). The youth movement is beginning to show its true form, and with a few more big guns waiting in the minors, we could very soon pass the point where they have to get a bunch of low-rate free agents to fill half the starting lineup.

It sucks that it's taken this long, and involved this many shit years, but the Phillies seem to be heading slowly towards competition...and if Rhys Hoskins keeps this up, he may be their next big star.

Coming Tonight: He's already basically stamped his Hall of Fame ticket, but he's still having a decent enough season holding up his fourth-place Tigers.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Yankees Update: This Could Actually Work Edition

Right now the Yankees are going into a series against one of the toughest teams in the AL, currently 2.5 games behind the Red Sox for the division title. The Yanks just won a series against the Mariners. The Sox just blew all three games of a series against the Baltimore Orioles. The tide is beginning to turn, just when I thought there was no hope for the Yanks that didn't involve a 1-game playoff.

The problem with the Red Sox is that they're beginning to lose momentum, thanks to injuries to Eduardo Nunez, Dustin Pedroia and David Price, three substantial pieces that were really helping them out back there. The Yankees, meanwhile, are just getting THEIR injured guys back, with Starlin Castro, Greg Bird and CC Sabathia returning to the team. The Yanks are building things up, and are stronger than they were in the peak of their May come-up.

The difference is that now they've accumulated even more roster depth, even more flexibility, with guys like Todd Frazier or Tyler Austin that can jump in whenever, and FOUR valid, hot outfielders. Sonny Gray has improved greatly since his trade, and the rotation is looking pretty sharp right now (even Tanaka, who's evened his record). The return of Aaron Hicks has brought some power back, and while Aaron Judge is still technically slumping, his ability to hit is still semi-present.

They have a shot to chase the Sox and nab a playoff spot, but first they're going to have to do well against the order to, well, qualify to do well against them in October.

Coming Tomorrow- In Philadelphia, the few who haven't shifted their gaze to Carson Wentz are talking about this phenomenal rookie who's been taking the last-place team by storm.

Thinking Critically About Diamondbacks in October

Okay, so the Diamondbacks, barring catastrophe, are headed to the playoffs. They're a few games ahead of the Rockies, 5 games ahead of anyone else competing for the Wild Card, and...okay, 20 games behind the Dodgers, but that's not the point of this. The POINT of how are the Diamondbacks going to fare in the playoffs?

First of all, will they even win the Wild Card game? I'd say this is likely, because they'll probably have the advantage, the park, and they have more pristine pitchers to choose from than, say, Colorado or Milwaukee. Again, catastrophe could happen, but let's for the sake of this post say they get through.

They're probably going to have to play the 1st seed...which would put them right there against the Dodgers. So let's ask ourselves, SERIOUSLY...could the Diamondbacks beat the Dodgers?


Oh, I'm actually putting thought into this. It's easy to just take this as a 'Dodgers in 4' kind of thing, but we have other aspects, like momentum, field advantage, injuries, and slumps, to account for. I mean, if the Dodgers roll into the postseason exactly how they've been playing right now, the D-Backs are toast. So far this season, the Dodgers are 8-5 against the D-Backs, and they'd probably crush the D-Backs if things stay exactly the same.

But...I can't say they'd do it in 4.

The Diamondbacks have been surprisingly fantastic this year, with a full, developed lineup and a surprisingly scary rotation. They've been building this whole year, and have accumulated a pretty fantastic team. The million dollar question, though, is whether or not this team will be good enough to take down the Dodgers, and if they'll have built up enough momentum to take them out in the NLDS.

I'm not gonna say outright 'no' or 'god have mercy' or anything, but I'll say that people should give the Diamondbacks more credit. They could be very sneaky in the next month or so.

Coming Tonight: The outfielder who's brought a host of momentum and a ton of hits to the Bronx.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

There Must be an Angel

Yeah, these pun titles have gotten classier and classier. Who'd have thought there'd be a post about Parker Bridwell's pitching with a title that references an Annie Lennox song?

The Angels are arguably the most baffling team in the league right now. Their pitching staff has some really bad records, their top starters are injured, the guy that's currently their ace has 50 strikeouts on the year, and their closer is a guy who flunked out of Baltimore's rotation. Their lineup's full of guys who strikeout and hit home runs, and one or two guys who can hit for average, and Mike Trout. It's this mishmash of good players and a ton of okay players...and they're currently second in the AL West and right on the doorstep of the 2nd wild card spot.

Of all teams to still technically be competing...the 2017 Los Angeles Angels? REALLY?

Look at Parker Bridwell. He's got a great record, a great ERA...and barely any strikeouts. He's not really ace material, and he's...essentially the ace, because Matt Shoemaker and Garrett Richards once again won't show up.

This is an extremely okay team, one that has less going for them than the Seattle Mariners, who're at their height in the division thanks to an epic pantsing from the Yankees. The Mariners at least have a great-looking rotation, and some solid starters. The Angels have Bridwell, and a few guys who strike people out but can't win games or keep runs out.

Interesting to see how this turns out. I don't think they'll sneak in, but...hey, if they got this far, ya never know!

Coming Tomorrow- Another one of the many Diamondbacks infielders that helped secure their wild card spot.

Essentially Out of the Race

Once again, the Wild Card race right now is held up by the Diamondbacks and Rockies in the NL, and the only team within plausible grasp of them is the Milwaukee Brewers.

1.5 games behind the Brewers are those unkillable, least-likely-to-take-a-hint St. Louis Cardinals. Despite not really having a terrific rotation, they're still stuffing themselves into the race. But...with the Brewers themselves fighting for a Wild Card spot they don't currently have yet...they'd need for the Brewers to lose, and then either the D-Backs or Rockies to lose, in order to get that spot.

...I honestly can't say with certainty that this is going to happen. I know there's a month left in the season, and the Cardinals are capable of getting lucky...but not this lucky.

The super-duo of Jedd Gyorko and Tommy Pham are excelling this year, and Lance Lynn's having a great season, but there's a TON of 'this player would be a ton better if' statements going around on this roster. And a lot of those are keeping this team from being truly great.

So the Cards are basically out of the race. If somebody could tell THEM that...that'd be great.

Coming Tonight: As the Angels inch closer to the Wild Card race, their new star starter continues his rise to the top.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Things Have Gone South (Side)

To quote Michael Che, "...I don't wanna do this..."

I look at the 'Top 12' players page for the White Sox on Baseball Reference, and I just see a sea of guys who aren't on the White Sox anymore. Todd Frazier, Tommy Kahnle, Anthony Swarzak, Jose Quintana, Melky Cabrera, David Robertson, Dan Jennings. All gone.

