Tuesday, August 31, 2021

20 Years of Rain


The chances of the Mariners making the playoffs this year, and ending their 20 year long playoff drought, are...thin, but not zero. 

What it would take, and this is a lot...would be an immense winning streak in the next month, the Blue Jays to completely shut down, and also at least one other AL East team, preferably the Red Sox, to also completely shut down. For this all to work, the Mariners need to be better than the Red Sox, Yankees, A's and Blue Jays. They are not. So it will be very difficult.

But...there is more to say about this Mariners team than there has a lot of recent ones. It's similar to last year, where there's a surprising amount going on. Gonzales, Kikuchi, Crawford, France and Seager have all picked up where 2020 left off, and are a great backbone to the team. But this team also has a healthy Mitch Haniger, Jake Fraley hitting at MLB level, Tyler Anderson having been great in 6 starts, Joe Smith, Drew Steckenrider and Paul Sewald keeping the bullpen together, and clutch ability from Dylan Moore, Tom Murphy and now Abraham Toro. 

So...this is simply a good team waiting for better luck and a clearer division to soar in. And...it doesn't look like the Astros or Athletics are gonna tank anytime soon. 

I mean, look...this team was without James Paxton and Evan White this year, then lost Kyle Lewis, Shed Long, Nick Margevicius and Justin Dunn. Those are some very big pieces, and if they had a little more of people like that healthy, then maybe they would have stood a chance. But now you have to go 'well, if they're all back and healthy next year, will everyone who was good this year be still active, healthy and competent?'. And...I'm not sure. Could we be experiencing the peaks of Chris Flexen's, Ty France's and Jake Fraley's career outputs? Will another piece fall off?

These are the questions we need to ask with the Mariners. There is more going for this team than there has in a while, but...you still have to worry. 

Coming Tomorrow- A former Mariner, actually, who got the bright idea to suit up for a competitor.

Bader Aid


I forget sometimes that since 2016, with the exception of the 2019 season, we're kind of in the midst of a rare Cardinals playoff drought. They've never had any, like, truly bad teams in this period, and have only finished as low as third, but still have yet to finish a season below .500, and this dates all the way back to 2007. 

And though the team got J.A. Happ and Jon Lester at the deadline, the Reds and Brewers are far enough ahead, as are the Dodgers, that the playoff certainty for the Cardinals seems lower than ever. Which is kind of weird considering...a lot of the pieces they've been working hard to develop are all kinda aligning right now.

Like, it's been hard to get Tyler O'Neill, Harrison Bader, Paul DeJong, Tommy Edman and now Dylan Carlson and Lars Nootbar all on the same page, but...pretty much all of them are doing well. Edman and O'Neill have had the best seasons, but Bader, Carlson and DeJong are doing well enough. Bader has recovered mightily from an injury and is still a defensive standout. DeJong's average is still too low for my standards but is doing pretty well, even with Edmundo Sosa leering over his shoulder for the position. Carlson's cooled down since May but he's a great outfield piece. And Nootbar is slowly heating up despite being a backup piece right now. He's projected to be a star soon, and maybe next year he'll be a league-wide name.

Really, what has failed this team has been the pitching. The only consistent presence in this rotation has been the now-40 Adam Wainwright, who's been having a beautiful season with a 2.97 ERA and 13 wins. Kwang Hyun Kim just got back off the IL and is doing well enough, but Flaherty's injured, Martinez is struggling, Mikolas is only now healthy and good again, LeBlanc's injured, and Hudson's out for the rest of the year anyway. At the very least, J.A. Happ has been very sharp in 5 starts, but Jon Lester clearly doesn't have much left. And as good as Alex Reyes is in the ninth, the rest of the bullpen is a little scattered thanks to injuries and a lack of too many hammered-down presences. 

So, really, the Cards have been let down by the pitching, and are letting a great lineup year go to waste. I'd feel a bit more sorry for them if they weren't the Cardinals. 

Coming Tonight: Speaking of teams that probably won't make the playoffs, a staff ace climbs back towards greatness as his team inches away from it.

Monday, August 30, 2021

501 And Only


Miguel Cabrera. He just passed 500 home runs, he's 39 hits away from 3000, is clearly a future Hall of Famer with no stock left for the next few years, and a perennial DH spot for a team that isn't good enough to upgrade. 

This is the gig with him, as it has been since 2017. He's Miguel Cabrera in name only, and while he'll give you some homers or RBIs, he's not the all-around player he was in 2012. The Tigers are used to it, the fans are used to it. At this point it's just nice to still have Miggy in the lineup everyday, from the perspective of 'he's a legend, that's nice. By contrast, Albert Pujols has become a nice bench bat in LA, Joey Votto is still riding his midyear hot streak, and Max Scherzer is still an integral piece for the Dodgers. These players have all pretty much punched their tickets to Cooperstown, and they're still delivering to some extent. But Miggy...is just sort of sliding by, doing his thing.

Maybe it's the environment as well. While this isn't a BAD Tigers team, especially compared to what they've done recently, it's certainly not an inspiring one either. Right now it's the signed veterans, like Jonathan Schoop and Robbie Grossman, who are doing a lot of the work, as a lot of the younger, homegrown players, like Harold Castro, Willi Castro and Derek Hill, try to figure things out. What I will say, compared to a lot of other years, is that I can see a future youth movement beginning to form, and that Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Akil Baddoo, Eric Haase and Gregory Soto are acting as a subtle backbone around this team. There's still a lot that needs to fall into place, and there are people like Zack Short, Isaac Paredes and Daz Cameron who need to figure out how to hit at the MLB level, but there's more going on here than there has in recent years. 

I do worry that the insistence of Cabrera's presence in the lineup for the next few years will keep the team from competing. Torkelson's a couple years away, no doubt, but a lot of these working pieces right now point to a better 2022, and potentially eclipsing Cleveland in the standings. Will they be able to do that with a subpar DH? It's really down to Cabrera and how he feels about where the team's going. He could always request a trade to a competitor to clear things up, even if I pity any competitor that'd have to pay the last few years of that contract.

I'm glad I have this many good things to say about this team, but we're still squarely in the middle in terms of quality.

Coming Tomorrow- An outfielder for a team that seems to have finally accepted that they may not, in fact, be competitors this year. 

Playing the Spoiler Once Again


Here we are. Third year in a row. The Mets, upon discovering that they're probably not gonna make the playoffs, realize that now what they have to do is act as the spoiler for any middling team that has similar playoff expectations. The Grim Reaper for failed competitors. Being not good enough to compete, but good enough to still win, the Mets, once again, are gonna be the spoiler and decide the picture, even if they're not in it.

Which is to say...the Mets will be hoping to bounce the Phillies from playoff competition once again.

For a while, the Mets did seem like playoff competitors, but they really can't be without Jacob deGrom, can they? Marcus Stroman and Taijuan Walker have had great seasons in the rotation, but now the Mets are relying on people like Tylor Megill, who's okay but still a mostly untested rookie, Carlos Carrasco, who's a big name but has been shaky in his first few starts, and Rich Hill, who is 41. Absolutely no semblance of the 2015 rotation has any part of this right now. Thor's still hurt. Now he has COVID as well. DeGrom's probably a wash. Wheeler's a Cy Young candidate at the other end of the turnpike. Matz is struggling in Toronto. Harvey's struggling in Baltimore. Now we just have this...mix, this combination of people who are around. The lineup is well-engineered in all the ways the rotation isn't.

And while Pete Alonso, Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil, Jonathan Villar and, by technicality, Francisco Lindor, are having decent seasons, there's still a lot of okayness holding this team back, like Dominic Smith, Conforto, and the catching situation. Once again, this team has been unable to really keep a team together into August.

And so now, the plan is to win games and stymie the big teams they still have on the schedule, which right now include the Cardinals, Red Sox, Braves, Yankees, Brewers, and, yes, the Phillies. I do think they have a nice chance of eliminating the Cardinals and Phillies, and potentially ending up higher in the standings than either at the end of the season. I really wish there was an outcome a little happier for the Mets than eternal spoiler, but this is just what they're good at right now.

Coming Tomorrow- 501 home runs can't be wrong.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Any Which Fenway You Can


You figured once they were lapped by the Yankees that it was nothing but a downward spiral for the Red Sox, but here they are again. Still lurking about. Still inhabiting that second Wild Card spot. And still insuring a little bit of pain for the Yanks eventually.

