Sunday, September 15, 2019
Here's a fun fact- usually by this point in the year, I'll have done customs of some of the people traded at the deadline, someone like Zack Greinke, Nicholas Castellanos or Eric Sogard, but...because of the urgency of many of the people that have gotten customs in the last month or so, I haven't gotten around to any. Also, for the reason of wanting to farm good photos until I absolutely have to.
So, my first traded custom of the year ends up being...Zac Gallen.
It may seem like a weird pick, but...Gallen may be having the most under the radar, accomplished rookie year of them all this year. In seven starts, Gallen went from an unknown to the best starter in Miami to a trade target. Who the hell can do that over the course of seven starts? You can also chalk that up to the Marlins not having security over any of their assets, as they also managed to trade Nick Anderson, another rookie, to Tampa.
So Gallen does fantastic in 7 starts with Miami, gets traded to the Diamondbacks, has seven more starts where he basically has a slight edge over the first seven (2.72 ERA in Miami, 2.62 in Arizona, and other fun comparisons). And this team doesn't make it to the playoffs either. But he's still one of the best pitchers on it, and not like in a Marlins kind of way. You already have Luke Weaver, Robbie Ray, Mike Leake and Merrill Kelly contracted for a few years (Ray will be done after 2020), and the fact that Gallen just entered into this and is pitching like this? That D-Backs rotation may still be pretty ironclad after all.
[This is all if the D-Backs don't end up trading Ray or Leake to let someone like Alex Young or Taylor Clarke start games next year, but...I can't predict shit, so I'm gonna assume they won't for now]
The bottom line is that Gallen has had to endure more in the last year than most rookies, has accelerated with grace and skill, and this is only his first year in the bigs. This is his audition to other teams that he can be a huge asset, and may be such for the D-Backs next year. Hell, he's still one of the few things keeping the team sort-of/kind-of in the wild card picture, despite the unlikelihood of them getting it.
So even if Arizona didn't turn into a playoff team after trading for Mike Leake...at least they got Zac Gallen and Leake to cement an awesome looking 2020 rotation.
Coming Tomorrow- Another deadline trade. This one's looking even better for the guys who picked him up.
Saturday, September 14, 2019
The last time the Oakland Athletics won a playoff series, the year was 2006, and they were sweeping the Minnesota Twins in 3 games. I'm gonna just...assume that nobody left on the 2019 team was playing for the A's in 2006. Matter of fact, the most recent retiree on the 2006 team is Santiago Casilla, who retired last year...after finishing out his MLB career with the Oakland Athletics.
...we were one year away from actually having a 2006 Oakland A on here. We were that close.
Of course, after that 2006 season, the A's let go of everybody, including Frank Thomas, Barry Zito, Jason Kendall, Milton Bradley...and Jeremy Brown, the guy from Moneyball who had the single most embarrassing home run trot of all time. And then they became a punchline for 4 years, then had those nearly-good-enough playoff teams, lost a bunch of division series' and wild card games, then lost everybody again, became a punchline again...and then fought back last year AND this year to be right there in the wild card race.
If the A's didn't have to compete with the Houston Astros (like...if they were considered a Central team rather than a West team...so, like, pre-2013 rules), they'd be leading this division, looking at a solid third-seed in the playoffs, ANNNND a rendezvous with the Yankees in the playoffs, which would be prophetic considering the Yankees annihilated their playoff hopes in 2002. But...we're living in a weirdly-warped MLB, where the Astros are an AL team, Harold Baines is a hall of famer, and the home-run rate goes up without people blaming Rob Manfred for changing the balls.
Once again, this team has been built with the cheapest contracts possible, and only Khris Davis and Stephen Piscotty have built up multi-year deals that impact the team's future. Everyone else is either a couple year-deal, or waiting for arbitration. So guys who are ruling this team, like Mike Fiers, Matt Chapman, Mark Canha, Liam Hendriks and Ramon Laureano...are all doing this cheaply.
The A's currently have a leg-up on the competition, have a fun team pulled together, and have FINALLY gotten Sean Manaea back in the rotation, so they're cruising towards a potentially longer-than-usual playoff run. BUT...I do worry that because of the lack of strong contract options, this team could lose its base again, start at zero again and go through the same cycle we've seen three times now without any results. That's an extreme worry with a homegrown team like Oakland.
But something tells me they could be dangerous in the postseason this year. So I kinda hope something good happens to them this year.
Coming Tomorrow- How the hell is nobody talking about this guy for Rookie of the Year? He had a consistent run in Miami, he's having a consistent run in Arizona, and he's been stronger than both teams. Give him at least SOMETHING.
Once again, I am confused as to how THIS is a playoff team, as no one in the starting lineup OR the bench is batting over .290, or that the staff's ace, Miles Mikolas, is having a very okay year leaving the team to rely more on Dakota Hudson and Jack Flaherty (perhaps spreading them a bit too thin), or that their marquee guy Matt Carpenter is being unseated by a guy no one has heard of.
...I'd say that the Cardinals are only winning this division by default, but since that seemed to piss off a bunch of Orioles fans when I did so 5 years ago, I'm not doing it now. Hell, if the 2014 Orioles got to the World Series, the world would be a better place right now.
But we're not talking about the Orioles, we're talking about the 2019 Cardinals, who...unless something goes wrong, or right, and they let the Cubs, who are 4 games behind them, catch up, are going to win the NL Central, in a year where at multiple times the Cubs, Brewers and Cardinals have been contending.
And...I'll say this lightly...the Cardinals are the only one who hasn't had things go absolutely haywire internally. The Brewers' pitching exploded midway through the year, and around August they just decided they'd had enough of...competing. The Cubs are a fine team that may still be in the Wild Card race, but their lack of wins away from home, plus the slow dissolution of every starting pitcher except for Yu Darvish, has left them questionable for an NL Central title.
Which leaves the Cardinals. To their credit, they've done a lot to stay on top, as their pitching has improved drastically since April, with Flaherty and Hudson coming into their own, Wainwright having an impressive, classic-Waino season, Carlos Martinez coming into his own as closer, and great relief work from Giovanny Gallegos, John Gant, John Brebbia, Ryan Helsey and Andrew Miller. There's enough good pitching on this team to make up for a lineup that, while still interesting (Goldy, DeJong, Wong and Ozuna are all great), has a few too many weak spots to be taken seriously as a playoff threat.
