Friday, July 31, 2020

Polar Bear Repeat?

So. The 2020 Mets, aka one of the few NL East teams that can play. Uh...they're alright.

It's weird. There were aspects I knew wouldn't work, like Rick Porcello and Edwin Diaz, and there were aspects that surprised me, like Michael Wacha and Yoenis Cespedes, but this is pretty much the Mets team I thought we'd  be getting this year. They're getting by, which helps.

The big thing with this Mets team that we all saw coming in like March is Pete Alonso's more human numbers. Last  time I saw my Mets fan cousin, which was like in May, I asked him how many homers he thought Pete would have hit by then  if the season were normal, and he answered 'like 10?'. And yeah, so far Polar Bear Pete only has one home run and a mild average. I don't think this means that  2019 was a fluke, I just think it means that 2019 was a normal season and this is a weird one, and Pete's numbers will probably a bit closer to that in 2021 if the earth has its head on straight next year.

It definitely helps that the usual core of this Mets team, including DeGrom, McNeil, Cano, Matz and Ramos, are all doing well. And the new guys they're bringing  up aren't bad either. Andres Gimenez is getting more starts at third, and while it's weird to me that a guy who's 3 years younger than me is the starting 3rd baseman for the Mets, he's not bad at it. Equally young is David Peterson, who's 2 months older than me and has a name very close to a Mets fan I knew at college. Peterson had a killer debut as a starter, and somehow has more wins than Jacob DeGrom, who seems to be trying  his usual 'no, you guys don't need to give me run support or bullpen  support, I'll just win another Cy Young all by my lonesome again' schtick.

The Mets are still technically in third, but it's early and we have to assume the Marlins would have lost 3 more games by now. I definitely think they're an NL contender, though the Braves might have more of  an edge on the division.

Coming Tomorrow- Okay, so despite his team having a Cy Young candidate after a week of play, he's still one of the offensive standouts.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Glasnow Hear This

So, phase 3 of the new, cool, strange-as-hell Rays is underway, and...yeah, so far the first two were a little better.

A lot of the zaniness of previous  years has been toned down. Former long-man Ryan Yarbrough is now just a plain  old starter, no openers have been used yet, Oliver Drake is closing games in lieu of Diego Castillo, Jose Alvarado and Colin Poche, Charlie Morton's given up 8 earned runs over 2 starts, and we're only using one Lowe. Where's the fun in that?

So far, some of the new additions, like Jose Martinez, Yoshi Tsutsugo and Hunter Renfroe, are doing alright, and Brandon Lowe, Willy Adames and Kevin Kiermaier are continuing their usual routines. It's still a concise lineup, and I still think they should have kept Pham, but Renfroe isn't too much  of a downgrade. Meanwhile, Snell, Glasnow and Chirinos are stellar, the bullpen is as strong as ever [why did the Marlins give up Nick Anderson again?], and even Morton's losses still garner strikeouts.

Despite some recent losses, this is still a sharp team, and there's still a lot of depth to it, with people like Joey Wendle and Jose Alvarado doing solid auxiliary work. It's early, and the Yankees are still strong, but I expect the Rays to be among the AL's 8 playoff teams. Despite not being entirely to the caliber of the last two teams, they've still got enough of a spark to keep me watching.

Coming Tomorrow- Last year's home run champ. He's only got 1 so far.

The Other Kole That Switched Teams

I mean, this doesn't look as strange because he's still in red, but Kole Calhoun in Phoenix is still slightly odd.

Kole Calhoun is not playing the best out of the new Diamondbacks [that would be Starling Marte], but he does have the team's sole home run to date. Think about that. Marte, Ketel Marte, Jake Lamb, David Peralta, Christian Walker and Stephen Vogt are on this team, and none of them have hit any home runs, but Kole Calhoun has. And also, that homer is his only RBI.

I also find it funny that Calhoun played his first few years with C.J. Cron, and now he's playing with C.J's brother Kevin, who's fit into a similar role in this team. That's kinda cool. CJ's currently kicking ass in Detroit while Kevin has yet to have a hit.

The D-Backs, as effete as they've been in terms of power, aren't a bad team this year, and while it's unfortunate that Madison Bumgarner has yet to garner any run support, he's still not pitching  too badly, and is still striking people out. Through  a week, Merrill Kelly is probably the best starter, followed closely  by Zac Gallen, and the bullpen is looking pretty sharp. But it's gonna take some full lineup developments for this team to make an impact on the NL West this year, especially with the Dodgers, Rockies and Padres doing well.

Coming Tonight: One of the many people in Tampa absolutely kicking ass right now.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Down All the A's

[You run out of music puns you haven't done before and your music puns start getting into b-side territory]

Okay, so, Oakland in 2020. NFL Season or no, the Raiders are gone. All the other bay area teams have more allegiance to San Jose or San Francisco. The A's are really the last bastion of relevance in Oakland...and yet any and all attempts to relocate to a nicer, newer stadium by the waterfront have been blocked due to the same bullshit finance nonsense that nearly displaced the Raiders last year. And yet while the Oakland Coliseum has been  host to all kinds of NL teams that don't get here often, it's also been totaling its worst attendance numbers in the team's history.

