Monday, September 30, 2019

Predicting the Playoffs: 2019

I was kind of hoping for a slightly-less clean playoff fight in the last few days. Yes, it was heartbreaking to see the Cubs and Indians cut, but...I was expecting the Brewers-Cardinals race to lead to a playoff game or something. Thanks to a random Colorado victory, the Brewers wound up Wild Card favorites, and this is what we're dealing with. I have to predict how these matchups are going to go. This doesn't usually go well for me. Last year, I thought the Brewers would make the World Series. I've had ballsier picks. This year...I'm gonna try to keep the spontaneity factor in mind for my picks, which...might throw me off even more.

AL Wild Card: Athletics vs. Rays
 The two cheapest feel-good teams in the bunch. I do like the Rays here, and I think their breakneck, skeleton crew formation has been really fun in going from a novelty to a winner. The only problem is they're going against this A's team, who would be in 1st if not for the unstoppable Astros. The A's are coming at them with Sean Manaea back in peak form, the Chapman-Olson-Semien combo better than it's ever been, and Liam Hendriks raising hell in the ninth. This may be a close game, but I see the A's advancing, finally.
Verdict: A's over Rays

NL Wild Card: Brewers vs. Nationals
 Fun fact: The Brewers have more playoff series victories in this decade than the Nationals. The Brewers have made it to an NLCS twice- first in 2011 against the Cardinals, then again in 2018 against the Dodgers. The Nats have yet to win a playoff series, hilariously so. However, given the opportunity to play one game against a Brewers team that's weaker, less-realized, and, most importantly, has 98% less Christian Yelich than last year's team, I think they'll squeak one out. The Nats will also be starting Max Scherzer who has a leg up over literally any pitcher the Brewers choose to start.
Verdict: Nats over Brewers.

ALDS Part 1: Twins vs. Yankees
 Battle of the home run hitters, this series. Despite the impressive pitchers that both teams will bring out (Odo and La Makina in one corner, Sevvy and Paxton in the other), and despite the insanely fun bullpens in both cases (I am excited to see Sergio Romo, Taylor Rogers, Adam Ottavino and Zach Britton take this one on)'s gonna be about the home runs. And there will be several. I'm not exactly sure how the rosters will go, but even dark horses like Jake Cave and Mike Ford could hit some out. I predict this will go all five games, and be bloodthirsty...but the Minnesota Twins will be victorious. I honestly think they're more powerful than New York, and have better pitching. But it'll be close.
Verdict: Twins over Yankees.

ALDS Part 2: A's vs. Astros
 The thing about this being a division rivalry is that it's kind of easy to predict. Not just because it's a wild card team going up against the virtually unstoppable Astros, but because the Astros have won their season's matchups against Oakland 11 to 7. Which is honestly closer than I'd have expected. In fact, the A's have won the last series against the Astros, meaning they've definitely heated up as the season's gone on, and this could be a very tight race. But...this is still the Astros we're talking about, and I do think they'll trounce Oakland easily.
Verdict: Astros over A's.

NLDS Part 1: Cardinals vs. Braves
 I'm going to try to keep my anti-Cardinals bias out of this, but...this shouldn't be close. The Cards have been a good, but not great, borderline playoff team that only made it to first in the last month and a half of the season. Yes, they do have weapons like Paul deJong and Jack Flaherty at their disposal, but...look at the Braves. Look at how awesome the Braves have been. They dominated the NL East while still making the other teams feel like they had a chance, they let powerful seasons by Josh Donaldson, Mike Soroka, Ronald Acuna Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman go side-by-side without overwhelming anyone, and they're not...done...yet. I'm expecting a short series from these two.
Verdict: Braves over Cards.

