Thursday, September 30, 2021

Corbin Blew


Scherzer-Strasburg-Corbin-Sanchez-Fedde. That was the Nationals' postseason rotation just three years ago. Now Anibal Sanchez is out of baseball, Max Scherzer is in Los Angeles, and Stephen Strasburg is injured yet again.

So that leaves us with Patrick Corbin and Erick Fedde, two guys who currently have ERAs over 5, negative W/L ratios, and negative WAR. Both of them were pretty good in the last few years. Corbin has been excellent the last three seasons, owing back to his 2018 with the Diamondbacks, and has morphed into a reliable, strong pitcher. This season he just couldn't quite put it together, leading the league in losses with 16, as well as earned runs with 111 and home runs with 37. Whatever he had the past few years, he lost in 2021, and after a while he was one of the few veterans left in the rotation.

Meanwhile, people like Josiah Gray, Josh Rogers and Paolo Espino started being plugged into the rotation, and only Rogers has really done a decent job, out of the three. It's very hard to assemble a good rotation when half the team gets traded and the big pitching prospects aren't ready yet. So we're just in this limbo period. Plus, one of the actual great rotation assets this season, Joe Ross, landed on the IL right before all this madness began, and won't be back til next season. So the pitching might be a mess for a little while longer.

This is just the reality of a firesafe Nationals season. The big guns are gone, and all that's left is Juan Soto and a lot of meh. The good news is that Juan Soto has been incredible this month, boosting his MVP case in the eleventh hour and making it known that even if Scherzer, Schwarber and Turner are gone, he'll still be raising hell in Washington for a little while longer. And while a team needs to be more than one guy, that one guy being Juan Soto is a lot more than most bottom feeder teams could even dream of, so even if they're definitely depleted in 2022, I still see some big moments and players showing up for them, even the newbies like Lane Thomas, Riley Adams and Keibert Ruiz.

It's gonna take a while for this team to compete again, but it'll take even longer for them to be completely boring again.

Coming Tonight [?]: A pitcher for the Royals. One that the Royals didn't think they'd have to be starting in 2021. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Canada Dry


Well. We are in the midst of a Blue Jays-Yankees series that honestly might not matter.

I mean, yes, it will help the Jays stay in the race if they win a few games [as they are doing right now], and it will definitely help the Yankees secure the playoff position if they win some more. But...this is not one of the series' people are glued to right now. People are watching Orioles-Red Sox to see if the Sox slip anymore, and they're watching Oakland-Seattle to see if the Mariners creep up anymore. 

The Blue Jays still have the slightest chance of making the playoffs, but now some of the biggest assets of the season, including Hyun-Jin Ryu, Ross Stripling and Randal Grichuk, are slowing down. Even Vlad Jr. has backed off, letting Marcus Semien and Robbie Ray lap him in the WAR category. And while Semien's season is also pretty incredible [he hit his record-breaking 44th homer as a second baseman tonight], Vlad isn't quite as at the forefront as he was in the heart of the season. 

Which isn't to say the team is weak. Jordan Romano, Lourdes Gurriel, Alek Manoah and Corey Dickerson have pulled ahead to carry some freight during this stretch of the season. Romano is the closing option this team has landed on after losing Kirby Yates, Julian Merryweather and Rafael Dolis, and he's been impressive as hell, with a 2.24 ERA, 81 Ks and 21 saves in 60 innings. 

But...the odds are not in the Jays' favor. They're third in line for the spot. Of the contenders, the Mariners have the most momentum, and the Sox have the easiest schedule. The Jays are also dealing with peak Yankees right now, and that's already cost them one game. I could be really wrong, but I don't see the Jays breaking into the last spot, and even if they do, it will be difficult for them to get past New York and eventually Tampa. So as 'feel-good' as this team has been, and as promising as this youth movement has been...2021 may not be the year it develops.

...2022 on the other hand...

Coming Tomorrow- The last two seasons he was among the best pitchers in the league. Now he's one of the Nationals' last lines of defense. 

Fraz the White Flag


Let's not be coy, 2021 has been a career year for Adam Frazier. The guy started at 2nd in the All Star Game, led the league in hits and average for periods of time, has topped his career marks in hits, doubles, stolen bases and average, and will have a combined 4+ WAR by the end of the year. For a guy who started the season playing for the last-place Pirates, alongside Will Craig, Todd Frazier and Anthony Alford, that's really good.

What's really unfortunate, though, is how Adam Frazier is ending his 2021 season.

Not that his numbers are bad. He's hitting .273 with 47 hits in 51 games in San Diego, which isn't bad at all, and has been a contact success for a haven for contact hitters. But compared to his Pirates numbers, where he hit .324 with 125 hits in 98 games, they're kind of tame. And I'm not sure if it's more indicative of where Frazier has been in the last few months, or where the Padres have been. Because, like Frazier, the Padres have skidded to a halt after a strong first half. 

It's a lot of different factors. It's the Tatis thing, with his injuries, positional changes and tension sort of putting a haze over the team. It's also the pitching, as Snell, Lamet and Darvish have had shaky starts here and there. And it's also the fact that, as the Giants and Dodgers are both better NL West teams, the road to the postseason was never going to be an easy one for this Padres team, and it involved hanging to that last wild card spot for deal life. Unfortunately for them, the Reds, Phillies, and eventually Cardinals also wanted that spot, and as the Cardinals took off, the Padres stayed at the same speed, and lost focus. 

It's very sad, especially considering this team's epic start, and their insane moments in the first few months, mostly courtesy of Tatis, Machado, Cronenworth and Musgrove. And this team has enough depth where I'm not worried about their ability to compete for the next few years. But the fact that they ran out of steam this quickly, and couldn't even make it to the Dodgers rematch, is telling. And it's indicative of the fact that the Padres will have to make a lot more fixes before next season. Yes, getting Mike Clevinger back will help, but they also need to tighten the outfield, fix Tatis, get a few relievers that won't crap out, and work on beating those top two teams. 

Because if the entirety of this Padres team's prime is wasted on seasons where they're trapped under the Giants or Dodgers, then absolutely nothing is going to get done.

Coming Tonight: A relief asset for a team that's still trying to squeeze into a playoff spot that might not be theirs. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Somewhere That's Green


Yeah, second Broadway-related post title in a row. I sincerely hope this isn't a trend. 

One hell of a thud to end what looked like a promising A's season. The power and the promise was there. Matt Olson was hitting like hell, the deadline acquisitions were successes across the board, and the rotation of Chris Bassitt, Sean Manaea, Frankie Montas, James Kaprielian and Cole Irvin was all pretty excellent.

And then...the AL East guys conquered the wild card spots, the Mariners lapped them, and they were out of the race faster than you could say 'Vimael Machin'.

It's very disheartening, because this was a team that seemed so powerful last postseason, and could have been a contender if they hadn't been stopped by the Astros. And once again, the Astros lapping them in the standings caused their eventual undoing. Time and time again, the A's try to be better than the Astros by being a lot more fun, versatile and clutch, but the Astros are the more well-built organization, with more years of buildup, and with more exhaustive measures being put into place to extend the competitive years' runtime. We all thought Dusty Baker coming onboard would make this team lose more playoff games, when in reality they just win more and just lose the ALCS anyway because...they're sort of self-aware.

Meanwhile, the A's have had Bob Melvin for a decade, have been building this team since 2016, have been a playoff contender, even in wild card form, for the last three seasons, and are missing out on the playoffs because, quite honestly, they just weren't good enough. They couldn't win Astros' series, they couldn't win series' against other contenders, they couldn't win Mariners series' by the end, and that initial winless run that started the season out doomed them, in a sense. Yes, they were leading the AL West for a few months, but they weren't built well enough this year to win the West. Even bringing back Jed Lowrie, Mike Fiers and Khris Davis led to diminishing returns. 

So for 2022, where the A's, Astros, Angels AND NOW MARINERS will all be expected to compete, there is a chance that the A's will play like the Cubs and slowly slide out of the spotlight and start selling. It's a very sad thought, especially considering their run as buyers this season, but it could happen if next year's team is more disappointing than this year's.

Coming Tomorrow- He left a sinking 5th place team to compete. And...for a number of reasons, he will be  missing out on the playoffs regardless.

Farmer Refuted

 Of the teams that made the playoffs in 2020, seven will not be returning to compete there in 2021. And in all the heartbreak, of teams like the Athletics, Padres and Blue Jays, who were all ALMOST THERE...perhaps the most sad omission from the playoff picture was the Cincinnati Reds. Who were within inches of a spot, and then the Cardinals came in and bulldozed past them.