Whatever, this whole season's a Catch-22, might as well add it to the pile.

The A's in 2020 so far have been...alright. Their lineup has been strong enough in their initial games, with Robbie Grossman, Ramon Laureano, Chapman and Olson and Mark Canha all hitting well. The rotation has yet to garner any wins, and today Frankie Montas had another inefficient decision. That would indicate that the bullpen is doing  better, and Burch Smith, Joakim Soria, Jake Diekman and Yusmeiro Petit are all in top form, but Liam Hendriks has already blown a save, and Lou Trivino is inconsistent already.

Despite the usual 'the A's take a while to figure it out' feeling hovering over this team, you get the feeling that even if this team isn't BAD, it's not as polished or cohesive as the past two, even with a lot of the same players. Yes, Fiers took a few starts to find  his control last year two, but is his initial, 9.00 ERA start a good sign?

I like being proved wrong on here, it happens a lot, so I'd love this A's team to surprise me, but so far I'm not getting  the best vibe.

Coming Tomorrow- Former Angels outfielder, current supplier of Phoenix' SOLE HOME RUN.

Right and Wrong in Pittsburgh

The Pirates 2020 debut was preceded by questions and predictions from fans of how the new form of this roster, without Starling Marte and Chris Archer, would do in 2020. Pirates fans are interestingly optimistic, and find the little things to keep them excited. Let's see how many of them have paid off so far this year.

1. Jarrod Dyson and Guillermo Heredia will save the Pittsburgh outfield: WRONG. Neither is hitting right now, even if  Heredia was hired for his clutch abilities. Cole Tucker has  been making starts in  the outfield, and while he's hitting, it's a concerning choice for the career infielder.

2. The kids [Reynolds and Newman] will inherit this team. WRONG. I know, we're four games in and things can eventually even out, but they haven't gotten off to very nice starts.

3. Former Mets  prospect Philip Evans will be  a surprisingly good addition. RIGHT. This shocked me. Evans is hitting .400 in 4 games, and has the best average of Pirates starters, including Josh Bell and Colin Moran. It may be a 'Ryan Flaherty in Atlanta' sort of thing where he sort of mellows out as we go on, but this is a very interesting debut.

4. Joe Musgrove will fit right in as the staff ace. RIGHT...ish. He's yet to win a game, and his first start wasn't perfect, but his strikeout numbers and mound presence are befitting of an ace, and he should be fine going forward.

5. Mitch Keller's 2019 woes were flukey, and he'll jump right into  success this  year. RIGHT. I wasn't believing  this one at all, but  he went 5 strong innings while only allowing 1 run. This guy might be for real after all.

6. Keone Kela is a smart choice after all at closer. TOO SOON TO SAY. Right now he's on the DL and Nick Burdi's closing games, and he's doing pretty well. So maybe they won't NEED Keone Kela.

The team's a long way from dominating the division, but at least the pitching is doing alright.

Coming Tonight- A pitcher who's hoping he, and his rotation's first week woes will subside soon.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Cameron Maybin in Detroit, Part III

Cameron Maybin is one of the most oft-traded player of our current, post-Edwin-Jackson era of baseball. Maybin is one of those players where you could feasibly make a lineup of players he was traded for, and they would include such luminaries as Miguel Cabrera, Craig Kimbrel, B.J Upton, Dontrelle Willis and Edward Mujica. Maybin has also been  included in deals with Andrew Miller, Carlos Quentin and Matt Wisler.

The cool part for me is that Maybin was traded for Miguel Cabrera and has now returned to the Tigers twice to play alongside him. I do find it funny that now all three of Maybin's seasons in Detroit have been shortened in some way- his 2007 season due to a rookie call-up, his 2016 season due to an injury lopping off his first few months, and this season due to, well, the virus shortening the season. And yet you can still say that Cameron Maybin seems to enjoy playing for the Tigers. Heck, Maybin's best numbers, especially in terms of average, came during his 2016 run in Detroit.

So having him here as a veteran, along with Cabrera, as the team rebuilds is pretty smart. You're gonna see Maybin get less starting time and Victor Reyes and Travis Demeritte get more as we go. Maybin, like Curtis Granderson in Miami last year, is a great guy to inspire the youth and get them working. I don't know if it'll work for Christin Stewart, who's still listless, but JaCoby Jones is off to a really nice start, as is Castro.

Granted, the only starter that's really stood out so far is Spencer Trumbull, but the fact that  the younger arms are showing up helps- Rony Garcia did what he could today, but the Royals got the better of him. The bullpen also seems a bit more refined than usual for the Tigers, so...things have improved from the Tigers' Tork-qualifying last place finish.

I don't think we'll be seeing Riley Greene or Casey Mize this season, but I also don't think the Tigers will be terrible this year either.

Coming Tomorrow- In  Chris Archer's absence, a fireballer ascends in Pittsburgh.