And everybody else other than Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia is either injured or slumping. It's just...not fun.

I saw this team play in 2015, and I saw promise in the lineup. I saw this team building on a youth movement and stacking itself properly...and that did not happen whatsoever. They put emphasis on the wrong parts of the team, pissed off their star pitcher so much that he jumped to Boston, sold everybody else away and...this is where we are. I have no idea how the White Sox can pick this up, because both top prospects that had been entrusted to them, Lucas Giolito and Yoan Moncada, are currently doing terribly.

I mean, yes, Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia are doing well, but the pitching is sort of rallying behind a mediocre Derek Holland performance, there's no bullpen left, the bench is scarce,'s just not pretty. Not even remotely.

Maybe there'll be a silver lining in about two weeks when I have to talk about the White Sox again.

Coming Tomorrow- Another team I don't enjoy writing about, this one an NL Central team who, sigh, still thinks they're a competitor.

Ender's Game

(I tried thinking of a less cringey title, but nothing was coming.)

Back to the 2017 Braves. Not a ton's really come from them this year, has it?

The Braves teams of yore have been centered around Freddie Freeman and Julio Teheran. This season, Freeman was injured for a month, and Teheran's had his worst season to date. Without them, there's a mess of veterans that have no choice but to pick up the slack, and while they're not doing badly, they're still blocking a youth movement from forming completely. So while it's nice that Ozzie Albies is up there, he's not getting a ton done right now, and neither is Dansby Swanson. Of course, neither are Jace Peterson and Adonis Garcia, the Youth Movement circa 2015.

Ender Inciarte's having a great season, probably on his way to more end of the season accolades, but he's one of the few excelling players on this team that are under 30. They may build the team around him later, but he's crowded around guys who are 30 and over who aren't really working towards the team's future themselves.

The team's a mess, and the players who are doing well right now are kind of the wrong ones. I don't really know if the Braves have any hope of rebuilding any time soon, but with Ender Inciarte and Freddie Freeman playing well right now...they're alright for now, I guess.

Coming Tonight: He's one of the few saving graces of his team...and he just got injured. Welp.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Jays are Gone

They're not fire-saling. They're not pouring out buckets of water. Like usual, they're refusing to admit that something has gone wrong. But the Blue Jays are in last, and nothing's working.

Look, Marcus Stroman and Josh Donaldson are still having great seasons, and Justin Smoak's having the comeback season to end all comeback seasons,'s just not working this year. The lineup's holey with injuries, and the guys coming in to replace people aren't very good. People that are usually relied upon, like Jose Bautista and Marco Estrada, are disappointing. And yes, some gonzo picks like Ezequiel Carrera and Steve Pearce are doing pretty well, but the depth they were trying to build up for the last two years has completely collapsed, and the base they've been left with is not great.

Look at Chris Rowley- the guy was brought up to sort of 'save the day' in the rotation, which had been on-and-off. The guy had a fantastic start, and you can tell he's got a future...but after a less-than-great start, the Blue Jays brought him back down, probably to make room for Tom Koehler but also because they really don't know what they're doing. If Miguel Montero is allowed to start games after the way he's been hitting, and Chris Rowley is the one that gets demoted, you have to really think about where your priorities lie.

There's a month of gameplay left, so the Jays are gonna have to sweat it out 'til then, which will be fun and a bit depressing.

Coming Tomorrow- Meanwhile, in Atlanta, he's having a nice season even if the team's not really relevant at all this year.

The Good German

Talking about the Rockies' rotation is odder than usual this year. Not because the team's good, but because for the first time in over 5 years there's a competent, consistent rotation going on in Denver...and the ERA numbers are trying to tell me otherwise.

Right now German Marquez is coming off as the ace, as he's got a 10-5 record, over 100 strikeouts, and the sort of dominance that's been present in a ton of the pitchers in Colorado. Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela, Jon Gray, and the NEWLY REJUVENATED CHAD BETTIS are all doing fantastic. It's just hard for pitchers to keep ERAs down in Coors Field, and that's probably why a lot of sportswriters aren't still proclaiming that they're good. I should also note that Tyler Chatwood is a part of this rotation, and he's not really having a very good season, but the Rockies are still using him anyway.

With Jeff Hoffman back in the minors for now and Tyler Anderson on the DL, this rotation has depth, and no shortage of raw talent all-around. Their only downside is, yes, pitching at home, where even a liner could make it out of the park. But with people like Marquez and Freeland, there's more of a chance to succeed.

The Rockies have a good shot of staying in the Wild Card race, but with the Brewers slowly advancing, they're gonna need to keep this up if they wanna still be considered (to play the D-Backs).

Coming Tonight: The Blue Jays haven't been doing a ton right, but calling up this potential pitching savior is one of the few saving graces.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Astro Boy

A lot has been said about the 2017 Astros, and for good reason- they've managed to stay on top since April, and have been one of the most dominant, intimidating, yet fun to watch, teams of the year. But as Altuve, Correa, Springer and Keuchel have hogged the spotlight, not a lot has been said of their young third baseman, Alex Bregman.

Initially, I was skeptical- Bregman began the season with below average, and trailing power hitters like Brian McCann in terms of dominance. But as the real picture began to form, Bregman's hinted status as a five-tool player began to appear, and the insane infield combo of Gurriel-Altuve-Correa-Bregman began to take the entire league by storm.

Bregman's doing exactly what Carlos Correa did when he came up- he hit, he played decent infield, he was smart with the ball, and he was able to show experience despite being relatively new to the bigs. On a team where some players are nearing 40 and aren't proving their worth, it helps to know what one's doing, even at 23 or so. Bregman's 2017 season has dwarfed his rookie year from last year, and his efforts this year are helping the Astros become an even stronger playoff threat than they were in 2015.

The problem with hitting the postseason will be combat inevitability. It's very easy to predict the Astros to win the whole thing, but last year we all thought the Rangers would be WS-bound, and look how well that turned out. The only way the BEST team becomes the WINNING team at the end, is if they keep the current momentum going until the season stops. If that momentum slips even the slightest bit, some other guy can slip in and take the glory for themselves, without earning it.

In order for the Astros to be standing there in November, they're gonna need to keep this insanely good 2017 season going up until the end. I know they can...I hope they can.

Coming Tonight: His team's got a shot at the wild card, and he's pitching in a place where pitching has usually failed. But he can do it. He's German. Okay...he's Venezuelan, but he's German.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Island of Misfit Toys vs. the Wild Card Race

Right now, the Wild Card race in the NL is wrapped up by the two middle teams in the NL West, essentially as consolation prizes for not being able to catch the Dodgers. The D-Backs and Rockies are good enough right now to still be holding onto both spots, even if they're bobbing back and forth between second and third. They're also ahead of the entirety of the NL Central, which...honestly says more about that division than it does about them.

