Monday, September 26, 2022

Stop Luke and Listen

 


I hate that people needed to be reminded that Luke Voit led the league in home runs in 2020. Like, yes, it's a lot more impressive that Aaron Judge is leading the league in homers into the sixties, but for Luke Voit, who was a good 1st baseman with power but never incredible, to spring into action and hit 22 home runs in 56 games of a shortened season, that's still pretty incredible.

For the record, 22 home runs is also around the number that Voit is shooting for this year, split between San Diego and Washington, over 125 games, the most he's ever played in a season.

I'm guessing it really was that one shining moment for Voit, sad to say. Dude is still an excellent power hitter, but there's a reason the starting first baseman for the Yankees is Anthony Rizzo right now. And there's a reason Voit, who could have been contending in San Diego this year, is starting for the Nats.

Controversially, of the two first baseman swapped for each other at the trade deadline, Voit is actually having the better season. Voit has a 0.5 WAR in his time in Washington, has hit 8 homers and is a useful, if one-dimensional, piece for the rebuilding Nats squad. Bell, who was outrageous in Washington pre-deadline, has a -0.4 WAR in San Diego, with only 3 homers and 12 RBIs in 45 games. Both of these players are known for being inconsistent and streaky, but Bell's heights have been higher. Bell also requires more of a learning curve in new places, and Voit has gotten off to decent starts in both markets he's landed in, though not breathtaking. 

If Nelson Cruz does retire after this season, which seems likely, I am guessing Voit will be the starting DH for the Nats going forward. I'm not sure if the Nats are gonna use some control method to cut Voit and make room for younger pieces, and if that's the case it sure is likely, but I actually think this team thinks they can use Voit for a bit going forward. There really aren't a lot of power hitters left on this team, and nobody has a full-season total that can match Juan Soto's half-year mark of 21. At least having Voit, who's a power hitter whose better numbers have passed, gives them SOME power hitting, rather than the depleted lot they have right now. And considering that the legend of Joey Meneses is powering the team right now, who even knows if Meneses will have anything else after the 2022 season. Though keeping around people like Lane Thomas and Alex Call is a nice start for a team trying to reestablish its power core.

The Nationals have been handed so many pieces that can help them in between their next real quest for a title, and Voit is one of them. I know the next few years won't be pretty, but I hope they're not as unpleasant as this year. 

Coming Tomorrow- One of the most sought after free agents of the offseason, and how he completely fumbled the ball.

Red Sox Update: So Much for my AL East Winner Pick Edition

 


This iteration of the Red Sox has been competitive since 2016. And it's really as simple as...if the pitching is there, they make the playoffs. If not, they don't. 

This year the pitching wasn't there.

I'll say that this team wasn't nearly as scattered as it was in 2020, where they were struggling for starting options and even good pitchers like Martin Perez and Nate Eovaldi couldn't help. Yes, there were competent starters in Boston this year, and Michael Wacha, Nick Pivetta and Rich Hill had decent seasons. But without Eduardo Rodriguez, a healthy Chris Sale and an elite, healthy Eovaldi, this pitching weighed the team down. There was no one answer in the ninth, with John Schreiber, Tanner Houck, Matt Strahm and Garrett Whitlock getting reps there. Longtime relief surefires Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier were bloated and unsatisfactory. The call-ups, like Brayan Bello, Connor Seabold, Kutter Crawford and Josh Winckowski, haven't worked as well as they've wanted. And now even Pivetta's got a 4.48 ERA and a 10-11 record. 

The pitching just isn't there. And it cost them a spot in the race that was already crowded enough with the Yankees, Jays and Rays. 

Plus, with so many pitching pieces, like Nate Eovaldi, Matt Strahm, Rich Hill, Michael Wacha, and James Paxton, WHO DIDN'T EVEN PITCH FOR THE SOX AT ALL THIS YEAR, free agents next year, there's no guarantee the pitching will be in better shape next year. I guess Pivetta, Whitlock and the kids are all back, but there are so many question marks, not even including Chris Sale who has been so inconsistent the past few years [again, the Jack McDowell comparisons may not have been far off]. So unless a lot happens and, like usual, the Sox deal like hell this offseason, we could have another year of this team being held back its pitching. 

And at the same time, you have J.D. Martinez possibly leaving, Enrique Hernandez possibly leaving, Tommy Pham possibly leaving, and the possibility of Xander Bogaerts opting out and going somewhere else. Meaning the team could be down to its barest essentials, including Rafael Devers, Alex Verdugo, Trevor Story, and Christian Arroyo, who could be using his impressive second half work as a ramp up to a starting gig next year. This team could look a ton different in 2023, and it's not even a certainty that they'll be better than Baltimore, let alone the others. 

The Red Sox could still be a factor going forward, but they need to ensure a lot of things, including a sturdier, less unstable pitching staff, to conserve their momentum. 

Coming Tonight: A guy who led the league in home runs in 2020 and is trying to outrun the Chris Carter comparisons in Washington. 

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Exhuming McCarthy

 


There are some non-qualifying teams that actually have a lot to be proud of this year. I've already talked about the Orioles setting themselves up for a decade of competitive rosters, and I've talked about the Royals calling up rookies that could run the team in the future. But...the Arizona Diamondbacks, even while missing the playoffs and finishing under .500, did a lot right this year, and made more steps forward than steps backwards.

For instance, in comparison to last year, I actually know what the crux of this team looks like. We now have people like Alek Thomas, Jake McCarthy, Josh Rojas, Gerardo Perdomo and Corbin Carroll who we know will factor into this team going forward. McCarthy had some weak initial numbers last year, and now he's hitting .288 with 82 hits and 8 homers in 91 games. Corbin Caroll is hitting .270 and has 13 RBIs in his first 20 games. Even Stone Garrett, who looks to be more of a depth piece than anything, is hitting .317 with 10 RBIs and 4 homers in 21 games. Despite Carson Kelly's injury and Perdomo's lack of offensive production, you're seeing a very full and very flexible D-Backs lineup for the first time in a while.

All this as the rotation continues to be solid and tight. Merrill Kelly and Madison Bumgarner are gonna be around for a bit, and though MadBum is still disappointing compared to his Giants numbers, he still made all 30 of his starts and struck out 112. The goal should still be locking up Zac Gallen, but even if he gets dealt, which is always possible, this team has Tommy Henry doing his best, plus Ryne Nelson and Drey Jameson with shockingly low ERAs through their first few starts. And there's also another year of Zach Davies, Tyler Gilbert who's injured, and part-time starters Taylor Widener, Humberto Castellanos and Caleb Smith.