I mean, look, I don't wanna act like everything came together for this team the second that both Chris Sale and Kyle Schwarber came off the IL, but...that's certainly what it looks like. Sale's been sharp in three starts so far, winning all three with 21 Ks and only 4 earned runs. He seems to be in career form, which is a sigh of relief for the Sox, who to this point were using Eovaldi as the sort of anchor. If Sale can keep this up, they'll be a lot more confident than they were. Additionally, while Kyle Schwarber isn't exactly hitting to the degree he did in Washington, he still has a .385 average with 3 RBIs in 12 games. He's making contact, which is the most surprising part here, and hopefully the power numbers will follow.

The rest of the team, as it was, is also still working in the correct direction. Devers, Bogaerts and Hernandez are still lifting things, Nick Pivetta is still capable of great starts, and people like Garrett Whitlock and Adam Ottavino are coming in on their best stuff and keeping the team afloat. Martinez is a few steps back from where he was earlier in the season, but he still has 24 homers and 82 RBIs. Just today, Tanner Houck was hitless through 5 innings, even if the final outcome wasn't preferable. 

The trick is going to be to salvage enough of the momentum of the strong first 2/3rds of the season in order to hang onto the wild card spot, advance, and knock out the competition. But the real question is whether they can easily access that energy right now. Hernandez is on the COVID list, Arroyo and Renfroe are out with injuries, the utility infielder, Marwin Gonzalez, just got DFA'd, and now they're scrounging for other options. Travis Shaw doesn't fit into this infield as much as he does in concept. Jarren Duran still isn't producing to the level he should. 

I think something will probably come together, but if this whole season is coming down to one fatal Yanks-Red Sox game, the Sox need to figure out how to get leverage over what is right now the most powerful team in baseball. And if they can...oooh man, the rest of the league will have to watch out.

Coming Tomorrow- So it's come to this, a rookie starter having a go in Queens.

Wild Wild NL West


We're about to enter the final month of the season, and the narrowest divide between a 1st place team and a competitor in that division is between the Giants and the Dodgers. 2.5 games is all that separates two of the biggest teams of 2021. And we're about to enter a deep tussle for first.

The odd part is that the Giants haven't exactly cooled down much in the past few weeks. They've lost a few games, but they've also still had big chunks of win streaks and are a bit more consistent than they were in late July. The Dodgers, though, have only lost 5 games all month. At one point, they had a 9 game winning streak going, against the Mets and Pirates. They also just completely swept the Padres, pulling them further out of contention and letting the Reds slip further up to the wild card spot. 

So while the Giants are the better team right now...the Dodgers are the hotter team right now. And if I've learned anything watching this game in the past decade, it's that momentum always beats talent.You can have the best team on the field and you can still be swept by someone who bites onto the leverage at the right time. 

What's making the Dodgers so hot? Well, Betts, Muncy and Seager are all healthy and playing well. Walker Buehler's having a Cy Young caliber season which, if it keeps going at this rate, will usurp Zach Wheeler's case fully [dammit]. Max Scherzer's been unstoppable since joining the Dodgers, with 4 wins and 41 Ks in 5 appearances. Trea Turner's also doing pretty well, hitting .300 with 23 hits in 19 games and 7 RBIs. And Will Smith is having his strongest year to date, with a 3 WAR, 21 homers and 62 RBIs. 

I do hope that Kershaw comes back relatively soon, because Buehler-Scherzer-Urias-Price-Bruihl isn't exactly glamorous [though this is what happens when one of your chief starters gets hurt in April and another one gets bounced due to a domestic abuse scandal]. But this is another exceptionally strong Dodgers team, with lots of depth, lots of different heroes, and lots of people who can shine in the postseason. It's gonna be tricky to make it back to the World Series, but with the right momentum, anything's possible.

Coming Tonight: Exhibit like J that getting out of Philly yields the best results. 

Saturday, August 28, 2021

A's and Confused


Well, the A's just beat the Yankees, which no one has been able to do in 13 games. But uh...what happens to them now?

Look, the A's have overcome a lot just from leveling their record after a horrifying loss streak to start the season. They've lost Ramon Laureano to a suspension, and began the season without big contemporary pieces like Liam Hendriks, Robbie Grossman and Marcus Semien, and worst of all, have been forced to start Mitch Moreland at DH for 81 games. And yet they still rode 1st for a while, off of great seasons from Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Tony Kemp, Lou Trivino and Chris Bassitt.

And even though the A's had an incredible hot streak to begin August, helped out by Josh Harrison, Yan Gomes and Starling Marte all delivering great stuff...they got very cold midway through the month, and bungled series' with the White Sox, Giants, Mariners and Yankees. To be fair, 3/4ths of those are great teams, but these two Yankee losses have been painful because it's pushing them further and further from the wild card spot they thought they'd be sharing with New York. With every loss, the once-jilted Red Sox go further and further upward into getting that spot back, and that's something I'd rather not have happen, especially considering how difficult it was for my Yankees to beat the Red Sox for the first half of the season.

Whatever is amiss, the A's need to figure it out relatively soon. I'm not sure when they're getting Bassitt back, but they need to get their four on the same page, and possibly trust Paul Blackburn without dooming him to fail. They also need to work on the increasing lack of contact hitters on this team, as only Matt Olson has an average higher than .255, and only Starling Marte has an average higher than .300 [but that's just cause he's hot as hell right now]. They also just need to make sure everything's okay with Trivino, who's been a bit more human as of late.

I'd really hate for a playoff spot to completely slip away for these guys. They need to take this win tonight and build on it, and build back their case for playoff excellence. But as the Red Sox regain momentum and begin to close in on the wild card spot, can the A's catch them?

Coming Tomorrow- How cool must it be to be 26 and catching for the defending World Series champions?

Redlegs and Hot Arms


The Cincinnati Reds' rotation, even counting sixth member Jeff Hoffman, is altogether worth 20 WAR. Wade Miley, Sonny Gray, Tyler Mahle, Luis Castillo and Vladimir Gutierrez are all worth upwards of 2.9 WAR, and the total of 20 WAR outdoes the Brewers' rotation [14.1], the White Sox' rotation [15.2], and the Dodgers' rotation [15.6].

Yes, the Reds, of all teams, are doing this. That one team you figured would kind of limp through and circle .500, make noise occasionally. Yeah, they have the best rotation in baseball. And it's pretty much the exact opposite order from what was predicted. Luis Castillo, who came into the season as the supposed ace, yeah he's got a 4 ERA and 13 losses. Wade Miley, who limped through 2020, yeah he's the staff ace, has a no-no under his belt and has a 10-4 record, a 2.88 ERA, and his best season to date. Sonny Gray and Tyler Mahle, they're both sharp with some great recent starts. And some kid you'd never heard of, Vladimir Gutierrez, he's 9-4 with a 3.68 ERA over 16 starts. The whole unit is working, even if you would think it wouldn't.

It's also very helpful that little specks of this team are just randomly hot. Not even the big pieces like Castellanos, Winker and Votto, but...Kyle Farmer and Tyler Naquin. Naquin's been crazy lately, just as he was in April. Even Max Schrock has been hitting. There's still definite issues with this team, including people like Eugenio Suarez and Shogo Akiyama, but when Castellanos, Winker, India and Stephenson are league-caliber and gunning for the playoffs, it's palpable.

Right now the Reds are edging out the Padres in the standings, which is pretty huge considering how highly-touted they were. They also have a better record than the entirety of the NL East, and are two games ahead of San Diego. They are unfortunately 8.5 games behind the Brewers, which is, unless there's a big shift, pretty much an assurance that the Reds will have to go in through the wild card spot...which also means they may have to play the Dodgers, which will be extremely difficult. If they put up someone like Gray or Mahle, they could be in good shape, even if the Dodgers start Scherzer or Buehler.

I'm honestly just happy the Reds are doing this well this year. Keep it going!

Coming Tonight: In the absence of Liam Hendriks, the former A's set up man takes the ninth.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Parental Guardian


Kinda funny that the two members of the Indians' rotation to stay healthy most of the year were the two 2nd-generation guys. Plesac and Quantrill. Nephews and sons of former MLB relievers. Residing over a Bieber-less Cleveland rotation. 