If the season ended today, the Cards would be seeded third, and would play the Atlanta Braves in a division series. From a statistical standpoint, I can imagine this not going well for them, though since the Cards have a habit of winning when they're not supposed to, it could be close.
Coming Tonight: As the wild card race thickens in the AL, a fringe outfielder emerges as a powerhouse...as does his team.
Friday, September 13, 2019
Hi. Remember this guy?
Remember how it was refreshing to see this guy hitting a ton of homers back in 2017? Well, too bad, because now everyone on the Twins is hitting a ton of homers and it's barely special anymore.
This has gotten very out of hand. The only Twins starter who doesn't have 20+ home runs is Byron Buxton, and not only is he out for the season, but he's a contact hitter. Meanwhile, Kepler and Cruz are chasing 40, Mitch Garver just broke 30, Eddie Rosario and Sano are looking to break 30 within the week, and C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop are looking to break 25. Yes, this means that only a few players will finish the season with less than 100 strikeouts in this lineup, but at least nobody's too close to 200 strikeouts, or at the very least Jorge Soler's standard of 161 strikeouts. Though Sano, with 56 less games than him, is still catching up with 138.
Even with this uptick in power, as well as the fun quality of guys like Luis Arraez, Schoop, Willians Astudillo and Marwin Gonzalez getting hero moments, there's still a concern for guys like Sano. Yes, he hits 30 or so homers a year, but A.) has never played more than 116 games in a season, B.) has struck out over 100 times in each season (Marcus Semien has 28 home runs this season, and he only has 93 strikeouts), and C.) has never topped .270 in a season. For a guy the Twins have been banking on for a while, Miguel Sano has only delivered in flashy, broad moments, rather than being a five-tool player that, honestly Byron Buxton is closer to.
For everything Sano can deliver, there are three guys (Eddie Rosario, Max Kepler, Nelson Cruz) doing it even better this year. Which can't be a good thing for him. 26 years old and a guy 12 years older's having the better season? That'd suck.
Also, semi-unrelated, but Nelson Cruz's 40th home run of the year will not only mark his fourth career 40-home-run season, and first since 2016, but it will also mark his 400th home run, which isn't the worst milestone for a career DH.
Anyway. Twins are rolling, the hitting is gonna power them well into the postseason, and Sano needs to have a fuller, more consistent season one of these days.
Coming Tomorrow- [sigh] another Cardinals ace.
So...Dallas Keuchel spent the first month and a half of the season in waiting because he didn't like any of the deals being presented to him. At the time, this felt like a failure of the free agency system, as well as indictment not only on Keuchel's demeanor, but on his overall abilities. So much of his lack of a deal was overanalyzed, overthought and over broadcast.
...to the point where once he eventually signed with someone, and started doing really well, nobody said anything.
And again, I don't know if that says more about the system or Keuchel. Keuchel's numbers, while inconsistent, have been largely strong, and he's definite had more dominant seasons than disappointing ones. His year in Atlanta is no different, with an 8-5 record with a 3.35 ERA over 16 starts. This does mean he'll have a career low strikeouts with less than 100 so far, compared to his previous low of 123 strikeouts in 2013. It's still strong, and his numbers have been right up there with Teheran, Soroka, Fried and...for the most part Folty.
Now, would Keuchel's season gone any better had he gone the entire season? Let's say he joins the team in March and makes as many starts as Julio Teheran, which is 30 as of now. Using high-school-level math, this means he'd have 15 wins and 151 strikeouts in a full season, which is still not bad. It'd also mean he'd have an ASG gig and more Cy Young votes. But, because he held out, his season is seen in a different light, and even if he has some nice postseason starts, which is very likely, the writers will take that into consideration.
At least Craig Kimbrel made it easy by sucking balls this season.
Anyway, Keuchel has made the Braves stronger, and they're a better postseason team with him, but I wish he would have signed in February so that we could have seen more numbers from him in Atlanta.
Coming Tonight: He was hitting a ton of home runs before the rest of his team made it cool.
Thursday, September 12, 2019
Yeah, when we started this season, I was not thinking that the Yankees starter with the most amount of wins by September would be Domingo German. I don't think German was thinking that either.
But, there he is, 17-4, with a 4.21 ERA and 146 strikeouts. Not bad at all, especially for a guy who got chewed out in multiple 2018 starts. Now, he may not the most potent and powerful starter on the Yankees right now (that...quite clearly is James Paxton), or the best innings-eater (that would be Masahiro Tanaka), but he is a strong, dominant starting option, and the kind of pitcher that makes up for the loss of Luis Severino.
However...what happens when Severino comes back, as he will be next week? What happens when the Yankees go into the postseason relying heavily on Severino, Paxton and Tanaka, and then potentially German if they need to? What happens when the guy with the most wins ends up a long-man in a postseason roster? We may find out. Because that's honestly where I think German is on the depth chart, and that may be where we go if Sevvy returns in full force.
Meanwhile, the Yankees' postseason lineup is beginning to straighten out- with Tauchman gone til next year, that final outfield spot is between Clint Frazier and Cameron Maybin, and honestly I think Maybin has the edge. Yes, Stanton's coming back, and they'll probably want him to start games, but...after two aborted seasonal runs by Stanton this year, how sure are we that Stanton's better numbers will be back this year?
Additionally, Edwin Encarnacion was removed earlier today with an oblique strain, so...his status could be in jeopardy. Which means we may have some DH flexibility, which is good for Frazier and Maybin, because then Stanton can just take DH and they can get OF starts. Also, Voit can do games at DH, LeMahieu can do games at first, and so on. This is only if Edwin misses substantial playing time, which is likely but not definite. It is good that we have this kind of flexibility going into a potential playoff run.
Good that we're having this conversation in September about the Yankees. Hope we go further than usual.
Coming Tomorrow- One of the two holdouts from the free agent season that signed mid-year. This is the one that flourished...and it's not the one that any of us thought.