For a middling, low-market team, that is a super amount of depth, and this team should be happy about it.

Unless there's an overhaul coming, you have Ketel Marte, Daulton Varsho, Christian Walker, Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly all sticking around. That's a lot of nice pieces to base a team around. And with the Giants on the downslope this year, there is a chance that the D-Backs could move up in the NL West and potentially challenge the big guns next year. It's not definite, but it could happen if enough people stick around. 

Wouldn't that be something? If 2022 had a competitive D-Backs and Orioles team? I mean, the Mariners are making the postseason this year, so stranger things have happened. 

Coming Tomorrow- Infielder for a team that I really thought was gonna do great things this year.

Jung Folks


 Earlier this month, the Texas Rangers called up one of their biggest prospects, third-baseman Josh Jung. 

...y'know, months after the Rangers called up third base prospect Josh Smith and third base prospect Ezequiel Duran, and that went so well for them.

Anyway Jung's hitting .182 with 3 homers and 6 RBIs in 14 games. Not terrible, but clearly not what the Rangers asked for. After Smith and Duran already faltered around the early .200s. Which just...makes clear the Rangers' prospect issue.

Like, it's not just theirs, it's the big ones they get from other teams that are supposed to be good for them and somehow aren't. The Rangers got Kolby Allard as the biggest piece in the trade that brought Chris Martin to Atlanta, and Allard has responded by handing over some subpar seasons and being held down in the minors this year. The Rangers got Nick Solak in exchange for Pete Fairbanks, and Solak, while good for a little, has been injured for most of the year. The Rangers got Willie Calhoun from the Dodgers in exchange for Yu Darvish, and Calhoun refused to hit for average and is now basically out of a job. Really, one of the few good prospects the Rangers got flipped was Dane Dunning, even if he's had an ERA around 4.50 all year.

As much as fans should be excited about Josh Jung, there's still this recent streak of failure that makes it very difficult. Jung could come back next year and hit 25 homers and make his mark on Arlington, but he could also do what Jarred Kelenic has been doing and take forever to develop in the majors. The Rangers, even with decent guys like Jonah Heim, Nate Lowe, and the imports like Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, need a real homegrown cornerstone to rest on [cause all of those guys came from other markets]. And yes, I am aware that in 3 or so years the Rangers are going to have Jack Leiter [and probably Kumar Rocker] up and hopefully they'll be worth it, but...I'd think that, ideally, they'd have something going by that point.

Even if Jung doesn't do much the rest of this season, I hope he can figure things out for next season, because he's a sharp hitting piece that the Rangers must be glad to have, and I know that this season's lack of competition must have burned them a bit. Maybe he's the key?

Coming Tonight: Yet another awesome rookie for the D-Backs.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Passage to India

 


I think the Reds this year have been 'the team where everybody gets injured at once' for the NL. And the AL version of that is the Rays, but they're still making the playoffs. So if the Reds aren't competing and most of the team is injured, that's, uh...even worse.

You know, I think the most unfortunate injury-prone team to come across, and there's one every year or so, is the kind of injury prone team where somebody gets hurt the second they start playing well. And that's obviously how you'd best describe the Reds rotation. Because at certain points, all of Nick Lodolo, Connor Overton, Graham Ashcraft, Hunter Greene, Justin Dunn and Vladimir Gutierrez have all figured something out or had a nice start, and then immediately landed on the IL. Greene, Lodolo and Overton are all back now, but they were gone for large chunks of the season, and it left the Reds in the hands of people like Mike Minor and Jeff Hoffman.

And then you see all the real pieces of veteran guidance on this Reds team just immediately getting hurt. Jonathan India may be back now but he was away for most of the year, which has given a very disappointing sophomore effort, one where he's only hitting .249. Joey Votto, Nick Senzel, Tyler Stephenson and Mike Moustakas are all out. Really, the most reliable veteran on this team is Kyle Farmer, and THAT's not good. Even if you do have people like Aristedes Aquino, Jake Fraley, Donovan Solano and T.J. Friedl creeping up and inheriting this team, there's SO MANY holes, and so many replacement pieces that even if everybody's healthy for 2023, it's gonna be hard to really decide who's the best choice for many positions considering the incomplete 2022 numbers. 

It is obvious that the Reds are probably gonna tank for a few more years and let the pitching do the talking for a while, but even if they're bringing up decent hitting prospects, it's still gonna be very difficult for them to not lose 100 games next year. They already tried big prospect Spencer Steer and he's only hitting .220. Chuckie Robinson's a potential future catching option and he's not hitting. Alejo Lopez is hitting .295 but isn't a great defender. The only real rookie type that's making much headway in the lineup is Stuart Fairchild, and that's almost inexplicable seeing that he was cup-of-coffee-ing himself through the league earlier this year. 

While I do think that Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Graham Ashcraft and Connor Overton could keep this team safe through 6 for another few years, the Reds' future is contingent on the development of great hitters. And I'm not seeing many of those yet.

Coming Tomorrow- And speaking of prospects expected to inherit teams, a third-baseman who just came up in Arlington.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Vinnie the Moocher

 


I don't know why, but the Royals have become the team that brings back guys with names we haven't seen in the majors in years. Ya know, they have us a Bubba, and a Richard, and a guy named Foster like it's a 70s variety show, but now the starting DH for the Royals is a guy named Vinnie. 

Unfortunately, it's not a guy named Vinnie from Brooklyn. He's from Richmond. Forget about it.

But yeah, Vinnie Pasquantino took the Royals by storm when he came up around July, and has become a solid 1B/DH choice in the wake of Carlos Santana's departure. In 60 games, Pasquantino has 8 home runs, 20 RBIs and 57 hits. Though he may not be the showiest rookie in KC, he's at least a pretty nice power hitter. And on a team where power hitting is mostly an afterthought, even if Bobby Witt and Salvador Perez have 20 homers, it's nice to say there's a good power hitter on the squad again.

I am definitely liking the trend of rookies making the leap to regulars on this team. Nate Eaton debuted just last month and he already has a 1.1 WAR, with 10 stolen bases, 8 RBIs and 22 hits in 34 games. Eaton is one of those prospects that is supposed to run this team, even if they already said that about Witt, and so far he's been a great addition to the team. The Royals are also seeing a lot from Drew Waters, who has 9 RBIs in 22 games. And, wisely, the team is moving M.J. Melendez to the outfield so that he doesn't have to dilute his power numbers with awful catching. 