Honestly, Cal Quantrill's transition from swing/5th-starter type to one of the most integral parts of this team has been refreshing. The Padres could never figured out what to do with Quantrill, even with his impressive nature in the latter half of the 2019 season. Once he was traded to Cleveland, he still had some learning curve to go, but once he got the starting job midway through this season he was golden. In 16 games as a starter, he has a 3.44 ERA, 4 wins and 67 strikeouts, numbers also boosted by his equally impressive relief numbers. Quantrill is dominant, he is reliable, and he's been very tricky in his last few starts. If he's this good next year when Bieber, McKenzie and Civale are back, the Guardians' inaugural rotation might be pretty spiffy.

But, really, the injuries to those pieces, including Triston McKenzie going down right when he figured out how to stop runs, have slowed down this team to a barely efficient 2nd place competitor to the towering White Sox. The lineup is a backbone of its former self, with only Jose Ramirez, Bradley Zimmer and Amed Rosario persisting throughout. The good news is that Myles Straw is continuing his versatile work from Houston, D.J. Johnson finally seems MLB ready, and Blake Parker has been a surprisingly steady bullpen presence. But, yeah, this team's a husk of its former self, is no longer at competitive capacity, and may be looking at some rebuilding years to rely on Mercado, Clement and Bradley as they develop.

It saddens me that the AL Central ended up being such a wash, but the Indians were competitors for about half a decade, which is pretty cool considering how bleak things were in the early 2010s. Maybe they'll run again soon.

Coming Tomorrow- Even with more earned runs, he still wound up a part of the deadliest rotation in baseball right now. 

Braves Update: Couldn't We Have Just Done This to Begin With? Edition


Deciding to compete right at the beginning of August after being a sub-.500 team for the whole season and losing three of the biggest pieces on the team to injury? St. Louis called, they want their schtick back.

Nah, the Braves rising to the top of the NL East despite losing Ozuna and Acuna for the rest of the year is...too on the nose. We spent the season with so many gonzo picks for division leaders, and the end of this season is looking like the Rays, Astros and Braves are gonna win divisions over more deserving, more fun teams like the Red Sox, A's and Mets...and yeah the Phillies I guess. If an outcome is something the sportswriters could have called in April and it comes true, it's not a fun outcome. The Braves becoming 1st in the East is a foregone conclusion because everyone was expecting them to be a 1st place team all along.

It is a little funny that the ascent to first happened after the additions of Adam Duvall, Joc Pederson, Jorge Soler and Richard Rodriguez. Like, even with all the hype the team needed that little bit to compete again. But still, now we have Fried, Freeman, Duvall, Swanson, Morton and Albies all playing like champs, D'arnaud healthy and hitting, Soler and Pederson already power-hitting up a storm, and the competitors are falling apart.

Most importantly, the rotation has come together. Ian Anderson's still out, but Morton and Fried have stayed strong, Huascar Ynoa's back from the IL and back to his old tricks at the plate and on the mound, Drew Smyly's a fine lower-tier starter and Touki Toussaint is finally delivering on his promise in the minors. Unlike the last few years there's no questionable links, like Wright or Wilson, and this is a solid unit that can run for a bit.

I think it's a long shot that the Phillies or Mets come back to stop them at this rate. The Braves had a huge last few weeks building the lead, they have it, and now they can coast for a bit. There is a chance that the Phils inch up slightly, but...the Phils aren't a playoff team anymore, and the Braves are.

Damn, that was tough for me to say...

Coming Tonight: The other second generation MLBer making waves in the Cleveland rotation.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Saint Louis Linwood III


We traded for Anthony Rizzo, he went on the COVID list, and at that exact moment, the Yankees' preexisting 1st baseman made us regret it.

Luke Voit might be the most traditional power hitter on the team, even moreso than Giancarlo Stanton. Voit just...slams the ball wherever he wants. He has that power built up, and he just hacks things away and enjoys the spoils. If 2020 had been 162 games, I don't think that Voit would still have led the league in homers, but I think he would have gotten close. And even though he's missed a lot of time so far this year, he's come back at an opportune time and has caught fire, hitting .353 since the All Star break with 4 homers and 21 RBIs. Rizzo had a nice start but has petered off, and Voit has remained strong and consistent. So much so that the Yankees are starting Giancarlo Stanton, also hot as hell right now, in the outfield so that Voit can still make starts as DH. 

The Yankees themselves have been riding some recent hotness as well, which I am overjoyed about. This team, which was .500 in July, has won 11 straight, riding on the success of Stanton, Voit, D.J. LeMahieu and Andrew Velasquez. The fact that they have kept streaking with the comparatively minimal rotation of Cole-Montgomery-Taillon-Heaney-Cortes is kind of eye-opening. Like, I don't think I would have called Nestor Cotres becoming a solid starter for us. Granted, the control-maneuvering use of Luis Gil is slightly suspect, but considering the lack of runs, I'm not complaining.

With the streaking and clobbering, it's easy to forget that the Yankees are still a wild card team, and still 4.5 games behind the Rays, who kept their lead strong by tossing around the Phillies this week. Plus, the Yankees have to play the A's this week- regardless of their slipping from the wild card standings, they are still a contender, and they still have some major pieces to work with. So I won't exactly be shocked if the streak ends relatively soon. But...the Yankees have established themselves as major contenders, even for the wild card race. I hope it all goes according to plan.

Cause if not...y'know...it'd kinda suck for me.

Coming Tomorrow- The big RBI-hitting pitcher dude that was injured for two months and is now back for the purposes of never allowing a Phillies team to compete apparently. 

KB Joys


I was worried when Evan Longoria was activated that the Giants' lineup was about to become too crowded, especially as Bryant was beginning to take flight. But then Longo went right back on the IL, 3rd base was clear again...and Bryant had the road paved for him.

I am very thankful that Bryant seems to be on the same tear he was in Chicago while playing for the Giants right now. The deadline has slowed some people down, including Adam Frazier and Ian Kennedy, and Bryant is still hitting for average, delivering RBIs, and being a decent defender anywhere they put him. He also, you know, gets to be in the same lineup as Posey, Crawford, Ruf and Yaz. Which is also definitely a plus. 

And that's honestly why the Bryant move is paying off so much for this team. The Giants are already the #1 team in baseball, and now they have Bryant continuing to cement this fact.

This team has like FIVE guys that can play a number of places and still come off the bench. Bryant, yes, but also Darin Ruf, who they can play at 1st and the outfield I guess, and is..of course, having another awesome season since Korea fixed his swing. AND you've got Wilmer Flores, whose bat is also working pretty well in his second season SF, and can play all around the infield [and is only 29, that fact surprised me]. Plus, now you have LaMonte Wade, who's been getting a ton of reps in the outfield and has been coming into his own with 17 homers in 74 games. Annnnd you've also got Tommy La Stella, who's healthy again and can play all over the infield.

That is so much versatility. And that's not even counting those other outfield pieces like Duggar and Slater and Dickerson who all swap in.

This team has...so many moving pieces, so many potential directions. AND. AND. If Posey goes on the IL again, they bring up Joey Bart, it all falls into place. If things go wrong, injuries and whatnot, in the next month or so, this team has so much damned security that I'm not scared for them. Granted, I'm not even sure this team will even have a 30-home run guy, which is odd for a first overall team, but...they're doing so much else right.

I hope the good fortune continues. The Giants are the ultimate overdog right now. This doesn't always bode well for teams. So hopefully they can make something work this year.

Coming Tonight: I'm at a beach house in Manasquan, NJ. I was last at this part of the shore in 2018, the summer where a hard-hitting first baseman we'd traded Giovanny Gallegos for began making a name for himself. He still is.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021



Okay. I'm gonna try to wrap my head around this.

We knew Justin Verlander wasn't really gonna be a thing this year. So the Astros signed Jake Odorizzi, hoping to add him to their rotation, which would thenceforth be Greinke-Valdez-Odorizzi-Urquidy-McCullers, with an assist by Cristian Javier upon injury. Five pieces that worked last year, a new free agent. You got your versatility, your security, your depth. Done, go with it.

So, uh...how the hell did Luis Garcia end up outdoing everybody not named Greinke in this rotation this year?

Keep in mind, Luis Garcia wasn't even really a factor last year. He appeared in 5 games, started 1, glittered by like a star in the night. He also somehow made a postseason start as a 2-inning opener in the ALCS, which was someone his only postseason appearance last year. And he was given the gig in April over Cristian Javier, and has started 22 games with 10 wins and a low ERA. Granted, Luis Garcia has proved his talents now, and is definitely worthy of the time NOW, but...wasn't this team's rotation already really complete.