NLDS Part 2: Nationals vs. Dodgers
 I'm trying to allow for spontaneity, even though these have been predictable outcomes so far. And I want to say that the Nats could finally win a playoff match here...but look at who they're playing. The Dodgers have only shown sparks of humanity this whole season, while the Nats have been a very tangible, human wild card team. The Nats have made a team work with Asdrubal Cabrera, Gerardo Parra and Erick Fedde clutching crucial positions, and with Fernando Rodney well-employed. And the Dodgers...are just on a completely different level. Bellinger, Turner, Seager and Muncy will be going wild in this series. I still think they'll go 4 games, but...I am expecting some LA blowouts.
Verdict: Dodgers over Nats

ALCS: Twins vs. Astros
 Okay, here's some spontaneity- I'm calling an upset. I think the Astros are gonna peak in the ALDS, and by the time they have to play the Twins, Verlander and Cole are gonna give up too many home runs, the lineups gonna roll gutter balls, and the legend of this Twins team, and of Rocco Baldelli, is gonna grow. I don't know what's fueling this. I don't know how accurate it is. I'm just looking at those home run totals, and at that pitching staff, and going...can the Astros even take that? I don't know if they can, even with a Cy Young winner on their staff.
Verdict: Twins over Astros.

NLCS: Braves vs. Dodgers
 Here...I'm not calling for an upset. Because even if this series goes all 7, I don't think the Braves can stop LA. This is the unstoppable factor the Dodgers have this year that Houston doesn't. I can see Houston losing a big game by double-digits to a team out of the question, or even the A's. This did not happen often to the Dodgers. They only had a few bad stretches, and thankfully a lot of them were early. I also think the Dodgers' pitching staff is more experienced, and more trained for October than the Braves, who are still dealing with trial and error after trading out most of their 2018 rotation for newer arms. It could be close, but...the Dodgers should have this one.
Verdict: Dodgers over Braves

World Series: Twins vs. Dodgers
 I find it funny that both these guys are in 60s designs, because this feels like a very mid-60s World Series. And while it may not be as explosive as the 2016 Series, or even the 2013 series, I'm predicting this one should be fun, and might go to 6 games. Overall,'s going to come down to whether the Twins can stop Cody Bellinger. And I don't think they can. I'm not saying he'll be the x-factor in this series, as that might be somebody unassuming like Gavin Lux or Joc Pederson, but...I don't think the Twins pitching, as good as it's been, can stop somebody huge like Bellinger. And while I may be wrong on MANY of these picks...I do think this'll be the year the Dodgers finally pull together a World Series.
Verdict: Dodgers over Twins.

So yeah. Let's see how wrong I am.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

The Best of the Rest: 2019

I do love doing this post every year, even if there's a bit of heartbreak involved. the end of the day, here I am mean-spiritedly eulogizing 20 teams, including ones I genuinely like. This year, this list (once again) includes one of my hometown teams. So while this is a tough post, it's still fun to make lightness out of multiple teams missing the playoffs, including the one with the longest playoff drought who I'd put as 'most likely not to be on this list next year' 2 years in a row.

Good news is a few teams got off the list, including the Twins, Rays, Cardinals and Nationals. This also means a few 2018 playoff teams wound up back on this list. Baseball is fickle like that.

So once again, let's give superlatives to the 20 teams that did not make the playoffs, because we can always reward the teams that miss out on rewards in general.

Most Likely to Succeed, According to GMs in January: San Diego Padres

Best Team That Peaked Way Too Early: Seattle Mariners

Best Team That Peaked Way Too Late: New York Mets

Best Squanderer of Hopes Their Fans Had in 2018: I can't NOT say the Boston Red Sox

Best Squanderer of Hopes Their Fans Had in April: Seattle Mariners

Most Willing to Settle: Texas Rangers

Best Reason to Not Be Okay With A Team That's Just Okay, Rather Than Bad: Chicago White Sox

Best Pitching Staff for a Team that Didn't Make the Playoffs: Cincinnati Reds. I never thought I'd be putting them in this category.

Worst Pitching: Baltimore Orioles

Worst Outfield (Until August): Cleveland Indians

Most Unwilling to Win Away from Home: Chicago Cubs

Most Pathetic Team To Actually Finish Over .500: Arizona Diamondbacks

Team in Most Desperate Need of Youth, for God's Sakes: San Francisco Giants. Even their YOUTH MOVEMENT is old!