It's very similar to 2011 or 2012, where you can see the next generation of this team beginning to take shape. And I find it funny that we're reaching this point when the Royals have just fired the guy responsible for presiding over the team when they made two straight World Series'. They all know there needs to be a new regime, they all believe Witt and Eaton are gonna help them get there, and they really think this Tigers exec they have for the position is gonna help things out, forgetting what the Tigers have been doing since 2015. 

I hope the Royals can start turning things around with all this youth next year. They have the makings of a new dynasty. A lot just needs to go their way.

Coming Tomorrow- Last year's NL Rookie of the Year, this year he's...doing his best. 

Almost Hear You Cy

 


Well, the Miami Marlins went into this season trying to rely on more hitters than just Rojas, Anderson, Cooper and Berti, and we get to the end of this season, and the only people in the lineup that are healthy are Miguel Rojas, Brian Anderson, Garrett Cooper and Jon Berti.

and, uh, and Jacob Stallings but he's doing nothing this year.

I mean, on one hand, the Marlins have to be happy with how the rotation did because they're getting a Cy Young out of Sandy Alcantara and another great season out of Pablo Lopez, plus breakouts from Edward Cabrera, Braxton Garrett and Jesus Luzardo, AND, at least Trevor Rogers is telling us NOW that not every season's gonna be like his 2021. But at the same time, you look at all the people they got to help the lineup this year, and Soler's injured, Garcia's injured, Stallings isn't hitting and Aguilar's gone. And all the kids they've brought up either got injured [Jesus Sanchez, Jazz Chisholm] or struggled at the MLB level [J.J. Bleday, Jerar Encarnacion].

I mean, you can kind of see some pieces of this team that could help in the near future. Nick Fortes could definitely be the starting catcher next year, he's got more of an offensive bite to him than Stallings. Charles Leblanc, who's mostly been covering 2nd since Chisholm's out, is at least hitting .285, and could be a utility piece next year. Jordan Groshans is .333 in 8 games, and he could move Brian Anderson back to the outfield. Bryan de la Cruz at the very least has 10 homers and will probably be starting next year if a contract piece isn't in place. And Lewin Diaz, who's playing 1st full time since Aguilar left, could be a good power piece if he ever figures out how to hit for average.

But it's honestly a lot like 2014, where there's so many youth pieces and options that it's so hard to see where this team's gonna go. There's so many directions, so many answers, and so many young guys that could help out or blossom or whatever. I still think Jazz Chisholm, Jesus Sanchez and JJ Bleday will be the core of this team eventually, it just might take a while, and it may not be as simple as waiting a few years for a competitive squad. 

At the very least, a Miami Marlin will win the Cy Young this year. That's never happened before. Unfortunately, at this rate, it might not happen for a while after this.

Coming Tonight: Some big guy named Vinnie that hits homers.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Orioles Update: Nice While It Lasted Edition

 


Okay, so, odds are the Orioles aren't making the playoffs this year. As good as they were in August, a playoff spot requires less of a deficit and more of a winning streak than is possible right now, so the O's are gonna have to be okay with simply a winning record and 80ish wins. I do think that'll be alright with them, then. Like, usually they chase 100 losses, so anything else is preferred.

I just checked, and you can tell that baseball is doing away with tanking, because right now 1 team has 100 wins and another team is about to join them, but nobody has 100 losses. Yes, in a few days the Nats might become the first 100 loss team, but typically by this time of year we have a few already. So I guess the efforts made by Manfred to stop tanking and actually try to win have succeeded, judging by the fact that one of those teams that usually lost 100 games, namely the Orioles, are probably gonna finish over .500.

And yeah, even without postseason advancement, the O's have so much to be proud of this year. For one, Adley Rutschman's call-up was a smashing success and helped propel the team forward. So many rookies this year, including Spencer Torkelson, Matthew Liberatore and Kevin Smith, have failed to expound on a major league call-up, and it makes it so refreshing to see Rutschman doing so well in the majors. At the same time, Gunnar Henderson's hitting .324 and ensuring that Rougned Odor's out of a job next year, Terrin Vavra's making a case for the DH position going forward, and D.L. Hall is slowly figuring out his velocity in the majors.

Arguably the most surprising rookie performance of the year has come from Felix Bautista, the 27 year old relief piece who's been phenomenal this year, with a 1.71 ERA, 83 strikeouts and 14 saves in the wake of Jorge Lopez's departure. Bautista has helped revitalized the Baltimore bullpen, which has been strong this year, with great performances from Cionel Perez, Dillon Tate and Keegan Akin. Once again, the O's have mastered a low-budget, young bullpen. The trick will be keeping everyone around. 

And even with the starting pitching favoring people like Dean Kremer, Tyler Wells and Kyle Bradish, you still have people like Jordan Lyles who can go 9 innings and hold teams to just 1 run. You still get journeymen like Austin Voth, who couldn't make it work in Washington but has a 2.84 ERA here. Eventually when John Means hopefully gets healthy, there could be a genuinely great rotation on the way, not even beginning to mention the possibility of Grayson Rodriguez up ahead.

The bottom line is that 2022 was the best rebuild year the O's could have possibly asked for. This team could compete as early as next year, and they could be deadly when they do. 

Coming Tomorrow- In a team that benefits one-dimensional power hitters, a former defensive asset that now just...hits for power.

Scorn on the Cobb

 


Remember last year when everybody was calling the Phillies fools for firing Gabe Kapler, and that he just needed the right team and environment to thrive?

Well...may have jumped the gun there.

Gabe Kapler is an excellent manager, don't get me wrong, but it's a lot easier for him to run great teams when the team actually shows up. When they were able to rally around Buster Posey, the team was tighter, and you could see where they were going. Without Posey, a lot how things were in 2020, Belt and Crawford aren't as effective, Wade and Bart can't perform well in the majors, and rookies like Luis Gonzalez and David Villar who could take off...refuse to. You take Posey out of the equation and things get really messy, no matter how Evan Longoria and Mike Yastrzemski try to add stability. And yes, Posey is now becoming a piece of ownership and is perhaps seeing if that can be the same as him being in the center of the lineup, but...the void is still there, and Joey Bart cannot seem to be able to fill it right now.

The only thing that has worked this year seems to have been the starting pitching. Carlos Rodon had another incredible season, striking out 220 and keeping a 2.84 ERA. Logan Webb is still insanely dominant, struck out 150 and kept a 3 ERA. Alex Cobb, though not to the caliber of those other two, had a pretty strong season as a lower-tier rotation man, with a 3.48 ERA and 136 strikeouts. Jakob Junis didn't start the season in the rotation, but has a 1.5 WAR and can eat innings. The fifth spot is a who's who of relievers and also-rans right now, but those four have stayed pretty tight [and with Alex Wood's help pre-injury], and the starting pitching hasn't been as problematic as the lineup.