Refresher for Washington

4 games into the season and the Nationals have the worst record in the NL East. There goes all that 'best team since May 2019' pomp.

The most frightening stat here is  that the impenetrable rotation of Scherzer-Strasburg-Corbin-Sanchez-Fedde has yet to earn any wins. The sole win went to Tanner Rainey. And despite the rotation combining for 29 strikeouts over 4 games, the team's 9-2 victory over the Yankees is now their sole one.

And look, this  team isn't playing BADLY per se- Robles, Turner, Cabrera and Thames are all off to nice starts. But the lack of leadership figures like Anthony Rendon, Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and now Juan Soto, is showing. Who does this team rally around now? Victor Robles? Adam Eaton? It's too hazy to say.

And after dropping another game to Toronto, who's beginning to rise thanks to both the inconsistency of the Rays and the COVID-induced stagnancy of the Yankees, the Nats are in danger of starting  this season with a losing  streak, which is something you don't want to do when every game counts more than twice as much. Is it an indication that the 2019 run came from luck and momentum? Maybe. But whatever overtook this team last year clearly hasn't gotten here yet, and it might take a while.

Also...kind of funny that the team that's leading the NL East 2-1 is the one where 17 guys  have tested positive for COVID. Just...interesting  to me. A progressively-sickened Marlins team can beat a healthy Phillies team. That's too ironic.

Coming Tonight: Good news is he's finally got a starting OF role again. Bad news is his Yankees mojo seems to have disappeared.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Betts-Less and Defenseless

Well, uh...the good news is that  Kevin Pillar has a starting OF job on an AL East team again, and he's  leading the Red Sox in RBIs and hitting .500.

The bad news, at least for Red Sox fans, is that he's not Mookie Betts.

Betts-Bradley-Benintendi was an ironclad outfield that won a World Series and was the talk of fans and enemies alike. Now that Betts is in  LA, the dynamic has shifted. Benny isn't hitting, and while JACKIE BRADLEY CERTAINLY IS [who had 'Bradley hitting .600' on their '2020 first week' bingo?], there's an incongruence that's clear here.

As alien as the 2019 team felt without moving forward from the WS win, it feels weirder now. The rotation is almost completely dissolved, with Nathan Eovaldi, Martin Perez, and a strange cast of unknowns making up the new starting core. Jose Peraza is starting at 2nd, Jonathan Lucroy is getting reps at DH and catcher...this is a very 'work in progress' Red Sox squad. And they're not really trying to hide it.

The core of the team [Bogaerts, Benintendi, Martinez] is still there and performing, and they're all pretty much locked up, but...could trades happen soon? Could this be the first step of dismantling and breaking apart the once-trusted Boston core? As good as players like Pillar and Peraza are right now, their successes only mean that if the jersey heroes were to go, there would still be worthy people in the lineup. the success of Pillar and Peraza a bad thing?

Or will they just be trade bait anyway for competitors? The Sox may be out of the conversation in 2020, but what is their long game?

Coming Tomorrow- Catcher for the World Champions. They just dropped 2 to the Yankees and 1 to Toronto. And it gets worse.

Neutral Elevation Judgment

After 3 games in somebody else's stadium [Globe Life], the Rockies seem to indicate improvement. Which helps.

I think the biggest indicator is the pitching. Kyle Freeland, German Marquez and Jon Gray all had low ERAs and a few strikeouts this series, with only Marquez ending up with a loss. Wade Davis, much maligned in 2019, already has 2 saves. Daniel Bard, who hasn't played since Todd Helton was still with the team, pitched steadily in relief and got a win for himself.

Is it likely  that the pitching's doing so well because the Rox are away from Coors Field? Or has there actually been an improvement in these guys. A lot of people who struggled last year, including Davis and Freeland, seem to be off to pretty nice starts. It's either an indicator or an omen.

The lineup isn't bad either. Trevor Story was easily  the standout of the first series with 2 home runs, Daniel Murphy and David Dahl are off to impressive starts, and...well, Nolan Arenado is Nolan Arenado. True, Blackmon and Wolters aren't really hitting yet, but...again, Coors Field will help.

This being said, should I be worried that when we see this team in a neutralized stadium, the pitching arguably does more than the hitting? Should German Marquez be worried about starting the home opener on Friday?

All this anxiety aside, I'm glad the Rockies seem to be  doing better than they did in 2019, and I'm glad it's them and the Padres who are doing the best in the NL West [aside from the Dodgers].

Coming Tonight: One of the outfielders given the daunting task of replacing Mookie Betts in Boston.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Machete Catches Again (In Space)

Martin Maldonado has spent the past two postseason runs as an auxiliary catcher in Houston, so it was only natural for them to give him a starting job here for once. But it kind of makes sense, as this is the part of July where he ends up being traded here anyway.

Machete is facing some differences with this specific Astros squad. First of all, Dusty Baker is manager, and he seems to be off to an  alright start with the club. Secondly, Justin Verlander just hit  the DL and will probably be  out for the remainder of the season. And lastly, every single club in the majors hates them for cheating, something done a year before Machete joined the club in the first place.