Biggest Anticlimax: Colorado Rockies (Red Sox & Phils came close)

Most Depressingly Injury-Prone Team: Los Angeles Angels

Best Plant-Related Cockiness Surrounded by Weeks of Debilitating Losses: Philadelphia Phillies

Most Depressing Team to Talk About Every Few Weeks: Detroit Tigers, as usual

Most Fun Last Place Team: Miami Marlins

Best Youth Movement: Toronto Blue Jays

Best Team If 22 Members of the 25-Man Roster Just Don't Show Up: Kansas City Royals

Team That Has No Idea What it Wants: Pittsburgh Pirates

Best Overall Team That Didn't Make the Playoffs: Cleveland Indians

Most Likely to Not End up on this List Next Year: Cleveland Indians & Chicago Cubs

So, those are my superlatives for the year. It was fun following these 20 teams this year. Tomorrow night, we try to predict how the other 10 are gonna do. 

The Worst is Over (?)

So. The Detroit Tigers had the second-worst season in the history of the franchise this year. Only the 2003 season, where they won 43 games (rather than this season's 47), is a worse final number.

While we're here, let's look at the 2003 Detroit Tigers, and compare them with this well-heralded disaster that is the 2019 team.

The Tigers' most valuable player, in terms of WAR, in 2003 was Dmitri Young. In '03, Da Meat Hook had a .297 average with 29 home runs and 85 RBIs. He also had 130 strikeouts, which led the team. To compare, nobody on the 2019 Tigers had more than 15 home runs, and said hitter, Brandon Dixon, had 136 strikeouts. 6 more than the guy who actually was on his shit in 2003.

It's also worth noting that the 2003 team had one other guy over 20 homers, team legend Craig Monroe with 23, and two guys with 18, Eric Munson and Carlos Pena. So the 2003 team has 4 guys who had more home runs in their worst-ever year than the 2019 team had in the 2nd-worst year.

Also, to compare- highest number of RBIs in 2019: Miguel Cabrera with 56. Miguel Cabrera also had a -0.1 WAR this year, but still, he had 56 RBIs. Monroe and Young had more than that in 2003.

I can say with certainty that the area where the 2019 team definitely has a leg up is the pitching. They've been lucky enough to have Matt Boyd, Spencer Turnbull, Daniel Norris and...yeah, those three, with ERAs lower than 5, and 100+ strikeouts each. I cannot say that for the 2003 team. Their best starter was Nate Cornejo, who only had 46 strikeouts in 32 starts. And he was the best starter that year. Mike Maroth, Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Robertson and Adam Bernero couldn't manage shit. And just like the 2019 team after Shane Greene left, the 2003 team had NO DESIGNATED CLOSER ALL YEAR. Nobody had more than 5 saves. For reference, Joe Jimenez had 9 in the last two months of this season.

There's also the case of general miscellany. The 2003 team had guys like Warren Morris, a career utility man who started at 2nd base and never played in the leagues again after the season ended, and Ramon Santiago, another career utility man, STARTING GAMES FOR THEM. Hell, they had Dean Palmer and AJ Hinch as bench options. At the very least, this lineup had guys like Dmitri Young, Carlos Pena, Cody Ross and Omar Infante, all of whom would go onto better things.

I'm not sure if many members of this 2019 team have a future. A lot of people on this team, including Cabrera, Jordan Zimmerman, Edwin Jackson, Gordon Beckham and Josh Harrison are clearly on their last legs. So many players with starting gigs, like Grayson Greiner, Christin Stewart, Dawel Lugo, Jeimer Candelario and John Hicks, just aren't good. And the guys coming in to lead the team next year, like Travis Demeritte, Harold Castro and Victor Reyes, are guys that could turn out good, but could be flukey.

I can't say with certainty which iteration of the Tigers is worse. But I can say with honesty that the 2019 Tigers were really...REALLY...bad.

Coming Tonight: This was my last prepared custom of the regular season. Tonight, some superlatives.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Is This the End for Curtis Granderson?

I know for a fact that I have talked about this numerous times on the blog, but Curtis Granderson is one of my favorite players. Not just because his peak years were as a member of the Yankees, but because he seems like a great baseball personality, and he's been a great presence on every team he's played for. Hell, I saw him play in Toronto last year, and he had a 6-RBI day, with 2 doubles, a single, and a home run. He was a triple away from a cycle, and this was him as a 37-year-old.