Yes, injuries happen, and the Astros did go into the season with Urquidy and Valdez in multiple stages of injury-prone, but...I don't think they expected a 'sure, we'll start him once or twice' guy to be so reliable into the deep stretch of the season. The Astros seemed pretty complete, pretty well-rounded, and now a completely new variable comes out of the woodwork. And the Astros are still a first place team, even if logically Garcia could be considered a downgrade.

And that travels to the rest of this team. The Astros didn't especially need to give up Abraham Toro and especially Myles Straw, but they did. And then they brought up Jake Meyers, who no one had even thought about, and he's batting .300 with 11 RBIs in his first 17 games in the bigs, conquering the CF spot. So now we've got another potentially longterm piece to this team.

Credit where credit is due, the Astros farm system is amazingly well stocked, and keeps cooking up great pieces to the point where this team could stay competitive for at least another 5 years. On the other hand, these are the Houston Astros, and literally nobody wants them to be competitive. We have begged them, with litigation, to stop winning, and they have refused. 

The Astros are likely to be a favorite going into the postseason. Again. Hopefully karma comes for them before they come for the Yankees.

Coming Tomorrow- In May, he was a star piece for a first place team. He still is, but for a different one.

Brew Cut


The Milwaukee Brewers have never really been a shoo-in for the division title, despite being good the last few years. In 2018 they snuck in front of the Cubs at the last second, the last few years they settled for Wild Card spots. In 2013 and 2014 they had big starts that petered off over time. 

And now...2021...the Brewers are a first place team, and at the moment they seem to be staying a first place team. 

The main asset has been the pitching, but the lineup has come into its own in the last month thanks to the arrival of Eduardo Escobar. Avisail Garcia is hitting for average and leading the team in homers, Christian Yelich is heating up and beginning to get to a serviceable level, Wong, Narvaez and Adames are all still huge pieces, Luis Urias has thrived as a super-ute, Rowdy Tellez has been a surprising upgrade from Keston Hiura at 1st, and Lorenzo Cain is also heating up. This isn't the most ideal of lineups because so many players aren't on the same page, and Yelich and Cain aren't perfect, but they're still getting done. Wong, Narvaez, Garcia and Adames have made an unusual but durable backbone of this team. 

My worry, though, does involve the pitching, which has been strong all year. Freddy Peralta is on the IL at the moment, after having the best season of his career to this point. And we're down to Adrian Houser, Brett Anderson and Eric Lauer to fill the void alongside Woodruff and Brunes. All the momentum thus far has been on the balance of that triptych, and now that the balance has been broken, I worry the team will lose its footing a little. And the Brewers have been a bit on/off in the last few games. Now Escobar is on the IL as well. Even if the division could still be theirs, the Reds are coming from behind, and the Giants are still the team to beat in the NL.

A lot has to stay together for this team to take off this postseason, and I hope it does.

Coming Tonight: You know, I thought the Astros' rotation was pretty set, but this guy found a hole and broke out when no one was expecting it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

The Future Hall of Famer No One's Thinking About


Let's get serious for a moment. Since 2014, only one player has more RBIs than Jose Abreu, and that's Nolan Arenado. Abreu is also on track to have led the league in RBIs for three consecutive years, and is looking at his sixth career 100+ RBI season. Abreu has been one of the best pure hitters in the game since his arrival, has yet to have a true down season, and, at .253, is having his lowest average so far [it's usually around .290]. He's 34 now, and the amount he was able to do in just 8 seasons thus far is pretty incredible.

And the thing is...from a pure hitter standpoint, his output is vaguely Hall of Fame esque, honestly. I think of somebody like Edgar Martinez, Frank Thomas and the like. All this guy does is hit, and accurately at that, and he's just been an RBI machine all his career. Now that he's on a competitive White Sox team, he has more eyes on him, more people seeing him as an important figure as the team's built around him, and...maybe they're thinking that too? 

Look, I dunno, I had a post about Salvador Perez earlier this year putting him in this category, and I felt like I was in the minority there, but to hell with it. He could be a Hall of Famer. So could Abreu. Nobody has covered as much ground in this amount of time as Abreu, and that speaks volumes.

The Sox, meanwhile, are undisputed heavyweights this year. Nobody in the AL Central has come close to the output they're giving off. They still have a strong lineup, especially now that Robert and Jimenez are back and booming. Ryan Tepera, Cesar Hernandez and, to a lesser extent, Craig Kimbrel, have boosted this team and made them even bigger. I do worry that the heroes haven't EXACTLY shown up yet for this team, as only really Yoan Moncada, Lance Lynn and Tim Anderson have truly shown up. I'm just waiting for Robert, Abreu, Jimenez and others to have the big moments down the line.

This team could be a huge postseason standout. I just hope it comes together for them.

Coming Tomorrow- One of the biggest pieces of the deadline, landing in a pretty great position in Milwaukee.

Cutch Ado About Nothing


This is the last year that I get to see Andrew McCutchen, one of my favorite players, suit up for my hometown team. There's a chance he'll re-sign for a one year deal. It's a moderate chance, but knowing how things work out, I'm prepared to lose him as much as I am prepared to get him back. We got lucky with Didi. Cutch is a different animal entirely.

So here's what is absolutely true about Andrew McCutchen's first full season in 3 years. He's hit 21 home runs so far, his most since 2017. He's hitting .220, which is looking like a career low for the usual .280 hitter. With 6 more RBIs, he'll top his 2018 total and be a bit closer to his career peak. He's clearly not the elite all-around player he was in Pittsburgh, but he's also been a much-needed low-lineup bat that's kept things along for the team. He's not a complete disappointment, but he's not quite the guy he was when he came to Philly, which is a little sad.

But he is still hitting, and he can still hit for power, and that's something this Phillies team has been doing very well again. Aside from obvious power bats like Brad Miller and Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins just launched 2 the other day after getting back from the IL, Realmuto has a nice amount, and even Ronald Torreyes has 6. The team is still a few games behind Atlanta, but they're not quite out of it yet.

At the same time, the Braves do have a lot of upward momentum, a lot of new tricks thanks to the deadline, and a few less sources of infuriation than the Phils. The Phils still have serial disappointments like Andrew Knapp and Hector Neris hanging around. Ian Kennedy is slowly getting his ERA back down, but he's blown a lot more saves than he did in Arlington. Matt Moore and Ranger Suarez still make up the back of the rotation, and while they have been getting better, Moore still is not who he was with Tampa, and Suarez is still predominantly a relief piece. I guess he's the Phils version of Nestor Cortes. 

I'm hopeful that the Phillies can make a push and lap the Braves, but...I don't know if we've got enough in the tank to be a formidable opponent for them. Then again, if this Yankees series does end up knocking them down to size, you never know..

Coming Tonight: The defending AL MVP. Surprise! He can still hit for power.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Rays Against Time

 The Tampa Bay Rays have the best record in the AL with a little over a month to go in the regular season. They have a considerable chance of repeating as AL Champions. But now, unlike last year, they are the favorite. Which has never ended well for anyone.

I look at the Giants as well, who are the overwhelming favorite in the NL. A lot has to go right for them to get to the World Series and win. First of all, it's an odd year. Secondly, they still need to end the season in first, and there are still teams like the Brewers, Braves and Dodgers who could spoil things. They can finish on top, and that'll be all well and good, but we all know how it went for the 2001 Mariners after the season ended. 

And that's where the Rays are. The top is very nice, and can only guide you so far for so long. Once the season ends, they'll probably be tasked to favor all their matchups, when underdogs like the Yankees, A's and others are trying to knock them off the throne. And if it is indeed going to be a huge finish for the Rays, they'll need to justify their existence as a main competitor.

Right now, as it has all season, it'll be very difficult to explain how such a plain on-paper team can be as good as it is. The highest earner on the team is a .235-hitting Brandon Lowe, they're without bright acquisitions like Matt Wisler and J.P. Feyereisen, and their staff ace, Tyler Glasnow, won't be joining them til next year. Also, as of this week, they've got to work without Nelson Cruz, who's currently on the COVID IL. Also, I believe Chris Archer's probably gonna wind up back on the IL again very soon, judging by the abruptness of his departure this weekend.