I mean, the interesting thing about the Giants this year is that you read who has made appearances this year and it's a who's who of fringe baseball. Yermin Mercedes I've already talked about, he's actually got a chance of sticking around. But then you have people like Lewis Brinson, who literally just got cut after hitting .167 with 3 homers in 16 games. Andrew Knapp, former Phillies backup catcher, lasted 3 games. Willie Calhoun, traded for similarly-cut Steven Duggar, lasted four games with 1 hit. Luke Williams, former Phillies outfielder, played some games there before trying Miami. The Giants are trying anybody who's around, and not a ton are working. 

I really hope this team looks better next year, but I really think they need to part with some of their older players. Longoria and Belt seem to be done after this year, that helps. I think there's one more year of Crawford, but he's on his last legs. The team really needs its younger stars to develop and truly inherit the team, or else it's gonna be several more years of fumbling through replacement players. And I'm not even sure how many years of that Kapler will be around for.

Coming Tonight: The Orioles may have traded away one killer bullpen piece, but they've got one big one left.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Angels Update: That Didn't Work Either Edition

 


Going into this season, the Angels locked up Raisel Iglesias, and added Noah Syndergaard, Tyler Wade and Archie Bradley. All of these pieces are either gone or inactive. And without them, somehow this team had more problems when they did before they went and got any of them.

I'm not gonna lie and say nothing the Angels did this offseason works. Getting Ryan Tepera, Aaron Loup and Jimmy Herget on the same bullpen has actually worked pretty well. Not THRILLINGLY, but well. Herget has a 0.932 WHIP and a 2.42 ERA. Loup and Tepera, as they did on better teams, are just attacking innings and keeping runs down. Even Jaime Barria has become a pretty decent bullpen piece. So even if there's massive holes in the lineup and too many starters that fell off, they at least had the bullpen work.

I'm also just impressed that Mike Trout, despite missing about a month of playing time, still managed to hit 36 homers and 71 RBIs. Imagine how many he would have had with that month. Maybe Judge wouldn't have been lonely chasing the babe. 

I just wish that all of these pieces could be on at once. Like, Trout and Ohtani have been on all year. David Fletcher, after missing a few months with an injury, has been on for the last month and a half. Taylor Ward was truly on in May and never really built on it. Luis Rengifo has been on since August and hopefully can sustain that. Anthony Rendon was actually doing well in April and a bit of June before getting injured. Jared Walsh had 15 homers before getting injured. And where we're at now is that a bunch of people are doing well, but Fletcher's out for a week, and Rendon, Walsh and Andrew Velazquez are all injured for the rest of the year. 

It sucks, because this is a great team on paper, but so many people fail to live up to expectations. Jo Adell has yet to truly make an impact in the majors. Jhonathan Diaz, Janson Junk and Griffin Canning all had short-lived moments of glory for the Angels this year. Max Stassi refused to hit for average at all this year. It's hard for a team to really go for it if everybody underperforms except for the marquee guys. Yes, we gave the Yankees shit last month for all slumping except for Judge, but that was for a month. This is like 4 months where it's down to Ohtani and Trout, and it's the second year of this. 

The Angels need to find a way to make this team work in the ring rather than just potentially. Because neither of these two are getting any younger and they're not gonna be Angels forever. 

Coming Tomorrow- An ex-Angel, ironically, who only did marginally better for himself.

Cub Runneth Over


The post-title Cubs rebuild is going in circles. The Cubs have brought up a highly-touted latino fireballer whose name starts with A. We've already done this. In fact, what the hell even happened to Adbert Alzolay anyway?

[...I'm being told he is currently active and pitching in relief. Good on ya, Adbert.]

The Cubs have reached the 'screw it, let the kids play' portion of the season. Because they actually kept the backbone of their team this year, there's less random rookies being thrown in huge roles, and more active progressions. That's why Javier Assad and Hayden Wesneski are starting games and Greg Deichmann is still in the minors. It's not as gratuitous as it was last year. Only the right people are getting shots, and if they blow them, like Caleb Kilian and Matt Swarmer did, they're not just left on just to fill roster spots. Enough people have gotten activated lately, like Wade Miley, David Bote and, yes, Adbert Alzolay, that they're not exactly desperate for starters.

And they at least have people like Nico Hoerner, Willson Contreras, Ian Happ, Marcus Stroman and Justin Steele who are consistent, satisfying, and seem to be sticking around [Happ and Contreras still aren't definitely leaving]. They have something they can build off without feeling around blindly for someone to grab from triple-A. Yes, there are still gaping holes, especially now that Frank Schwindel and Rafael Ortega may not be long term options. And it doesn't help that Contreras is injured for what feels like it could be the rest of the season, but they're better off than they were last year.

...Right?

Look, even with everything they're putting into place, and even with Javier Assad striking out 21 in 23 innings, I still have no idea what the hell the Cubs are gonna bank on next year. So many long-term pieces, like Kyle Hendricks, Jason Heyward and Alec Mills, were injured for most of the season. I doubt Heyward will be back, and I'm not even sure they're gonna keep Kyle Hendricks on even if he's contracted for one more year. Contreras may be gone, Happ may be gone. It may be up to rookies and replacement players for another year or so, and I don't even know which ones will be the ones they bank on further than one season.

Kind of depressing, honestly. But then again, this is how things felt before Maddon got here. This is just what Cubs baseball is sometimes. 

Coming Tonight: A sturdy infielder for a team that, once again, will not be advancing to the postseason.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

The Team Where It Happens

 


[Yes, I am allowed to make this joke, it's his cousin]

The Twins are an odd team. I feel like they've only been competitive when Byron Buxton has been healthy.

You look around that other teams that have great players and they don't have that issue. The Angels have had Trout and Ohtani healthy and have still failed to compete. The Phillies were able to compete even without Bryce Harper. But the Twins's status as a team to beat seemed to start and end with Byron Buxton. When he was here, the team was in first place. Now they're in third and under .500 and I'm not even sure he'll be back this season.

Look, people are gonna say what they will about the Angels wasting Trout or the Mets wasting deGrom, but Byron Buxton is gonna be 29 next year and the Twins have barely even sniffed a deep rung of the playoffs. Remember, they haven't had a playoff win since 2002 [they beat the Moneyball A's in the ALDS!], and have had so many great Baldelli teams that haven't amounted in anything tangible. It's looking like they're gonna miss the postseason this year as well, and even if Buxton is locked up for a while, a lot of people, such as Carlos Correa, Miguel Sano, Gary Sanchez, Sonny Gray, Chris Archer and possibly more, are gonna be leaving after this season.

