Thursday, July 29, 2021

Haase of Me

 


For a team that isn't going to make the playoffs nor even .500, the Detroit Tigers are...intriguing this year. A lot of singular performers that are impressive, like Casey Mize, Robbie Grossman and Jonathan Schoop, stuck on an otherwise-normal team.

Eric Haase's rise to starter ship in Detroit is the biggest example of this. Before this year, who had really given much of a thought to Eric Haase? He was backing up Austin Romine. Then, for 2021, the Tigers decided to go with Wilson Ramos, and then NOT go with Wilson Ramos, bringing the position to a trio of homegrown backups- Grayson Greiner, Jake Rogers and Eric Haase, assuming one of them would muddle through and take the starter ship. It's what the Pirates did when Frankie Cervelli left. 

As it stands, Greiner's the third-string turned backup, Rogers is hurt, and now the position is all Haase's. And Haase has become a pretty nice offensive piece, with 38 RBIs and 17 homers, tied for first on the team with Schoop [who maaaay be on the way out?]. He's not the best catcher in the league, or even the division [Salvy, clearly], but he's a substantial, durable piece for a team in need of as many of those as possible.

Because a lot of the pieces of this team aren't exactly sturdy, they're more 'where can we put them this week?'. Jeimer Candelario and Niko Goodrum have each had like 5 positions in the last 2 years. Harold Castro's still a utility guy. Wily Peralta's only now being pinned down as a starter, and Fulmer and Alexander still kinda skirt the line. There's still too many pieces of this team floating around the majors and minors, blocked from really having a specific role in its growth. Having Mize, Haase, Skubal and Gregory Soto pinned down is a nice start, but after the exodus, if any, of the deadline, there's gonna need to be more than that. This Tigers team has been aimless for about 5 years, and it'd be nice if they got to the bottom of that.

Coming Tonight: A pitcher for a team that sort of has an alright playoff chance...but also entirely doesn't.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Torn and Fried

 


The Atlanta Braves have a minimal chance of making the playoffs. The wild card race is gonna come down to the Dodgers and Padres, and even if the Braves do inevitably edge out the Phillies, they'd still need to measure against the Reds...and also, like, THE DODGERS AND PADRES. WHO ARE AMAZING.

So, the truth has sort of settled in. Joc Pederson's acquisition wasn't a 'let's have him come in and make us a playoff team' kinda thing. No, Pederson's purely an outfield upgrade in the wake of Ronald Acuna's injury, to make sure they don't have to keep starting people like Abraham Almonte and Guillermo Heredia. Pederson doesn't get them to first, Pederson keeps them out of last. He's also hitting .273 with 9 RBIs in 11 games, so his bat has stayed intact even away from Chicago.

The rest of this team is just...dire. The catching position is a toss-up between Kevan Smith and Stephen Vogt. The aforementioned Heredia-Almonte-Orlando Arcia outfield is a real thing now in Atlanta. Shane Greene's tanking and Jesse Chavez is pretty sturdy. Swanson's still not hitting for average. Riley and Albies aren't enough on their own.

At the very least, the rotation has shaped up even without Ynoa and Anderson. Max Fried has found his better numbers and at the very least has 85 Ks. Morton's working on another great season, god bless him. Touki Toussaint is finally performing well in the majors, with two excellent starts under his belt so far. Drew Smyly's 7-3 and healthy, which almost never happens. And Kyle Muller has taken over for Wright and Wilson as the surprise farmhand talent, with a 2.55 ERA in 6 starts, and some nice momentum behind him. So that's at least a nice unit that can get them by for a bit, and the bullpen ain't bad either.

Still...the team as a whole is a disappointment. Clearly. They're nowhere near playoff-caliber, and they just sort of have to stew in this for a little longer. Hopefully they stay afloat and don't fall under Washington, but...it's gotta be a tough ride home for the Braves. 

Coming Tomorrow- And the Jacob Stallings award for most out-of-nowhere turn by a starting catcher goes to...

Gleyber of Love

 


Y'all are just spoiled cause Jeter didn't have many down seasons.

Gleyber Torres has 37 RBIs, as many as Gary Sanchez and D.J. LeMahieu, leads the team in stolen bases with 10, and because he's only hitting .246 with a 0.7 WAR, people have begun calling Torres one of the biggest busts in recent history. You know, people were calling Shohei Ohtani that last year, so maybe we shouldn't really give a shit about how a person looks during one down season. Ohtani had TWO down years and now he's setting the league on fire. It took Vlad Jr. 2 years to find the average he was looking for. Hell, it took Kendall Graveman four years to figure out how to stay healthy and now he's on his way to a bullpen gig in Houston.

This shit takes time, y'all. Which, coincidentally, is what I'm also finding myself saying to my fellow Yankee fans a lot.

The team's in third right now, nowhere near the bulk of the wild card race, but it's also July, right before the trade deadline, and before a lot of other variables might be factored in. The Yanks have two straight series' in Florida, against the Rays and Marlins. The Rays this team can technically be a match for, even despite Nelson Cruz being himself. The Marlins they'll have no trouble with. Meanwhile, the Jays are falling, the Mariners might lap the A's, and the Yanks are only 3 games behind them both. This is very doable.

Also, Judge, Urshela and Loiasiga are all back, and they look to be in good shape. Odor, Taillon and Greg Allen are coming through for us when we never expected them to. Sanchez, LeMahieu, Torres and Stanton can still produce on a regular basis. Cole and Montgomery are still excellent starting options. Odds are that Clay Holmes is gonna be a cool bullpen addition, and odds are also that the eventual centerfield addition is gonna bring this team some huge strides.

It's easy to look at a team in slow-motion at one single point and go 'they're worthless'. But until our number is up, I'm not gonna give up on believing that this team can still accomplish great things. They're just streaky, like usual this era. They could come clawing back like never before given the right circumstances. Just you wait.

Coming Tonight: Pitcher for a still-struggling NL East squad.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Prince Albert's Last Stand

 


I want as many cards to be made of Albert Pujols as a Dodger as humanly possible.

It's become apparent that this is probably gonna be Pujols' last season. He's 41, his contract's up at the end of the year, he's clearly not the player he was, he's a surefire Hall of Famer, and he's one of the longest-tenured major leaguers in the game right now. He doesn't have much left to prove, and even if he's defying expectations as a bench bat in LA, it's still not gonna rewrite the story of his career. He was flawless in St. Louis, had 2 or 3 good seasons in Anaheim but fell off, and was let loose to make way for a youth movement that hasn't really happened yet. 

And now, Pujols gets to play for the Dodgers. Which is kinda scary. That bat with THAT team. Oooookay.

Ironically, Pujols is the only one of the four MVPs on this team that's working properly right now. Betts and Kershaw are injured, and Bellinger's hitting .161. Pujols, meanwhile, is hitting .256 in a bench/1B role, has 8 homers and 23 RBIs, and currently has his highest WAR in 2 years...that being zero at the moment. Pujols knows he's not the league-conqueror he once was, but he can still hit, and he can still be relied upon by his team.