The Reds are a rare team, in that their top four players, according to WAR, are all starting pitchers. Not three, Milwaukee. Four. And #1 is Wade Miley, which still is baffling to me. Is Wade Miley, at 34, slowly turning into the next fun veteran fringe pitcher, in the tradition of Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey and Rich Hill, right before our very eyes?? How cool is that? Guy from the Louisiana swamps with an incredible Hulk arm tattoo, hero of Cincinnati. You love to see it. But Miley, Tyler Mahle, Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray are the four best players on this team statistically, without even factoring in the two All Stars [Jesse Winker and Nick Castellanos], the Rookie of the Year [Jonathan India], and Joey Votto [Joey Votto. 

And that's not even mentioning the fact that the fifth starter, Vladimir Gutierrez, is also pretty damn good, with a 9-6 record in 22 starts. And also, they just brought up this kid Reiver Sanmartin who started yesterday and held the Pirates to a run over 6 innings. So this rotation is looking better than it has in years, and it's one heck of a trend to start.

But also, this lineup took shape in 2021, and so many little pieces came into place. Tyler Naquin, the streaky king, had so many amazing drives this year. Kyle Farmer had a huge July, and has secured a place as the starting shortstop. Tyler Stephenson was beautiful as a backup this year, and made a serious case to replace either Tucker Barnhart or Joey Votto down the line. Delino Deshields Jr. and Max Schrock have been surprisingly awesome off the bench. And this T.J. Friedl kid sure packs a punch. 

So even if 2021 seems to be a wash for the Reds, it's definitely a sign of big years to come. With Nick Senzel back next year, and with a little bit of roster space sure to be cleared [I say Barnhart's on the way out, maybe even Suarez too], this team could get even stronger, and be even more of a threat in the NL Central. 

Maybe I just want this so the Cardinals aren't the spoiler next year, but...wouldn't the Reds making a serious playoff run in the next few years be awesome? It'd be so much fun!

Coming Tomorrow- One of the other great teams that missed the playoffs this year, and a great pitcher from it.

Monday, September 27, 2021

A Shining Beacon of Okayness

 I did a brief median track to see which team was the most okay team in baseball, and I didn't expect actual good teams like the Padres and Reds to be in the middle. So for the purposes of this post, the Detroit Tigers are the most okay team in baseball. Why are they the most okay team in baseball? Name one person on that team that isn't Miguel Cabrera, or even Michael Fulmer, who's the custom for this post.

Tougher than you thought, eh?

It's even tougher when you have to think of someone that this farm system has produced that's worked. Fulmer was a Mets prospect, the heroes of this season, like Jeimer Candelario, Jonathan Schoop and Robbie Grossman, are all acquisitions, and even guys like Erik Haase and Akil Baddoo were Rule 5 acquisitions. Right now, Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal are working...but are they really doing enough? Mize has the second-highest WAR of anyone on this team, and yet he's got a 7-8 record, a high 3 ERA, and only 114 strikeouts. These aren't mind-blowing numbers, even if Mize was drafted first overall due to his insane pitching numbers. You have to hope that his high marks are coming soon, because if not, the Tigers just wasted a #1 pick on someone extremely okay. And they have to hope they don't do it twice.

The youth movement that was supposed to take over this lineup is still doing so very slowly. Willi Castro and Harold Castro have been lineup fixtures for the Tigers this year, and neither have done anything substantial. Harold's hitting .281 but has very minuscule stats for 100 games. Willi's batting .211 with a -0.8 WAR. And people like Zack Short, Isaac Paredes and Daz Cameron just aren't doing anything at the major league level. You can't get anywhere if the farm system doesn't produce MLB-ready players, and right now the Tigers are going nowhere.

So what's gonna happen when the rentals expire? Yes, they locked up Schoop, but a few of the temporary pieces of this team are about to leave, and I imagine some of the veterans [Boyd, Fulmer, maybe even Niko Goodrum] could leave during the offseason. What happens when this team has to stand on its own? Will they still be merely okay? Or could they be a 100-game loser yet again?

I guess we're gonna find out next year. Let's see how long it takes the Tigers to have to call up Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson.

Coming Tomorrow- A shortstop for a team that NEARLY made the playoffs. 

Recency Baez


I was in Queens the other night. I was at a wedding in Flushing, and the place had a rooftop view to die for. You could see the World's Fair, the US Open, and CitiField. Looking down upon the baseball stadium, I realized that the Mets would be missing out on the postseason, even after a few months at 1st. Talking with some Mets fan relatives of mine, I could sense that they'd come to terms with the outcome a little while ago, and had taken it in stride. 

But man, oh man, did they get close.

I don't even know if it's a 'if DeGrom stayed healthy' kind of thing. Cause yes, it would have helped, but also, remember June when half the roster was injured and the team still stayed on first? Johneshwy Fargas was starting in center! Cameron Maybin was striking out a ton! Billy McKinney was the heart of the lineup! And that didn't kill this team. No, what killed this team was getting everybody back after the ASG break and just losing a bunch of games to other competitors, culminating in the Phillies smacking the shit out of them for the throne. 

The sad part is that the midseason acquisitions, like Javier Baez, Rich Hill, Trevor Williams and Brad Hand, have done pretty well for the most part. Baez is already a fixture in Queens, hitting .300 with 20 RBIs in 41 games. Hill has been a surprising success in New York, and is still in decent enough shape for a 41-year-old. What really has let this team down has been the foundation that was already set up. Michael Conforto has had a very weak year, especially after stepping up in 2020. Edwin Diaz still is a very flawed closer. Pillar, Villar and McCann have only done so much after coming in from free agency. Even worse, Jeff McNeil's only hitting .253. And while Francisco Lindor is doing fine, his 2.8 WAR is nowhere near his peak years, and his .228 average is a far cry from his Cleveland days.

The people who needed to step up couldn't, and the people who succeeded did so at the cost of their own health. Jacob deGrom was unhittable through May, but throwing that hard every 5 days caught up to him, and now it's not a certainty that he'll reach those numbers consistently anymore. Is Lindor gonna have a comeback year in 2022? Are we wasting the prime years of Nimmo, McNeil, Smith and Guillorme? Are we really looking at Tylor Megill and David Peterson in the heart of the rotation next year? It's...too nebulous, and depressing, to even say.

I wish there were answers, cheery or no, for the Mets. Hopefully it gets easier to see after the offseason.

Coming Tonight: Former Rookie of the Year, current middleman for a middle team.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

The Rivalry Continues


The AL East picture has changed about a dozen times over the course of the season. First the Red Sox were the alpha, then it was the Rays, then the Yankees ruled the Wild Card race, then they fell apart and the Blue Jays fought back.

And now...we're looking at a Yanks-Sox wild card game, in order who decides who gets to play Tampa. Somehow, it just feels fitting. I was talking to my uncle last night, he's a Boston sports guy who hasn't forgiven the Sox for trading Betts, so he's not as attached to the team as he used to be. And the whole season's looking towards both our teams playing each other for a piece of the playoffs, and we've both sort of amicably come to terms with it. No more flashy jerkiness, like when his Patriots played my Phillies in the Super Bowl. Just...'however it goes, it goes'.

And that's kinda where we're at. I do like this Yankees team, and I like how good they've been at their peaks this year, but I can admit that they're not the titans they should have been this season. Gleyber's been imperfect, Sanchez still can't hit for average, Gallo's been amazing source of power with, as per usual, no contact abilities, and as good as Stanton is right now, it took him a while to get back there. We've also had a much shakier pitching staff than we figured, with Kluber being a bit less consistent than in the first half, Taillon petering off before the injury, and Heaney completely imploding upon arrival here. I know the team's being very careful with Severino since his return, but a start from him would be a step in the right direction. 

The Sox, meanwhile, have a pretty awesome pitching schematic since Chris Sale returned, a pretty full lineup thanks to Kyle Schwarber, and some excellent clutch luck. They are technically the better team right now, but the Yankees are the one with the momentum, as evidenced by the first two games of the series, and the power hitting that has finally emerged after several weeks of dormancy. 

So of course, it's going to come down to who has the momentum in early October. The Yankees have to finish the season in Tampa, while the Sox have to finish the season in Washington. So from that, you can make an assumption that maybe the Red Sox may have the edge going into the wild card. But, again, anything can happen, and anyone can become a playoff hero. 

It'd just be nice if it was my Yankees. 

Coming Tomorrow- On the other side of New York, a trade acquisition that feels the disappointment he would have felt if he'd just stayed put.

Mad Max: Fury Road


He wanted to compete again. And so he is.