The good news is the attempt made this year to replenish the team without completely bottoming out has worked. People like Joe Ryan, Luis Arraez and Nick Gordon have taken larger roles after being also-rans for a bit. Of course, the rookies have been helping as well. Jose Miranda came up as a potential backup corner infield piece and now is doing Miguel Sano's job better than he did, hitting .270 with 15 homers and 64 RBIs. Matt Wallner already has a homer in his first 4 games. Gilberto Celestino has blossomed into an above-average defensive outfielder. Josh Winder and Bailey Ober are both healthy and pitching well in starting spots. 

It's obviously not a perfect team, and I'm honestly intrigued how this team will look next year with a lot of these veterans gone. I wanna see who comes into their own and inherits the team. Moreover I wanna see how a lot of the sophomores who spent most of this year injured, like Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach and Ryan Jeffers, do after being activated. There's a lot that could just use a replenished year for this team, and with Baldelli managing, I guess we can't completely count the Twins out.

Coming Tomorrow- A rookie pitcher for a team similarly trying to find its next chapter.

Bohm and Away

 


It is Philadelphia law, it seems, for a Philly sports team to completely shit away a golden opportunity. 

Everywhere you look recently, the Philadelphia sports teams are just blowing opportunities like it's their jobs. The Flyers were top seeded a few years ago and still lost in the first round of the playoffs. The Sixers have lost to lower-seeded teams every year and just blamed shit on like one player or the coach. Even teams that have actually won championships, like the 2008 Phillies or the 2017 Eagles, have refused to sustain the luck past a few years, and have bobbled away their luck with questionable decisions. 

And here we have the Phillies. Who, if they just...keep winning games, and not have any large losing streaks, could break their 11-year-long postseason drought, which is the longest in the NL. But...they haven't been making it an easy run to October. They had a crucial series against the Braves where they could have proved how playoff-ready they are, and instead they dropped all three games and nearly got no-hit by Spencer Strider. 

There is a strong possibility that the Phillies, if they DO make it into the playoffs, and judging by how much fun New York teams have had with Milwaukee recently, could still happen, will have to play either the Braves or the Cardinals. And ironically, as much as I dread it, the Cardinals matchup would be the one the Phils would have more luck with. But if things progress as they have, the Phils might be going right back to Atlanta, and will have to play a team they've had so much trouble with this year. 

The good news is some of their hero pieces have been looking very good recently. J.T. Realmuto has been hot as hell of late, now leading the team in RBIs with 78. Bryson Stott, as expected, has taken over as the starting shortstop, and has proven himself an apt power hitter, along with Alec Bohm, who's hitting .289 despite subpar defense. Kyle Schwarber might finish the season with 40 homers, which would be a first for him, and I kinda figured he'd hit a ton of homers in Philly anyway. And Nick Maton, Brandon Marsh and now Dalton Guthrie are hitting well in lower lineup spots. And yeah, with Harper back, they've got a league high as a centerpiece.

I do think the Phillies still have a good chance at a playoff spot, and they're definitely closer than they've been in years, but they NEED to jump on this opportunity and stay hot through the stretch. Because it'd be very embarrassing if the Phillies blew this opportunity as well.

Not surprising, but embarrassing.

Coming Tomorrow- Even if the Twins don't make the playoffs, they still have a hard hitting first baseman with Miguel Sano injured.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Harold and Flawed

 


The Rays are gonna get a playoff spot this year with barely any stars, a ton of injuries, only one real trusted starter, and a bunch of assholes on the bullpen. There's some teams actually trying and making progress, and the Rays are just gonna walk right in despite having a really flawed team.

I honestly think Kevin Cash is comparable to somebody like Bill Belichick at this point. There were years where the Patriots rocketed into the playoffs despite not really having the team, but with the way Belichick managed them it was kind of a foregone conclusion. And that's where we're at with Cash, because Cash doesn't need a particularly good version of this Rays team to work his way into a wild card spot. He just got Wander Franco off the IL, he engineered an 11-0 victory against the Blue Jays last week, and he's procured his team a fourth consecutive playoff appearance.

The only issue is that the Rays are currently holding onto the third wild card spot, and the next few series' are against competitive teams like the Astros, Guardians, Blue Jays and Astros again. And while the Orioles, who are the next closest wild card competitors, do have only a slightly easier schedule leading up to the end of the regular season, the pressure of not getting beaten to a postseason spot by the ORIOLES of all people is sure to be mounting in Tampa right now.

And, like usual, the people being relied upon are flukey, low-budget journeyman guys who are all getting hot at the same time. Harold Ramirez is the poster child for this. He was alright last year in Cleveland, but right now for the Rays, Ramirez is hitting .306 with 108 hits and 54 RBIs. Lots of unsung guys like Ramirez, Jose Siri, Christian Bethancourt and [ugh] Jason Adam are succeeding for this team right now, and the only veterans who are holding things together for this team are relatively inconsequential ones like Yandy Diaz and Manuel Margot. I know the Rays are trying to establish themselves with people like Franco and Arozarena, but with Lowe and Kiermaier both injured during a playoff run, it's kind of a half-hearted effort. 

I mean, because it's the Rays, they're probably still gonna make the playoffs and probably go pretty far just by how well they can pull momentum out of nowhere. I just wish they'd act like some of the other teams and build their franchise with actual stars rather that low-budget, controllable guys. That may not happen til Cash leaves, but it'll perhaps make me like them more.

Coming Tomorrow- Dumb but lovable third baseman for a team trying to hang onto a postseason spot themselves.

Aha Blake Heartbreak

 


Even if the Brewers have lost a little ground in the NL Wild Card race, they're still two games behind the pack for a spot. Which means we have a Wild Card race where four teams are hunting for three spots. Someone is going to be unlucky, and with the Braves essentially guaranteed that fourth seed, it's going to be either the Padres, Brewers or Phillies.

Now...one of these teams is famously unlucky, so even if we all know going in that the likeliest of these three to choke is prooooobably the Phillies, it's still anybody's game. All three of these guys have had numerous human moments this year. The Brewers dropped a lead to the Cardinals and had a torrid August. The Phillies...well take your pick, but blowing this Braves series probably qualifies. And the Padres have only won 8 games so far this month. Even if the wins have been nice, many of them recent, the losses have bogged them down and stopped them from being the postseason lock they were earlier in the season. Now, Padres fans saw this happen just last year, and it was heartbreaking to see the team fall apart in August and miss out on a wild card spot in September.