This year, however, has been less impressive for the Grandy Man. Despite playing 136 games for the Miami Marlins, he only has 34 RBIs, 56 hits, 12 home runs, and a .186 batting average. Which, compared to Lewis Brinson, is great, but compared to the rest of the league, and even Granderson's last season, is very, very poor. I realize that Grandy must be in the lineup to inspire a ton of the younger players, but he's not having a great year, and he's being paid to start games.

The good news is that Neil Walker is in a similar position. He's a veteran who can play the infield, hit relatively well, and be a solid presence in the lineup. Walker has said audibly that he wants to return to the Marlins next season, solely because it's a generally nice environment for him, even if he's not exactly playing to compete. This influence has led Grandy to start a similar campaign. Like Walker, he's good enough in the dugout, he's cheap enough to keep around, and he can be the fun veteran presence that counts as a draw for fans.

The difference is Walker had a better season, and Walker is 33. I do think the Marlins might re-sign Walker, but I don't know about Granderson. As much as I love him, I don't know how much he has left in the tank.

Still, the Marlins aren't at the point where they lack roster space for somebody like Grandy, and they still need a lot of help, so...I'd love to see it happen. Plus, another year of Curtis Granderson playing in the MLB is always a good thing.

Coming Tomorrow- A rookie for the single worst team in baseball.

A Blaster of 2019 Topps Archives: How Worth it Was This Anyway?

Because I'm me, I'm probably looking to complete the full set of 2019 Archives. I do this. It vexes me too. There's something about chasing retro-themed sets that recreate my best customs that satisfies me in a way.

The collation has not been kind to subsequent purchases...and yet I got another blaster anyway. Hopefully this one has switched things up A LITTLE BIT. I'll be marking which cards I needed for the set, and which were dupes.

Coins: Kris Bryant and a blue George Springer. Not a good sign when one of my coins is a dupe.

Pack 1-
68- Edwin Diaz. NEED. Off to a great start
12- Hunter Renfroe. NEED.
138- Lewis Brinson. NEED.
112- Maikel Franco. NEED. How is Hunter Renfroe the only player in this pack so far that did well in 2019?
206- Carl Yastrzemski PURPLE #'D TO 175. Thank god, as this saves what would have been the first dupe of the box so far.
289- Sammy Sosa. NEED. As much as I'm indifferent to steroid abusers, seeing Sammy as a White Sock is a nice change of pace
235- Rogers Hornsby. NEED. I love that guys like Hornsby have a place in this set.
275- Joe Morgan. NEED. That...was a nice pack.

Pack 2-
8- Elvis Andrus. NEED.
93- Cole Tucker. NEED.
5- Anthony Rizzo. NEED. I am impressed so far.
170- Edwin Encarnacion. Dupe, but he's a Yankee, so this isn't so bad.
143- Rougned Odor. NEED.
94 Future Stars of Luis Urias. At last, not a dupe insert.
299- Mychal Givens. NEED. Somehow Givens winds up in Archives, which means the Orioles didn't have many members that warranted Archives cards.
214- Whit Merrifield. NEED. Somehow I thought this was a dupe.

Pack 3-
39- Pee-Wee Reese. Dupe,  but it's Pee-Wee, so I'm not too mad.
120- David Peralta. NEED.
127- Jim Bunning. NEED. I'm a little bummed that Bunning is pictured as a Tiger rather than a Phillie, but it's a need, so I'm not too hurt.
Ichiro Retrospective of his 2010 Topps issue. Again, a dupe insert for me. I wish they'd seed more Expos inserts so I don't have to pull all these Ichiro dupes
224- Gary Sanchez.  NEED, and a great card, too!
230- J.P. Crawford. NEED.
232- Victor Robles. NEED. This is going pretty well so far.