Max Scherzer pitching for the Dodgers has basically been thought of as their killswitch. And so far, Scherzer has been lights-out in LA, with 7 wins, a 1.43 ERA and 85 Ks in 10 games. Adding this to his Nats numbers give him stats that still fit him into the Cy Young race, even though teammate Walker Buehler and Phillies hurler Zack Wheeler would still like to add their first rather than Scherz' fourth. 

But...even at 37, Max Scherzer is giving peak numbers, and is in a rotation alongside extraordinary performances by Walker Buehler, Julio Urias, Clayton Kershaw and Tony Gonsolin. Urias has an outside chance at becoming a 20-game winner next week, especially if he wins today against the D-Backs. Jansen has another 30-save season, Muncy has another 30-homer season, and Turner and Smith have 25-homer years. 

And yet...even as the Dodgers come close to their 100th win [I'm writing this Saturday morning], they are still looking at a wild card spot. 2nd best team in the league, better record than any other division leader, and they still have to play 1 game against the very dangerous Cardinals to advance to play the Giants. Because the Giants are just that good this year. 

Which also means that, despite all the Dodgers' dominance this season and their insane heights over the course of the year, they may not even have a proper chance this year. And even if they do make it past the Cardinals for the wild card spot, they'll still be coming in at 4th seed, and will have to play the Giants, despite having a better record than both the Brewers and [NL East division leaders]. That's kind of mismatched, and a little unfair. But hey, this is how the structure works, and Manfred's probably gonna widen the playoffs next year anyway because he wants to give the Astros and Cardinals more of a chance.

The bottom line is a team as good as the Dodgers shouldn't have to go through this many hoops in order to prove that they can compete again, and they have a good chance of losing before they can even defend their throne, even if they're arguably the more deserving playoff team in comparison to the Giants. 

But, with that rotation, and with enough tools to keep them going, they have more of a chance than the average wild card team, and they could potentially make another World Series this year. Especially if they keep putting Mad Max on the mound.

Coming Tonight: Perhaps the wisest move the Yankees made at the deadline. And no, it's certainly not a Luis Cessa Reds custom.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

"Now, Here's My Plan..."


There's an old Shel Silverstein cartoon I think about from time to time. Two guys shackled up in prison, in a room all by themselves. One says to the other "now, here's my plan." Absolutely no chance of escape, and he's still got an idea. 

Shel Silverstein must have been a Mariners fan.

Every year, the Mariners are deadlocked out of a chance, thanks to teams like the Astros, A's and Angels, and every year they outdo people's expectations, flounder around third, and try and sneak into the conversation. For someone like the Cardinals, who compete every year, it's reprehensible, but for the Mariners, who don't usually compete, it's interesting, and fun. I tend to root for the outcomes that would piss off Rob Manfred, and this is definitely one of them. 

And even when the outcome looks bleak, and when it looks like there's absolutely no place for the Mariners in the playoff still see Mariners fans going 'right, here's how we make it in'. Just the other day they were going 'so if the Yankees lose all three of these games to the Red Sox and if this other thing also happens, the Mariners are playoff bound'. Forgetting, of course, that in a wild card scenario against Boston, the Yankees, or even Toronto, they would not be the favorite. of last night, the Seattle Mariners have lapped the Toronto Blue Jays in the standings. Even a week ago, d'you think anyone could have predicted that? Plus, they've lapped the Oakland Athletics in the division standings. They have 85 wins, more than people like the Phillies, Reds and Padres, and as I write this, they have won six straight games. 

They are also looking at a final week that consists of five games against the Angels and three games against the A's, both division rivals that are lower in the standings than they. Meanwhile, the Yankees have to play Toronto and Tampa after this Boston series. I'd also like to point out that the Blue Jays and Red Sox both have to play the Orioles this week, which is awfully interesting. Once again, I blame Manfred. 

And even if the Yanks are looking mighty against the Sox right now...could the hottest team in the wild card race actually be the Mariners???

Like, this team has made up so much ground in the last 2 months. Yes, they lost Kendall Graveman, but they gained Tyler Anderson, Abraham Toro, Diego Castillo and Joe Smith, who have all been brilliant with the team. Kyle Seager has an 100 RBI year on his hands. TY FRANCE, not J.P. Crawford, has the best average on the team, and is hitting beautifully right now. Dylan Moore and Tom Murphy have become excellent clutch hitters. Hell, even Jarred Kelenic is learning to hit for power, which should set up a much better 2022. 

And the fact that they have done this all without Kyle Lewis, Justin Dunn, Evan White and Shed Long is pretty great. This isn't even the entirety of the team that people thought could do things in 2021. 

I'd kind of love it if the Mariners made the playoffs, even if it'd ruin season-long stories like the Red Sox and Blue Jays [or even the Yanks]. Hell, I honestly think the Mariners beating the Yankees, or whichever AL East team makes it, in a wild card playoff, would be the funniest thing ever, and it'd be so good for baseball. 

And if they do lose, and miss out again...I'm sure they've got a plan to get out of it.

Coming Tomorrow- A 1-game wild card playoff...with this guy on the mound. This has happened before.

DeJong at Heart



Just...fine, cosmos. Fine. Cardinals-Dodgers wild card series. This is what the earth has moved in favor of. This is the outcome that apparently makes the most sense. Not something exciting like Padres-Dodgers, or something quirky like Phillies-Dodgers or Reds-Dodgers. No, the team that makes the playoffs every damned year will get to play the OTHER team that makes the playoffs every damned year.

...And even though he probably has nothing to do with it, I'm choosing to blame Rob Manfred.

Look, there is technically a chance for someone like the Reds, Padres or Phillies to somehow catch up, but they're all 4.5 or more games behind. The most baffling part of this is that former competitors like the Padres and Reds are trailing behind the PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES, a team that isn't even going for the Wild Card at all, and the Atlanta Braves, who hopefully won't even need to worry about the Wild Card race anyway. So two teams who've been in the conversation all year now have been booted out of it by a team that wasn't really in the conversation til last month. 

I...literally...had a section in my Trade Deadline deals posts where I singled out the Braves and Cardinals' moves as being asinine because they were choosing to compete halfway through the year, and here they both are. And somehow, the Cardinals have more of a chance than even the Braves [if they somehow lose the East in the next week or so] for that last wild card spot.

To be very fair...this team has accomplished a lot, and has made bonafide stars out of a lot of borderline-til-now guys like Tyler O'Neill, Tommy Edman and Harrison Bader. O'Neill and Paul Goldschmidt are on the cusp of 30-homer seasons, while Nolan Arenado has already notched one. And while Jack Flaherty, Carlos Martinez and Dakota Hudson are all out with injuries, having J.A. Happ, Jon Lester and Miles Mikolas all healthy and pitching relatively well [all around 4 ERA]. This team shouldn't have worked, and yet they do. Even Paul DeJong, though a wash at the plate, is having another great defensive season. It's all come together in spite of every other logical indication that it shouldn't.

And while the Dodgers will be the favorite to win the Wild Card game....the Cardinals could be the ultimate spoiler of the playoffs. And they could outweigh the odds to get far into it, like they used to. And for the purposes of my own wellbeing, I'd prefer a Dodgers win.

Coming Tonight- Second baseman for a Wild Card threat that has a long way to go, but oh what if they did make it?

Friday, September 24, 2021

They Call Him Dr. Sticks


Tonight, Shane Bieber returned from the IL, and immediately got back to his old tricks. He joins the newly returned Aaron Civale, who's also been sharp since being activated. 

So...if we were to have Bieber, Civale, Zach Plesac, Cal Quantrill and Triston McKenzie all playing well, and healthy, at the same time...d'you think maybe the Indians would have been a bit more a threat to the White Sox this year? I certainly think so.

I feel like each of these pitchers had their own month to be really good. Bieber took off in April, picking up where last season left off. Civale took off in May, with his very low ERA and high amount of wins. Once he and Bieber got injured, Plesac was the only viable starting option for June. Then Cal Quantrill took off in late July and early August, making the Indians regret not making him a starter from the beginning. And now it's Triston McKenzie, who's had some blistering starts recently, and is getting to the point where his strikeout totals aren't the entirety of his personality.

But the tragedy of the Indians is that when one would get really good, the others would either be injured or inefficient. That also rings true for the lineup, where only Jose Ramirez was consistently good all year [cause that's what he does]. I kinda wish the Indians could have enjoyed strong starts by Franmil Reyes and Josh Naylor all year round, and I wish that Bobby Bradley didn't take as long to heat up as he has. But, this is just a very fragmented, inconsistent team that couldn't pull things together 

While it is a good assumption that the inaugural Guardians squad will still be led by Shane Bieber and Jose Ramirez...will some dealing be done to rid the team of the overhead room? I do think that when it comes time to try and lock up Bieber, it may not exactly go according to plan unless the team gets good again. But even if Bieber-Civale-Plesac-Quantrill-McKenzie would be awesome if all of them were on and healthy...could this be the last time all of them are together at once? Is this like the Mets rotation, where they actually align for a brief moment before Harvey craps out and leaves. Will one of them get traded or leave in some capacity in the next few months? Or...could the inaugural Guardians team actually have an awesome rotation.