But...you look at this lineup, and it's pretty clean. Arozarena, Margot, Meadows and Zunino have all been excellent hitters, Kiermaier and Wendle have been great contact/defensive players, Lowe is still the wunderkind everyman, and now the 20-year-old Wander Franco has come into his own at shortstop with a .266 average and 29 RBIs. This might be the most complete lineup formation in the leagues right now, as even the White Sox and Giants have a bit more flex than that. This is just a solid 9 man formation that works even without Cruz.

As for the pitching, using Shane McClanahan, Luis Patino and Drew Rasmussen as starters is paying off, as they're doing more heavy lifting than Yarbrough and Wacha. Andrew Kittredge is one of the few remaining core relievers from earlier in the season that's still active for the Rays, and is still one of the best relief pieces in the league, with only 9 earned runs in 57 innings. Louis Head has become a very successful rookie bullpen piece, and guys like J.T. Chargois and Collin McHugh have been very helpful.

So this is a very good team, it's just not showy. The Yankees, 4.5 games behind them, have the big names, the big pieces, the guys you know. The Rays can kick your ass without you knowing who's gonna be dealing most of the blows. That's what makes them dangerous going into the stretch.

Coming Tomorrow- I don't know how many more Phillies customs I can do in the regular season, or how many more times I'll get to make a custom of him on the Phillies, so here goes.

7 Ketels


Two years ago, we were all calling Ketel Marte one of the premier infielders in the game, with such versatility and talent that we were all excited. Granted, Fernando Tatis Jr. was injured this season.

Now, after one slightly disappointing year and another injury-plagued one, Ketel Marte is kinda...just another guy in the NL West. He might even be the best player on the Diamondbacks, but I don't even know if he's the franchise anymore, considering that I don't know if the franchise even knows what it is anymore. He's still hitting .350 with 28 RBIs, but that's over 54 games. He missed a lot of time due to injury this year, and it set him back from maybe dialing further into the conversation this year. Tatis is looking like an MVP candidate, Javier Baez is rebounding with the Mets, Jean Segura, who Marte was traded for, is a Phillies hero, and Marte...uh...is playing lots of centerfield now.

It really boils down to the fact that the Diamondbacks don't have a hell of a lot to say this year anyway. I mean, they wanted to make heroes out of Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly and Pavin Smith, and that hasn't really happened. Gallen has struggled at his team's expense, Kelly is a strong pitcher who just gets unlucky, and Smith is struggling to justify his hype. Same with Daulton Varsho, honestly. The best thing that can be said about this season is that two pitchers for this team scored hitless outings, and one of them was Madison Bumgarner. And even if Bumgarner's 2021 season has been an improvement, he's nowhere near the league-wide talent he was in SF. 

At the very least, you can say that this team delivered fine seasons out of Tyler Clippard, Carson Kelly, Josh Rojas and, yes, Ketel Marte. But you can't say for certainty that people like Kelly and Merrill Kelly, or even Marte, will be around when this team competes again. Maybe Varsho and Tyler Gilbert will, but...it's not gonna be next year, exactly. I think that once the D-Backs figure out someone to organize this team around, and once they realize it's not always gonna be Marte, they'll be better off, and they'll rise in the standings. Until then, it's just gonna keep being as rough as this.

Coming Tonight: Some guy with a beard who throws smoke for the Rays.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Globe Death


The good news is that the Rangers carried a Jordan Lyles start to 10 runs over the Boston Red Sox yesterday, crushing the once AL East hopefuls, and sending them further down the standings, as their division rivals the Athletics continue to hang onto a Wild Card spot with the Yankees [once again]. 

The bad news is that there's no way in hell that this team's ending the season anywhere other than in last.

I mean, the fans are back in Globe Life Field, the new stadium's being attended, and relatively well. They've gotten the inaugural deal they should have gotten last year. But the team is pretty much depleted. Isiah Kiner Falefa and Adolis Garcia had great starts but have sort of skidded to a sort of constant alrightness since the deadline. Like, they know they're not gonna get much else done this year, just sorta ride it out.

But we're now getting to the point where even the replacement type players have limits. Charlie Culberson, who's had an awesome comeback season as a starter, recently landed on the IL. David Dahl was chucked for inefficiency. Brock Holt, Mike Foltynewicz and Nate Lowe are all struggling to some capacity. Even Spencer Howard, traded from Philly, is off to his same starting troubles as previous this season. People thought getting Spencer Howard out of Philly would save his career, now we know the problem may not have been Philly. 

At the very least, though, the youth movement is trying to take over. Jonah Heim is getting more starts at catcher, and is a decent hitter. Andy Ibanez and Yonny Hernandez are making nice strides both in the power and contact departments respectively. Yohel Pozo is also getting some reps at DH in place of Willie Calhoun, and has been alright so far. This youth movement isn't immediately catching fire, but you can see a few of these guys eventually becoming regular figures on this team, especially considering how up in the air things look for the franchise.

So yes, things aren't great for the Rangers, but their future's looking pretty good, especially with Jack Leiter Jr. in the minors. Just might be a bit.

Coming Tomorrow- An infielder who moved to the outfield in the NL West. You know, before Tatis made it look cool. 

Pirates Update: You're Better Off Watching Steelers Preseason Edition

 It's August, and my best choice for a Pirates custom is Ben Gamel. That should be your indicator, folks.

The Bucs are officially bank in tankville. Frazier and Rodriguez are gone, Polanco's gonna be gone fairly soon I reckon, and the emphasis will be on growth and rebuilding for the next several years. So right now, there's a lot of replacement players running around and thankful to get any playing time whatsoever. Ben Gamel was a bench guy in Cleveland this spring, now he's getting more playing time, hitting in the .260s, and playing well enough for Pittsburgh, but maybe not well enough for a competitor. And that sums up a lot of people on this team. Colin Moran's hitting .278 but he can't play defense. Kevin Newman's a great defender but he's hitting .220. J.T. Brubaker leads the team in strikeouts, but has a 4-13 record.

And yes, while there are players doing very well, like Bryan Reynolds, Ke'Bryan Hayes and Jacob Stallings, the team is so spread out and insignificant otherwise that it doesn't really matter. The Pirates had TWO All-Star starters this year. That's gonna be a trivia question someday. Way under .50, starting Frazier and Reynolds. Yes, Frazier was gone in a month's time, but they primed great performances, even in a climate where great careers aren't sustainable. Steven Brault, one of the longest tenured Pirates besides Polanco, is finally healthy and playing great. It makes you think about what a career he'd have if he had been healthy the last few seasons. Would he even still be here?

And so we follow people like Yoshi Tsutsugo, Dillon Peters and Hoy Park, snagged in trades and waiver deals and just thankful to have a place to play. Peters has been strong over the course of his first few games in Pittsburgh. Tsutsugo is hitting as well. But these are only temporary players, to fill the void until trusted farm pieces come up. I wonder who'll be the replacement players once they're traded.

It's a very bleak time in Pittsburgh, sad to say. This team doesn't have a lot left to do, as they've already got a high draft spot, and they aren't gonna lap Chicago anytime soon. So hopefully there are some fun personal highlights ahead before they wrap things up.

Coming Tonight: Former bench player extraordinaire in Atlanta, current position player in Arlington.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Arraez and Shine


A couple years ago, Yankees-Twins was a postseason matchup. Now it's a humiliation event for Minneapolis sports fans.

Look, I've tried to vouch for this team, I've tried to say 'hey, maybe there's a chance', I've looked for the good in this team...but this Yankees series was the final nail in the coffin. Kenta Maeda being beaten up today by the Yankee offense sealed it. If you give up home runs to Andrew Velazquez, there's really no point, is there?

There's just been so much turmoil with this team. The Twins got 27 games of the best season of Byron Buxton's career, and then a prompt trip to the IL has...continued ever since. They got past slow starts from Jose Berrios and Nelson Cruz only for competitors to snatch them away. They've downgraded Jake Cave and Mitch Garver for Trevor Larnach and Ryan Jeffers, without much change. And rookies like Nick Gordon, Alex Kirlloff [now out for a bit], Gilberto Celestino and Ben Rortvedt have done next to nothing to help matters.

They are trying something with this rotation, and plugging in Griffin Jax, Bailey Ober and Charlie Barnes is an effort to employ a new youth rotation staff, a lot like Kyle Gibson, Tyler Duffey and Trevor May back in the day. Like those three, I reckon some of these guys are gonna end up relieving very soon. Ober has been the most okay, with a 4.38 ERA in 14 games, but Jax and Barnes have higher ERAs. They're also beginning to use John Gant as a starter again, which...also doesn't seem to be working. I seriously thought that Happ for Gant would be a dud trade, and there J.A. Happ goes reclaiming his dominance while Gant stinks it up. I guess I have to give the Cardinals a hand. Heheh. Hope they aren't watching what Lane Thomas is doing in Washington.