Good news is the Astros are up 2-1 after a productive series against the Mariners. They still have an ace to spare with Zack Greinke, who was...human but alright today against the M's. Machete himself already has 5 hits in 3  games, including 6 RBIs, so he's an improvement. Brantley, Correa and Gurriel seem to be off to the best starts, and they're relying more on hits than  on straight homers. And Abraham Toro and Kyle Tucker's bench work has confirmed that this team still has depth.

Now, the real test is gonna be  rotation depth, because aside from Greinke and McCullers, the Astros may not have many solid arms left to really provide a front [thanks Wade and Gerrit, for leaving]. A great lineup can only get you so far [see: Phillies, Philadelphia], and a great farm system can  only produce so many accurate starting pitchers. You can hope someone like Josh James or Framber Valdez will be able to willfully start games, but...with  the Dodgers heading to town  soon, with their expansive, impressive rotation, will it be enough?

Coming Tomorrow- Speaking of catchers, a reliable-hitting backstop for a less-than-reliable NL West team.

A Whole Lot of Shouting Going On

So, I don't think the Cubs like Corbin Burnes all that much.

I was watching the Cubs-Brewers game for a bit yesterday, and  when Burnes hit Javier Baez with a pitch, I could just sense resentment and scorn coming from Baez. This was before Burnes found the strike zone for a bit. From that point on, you could just hear shouting Cubs in the distance throughout the game, and it only increased once Yelich and Smoak hit home runs. Like, they even took out the fan noise, and you can hear people, I think Baez was one of 'em, just SHOUTING CRAP once the ball left the field.

So...I guess you can say Cubs-Brewers will be  one of the big rivalries this year? I reckon they do play each other again.

It's not unfounded, too- both of these teams are fighting for playoff spots. Granted, neither one seems to be after the top divisional spot, as the Cardinals [sigh] seem to be in possession of that. But the fight for second place seems to be between these two [and also the Reds]. And the Cubs still seem to have a leg up, because they have Kyle Hendricks and his lethal work, and the core of their lineup is already off to a nice start, especially  Kyle Schwarber and Nico Hoerner.

[Nico Hoerner is younger than me and getting reps. I'm 24.]

But still, you have to factor in that Yu Darvish got beat up yesterday, Heyward and Bryant haven't hit yet, and Grandpa Rossy's managerial style may not have completely sunk in yet. A lot of factors are still in the air, and Javier Baez has yet to really fly into high gear yet.

I'd love to see an impressive Cubs squad this year, and I'd love to see this storyline recur later in the season, but with slightly less intensity.

Coming Tonight: Catcher for one of the 2-0 teams, and...this is one of the more obvious ones.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

The Luis Robert Moment is Now

If this were a normal season, would Luis Robert had started the year on the active roster?

Yes. And he'd be starting  as strong as he is now if this were April. Time does not wait for Luis Robert. Luis Robert moves inevitably.

I kind of love that the White Sox farm system has organized itself so that we get a new, powerful rookie every year or so, both in the rotation and in the lineup. Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease, and now Robert, and eventually Nick Madrigal, have progressed through this model, and the White Sox are beginning to turn up.

Today, most of the White Sox lineup came alive, including not only homegrown young guys like Leury Garcia and Eloy Jimenez, but pickups like Edwin Encarnacion and James McCann. Dallas Keuchel only had one strikeout, as he's become less of a strikeout artist since 2018, but he still held down the Twins for the win. Barring a Nelson Cruz homer, not much got to the Sox today, which is a nice change of pace.

I do like this new, replenished version of the White Sox that seems to be existing in 2020. It's troubling that Yasmani Grandal and Jose Abreu have been quiet so far, and that Giolito was imperfect yesterday, but this is a nice start for this team. If Robert keeps it up, his obvious ROY could happen. If the Sox keep it up, they could [also obviously] wind up in the Top 8 in the AL.

Coming Tomorrow- When he's not shouting things at Corbin Burnes, he's looking like his usual self in the Wrigley infield.

Losing to the Marlins for Dummies

It's hard to be a Phillies fan sometimes. And by sometimes, I mean 'most times'.

It continues to amaze me how far my team can fall while simultaneously being stacked with talent on multiple facets. And last night...this guy got the best of them. Sandy Alcantara, the 1x-All-Star, former Cardinals farmhand, loser of a NL-high 14 games last year.

I'm not...SHOCKED. Sandy Alcantara is a strikeout artist, and the Phillies like to strike out. He and Nola are both good pitchers, and Alcantara's team decided to score more runs. Heck, Jesus Aguilar hit the first Marlins home run of 2020, which is definitely a good sign for a team now packed with power hitters like Jonathan Villar and Corey Dickerson. So...the Marlins, who sportswriters still think will end up last in the  NL East, can still beat the Phillies and retain their dignity at least for another few games. I'm not  even  that pissed.