All that remains is whether or not the lineup will match. And as of right now, it's really not.

Coming Tomorrow- Shortstop for a team that came from nowhere to infuriate the hell out of me again.

Balance of Power [Ranger]


Look, I'm done deluding myself. If we were a playoff team, we'd be playing like one. If Aaron Nola's giving up 5 runs in the second to the Pirates, we're not a playoff team. If Brad Miller is bungling easy plays at 1st, we're not a playoff team. If Hector Neris isn't gonna decide whether he's on or off this year, we're not a playoff team. 

Yes, there's still a 3-game margin between us and the Braves, but the clock is ticking, and the Braves are playing like a playoff team, while the Phillies are having TIGHT matchups with the Orioles and Pirates. You had this in the schedule so you could coast, not get strung out by the Orioles. Even if there is still time to make mistakes, the mistakes are very costly for the Phillies, and if they're playing for a divisional spot, they're not a great sign of how a division series against the red-hot Brewers will go. 

But...whether the Phils lose here or early next month, this season is one that hasn't really deserved the insane breakout that has been Ranger Suarez. 

This is a guy who wandered onto the scene as a prospect a few years ago, never really found a proper place with the Phils. And then earlier this year he was brought up as a reliever and went scoreless to under-1 ERA, becoming one of the top earners of the season for the Phils. Then there was the point in July where Suarez was both used as a closer AND a starter, eventually being placed into the rotation as Kennedy came aboard. And once he became a starter, he truly blossomed, with a 1.99 ERA and 49 Ks in 10 starts. The only thing is he has 6 wins, and 5 of them are as a reliever. So the versatility has spread him a bit thin as a wins guy. 

But, Ranger Suarez has come the furthest of everyone on this team, and has been a solid, reliable member of the rotation in a season where Aaron Nola and Kyle Gibson have had the occasional rotten start. The three top performers on the 2021 Phillies are Zack Wheeler, a Cy Young candidate, Bryce Harper, an MVP candidate...and little old Ranger Suarez. Which is kinda nice.

There have been a lot of fun unsung heroes on this team. Ronald Torreyes, Brad Miller, Cam Bedrosian, guys like that. So while this has been a fun team, I'm not sure if they're a playoff team. But this season has still set them up for future dominance, which is more than I can say for the last few years.

Coming Tonight: As the rest of the Indians rotation becomes healthy again, a young, dangerous fireballer hopes he can get one or two more insane starts in.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Wind in our Sale

 On August 10th, the Red Sox were slowly dropping out of the playoff conversation. The Yankees were leading the wild card conversation, the A's were still holding relatively strong, and the Sox were running out of energy, waiting for Schwarber to come back, losing players to the COVID list, and trying their best to cultivate their insane start to the season. It wasn't looking good, and they needed one last piece to make them into a contender again.

On August 14th, Chris Sale came back from the IL. Since then, he has been in career form, with 5 wins, a 2.57 ERA and 39 Ks in 7 games. It's not that the Red Sox rotation was bad without him, as Eovaldi, Pivetta, Rodriguez and Houck were all doing pretty decent jobs, but it was clear that there was something missing. The Sox rotation thankfully had time to grow and mature since last year's debacle, but without Sale, they were only part of the way there. 

Since Sale's return, the Sox have ascended to the top of the wild card race, with a sizable lead over the Yankees, and all other competitors, and a good amount of playoff odds. I'm not saying it's the only correlation/causation, but it's definitely a big reason as to why they're still a contender right now. If Sale had missed the season this team might be worse off.

Because there's still a lot of people on this team who had huge starts and are still kind of petering off since the midpoint. J.D. Martinez is still gonna come out of here with 100 RBIs, but his numbers have fallen off, and he's only got 27 homers, compared to his near-lead at some point. Rafael Devers' high-contact peak has now leveled off at around .275. Pivetta and Rodriguez have bulked to 4 ERAs. Matt Barnes has 6 blown saves, and Adam Ottavino has been having to come in and close a lot more often. 

The once-shrouded flaws of this team have been revealed, and this team just has to work with them. I do still think this core of Bogaerts-Devers-Martinez-Verdugo is gonna be tough to match up to for AL opponents, but I also think that two of the three pitching matchups may not go the Sox' way, and the Sox that may show up to October may be the second-half team that's made all those mistakes. 

This team has won 7 straight, so maybe they will be a decent playoff contender. But...I still worry. Especially compared to the other teams in the race.

Coming Tomorrow- Perhaps the biggest pitching takeaway from the Phillies this year.

Take the Longo Way Home


It took him eight years and a team switch, but Evan Longoria is finally getting back to the postseason. However, it's been a full 13 years since a team of his had a series win in the playoffs. Yes, Longo hasn't played in a Championship Series since 2008, his rookie year. And man, looking at that 2008 Rays team now that we have a stronger, better one is...odd. So many odd pieces like Gabe Gross, Cliff Floyd, Eric Hinske and, of course, Chad Bradford. Man, Kevin Cash wouldn't know what to do with them.

Anyway, Evan Longoria's on the best team in baseball now, and that is somehow the San Francisco Giants, who were guaranteed for the playoffs roughly a month ago [I know it was a week but...I mean, come on now]. They will likely be the first team to hit 100 wins, which will be a pretty cool move for a team that hasn't hit that mark since...wait, 2003???? THEY DIDN'T HIT 100 WINS DURING THEIR EARLY-2010S RUNS??? They haven't gotten more than 94 wins since Barry Bonds was still on this damned team? Holy mackerel! Well, thank God for Gabe Kapler I suppose, and thank God he somehow managed to figure it out in San Francisco rather than just...those 2 years in Philly [which makes him the anti-Chip Kelly].

Longoria is a part of one of the most versatile, ever-changing rosters in baseball right now. The Giants have three valid choices at third base [Longoria, Bryant, Flores], three valid choices at second base [Solano, Dubon, La Stella], three valid choices at 1st base [Belt, Ruf, Flores], excellent choices at catcher and shortstop, and six excellent candidates for outfield spots [Duggar, Slater, Yaz, Ruf, Wade, Bryant]. You could get so many different renditions of this team, even over the course of a playoff formation, and they all could be insanely valid. 

And it's leading to some weird developments. On a team with Brandon Belt, Darin Ruf and Kris Bryant, last night LaMonte Wade Jr. bat cleanup for the Giants. Not the power-hitter the team thought they'd be showcasing at the beginning of this season, but Wade has become a true unsung hero to this ever-changing team. After five months of injury, Tommy La Stella jumped back into the lineup and has been a trusted upgrade at 2nd. Curt Casali is slowly approaching his Reds numbers as backup. And the core of this team is still deadly.

I worry of the propensity for an upset with how large this team has loomed all season, but I also know that they've had excellent luck recently. Whether they play the Dodgers or Cardinals [or someone else for some reason], they're definitely gonna come out guns blazing once the playoffs begin.

Coming Tonight: He was gone, and the team got into the playoff race without him. He's back, and they're not gonna leave it without a fight.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Breg for Mercy

 Here are some storylines that would have been a lot better than the Astros just winning the AL West in a runaway yet again.

-The Athletics retain their midseason lead over the Astros, continue to pound them into submission, eliminate them from the conversation in late August, and find a spot in the postseason against the White Sox, making this ALCS a thrilling rematch of last season's wild card series, with different stakes and new heroes and villains.

-The Mariners somehow build off their July-August run, go toe to toe with the Astros in August, nailing them as the season ends, then watching with glee as they lose a one-game playoff to the Blue Jays. Jake Fraley, Tyler Anderson and Paul Sewald become postseason icons as the Mariners end their 20 year drought.

-The Angels keep Trout, Rendon AND Ohtani, and replenish the pitching staff at the deadline, outmatching the Astros throughout the season, and leaving them plenty of room to take the West.

-The Astros go through a Yankees-like train of injuries, losing Altuve, Correa, McCullers, Greinke, Alvarez, Bregman and Gurriel in a week's span, and having to bring up replacements to get by. And unlike the Yankees, this kills them and they can't come back for it.

-The Rangers use Kohei Arihara, the new young cheap free agents, and Adolis Garcia's home runs to defy logic and ascend the AL West, pushing LA to last, and embarrassing Houston in August.

-The Astros get returned to the NL Central and get pulverized by the Cardinals in September.