Wednesday, September 11, 2019
I mean, the Dodgers have had some incredible playoff teams in the last 7 years. They've farmed players like Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Walker Buehler and now Gavin Lux. They've briefly accumulated Manny Machado, Yu Darvish, Josh Reddick, Chase Utley and Jedd Gyorko.
...and they've won 0 World Series.
I hate to be a broken record and go 'THIS is the year they do it', but...seeming kinda likely considering how overpowered this roster is. The rotation is stellar and expansive, and can recover from curveballs like Ryu's slumping and May's beaning. The lineup is awesome across the board, and has benefitted from overhauls like Will Smith's switch to starting catcher and Joc Pederson's promotion back to starter. The bench seems unlimited, even with guys like Kris Negron and Gavin Lux showing up and impressing. The elites, like Justin Turner, Clayton Kershaw, Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager, just keep repopulating.
And yet the Dodgers have had teams like this before, that have seemed unbeatable, and yet have been beaten. Even last year's, which gained unbelievable momentum late thanks to Walker Buehler and Max Muncy, still ended up losing to Boston. So what will it take?
Honestly? Luck. Little things need to swing the Dodgers' way, like Ryu regaining his footing, Rich Hill staying healthy either as a starter or a reliever, Muncy and Verdugo returning in full health, and lots of things we can't even predict. If the Dodgers are gonna win it all, they can't do what the 2016 Cubs do and 1st-seed their way all the way down (or maybe they can, idk). They're going to have to win y surprising people, seeming human before seeming like the only option to win it all.
In a perfect world, the Dodgers win the 2019 World Series. Yes, more perfect than a Yankee win. Hope it happens.
Coming Tomorrow- Luis Severino's been out all year...lucky for the Yankees, they have the next best thing.
Bit of a whirlwind couple days for the Houston Astros.
Sunday night, behind Gerrit Cole, they defeat the Mariners 21-1. Yordan Alvarez has 6 RBIs, Cole has 15 strikeouts, and the M's have no chance.
Monday night, behind Zack Greinke, they defeat the Athletics 15-0, which is a lot tougher to do, especially when Mike Fiers is on the mound. Greinke goes 6 strong, Alvarez hits 2 more homers, Robinson Chirinos hits 2 homers, and the place goes wild.
Last night...different story entirely.
Last night, the A's defeated the Astros 21-7, behind a Tanner Roark performance that still gave up 3 home runs, and two-homer-games from Sean Murphy and Matt Olson. And yet even in this shellacking, the A's still give up 2 home runs each to Michael Brantley and Martin Maldonado. That's gotta be a fun-fact stat- the A's, in two straight nights, give up two home runs each to TWO DIFFERENT CATCHERS. Can't wait to read that in next year's Athlon preview.
So what does this mean? It means that the Astros are capable of winning big games, AND losing big games. They've dropped a few double-digit games to teams like the Pirates, Blue Jays, Mariners and Royals this year. It's not like you have to go 'oh, this is Wade Miley's fault' or whatever. Every Astros pitcher gave up some runs at some point, even Joe Biagini, who was part of a no-hitter earlier this year. Sometimes, games like this happen.
Are the Astros any less of a postseason threat now that a Wild Card candidate has driven 21 points from them? No.
The Astros still have the best rotation in baseball, the best lineup in baseball, this year's supposed Cy Young and Rookie of the Year winners, an MVP candidate in Alex Bregman, and Jose Altuve's single-best home-run hitting season yet. The dude has 26 home runs, which is a career high for him, and only 135 total hits, which is a low, albeit an injury-truncated low but still. The transformation of Jose Altuve from a contact hitter into a 25-home-run-hitter is...surprising, but necessary.
Even with Correa on the IL, Aledmys Diaz and Myles Straw strong in his place. Even with Josh Reddick with a low WAR, George Springer is a surprising swing-man. Even with a full lineup and bench, Kyle Tucker's still getting some playing time in. And we're only partway through September.
Can't wait to see what these guys do next.
Coming Tonight: Yes, they've cliched the NL West for the seventh year in a row. But when will they have something greater to show for it?
Tuesday, September 10, 2019
Well, this week I learned that Colin Moran is evidently the looker in the Moran family.
We finally got to meet Colin's older brother Brian, a Marlins farmhand who, after years of trying, FINALLY made the majors this year, and got to strike out his brother. Considering that Colin has 108 strikeouts, I dunno if Brian should feel so special.
Look, Colin Moran's transformation into a Pittsburgh fixture after taking over for David Freese at 3rd base has been pretty heartwarming. True, he's only marginally over replacement level, but so's the bulk of this Pirates team. So is Melky Cabrera, and he's being touted as a surprise hero in Pittsburgh. So's Keone Kela, and he's having his best numbers since Texas.
Even if the Pirates are clearly a great deal from their playoff-contending days of yore, they still have some fantastic pieces, especially rookies like Bryan Reynolds, Jose Osuna and Kevin Newman. The pitching is yielding some nice arms as well, as Dario Agrazal is having nice starts, James Marvel had an impressive debut, and Mitch Keller is...getting there. Even without Tyler Glasnow and Shane Baz, they still have good pitching both up and coming.
Starling Marte and Chris Archer are technically free agents after this season, so if the Pirates want to start completely over and really build a nice, young roster...they could let them go, rely on the youth movement, Josh Bell, and Joe Musgrove...and take a risk.
Coming Tomorrow- Back to the top in Houston, with...a former MVP, and a current...HOME-RUN HITTER? Am I reading this right??
Going into this season, I knew the Tigers would be bad. It became very obvious early on. But...I had no idea they were gonna beat Baltimore to 100 wins.
Like, that in itself takes skill.
The Tigers right now...have the kind of lineup that most expansion teams start off with. One bonafide legend with a few years til retirement, some rookies who can't hit, some rejects from better teams who can't hit, one legitimately good pitcher who can't catch a break, a few crappy pitchers, a few crappy rookie pitchers, an alright bullpen, and Edwin Jackson.