And right now the Dodgers are using whoever comes by. Billy McKinney and Luke Raley are starting in the outfield tonight with Bellinger, making the outfield's cumulative batting average .163. Both shortstops are injured so Chris Taylor is moving over from 2nd, and Max Muncy's moving over from 1st. Meaning Cody Bellinger is seeing reps at 1st base on nights where Matt Beaty isn't around. It's getting very precarious is what I'm trying to say here.

Also, without Kershaw [and, uh, Bauer], the rotation is now Buehler-Urias-Price-Gonsolin-who-the-hell-knows? Josiah Gray started a game recently, but it didn't go too well. The other 4 are great right now, even Price, but the fact that the Dodgers are scrambling for a fifth starter, even with Bauer technically healthy...that's just the testament to how foolish Bauer was for getting into trouble like that. We could have been fine through this. 

I'm assuming the Dodgers will wind up alright, because they're the Dodgers. Pujols might even get some postseason hero moments for them, you never know. I just hope the big pieces that made 2020 possible for them get healthy and bring them back there.

Coming Tomorrow- The Sure Thing, fighting mediocrity 

The A's Settle Once Again

 


It's gotta be really annoying to have a good team built up and just drop in the standings to the Astros every damned year. The A's have been excellent in the past few years, can never get the division away from Houston, and when they do, end up losing to them anyway in the playoffs. It's gotta be humiliating. The hell else does it take??

The truth is that this season, the A's only have one league-caliber player, and that's Matt Olson. He's still hitting like hell and having a career year. So many players, like Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, Chris Bassitt and Ramon Laureano are having good seasons, but not to their usual caliber. Even if Manaea's having a better season than he's had in a while, he's evened his W/L down to 7-6, and he's used noticeably less than Bassitt, who typically goes for longer starts. There's a lot of .255 and below averages running around this team. Sean Murphy, Matt Chapman and Seth Brown have great power numbers but are all hitting around .210. This is especially disappointing for Chapman, who used to hit for average, and is now being relied mostly for his longball numbers. And yes, Chapman's 43 RBIs aren't bad at all, but his strikeout numbers haven't gone down.

The A's are now 5.5 games behind the Astros, and battling the Padres and Angels in the next week or so. The Mariners are only 1.5 games behind them, and chasing the wild card spot that is now the top priority for Oakland. If this season ended today, it'd be A's-Sox for the WC spot, and that'd be...predictably decent. The Yankees, Mariners and Blue Jays are still technically factors in the wild card race as well, and are all looking at buying this deadline. Which means the next 2 months may be very difficult for the A's if they don't make some moves.

The priority should be one good contact hitter, somebody that could potentially play the middle infield [Escobar? Story? Schoop?]. They should also see about one other x-factor-type bat, some guy that'll go on an absolute tear once he arrives. The bullpen and rotation are set, [especially with Andrew Chafin], so they just need to sure up the lineup and they could bounce back. But will the competitors bounce back as well?

Coming Tonight: Could this season be the last for an all-time great? Even if he is, you know, a bench player for the Dodgers. 

Monday, July 26, 2021

No Cubs Go

 


The Cubs have fallen below .500, and below the Cardinals. The reclamation project that we all thought was in the works earlier this year has dissipated with Jake Arrieta's ERA. So now...for the first time since roughly 2013, the Chicago Cubs have to sell.

Craig Kimbrel and Kris Bryant have been attracting lots of trade attention, and rightfully so. Kimbrel's still an elite closer that could become a fixture anywhere he goes, at least with some time, and Bryant is still pretty elite as a hitter and now has the power to play just about everywhere. I've also seen Zach Davies and Andrew Chafin talked about in trade discussions [UPDATE: So long, Chafin!], same with Ryan Tepera and Matt Duffy. A good chunk of this team is probably gonna get dealt, and that's a reality they have to come to terms with.

It's honestly a case of being alright with who sticks around. I'm guessing Kyle Hendricks is gonna stay put, but not certain. Hendricks still has a few years left on his contract, and is still definitely a leader in the clubhouse. He's also got 12 wins and a 3.60 ERA, and a massive improvement over his start this year. If people go this year, Hendricks, along with Willson Contreras and Anthony Rizzo, are gonna be the tentpoles that keep this team together as it reforms.

You can see the next generation of this team beginning to take place, with Patrick Wisdom beginning to look more and more like an everyday 3rd baseman for Chicago, and Keegan Thompson looking like a safe bet in the ninth if Kimbrel goes. Also, Nico Hoerner is definitely coming into his own at 2nd, and somehow Rafael Ortega is turning into a nice short-term replacement in the outfield. I do see this team letting Ian Happ loose in a year or so if he keeps hitting like this, but that may be as they figure out what the next stage of this team may be.

As for this current stage, this is gonna be a weird week. A lot of Cubs legends might be playing their last games as Cubs, and we may be saying goodbye to this sort of dynasty that's lasted since 2015. Which is kinda weird.

Coming Tomorrow- A former hero for a 1st place team, now a power bat for a team that once again might be looking to sneak in as a Wild Card.

Guardian Ship

 


So. Last week, the Cleveland Indians changed their name to the Cleveland Guardians. This is the single weirdest reasoning for why someone might like it, but I like this because it's a name change that still keeps the team alphabetically between the Giants and Mariners in my binders, alphabetically, and therefore I don't need to move the Cleveland sections anywhere else in my binders.

Personally, I'd have preferred 'Spiders'. How awesome would it be for a sports team to be named the Spiders? We have Jaguars, Pelicans, Coyotes, Sharks and Rays. Why not Spiders??? But yeah, Guardians is fine, a little safe for my standards, but...considering what it's replacing, I do understand. Guardians isn't gonna piss anybody off...except for, uh, the people who were really, really attached to Chief Wahoo.

But anyway. Guardians is for 2022. For now, we still have to follow the 2021 Cleveland Indians. As I write this, they're at .500, and in second. Which means the AL Central is back to where it was a few years ago, where one team competes mightily and all the other ones sort of shrug behind it. The Indians are not that team, so they're sort of hanging on at second. Zach Plesac is healthy again, and he's doing alright, with 5 wins in 13 starts. But he's the only real trusted starter from Opening Day to really meet expectations. Triston McKenzie strikes people out, but he has a 5.91 ERA. Sam Hentges and J.C. Mejia are giving up runs left and right, as was Eli Morgan before the demotion. They are using Cal Quantrill more as a starter, meaning we're now at two Cleveland starters whose relatives were relievers in the 90s, and Quantrill's been doing a decent job. But the lack of a strong, healthy rotation has doomed this team more than any other aspect.

Like, I don't think anyone would have predicted that the Cleveland outfield by midyear would be Harold Ramirez, Bradley Zimmer and Oscar Mercado, but none of them are doing too badly. Ramirez is having a great comeback year, hitting .269 with 24 RBIs. Bobby Bradley already has 11 homers and is coming into his own as the everyday first baseman. Roberto Perez is back, and while he's not hitting for average, he's still a better option than Austin Hedges. Cesar Hernandez has sacrificed his contact numbers for excellent power, with 16 homers. And Ramirez and Reyes are still holding the lineup together.