I'd rather a season where any of those happened, as unlikely as some of them are, than another boring year where nobody can catch the Astros and they just make the postseason automatically almost. The lack of serious reparations on this team is allowing them to continue their reign over the game, and even if they miss the World Series this year, they're still an evergreen contender. And new members like Luis Garcia, Jose Siri and Jake Meyers are ensuring that this team has a chance even when Altuve, Bregman, Correa and the gang all graduate. 

All I am for someone in the AL West to become better than the Astros. Not for a month, not for a few games. For the year. Give them a chance to feel like losers, which they don't get enough chances to. Let them sit with what they've done. Show them how you felt. I'll take any of the other 4 teams, including the once-loathsome Rangers. Just...for 2022, shoot for that particular fence. 

Because the Astros are probably gonna be awesome next month, and we're once again looking at an Astros-Rays ALCS unless one of the more fun teams sneaks a win through. So I really hope this team loses some of their momentum over the coming weeks, and lets a more deserving competitor get some glory this year. Cause...I don't know how many more years of this crap I can take.

And I should know about contenders that don't need to be there, I'm a Yankees fan.

Coming Tomorrow- A third baseman who broke into the league 13 years ago, and is still chasing postseason glory.

Both Sides of the Cain


My dad was reading the paper and checking the standings the other day, and he muttered aloud "the Brewers might have a decent chance this year"

And I nodded, pertaining to their recent rise to the top of the NL Central, their recent clinch of a playoff spot, their pitching hydra. But then I thought about it. COULD the Brewers make a World Series this year?

They have the team for it. The pitching will slow down any playoff competitor, and I have a feeling they'll do well against the Braves [or Phillies but probably the Braves]. The lineup is surprisingly meaty, especially now that Cain and Yelich are healthy and coming into their own again. There's a ton of really nice defensive players, especially Cain, Omar Narvaez and Jackie Bradley Jr. There's a ton of depth, and a ton of bench bats waiting to go [especially Jace Peterson and Manny Pina]. And, let's be honest, I don't think any of those three starters are gonna hold anything back for a playoff scenario. 

So okay. In an NLDS against the Braves, they're the favorite. In an NLCS against the Giants...they might be the favorite as well, as they're a younger, quicker, and more consistent team. In an NLCS against the Dodgers, they're even, and it may be the full 7, but they still have a chance at winning. And in an NLCS against the Cardinals, they're still probably the favorite despite the Cardinals' usual October sneakiness. And then they might have enough going for them to take down the Astros, Rays or even the White Sox.

Playing as they are right now, with the tools they've cultivated, and with the luck they're skating off of...the Brewers might be the favorite to win the World Series right now. How crazy is that?

It's definitely be the next step in a crazy year for Milwaukee sports. The Packers nearly made a Super Bowl, the Bucks finally won a Championship. The Brewers have never won one, and are one of two teams in this playoff configuration to have never won a Super Bowl ring. Hell, this may even come down to both of them, as the Rays could very well make a World Series as well. It would be very nice if this team keeps this momentum going into October and takes down a lot of potential head-shakers for me as WS winners.

It could be a long shot, and it could be a misfire...but it also could happen. So let's see.

Coming Tonight: Third baseman for a team I would really, really, really like to not win the World Series.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Yaz You Were


The White Sox are inches from clinching. They're pretty much the single most surefire division winner in the AL, and only a complete disaster could stop them taking first in the Central, but...with another few wins, they're in, and they get to pivot towards the postseason. Which is a nice feeling, considering that last year they had to go in as a wild card. 

But right as the postseason is in sight, a few minor snags have happened. First, Carlos Rodon got injured, and now he's questionable for the postseason. On one hand, that does still leave us with an impressive trio of Lucas Giolito, Lance Lynn and Dylan Cease for an initial postseason rotation. But...I think we'd all prefer Rodon to Cease right now. Yes, Cease is 12-7 with 202 strikeouts, but his ERA is significantly higher than Lynn and Giolito's, and may be subject to slight battering considering the probability of the Astros being their ALDS opponent.

We're also going in with a lineup that was supposedly retooled in July but still isn't perfect. Cesar Hernandez has more strikeouts than hits with the Sox. Billy Hamilton has more RBIs than stolen bases. Brian Goodwin, who is hitting .230, is still a probable starting option for the postseason, especially with Andrew Vaughn still down. I still would have preferred Nick Madrigal to Hernandez, injury or no, and I'm still not very sure about that last outfield spot. Let's see how Leury Garcia does. 

And while the bulk of this team is impressive, and guys like Yasmani Grandal, Jose Abreu, Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez and Tim Anderson are all in very fine form...I still worry that the comparative human nature of this team could hold them back from being a playoff threat once again. And I really don't want those fears in a year where the Sox are looking at an ALDS against the Astros. I've said in the past that I really, really don't want an Astros-Rays ALCS, but that's really where things are looking right now unless things shift. And the White Sox would be a wonderful playoff contender that I'd love to see take down some of baseball's villains this year. 

Of all the teams that I don't despise that have been linked to the AL playoffs this year, the White Sox have the best chance of doing anything. This October, I might be a White Sox fan. So I really hope they don't let me down.

Coming Tomorrow- It's really been six years since he won a ring with Kansas City? He's got a decent shot at doing it again with the Brewers. 

Soler Flare

2021 Braves Opening Day outfield [Acuña, Ozuna, Pache] home run total: 32
2021 Braves outfielders netted at the trade deadline [Pederson, Soler, Duvall, Rosario] home run total: 34

I don't know how it happened. I thought this team was looking really good before the start of the season. I thought Ozuna and Pache would pick up where 2020 left off. I especially thought Acuña would stay healthy and snag that MVP. But for all 3 to be either injured, suspended or in the minors by mid-July? Ouch. That should have been the death nell for the Braves this year, and it should have been a sign to start prepping for 2022. But...Brian Snikter persevered. And he saw a competitor in this team still, and so he just...rebuilt the outfield and they went from there.

I'll give the Braves credit- last night I was talking about the Rays' rotation being the one weak spot of the team, and possibly a factor that could hold them back in October. The Braves have a great rotation, a great bullpen, great power and contact, a hell of an infield...and now, with any combination of Joc Pederson, Jorge Soler, Adam Duvall and Eddie Rosario, the Braves have a great outfield. Rosario has been hot as hell recently, hitting for the cycle the other day. Duvall has had 14 homers as a Brave. Jorge Soler has been hotter than he was in KC earlier this year, and has hit 10 homers and is looking good. Pederson has cooled down since his big August, but is still a useful tool. And if any of those don't work, Guillermo Heredia is a great defensive pick. 

So the Braves have every element working right now, and have reached the durability and versatility they've been looking for all season. The only problem is that the division is not quite theirs yet, and the Phillies still have a shot at lapping them for the East. Yes, it's a slim shot, but the Braves aren't quite as hot as they were in August, and there is a small chance they could let this go.

Though...if they make the playoffs, they have a very nice chance of getting extremely far. So it's gonna come down to these last 2 weeks.

Coming Tomorrow- He has been playing for a competitor every season since 2015, with three different teams. Still no ring, though. Will this year be the year?

Monday, September 20, 2021

Shanes of Love

 Right now, there's a guy pitching for the Rays named Shane, and somehow it's not this guy.

Yeah, after 3 years of him gestating in the minors following the Chris Archer trade, Shane Baz, one of the most sought-after and feared pitching prospects in the league finally debuted for the Rays, and as I write this, has been pitching really well. This is a big deal, because the Rays are already in first, and look to be the first seed in the AL. They will be starting Shane McClanahan, Ryan Yarbrough and Michael Wacha in the postseason- two players with postseason experience and one who's excellent this year. And to give themselves even more of an x-factor in this, they have brought up Baz as another potential postseason starter.

Which means the Rays might just be starting two rookies named Shane in a top seed postseason situation. Which is a choice.

And that's really the one flaw in the entire Rays strategy this year. They can outhit competitors, and have enough people that can surprise you, including Brett Phillips, Mike Zunino, Joey Wendle and now Jordan Luplow. They still have a strong bullpen, with a lot of great setup and longman options, in addition to Kittredge in the ninth and Anderson working his way back there. The big stars of this team, including Kevin Kiermaier, Brandon Lowe, Randy Arozarena and Austin Meadows, are still trustworthy. And there's enough depth and flexibility to last them until the World Series again.

But...the Rays' starting pitching is the most lackluster one going into the playoffs.