Right now, the Twins at least have Miguel Sano hitting homers, Luis Arraez hitting for contact, Josh Donaldson providing some semblance of credibility, and Jorge Polanco looking for MVP votes. But this isn't the full team effort that yielded better results in the past. This team isn't completely ruled out for future competition, but they're gonna need a lot of help.

Coming Tomorrow- A guy who began the season with the Indians, got DFA'd even by them, and found a place in Pittsburgh of all places. 

Win, Lew, or Draw


Well....it looks like the Marlins won't be making the playoffs again this year.

I'm not saying that the expanded playoff was the only reason the Marlins made the playoffs [look how they still took out the Cubs last year], but it certainly looks like it rewarded a fairly decent middle of the road team at the right time. They had the momentum, they had the lineup in line, and they were winning games even without Marte active. And it was the kind of bet, like the 2019 Nationals, that wasn't going to sustain itself.

And now we're in 2021, and Garrett Cooper's on the 60-day, Trevor Rogers is out on a personal issue, the entire starting outfield from this season is gone, and Anderson and Alfaro are struggling after strong years. This is not the team, and it's become abundantly clear. No matter how hard Alcantara, Aguilar and Rojas try, it's just not gonna happen this year.

Regardless, Lewis Brinson has been starting a lot more games. In past years, this was cause for alarm, as Brinson would refuse to hit for average, and has been struggling to live up to what the Marlins saw in him when they traded for him in the Yelich deal. Brinson was very similar to Trent Grisham in that he had a brief audition with the Brewers before being traded, but while Grisham has found himself in San Diego, Brinson is only now beginning to hit for average in Miami. He's got a .260 average, 7 homers and 25 RBIs, and he's got the best non-Aguilar OPS on the team. So clearly he's figured out how to hit in Miami, and he's definitely earning the starting duties...but, at 1.0, this is not only Brinson's best season, WAR-wise, but his only season with a WAR higher than 0.1. So many years of missed opportunity, and while it's paying off...it's still coming very slow.

I dunno, maybe a huge season is on the way for Brinson. But I didn't really think the Marlins would wait this long for results. Now that you mention it, they're still waiting on Isan Diaz as well, but at least his excuse is injury-related. 

The Marlins at least have Zach Thompson and Bryan de la Cruz to light things up for another month or so, but they have every right to be disappointed. I don't know if this crew can make it to another postseason, and a lot of work might need to be done to even entertain the thought.

Coming Tomorrow- Middle infield contact bat for a struggling AL Central team.

Friday, August 20, 2021

O's Without Saying


The Baltimore Orioles are in the process...of a 15-game losing streak.

Until a few days ago, it was not their longest losing streak of the year, thanks to a 14-game streak in May.

Thanks to this...colossal shutdown, they are now in possession of the worst record in the majors [we can thank the Phillies for that], and are only 18 games away from a 100-loss season. For reference, once again, they're closer to a 100-loss season than any team is close to a 100-win season. Tanking, folks.

It's not just that every team in the AL East is better than them, as three out of four division rivals swept them in this stretch...it's that there's just...nothing going on with this team. You have John Means and Cedric Mullins, and absolutely nothing else worthwhile. These are the kinds of seasons I thought we were getting away from last year, but the standouts otherwise are people like Ramon Urias, Cole Sulser and Austin Hays, whose numbers really only get them a trivia listing in an O's book 25 years from now. Urias does have some promise, and is, at the very least, hitting .262 right now, but compared to other rookie performers, it's downright anemic.

And that's a good word to describe a lot of this team. Anemic, lifeless, drained. Only Freddy Galvis left at the deadline, because a lot of this team just wasn't compelling enough to sell. Even if Trey Mancini is winning the league over again this year, he still has 112 strikeouts, which is TIED for the most on this team, with Ryan Mountcastle. They just DFA's Cesar Valdez, so Cole Sulser is back to being the default closer. Fernando Abad is now a relief option for the O's. Fernando Abad, a guy who hasn't since 2019. Sure!

And look, as the cries of 'promote Adley' begin to rise...what good's it gonna do, folks? You're already an 100-loss team. Might as well stick with it for draft picks, that's what all the cool kids are doing. Pedro Severino, while not quite as good as in previous years, has gained a lot of ground behind the plate, and can round out the season at catcher. THEN, maybe, you can cut him, sign a sturdy enough backup catcher, and call-up Adley Rutschman to start 2022. And friggin alert Topps about it as well, assuming they're done sobbing by then [I...have to write a post about that, don't I?].

There's just no saving this Orioles team. Maybe you retool things after the fact, maybe fire Hyde, maybe figure something out. But at this point you kind of have to just...let the awfulness happen on its own.

Coming Tomorrow- The Marlins traded Christian Yelich for this guy. Was he at all worth it?

Gomber Stomper


The 2021 Rockies, remembered for having kept Trevor Story, German Marquez and C.J. Cron...yet still just being a non-entity for the rest of the season much like the first-half. Of all the teams I've had to write about this year, this one might be the most blah. What's going on with the Rockies? They're not bad enough to be in last and they're not good enough to be anywhere near the Padres. They just kinda...hang there.

And look, even with Nolan Arenado gone, the team is still consisting of a man chunk of the main youth movement that made this team a contender previously. Marquez, Story, Gray and Freeland, they're all still there and performing. But the next stage of the team is stalling slightly, and not doing as much lifting as they are. McMahon is having a banner year, Brendan Rodgers is starting and thriving, and Sam Hilliard has 8 homers, but...a lot of guys like Alan Trejo, Dom Nunez, Josh Fuentes and Garrett Hampson are just...kinda there. Backpedaling slightly. 

And now the piecemeal quality of the team is beginning to pitch in on their behalf. Connor Joe has somehow found himself a consistent launchpad for his own success after bombing out of San Francisco a few years ago. Joe has 7 homers and 25 RBIs in 49 games, and has become a bench success at 28. Elias Diaz has gone from a Pittsburgh backup to a Colorado starter, and has provided decent defensive numbers. And while he's not exactly as good as he was 10 years ago, Jhoulys Chacin found his way back to Denver and has become a viable relief option for them. 

The season's got a month and a half left in it, there's not a ton left for the Rockies to do except get by, win a few more tough matches, and finish with a slightly dignified result. It's definitely not a marquee year for the team who's never won a division title, but it's also nowhere near the dregs. 

Coming Tonight: Infielder for a team whose season started at 'bad but at least watchably bad' and is now at 'someone please get me out of here'.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

People Who Are Not Ohtani in Anaheim


It's the same as it always was in Anaheim this year. You can have Trout and Ohtani together but you have to have more than that, and with Trout hurt, the rest of the team's flaws stand out so much more. Then other people rise to the top and they get hurt.

I'm genuinely amazed at Ohtani's season, and I think he deserves the MVP, even in Vlad Jr. is still in excellent shape. Ohtani's effortless skill in both major MLB categories is one of the great things about the game right now, and one of the reasons why I love how inexplicably weird and fun the game can be. 40 home runs and 120 Ks? Sure. Sure, baseball, let's do that.

But right now, aside from Ohtani, there's not a hell of a lot going on with the Angels. For a while there was Patrick Sandoval and his fastball, and he was coming into his own with 94 Ks in 17 games, but now he's injured, along with Griffin Canning and Alex Cobb. Raisel Iglesias has racked up 27 saves, but he's blown 5. David Fletcher finally got his average up and jumped into action as one of the under-the-radar all-around greats on the team, but his lack of a power bat reflects the fact that only 3 people on this team have more than 10 homers. And sure things like Justin Upton, Anthony Rendon and Dexter Fowler have been massive disappointments. 

The good news is that you're beginning to see glints of the future. Jo Adell is back in the majors, and this time he's hitting, with 10 RBIs in his first 15 games. The very beardy Brandon Marsh is still looking for his average in the majors, but he's beginning to make more contact. Rookie Reid Detmers has been thrust into the rotation, and though he's got a 7 ERA right now, the fanbase is still very excited to see his better numbers show up [after all, he only played a total of 13 games in the minor leagues]. 