...probably not a great note that they would have made the playoffs if the expanded wild card scenario was instituted last year. So, thanks Manfred. 

The Padres do thankfully have a fuller, more competent team this year, even without Tatis. Soto, Bell and Drury have been strong, if imperfect, additions to the Padres' lineup, and Soto has fit right into the bigger-game mentality in San Diego. Manny Machado has fulfilled his status as the everyman hero for this team, and Jake Cronenworth, Ha-Seong Kim, Trent Grisham, Jurickson Profar and Austin Nola have been excellent, versatile supplemental pieces. 

The rotation has gotten even stronger as the year's gone on, with Blake Snell improving on a weaker first half with a current ERA of 3.85 and 146 strikeouts. Mike Clevinger, though not quite as satisfying as the ace the Padres thought they were getting in mid-2020, has still been strong in 19 starts, notching 83 Ks in that time. And, obviously, Darvish and Musgrove are still having awesome seasons, with Darvish turning in a career start yesterday. This team has a ton of postseason options and could be a match against any of their wild card rivals. 

I do think the Padres have the best chance right now of the three up-in-the-air wild card teams, but they need to prove they have enough to make it past the first round. They have a good team, but it needs to really catch fire. 

Coming Tonight: A contact-hitting outfielder who seemed like he couldn't make it anywhere. So, naturally, he makes it in Tampa.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Shake Seattle & Roll

 


You wanna know why I'm convinced that the Mariners are breaking their 21-year postseason streak this year? Aside from the fact that they're in a great place in the wild card race and have their best team in years?

Well, the Seattle Mariners spend the rest of the season playing teams under .500. The Angels, A's, Rangers, Royals and Tigers. 3 of those teams haven't even won 60 games yet.

Now, on one hand, with a lesser team it'd be an excuse to go 'hey look at all the teams we can beat' and then completely go off the rails and blow this. But with the nearest wild card competitor 4 games behind and falling, and with the only things left to decide in the wild card race being seedings, the Mariners can use the remaining series' of this season to just go crazy. The stakes are kinda low, they're already really a playoff team, and they're just playing for extra points. Only 2 games separate the Mariners from the Blue Jays, currently seeded highest of the wild card teams, and the Jays and Rays have much tougher schedules heading down the stretch. If the Mariners can get some security, move up in the standings and get home field advantage over whichever wild card rival they're handed, that'll give them more of an advantage than they've had in 21 years.

For now, this team can flex. 

Yes, this team is coming off a game where Marco Gonzales, who has for years been the rotation's backbone, got absolutely rocked against the Angels. But the best thing about this team is that Gonzales, while still good and working on keeping his ERA below 4, is far and away the weakest pitcher in the rotation. Logan Gilbert, Robbie Ray, George Kirby and Luis Castillo are all pulling much better numbers right now, and Chris Flexen would probably have been a better guy to keep in the rotation. But, again, Gonzales is the legacy guy and at his best he can eat innings and hold down runs, and even with today's game, the team appreciates that. 

I am assuming Eugenio Suarez will be back in time for a postseason run, but even without Geno I like this team's chances. Julio, France, Crawford and Raleigh make a pretty strong core, and Carlos Santana has 13 homers as a DH. The bullpen is strong, like usual, and Paul Sewald has warmed up to a closing position. There's lots of bench depth and lots of versatile guys. More people feel ready than ever before, and this is without Kyle Lewis, Evan White or Jarred Kelenic. 

The Mariners have a chance to come out strong off the bat in the postseason. Hopefully these last few series can be a good ramp up for them. 

SIDENOTE: Blogger has been messing with blogroll stuff. They've picked a bunch of blogs to simply not comply with RSS feeds and drag to the bottom of blogrolls, and mine seems to be one of them on other blogs. Have no idea how to fix the issue, other than just assuming someone at Blogger will eventually fix the bug. Or something. Anyway, thanks to the people who are reading the blog without the help of blogrolls. 

Coming Tomorrow- A former Cy Young people still striking people out for competitive teams.

Wood Work

 


Could the Yankees be singlehandedly saving the Brewers from missing out on the postseason?

Already this has been a typical 'start strong and fall out of the picture in September' Brewers season, the kind they made famous around 2014. It's not that this Brewers team is bad, but with Yelich only partly as good as he was in 2018, Woodruff and Peralta injured for points, and some one-dimensional power from people like Luis Urias, Keston Huira and Rowdy Tellez, they're just unable to catch the Cardinals, who have so much more working for them right now.

And to this point in the wild card race, the Brewers have been well behind the Padres, Phillies and Braves for a spot, but things might be beginning to change. The Braves are in a series with the Phillies, one that is NOT GOING WELL for Philadelphia [when Matt Vierling has to do all the work, you know you're in trouble], and the Padres have been losing ground recently in division matchups. Currently, the Brewers are 1.5 games behind the Padres, and the Brewers seem to have a bit more momentum than San Diego.

A lot of that is thanks to the Brewers' current series with the Yankees, which has been a smashing success for Milwaukee. Yes, things nearly got out of hand Friday night but rookie Garrett Mitchell sealed it in extras. And last night, any effort by the Yankee lineup was quelled by Brandon Woodruff, who had one of his best starts of the year with 10 Ks in 8 innings. Woodruff took a bit to take off, but he's been strong since getting off the IL, and he's built his record to 11-4 with 162 strikeouts, which is pretty damn good. Yes, Burnes has been the alpha so far [as usual], but Woodruff and Peralta, and Eric Lauer, are putting in solid stuff and preparing for the potential to keep succeeding in postseason play.

The tough thing is that Peralta and Lauer are missing for another week or so, meaning the Brewers will have to start people like Jason Alexander [SERENITY NOW!] and potentially another unnamed starter [if they don't get Peralta or Lauer back who's up? Ethan Small again?]. So that could be a hitch in the playoff push. Also, while this team could outhit New York tonight, they have to play division leaders like the Mets and Cardinals before this season's done with them. Those series' could be a good way to track the Brewers' postseason chances, because if they do well there, it could be a sign of what's to come if the other wild card teams aren't lucky.

Coming Tonight: A charter member of a surprisingly awesome Seattle rotation.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Chicago Hope?

 


There is a four game deficit that separates the Guardians, who are doing well right now, from the White Sox. The White Sox are still looking like the underdog there, and don't have the greatest chance of making the playoffs. But the number isn't zero. Especially right now, where the White Sox have a pretty phenomenal lineup all-around, and are heading forward with them.