You think of 9 other teams going in, even counting some of the ones that have a chance to squeeze in, and I can name one or two healthy, big-star arms and one or two surprise ones behind them. The Jays have Robbie Ray, Steven Matz and Jose Berrios. The Sox have Sale, Eovaldi and Pivetta. Even the A's, a long-shot for the playoffs, have Sean Manaea, Frankie Montas and James Kaprielian to stay safely behind. the Rays have Shane McClanahan, and then some shaky Michael Wacha and Ryan Yarbrough seasons, and also maybe Shane Baz now, or Luis Patino. Only Yarbs remains from their 2020 rotation, and Glasnow's injured. So...there's a lot riding on Baz, and on the rest of this rotation, to stay strong in a playoff scenario. Because the Rays are the alpha in the AL, and some misfires by the rotation could bring someone like the Red Sox, or Blue Jays [or sure maybe even the Yankees, I dunno] further into the postseason. 

Don't get me wrong, a Rays ALCS would be boring...but I have a feeling this could be how the Rays lose a playoff series. And I'd rather them lose one to someone tame than to the Astros.

Coming Tomorrow- A power-hitter for a team that still has a very good shot of clinching the NL East.

Anything Left in the Tank?


Two weeks to the end of the season and it's become very clear which teams have nothing to do for the next few weeks, and the Rangers and Pirates are among them. So let's see what's left for them to do.

The Rangers made a very big move yesterday, in DFAing Kohei Arihara. At the beginning of the season, the acquisition of Arihara marked the Rangers putting themselves back into the ring as a potential contender, trying to rebuild their pitching and go for a smaller-rate, more homegrown success. However, Arihara struggled in the US, got injured trying to match US velocity rates, and was outdone even by Mike Foltynewicz. So, he was cut, and who knows where he'll end up next, if anywhere.

The Rangers are playing the second-raters. Andy Ibanez, Jason Martin, DJ Peters, Spencer Howard...all sort of playing decent roles for the Rangers. A lot of them netted in trades, and Howard the biggest one, proving that it wasn't Philly that was the problem. AJ Alexy and Glenn Otto's early dominance hasn't exactly lasted, and Otto has had some rough starts as of late, but I still see them being big pieces next year. Not sure how much better they'll be next year than 2021, but...I'll allow them to make something of it.

As for the Pirates...I mean, it must have been easier for them because they didn't have a huge free agent signing, or the hopes of getting anywhere higher than 5th. Look, the Brewers, Cubs, Cardinals and Reds all started the season making a push, so it was never gonna be the Pirates anyway. The fact that they had two all stars, even if one of them left for San Diego, is an accomplishment. But...regardless of Reynolds, Frazier, Bednar and Stallings, the Pirates still were kind of a mess this year.

This team has been a continued home for low-rent fringe players and small free agents, and people like Ben Gamel, Colin Moran, Philip Evans, Wilmer Difo, Yoshi Tsutsugo, Dillon Peters and Bryse Wilson have thrived here. You're also beginning to see some of the prospects beginning to come out of the woodwork. Max Kranick has had a few really nice starts in between the malaise. Rodolfo Castro has made a case for 2022, even if his offensive numbers don't show it yet. Keller and Hayes have big roles. If things go a little better in the next few years, you never know how quickly this team could crawl back.

I do think the Rangers have more pieces ready now than the Pirates, and have a chance at competing sooner. But I'd love to be proven wrong.

Coming Tonight: A rookie starter for the best team in the AL. How weird is that sentence?

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Simba's Pride

 Andrelton Simmons and Josh Donaldson in the Twins lineup. Worked a lot better in concept than in practice.

Donaldson has been decent this year, but we may have finally reached the end of Simmons' peak years. His defense is still pretty damn good, and he's an upgrade at shortstop for Minnesota, but...his batting numbers are still a weak point. He's hitting .223 with 30 RBIs, not exactly a very showy year for him. When compared to people like Jorge Polanco, Byron Buxton and Luis Arraez, who ARE doing well, it stands out more. And even if it is a one-year deal, it's a year that doesn't look very good when it ends up being a last place year for the Twins.

I feel like this was avoidable. Not Buxton getting injured, not Maeda slumping, not the kids tanking. This was a competitor last year, and the pieces were still in place for it. Jorge Polanco, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Mitch Garver and Taylor Rogers are still where they were before, their quality hasn't exactly changed. But readying the other pieces of this team and ensuring that it all fit together, that could have been avoided. Nick Gordon so far has been the only younger player who's really made it work in the majors this year, though Joe Ryan, through 3 starts, has been promising. There's still no room for Willians Astudillo, and he's beginning to leave his prime years. The rotation is coming down to people like Bailey Ober and Griffin Jax who just don't have it yet.

The confidence and power this team had last year is gone, even if the big pieces of it haven't all left.

I imagine some pieces of the old guard are gonna be cleared this offseason. Maybe some bigger ones, like Buxton and Garver, will stick around, but I do think this team is gonna tank again and focus on rebuilding a contender, no matter how long that takes. And honestly, other than maybe Ryan, I don't know how many of this new youth movement is gonna make it to that.

As for head to a low-market team, see if that works?

Coming Tomorrow- Some guy with a beard from Pittsburgh.

Strife of Riley


How bad must Tres Barrera feel right now? Going into the season thinking he'd get some time as a backup once Avila got hurt, and now the Nats are playing Avila, Keibert Ruiz and Riley Adams instead of him. Poor guy. He probably thought he'd be the Nats' 2022 catcher. 

I kinda had a feeling that Riley Adams was gonna be good for somebody while he was in Toronto. He was not only stuck behind Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire, the STILL-quarreling catcher platoon, but he was stuck behind Alejandro Kirk, who seemed like an heir apparent at backstop already, AND the heir apparent to Rowdy Tellez at DH. And he was doing decently in his brief time in the majors. So I figured something would happen and he'd get time somewhere. Something did happen, he was traded for Brad Hand, a guy who isn't even with the Blue Jays anymore. 

So...essentially, the Blue Jays gave Riley Adams to the Nats for free. Which makes his sudden rise all the more painful for the Jays, especially if they miss the postseason.

Adams has been a strong starting catcher in Washington, boosting a depleted lineup with a .292 average and 10 RBIs in 29 games. Things have calmed down after his first 2 weeks with the team, but he's become a strong starting catcher, and is a shoo-in for a piece of the 2022 team. While I'm guessing a lot of this team's late-season success may not carry over to next year [Alcides Escobar, Yadiel Hernandez, Jordy Mercer coming out of nowhere], I do think some of the younger guys like Adams, Lane Thomas, Josiah Gray and even Keibert Ruiz will have a definite place in the Nats. I do question whether or not Ruiz is gonna stay at catcher, but...I do think the Nats have some use for him. 

In terms of the other sort of tentpoles, like Patrick Corbin, Ryan Zimmerman and even Carter Kieboom......I dunno, man. Zim'll maybe be a one-year deal again, but do the Nats wanna keep relying on people like Corbin and Kieboom, who haven't delivered at all this year? How much longer are the Nats gonna wait for Kieboom to give them the big seasons he's been promising? It's a little frustrating. Soto and Bell I can see sticking around comfortably, cause they've actually put in the work this season. But it's gonna be hard to mix them with the new guard of Nats youngsters, even if Soto is still 22. 

I actually have a lot of belief in the Nats' minors and youth movements. I don't know how far away they are from competing again, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was sooner than you'd think.

Coming Tonight: Former Angels 11 years into his career. What now?

Saturday, September 18, 2021

The First [Two] to 100 Losses


The Orioles and the Diamondbacks lost their 100th game on the same day, being yesterday. So neither of them really beat the other to the marker, even if the Orioles technically finished their game first. But...I think it's very fitting that these two tie for the 100 loss milestone. They're not even good enough to lose separately. 

The Diamondbacks's plight may have been the most surprising. People expected them to be bad, but not THIS bad. From May 15th to the All Star break, they won 8 games in total. May 2nd was their last moment over .500, and the entire downhill slide afterwards was painful, taking great pitchers like Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly and resorting them to 10-loss seasons with even the highlights looking kinda thin. It's unclear who had it worse, the team heroes who were able to get out, like Asdrubal Cabrera and Eduardo Escobar, or the players who looked like they were getting out but couldn't, like David Peralta and Kole Calhoun. 

Maybe with a better team, the younger stars would have made more of a statement. Josh Rojas, Taylor Widener, Daulton Varsho and Pavin Smith got a lot of much needed playing time this year, but none of them especially had league-wide great seasons. They were all great for Phoenix. Rojas hit .270, yes, but right now he has one more strikeout than he does hits, which is a very slippery slope for a contact guy to walk. And yes, Bumgarner, Kelly and Gallen are still great pitchers with stuff left in the tank this year, but without a good lineup and bullpen, it doesn't mean anything.