So you're beginning to see some seeds of what could inherit this team, and how an Angels team could theoretically compete someday. But the goal, I think, is to get a competitive team with Trout and Ohtani, while they're both healthy and in their prime. So hopefully they can keep their strong seasons going into 2022 and maybe get a postseason run going. Because otherwise, it's just rotten luck that's wasting two all-time talents.

Coming Tomorrow- Ya wanna know why the Cardinals have to start a bunch of 35 year olds this year? They've been giving up all their young pitchers. Gant went to Minnesota last month, and this guy went to Colorado last year. 

The Remains of the Cubs


...yep, this is where we're at.

The Cubs hollowed out their core, and now the whole team's populated with replacement players. I hope the Cubs enjoyed Patrick Wisdom in June, cause here's about 20 clones of him.

The Cubs right now are a big game of 'who??' People are doing well for them, but they're almost completely anonymous. Rafael Ortega has become a standout outfield bat, and is hitting .325 right now, but almost nobody knows a thing about him, even his 2018 breakout second half with the Marlins, which this year is kind of a better crack at. Johneshwy Fargas is hitting .269 in an outfield job, and playing the Cameron Maybin part this year, but most Cubs fans don't know that the Mets brought him up earlier this year to replace Brandon Nimmo and was promptly thrown out once Nimmo got back. Hell, if any Cubs fan knows anything about Frank Schwindel, I'll be shocked, but he's suddenly hitting .382 with 4 homers in 16 games at 1st.

You also see both Romine brothers, Andrew and Austin, taking reps, which is kinda cool. Robinson Chirinos has become the starting catcher in Contreras' injury-plagued absence, which is still a good deal as Chirinos is hitting .286. The next option to start is looking like Adrian Sampson, which is odd, as last I heard he was still pitching in Korea. And Adam Morgan, Jake Jewell and Trevor Megill all have roles in this bullpen. It's a skeleton crew of people who'd be struggling to hang onto jobs elsewhere. Sad to think about the fact that THE Cubs were just playing there a month ago.

I imagine this means the Cubs are gonna tank for a bit. They still have Hendricks, Davies and Mills, but they don't have much of a pitching staff. The lineup is also very up in the air, and the sure things are people like Ian Happ and Jason Heyward who can't hold a team together. They're just gonna have to rebuild again, accumulate prospects, and wait around for a while. It's not ideal, but this is baseball right now, and that's how they have to play.

It sucks. I loved how fun these competitive Cubs teams were. And now...we've got nothing.

Coming Tonight: At last, an Angels pitcher that stays healthy and throws strikes. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Whooping Kauffman


In April the Royals had the eyes of the baseball world upon them. It's August, and now the same team is struggling to get people to care while starting a guy whose name sounds like a breast rash.

Yep, the Royals have gone from first to worst, have scattered the hopes of the season, and are now without Danny Duffy and Jorge Soler. It's important to note that this team was able to hold onto their sharp bullpen, including Scott Barlow, Josh Staumont and Jake Brentz, as well as the entirety of the core of the lineup consisting of Whit Merrifield, Salvador Perez, Michael Taylor, Carlos Santana and Andrew Benintendi. 

The biggest indicator of lost riches in this team is the fact that only 10 players have a higher WAR than Adalberto Mondesi, who has only played 10 games this season. And only one of them is a starting pitcher currently employed by the Royals. It's Carlos Hernandez. Yeah, I hadn't heard of him either, but he's doing well. Kris Bubic, Mike Minor, Brady Singer, Brad Keller and Daniel Lynch are all struggling, with Lynch at least having a better start recently. Singer and Bubic were supposed to lead this rotation, kinda like Mize and Skubal have in Detroit, and they both have ERAs over 5. 

The team is down to only a handful of players really making a difference, including Perez, who's climbing up the leaderboard, and Merrifield, who's one of the most versatile, entertaining ballplayers still left in the game. There is something promising in seeing Emmanuel Rivera take starts at 3rd, but this team hasn't shifted towards the youth yet. The team gave up on Kyle Isbel after a month, so I don't think they're reaching into the future much more this year [sorry, Bobby]. They're gonna retool, maybe trade some people, and then think about youth movements. Cause as much as I wanna think about Bobby Witt Jr. saving this team, we still have Adalberto Mondesi and Nicky Lopez in the middle.

I'm sad that it got this messy for the Royals, but this is the gig sometimes. Matheny's used to it.

Coming Tomorrow- We all thought 29-year-old Patrick Wisdom springing into the Cubs' lineup was a nice perk of a competitive team. It was actually an omen for what the team would look like after the deadline. 

Nationals Update: Starting a 33-Year-Old Rookie Edition


This just sums up the Nationals' season right here. I had a Joe Ross custom prepared for today, but now he's out for the season, and I'm gonna have to hold that custom til December, for Year by Year. And because so many people left this team at the deadline, I don't have many easy options to make a Nats custom for. So my best option was 33-year-old rookie Yadiel Hernandez.

Who is now a starting outfielder for the Nationals. That is where we're at.

I mean this with no offense meant towards Yadiel Hernandez, who's hitting .295 and is adding some versatility and contact work to this outfield in Schwarber's absence. But he's very much a replacement player, and this Nats team is just running on numerous replacement players right now. Instead of Trea Turner, the Nats now have Alcides Escobar, and even if he is, in fact, having his best season since 2015, he's still a fill-in player. Tres Barrera, Luis Garcia and Carter Kieboom have gone from backups to starters, and while at the very least Kieboom is finally hitting for average in the majors, how do they compare to Gomes, Harrison and Castro. And there's also perennial Nats bench man Adrian Sanchez who's been great in his first 9 games.

I will say that some of these rookies are raising some eyebrows in backup roles that wouldn't have existed without these trades. Josiah Gray now has a definite place to start games, and he's been excellent so far in 3 starts. Lane Thomas has only had a few at-bats since the Jon Lester trade, but now that he's got more room to prosper he's been hitting a bit more. Mason Thompson, the return for Daniel Hudson, has been strong so far in relief. The pieces that were MLB-ready are proving that they're ready to help the Nationals now, which means even if it's a bit until the next time the Nats get to compete, they still have pieces to use that aren't being plucked out of the minors early.

Cause as much as I frown upon 30 year old rookies, it's better than a 20 year old rookie who's out of his element. 

Coming Tonight: The team that broke through out of nowhere in April has fallen apart completely. This pitcher's doing all he can. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Springer of Rain?


The Blue Jays may have finally found a replacement for Josh Donaldson as a hard-hitting, offensively-inclined DH/occasional position player to round out the team. And while George Springer may not have the awards shelf Donaldson has, he's definitely come into his own for the Jays recently.

I mean, the two months on the IL didn't help much, but once he had June and July intact to just mash the ball and build his resume back up, I think things evened out. Springer is now hitting .269 with 15 home runs and 35 RBIs in 49 games. He has completely eclipsed Rowdy Tellez as the primary DH in Toronto, fits well into the youth-led lineup without sticking out as Justin Smoak did in 2019, and provides the Blue Jays with a solid clutch insurance bat for what might still be a crunch to a postseason spot.

And look, with everything going on in the AL East this week, the Blue Jays are still very much outshone. The Rays have a stranglehold on the division, the Yanks are working on leapfrogging the Red Sox, and the Jays are kinda behind them taking on Washington. The team is 4.5 games behind the Yankees as I write this, and are still kinda the fourth wheel in the Wild Card race. With the A's, Yankees and Sox having compelling postseason pitches, the Jays have kind of lost theirs over time. 

Yes, this team still has incredible performances from Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Marcus Semien and Bo Bichette to call upon on a nightly basis. Yes, they have a solid rotation thanks to Ray, Ryu and Manoah. But you have to remember that there's still holes in this team. The bullpen is still pretty fractured and injury-plagued, and plugging in Adam Cimber and Brad Hand only fixes that partially. You also have Jose Berrios on the wavelength of only an okay season to begin with. He's doing fine so far, but I don't know if he's going to hit peak Twins numbers here.

And yes, last season did seem to indicate more of a future run from this Blue Jays team, but I don't know if there's room for them in this 2021 playoff picture. There's barely room for the Yankees as it stands right now. So even if they muster up a campaign and run after the Yanks and Sox, I don't know if that means anything for this season. Maybe next year, maybe 2024, but not this year. 

At the very least, though, they're gonna finish with a winning record and the steps to keep succeeding, which is better than nothing.