From a distance, you'd think the catching would be hurting the Tigers the most, as their starter, John Hicks, is hitting .210, but Jeimer Candelario is below the Mendoza line. You'd think Jordan Zimmermann's plight would be the most pathetic, but Matthew Boyd had still given up 36 home runs. You'd think that Travis Demeritte would be doing something, anything, to revive this team, but now he's only hitting .231. And as bad as this team is...Miguel Cabrera's still not hitting too far above replacement levels.
It's very sad. Especially when I saw this team just last year, and they weren't this bad. They squeaked out a win against Cleveland, and Candelario, who's listless now, was the hero. This was back when they had Mike Fiers, and he previewed his Oakland dominance in a pitching duel with Mike Clevinger.
The team's last 100-loss season came in 2003, Alan Trammell's first year managing. Their biggest statistical leader was Dmitri Young. This was pre-Verlander, pre-I-Rod...pre-Joel Zumaya, even. They had nothing but other people's space.
And that's kinda what this season felt like. Even the guys they're bringing up don't feel like their own, or that they're gonna lead to anything. They're just there to fill space until the next movement, and the next.
Whatever, at least the Mud Hens are a little more entertaining.
Coming Tonight: His brother just struck him out the other night, but that won't stop this guy.
Monday, September 9, 2019
Two more last-place teams! The Rockies go first, because they're slightly better.
I think it's very sad that the Rox went from a Wild Card-winning runaway playoff team last year to a last-place finisher. That's usually the Twins' thing.
It's not like the core has let this team down- Arenado, Blackmon, Story and Murphy is a strong core, Ryan McMahon has finally come into his own, and Jon Gray and German Marquez are proven aces. Only thing is...the rest of the team exists. The rest of the lineup is very middling, with guys like Raimel Tapia, Ian Desmond and Sam Hilliard barely coming above replacement levels.
The pitching's even more dire- Gray and Marquez are injured, leaving Antonio Senzatela to lead a rotation of two rookies (Tim Melville and Peter Lambert), two guys who've had MUCH better numbers (Kyle Freeland and Jeff Hoffman), and...Senzatela himself, who's not great. Even Wade Davis is having his worst year since becoming a perennial closer.
It's a team that'll hopefully be better when everyone gets healthy next year, but...2019 was pretty damn dire.
Not even Starlin Castro is doing well, and he usually does. I mean, it is nice that they're developing a youth movement, and they can rely on Miguel Rojas and Brian Anderson to lead the team, but what happens when Anderson is out for the season? You try other guys like Jon Berti, Harold Ramirez and Isan Diaz, and hope one of them sticks.
Good news is that Magneuris Sierra is finally doing well in the majors, Garrett Cooper and Jorge Alfaro have had great seasons, and Caleb Smith and Sandy Alcantara have been strong rotation options. Hell, another trade piece, Steven Duggar, is now starting games and doing an alright job, and Brian Moran, Colin's brother, is finally up in the majors relieving games.
This is still a and team, but there's an ounce of hope that maybe, potentially, theoretically...enough young talent could pool together to get them out of last. It may not happen in 2020, but it should happen...someday.
Coming Tomorrow- THE FIRST TEAM TO 100 LOSSES. And one of their starters.
Things I learned today: The Orioles have three players with a WAR higher than 3, and Trey Mancini isn't one of them.
Said players are Jonathan Villar, John Means and Hanser Alberto, and I'm guessing the latter two will be the answer to some trivia questions in about 20 years.
The weirdest parts of the Orioles season have been the moments where the team is surprisingly able to muster a great deal of offensive ability against usually-strong teams like the Rangers, Indians, Red Sox and A's. I mean, yes, lightning can strike multiple times in the same spot, but...the fact that this traditionally-bad team can still win big occasionally is...while normal, surprising in its potency.
This is also a team on the verge of having two 30-home-run hitters, with Mancini already passing the mark and Renato Nunez passing the mark after his next homer (for reference, Chris Davis has 10). Also, this team does have a 10-game winner in John Means...even if he has also lost 10 games. Also, no substantial members of the Orioles are currently on the injured list--compare their 2 members to the near-two-dozen Yankees on there.
Look...the Orioles don't have much. At all. And a lot of what worked in 2019 might not stay for very long into the 2020s, but...there are seeds. Guys like Alberto and Nunez could lead the team towards another dynasty...or be gone in a year. It's hard to tell.
Coming Tonight: Another Crappy Team Roundup post featuring the 93 expansion teams.
Sunday, September 8, 2019
Well, for the second year in a row, the Cincinnati Reds are the single most likable bad team in baseball.
Even as they were playing a series against my Phillies, I couldn't help but like them. So many fun, charming players on that team. I mean, obviously Michael Lorenzen, he of his home-run-hitting and awesome relief pitching. And then you get fun bench guys like Curt Casali, Derek Dietrich and Freddy Galvis. And now you have all the young kids coming up, like Aristedes Aquino, Nick Senzel, Josh VanMeter and Phil Ervin, and they're all ready.
And then you have the favorites, like Joey Votto, Sonny Gray and Eugenio Suarez. And thank god there are some new favorites being cemented this year, like Anthony DeSclafani, or 'Disco' as he's affectionally known. Disco's having his best year since 2015, and is becoming the steady guy the Reds were hoping they'd get in that Mat Latos trade. Plus, you still have Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray and now Trevor Bauer classing up that rotation, though Bauer's doing his usual learning curve tanking right now.
The Reds are so fun and rootable that it pains me to see them miss out on the playoffs yet again. Honestly, this division is so tough that it's really evened out the competition, and the Reds are good enough to be good...but not enough to be really chasing first. And I don't even know when this team will be enough, because I want to think it's soon. The pieces are all there. The only free agents are expendable guys like Jose Iglesias and Alex Wood. This team could collectively slam 2020, and we could FINALLY see one of these Reds teams compete.
Coming Tomorrow- One of those guys that took me all year to find a good enough photo for a custom. Which sucks when you're the only good player in the lineup and you can't do anything good enough to warrant a good photo.
Not a lot left to say about either of these guys, so let's do a Crappy Team Roundup post.
The Royals are in fourth, which says a lot about the AL Central. They've been getting some key wins lately, but mostly because they've been playing similarly bad teams like the Orioles, Tigers and Marlins. They play the White Sox next, and I don't think that series will go as well.