Look, the Marlins were super fun  last year. Pathetic, but fun. A lot of those same qualities come through this year. There's a sort of piecemeal, 'anyone can be a hero' quality to this team- Garrett Cooper, Corey Dickerson, Jonathan Villar and Jesus Aguilar all had big moments, Francisco Cervelli did well starting at catcher in place of Jorge Alfaro, Alcantara had 7 Ks, and Brandon Kintzler, who's hopped around the last few years since his ASG gig in Minneapolis, got the save.

Now, will it last? I'm not sure. The team is well-centered around Miguel Rojas and Brian Anderson, the lineup seems pretty strong, the rotation is just...all young arms, and...they can beat the Phillies. So something might be brewing in Miami. It is early, but...the first game for them doesn't usually go this well.

Coming Tonight: Yeah...should probably say something about that White Sox rookie...

Friday, July 24, 2020

A Victory's A Victory, Even If It's Called After 5.1 Innings

It's always nice to win the first  game of the year. It's even nicer beating the defending MLB Champs, the Washington Nationals.

Because of the fact that the rain cut this off in the middle of the sixth inning, there wasn't much we could really go by in terms of what this Yankees team is going to do this year, but  there were some good signs. Giancarlo Stanton hit a bomb off of Max Scherzer for the first homer of the season, Gerrit Cole went 5 innings strong while only allowing 1 hit [albeit a home run to Adam Eaton], Tyler Wade had a thrilling catch in the infield taking over for DJ LeMahieu as well as some steady at-bats, Gio Urshela got a nice hit in there, Aaron Judge hit to the same part of the outfield in two at-bats and collected his first two hits of the year, and the Nats looked embarrassed.

Are there still problems at this early stage? Well, Gary Sanchez struck out thrice. Even  if the pitcher is Max Scherzer, you've gotta be careful of that. Gerrit Cole's Yankee debut was spirited and stoic, but he only had 5 strikeouts compared to Scherzer's 11. Considering how K-heavy Cole was last year, it's definitely a very subtle start, but...again, it's early. You also just have  so many players like Sanchez, Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner, Glebyer Torres and Luke Voit who couldn't accomplish anything last night against Scherzer, leaving a lot of the work to Judge and Stanton.

This is not a perfect showing for a first game...but it is Game 1 of 60 in a shortened season, and a 5.1-inning win due to rain. This won't be a  perfect season. Why should I expect a  perfect  Yankee team?

Regardless, I'm excited for the next phase, and I'm interested to see what this intro turns into.

Coming Tomorrow- The pitcher that just silenced my Phillies.

Wait Until Shark

You know, for a guy with a career losing record, Jeff Samardzija is pretty tricky at the plate.

The guy's got nearly 1500 strikeouts by 35, he's coming  off his best season since 2014, and he's looking to lead the San Francisco rotation with Johnny Cueto. And damn...he seems to be in a good place career-wise. You know, I don't think I would have called Shark to have a veteran presence in 2020. He was seeming pretty damn fluke-y in 2012, and I was worried he'd just kick around as a reliever into his 30s, but...people trust Shark. People realize he still has velocity and use him to the  best of his ability.

I'm interested to see how Gabe Kapler uses him. I mean, I don't know if Kapler is too used to managing people who can actually pitch [aside from Aaron Nola], but Samardzija arguably fits more into the sabermetric-centric ball that Kapler wanted to run Philly with. Shark doesn't always win games, but he strikes people out and gets people to swing, and he's the kind  of crafty type that Kapler would really like. Dereck Rodriguez is just gonna be  his pet project, like Velazquez was, and that's not gonna go well, but with Shark and Cueto, he'll be fine.

The team itself...I'm not sure. No Posey, no Belt, no Longoria. Guys like Pablo Sandoval and Wilmer Flores are gonna  be starting. You also have Giants fans yelling because Joey Bart didn't get called up to start at catcher [they're going with Tyler Heineman]. While this isn't the dumbest thing Giants fans are yelling at this week [that would be them yelling at players kneeling for the anthem], it still sheds light on the unrest that Giants fans  have after the dynasty mellowed. They got their rings, and when they ran out, the anger began.

I don't know how much the Giants are going to accomplish this year, even with Kapler. I feel like they'll get close to .500, but...I don't even know if they'll be top-16 worthy. But...maybe?

Coming Tonight: Yeah, let's talk about my team, how they did in the opener, and why they're probably still gonna mow everybody over this year.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Toddfather of All...

Todd Frazier is one of those guys you can't help but root for. I'm from New Jersey, and my relatives are from around Toms River, where Frazier made a name for himself as a Little League World Series winner. I loved him in Cincinnati, in Chicago, in...yeah, in New York, and now he's wound up in a very interesting Texas Rangers team.

The rotation, of Kluber-Lynn-Minor-Gibson-Lyles...holy crap I wanna see how that gets through 12 cycles. Even if, god forbid, one of them disappoints, the stuff from the other 4 would still be insane. That might be the single best rotation in the AL West [A's come close], and I'm just really excited to see that in action.