This is far from a great team, and they're barely even competitive, but they're solid enough to finish with some semblance of dignity, and I doubt they'll be complete sellers this week. 

Coming Tonight: A lot of his teammates are likely to be traded this week. Will he survive?

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Jean Pool

 


May be a bit of a shocker to some of you, but the Philadelphia Phillies are somehow still alive.

After a win against the Braves, led by homers from two non-power players [Jean Segura and Ronald Torreyes], the Phils have a slight lead over Atlanta and are back in 2nd, 4 games behind the Mets. The divide is palpable. The Rays were able to snap back against the Red Sox, the Astros were able to bridge the gap against the A's. Why not the Phils?

Well...this team, obviously, is still not perfect. Yesterday they lost 15-3, thanks to Vince Velasquez being himself. Matt Moore, Spencer Howard and Velasquez have become a very unstable latter half of the rotation, and are doing so in Zach Eflin's absence. If the Phils thought it was hard only having 3 good starters, now they're down to just Nola and Wheeler, and hoping that those other 3 days are good for the offense. And quite obviously the bullpen still needs help. They're not has bad as they have been, but lots of 3 and 4 ERAs, and even trusted arms like Brandon Kintzler and Jose Alvarado letting them down. Thankfully Archie Bradley's heating up, and Ranger Suarez has become an excellent closer, but this bullpen still runs the risk of preventing this team from glory.

What does help is that the flexibility of this lineup is beginning to aid them. Guys like Torreyes, Brad Miller, Travis Jankowski and Luke Williams are really impressing off the bench, and providing great backup material. Toe and Janko were incredibly cheap pickups that have thankfully succeeded for the Phils, and Miller was also relatively cheap but still one of the best bench bats in the leagues. Now that Herrera is back, they are using him primarily in center but also relying on Janko and Williams when they can, as well as potentially fielding offers for a big OF piece. And, of course, Hoskins, Harper, Realmuto, Segura and Cutch are performing as promised. Didi's beginning to heat up, and Bohm is still saddled by a sophomore slump that could lead to a rental taking his job for the latter bit of the season.

The bottom line is that this team is moving, and is definitely capable of performing well into the season if given the right momentum. They have a lot of huge pieces working right now, and they're nowhere near as piss-poor as they were in May. They just need...prolonged luck. Which is not easy to come by in Philadelphia.

Coming Tomorrow- The whole rotation got hurt. This guy was the first to return, and given his stance on COVID regulations last season, I kinda wonder what his thoughts are on the new name. 

Lowe or Never

 


There are officially two teams at the top of the AL East. The Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yankees have cut down the Sox's lead, and the Rays have caught up. Meanwhile, all three teams will likely be stocking up in the coming week. So...now what?

Well, the Rays are having one of the most intriguing trade years in some time. Their first move of the season was trading their shortstop, Willy Adames, to Milwaukee in exchange for bullpen help in the form of Drew Rasmussen and J.P. Feyereisen. Why did they need bullpen help? A week earlier, they had cut Hunter Strickland and let the Angels take him. They had solved a problem they had helped to create themselves. 

Then they had the issue of shortstop, which couldn't be fixed by Taylor Walls or even Wander Franco [though Franco is sloooowly getting better]. It is an issue that still persists, and could be helped by trading for one of the many infield pieces on the block. They did have a lot of outfielders and flexibility there, but by making the first big move of the July deadline season to get Nelson Cruz, the Rays made that situation even more crowded. Manuel Margot is hurt, yes, but now Austin Meadows has to play outfield more often, which is not his strength, and Brett Phillips is now more of a bench/alt type. 

Meanwhile, starting pitching became an issue once Tyler Glasnow got hurt. It would have been less of an issue if they hadn't traded Trevor Richards to the Brewers all the way in May. So then they had Ryan Yarbrough, Shane McClanahan, Michael Wacha, Rich Hill and Josh Fleming all capable of starting, which was a solid rotation but a bit thin. So...then they trade Rich Hill to the Mets. Why?? What good comes of that? Now you need pitching help again? Today, Drew Rasmussen started, and by the grace of the Tampa offense he did a nice job, but...at this point, the Rays have less of a solid rotation and more suggestions at this point. The only person starting games that's started every single one has been McClanahan, the rookie. That's odd.

The Rays have proved that they are buyers this season, and that they are competitors. But whenever they fix something, something else falls off, and it's usually their fault. Some things, though, happened on their own- Brandon Lowe's average stopped being a factor, Glasnow got caught with sticky stuff and promptly got injured trying to pitch without it, Meadows is getting colder, and the bullpen still isn't perfect. 

It's very possible that the Rays could get past all of this and still make it to the playoffs, and they've overcome worse issues in the past. But this is a lot of very suspect and very confounding behavior from a team that just won an AL title, and I hope some of it works out for them.

Coming Tonight: Three seasons into his contract, he finally started hitting like he used to for the Phillies.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Yaz You Like It

 


It's mid-July and the Giants are still in first. I'm kinda cool with this.

First of all, they're so many games over .500 that it's downright impressive, being 61-35. They've also done this while sustaining a minimal lead over the Dodgers [now at 3 games], and have only had two losing streaks longer than 2 games. They also have 11 players with at least 1 WAR, 6 players with at least 2 WAR, and 3 players with at least 3 WAR, two of which being Kevin Gausman and Anthony Desclafani, two rather cheap pickups that most teams passed on.

And also, yes, the Giants still have Buster Posey, Mike Yastrzemski, Steven Duggar and now suddenly Wilmer Flores and Darin Ruf all surging. It's a very good time to be a Giants fan.

There is a worrying detail, though, in the injuries to Evan Longoria, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford, three big pieces of the Giants' infield [all of which are over 30]. Add that to the already-out-for-the-year Tommy La Stella and you have a less-confident infield for the first time in years for this team. The good news is that Ruf has done perfectly well covering at 1st, and his average is approaching last year's levels finally. Flores has mastered the third base gig and is now hitting .251 with 33 RBIs. And of all people, former Yankee Thairo Estrada has been the most helpful taking over for Crawford. Like Mike Tauchman, Estrada was cut from a bulging Yanks team and his bringing his bench talents to SF to great results so far.

Also, it looks like Jake McGee has finally got the hang of the closing gig, with a lower ERA in addition to his 20 saves. Pretty much the whole bullpen right now is sharp, with choice performances by Dominic Leone, Zack Littell and Tyler Rogers. The highest starting ERA is Johnny Cueto's 4ish one, and even he's still doing decently enough. Gausman and Disco have brought some rotation firepower to this team that no one could have predicted, and even Logan Webb and Alex Wood have complemented them well. 

Plus, Taz may not have a very high average, but he's power-hitting really well, and having another strong season in SF. I was worried he'd be a fluke after his 2019 debut, but he's really settled in for the Giants, and has become a mainstay there, even surrounded by contracts and such.

The stretch will yield big players coming to NL West competitors, and the Giants may grab one to stay hot themselves. I'd like to see them upset the Padres and Dodgers for the gold, though any outcome will probably be a thrilling one.