Pack 4-
44- Jackie Robinson. Dupe.
66- Rod Carew. Dupe. I mean, at least I'm getting dupes of people I enjoy pulling cards of..
122- Sandy Koufax. NEED. Thank god, too.
107- Bernie Williams. NEED. Awesome.
149- Frank Thomas. NEED.
And...this was the part of the pack where I audibly blurted out an expletive. IN A GOOD WAY, THOUGH.
I pulled...a purple-parallel of a certified autograph OF...Cubs broadcaster PAT HUGHES. So...lots to digest here. Firstly, it's a cool autograph of a beloved Cubs broadcaster, which is awesome in itself. Secondly, it's a PURPLE PARALLEL of an autograph, which is numbered to 150, and SEEDED 1 IN 170 PACKS. So to say this was a mega-pull is an understatement. I'm...pleasantly surprised by this hit. I'm no Cubs fan, but this is still pretty damn cool.
242- Zack Cozart. NEED. Only active player in this pack.
212- Robin Roberts. NEED. This beautiful card makes up for Bunning's Tigers colors.

Pack 5-
58- Ryan Borucki. Dupe. And here we go
25- Yusei Kikuchi. Dupe
42- Ian Desmond. Dupe.
184- Danny Jansen. Dupe.
200- Bryce Harper. Dupe. Okay, at least I got another Harp out of this.
327- Jake Bauers 93T Future Stars. okay, at least I got an SP I needed out of this pack as well.
262- Honus Wagner. NEED. I love this card.
206- Carl Yastrzemski. Dupe. And this is what I thought the whole box would be like.

Pack 6-
79- Starlin Castro. Dupe.
86- Sean Manaea. Dupe
146- Kyle Hendricks. Dupe.
131- Adalberto Mondesi. Dupe.
113- Max Kepler. Dupe.
204- Jeff McNeil. Dupe
240- Christin Stewart. Dupe.
237- Fergie Jenkins. Dupe. Well, this pack sucked.

Pack 7-
69- Yadier Molina. Dupe
14- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Dupe.
134- Brandon Belt. Dupe.
129- Joey Gallo. Dupe.
110- Jon DUPE-lantier.
309- Freddie Freeman ASG...AND EVEN THE SHORT PRINT IS A DUPE. Jeez. Dammit, Topps.
261- Chris Davis. Dupe.
228- Trevor Story. Dupe.

So...this was really a tale of two boxes. The first half was wonderful, giving me several cards I needed for the set, and giving me an AWESOME autograph of a broadcaster. The second half was almost entirely cards I already had. So...I guess this was worth it, even if the second half happened? I might actually work on a wantlist for this, as I have enough to start really chasing the rest. Hopefully future Archives endeavors won't have as many dupes.

2019 Orioles: I Was Expecting Worse

After a season where the Orioles lost 115 games, and their top player based on WAR was a guy who left in July, with 2.9...really anything else could be seen as an improvement.

This Orioles team, thankfully, is a little better than last year's. Not by much, as they still lost 100 games, but...even for a last-place team, you can still see a bit more humanity and nuance than in the sprawling mess of unruly talents of 2018. A lot more worked, including another strong year from Jonathan Villar, who's becoming the main winner of the deal that sent Jonathan Schoop to Milwaukee.

Still, the best player on the team this year is John Means, a rookie pitcher who's managed to keep his numbers kind of solid despite an even W/L ratio, be honest, I'm surprised more people aren't talking about him for Rookie of the Year. I mean, granted, it's probably going to someone like Oscar Mercado or Brandon Lowe, but...Means became the ace of his team within a year, made an All-Star team, and led his team in WAR. That's...pretty impressive. I hope he makes a career out of it.

Plus, you have other rookies who came up out of the woodwork and did decent jobs for the team this year, like Anthony Santander and Austin Hays, who were solid promotions after the starters crapped out. And then you have guys like Hanser Alberto, Renato Nunez and Rio Ruiz who didn't work on other rosters, but are doing admirably enough in Baltimore. I do think the team wishes they didn't have to start people like DJ Stewart, Stevie Wilkerson and Chris Davis, in lieu of more competent choices, but...this is last-place baseball.