Frazier fits into a slightly-less ironclad lineup, but having Joey Gallo, Elvis Andrus, Shin-Soo Choo, Rougned Odor and Danny Santana together and consistent will certainly help. I do worry that after Frazier's less-showy seasons with the Mets, his days of hitting 30 home runs and chasing power might be ending soon, but having him in there with a younger squad certainly helps.

It is gonna be interesting to see how the AL West goes with 4 of the teams trying to complete with bulkier lineups. I kinda wan the Rangers to speed ahead, but I know how tricky the other 3 can be.

Coming Tomorrow- Veteran SF pitcher back to his old tricks.

Better Off Fred

Freddy Galvis is probably one of the best MLB players to completely avoid being a household name.

He wasn't one with the Phils taking over for Jimmy Rollins, he wasn't one with the Padres or Jays, and he probably won't be one with the Reds, despite playing in an infield that features Joey Votto, Mike Moustakas and Eugenio Suarez, all three household names, at least in the midwest.

And even stranger, looking at the Reds' 2020 lineup, with Castellanos, Akiyama and Winker in the outfield, and Tucker Barnhart catching...Galvis is one of the more pedestrian names on there. He's still probably gonna start 52 games at 2nd and do a bang-up job, maybe  hit .300, but he's not gonna be one of the main takeaway. And yet the fact that he's still expected to succeed and do well and not really  be a main factor in the Reds' season...says a lot about  where the Reds are going this year.

I mean...the rotation is Gray-Bauer-Castillo-Desclafani-Miley. That is pretty damn sharp. The bullpen is even stronger than last year, the bench is thicker than any team's, the lineup looks strong and unified, Suarez is coming off his biggest hitting year....this team might be looking at big things.

But then, there's the NL Central competition. The Cardinals might have the best chance to take the division, as they're tricky as hell. You also have to factor in the Cubs  and Brewers, who are sliding a bit from last year, and the Pirates, who can still win games in between their usual tanking. But the Reds have  more upward momentum than they've had in a decade, they look to be even more feel good than they did last year, and they lack a lot of the instability and questions that have plagued then in years past.

This could be  their year. And I'm excited to see how it rolls out, even if it is only 60 games.

Coming Tonight: After 3 years of playing in New York, this Jersey native heads to Arlington, who also have a stronger team than they've had in years.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Jorge Soler vs. 2020

From this photo, I'm sure Jorge Soler knows it. 2020 is going to be nowhere as productive as his 2019.

The fact that Jorge Soler had a powerful 2019 to begin with is a marvel in itself- I figured Soler was one DFA away from obscurity after going from starter to bench player on the 2016 Cubs. But last year Soler played in every game, led the league in  home runs with 48, notched his first 100+ RBI season, and...subsequently led the leagues in strikeouts with 178. But hell, considering the 2017 Rookie of the Year ended his season with 208 strikeouts, I think that's a minor strike. Soler hit more homers last year than Trout, Arenado, Harper, Cruz, Khris Davis...all the big guns that usually lead that category. And even if he never reaches that mark again, that's something to be proud of.

Of course, BECAUSE the Royals are banking on him to hit home runs every game and do what he did last season, Soler is going to have diminishing returns. It's inevitable. The eyes of the team will be on  him, more than they'll be on the  returning Salvador Perez, the team MVP Whit Merrifield, or eventual rookie standout Brady Singer. And of course he's going to let some people down, because he's only proven to be a mega-hitter for one year out of his 7-year career, and...he plays for the Royals.

What will help Soler is if he focuses on having a higher average than .265, hitting more for average than  for power, and rounding  himself out so he doesn't Chris-Carter himself out of the leagues in a year or so.

Meanwhile, the Royals look slightly better than last year, and Mike Matheny's managerial prowess will help, but this is still a dire AL Central roster, and they need maybe 2 more years until they  can really take a run at things, I think.

Coming Tomorrow- He's been with 3 teams now since leaving Philadelphia, and he seems to be doing  alright for himself.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

What Does Marcell Ozuna Have Left Up His Sleeve?

Marcell Ozuna is a two-time All-Star. I forget about that, especially after his 'simply alright' Cardinals days, but he's started two ASG teams while a member of the Marlins. Yet, since then, he's yet to top 100 RBIs, 30 home runs or .300. Does that mean his 2017 season was a fluke, or was St. Louis not a great fit for him?

That's what the Braves aim to find out by plugging him into the outfield next to Ronald Acuna and Ender Inciarte. The Braves team we're getting this year honestly doesn't seem too different than the 2019 version. Donaldson's gone, Markakis is out, and Travis d'Arnaud is the new everyday catcher [let us pray for his prolonged health], but the core of this team is the same, and we're still building everything behind Freeman, Acuna and now Ozuna.

However, as stacked as the NL East seems to be this year, is it an alright assumption to say that the Braves are still looking like the best team here? The Nats now have an older core, the Mets are still rebuilding, the Phillies are one or two starters away, and the The Braves may be the easy leaders here, and you have to hope  that guys like Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb can stay afloat this year, and that Cole Hamels can eventually find his way back to the rotation. This might be the most airtight lineup in  the division, and they could once again go into the playoffs if they get lucky.