Right now the Cubs are ahead of the NL Central, and 2.5 games ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers are also 3 games away from catching the D-Backs and Rockies, closer than anybody else, even (and especially) their divisional rivals the St. Louis Puppy-Slaughterers Cardinals.

So what I'm saying, Lloyd, is there's a chance.

The Brewers have been able to accumulate more unwanted, un-thought-of players that have surprisingly gotten hot than anyone else this year. Before this year, all they had was Ryan Braun. That was it. Now they've built a full lineup and rotation, on the bones of a youth movement that was building quietly, and a ton of younger players that other teams didn't want. Now, Travis Shaw, Eric Sogard, Eric Thames, Chase Anderson and Hernan Perez, guys that rosters everywhere basically counted out, are leading this team to a playoff run. I don't know how, but it's happening.

Zach Davies this season has flirted with ace status. Chase Anderson, when healthy, has MORE THAN flirted with ace status. Jimmy Nelson's improving on a decent rookie year. Matt Garza's revitalizing his career in its supposed final moments. Corey Knebel's pulled the closer's job out from absolutely nowhere, and has an All Star nod to boot. None of this was there last year. None of this was remotely active. The fact that everything's gotten insanely hot this year proves that something dangerous might be happening.

I remember back in April, when the Brewers got hot, we were all going 'oh, this must be because of Eric Thames'. It really isn't. The team's just got really good. Thames was a passing craze that died down in May, and he's striking out more than he's homering right now. This team is for real, and when they come to attack the Cubs, D-Backs and Rockies, that fact will be certain.

Coming Tomorrow- I was worried when he was around .210 near April, but now he's caught up to the rest of his team and is cementing his status as one of the best young infielders in the game. (Take that, Dansby Swanson!)

Return to the Throne?

With a little over a month left in the season, the most important races are becoming the Wild Card ones, as the division leaders are becoming pretty solidified (Cubs notwithstanding), and the guys on the bottom are realizing they still have a shot. Right now the AL Wild Card spots are being held by the New York Yankees, who, barring catastrophe, will be hanging onto it in September, and the Minnesota Twins, who've gotten hot again.

There are three, well, wild cards in this Wild Card race- the Angels, Royals and Mariners. They're the three guys who're still over .500, and still have a shot. The Angels have been getting hot as of late, and the Mariners have been receding backward. So where does that leave the Royals? Exactly where they want to be.

The Royals probably have one of the more complete teams of this race. The lineup is pretty on, with performances from Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Whit Merrifield and Lorenzo Cain that are definitely career highs, a nice return engagement from Melky Cabrera, a rejuvenated Salvador Perez, and some other cool bats in the bench. Yes, Alex Gordon and Brandon Moss are definitely disappointing people this season, but there's enough going on in the lineup that it's not a big loss.

The rotation's not bad either. Danny Duffy and Jason Vargas have strongheld things, while Jason Hammel has done slightly better than expected, and newcomer Jake Junis is slowly improving. Ian Kennedy and Eric Skoglund have had a few too many bad starts to really shine, but they're not truly bad.

This is a well-formed, solid squad that needs to get lucky in order to get back to the postseason. This luck may need to include some losses from the Angels and Twins, and maybe some more offensive streaks.

Coming Tonight: Speaking of Wild Cards, a guy that pitches for a great NL Central team that, thanks to the general meh-ness of the NL Central, might need to fight a bit harder than expected to nab a Wild Card spot.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Vanishing Mets

Granderson, Duda, Walker, Reed and Rene Rivera are gone. Harvey, Thor, Wright, Reyes, Lugo, Wheeler, Matz and TJ Rivera are injured.

...what exactly does that leave for the Mets?

It's funny. Earlier this season, I was worried that there were too many outfielders, and now there's not enough. The Mets' decline has robbed the team of leadership, purpose, and most of the 2015 squad.

So what's left? Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Jacob deGrom, Wilmer Flores, and pretty much nobody else that's relevant. I understand that they're trying to build up the youth movement, by throwing Gavin Cecchini, Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith into the mix. It's...sort of working? Like, it's hard to tell, because really nobody's left right now. The Mets don't have a ton to work with, in terms of pitching, the lineup, everything. It's a barren team, and right now they're just pushing people that might not be ready into positions.

I don't think this is gonna end well standings-wise, but at least Cespedes and Conforto are doing well.

Coming Tomorrow- A hard-hitting infielder for a team who...MIGHT have a postseason shot? MIGHT?

The Devers You Don't Know

August 1st 2017, I went to Fenway Park, and I was there specifically to see how the Red Sox were going to win the AL East.

Oh, I'm not stupid. The Yankees are beginning to run out their rope. I love them, I want them to do well, but this year they don't have enough to stay in first. So I needed to see how the Red Sox were going to stay there when the Yankees couldn't.

Well, I found out how. Rafael Devers was how.

Not since maybe Carlos Correa had I seen a rookie absolutely command the ballfield whenever he could. The guy had a fantastic night, always knowing how to get a hit out of Carlos Carrasco and company, and just owning the ball whenever he could. He and Eduardo Nunez were going crazy at the plate that night, and giving even more of a playoff edge to a team with a vendetta to get back.

In 22 games, Rafael Devers has more home runs than Chris Young, the guy they kept around to hit home runs off the bench. Not only is he a welcome solution to the Sox' third-base problem that had been plaguing them since April, but he also allows for Eduardo Nunez to play 2nd and the outfield, and still be a part of the lineup rather than just be the third baseman the Sox traded for him to be. It allows for flexibility and flux in one of the most impressive lineups in baseball.

I mean, sportswriters are making a big deal out of David Price's injury, but with Chris Sale, Drew Pomeranz, a slightly-more-human Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez, and...and, fine, Doug Fister, it's not a terrible loss.

This is a team that honestly should have gotten further in the last postseason. Maybe here they'll finally do something great. Maybe Rafael Devers will be a part of it.

Coming Tomorrow- One of the few veteran Mets that seems to be sticking around.

Monday, August 21, 2017

A Surprisingly Nice Blaster of 2017 Stadium Club

2017 hasn't been the greatest year for card-collecting. Not because Topps has only put out a few good products, but I haven't really had a great longing for a lot of what's on the shelves. Series 2 stopped being appealing to me, I've never been an Allen and Ginter guy, Panini's stuff still seems kinda bush-league, and Archives is somehow off the shelves.

Where does that leave Stadium Club? Well, front and center. This has been the only set I've actively sought more of. It's not perfect, but it's a fun, photography-based set that keeps my interest and makes me happy.