The starting pitching is still an issue, even with Jakob Junis, Brad Keller and Danny Duffy doing admirably. Glenn Sparkman and Jorge Lopez have been waffling in the four spot, and Mike Montgomery has been a surprisingly potent force late in the rotation, but this kind of messy flux shouldn't be carried over to 2020. They really need to figure out a combination to stick with that won't lead to a similar amount of stress this year.
At least Ian Kennedy has been a success as a closer! I feel like it's a Bud Norris kind of thing, where he's gotten 27 saves and he's been admirable enough to keep the job, but not enough to cement career longevity.
The only member of this team whose 2020 return is in jeopardy is Alex Gordon, as he may not pick up the mutual option...or maybe he already has, I have no idea. But considering how meh this team has been recently, I'm guessing they'll continue to be this meh in 2020.
And then there's the Seattle Mariners. Who are, once again, trying to reinvent themselves.
Quite obviously this is not the same team from April. Leake, Edwin, Bruce and Elias are gone, Beckham's suspended, Haniger's injured, and guys like Yusei Kikuchi and Dee Gordon have taken a backseat to the new guard. Even Kyle Seager, who was injured for the first two months, is now leading this team.
And you have people coming up out of the woodwork like Tommy Milone, Tom Murphy, J.P. Crawford, Austin Nola and Tim Lopes, who you didn't really even think of in April, who are running this team. Nola is an even cooler story even than Vogelbach, as he toiled in the minors for years, finally got brought up and is hitting pretty well, and now essentially starting at 1st.
Now, granted, the team is still kinda awful, and has declined to match its April output in terms of success, but if you look at the Mariners' season, you'll see they've had spurts of winning streaks in between their gradual descent. They can win games in a row, they're just...not a great team. So it's sad that the first of those spurts happened in April and gave everybody hope before plummeting straight to the bottom of the AL West. That's bad luck, and that's baseball.
Once again in September, you have to hope the Mariners can eventually figure out how to put together a substantial roster, but...if this one didn't work, what will?
Coming Tomorrow- Here's what I love about the Reds this year- you take a star pitcher away, and there's still 3 or 4 left. Like this guy, easily having his best year this year.
Saturday, September 7, 2019
So I guess the New York Mets aren't going quietly in their effort to...narrowly miss the playoffs.
I mean, let's be grown-ups here. Neither the Mets nor the Phillies are making the playoffs, or that Wild Card seed. The Nationals have the first one locked up, and the second one is going to whichever NL Central team is unlucky enough to end in 2nd (you know which one I'm rooting for, and in that event I will temporarily become a Nats fan). Even the D-Backs have a better record right now.
It's literally the scene in Face/Off where enough important characters have been offed, enough stakes have gone to the wayside, and John Travolta just says to Nic Cage "...alright, Plan B: let's just kill each other."
This Phils-Mets thing isn't about playoff time, or glory, or anything other than a one-upmanship thing. Literally, they're fighting for third place in a year where third place doesn't matter. It's childish, but...that is one way to describe the Mets-Phils rivalry.
And the thing is...neither are even that good right now. The Phils can dive-bomb games as much as they want, but the Mets have the same 3 or 4 guys saving their asses every time. Take away Amed Rosario, J.D. Davis, Thor and DeGrom, and who saves you? Juan Lagares? Amed Rosario? I mean, Rosario's good, but considering what he was touted to be, he's not worth it. Frazier strikes out too much, Cano and Nimmo are streaky as hell, and Jed Lowrie's JUST NOT being activated. And need I mention the bullpen situation?
The Mets are winning games purely on the little ounce of fuel that's left in the tank when the gauge is telling you, SCREAMING AT YOU EVEN, that the tank's empty. Any other year the Mets would be inconsequential, but something about them just won't quit. And even if they don't end in a Wild Card seed, you have to kind of applaud that.
I don't know if Mickey Callaway survives the season. I mean, Kapler won't, and the Mets are barely better than the Phils, so why should Callaway keep his job? Neither one's plan has worked.
Anyway. Sorry this is so mean-spirited. You want happier posts, wait til tomorrow, I get a Reds custom in there.
Coming Tomorrow- He's pitched for the Royals for years, and hasn't gotten the hint that maybe it's not worth it anymore.
Here's a weird stat- the Blue Jays' third-highest 2019 WAR comes from a guy who's played 35 games. He has .3 less WAR than Vlad Jr., who has played 72 more games than him. And he's overtaken people like Randal Grichuk, Justin Smoak, Brandon Drury and Teoscar Hernandez, who've played the whole season.
Oh yeah, and the #1 WAR leader in Toronto is currently slumming it in Queens, so there.
Yeah, QUITE OBVIOUSLY this hasn't been a marquee year for Toronto. They came in going 'yeah, this'll be a rebuilding year', but I don't think anybody knew how much they'd need to rebuild. Pillar lasts a week with the team, Stroman and Sanchez last 4 months, and guys like Devon Travis who made the 2015 playoff teams great are nowhere to be found. The only survivor of the playoff runs seems to be Justin Smoak, and he'll be gone next year.
The Blue Jays have insisted that this year is about the future, and now that Vlad Jr., Trent Thornton, Cavan Biggio and Bo Bichette are not only all up in the majors...but essentially running the team, that is painfully obvious. None of the veterans are doing anything this year, even guys like Grichuk and Smoak who are supposed to lead the team. None of the veteran pitching signings, like Clay Buchholz, Clayton Richard or Edwin Jackson, did anything. Yes, Matt Shoemaker had an amazing start, but the dude's got glass bones and the Jays should know that.
So should we be surprised that after 3 years of being competitive, the Jays have let the majority of game production down to three rookies with familiar names? I mean, A.) they have to sell tickets somehow, and B.) said future was gonna happen eventually. Ever since these three names became prospects-to-watch two years ago, the Jays were counting down to the call-ups. They were gonna change the team, not add to an existing playoff-ready one. As has become very clear, the 2015 & 2016 playoff dynasty was NOT meant to last. Everything they had to prove was for the short term, to the point where there only long term success wouldn't happen until the next stage of the team took over.