It's also a matter of Marcell Ozuna, and whether or not he can have another consistently solid season, despite only having 60 games to prove himself. I'm still rooting for him, and it is the kind of lineup that needs a power hitter [rather than St. Louis, where he was a little drowned out], so he could be back to his old tricks, but I remember how off-kilter he felt in 2015, and how his slumps can show up. I really hope he can return to form this year.

Coming Tomorrow- The guy  that, against all odds, led the league in home runs last year.

Monday, July 20, 2020

The Youth Movement Deferred?

Another in  the long line of burning questions about the 2020 season.

So, 2020, shortened or no, is the trial run of the new and improved Toronto Blue Jays. The infield is now completely youth-driven, with Brandon Drury taking over for Justin Smoak, and sophomores Guerrero, Bichette and Biggio taking the other positions. This is the first opportunity for us to see this team in full, with a restocked pitching rotation led by Hyun-Jin Ryu.

Because we only have 60 games and an earlier trade deadline, are we just  gonna get round two of this next year?

Other than one-year deal guys, I feel like a majority of this Jays team is gonna be back for 2021, and it's going to be mostly the same team. So because a lot of this team is young and formative, does this season not especially count as the first full picture of this youth-driven team? Are we going to have to wait until September 2021 to have gotten a real picture of how this team operates over the course of a season? 60 games may not be good enough of a picture.

Bo Bichette played 46 games last season, and his rookie numbers were insane, but perhaps they were insane solely because he only had 46 games to cover. It's like Rhys Hoskins in 2017, a great rookie start says a lot, but it doesn't say as much as  an entire season. Guerrero could hit .330 with 20 home runs this year, and it may not be indicative of anything because he doesn't have a June or July to either slump or keep the momentum going.

That being said, the Blue Jays might do sort of well, as they have more working for them than they have in previous years, and might be more of a factor into this shortened season than Baltimore and Boston. But who's to say if this small a sample size will be any indication of how good they are, or really how good any team is.

It's just a lot to consider.

Coming Tomorrow- A new member of the Braves outfield

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Is 2020 Really Going to be that Simple?

I go back to 1981 in thinking about this season. 1981 was a strike-shortened year, the season was separated into half, and the season itself was decided not by cumulative records but by 1st half leaders vs. 2nd half leaders. When we ended with a Yankees-Dodgers World Series, a lot of the probability of a full season of baseball had been taken out of the equation, and you got a 'best teams win' kind  of scenario, which makes for a good World Series, but as it's been made clear, especially recently, a great World Series doesn't need to be made up of the two best teams to be considered a great one.

So here we are in 2020, shortened season, 60 games, and...what's stopping this from turning into another 'best teams make it to the end' kind of deal? More specifically...what if taking out 100 games leaves us with the obvious choice: a Yankees-Dodgers World Series?

I mean, let's be clear- due to the haziness of how the playoffs are going to work, we still could get something really unlikely in there, but is it as simple as Yankees-Dodgers? The Yankees have the best lineup in the AL, and if Jordan Montgomery complies, we could have the best pitching as well. The Dodgers have only enhanced their lineup with Mookie Betts, and even the absence of David Price can't stop the Kershaw-Buehler-Urias-Wood-Stripling-May rotation. Going into this season, these are the two best teams. You can point to like, the Astros, or the Braves or somebody, but they don't have the potential energy that we're working with here.

So then, if it is Yankees-Dodgers, is it, like 1981, because the season is truncated? Will these teams deserve to get here if it does end up being a 'best teams make it to the end' kind of World Series? Or will it lead to people writing this season off as a failure that 'doesn't count'? Similarly, if two teams that are out of the question end up in WS, will this season also get hit with that distinction as well?

Look, I want the Dodgers to do well, and I do think they can accomplish a lot with this team, but is it good for baseball if they do well? It's hard to say. Yes, people will tune into a Dodgers-Yankees series, but the predictability of it may turn smaller-market fans off. It'd be an anticlimax for a season that took so long  to happen in the first place.

Still, I hope for good things from this Dodgers team. Like the Yankees, they've been so close in the last decade, and I wish some good finally comes of them.

Coming Tomorrow- One of the whiz kids from Toronto.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Ohtani, Where Art Thou?

This is an intriguing bit of 2020 that's probably gonna get lost in the shuffle due to ensuing chaos.

Shohei Ohtani will be back to full two-way capacity this year, starting AND DHing, giving Angels fans a taste of both sides of his prowess, but this is also a year after several MLB teams have produced their own two-way players to combat the initial novelty of Ohtani. If George Steinbrenner were still the owner of the Yankees, he would have rushed a single-A pitcher with a few at-bats into the roster in a heartbeat.

The thing is, despite a lot of the 'we've got a guy too' mentality that produced people like Jared Walsh, Brendan McKay, Kaleb Cowart and Anthony Gose, the concept of a raking pitcher goes back to Micah Owings in Arizona being called in to pinch hit, and eventually Michael Lorenzen being kept in games just to face relievers at the plate. Also, because someone will get mad at me if I don't mention him, Babe Ruth. There.