Coming Tonight: Former young standout, now watching his team both buy and sell simultaneously at the deadline.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Free of Blame in Houston

 

Michael Brantley began his career being traded for C.C. Sabathia. He missed an entire year due to injuries while his team made it to a World Series. He's been trying to prove himself his entire career, and to a degree he has succeeded- Brantley's made five All-Star teams, has a career .299 average [and is a few points from breaking 300], has never scored lower than 2 WAR in a full season since 2011 [aside from his injury-plagued 2016], and currently is one of the single best contact hitters in baseball by a large margin.

Except...the only problem is that since 2019, he's been playing for the Houston Astros. Who are all pretty much smoke and mirrors, and even the consciously good performers like Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa have an asterisk next to them.

Now, I'm of the firm belief that Brantley didn't do a hell of a lot wrong. He certainly played by the rules in Cleveland, and he didn't exactly change a great deal when signing with Houston. Is there a chance that maybe he contributed to the group deception? Maybe. But I don't think his big numbers in 2019 and 2021 have anything to do with being on the Astros. It's a lot like the pitchers in Houston, they had nothing to do with the trashcan scheme, they were always doing their thing, and guys like Justin Verlander, Charlie Morton and Zack Greinke shouldn't have their careers marred. Gerrit Cole, though...may have to recover from another scandal. But that's completely different.

So Brantley's having another huge 2021. Good for him, I suppose. I assume he's playing the right way. But him doing this on the Astros, surrounded by so many players I do not like, is a little harder to stomach. The Astros are currently in first by 2.5 games, and are looking at two straight series' against beatable teams. The only pieces who are injured are Alex Bregman and Jose Urquidy. Everyone else is playing well because too much of the core remains, and they haven't exactly been scattered for their insolence. I can only be okay with so many players from this team, like Brantley, Greinke and Pressly, doing well when so many have played huge parts in the cheating scandal. 

It's likely that the Astros will be a playoff team once again, because that's what happens. It's also likely that the Astros could pick up a fairly useful piece at the deadline. And so hopefully, they'll get something of a fun comeuppance this year without having to humiliate the Yankees again.

Coming Tomorrow- His team just broke 60 wins, and he's still one of the chief pieces of them. 

Willy Adames Saves the Brewers


 Willy Adames began the season with a .197 average, and 15 RBIs in 41 games. It was a disappointing, muddled start for an infielder who had been so essential to the 2020 World Series team. With two infield prospects waiting behind him and the team sagging in the standings, Adames needed something to fix his swing and jolt him back up.

That something was, as it turns out, a trade to the Milwaukee Brewers.

Since Adames' departure, the Rays have struggled at short, with Taylor Walls and Wander Franco not shaping up as major leaguers quite yet. Meanwhile, Adames has been hitting .302 with 38 RBIs in 53 games with the Brewers. So I guess you could say they won, with all apologies to J.P. Feyereisen.

The Brewers have managed to fend off the Reds and remain in 1st place, which is a very nice feat considering how the Cubs and Cardinals have curled after taking 1st themselves. The trick is that three-headed monster in the rotation, Woodruff, Burnes and Peralta all have upwards of a 3.0 WAR, they all have ERAs lower than 2.39, and they all have between 135 and 140 strikeouts. They are all in sync, on fire, and coming for you. The trick is praying for the other two days, which are slightly easier with Adrian Houser and Brett Anderson, but not completely harmless. Houser still has 5 wins and a 3.97 ERA, and that's no slouch. 

Meanwhile, Adames, Kolten Wong and Omar Narvaez are all league-caliber, Yelich is heating up, Luis Urias and Jace Peterson are working at third, and Keston Hiura and Rowdy Tellez, uh...hopefully will hit for average soon enough. The important detail is that the bulk of this team can contact-hit, and the lack of true power-hitters won't be much of an issue [though Avisail Garcia's 17 homers certainly aren't bad]. 

I'd love to see this team make it to the end in 1st, but I can't really count out the Reds, or even the Cubs or Cardinals. This division almost always has a spoiler, and hopefully the Brewers can hang onto the momentum.

Coming Tonight: Perhaps the one player who didn't even need the Astros' help to become a contact-hitting superstar. 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Pay No Attention to the Turmoil Behind the Sox

 


Tony LaRussa would like me to tell you that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the White Sox right now.

Really, nothing. Yermin Mercedes was always happy, even in AAA. The people who used to have a place in Comiskey named after them before Tony replaced them are gracious. Tim Anderson hasn't started on the fact that LaRussa has a lot of privilege still having a job after getting caught with a DUI. It's all sunshine and roses.

I mean, look at the standings. The Sox are still in first! Any competitors are 10 games out. The team's still hot after the ASG break! The whole rotation is healthy and surging! How could anything be wrong?

Well...it's still the issue that having an old-guard manager like LaRussa with a very new-school, revisionist team full of people like Tim Anderson, Michael Kopech and Yoan Moncada isn't always going to fit. We're still not past the fact that LaRussa essentially ran a guy out of the league because he hit a home run on a 3-0 count off of a position player during a blowout. In the swing-on-everything, strikeout-or-homer game we're playing right now, decorum has little to no place. And it's become clear that LaRussa's cruelty towards Mercedes after this directly led to his numbers dropping, as he's been hitting well in AAA.

And while I'm thankful that Mercedes is gonna be back in no time and isn't retiring...this should have been the straw that broke the camel's back regarding LaRussa. There's probably a lot of people on this team that want to say something, especially people like Tim Anderson who are progressive voices in the game, but probably can't because of fear of what LaRussa and his influence could do to them. LaRussa already is a Hall of Famer, he already has a ring or so, and he has nothing left to prove. There is nothing that this White Sox team can do for him that he hasn't gotten already. The players probably don't want him there, and while Manfred is gonna probably protect him as much as possible, because he subscribes to the same old-baseball BS that LaRussa does, keeping him around isn't going to work for anyone. It didn't work for Bobby Valentine in 2012, and it's not working now.

But because the White Sox are doing well, and they're probably a lock for the playoffs, it's not likely that much will be done. This is the gig, it seems. 

The continued surge in the stands is surprising because the Sox are still struggling with injuries. Grandal is now on the IL, and Zack Collins is being pressed to start, which isn't going too well for him at the plate. The Sox are still playing Brian Goodwin and Billy Hamilton as starters in the absence of Jimenez and Robert, and that only works so much. Leury Garcia is thankfully a great replacement for Madrigal in the infield, but they kinda got lucky there. Adam Engel, Gavin Sheets and Jake Burger are all doing well in bit parts, but I am thinking that one of them could be subject to a trade next week as people are gonna begin to come back soon. I'm already blinking and seeing Burger in Diamondbacks colors. 

I sincerely hope the Sox keep up the good work, and figure out how to work with LaRussa. Because what happened with Yermin Mercedes shouldn't happen. The old ways aren't the only ways. And if they are the only ways for you, you're too old for the game.

Coming Tomorrow- Hopefully a lighter-hearted post. A 'magic hat' player for the Brewers, and the reigning trade deadline champ. 