The Orioles, though, do have a league-wide standout on their team- two of them, in fact. They have Cedric Mullins and John Means. Mullins is one of the best outfielders in baseball right now, is batting .300, and is finally delivering on the promises made when he was called up to help recover from Machado's trade. Means was injured for a bit but has still crafted another solid season, with a 3.41 ERA and 118 Ks in 23 starts. These two are great pieces, and they could either be the centerpiece of a future competitive Orioles squad, or they could be pawned for prospects in 2 years. But they're both valuable pieces, especially if they keep up the excellent work. 

The rest of the team is basically nothing. You have young players like Ryan Mountcastle, Luis Urias and Austin Hays that are providing decent stats, but they're all kinda one-dimensional. Jorge Mateo, who is yet another player who got injured right after I made the bleeding custom, provided some nice infield depth, and some good contact numbers, but still hasn't found his niche after failing in both the Yankees, A's and Padres organizations. Trey Mancini is a great power bat but his second half is nowhere near as strong as his first half. And the starting pitching is practically nonexistent right now, with barely anyone that feels like a confident carry-over for 2021 other than Means and maybe Chris Ellis. 

Of the two, I expect Arizona to be the more improved team next year, solely because they're putting some pieces in place, including Seth Beer, that could yield a better run in 2022. I could be very wrong, and 2022 could be the Rutschman saves the day year for Baltimore, but from right now, I see the D-Backs getting to 100 later.

Coming Tomorrow- A former fourth-string catcher for Toronto, now starting in Washington.

Average Joe


A lot like Patrick Wisdom, Connor Joe has had a very strange journey to where he is now.

Joe was a first round pick with the Pirates in 2014, which seems...innocent enough. You know, Pirates need prospects, the big guns are going places. In 2017, he's traded to the Braves for Sean Rodriguez. A month later, he's traded to the Dodgers for international bonus slot money, kinda cruelly I might add. The Reds claim him in the Rule 5 draft, then trade him to the Giants for a minor leaguer and suddenly he's an opening day starter for the Giants in 2019, starting the first 8 games...and getting a single hit in 16 at-bats. So, he's immediately returned to the Dodgers, gestates in their minor league system for another year, doesn't play at all in 2020 due to the suspension of the minors, and is released at the end of 2020.

Which is a lot, already. However...the Colorado Rockies took a chance on Connor Joe. And unlike the other teams, Connor Joe proved his worth with them, resulting in a promotion to the majors, a starting outfield spot, and and a .285 average with 35 RBIs and 8 homers in 63 games. Out of nowhere, Joe has become a sturdy bench bat, a reliable lineup presence, and a decent outfielder. He's also become one of the Rockies best performers, alongside C.J. Cron, German Marquez and Ryan McMahon.

Honestly, I'm glad that a success story can happen in Denver. It's happened all over this year, with people reviving their careers in Chicago due to a surplus of roster spots on the north side, and it's happened to a lesser extent with people like Darin Ruf and Alcides Escobar, people we thought were done having great seasons. Connor Joe seemed destined for the trivia books, but he's working on a nice reclamation project in Denver, and I hope he keeps it up. I have no idea what the Rockies are going to look like next year with a few less contracts and more of an emphasis on homegrown youth, but hopefully Joe factors into it somehow.

Coming Tonight: Former Yankee prospect, current Baltimore starter. That pipeline keeps delivering. 

Friday, September 17, 2021

Chasing Pavements


Tonight, the Angels have made several statements in their lineup for the game against Oakland.

First of all, they're starting a rookie pitcher, Jhonathan Diaz, who will make his debut tonight. Rookie starter. Okay. Brandon Marsh, another rookie, is the leadoff hitter, in the position fellow rookie Jo Adell used to be essentially. And even if Jared Walsh is the best power hitter on the team, the cleanup bat tonight is Phil Gosselin, former DH for the Phillies. And the rest of their lineup is littered with people like Jack Mayfield, Juan Lagares and Luis Rengifo.

The Angels. We actually thought they were going to compete this year.

Look...I've talked about how unlucky this team is, but they were especially unlucky in 2021. Not only did they lose Mike Trout to an injury, but they lost Anthony Rendon, Alex Cobb, Patrick Sandoval, Griffin Canning, Dexter Fowler AND NOW JO ADELL to injuries. And almost all of them, especially the big ones like Rendon, Trout and Adell, have been met with a 'oh they'll be back in 2021' from Joe Maddon, and NONE OF THEM EVER ARE. I thought Nick Anderson was out for the season, he's back now. I thought Chris Sale would miss all of this year, he's back and thriving. I'd thought Tatis would be out for the season three separate times this year, he's still in it, though...granted maybe he should have sat.

The sad part is that Adell was beginning to branch out, with 32 hits and 26 RBIs in 25 games, not bad at all for someone who felt so awkward in the majors last year. But the fact that Adell, a replacement, can't even stay healthy...that's just cruel at this point. Now the Angels are pretty much running on replacement energy, forcing to start Packy Naughton and people like that. The good news is that one recent callup, Janson Junk, has been pretty decent in two starts so far, with a 2.25 ERA, despite a lack of true earth-shaking stats. And maybe this Diaz guy will be decent. But this is not the team the Angels thought they'd be running with this season, and even with the MVP, it's not a great year for Angels fans.

Maybe it'll be 2022 where everything comes together. You have to think it eventually will, right?

Coming Tomorrow- A former Pirates prospect who finally found a home in Denver.

Cubs vs. Phillies 9/16/21: 3s and 7s


Last night was my second of two in-person games at the local ballpark in Philadelphia. The first one, as you'll recall, didn't go too well for my hometown boys in red. But this one, I thought, could be different. For one thing, the game was against the struggling, depleted Chicago Cubs, and in the midst of a pretty strong stretch for the team.

On the other hand, as was confirmed before the game, the Phillies had designated tonight a bullpen game, meaning we wouldn't be getting Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Kyle Gibson or Ranger Suarez. We would be getting Cam Bedrosian, and eventually, Matt Moore. While it was a step up from Vince Velasquez, who is apparently not even good enough for the Padres, it was unsettling decision. I was worried we'd blow this one as well, and I was not expecting much. Besides, I got the tickets to go with a friend of mine, the goal was to have a good time and maybe, potentially, get a decent game in. I didn't care too much about the outcome, especially knowing this team.

So we watched as the Phillies spent a few innings being their usual pathetic selves. The initial coolness of the Phils wearing throwback blues and starting a Bedrosian, which is very cool, immediately wore off when after Bedrosian left, Matt Moore did his usual thing and HPD's a run in, followed by another score on a bloop single. From there, the infield joined in on the fun, with a blooper by Brad Miller costing another few runs, and a homer by Matt Duffy, off of otherwise-great-this-year J.D. Hammer, making the game 7-0 in the third.

Seven runs in an inning, against the Phillies bullpen. Sounds about right. 

Around this time, as I was heading to the restroom, I overheard a conversation between an all-too-thrilled Cubs fan and a stadium attendant on break. The attendant was outraged and confused by the Cubs' big inning, and directed that sentiment, playfully, towards the fan. The Cubs fan replied "And we're terrible, too. I guess a blind squirrel finds a nut every so often."

Well...said harvest wasn't about to last especially long. Because it was the Phillies' turn to have a 7-run inning.

The first strike was a double that nearly made it over the fence, but stuck onto the landing and back onto the field, robbing Bryce Harper of a home run. But we would take a double. As would Andrew McCutchen, the guy I'd come here to see, who started the party with an RBI double. Then a series of small-ball moves, including singles, fielder's choices, walks and excellent base running, kept raining down on Kyle Hendricks, and tied the game in the fourth. 

After that, it was only a matter of whose bullpen was worse. The Phillies, whose bullpen routinely falls apart despite all effort not to, or the Cubs, who lost everyone except for Rex Brothers and had several relievers with ERAs over 5. 

If you answered the Cubs, congratulations.

First Harper had an RBI double, then Manuel Rodriguez gave up an RBI single to Didi Gregorius, whose bat definitely seemed to be back tonight. After Harper's massive hit, there were a few MVP chants in the ground. They would only grow throughout the night. 

A Willson Contreras home run would cut the score to 10-8, so it was still possible for the Cubs to reach us if the bullpen screwed it up enough. We needed security. 

Against Tommy Nance, we got some. First Odubel Herrera knocked another RBI double in, scoring 2 more runs. But Bryce Harper got up, and at the moment that my friend Marc came back with soft serve, LAUNCHED a homer into centerfield, scoring 3 more runs, making the stadium go absolutely wild, and giving us the celebration we deserved after his homer was taken away earlier. The chants of 'M-V-3' went even louder, and even longer. Harper was now hitting .315, with his OPS back over 1, and any thought of another player winning MVP was obliterated. This was Bryce Harper's season, and this was Bryce Harper's game. The moment he had been looking for since joining this team had arrived, and the entire stadium was behind him. It was beautiful. 