Without many options, I grabbed a blaster tonight. And let me tell you...usually on this blog I complain of getting blasters meant for Cardinals or Blue Jays fans. Tonight...this one was sent from the gods for me. It wasn't terrific hit-wise, but you'll see what I mean.

Pack 1-
67- Whitey Ford. A gorgeous black and white photo, and another great Whitey issue from SC. Already I'm happy.
45- Kyle Seager. Okay, I was expecting a few dupes, but this is one of the few that came my way this box.
199- Roman Quinn. I think my dad's still obsessed with this guy.
279- Trevor Story. Not having a great sophomore season, but still doing well enough. Great static headshot, too.
78- Denard Span. Gold parallel. Great, fun shot of him, too.

So, already I wasn't seeing a ton of dupes, and a lot I hadn't seen yet. And that would continue.

Pack 2-
264- Rougned Odor. More fun with the Rangers and their gatorade showers.
POWER ZONE insert...of Frank Thomas. Glad it's not the same two Jays ones I keep getting, and that it's a HOF hero like Thomas.
39- Bryce Harper. Don't think I have this one, and it's a great award shot of the guy.
175- Mark McGwire. Another singular dupe.
298- Ryan Vogelbach. I don't really know the guy, but the card looks really cool.

Pack 3-
231- Giancarlo Stanton. A terrific outfield shot of the ultimate comeback player for the year.
CHROME PARALLEL OF CLAYTON KERSHAW. I mean, of all gets for that type, Kershaw's an excellent one.
80- Henry Owens.
187- Dexter Fowler. Fantastic spring training shot.
256- Michael Fulmer, one of the few credible players left in Detroit.

Pack 4-
254- Maikel Franco, in a fantastic shot. Not having a great season, but still one of the closest things Philly has to a hero right now.
228- Gavin Cecchini
137- DEREK JETER. Glad to see the Captain's represented in this set.
91- Pat Neshek, still in a Philly uniform.

Pack 5-
124- Shawn O'Malley. Another case of 'great card, don't know who you are.'
245- CHRIS SALE. Fantastic studio shot, with a wonderful tint of red. Almost symbolic.
52- Jason Varitek
77- Rick Porcello. Okay, this photo's one of my faves from the set. Price, Porcello, Sale...and Hanley goofing off behind them. So much fun.
65- Zach Britton. Still one of the best.

Pack 6-
42- Justin Verlander
28- Joe Mauer. Dupe.
36- Willson Contreras. Also a dupe. Still, much less than I thought we'd be getting this box.
86- ICHIRO. Always fantastic getting cards of him.
3- NOAH SYNDERGAARD. Man, this box is just notching off all the guys I collected that I still needed.

Pack 7-
99- Paul Goldschmidt, in a FANTASTIC auto-signing card. Like, one of the greats
60- Clay Buchholz, as a Phillie...ORANGE AND GOLD PARALLEL. So yeah. Take that, Cardinals, Sox and Jays. I finally get a decent rare parallel in a box, and it's of a Phillie.....okay, a Phillie that hasn't pitched since April, but STILL.
258- Stephen Vogt. Dupe.
19- DJ LeMahieu. Forget if I have this one or not.
296- Shelby Miller.

Pack 8-
Contact Sheet of Jose Bautista. I might have this one.
198- Ryan Schimpf
2 last dupes

So before going a bit wobbly in the last bit, that was a pretty nice box, with a nice amount of Yankees, Phillies, and guys I collect, and not too many dupes. Nice surprise from a part of the card-collecting year that can be numbing sometimes.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Still #3 to me

Philadelphia is one of those cities where, if you're a sports player and you give a couple dimes, the city will make sure you never have to pay for a beer the rest of your life. It doesn't take much in Philly. Juan Pierre, Brad Lidge, Ricky Bottalico, Matt Stairs- they're all deified up here because they did very little...and it still meant a great deal to Phillies fans. I mean, there's the flip side, where you can be a Phillie for a decade, then go off to another team and come back to boos for absolutely no reason. So, Donovan McNab, Pat Burrell, Jaromir Jagr...we're still figuring this out.

The epitome of this 'short-lived tenure = lifetime appreciation' thing is Hunter Pence. He spent exactly one calendar year as a Phillie...and in that calendar year, he was one of the most beloved, entertaining guys to have on your team. He did some amazing things in the postseason, he had a great first half in 2012, and even in a month's time, everyone in Philly was wearing Pence shirts. Not just jersey shirts, but the ones with 'Pence-isms'.

And this was the same season I saw kids my age wearing 'Vanimal' it was definitely a year for short-tenured fringe Phillies. Remember, this was the tale end of the Ryan Howard dominance era, and Utley, Rollins and Victorino were still huge, so the fact that an outsider could enter into the fold and snag fans THAT QUICKLY...blew people's minds (then again, Yoenis essentially did the same thing in 2015, so it's not unheard of.)

Pence has been playing for San Francisco for 5 years now, he's snagged 2 rings, is mellowing out...and yet, to this day, I still see Pence Philly shirts every once in a while. When Pence retires, I'm guessing that the Phillies is only gonna be a speck on his career, because he won rings with San Fran, he had more good seasons with Houston. I don't think he's a Hall of Famer, but I think people are, at the very least, gonna remember him when he retires.

Also...I'm still collecting any and all Phillies Pence card issues. Somebody's gotta remember his Phillies tenure.

Coming Tomorrow- He came into the league in late July, and ever since he's been powering his team past the competition...including, sadly, my New York Yankees.

Someone Named Chapman Who's Actually Doing What He's Supposed To

Not that I'm bitter or anything.

Look, the A's are still a pretty dire bunch. Everyone who was doing well has either been traded to a contender (Sean Doolittle, Yonder Alonso, Sonny Gray), is injured (Andrew Triggs),  or is suddenly doing poorly (Sean Manaea, Khris Davis, Ryon Healy).

Where does this leave Matt Chapman? Well, despite a jilted average and some slim numbers, he's actually doing well in his rookie season at third. I know, this sounds like Ryon Healy last August, but this could actually work. The guy's only been around for a few months, and the attention in Oakland is beginning to draw towards him.

The A's, ever since the 2012-2013 squad dissolved, have needed a leader type to pull them through rough seasons and get them back on top. Since Josh Donaldson left, they've needed one, and, again, we thought it was gonna be Ryon Healy and that didn't exactly pan out entirely. Chapman seems like more of a well-rounded, savior-of-the-universe type player that could lead this squad if the numbers fell in their favor.