All Villar, No Pillar

 


Indulge me. I always wanted to make a pun involving those two on this Mets team.

Well, the Mets, as I write this, are still in first in the NL East despite slipping a bit. Hilariously, the guys who stayed healthy during the first injury stretch are now getting injured, most notably Jacob De Grom and Francisco Lindor, but also David Peterson and Jose Peraza. So yes, it's good to have Conforto, McNeil, Davis, Nimmo and Villar all back, but now they've got to hope the guys who were healthy as they rose to first won't cost them now that they're injured.

The refreshing thing is that the Mets have been winning a few in Cincinnati, shutting the Reds out today and battering even the phones of the opposing fans [thank Villar for that one]. The only Opening Day lineup guy that's injured is Lindor, so Luis Guillorme and Jonathan Villar can flexibly move so that the infield works. Plus, Guillorme is still an excellent backup option and is still hitting .293. Also, J.D. Davis is starting again and still relatively hot, there's outfield flexibility with Pillar, and the bulk of the lineup is hitting again, especially Alonso, Nimmo and McNeil. 

The pitching is a little trickier without DeGrom, Peterson or Joey Lucchesi. Tylor Megill has been a decent third option with a 2.63 ERA, and Robert Stock has been an odd but serviceable fourth, but...who's the fifth man? They've used relievers before, are they gonna keep doing that? Are they just sort of tapping their shoes waiting for Peterson or even Noah Syndergaard to come back? Are they just waiting for the trade for whichever pitching piece to come through? Hopefully they figure something out soon, because as good as Marcus Stroman and Taijuan Walker have been, that's just two guys.

I do think the Mets are the best contender of those in the NL East, but they've become more human in the last few weeks, and teams like the Phillies and Braves could very well jump on that. I don't even think the Phils are good enough to really sustain a lead over them, but you never really know what the deadline deals could bring, and how things could turn out for the division. Hell, maybe the Nats squeak by or something.

Coming Tonight: The White Sox have a lot of stars right now, but if you were to ask me the biggest x-factor player on that team, I'd give you this guy.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Always Be Closing: Barnes Stormer


 In 2019, when the Red Sox were abruptly left without Craig Kimbrel, they didn't have a well-thought out plan to recover. They just platooned two pretty good bullpen pieces from the 2018 season, Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier, and saw if either would really take to the ninth. Kevin Cash was employing similar strategies in Boston, it was cool to be pen-flexible. So when Brasier and Barnes ended the season pretty equal, it was assumed that neither would be a winning option, and the Sox went with Brandon Workman for a season and a half. Then Workman got traded, and somehow Matt Barnes was left holding the ninth by the end of the year.

We now join Barnes in a full year of closing, as part of a 1st place, surging Red Sox team. He's unsurprisingly doing really well.

First of all, he's got 19 saves so far this season, has 63 Ks, a 2.61 ERA, and has been one of the most impressive bullpen arms for Boston. The Sox just signed him to a two-year extension with an option for a third. Any inkling that there'd be competition for the closing job just went up in smoke, and it's simply because of how consistent and dominant Barnes has been. Yes, there's always the chance that he could fall off, and he is 31 after all, but even last year, his worst contemporary season, still came with 9 saves and a 4.30 ERA. This has been the best season of his career to date, and it's a year that his previous seasons in relief have only built up to. 

Now, are Barnes' seasonal numbers tied to the success of the Red Sox this year? Maybe. His other two best seasons to date, his 2017 and 2018 years, were also tied to playoff runs for the Sox. While he wasn't atrocious during their 2019 3rd-place year, he also didn't completely bring them further in many points. There is a chance that Barnes' luck could run out, and next year he could be back in middle relief. But the fact that he's on such a run so far this year, coming off an ASG nod and some great save numbers, is still pretty great, especially for a team that took a while to settle after Craig Kimbrel's departure. 

The Sox are looking like major contenders this year, and it's thanks in part to Matt Barnes. It's that simple.

Coming Tomorrow- Looks like the Mets are getting beaten up again. Here's their savage lefty hitter, healthy again for your pleasure. 

Eduardo Escobar Abandons Ship

 


I think the surest bet of the next month is that Eduardo Escobar is going to change hands. This trade has been in the works for a month or so, with the White Sox being noted as a favorite for Escobar as early as mid-June. So really, the fact that it hasn't happened by now is kind of surprising. 

In this time, though, Eduardo Escobar has become the sole good, healthy player in Phoenix. He's the only guy with a WAR higher than 2, he was the team's All Star representative, and his numbers dwarf the rest of the team's easily. Like, I hate for people to stand out from teams in the wrong way, but the rest of the Diamondbacks are succeeding in nailing a biting feel of mediocrity, and Escobar isn't matching that. So him getting traded would probably be a very good thing. 

I still think the White Sox would be a frontrunner for Escobar, but...since Jake Burger and Leury Garcia are filling out the infield, perhaps the necessity isn't there for them. I could see the Blue Jays, Rays, Reds and Giants making a run at Escobar. 

But I can't see the Diamondbacks getting much better after he leaves. This is easily the worst team in the league, and they're on pace for well over 100 losses. They've yet to even crack 30 wins, which is definitely a feat 96 games into the season. And the inability for even great players like Zac Gallen, Luke Weaver, Ketel Marte and Kole Calhoun to get things done while struggling through this roster, and this division, is also pretty stifling. The youth movement, with Josh Rojas and Pavin Smith going into the same routine, is also kind of disappointing.

I can't imagine how bad this team could be even without Eduardo Escobar. But I guess we're gonna find out.

Coming Tonight: In the past years, such luminaries as Jonathan Papelbon, Craig Kimbrel and Koji Uehara have rocked the ninth for the Boston Red Sox. The guy they've got now is pretty damn good too.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Have You Ever Been This Lowe?

 


It's the most ironic thing. The Rays bring up two guys name Lowe, one pronounced Lau the other pronounced Low, and the one who's pronounced Low gets traded to a team that winds up lower in the standings. Like that's almost out of a nursery rhyme.

And so we have Nate Lowe, the rejected Lowe of Tampa, currently doing his best in Arlington, immediately following a day where the Rangers got walloped 14-0 by the Tigers, the third of three consecutive shutouts. 

Yeah, think about that. A team so bad that even the Tigers embarrass them. 

So, this is Rangers baseball this year. A lot of big losses, and a lot of last place baseball. Joey Gallo, Ian Kennedy and Jordan Lyles all might get traded. Or maybe more, or less. And it's becoming a matter of what this team will become after the trade deadline. 

I think the biggest indicator of what the Rangers might look like for a bit is someone like Nate Lowe. A low-cost import from a larger market, a lot of power abilities and some decent stats [43 RBIs], but some one-dimensional qualities and minor issues that grapple with replacement level. The bulk of this team is looking like that- guys like Dane Dunning, Nate Lowe, Charlie Culberson, Willie Calhoun, Jonah Heim and Kolby Allard. And that's what's gonna make up this team for a bit. I do eventually seeing people like Dunning and Allard taking it over, and Dunning is at least having a decent season, but those middle guys are gonna dominate this team.