We only needed one more run from Mean Jean Segura, but the Phillies bullpen actually held things together otherwise. Bailey Falter and Adonis Medina were pretty excellent that night, giving us something unheard of by a Phillies bullpen- 3 scoreless innings. The ninth was a wash, the game was a 17-8 blowout, and we were outta there. 

For a game that I wasn't expecting to be a competition at all, or even more than 5 runs, to be a 17-8 triumph for my Phillies, that was everything I'd wanted. It was a hell of a night, a hell of a game, and a hell of a wrap on my stadium adventures for the year. Even if the Phillies don't make the playoffs, which is very likely, this'll be a great Phils memory to go out on.

Coming Tonight: Some poor schmo who has to play on the Angels without Mike Trout. 

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Mondi Back Guarantee


Adalberto Mondesi has played 21 games this season, thanks to injuries. Six of them were multi-hit games. Four of them were multi-RBI games.

However, in the last 10 games, he's batted a measly .118 with FOUR hits, compared to the 16 across his first eleven games. What happened? Well...he realized the team sucked and didn't wanna stand out too much.

And so sums up the Royals. When Mondesi got injured, the Royals were a 1st place team. When he came back, they were circling last, and all of the promise had gone away. Hell, when Mondesi got hurt, Kyle Isbel was still starting in the outfield. Remember Kyle Isbel? Remember how people thought him getting the job out of camp meant he'd be a mainstay in KC, then he fell off and got demoted for the rest of the year and people started comparing him to Frank Schwindel, then Schwindel became not-a-bust with the Cubs?

Hell of a year.

Like last year, one of the main takeaways for the Royals has to be the bullpen, and how it's pretty much stayed together. Scott Barlow, Jake Brentz, Josh Staumont, Domingo Tapia and somehow Ervin Santana, have been very strong in relief. It's been less of a return to form for Greg Holland and Wade Davis, but the unit that had come to prominence last year is still working, and is still pounding out great innings, while also having to mop up the messes after starts from Daniel Lynch, Brad Keller and Jackson Kowar. 

Also...wait, shit, KYLE ISBEL'S BACK? Did they call him back up in the time I started writing this post? When the hell did that happen? And now he's hitting .300? He had a 3-hit 2-RBI night the other night, now he's actually doing kinda well again? Shit, maybe he's not a bust after all! Maybe comparing him to Bubba Starling and Ryan McBroom is unfair. But again...this is only one season.

The biggest summation of this team is that the highlights were worthy, like Salvador Perez's mega home run season, Michael Taylor and Carlos Santana's impressive debut years, and Whit Merrifield and Nicky Lopez's strong years in the infield. But everything else sort of sunk into the normalcy of Royals baseball post-2016. Too many injuries, not enough good starting pitching, not enough depth and too many young options that clearly aren't ready.

Will 2022 be a competitive year? Maybe. But I won't think twice if they come strong out of camp again next year.

Coming Tomorrow- One of the last Opening Day starters remaining from a team I am seeing play my Phillies tonight. Recap forthcoming. 

Triumph of the Grande Box: The Hits

 There were some spoils for me at the bottom of the package from Chris from Nachos Grande, aside from all the much-needed base cards from products I was unfamiliar with. They ranged from practical to intriguing to just plain bizarre.

This card confused both of us. It's a printing snafu, a double-printed error of both Randy Johnson's card and Freddy Garcia's card from 2002 Fleer Triple Crown. No foil on it. The back is credited to Jose Cruz Jr. of the Blue Jays. Because it's technically a Randy Johnson card, it landed in the D-Backs stack. It's a very puzzling card. It's...technically a 1/1? I don't suppose any other cards misprinted this badly exist. So I guess I'll hold onto it.

Moving onto the numbered cards in my stack, this one came to me in the Indians portion of the box. Brad Snyder was a mid-2000s Indians prospect, and was showcased here in 2004 Topps Pristine. This card is numbered to 41. I'm not sure if I really have a need for this, but with its deckle-edge and great design, it is pretty cool.

As for stuff that applies to my teams, we first have this Spirit of the Game insert, numbered to 1250, of Roger Clemens, out of 2003 Studio. As discussed, I'm not really a Clemens collector, but this isn't a bad design, or subject.
These two, from Donruss products, were both numbered to 1000. The cooler one for me is the Legendary Lumberjacks of Rickey Henderson, from 2004 Donruss Classics. How often do you find Yankee Rickey cards these days? But from a design standpoint, the Masterstrokes insert of Jason Giambi from 2003 Studio is also really cool. Giambi has been phased out of my collection, but he does look awesome on this, as does the painted background that partially resembles what could be the Yankee Stadium background behind him.

Really, the sad thing about pulling this 2002 Fleer Changing Places subset of Robin Ventura as a Yankee, which would have gone into my regular binders, was that it was a parallel numbered to 200, and would therefore go into my parallel binder. I have to find the regular version for my Ventura collection, which is one of my more niche players to find cards of, but hey.

A discovery I made thanks to these breaks was that Nick Johnson was ALL OVER 2003 PRODUCTS. They thought he'd be the big rookie piece that'd help the Yankees for the future eras, but of course he'd be traded for Javier Vazquez and become a charter member of the Nationals. Both of these cards are numbered to 100. 

This one is...very odd. This came from 2004 Leaf Second Edition, and it's a blue Exhibit insert of Randy Johnson, which is already really cool. All of these cards have multiple versions, owing to codes and subtitles on the cards. So this one is numbered to 66 copies. Which is very cool. But I had to go on baseballcardpedia to find that out. Chris had guessed it was numbered to 50, and as it's not serial numbered, I had to do the research to verify it. Decisions like these probably attributed to Leaf, and Donruss's, exit from the card business the following year. 
Of the numbered cards, this was the coolest one. It's a green foil parallel of one of those awesome High Voltage inserts from 2000 Pacific Vanguard, of Derek Jeter, numbered to 99 copies. Insanely cool, and a great player choice.

Now onto some actual hits...

This was the sole non-Yankee hit I got, and it's still a pretty nice one. This is a 2021 Stadium Club autograph of Franmil Reyes, chief masher for Cleveland. As far as SC auto subjects go, it's a pretty good one. Not completely indebted to it, but it's still a cool on-card auto.

As for Yankee autos, Chris's 2021 box breaks yielded not one but TWO autographed cards from future Yankee starter [I HOPE] Clarke Schmidt. Schmidt is a decent pitching prospect, he's had some decent starts this year in multiple factions of the minors, and he is a rare Yankee pitcher with my last name. We already have a Yankee starter with my FIRST name, so let's get Clarke up here so we can complete the duo. I prefer the 86T one from 2021 Topps to the sticker auto from Donruss, but both of these are welcome. Hopefully he pans out. Then again, I still have a Luis Severino auto from a Nachos group break from a few years ago, back when I was worried HE wouldn't pan out, and while we're still waiting for his return from the IL, he still gave us some gems. 

As for the relics, we'll start with this one from 2003 Fleer Focus Jersey Edition. Design wise, we are SO in business here, with this Blue Chips design, the rounded edges, and the cool feel of the card. Granted, this is another Nick Johnson, and he's not very high on my list of Yankees, but this is still a very cool card.

Then we have this...very strange one from 2002 Fleer Triple Crown. Three players are showcased, the last three MVPs. Only one of them gets a relic, and it's Jason Giambi, and it says on the back that this came from an Oakland Athletics game worn jersey. But since this is a 2002 product, and Giambi's trade was finalized in the offseason, this is a Yankee card. He is pictured as an Athletic, the Jersey is from an A's game...but this is a Yankee card, and it goes in my pile. While it would have been cooler to get a Yankee relic of one of the other two people pictured, this still works as a puzzling but worthy Yankee[/A's] game used card.

There was one that kind of impressed me, though:

What really got me to appreciate this one was imagining it came out of a pack in 2004. 

Not only is it a well-designed card, not only is it a bat card, and not only is it one of the better relics to come out of 2004 Pristine...but it's Alex Rodriguez in his first year as a Yankee. I would have been freaking out if I had pulled this a year or so after its release. For a while, A-Rod was really worth all the hype, and was a Yankee legend. I wish steroids and his general jerk demeanor didn't detract from some great seasons, but this still is a great pull that I will appreciate, even if I'm not really the biggest A-Rod fan anymore.

That puts a capper on the massive Nachos Grande box here. Tons of great stuff from several breaks here. Looking forward to what I might get to take home in the next Breaker's Club.