Will the team be any better in 2020? Uh...I don't know. Because even the people that worked this year could regress again. This could be a 'lightning in the bottle' kind of bad team, but...if Villar, Trey Mancini and Means keep it up, there's a chance for SOME improvement. I can't say how much, because the Jays, Rays and Yankees look to be on the upswing, but...hopefully enough to put the team that won the World Series a year ago in last next year.

Coming Tomorrow- Still one of my favorite players, no matter how disappointing his numbers have been.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Mountain Time to Go Home

Last year, I unceremoniously predicted that the Colorado Rockies would finish the season in first for the first time in their 25-year existence.

That didn't happen.

And in 2019, the exact opposite happened. For the first time since 2015, the Rockies are gonna finish the season in last place. They've come...pretty much 360 from that 2015 team, losing pieces like Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, DJ LeMahieu, Corey Dickerson and Adam Ottavino. And as 2015 was a rebuilding year...2019 kinda was too.

A lot of this year was plugging veterans into spots and waiting for rookies to come up. Daniel Murphy, Ian Desmond, Chi Chi Gonzalez and Yonder Alonso were fine in repertory positions, but the real fun was starting to show towards the end, as Tim Melville, Sam Hilliard and Dom Nunez came up. The former two seem to have a place in next year's team; the latter better hope for stronger 2020 numbers.

And the lack of anchors like LeMahieu and Gonzalez led to a lot of former bench players taking center stage. Some, like Tony Wolters, did well with this promotion. Some, like Raimel Tapia...did very okay. And some, like Antonio Senzatela, who found himself the only competent arm after Jon Gray and German Marquez got injured, did poorly.

There's still hope in the core- Trevor Story, Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon and Ryan McMahon are all strong players, and if they stay together with a better team, they could give the Rox something good in a bit. But...even if they are wrapped up for a while, the rest of the team will need to shape up in order to truly deserve keeping them here.

Coming Tomorrow- One last Baltimore Oriole for the road.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Kyle Lewis Saves Seattle

A pattern with a lot of the worse-off teams is that you'll see one big rookie divert attention from the hardships for about a week or so, before the team continues their plight into irrelevance. The Reds has Aristedes Aquino for this. The Pirates have legitimate ROY candidate Bryan Reynolds. The Marlins had Jordan Yamamoto in July.

And the Mariners had an insane first week from Kyle Lewis. So, not bad.

Lewis homered in his first three games in Seattle, eventually reaching 6 with 12 RBIs in 14 games. For a team that's been failing to get any momentum all year, this is definitely a good sign. This is also a good sign because the other Mariners in charge of home runs are all dormant- Jay Bruce and Edwin Encarnacion are gone, Mitch Haniger's injured, Tim Beckham's suspended and Dan Vogelbach has slowed down. Lewis is the kind of spark that this lineup has needed for the end of the run.

But for 2020, this lineup needs more of a spark than just Kyle Lewis. This team nearly got no-hit by Zack Greinke last night, which, for the record, is the second time this season the Astros have come close to no-hitting the Mariners. Unlike the last time with Gerrit Cole, there wasn't some strategically close left field wall to help the M's, and Austin Nola had to do the work himself to get a single off of Cole. But it was still a one-hit shutout, and that only looks marginally better.

No, for next season, the Mariners need to develop a team that doesn't feel flukey, and can succeed past April. Because, as evident by the big hitters dissolving after May, and the great pitchers slumping halfway through, that wasn't the plan this year. Next year, the team will be without Felix Hernandez, which judging from his current numbers may seem like a weight being lifted, as well as Wade LeBlanc. They're probably gonna structure this team around the youth movement beginning to rise up, especially with Lewis, and they may emphasize the roles of JP Crawford and Austin Nola.

But...will even THAT work? Because the M's have had horrible luck recently, and I'd hate to see it continue.

Coming Tonight: A speedy, young outfielder for a team that definitely underwhelmed this year.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Our Heroes Are Getting More Human

This observation may seem very on-the-nose to a lot of people, I go anyway.

2019 has marked a turning point in many landmark careers. I think of people like Joey Votto, Buster Posey, Robinson Cano, Matt Kemp...hell, even Corey Kluber with this. All people who've had legendary seasons, who've gotten accolades and have been seen as team heroes.