And the standouts, at least for the foreseeable future, will be guys like Kyle Gibson, Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Adolis Garcia. But the main question is whether or not they'll be as good as they are this year. Garcia has calmed down exponentially since his monster May, and has been hitting .222 in May with only 2 homers. Kiner-Falefa has even calmed down a bit since his peak, and now Gallo is running this team in what is supposedly his last month with the team.

The picture will become a bit clearer in a week or so...and then a bit hazier once the wins drop yet again.

Coming Tomorrow- Thank goodness I'm able to get a custom out of this guy before HE'S traded.

Maybe Don't Quit Stallings

 


It's very hard to decipher which of the Pirates are going to be on the trade block in the next week or so. The Pirates, yes, are a last place team with a lot of fun players that can do well anywhere, but most of the players on this team are still under league control for a few more years. So I can't say with certainty if Adam Frazier, Jacob Stallings, Richard Rodriguez or even Gregory Polanco are gonna get dealt. 

But...if the Pirates knows what's good for them? Maybe start rebuilding sooner or later. 

Look, Jameson Taillon, Josh Bell and Starling Marte are all doing decently with other teams this year because they were allowed to get out of Pittsburgh and still have some prime years. Jacob Stallings is 31. He was called up in his late 20s, didn't become a mainstay starter til he was 29, and is now 31. A great catcher, and a great hitter, but his prime years may begin to run out even if the Pirates do deal him relatively soon. Also 31 is Richard Rodriguez, another big piece of this team that could honestly be a trade piece on account of the depth of the bullpen without him. I don't know how many more prime years either of these guys have left.

Adam Frazier and Gregory Polanco are 29. Polanco already worries me because he hasn't hit for average since 2018. Frazier's excellent, is coming off an ASG nod, and could be useful to a team, but again, he's 29, I'm not sure how old he'll be when he stops having seasons like this. 

If the Pirates do end up keeping all these players because none of them are free agents immediately next [save for Polanco], then they're confusing people that are competing, and holding onto these guys despite still being very much in 5th and out of the conversation. It is very nice that they're beating up the Mets this week, but they're still 10 games behind the sinking Cardinals and Cubs. They're not gonna get anything done this season. Ke'Bryan Hayes and J.T. Brubaker are trying to bring on the next stage of Pirates baseball, and they can't really do it alone.

It'll be interesting to see who sticks around after next week, and what this says about the future of the Pirates.

Coming Tonight: One of the many sturdy cheap imports for the Rangers.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Bringer of Rain Delayed

 


I think Josh Donaldson is one of many one-time MVP winners who are just idly standing by and doing their damndest in squads that aren't really built around them anymore. It's him, Andrew McCutchen, Joey Votto and Justin Verlander, really. And Donaldson might be the closest to MVP-caliber of those four this year.

Josh Donaldson is pulling 2 wins above replacement so far this year, which, while nowhere near Atlanta numbers, is pretty good. But he's become one of the few guys left in Minnesota who are really bringing it. It's just him, Jose Berrios, Jorge Polanco, Luis Arraez and Nelson Cruz. Byron Buxton is still hurt, Sano and Kepler are struggling, Andrelton Simmons is playing merely okay, and Maeda and Pineda could be doing better. The Twins are not in last at the moment...but at this rate they could be again very soon.

Plus, in the next two weeks, they could lose Cruz, Simmons, Pineda and Hansel Robles to potential competitors. Cruz is the most likely to leave, because this could be his last season and he's still got enough in the tank to help someone like Oakland or the White Sox who could really use a good DH. But still, Simmons, Pineda or Robles could be snatched, and there's also potential for people who are still under team control for a few more years. I'm not quite sure. But it's probably gonna be those guys...and without them, the Twins may sink lower.

The goal, I think, is for the youth to begin to take over more, and if so, that's really asking a lot of Griffin Jax, Bailey Ober and Trevor Larnach. At the very least, though, we are seeing progress from Alex Kirilloff, who has 34 RBIs and 8 homers, and from Nick Gordon, who's hitting .262 with 5 steals. But it's not a universal crunch, and even still, the youth movement is still gonna have to share time with signed veterans like Josh Donaldson for a few more years [unless they trade him this offseason, which is also likely]. 

I'm waiting for the Twins to get lapped by the Royals in the stands. Considering how badly they've been getting beaten by the O's lately, it may be a while though.

Coming Tomorrow- Catcher for a last-place team who just hit a very high-profile grand slam against a competitor. 

Starling the Marlin(g)

 


Ya gotta feel bad for Starling Marte at this point. After starting his career with a competitor, he ends up on a last place Pirates team, signs with a last place Diamondbacks team, gets traded to a playoff-bound Marlins team that A.) he gets injured before he can support in the playoffs and B.) lands in last place the year after. You can tell he wants to compete, and that he just has rotten luck.

So with that, I totally understand why he'd reject a 30-million-dollar extension to stay in Miami. The Marlins seem to be operating on a different level as he, and as good as he's been this season, he's not especially cohesive with the younger, more low-budget squad anymore. So he's good to go somewhere else and maybe compete. Fine. Go for it. It's very sad that the Marlins couldn't sustain the competitive genes, but it'd be even sadder if they trapped Marte there.

So where does he go? Well, there are a few options. The White Sox could decide that they would rather have a big anchor in the outfield rather than go with replacement-level guys for right now and eventually wait for Jimenez and Robert to return. Unlikely, but possible. The Phillies could honestly be a huge contender, considering the hole in CF which persists thanks to Herrera's injury, and the lack of willingness to rest on Luke Williams or Travis Jankowski to start. And you can't count out guys like the Mets or Dodgers who don't really need Marte but could use him as a level-up in places. 

In Marte's absence, the Marlins have some options as well. They could either start Magneuris Sierra more often, or even start Monte Harrison more often, or they could use Jon Berti in the outfield and rely upon their glut of utility infielders to cover for them. A lot of these are just security until people like Jesus Sanchez [and, I suppose, Lewis Brinson] get back from injuries. But they're not completely exhausted without Marte, and could get a lot done with the pieces they have. 

The Marlins aren't too bad of a team, and are just a few pieces away from having the potential to compete again. The rotation works, the bullpen still has a lot of nice pieces, and the lineup is still well-equipped with great contact and power hitters. It's just a matter of circumstance, and, like, waiting for the Mets to calm down. 

Coming Tonight- Former MVP who's about to watch a lot of his teammates leave in the next week or so.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Hays Code

 


The Baltimore Orioles currently have more momentum than the Kansas City Royals. How weird is that?

I mean, let's be honest, the Orioles are probably looking at another 100-loss season, they're only hanging onto John Means this month due to a well-timed injury, and enough of the core only works in Baltimore, which is only so much of a blessing considering the big pieces might not leave. Things aren't exactly rosy for them, Mancini and Mullins' ASG week runs aside. But...they're able to overpower the Royals on two separate occasions. Today's was even a shutout led by Matt Harvey of all people. Wins are still possible. They just have to be...strange.