I think the best part of this lineup, which has Abreu, Jimenez, Robert, Vaughn and Moncada all performing well, is that everyone is healthy. For a while this thing would be like an old car, you go five miles down the road and something falls off, you fix it and something else falls off. Robert, Jimenez, Moncada, Grandal, all spent time on the IL this year. Tim Anderson's been out for a while. I think snagging Elvis Andrus, who was notoriously unhappy in Oakland, was the smartest idea this team's had all year, cause Andrus has been hitting beautifully since coming over, batting .321 with 35 hits and 21 RBIs in 26 games. And now they've got a full, consistent lineup again.

Even if they don't make it in, which is the likelier option, this White Sox team should be remembered for getting everyone on the same page by the end. Jimenez is hitting .310 with 13 homers, even in a shortened season. Robert had 56 RBIs in 95 games. Jose Abreu, more accustomed to leading the league in RBIs or homers, now leads the league in hits, perhaps because he wants to show Cooperstown voters in about 10 years that he was versatile. And Grandal can see Seby Zavala peering behind him for the catching position after blocking James McCann from it in 2020. With all the troubles this team had with the new regime, they're at least coming off strong at the moment. 

And look, at the end of this season, the White Sox are gonna finish with Dylan Cease's best season, Johnny Cueto's best season in 6 years, a pretty strong Michael Kopech season, Lance Lynn still having a positive W/L ratio and 100+ strikeouts even in a shortened season, and Lucas Giolito at the very least making all of his starts. And they got 30+ saves out of Liam Hendriks. It's not a complete failure.

And something else to keep in mind? All this stretch stuff the White Sox are working on is being done without Tony LaRussa. He hasn't been around much lately. So maybe, uh...maybe this team could get a lot more done if he wasn't here. Has that occurred to ANYONE internally in this organization yet? Cause if not, we might be in for more seasons that end like this one.

Coming Tomorrow- A starting weapon for a team that's making it too damn close in a series with my team.

Friday, September 16, 2022

deWild, deInnocent, de NL East Shuffle

 


At the moment, the Mets have the lead in the NL East by a half of a game. However, they did just get absolutely swept by the Cubs. Thankfully, the Braves didn't take the opportunity to really take a hold of the division and dropped games to competitors like Seattle and the Giants, who, if the Mets aren't gonna do it, have now become the spoiler of the NL. They ain't making the playoffs, and they're gonna make sure you don't either.

So, this week bought them some time, though not much. And while the Braves have a tough series against the equally-competitive Phillies coming up, who do the Mets play this week? Why, those lovable, beatable Pittsburgh Pirates. So...unless they blow it like they did in Chicago, the division could be theirs again very soon. And last night seemed to go pretty well for them.

I mean...the Mets have had a nice enough go of things this season in general since people like Lindor, Alonso, Nimmo, Marte and McNeil have been performing so well for them, but...now, actually having deGrom back and throwing really well is a definite plus. Yes, they don't get Scherzer back for another week or so, but with the rest of the rotation doing well [Bassitt, Walker, Carrasco and Peterson all have ERAs lower than 4], having deGrom doing peak deGrom work pays off. So far, through 8 starts, deGrom has a 5-2 record, a 2.01 ERA, 73 Ks and a 1.9 WAR, which means with a month and a half played, he's already in the Mets' WAR leaderboard. 

And yes, eventually the Mets are gonna think about deGrom's free agency journey, and whether they're gonna wanna spend the money on him or on pissing off Yankee fans. I think they could swing him, but it's a matter of what he wants. I imagine he wants to stay in New York, but somebody could swing in and offer him a fortune and you know how it goes. I hate to say it, but the first half of this season proved the Mets could win without him, but a lot of variables need to repeat itself to sustain that.

The Mets, even if they lose the division, have a very nice probability of success in the postseason. They could win a series against Philly, they could win a series against San Diego, and they could go toe-to-toe with Atlanta as they are right now. It's about long term sustenance, and they need to focus on outearning people like LA and St. Louis. They have a genuine chance to start a trend here, and I hope they take it.

Coming Tonight: One of the many young pieces helping a team make one last playoff push.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

End of Jays

 


So a good friend of mine recently became a Blue Jays fan. 

Yeah, he...yeah there's really no way to talk about this properly on this blog because I'm one of the youngest and hippest people in the blogosphere. But my friend Benny, he uh...for a while he wasn't really in a good position to be really into sports. And now he is. He lives in the Buffalo general area, and last year he went 'TEACH ME ABOUT BASEBALL', and I cracked my knuckles and wrote out an entire google doc entitled 'Baseball, And Why It Is Good', denoting rules of play, teams, players, etc. And he got really into it and this season he decided to get into the Blue Jays, because it's the closest team to him and the tickets are honestly pretty cheap in Toronto. 

And so every time the Jays are winning or doing something crazy I'll get a text. 'ARE YOU SEEING THIS?' And I'll run to ESPN or whatever and Bo or Vlad will have done something amazing.

I'm also getting him into cards, slowly. It's tricky because no retail places have any friggin cards, but he's managed to get team sets of the Jays, the Yanks, and the Angels because Trout and Ohtani. 

But yeah, my friend picked the right year to get into the Blue Jays. Yes, today was not ideal, but the Jays have reclaimed second place, and are looking at a pretty strong wild card seeding for a competitive playoff bracket. Right now, the Jays are looking at a spot opposite the Mariners, which will be a tough matchup. At the same time, they could end up playing the Rays, which would also be tough, and could slide to 6th seed and play Cleveland. Tough, tough matchups all around.

[Between you and me, I really don't want the Rays to be the team that takes on the Guardians, because then the Rays are gonna win and then the Rays will play the Yankees and THAT WON'T BE FUN. Stick the Rays in the half of the bracket where the Astros are, because then it ensures we don't have another damned Rays-Astros ALCS].

The Jays have gained a lot of momentum recently. Bo Bichette has been hot as hell, now hitting .283 with 88 RBIs, 164 hits and 24 homers. I know everyone has been expecting Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to have the 100 RBI year, but with 15 or so days left in the season, it might be Bo. Guerrero is still heading for a 30 homer year. Alek Manoah is still looking to finish the season with an ERA below 3 and stay in the Cy Young race. Jordan Romano has 33 saves and is 2 away from being the leader in saves by the end of the year [if Clase can slow down]. The team is looking at great things, and could have a nice time in the postseason. They will be surrounded by some tough teams, but they seem to be heating up around the stretch and could throw even the titans for a loop.