All of them in 2019, for the first time in many of their careers, seemed tangibly human. In a way they hadn't really been seen before.

I think the outlier in this is Matt Kemp, because he's probably done, and I don't know if any teams are gonna take a chance on him in 2020 (so much for his inclusion in the Topps 2020 insert set from 10 years ago). And also, you can say Kluber is an outlier because he's injured, but even before the injury he was giving some of his most human numbers, with a 5.80 ERA in 7 starts, which is a far cry from his previous career low of 5.12 in 12 games in 2012.

Kluber's the only one of these guys where you can feasibly think 'yeah, well maybe he'll be back next year and get back to high-caliber stuff.

Cano and Posey might, in fact, be resting on mythology. Cano definitely. Posey could be back with a killer season in 2020, but...I'm losing hope. He's been very, very okay in the last two years, and I don't know how many MVP-caliber seasons he has left. a little different. Votto may be done with his overwhelmingly powerful years, as he's 36 years old. His .269 average is his lowest in a season of 130 or more games, as are his 47 RBIs. His 1.9 WAR is also his lowest since his injury-shortened year in 2014. This is a very human year for Votto, and it's a very age-35 year for him as well.

But...even if this is human for him, it's not a bad year. He still had 15 home runs, 137 hits, solid, if minimized, batting and fielding figures. He's not weighing down the team, and he's not exactly at Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols or Felix Hernandez of non-presence, but this is definitely a step back from his usual dominance.

I don't know if this is the new normal for Votto. I certainly hope not, as hopefully the offseason will rejuvenate him, and he'll come back in full force for a powerful 2020 season. He's already a Reds Hall of Famer, and possibly a Baseball Hall of Famer as well, but...I don't think he's done being a league talent. Not yet.

Coming Tomorrow- Sometimes, you just need a jolt of power. Even if it's way late in the season, you've blown it, and you've got nothing left. This rookie was that jolt for the Mariners.

Ian Kennedy the Closer: How Did This Work?

Right, so...unless your name is John Smoltz or Dennis Eckersley, being a successful starter that's tapped to become a closer due to lack of options usually isn't a great point in your career. Look at Bud Norris, who, after being a semi-successful starter for Houston and Baltimore, got relief work around the leagues before being used in the ninth by the semi-competitive Cardinals last year.

...Bud Norris is not in the MLB right now. So it's not exactly a move that screams 'career longevity'.

So now we turn to Ian Kennedy. Kennedy won 21 games for the Diamondbacks in 2011, struck out 207 for the Padres in 2014, and was a crucial member of the Royals' post-championship teams. As a starter, he's been modest, but capable of big games. After a pair of disappointing seasons, the Royals realized that...with such electrifying starting options as Glenn Sparkman and Eric Skoglund in the mix, that there was no reason to keep Kennedy in the rotation. So, to the bullpen he went.

And after the team's initial choices for closer, Brad Boxberger and Wily Peralta, proved to be incapable, Kennedy got the job. Initially, I was puzzled by this, because I was unsure if Kennedy had anything left, or if this would be another harebrained move for them, but...I'll admit I was wrong.

Kennedy has 30 saves in 2018, the most by a Kansas City closer since Greg Holland's 32 in 2015. The funny thing about this 30 saves stat is that only 3 AL closers (Aroldis Chapman, Roberto Osuna and Brad Hand), have more than him. Even 2019 heroes like Taylor Rogers and Liam Hendriks have less, which is impressive for Kennedy, who's working with a 3.23 ERA and 71 strikeouts. For a first-time closer, this is not bad at all.

It's a good thing the Royals and Kennedy are making this work, because there's one year left on Kennedy's contract,'s better that he's doing something rather than stinking it up somewhere. Plus, the Royals aren't gonna have a lot of grade-A roster options for 2020, as Alex Gordon might decline his 2020 mutual option (or...not. I don't know), and the rest of the team has some very messy, inexperienced youth options filling major holes. I don't know if Kennedy's season in 2020 will be good, even for Kansas City, but I hope he can take this really nice year and build on it.

Coming Tonight: A future Hall of Famer, playing for a consistently fun non-competitive team.