Coming Tomorrow- Ironically the team they are currently playing, and a 32 year old rookie.

Jigsaw Falling Into Place


Lost in the shuffle of the no-hitter the other day was the fact that Fernando Tatis Jr. works in the outfield, leaving Ha-Seong Kim room to start. Which means the San Diego Padres now have flexibility at catcher, 2nd base, shortstop, and most of the outfield. Regardless of their current place in the standings, that is honestly dangerous.

Ha-Seong Kim probably isn't a good enough hitter to be a Rookie of the Year candidate, but like Evan White last year, he's a very impressive defensive player with great numbers at shortstop and great positional versatility. I initially thought the Padres were being silly picking him up and confusing the infield situation, but it's adding flexibility. Jake Cronenworth is taking more reps in the outfield now that Adam Frazier is here, and Frazier can also play back there. It also brings on Wil Myers as more of a bench bat, which he's sort of become anyway. 

The flexibility isn't quite spreading to the pitching, even with the addition of Jake Arrieta. With Darvish on the IL, along with Lamet and Paddack, the Padres are trying people like Miguel Diaz and Reiss Knerr as starters, with differing results. Knerr could be a rotation piece, but he's still acting like a bullpen piece. There's the option of promoting Mackenzie Gore, but even someone like Daniel Camarena would be a safer bet right now. Hopefully Arrieta can provide better work than his last few Chicago starts, and bring this team forward.

The bullpen, at the very least, is worth it. Melancon's still killer in the ninth, Hudson's been solid in his first few appearances, and Stammen, Hill, Johnson, Pagan and Adams have been uber-sharp. I do worry about Matt Strahm, who's been shaky in his first few appearances back, but for the most part the pen isn't the source of problems right now. Nor is the lineup, honestly, especially with Tatis back and his bat still on fire. 

I just worry about this team continue to be the third option in the NL West thanks to the pitching, and to keep tottering along in the third spot. The logic says that this could come down to a Dodgers-Padres wild card game, and honestly I don't know who to bet on there. The Dodgers will pitch Buehler, the Padres will likely pitch Darvish or Musgrove, and it'll probably come down to which alliance can find a crack first. And after this week or so, I don't know if that's the Padres.

I could be wrong, they could shock everyone. But I'm not convinced yet.

Coming Tonight: Took him a while to get off the IL, took him even longer to heat up. But he's back, and he's hitting well. 

Monday, August 16, 2021

Toro de France


The Seattle Mariners are at the very back of the Wild Card race, behind the Blue Jays, Yankees, A's and Red Sox. This week, the A's and White Sox play each other, and the Yankees and Angels play each other, in tense battles to either eliminate or legitimize a wild card threat.

Meanwhile, the Mariners get to play the last place Rangers followed by the first place Astros. So as good as they'll be feeling in a few days, they're gonna really need to hold onto that feeling on the way to Houston.

There's really no way of sugarcoating it, the Mariners are a good team that are severely outmatched by all other AL competitors. There was never going to be a place for the Mariners in the hierarchy this year, even if the AL Central was gonna have the divide between the Sox and everyone else like they have. There's room enough for four serious Wild Card competitors, and also the Mariners...who've just gotten very lucky as of late.

Abraham Toro struggled to fit into the Astros lineup for two years, then once he was traded to Seattle his bat caught fire, hitting .344 with 8 RBIs in 18 games. He's slowly edging out Dylan Moore as the starting second baseman, and making a big name for himself as someone who was always outshined by the Astros, but always talented enough to be there. That's kind of what the Mariners have become, a haven for great players on hard-to-breathe teams. Joe Smith has been scoreless in 8 appearances as a Mariner, and Diego Castillo has slid right into the 9th successfully. 

This is also a team that's still carried by big guns like Yusei Kikuchi, J.P. Crawford, Ty France and Mitch Haniger, who are all healthy and all helping out in droves. I'm so glad Kikuchi and Crawford have come into their own, and I'm so glad that Haniger is healthy and hitting. Without Kyle Lewis, Evan White, and Jarred Kelenic's average, there's still too many holes in this team for them to really be taken seriously, but if all three of those join the initial few in surging next year, a run is certainly a possibility.

It just sucks that now their postseason drought is probably gonna turn 20 this year. They've just had too much rotten luck, and even a better-luck year like 2021 is still probably gonna end in heartbreak.

Coming Tomorrow- They just got no-hit, but their star shortstop has moved to the outfield, meaning one of the best defensive tools of the year can now play everyday.

Goldy Blocks


...The Cardinals have won six straight, haven't they? Dammit...they're doing this again.

You all know the drill at this point. Any season where the Cardinals tank themselves out of contention early, they have to somehow muster the strength to wander back into the conversation in the middle of the second half so that by the time that the season ends, they're in a prime playoff spot. They do this so often it's a wonder that teams continue to not see it coming.

The Cardinals, like the Dodgers and Yankees, have been consistently competitive for the last 13 or so years. There haven't been any truly down seasons for the Cardinals in that period, they've always made a run at things, and they've made 2 World Series' in the last decade, winning one. Since 2013, they've just been hovering around, threatening to go all the way, never quite sticking it in...a lot like the Yankees, honestly. They've gotten close, then gone back to refuel, over and over. 

Now they have a pretty well-running farm-grown youth movement, led by Tyler O'Neill, Jack Flaherty, Harrison Bader, Dylan Carlson and Tommy Edman, and two huge contract pieces in Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. And they're still in third, behind the Brewers and Reds.

It's certainly not due to lack of trying, that's for sure. Goldschmidt has 18 homers and 67 RBIs on the season, and is still doing really well at the plate, but compared to his peak numbers in Phoenix, he's just...sort of getting by. Same with Nolan Arenado, who's having a fine season, but nowhere near the late-2010s high point for him. The rotation has dealt with tons of injuries, and the sole constant has been Adam Wainwright, who is in great condition for a 39-year old. J.A. Happ has been a solid replacement presence, but Jon Lester is still struggling. 

This team, and this lineup, is good, but I don't know if it's going to be enough this year, streak or no streak. Even if they can get past the Reds, they still need to fight to squeak through the Padres or Dodgers, and I don't think they can do that. So all they can really do is finish the season over .500, and, once again, rebuild in the offseason.

Coming Tomorrow- The Astros traded him to a competitor and he responded by locking in at the plate in a way he never could for them.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Candy Caned

Harold Castro hit a single into right field to break up a no-hitter against the Indians. Which means...Jeimer Candelario, Jonathan Schoop, Miguel Cabrera and Robbie Grossman couldn't get anything done...and Harold Castro could.

This is Tigers baseball this decade. The Indians start Triston McKenzie in peak form, they start Drew Hutchison, who gives up 6 runs in one inning. What can you do?

The good-ish news is that, even after today's loss is taken into account, the Detroit Tigers are still technically a second place team. Which is...an odd sentence to type out loud. Second place teams, the Red Sox, the Dodgers, the Reds...and the Tigers. That fits. It owes itself to how decided the AL Central is right now. It's the White Sox, clearly. Being swept by the Yankees isn't gonna change that, cause they're still amazing and have a playoff spot ready. What do the Tigers have? Uh...they have enough draft picks that are gonna bloom in the next 2 seasons?

It's still very much a mishmash. Casey Mize is a rare pitcher that doesn't rely too much on heat and because of that isn't quite as dominant as other strong pitchers in his field. Candelario, Grossman and Schoop are having good seasons but none are especially complex. Akil Baddoo could be a Rookie of the Year candidate but he's also not very multi-dimensional. Gregory Soto has blossomed into a great closer but the rest of the bullpen is piecemeal at best. Matt Boyd and Spencer Turnbull are still out so the Tigers have to have people like Wily Peralta, Tyler Alexander and the aforementioned Hutchison start games. 

There's also a lot of tension on when Miguel Cabrera will hit his 500th home run. He's hit 12 so far this year, but this is also late career Miggy who isn't what he used to be at the plate. So maybe it'll happen in the next week or so? You never know. I think it will happen this season, and that'll be a huge milestone for the big man, who punched his ticket to Cooperstown like 10 years ago but keeps trucking regardless. 

That may be the extent of the news that comes out of this Tigers team in the remaining month and a half. Which isn't nothing, but it's still not great.

Coming Tomorrow- A hard-hitting first baseman who is desperate for his team to squeeze into the playoffs, despite the lack of good odds for him.