This season is basically a wash, as the A's are on the bottom of a division with a strong leader, and two teams (the Angels and Mariners) who might be making a run at a Wild Card spot. The A's don't have much else to do this year except finish strong, and start building up people for next season.

Coming Tonight: Forever one of my favorite players thanks to what he did in Philadelphia, still a heavy fan favorite in a team battling a serious aging problem this year.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Quit Your Pitching

Nothing new to report in Cincinnati. The lineup's phenomenal, the rookies are hitting well, Eugenio Suarez is having another nice season, Joey Votto's in MVP form, and there's still absolutely no pitching. ABSOLUTELY NONE.

So there really isn't much to say here other than to highlight the awesome custom. Wish I had more, Reds fans. The pitching's not giving me many good things to say about the team, guys.

Coming Tomorrow- A team that's only marginally better, and a rookie infielder who's trying his best to keep his young, dwindling team moving.

Indian Summer

Look at how happy Edwin Encarnacion is!

Sure, he may be away from Toronto, where he spent eight seasons and revitalized his career as one of the top DHs in baseball...but now he's on arguably one of the most likable teams in baseball, and on the team that won the American League last year (something the Jays haven't done since Edwin was a teenager), and may be on pace to battle Houston and the battling cousins in the AL East to do it again.

It took a little bit for it to show up, but this Cleveland Indians team might be better than the one that won the AL last year. Some elements are different, but the changes are welcome- Mike Clevinger replaces Josh Tomlin as a sturdier, more ferocious 5th man, among the still-dominant Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar, Carlos Carrasco and a CAREER FORM Corey Kluber. The outfield may be battling injuries, but Bradley Zimmer has stayed firm, Austin Jackson's having a comeback year (complete with insane outfield catches), and the recent acquisition of JAY BRUCE has severely helped the lack of Lonnie Chisenhall and Michael Brantley. Jason Kipnis is slumping, but the rest of the infield sure as hell isn't.

This isn't a perfect team, but neither was the '16 squad. That squad was a ragtag group of aging vets, established Tribe members, and young talents waiting to break through. Now that the Indians know who they are, they're able to polish out some of the scratches and make themselves known as a powerful, perennial giant in the baseball world.

Towards the end of the season, they're gonna need to fight off the Royals and Twins, be honest, are a little too preoccupied with fighting themselves, as well as the inevitability of the Houston Astros. With the amount of firepower they have right now, as well as the trusty bat of Edwin Incarnation (being used for good), they've got more than a shot at getting back to October.

Coming Tonight: He's powerful, he cracks a mean bubblegum bubble, and he's one of the few reasons to go to Reds games this year.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Miami Heat

A lot has been going on in Miami, Florida, and a great deal of it has nothing to do with how well the Marlins are doing.

As you probably know by now, the sale of the Marlins had been bobbing up and down beneath the regular season conflict for a few months. Jeffrey Loria had spent enough time running the franchise into the ground, and wanted to give it up before it got unprofitable for, you know, him. This week, somebody finally bit- a group headed up by the great Derek Jeter bought the Miami Marlins from Loria, and are looking to clean house (including president and last-place finisher on Survivor, David Samson). Things are shifting and moving in the front office, and all the while the Marlins have to keep playing baseball amidst all the instability.

And...they're doing alright?

Okay, they're second in the NL East, which is a feat they'd been hoping to reach since 2015, when the youth movement was just beginning to crop up. They'd been spending years in third, and after a week featuring the Mets getting swept, the Braves crumbling, and the Phillies...being the Phillies, the Marlins cemented a second place spot.

The only problem is that they're a smidge below .500, they're 14 games behind the first place Nationals, and 8 games behind the Wild Card contenders. So's a pretty bittersweet outcome, the fact that they grab 2nd in the NL East the one year it doesn't amount for shit.

Even worse, Dan Straily and Jose Urena are singlehandedly holding up the pitching staff. The lineup's been fantastic, but the lack of pitching is keeping them under .500, and subsequently out of the conversation. And yes, both Straily and Urena are pretty good this year, but...two guys can't save a rotation. Ask Baltimore. They're in a similar rut right now.

So yeah, as much as I love Stanton's home runs, or the rise of Realmuto and Bour...I don't actually think they're gonna make a run at Arizona and Colorado for the WC spots. At least not successfully.

Coming Tomorrow- Last year he was indestructible, and the one DH that could have taken David Ortiz' crown. This year, in a friendlier city...he's still pretty damned good.

End it Like Beckham

...So maaaayyyybe I was wrong not to include Tim Beckham on my list of trade deadline deals. Because while this seemed inconsequential at first, giving another infielder to a fourth place team with next-to-no pitching, Tim Beckham has become the sole reason why the Orioles are still in the conversation. In his first few weeks as an Oriole, he's been batting .485 with 5 home runs and 12 RBI. Most players who've been on the team since April would kill for those numbers, and a suddenly-hot Manny Machado is beginning to get there himself.

Don't get me wrong, this is still a middle of the road team. The Yankees and Red Sox are still strong-holding the division. The Rays even have a shot, now bobbing back and forth between fourth and third. The O's, sad to say, don't have the pitching, or the sufficient roster depth, for the postseason, and are going to have to settle for the middle of the decision. But Beckham's exploits have extended the team's shelf life by another month. With out him, people would have counted the Orioles out by now.

It's definitely good for the team, seeing as their other high-profile acquisition, Jeremy Hellickson, is essentially just doing what he was doing for the Phillies (strikeouts with little-to-no run support and bloated ERA), just in an orange uniform. There's been injuries, and a ton of inadequacy from the guys putting the team on top in 2016 (looking at you, Trumbo). But with Jonathan Schoop, Trey Mancini and Adam Jones absolutely killing it alongside Beckham, there's a smidge of hope baked into the worry.

Again, not thinking much of this O's team, but it'd be nice to see a late push for the wild card.

Coming Tomorrow- Pitcher for a second place team that may seriously need to work in order to make the Wild Card themselves.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Blue Yu

Hideo Nomo. Kazuhisa Ishii. Hiroki Kuroda. and now Yu Darvish. Where those three Japanese pitchers failed, Darvish is gonna succeed...he might be the first Japanese pitcher to get the Dodgers a World Series ring.

As much as I love Nomo, and as much as I dug Kuroda's efforts as a Yankee, Yu Darvish has been lights out this season, in Arlington AND in LA, and he's been mowing down batters in an effort to, essentially, cover for an injured Clayton Kershaw, while simultaneously joining Alex Wood, Rich Hill, Brandon McCarthy and Kenta Maeda as part of the most furious pitching rotation in baseball. Even Hyun-Jin Ryu, who's been less than perfect recently, has been posting good enough numbers covering for McCarthy.