And yes, 'strange' would be a good way to describe this team as well. The two contact hitters that made waves last season are both struggling to even hit .250. The big standout is the guy that was down all last year. Cedric Mullins is finally succeeding at the major league level and looking like the star he was primed to be in Machado's absence in 2018. Matt Harvey's made 18 starts, has a 7 ERA and still has a job because, if you can believe it, there are starting options that are WORSE than him. 

But even still, you have people like Ramon Urias, Spenser Watkins and Bruce Zimmerman, young pieces who are beginning to inherit the team. Austin Hays is only hitting .243, but he's a great outfielder that gets on base a lot, and he adds to the team's versatility. With that group, Mullins, Santander and Mountcastle, you're beginning to see the next stages of what the Orioles could be. And I do think that if all of these pieces time their breakout periods together, and if the O's replenish their rotation, the O's could potentially be a lower-tier competitor in the next few years. It may seem unlikely now, but it happened to the White Sox and Padres, so you never know.

But until then...we probably have a year or so more of sub-.500 baseball to stomach from the Orioles.

Coming Tomorrow- He just decided that he doesn't want to spend much more time in Miami. As he rounds out his 11th month as a Marlin, have we also reached his eleventh hour as well?

Denver After the Ball

 


The All-Star Game is over, the circus has left town in Denver. All that remains is two more weeks to see this team intact before the sharp, painful realization of rebuilding even further. So get your Rockies games in while they're hot.

It's no secret that Trevor Story is likely headed elsewhere, but you also have players like Jon Gray, Mychal Givens and C.J. Cron who have no contractual business for 2022. Of that bunch, Givens is the most likely to get dealt, but there definitely could be a market for Gray, and Cron seems to me more like a late-August waiver deal guy. 

There's also the variable of Charlie Blackmon, who I have not heard a single thing about this season. I follow the MLB twitter accounts, and all 30 teams, so I do follow the Rockies on twitter, and I don't think they've talked about Blackmon at all. And he's hitting .266 with 41 RBIs and 77 hits, so it's not a complete wash of a season, but he's once again angered the WAR gods and according to sabermetrics has a -4 batting score. I will never understand why Blackmon is such a poor player sabermetrically, cause this is the third or fourth season where he's run into this sort of luck. His contract's up next year [cause I don't think the Rockies are gonna invoke his option], but will anyone go for him? Considering they all follow the sabermetric stuff very closely??

And what are the Rockies gonna be left with? Well, aside from German Marquez, who I don't THINK is going anywhere [I could be wrong], they have this network of former utility outfield/infield guys who have taken over the team. Ryan McMahon, Garrett Hampson, Raimel Tapia, Josh Fuentes, Brendan Rodgers now, Yonathan Daza. Chris Owings and Sam Hilliard also count. When Story goes, and if Cron and Blackmon go, that will be the Colorado Rockies. A bunch of interchangeable utility guys that have only sort of established themselves as starters. McMahon and Tapia are having great seasons, but I don't know if Rockies fans are ready to wear them on their backs yet. The big hero is probably leaving at the end of the month, and it's not certain when the next one will arrive in Denver. Unless it's someone like Brendan Rodgers or something.

It's still very hazy and indistinct for the Rockies. And hopefully it clears up a bit soon, even after the exodus.

Coming Tonight: This is exactly what I was talking about with Blackmon. A guy hitting .243 with 31 RBIs who somehow has an entire win above replacement more than Blackmon. I don't get it. Defense only has so much to do with it. Argh.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Confess, Fletch


 The oddest part of the first half of the season was the amount of time it took David Fletcher to contact-hit consistently.

In April and May, Fletcher had average around .250/.260, was striking out a bit more often, and wasn't among the WAR leaders, and I was...puzzled. This is David Fletcher we're talking about, one of the most underrated contact hitters in the bigs, and one of the best infield defenders in the AL. Why wasn't he clicking? Well, most of the rest of the team wasn't clicking either. Aside from Ohtani, Trout and Walsh, the rest of this lineup was also a bit stifled by the first few months, and are still pretty stifled by the current run. Lots of people like Jose Iglesias, Kurt Suzuki, Taylor Ward and Justin Upton are only doing so well right now without hitting for average. 

But then...since June, Fletcher has been hitting over .300, and is hitting .478 in July. He's also the highest-ranking non-Ohtani member of the Angels on the team. And considering how meh the Angels have become this year, which is par for the course recently, it is very nice to have a well-rounded performer like Fletcher roaming about and having big games.

Also, we're getting a few more impressive pitching performances up here, like Patrick Sandoval and Alex Cobb. I have no idea what happened to Dylan Bundy, but at least Alex Cobb has been a good Baltimore export. Raisel Iglesias has 19 saves and 63 strikeouts, another solid season for his rolodex. Jose Suarez is succeeding in a swing role, Steve Cishek's having another ramp-up season that will likely be followed by a letdown season for whoever signs him next year.

But...there's so many giant holes in this lineup, man. Without Trout, what can we get done? Without a competent core, what is there to really conquer. The Angels are 4th in the AL West, the Mariners have more of a chance...there's a very small chance of a sudden LA comeback this year. Once again, it's become 'how can we prevent this next year?'. Which has been the question for the last 8 years. 

Coming Tomorrow- One of the many Rockies utility men thrust into the main lineup this year.

Motor City Malaise

 


What is it with the Tigers and being the world's hardest-looking 3rd place team in the past 10 years.

I mean, next year it'll have been 10 years since they were in a World Series against the Giants, remember that? A team so strong that not even a red-hot Yankees team could stop them? Then halfway through 2015 they decided to start selling and have never recovered. J.D. Martinez, Matt Boyd, Shane Greene, Michael Fulmer...so many great seasons that were unanswered by the gods of wins.

And now here we are in 2021, where a lot separates the rest of the team from their one high-WAR standout, here being Casey Mize. Instead of like several standout performances, you get a lot of people who are doing kinda well but not well enough to be completely renowned. Jonathan Schoop has 16 homers and 52 RBIs, Tarik Skubal has 105 Ks, Gregory Soto's come from nowhere to get the ASG nod and the closing gig, Boyd and Candelario are doing their thing. It gives the effect of several voices shouting into an echo chamber at once. Like, what can be discerned? What can be taken out of this season?

Ooh, I'm deep all of the sudden. I literally just paid money to see Space Jam 2 in theaters and here I am writing like George Plimpton or some shit. 

Alright, the rest of this post will be more my speed. The Tigers are too meh this year for anyone to care about, and arguably too meh to even attract trade suitors. Will people go for Matt Boyd now, two years removed from his expiration date? Do people want Robbie Grossman or Jonathan Schoop? Is it just gonna be people like Jose Cisnero and Tyler Alexander going? 

Plus, with people like Wilson Ramos and now Nomar Mazara being cut after being signed as starting options, is it safe for Miguel Cabrera, who's doing his usual low-WAR high-power thing this decade? Is it safe for Daniel Norris, who may have finally made it to the end of his rope after being the main piece in the David Price trade?