At the very least, Bo Bichette is coming into his own. He set some insane doubles record a few weeks back, he already has 10 homers, and he's batting .322. As showy as Vlad Jr. is, Bo may be the real difference-maker in the next few years, because he's more of a five-tool guy than Vlad, sad to say.
Still...we'll have to see how these kids pan out in the next few years. Hopefully something good happens.
Coming Tonight: His team pretty much has the same playoff odds as the Phillies...which is not good for the Phillies.
Friday, September 6, 2019
Oh, Panini...I just can't stay away from you, can I?
I'll be honest, the lack of logos has become less and less of an issue in the past 7 or so years. It's really not that fact that usually veers me away from Panini products, it's...the drab quality of a lot of them. Believe me, they have some fine ideas in terms of initial designs, but...their ways of updating them for future years are hit-miss. A lot of sets are too wordy, like 2017 Chronicles, and a lot of sets haven't been good in years, like Prism.
Chronicles...I also have a love-hate relationship. On principle, I have a soft-spot for frankenset-type models, sets that are comprised of 12 different designs. I liked it when Upper Deck did it with Timeline, and I liked it when Panini did it with 2018 Chronicles. I still had some problems with it, because Panini products are all kinda fundamentally flawed, but it charmed me.
And that's why I'm here, busting a blaster of the 2019 incarnation. Will I get a glut of parallels like I did with 2018? Let's find out:
-Crusade looks pretty identical to last year's.
-Stratus, which I loved last year, gets a slight retooling. Still like it, though.
-Limited I arguably like better than last year's, even if Kieboom has yet to make an impact
-Obsidian, which is new this year, is AWESOME. SO DAMN COOL.Thicker stock, shinier stuff, the black base. Oh wow I really like these.
-Chronicles, the base set technically, is a variant on last year's, and is fine. Not sure why they went and called him Nathaniel, though
-Ascension, new this year, looks SO COOL. LOTS OF COLOR IN HERE.
-We've seen Crusade, but nice to get another Judge
And Tucker's is a Season Ticket, which is some standard Panini meddling.
...there was one other card in this pack...
I'm not exactly complaining here. It's not a white swatch, even if it is grey. It's not a player I've never heard of, even if it is Brandon Crawford, who I've actually already pulled a relic card of, though it was a few years ago from Topps Update. This...isn't bad, even if there are better relics to pull in this set. Better than another damned Chance Sisco relic, which I just keep finding in these sets.
So that's Chronicles. It's good this year. I'm pissed about all the unnumbered parallels, but there's enough fun stuff going on in the base sets to keep me happy. May try to find some more this year.
Well, the good news is the Padres have a guy with 40 saves, a major Rookie of the Year candidate, two solid starters, and have gotten some prime material out of Manny Machado.
...this seems to be the only good news I can presently report as far as the Padres are concerned.
You know the spiel, 'one contract can't change a team', 'one call-up can't revolutionize a tired roster', yada yada. We've been over this before with San Diego, not just this year but this decade. I feel like when people make their rankings of each team's decade-long performance (which is gonna be tough because the only teams that were competitors for the entire decade, Yanks & Cards & Dodgers and such, only have a few WS-contending years, or none at all, to hold them back) the Padres will be very low on this list.
I mean, let's be really critical- what have they accomplished this decade?
In 2010, they finally get a playoff-caliber team ready, by trading for Miguel Tejada and Ryan Ludwick, and getting prime material out of Adrian Gonzalez before his contract expires. This doesn't work, as they come 2nd in the Wild Card race despite 90 wins. The fact is...if 2010 followed modern-era wild card rules, the Padres would play a one-game playoff game against the Braves, but...probably wouldn't have gone well.
2010 is the only time this team finishes over .500 this decade. You think of the wealth of talent that's come through SD, including but not limited to Mat Latos, Wil Myers, Chase Headley, Justin Upton, Craig Kimbrel, Eric Hosmer, Brad Hand, Franmil Reyes, Manny Machado, and TWO different pitchers named Luis Perdomo (YES, REALLY. LOOK IT UP). This team has been through two different contract uprisings; 2015 and 2019, where new blood was brought in to save the team. Neither one worked. And of the 2015 additions, only Wil Myers has stuck around. And Myers isn't really a household name anymore, is he?
I'd like to be optimistic and say that the 2020s will be better for the Padres, but...knowing their recent luck, I'm not even sure. Even if Joey Lucchesi and Chris Paddack stir up better numbers in Eric Lauer, Matt Strahm and Cal Quantrill next year, is this still a competitive team? Do they still have a ways to go, even WITH Tatis and Machado?
Food for thought, I guess
Coming Tonight: I feel bad for Topps. They spend the whole summer hyping up a huge Blue Jays rookie, then right near the end an even BIGGER Blue Jays rookie comes around.
Thursday, September 5, 2019
Yeah, Angels ain't making the playoffs either, but at least you've got some things to talk about that aren't Mike Trout this year. I mean, granted, Trout's awesome and is probably gonna win his 3rd MVP, because...I mean, why the hell wouldn't he?
There's still gems hiding in that roster though, like Hansel Robles, the former Mets relief arm who wound up in LA after a waiver deal, and became the 9th inning fixture that had evaded the team since Huston Street left. Robles has 19 saves and a 2.60 ERA, and has already become a favorite in Anaheim. Heck, most of their bullpen, including Ty Buttrey, Cam Bedrosian and Noe Ramirez, is actually pretty good.
You also have people like Andrelton Simmons and Justin Upton, who've missed time due to injuries yet have still found their way back to the roster, and with good numbers as well. This is also a team where Shohei Ohtani, Brian Goodwin or David Fletcher can do great statistical things in the event that Trout has a weak night, or in addition to whatever Trout is doing.
Does this mean that an Angels run is on the horizon? Well...I'm not sure. I'd like to think that the young arms like Griffin Canning, Patrick Sandoval, Jaime Barria and Jose Suarez can all line up their talents and pitch great seasons together, but that takes a lot of hope and a lot of offseason work. You also have to hope that guys like Kevan Smith and Matt Thaiss can rebound from disappointing recent streaks.
There's a lot on this Angels team that could work, especially with Trout, but...I don't know how far away that team is.