Literally everything is working for the Dodgers right now. The bullpen. The rotation. The rookies they're bringing in off the bench. The lineup. Weird part is that there have been a ton of injuries, and the team they're working with now isn't the team they thought they'd be competing with, especially without Adrian Gonzalez and Andrew Toles (yeah, and Kershaw), and they're still absolutely amazing.

The only sad part is that I'm not sure whether this all-out mastery of the game is going to amount to a World Series win. Last year we had the absolute best team win the whole thing, but that almost never happens, and even last year it was a stroke of luck that the Cubs managed to win that Series after the Indians had that 3-1 lead.

I hope for the best, because this team would make an amazing World Series champion...but I could also say that about 3 or 4 other teams. It's gonna get tough, and I'm hoping this momentum can keep going.

Coming Tomorrow- With the Rays, he was...solid. Not amazing, but pretty good. He lands in Baltimore, and he immediately becomes the very person that Tampa drafted 1st overall.

Adrian Beltre Deserves Better

Adrian Beltre's been speaking out recently, because he's been getting sick of the Rangers' antics and wants to play for a competitive team again, like...well, the 2016 Rangers. Beltre has every right to complain- he's one of the best hitters in the game, he just notched his 3000th hit, and he's relatively close to getting to his 500th home run (only 42 dingers to go, and for Beltre that's sort of within reach). He's also never won a World Series ring.

There's a ton of similarities to Carlos Beltran last season, the desire to ditch momentum and atmosphere in order to compete. Beltran was doing fantastic in the Bronx, but wanted a postseason run more than he wanted to stick with his newfound friends. Said postseason run was ultimately unsuccessful, but he's currently on a team that could be several times more successful than the 2016 Rangers ever were.

The fact that Beltran got out and might be getting a shot at a ring, and Beltre, who's arguably been the more consistent player, doesn't get that chance, is kind of sad. He's still wrapped up for another year in Arlington, and unless the youth movement decides to behave and not strikeout 100 times each next year, he might be in for more of the same.

The Rangers aren't a bad team, but the momentum they were trying to build last year is gone. Joey Gallo and Rougned Odor are strikeout-heavy home run machines, which are good for runs but aren't exactly making them well-rounded players. Delino DeShields and Nomar Mazara are promising, and Elvis Andrus has become the undisputed face of the team, but...for a team that had come close several times in the last few years, the future seems pretty bleak.

Honestly, a ring will basically be a cherry on top of a fantastic career, but I kinda want it for Adrian, because he's been frustrated as hell recently.

Coming Tonight: One of Beltre's former teammates, now playing for the best team in baseball.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

What Now?: Cubs Edition

The Chicago Cubs have spent the entire season 'not being good enough'. It hurts them that they won the World Series last year, but it hurts even more that their current team, especially compared to the 2016 squad is...okay. Not earthshattering, just...pretty good, and in first.

The Cubs teams of the last two years were phenomenal, destructive forces that took the league by storm and carried the season. This team is pretty good, and is a lot more flawed than the last two, even if they're still winning games. The pitching staff is less polished, there's less roster depth, and people are having good, not phenomenal seasons.

In the NL Central, that's enough right now. The Cardinals have crept up like crazy, and are doing their usual amount of threatening for the title (which, like usual, probably won't amount in a title or anything), and the Brewers and Pirates aren't out of the conversation yet either. The division's not locked in like it was last season, and the Cubs will need to defend themselves from oncoming enemies. With Willson Contreras injured and newcomers Justin Wilson and Alex Avila not impressing, they're gonna need to work extra hard to stay on top.

Even worse, their postseason rivals will include the Dodgers, who are insane this year, and the Nationals, who have an equally big lead over their division rivals. So the Cubs, if they win the division, will either have to play LA or Washington, and either one will be incredibly difficult if they don't catch fire like hell in the next few months. They're gonna have to rely on luck, rather than talent, if they want another ring.

Coming Tomorrow- Surefire Hall of Fame, and I don't think he's done quite yet, even if his team pretty much is.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Twins are Back!

The Royals-Twins thing has been pretty fierce over the last month. At one point the Royals were fiercely flinging themselves forward, hoping to take a stab at the Indians...and that's sort of backfired in the last week or so, as they're back in third, as the Twins have had an incredible week, and have managed to reclaim relevance again.

It's kind of odd, as they're basically the exact same team as before the incline, just without Brandon Kintzler and with without Jaime Garcia. In all theory, they should still be on the decline, but the bats have lit up, Joe Mauer and Brian Dozier have returned to dominance, and team that shouldn't have been a great one this year is slowly coming back.

Joe Mauer is a great story, because a lot of people counted him out after he stopped catching, and he's still been hanging on, becoming a great bat at first, and still retaining the leadership position he'd inherited once everybody left around the end of the 2000s. People trust Joe Mauer, because he's won an MVP, he's brought the team back from the depths, and he's still there, doing a pretty nice job. He's not a Hall of Famer, not anymore, but the Twins are probably gonna reserve some part of Target Field for him once he retires.

In terms of this Twins team, I'm not sure if they have it, not only in order to take down the Indians, but even to enter into the ever-shifting AL Wild Card race. Still, they're a sneaky little favorite, and I'd love to see them make a run at it.

Coming Tonight: A lot of people were asking where the Chicago Cubs, the ones that one the World Series, have been earlier this season. Well, they're showing up. This rookie's been helping.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Rendon Alone

The story so far: two days ago, Bryce Harper wound up on the 10 day DL.This had made people very angry and has widely been regarded as a bad move.

The Nationals have had the insane upswing of momentum since the top of the season, and have held onto the NL East with an iron fist, partially due to the return of Bryce Harper to the throne. Thanks to his injury...actually, I was gonna do a 'things have gone downhill', but this isn't a team that completely revolves around one player. Even with Harper gone, Anthony Rendon, Daniel Murphy, Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg are still playing some phenomenal baseball. This is the furthest thing from a one-horse team.

Last season, Max Scherzer won the Cy Young by winning 20 games, getting 285 strikeouts and finishing with a 3.00 ERA. Right now, he's on track to do even better, with a 2.25 ERA, 12 wins, and 220 strikeouts. With a month and a half left in the season, he could definitely top that, but even if he doesn't, there's still an insane Gio Gonzalez performance and a consistently-dominant Strasburg performance that will supplant it. I'm thinking this is another Cy Young year for Scherzer (the injury to Kershaw may have lessened his chances a bit), and he's showing no sign of slowing down.

Even more importantly, with the team's unofficial leader on the DL, Anthony Rendon is taking up the mantle and arguably playing better baseball than Harper did, with a higher WAR, and some better defensive abilities. If (god forbid) Harper doesn't get another MVP this year, Rendon could be a sleeper favorite.