I'm not sure where the Tigers will go from here, but I'm also not sure how much longer they'll need to wait for a playoff run. The youth is exciting me, but they'll really need to focus on that in order to really make a run at things. 

Coming Tonight: In the shadow of Shohei Ohtani, one of the most underrated contact hitters in the game charges up.

Friday, July 16, 2021

The Second Half Begins [feat. The Cincinnati Reds]

 


Happy July! The Reds have only lost 2 games since the month started, which is the same amount of games the Cubs have won in that period, and the same amount of games the Brewers have won since July 4th. 

Welcome to the second half, NL Central teams. Hope you survive the experience.

Yeah, who'd have thought that the team in that division with the most momentum would be not the Brewers who are in first, or the Cubs who had the momentum in May, or even the always-sneaky Cardinals...but the Cincinnati Reds? You knows, those guys that were 24-29 at the start of June? They're amazing now. How about that?

And they were never bad this year, so this was always the slimmest possibility, but the only players to really break through were Nick Castellanos, Jesse Winker and Wade Miley. And now it's a lot more balanced, I think. The entire rotation has evened up, and Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray have caught up to Miley and Mahle. Vladimir Gutierrez has been a sharp fifth man, and get the job done there. Heath Hembree seems to have taken over in the ninth and is on the right track. Jonathan India's Rookie of the Year caliber season is continuing in high form as he gets his average back up to .275. Barnhart's having another strong year as catcher, Tyler Stephenson's doing really well backing him up. And even if Eugenio Suarez, Joey Votto and Tyler Naquin aren't hitting for average, they all have upwards of 40 RBIs.

So...pretty much everyone's performing a large degree better, the Reds are 4 games out of 1st and 4 games ahead of the sinking Cubs and Cardinals. Even before the action resumes, this is a very good place to be, especially for a team that did, in fact, make the playoffs last year. 

Now, again, this is only the halfway point, the Cubs or Cardinals [probably the Cardinals] could catch up, the Brewers could hold onto the lead, and we could be sitting here laughing at this in September. Or...maybe the Reds are about to really take off and come to prominence when no one expects them to. Everyone's taking aim at which disappointment is gonna come back this half, be it the Yankees or Jays, or the Braves, or hey maybe the Twins, but...the Reds have a good shot considering how they were looking right before the ASG break. If they can blaze through the deadline as competitors, keep their core intact and potentially have a hand on the division into the stretch, that'd be excellent. It's not gonna be easy, but it'd be awesome if it happened.

Coming Tomorrow- Another young hurler for the sinking Tigers.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

The Stars Are Out: 2021 All Star Celebrity Softball Game

A few years back, when the All Star Game was in Washington and when I still had a good royalty-free photo source, I made a ton of customs for the All Star Celebrity Softball game, an event I've always gotten a kick out of and is a lot of fun to document, and made customs of people like Bill Nye, Shaquille O'Neal and Jamie Foxx.

Thankfully, this year's event in Denver was well-documented too, and had some good opportunities for Stars Are Out customs, so I did a few more. Being in Denver, the game featured some retired Rockies greats, like Todd Helton and such, but the one I had the best photos of was Vinny Castilla, the 90s-golden-age corner infielder.

There were also some contemporary retired stars, like Hunter Pence, who retired last year and seemed to be in pretty good shape for the game.


As well as Yankee legend and now full-time sports personality C.C. Sabathia, who spent some time on the mound, of course. 


The fun also spread to other spots, including football. Seahawks standout D.K. Metcalf took some reps in the outfield, and represented the Mariners.


While former Broncos Super Bowl MVP Von Miller made an appearance, threw out the first pitch, and brought some Denver sports cred.


In the category of true celebrities...and this is an inclusion that's gonna alienate a lot of people...Dance Moms alum and energetic-as-hell child star Jojo Siwa anyone? I mean, I'm as happy as anyone that she's mellowed out a little over the last few years, but her showing up, rocking Cubs colors and providing some LGBTQ+ representation that was more than just Karamo from Queer Eye was a good move. 


And like Jamie Foxx, there was the appearance of an unfittingly big star on the base paths. This year, it was Captain America himself, Anthony Mackie, fresh off nailing it in Falcon and Winter Soldier, and coming off of a ton of really nice roles. Mackie represented his hometown of Detroit and made the best of some early playing time. 
 

Games like these are fun. I kinda love that they keep doing things like these. Excited to see next year's, though expecting a ton of very obvious Dodger fans in there.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Your 2021 All Star Game Starting Lineups

 I do this every year. I missed doing it last year. So let's not prolong the inevitable. With, just like last year, specially-made ASG customs, cause that's the kind of free time I have this year.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN...HERE ARE YOUR 2021 ALL STAR STARTING LINEUPS

[moderately baked Coors Field applause]

First up, the American League All Stars team!

Leading off for the AL...the STARTING PITCHER. FROM THE LOS ANGELES ANGELS, SHOHEI OHTANI!

[lots and lots of applause]

Batting 2nd for the AL, the first baseman, from the Toronto Blue Jays, VLADIMIR GUERRERO JR.

Third in the lineup, and at shortstop tonight, from the Boston Red Sox, XANDER BOGAERTS!


Batting cleanup for the American League, and playing right field, from the New York Yankees, AARON JUDGE!


Fifth in the lineup tonight, the third baseman, from the Boston Red Sox...RAFAEL DEVERS!


Batting sixth, and playing 2nd base tonight, from the Toronto Blue Jays, MARCUS SEMIEN!


Seventh in the lineup tonight, and behind the plate for the AL, from the Kansas City Royals, SALVADOR PEREZ!


In the eight spot tonight, and starting in left field, from the Toronto Blue Jays, TEOSCAR HERNANDEZ!


And batting ninth, and playing center field tonight, from the Baltimore Orioles, CEDRIC MULLINS!


Now, for your NL ALL STAR TEAM!

[louder applause because it's Denver]

Leading off for the National League, and starting at shortstop, from the San Diego Padres...FERNANDO TATIS JR.!


Second in the lineup for the NL, and the designated hitter tonight, from the Los Angeles Dodgers, MAX MUNCY!


Batting third, and playing third base, from the St. Louis Cardinals...NOLAN ARENADO!

[Loud cheers for the hometown boy]

Batting in the cleanup position, the first baseman, from the Atlanta Braves, FREDDIE FREEMAN!


Fifth in the order tonight, the right fielder, from the Cincinnati Reds, NICK CASTELLANOS!


Similarly, sixth in the order tonight, the left fielder from the Cincinnati Reds, JESSE WINKER!


Batting seventh, and starting behind the plate tonight for the NL, from the Philadelphia Phillies, J.T. REALMUTO!


Eighth in the lineup tonight, the center fielder, from the Pittsburgh Pirates, BRYAN REYNOLDS!


And in the same vein, batting ninth tonight, the second baseman, from the Pittsburgh Pirates...ADAM FRAZIER!


And starting on the mound tonight for the NL, from the Washington Nationals...MAX SCHERZER!


These are the lineups we've got tonight. I hope we get a fun game out of them.