Coming Tonight: In April, this rotation seemed ironclad. Now...not so much, but this guy's still pretty good.
Wednesday, September 4, 2019
A year after becoming the sleeper playoff favorites, the Milwaukee Brewers don't seem like they'll be repeating their 2018 postseason success. Or...really any of their 2018 success.
The only Milwaukee Brewer who's shone any sign of improvement aside from Christian Yelich is Mike Moustakas, who's had more well-rounded numbers this year in Milwaukee than in his half-year stint last year. Brandon Woodruff was improving, but he's injured. Gio Gonzalez was improving, but he's been on-and-off the DL. Eric Thames is an improvement, but I think the Brewers would prefer Jesus Aguilar knowing how he's doing in Tampa. Even 2018-era Jordan Lyles is better than this year's version.
Yes, this team is still over .500, and is third place in the NL Central, but in a year where the division has seemed open enough for the Cardinals to sneak through, the same concept somehow doesn't apply to the Brewers. And that's because the pitching inefficiency that only occasionally mattered in 2018 is hitting them hard this year, with them having to call on people like Adrian Houser, Jimmy Nelson and a less-than-stellar Chase Anderson in lieu of feasible, impressive options. Yes, Davies, Gio and Lyles are great, but there's no depth. It's not like Woodruff can come in from the bullpen and shock everyone like last year. They're out of pitching surprises, and even Josh Hader is feeling kinda pedestrian this year, which says something.
And even you still have guys like Lorenzo Cain, Yasmani Grandal and Keston Hiura, who are playing beautifully, there's still a lack of shock value, a lack of oomph that was present in last year's unstoppable playoff force. Even if Ryan Braun is having his best season in years, even if Christian Yelich could win another MVP, and even if Keston Hiura could very well be the NL Rookie of the Year...this Brewers team may come short of playoff expectations, as the Phillies, Cubs, Diamondbacks and Nats all have better wild-card cases than they do. Yes, the D-Backs are in it more than the Brewers.
It's incredibly sad that the Brewers have become this irrelevant this year. I don't think it'll stay like this, especially if the pitching regroups, but...it's still sad to watch.
Coming Tomorrow- I was talking with my Met-fan cousin this summer, and he's still pissed they gave this guy up. Angels fans have to be thrilled, though.
What a weird little player Ivan Nova has become.
I mean, he was fine with the Yankees for a while, and he was fine with the Pirates for a while, but...Nova might be the streakiest, most inconsistent pitcher working today. Because when he's on, like in 2011, or during the last half of 2016 with Pittsburgh, he can be deadly, and unhittable. But a lot of the time, he hovers around a 5 ERA, he gives up like 27 home runs a year, and he just sort of...gives you innings in lieu of production. Right now he's leading the league in hits allowed.
But in his first season in Chicago, Nova has been...relatively alright. I mean, he had a slow enough start, but since July he's been red-hot, bringing his ERA down to a 4.50, and in the last month he's got a 1.97 ERA with a 3-2 record. Granted, the consistency that shone through July and most of August is beginning to die down in the last two starts, but on a roster that's without Carlos Rodon, and that can't solely rely on Lucas Giolito, he's been a fine 2nd-starter.
Still, Nova and Gio seem to be the only starters who haven't been shellacked by this team's utter lack of run support- even rookie Dylan Cease is struggling, along with names like Ross Detwiler, Manny Banuelos and Dylan Covey. Yes, the bullpen duo of Aaron Bummer and Alex Colome is still sharp-as-ever, but until they come on, you're kinda screwed.
At the very least, the Sox seemed to have hammered down a solid lineup that could surpass this losing year, with guys like Tim Anderson, Yolmer Sanchez, Yoan Moncada and James McCann feeling like perennial guys. It looks like Jose Abreu may leave next year, and they may call upon a hastily-prepared replacement at 1st, but...I honestly think the 2020 team might be a little better than this one. They start at 0, and get this unit to work together...we could be in for better numbers, finally.
Coming Tonight: He's a perennial All-Star, an outfield asset, and...his team won't be making the playoffs.
Tuesday, September 3, 2019
First they're leading the division, then they're in fourth behind the Mets, and now they're gunning for the last NL Wild Card spot, 2.5 games behind the Cubs. I'd like to think the Cubs have more of a show to defend themselves, but they're playing the Brewers all week, while the Cardinals play the Pirates and Giants. Unless there's a serious inversion, as much as I want there to be one, this may be the Phils gunning for the Cubs' spot.
The Phils, however, have picked the right time to get hot. They've taken one from the Mets, and one from the Reds, and are only gonna build momentum as they play 3 more Reds games, and a few more Mets games. I want them to get to the point where by the time they play the Braves in a week, they're strong enough that they can be a match for them.
And it's a communal thing. Rhys Hoskins and Bryce Harper are hitting. Eflin and Velasquez have had some nice starts. Blake Parker and Mike Morin have been sharp pickups from Minnesota. Corey Dickerson and Logan Morrison are partying like it's 2017 in Tampa again. Jay Bruce is healthy and getting hotter. Realmuto and Nola are still league standouts. Even if Jean Segura's away for a few days, he's still rocking it whenever he's at the plate.
There's a surprising amount of depth and nuance to this team, and I'm glad we're still talking about them in September. They keep this up, they could sneak right into the Wild Card game. I sincerely hope they do.
Coming Tomorrow- His slow start scared me, and his team, but since July he's been hot as hell on the mound.
Eduardo Rodriguez has a 16-5 record. This is among the top 10 W/L percentages in baseball right now. #1 is Domingo German. #s 4 and 5 are Astros. Eddie is #6.
To be honest, Rodriguez' come-up was inevitable. During last season's ultimate uprising in Boston, Eddie was one of the forgotten figures, with a 13-5 record and 146 strikeouts. Unfortunately, in a year with David Price, Chris Sale and Nate Eovaldi in that same rotation, his stats were dwarfed, and only one of his 2018 postseason appearances was a start.