The Nats are going into the last stretch of the season as the heavy favorites in terms of teams not named 'The Dodgers', and I'd love to see them get at least one playoff series win. They've been at this for years, and they deserve something to show for it, especially with the wide range of excellent performances this year.

Coming Tomorrow- That Twins player I thought I was supposed to post tonight.

Rays in the Middle (Once Again)

The Tampa Bay Rays, this decade, have been one of the sneakiest teams to be inconsequential in the playoffs.

Every year they'll just murk around, swapping between second and third and taking some games from the first place team (and/or the Yankees), and then when it actually comes time for someone to move onto the playoffs, they'll back away, as if their work has been done.

This year is no different. They've spent most of the year chasing the Yankees and pounding them whenever the Red Sox need to take a lead. They're also responsible for keeping the Orioles down for two months when they needed to be taken out of the conversation.

This year the Rays are actually pretty nice, with a solid core of hitters, a hot Lucas Duda, and Chris Archer still throwing smoke. This is still a really nice team, but once again the lack of pitching depth, and a few holes and slumps in major positions, is keeping them from making a serious jump on the race. But they can keep other teams from making the jump as well, which is essentially what they've been doing, getting some wins at third and jumping to second whenever the Yanks-Sox rivalry needs to heat up.

Mallex Smith, acquired from the way of Seattle, has been fantastic this year, stealing bases and hitting small stuff. He fits in well with the Kiermaiers of the team.

Hopefully this Rays team won't cause too much damage to the competitors...especially the Yankees..

Coming Tonight: Mr. Minnesota.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Still the Worst

The maddening part about the NL West this year is the drop-off.

You have three teams that are over 60 wins, running around having great seasons...then fourteen games behind them, you have the Padres and the Giants, two of the most pathetic teams in baseball this year not based in Philadelphia.

Right now the Giants have the worse record, because the aged interior of the team isn't amounting to crap this year. The Padres have the opposite problem. Whereas the Giants have developed this solid, World Series-winning core that's now disobeying them, the Padres have no core, they have pretty much nothing, and the guys they DID have that were good last year are disappointing this year.

There is a small core of youth beginning to form, with Jose Pirela and Manny Margot stepping up this year to join a still-alright Yangervis Solarte. The only problem is that a lot of the other guys that the Padres want to be part of this youth movement, like Cory Spangenberg, Austin Hedges and Hunter Renfroe, aren't hitting very well at all this year, at least not for average. Two players already have 100 strikeouts. Only one starter's over .300, and he started in, like, June.

It's not good, guys. Only a nice comeback season from Jhoulys Chacin is making this team anywhere near noteworthy. The guy had a few nice seasons in Colorado, bounced around for a few years unsuccessfully, and is now finally needed and trusted by a team this year. Even with all this crap that's going on with the Padres, you at least have to admire that.

Coming Tonight: He's fast, he's young, and he might be helping the Rays stay in the conversation.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Not All Seagers Are So Lucky

I don't think Kyle Seager has been handed the 'Jim Perry' effect, or the 'Paul Resuchel' effect, but it's looking pretty imminent.

This season, Kyle's brother Corey Seager is leading the Dodgers to an unprecedented victory, putting them miles ahead of any and all competition, and damn near ensuring their place in the upcoming playoffs. Meanwhile, Kyle Seager has found himself as one of the competitors for a very similar team, the Houston Astros. The Mariners are currently thirteen games behind the Astros, and tied with the Angels for second place, which has been a struggle that's been ping-ponging back and forth since June. To say that the Mariners' could use the Dodgers' luck is a grave understatement.

The Mariners have managed to build a fairly decent lineup, thanks to some more impressive home runs from Nelson Cruz, another grade-A season from Robinson Cano, rookies Ben Gamel and Mitch Haniger stepping up, some usual hitting from Kyle Seager, and a host of newbies like Jean Segura, Danny Valencia, Jarrod Dyson, and now Yonder Alonso, adding experience to the fold. Yet at the same time, they're holding onto three trusted starting pitchers because Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton are all injured. And while Ariel Miranda is doing pretty well, Yovani Gallardo's having a down year, and the guys they're bringing up and trading for can't keep runs from scoring.

At this point, the Mariners are competing against themselves. Half the team is going for the Wild Card spot, and half the team is giving the Rangers a run for their money at fourth place. It's this struggle that I'm worried isn't going to go well for them, especially considering how the Angels are moving so far this season.

Kyle Seager may not be Corey Seager, but he's gonna need as much luck as he can.

Coming Tonight: A reminder that the San Diego Padres still exist.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Buccaneer and Far

After a few years of contending, having some great teams, and making the playoffs, the Pirates have sadly faded back into the back half of the NL. This isn't to say that they're bad this year, just...not as good as a lot of the competitors.

It's not due to a lack of trying- Ivan Nova and Gerrit Cole have been great this year, and Felipe Rivero has stepped up in a big way as the closer. Plus, Andrew McCutchen's having his best season in years, Josh Harrison's making a case for Pittsburgh sans-Cutch, and Josh Bell's having a pretty damn nice rookie season. So, while good performances are being had, it's the weight of the three teams ahead of them in the standings, and the fact that way too many positions are marred with counter-productivity or injuries, that's keeping them this low this year.

The core of the lineup has aged a bit, as the Pirates have been relying more on older pickups and less on a farm system in terms of populating the lineup. Josh Bell is the first real sign of improvement on that end, though Josh Harrison and Gregory Polanco are young enough that they won't really show signs of aging for a while. It's people like Cervelli, Freese, Jaso, Sean Rodriguez, and, hell, even Cutch, that aren't at their peak levels, and are pulling the team down with them.

I want to see the Pirates improve, but I'm not sure how many rebuilding moves they are from that.

Coming Tomorrow- One of the many hitters trying to spin the Mariners back into the Wild Card race.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Tiger Food

Last year the Tigers were inches from qualifying for the Wild Card playoff, with a reformed team, some surging youth, and a core that hadn't really felt like it was aging yet. For a team that was very up-and-down since the World Series appearance, things actually looked promising for them.

This year...a lot of that went to the wayside. The heroes of yore, like Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, looked remarkably human, and the guys doing well, like JD Martinez, Alex Avila and Justin Wilson, were all traded away. Justin Upton and Michael Fulmer are doing their best to carry the team, in between injuries, but the depth is clogging up, and the team's looking pretty unremarkable for the first time since their dreadful 2015 season.