While a lot of these guys, especially McKay, do resemble copycat rivals to Ohtani, their work is still kind of valid, especially considering that in 2020, 'two-way player' was ratified by the MLB as an official positional distinction.

Now, is Ohtani still the best two-way player in the bigs? Heck yes. It'll be great to see him back on the mound again this year, in addition to his usual 20 homers or whatever. But the lack of pitching numbers from Ohtani in 2019 has made it difficult to gauge whether he's as impressive a two-way player as Michael Lorenzen, who had a phenomenal 2019 season both at the plate and on the mound. If any season deserved a Reds-Angels matchup, it would be this one, which is why I'm sad that most schedules have been localized rather than spread out all over the league.

I genuinely think Ohtani will have a strong season, and I also think the pundits are vastly underestimating the Angels, but I am looking more forward to 2021 when we can actually see a full picture of Ohtani's two-way stuff.

Coming Tomorrow- A guy who nearly ended up on the Angels, but stayed on his side of LA and will reap the benefits this year.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

The Nerd Power and the Passion

Fringe players are going to dominate 2020. Just forewarning you all.

Oh, sure, I imagine this is gonna be a great season for your big stars, your Ronald Acunas and Juan Sotos and Mike Trouts, but...I reckon the biggest heroes of the year are gonna be the people you're not expecting  to join  the conversation.

I point to Ben Zobrist in 2016 or Randy Dobnak last year, or...well, Eric Sogard last year. A career utility infielder for Oakland and Milwaukee wound up the best hitter-for-average in Toronto before becoming a stellar replacement for Brandon Lowe in Tampa. How a guy who had his highest WAR in 2013 with 1.4 become a legitimate plate threat says all you need to about the underdog, and about how undervalued, under-the-radar players can  still shock you sometimes.

Sogard is back in Milwaukee looking at a starting 2nd baseman spot, but unlike the 2018 Brewers team, there's not as much playoff chance because of the stacking of teams like the Reds, Cardinals and Cubs. A Brewers team made up of people like Sogard, Eric Lauer, Omar Narvaez and Jedd Gyorko may not have a lot of overpowered talent to match those three, but they do still have Brandon Woodruff, Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain and Josh Hader.

You also have to wonder if Eric Sogard's freak come-up was a one-time thing, or if it genuinely means he's found his bat and will be a trusty utility option for the next few years. Is is some other player we're not thinking about at all's turn? I still think Pierce Johnson, former Japanese League export-turned-killer-reliever has the best chance of surprising people this year, but I could be way off. The thing about breakout guys like that is that you can never really predict which ones are gonna take off, which is kinda cool.

Coming Tomorrow- The two-way player that got this whole madness started 2 years ago.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Sixty Game Sustenance and the Overpowered Twins

[Yes, I'm doing another spring-training-esque thing here where all the pre-season customs are done in the same design, this time 92 Leaf]

So...the 2020 MLB season. this gonna go?

It's very hard to gauge an entire season from just 60 games. People have made this point already, but if the first 60 games of last season were the whole season, the Nationals wouldn't be a playoff team...and the Mariners might have more of a shot.

So what is there to say about a season that only lasts 60 games? Do we give an asterisk to the team that wins the World Series? Do we assume that the exact outcome wouldn't happen given another 102 games? If a team that people don't like wins [Astros, Yankees, Red Sox], do the masses complain that they never would have won had this be a normal season?

Or will the outcome be a lot more practical. The season is no longer a marathon, it's a sprint, and a lot of decisions and moves will be made with this factor in mind. With this being said, it does benefit the teams that are more overpowered and stacked roster-wise, as they can just win from the start without the fear of underdogs losing for 40 games and then spontaneously ending in first. What happened to the Nationals and Cardinals last season has less of a chance to happen in 2020, which is something of a relief.

It also means that a team like the Twins, who have a strong rotation, a strong lineup, and will be capable of hitting tons of home runs even if people like Miguel Sano have to sit out some games, are more favored with the lack of a lengthened season to lose steam. Jose Berrios will still be as deadly as usual, and might even be a  trusted playoff asset, but behind him, Jake Odorizzi, Kenta Maeda and friends, these guys might be able to hit their way into October without exerting themselves too much.

I also think of the overpowered teams like the Yankees, Dodgers, and even the Rangers and Reds, who could just go on absolute tears if they find the right early momentum. Yes, there could still be a bunch of teams just sneaking right into the final picture come Game 60, but more than ever the 2020 season is gonna be  decided by the teams who start hot and can coast for a bit. And I fully expect the Twins to get off to a hot start and not look back, maybe even to a championship.

First hare-brained prediction of the year, coming late.

Coming Tomorrow- A lovable utility player on a team looking to finish over .500

Monday, July 13, 2020

Let's Try This Again

Customs are back. Baseball is hopefully back in a few weeks. Hopefully that means my consistent posting is also back soon.

It's hard to blog when there's nothing to write about. So it helps that I'm getting photos again.