If for some reason the Red Sox make it to October this year...I feel like they'd want Rodriguez to start a game. I think he's finally proved himself, not by being better than usual, because I don't think he is...but being good in a year when Price and Sale are not. Sale's season will go down as his weakest to date, even with the injury, and Price's, while also injury-marred, is also marked by the man's highest ERA since 2009. And in a year where it seems like no other starting pitchers seem to be complying, including Eovaldi, Andrew Cashner, Hector Velazquez, Rick Porcello or Brian Johnson, having Rodriguez not only having a uniformly solid year, but a league-standard kind of year, is a good sign.
This is clearly not the Red Sox' year. Banking too hard on its 2018 squad by resigning Steve Pearce and Nate Eovaldi instead of picking up free agents doomed them to a mediocre season where the best parts of its 2018 squad seemed to be held back by the shortcomings of keeping the same people and letting them all turn one year older. Even if Bogaerts, Devers, Betts and Martinez are awesome this year, they're only a small part of the lineup, and if the rest of the lineup is only doing alright, and if your savior 2nd baseman prospect gets injured as things begin to pick up (which seems to be a theme in the AL East), then it nullifies everything else.
The Boston Red Sox have a chance to squeak into the postseason, but they'll have to outdo Oakland, Cleveland and Tampa. So good luck.
Coming Tonight: A man who has been traded for Zack Greinke, Chase Anderson, Isan Diaz, Aaron Hill, Ketel Marte, Taijuan Walker, J.P. Crawford and Carlos Santana. And he's still one of the best players to watch work.
Monday, September 2, 2019
The reason why September is such a fun month is that the rosters open up a little and you get to see all these minor-league lifers finally given a chance to join the show, take some reps, and audition for next year. And you're seeing that all over- big time prospects like LA's Gavin Lux and Toronto's Michael Kay are getting their shot at the bigs, because they've got nothing else to lose.
The most interesting AAA-lifer to make it this year debuted back in May. Mike Yastrzemski, a guy I saw play for Norfolk against the Toledo Mud Hens, finally got called up to the majors at age 28. Apparently it wasn't enough for some people that Mike was Carl Yastrzemski's grandson- he had to walk the walk too, and with 83 games in the majors, he's batting .265 with 18 home runs and 48 RBIs, which isn't too bad.
The reason why Yaz is making such a splash in San Fran is...with the exception of the mainstays from the early part of the decade, like Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt and Madison Bumgarner, a lot of the team isn't set in stone, and a lot of the roster is subject to trying shit. Like, Alex Dickerson was thrown into a outfield spot after a few years of kicking around San Diego, and now he's hitting .325 in 44 games with a 1.004 OPS. With Buster Posey injured, the Giants brought on Stephen Vogt to see if he had anything left in the tank, and Vogt brought his lovable everyman qualities back to the bay area, with 8 home runs and a .272 average as backup. After deciding that neither Scooter Gennett nor Joe Panik was good enough for 2nd base in San Fran, the Giants settled on former Miami backup infielder Donovan Solano, and he's hitting .339 in 61 games.
A lot of this team doesn't occupy normal logic. Did you honestly expect it to?
I mean, you do get some call-ups, like Logan Webb and Connor Menez, who subscribe to normal rookie customs, but...other than that, this is a weird-ass team. They're not making the playoffs, and they're barely below .500, but...there's still some compelling, weird bits of this team that are refusing to stay quiet, which is kinda nice.
I kinda wanna know how this breakneck philosophy will translate to 2020. What Giants team will be left then? And will it be as weird as this one?
Coming Tomorrow- A guy named Eddie who's been more consistent than either David Price or Chris Sale this year.
Today, the Yankees play the only AL team they've yet to face...and thankfully it's the Rangers, so they might be able to sneak out some wins.
This Rangers team is a very...forgettably okay one. They're a little under .500, and they're in 3rd, and they have no chance of making the postseason, but they weren't nicked at the deadline, and they still have enough of their core to be competent in matchups. So...they still win games.
Look, I don't think the Rangers have recovered from losing Joey Gallo to the IL, as even with Elvis Andrus back to his consistent, likable self, this is still an underwhelming team at times. You're relying on offensive standouts like Danny Santana, Delino DeShields, and a pair of 35-year-old outfielders. What'd you expect. Hell, you were too good for Asdrubal Cabrera, even!
The best thing I can say is at least they have a concrete starting rotation, something they've struggled with all year, behind Mike Minor and Lance Lynn. As much as Ariel Jurado can be shaky at times, you have Brock Burke, who has a 1.50 ERA in 3 starts, and you have Kolby Allard, who has 3 wins and 27 strikeouts in 5 starts. Burke and Allard could definitely head up this rotation in a short time, and given that Minor and Lynn are signed for 1 and 2 more years respectively, this rotation could be pretty kickass in the future.
But for now...we have Willie Calhoun and Nick Solak gasping for playing time, Jeff Mathis starting at catcher while hitting under the mendoza line, and Rougned Odor continuing to be a face of the team despite hitting .194 with 154 strikeouts. This team needs a lot more work before they can compete again.
Coming Tonight: Last year, at a minor league game, I saw a kid playing for Norfolk that was the grandson of a Hall of Famer, and I kinda figured that if he was toiling in the minors, he'd never break the majors. I was wrong.
Sunday, September 1, 2019
It's getting harder and harder to plan these Stars are Out posts at the end of every month. Lots of work goes into, uh, doing a whole bunch of them and not forgetting they're in the file.
I'm doing two months worth today, because it's Labor Day weekend and y'all deserve a treat.
Let's start with this guy, because football season's on its way- Will Shields is Kansas City Royalty, Nebraska Royalty (hence the colors), and, according to my dad, an insanely nice person to work with. It was Nebraska day at Kauffman, and they figured they'd get some guaranteed applause up in there, so Will Shields threw out a pitch. All class.
[For the record, Will Shields has seen this custom. Folks, it is incredibly scary when people who have accomplished things are looking down on your amateur work, but, since he approved, perhaps it'll be less scary in the future]
Luis Castillo also threw one out, but...since his implication in a drug ring, I didn't think it'd be a good idea to post his.
Jerry Seinfeld is a huge Mets fan. I remember his excitement in 2015, for the 'Cespedes for the rest of us' stretch run. And here he is loving it all with Conforto. Gotta love him.
Hopefully the September ones of these won't come too far into October.