Ian Kinsler is, as usual, one of the guys pulling the team away from last place, as he's an incredible hitter and still a pretty great second baseman. I imagine his career's gonna be overlooked once the Cooperstown committee comes along, but i do think Kinsler's one of the most underrated second baseman in the game. The power he's able to exert when he wants is pretty impressive, and he's also a great leader and defensive force. Kind of odd to think that's he's actually older than Miguel Cabrera, though.

The AL Central isn't really the Tigers' story anymore, so all they can really do right now is play to finish strong, and not finish in last.

Coming Tomorrow- Reliever for a team I so desperately want to be good this year.

Saving Philly: Nick Williams Edition

Since the 2011 season, you know, when the Phillies were actually really good, every year of Philadelphia baseball has been met with sharp disappointment, save for one player who, halfway through the year, decides he must singlehandedly save the team.

In 2012, it was Juan Pierre, who decided to have one of the best seasons of his career as heroes, like Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino were being traded, and other heroes, like Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay, were heading towards career-ending injuries.

In 2013, it was Domonic Brown, who decided that the prospects had to be right for one year, and had an insane month of June, earning an All Star nod and, for a brief moment, making Phillies fans actually feel like they were right about him.

In 2014, it was Marlon Byrd, an old forgotten friend who'd made his way back to the top, and back to Philly, and proceeded to have the best year of HIS career, hitting 25 home runs, narrowly avoiding trade negotiations, and giving the fans something worthwhile to care about.

In 2015, it was Jeff Francoeur for most of the year, having an unbelievably fun season and getting some respect points before his 2016 final season. In August, someone usurped him for the title, as Aaron Altherr came up from the minors and subsequently started hitting like an absolute pro, phasing Francoeur off the title.

Last year it was Odubel Herrera, who had the best year of HIS career, and was literally the only player in Philly who did anything worth writing home about.

This year...Nick Williams, who came up in early July, has diverted all attention to himself. He's got a killer swing, can hit in the clutch, and has been farming in the minors for YEARS, finally getting a chance to show his worth (you know, after the Phillies have exhausted all of their aging free-agent pickup options). I say he's carrying the team because Aaron Altherr's injured, Herrera and Maikel Franco are having down years, and Aaron Nola can't carry the team if he's only there to do so every five games.

I still think it's frustrating as hell that we've GOTTEN to this point in Philly, that for the past six seasons the whole team's been on auto-pilot, and we have to rely on a single player to bring jolts of momentum and get everyone else to start working. This is an uninspired, less-than-boilerplate roster that's NEEDED to be great for a few years, and can't seem to get anything started. And as a guy who was really happy with this team at the turn of the decade, it frustrates the hell out of me. We were in a WORLD SERIES ten seasons ago! JUST TEN SEASONS, GUYS! I was hoping we'd hold out as a great team for more than a couple years.

Still, for right now, hopefully Nick Williams will keep it up for more than this one season. We need guys like him who can be on for a while.

UPDATE: Apparently the Phils have called up Rhys Hoskins. Maybe this team can be carried by more than one person after all...

Coming Tonight: One of the few major players on his team that was remarkably not traded, despite still being one of the most underrated second baseman in baseball.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

El Gary

Okay, not my favorite nickname on this current Yankees team (that would have to be Ronald 'Toe' Torreyes), but still an excuse to keep MLB nicknames alive. Also, Gary Sanchez is an excuse to keep the New York Yankees alive! Eh? See what I did there?

No, but seriously. With the Red Sox surging in the last week, and the Orioles trying to make a comeback, the Yankees have picked a bad week to be sort of okay. Judge is beginning to fade, some injuries are beginning to stack up, Todd Frazier's still striking out, and the momentum's sputtering. Yes, Didi and Gardner are still red-hot, and yes, Luis Severino is STILL one of the best pitchers in baseball, but the Yankees aren't the sure thing they were, especially considering how great the Red Sox are looking.

They need some miracles. And it's sad, because they traded for Sonny Gray and Jaime Garcia to work some miracles, and so far they've been...alright...not terrific. Nothing's clicking. They're stop-and-go. This is the shit they were doing right before the break.

Unless the Yankees crank this season into full gear NOW and start playing like they want this, we can just hand the division to the Red Sox. Because I'm not 100% certain they're ready, and they NEED to be. They can't let the top half of this season down.

Coming Tomorrow- The sole reason Phillies fans have ANY REASON WHATSOEVER to watch games.

Clinging to Relevancy

And now, another moment with a good NL West team that isn't the Dodgers.

The D-Backs/Rockies thing has been going on all season, and it's been this endless train of one-upmanship between the expansion teams, to see which one has more depth and such, and right now the D-Backs are in third. However, the last time I did a post on the Rockies, THEY were in third, so this whole thing is just hella fickle.

I'll give the D-Backs some credit for taking a few more steps than the Rockies to repair the team, especially in the wake of some injuries. Adam Rosales, JD Martinez and David Hernandez plugged a ton of holes with the team, and they're all doing relatively well, with an emphasis on Martinez on his home run hitting.

Still, the core of the team has enough momentum that the deadline additions don't need to define them. Paul Goldschmidt, Jake Lamb, AJ Pollock and Zack Greinke are among the best in baseball this year, and they're all banding together to make the Diamondbacks relevant, even with Dodgers-mania going on nonstop.

I'm pulling for the D-Backs. It's gonna be tough, but I'm pulling for them.

Coming Tonight- This time last year, he was the rookie sensation lighting up the league. Now, in Judge's town, it's hard for him to compete, but he's still one of the best in the Bronx.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Three Cheers for the Birthday Boy

He just turned 26, he's in his 8th official season in the bigs, and he's just hit his 1000th hit. This year, there's a very good chance that he'll hit his 200th home run.

As if there was any doubt that Mike Trout was the best player in baseball.

Look, the injury may have set him back a few places in terms of a serious MVP run (Jose Altuve is still leading the pack on that front), but Mike Trout's still having a great season, he's still got 20+ home runs, and still has some insane average stuff going on. Even if the Angels are still doing fairly alright, the resurgence of Mike Trout has definitely done something to improve their standing.

Still, what's nice about this team is that they're beginning to evolve to the point where Mike Trout isn't the only strong guy in Anaheim. Andrelton Simmons has been having an unbelievable season, already hitting a 6.0 WAR, and playing some fantastic baseball all-around. Cameron Maybin's having another really nice season without doing too much in terms of power. So Trout doesn't have to be alone in excelling...even if they're a-ways from being a first place team again.

So right now is a nice time to be happy about Mike Trout, even if he probably won't be making it to the postseason. He's still one of the greats, and hopefully his career is going to get better and better.

Coming Tomorrow- An outfielder for a still-surging NL West team, just below the one the everyone's been talking about.