And if they win? Man, Benny would love that.

Coming Tomorrow- Some guy that nobody's been able to hit.

Begin the Ravine

 


Uh...ya want a stat that might piss off some Dodger fans?

This season, it's looking like the Los Angeles Dodgers will have their FOURTH 100+ win season under Dave Roberts' management. FOUR of them. I went to look back to when their last 100+ win year was, and it was the early 70s, under Walter Alston.

...which means Dave Roberts will be responsible for exactly four more 100+ win seasons than Tommy Lasorda. Oooooh.

The thing that softens that is that Lasorda at least had the decency to win 2 World Series rings, though, like Roberts, one of the rings came after a shortened season. The Dodgers have only made 1 World Series as a 100+ game winning team, and lost in the playoffs to cinderella NL East teams in the other two. So, obviously, 2022 needs to be different. And looking at exactly what this Dodgers team is laying out, I'm honestly thinking it will be.

Like, okay, it's clear that, at 37, Justin Turner isn't the starting third baseman anymore. Max Muncy's been handling most of the starts, it's gone decently, Turner's been DHing. The fact that Justin Turner still has some contact stuff left in the tank is pretty cool, honestly. He's hitting .276 with 116 hits and 78 RBIs, which is still a pretty awesome season any way you slice it. And, of course, as the only member of the Dodgers' lineup who's now on the Dodgers all-time WAR charts, he's providing a lot of expertise and counsel to the younger members of this lineup.

And speaking of WAR, this team has 6 players with a 4.0 or higher. The usual suspects like Freeman, Betts and Trea Turner, and also people who've had great seasons like Tony Gonsolin, Tyler Anderson and Julio Urias. And even with the starrier names lining this roster like Kershaw, Muncy, Bellinger and Price, that core is gonna get this team very far. Freeman's having another incredible year, Betts is gonna get MVP votes again, Will Smith has 81 RBIs, people like Andrew Heaney and Dustin May are providing great starting numbers, and at the end of the day, Craig Kimbrel can still work the ninth.

This Dodgers team has a lot going for it, and they could easily make it to the end. It's just about sustaining that momentum and not falling victim to a team that may not be as good but gets hot at the right time. 

Coming Tonight: Look who decided to hit like hell in Toronto all of the sudden.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

True McCullers

 


The Astros lose Justin Verlander and Michael Brantley to the IL. If this were a normal team, it'd be a setback. The Astros went and platooned Aledmys Diaz and Mauricio Dubon in center and activated Lance McCullers. 

...I'm so damn tired.

I'm genuinely tired of writing about how good the Astros are every two weeks, because it's always the same. Oh look, something that would inconvenience a normal team! What's that? The Astros have insane depth because their organization is really well run? Almost as if an organization that's so well-run wouldn't need to cheat to win a damned World Series at all. 

Like, Lance McCullers was injured for most of the year, and even without him the Astros still had a really nice rotation, with Cristian Javier swinging in as the fifth man. Now McCullers is in for Verlander, and he's back to exactly what he was doing before, with a 2.20 ERA, 3 wins a 6 Ks through 5 starts. And in addition, because the Astros are beginning to phase out Javier, they also have Hunter Brown, who's won both of his first two starts, has only given up 2 earned runs and has struck out 11. And THEY'RE THE FILL-INS. They're the security pieces. 

Look, by the end of this year, the Astros are gonna have two Cy Young candidates [Verlander and Valdez], an MVP candidate [Alvarez], a Manager of the Year candidate [somebody oughta vote for Dusty] and a Rookie of the Year candidate [Jeremy Peña]. They will be winning things. But I doubt that is all they intend to win. And once again, I am sensing that the Astros will go extremely far into the postseason, seeing as they will likely be the top-seeded AL team, and they will probably be better than a lot of AL competitors. And...yes, I get it, this may be one of the great sports dynasties we have right now, like the Patriots and Warriors and Penguins, but...I don't like the Patriots or Penguins, and I only tolerate the Warriors because it's been a while since the last time they won one. 

The one thing that sets the Astros apart from those teams is that they've only won 1 ring, even if they have been competitive this whole time. And seeing as they have a really nice team this year, they're really gonna try for that second ring, and hopefully they'll be in a position to not get clobbered by a team that caught fire in June or something. But at the same time, the Astros NOT getting to the end would be the more welcome surprise at this point. It's become such a boring option. Right now the most likely outcome would be a Dodgers-Astros World Series, and that'd just be really predictable and not something I'd wanna really watch. Now, something like Mariners-Cardinals or Blue Jays-Braves, that'd be pretty cool. 

Or maybe the Yankees getting in there but it'd probably just be me who wants that.

Regardless, the Astros want blood this year and it's gonna take a big effort to stop them. I hope there are some big efforts out there in the postseason bracket, then.

Coming Tomorrow- A red-bearded career contact hitter who's well-loved even as he enters his late 30s.

Looking for Mr. Nootbaar

 


It's just a weird change to the pattern of Cardinals rookies. Just big, strapping guys with bland-ass names coming into the lineup and changing everything. Harrison Bader. Tyler O'Neill. Tommy Edman. Dylan Carlson. Brendan Donovan. Nolan Gorman.

...Lars Nootbaar. 

That's...that's an odd little shift there.

When Lars Nootbaar came up last year and immediately struggled, I...knew what it was. You know, 'oh brother, a Cardinals rookie is gonna be bad at baseball for a bit just to give everybody else a chance and then BAM he'll be amazing'. And that's exactly what happened. It took him a bit, but since being called up this year, Nootbaar has 11 home runs and 35 RBIs, in addition to filling the Bader-sized defensive hole [that the Yankees have to wait another two weeks to even get a taste of]. And, of course, Nootbaar is the third rookie this year, after Nolan Gorman and Brendan Donovan, to add a genuine spark to the Cardinals lineup. Woo hoo.

What's even worse is that the Cards keep calling people up and they keep just fitting. Now Alec Burleson is up and he's got eyes on him as he begins to get hits. Juan Yepez may be back in the minors now but he got 11 home runs while he was here. This is what the Cardinals do, they're just bringing up people like Burleson and Matthew Liberatore and just teasing them. Like 'oh yeah, these guys will be ready soon, might wanna prepare for that'. And meanwhile they have frigging Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt and Tommy Edman all killing it in the majors. 

It really does piss me off how good the Cardinals' organization is. Lars Nootbaar is only the latest can't-miss prospect they've brought up that has refused to miss. Like, between Kyle Lewis, Evan White and Jarred Kelenic, the Mariners WISH they'd had that kind of luck [though they're not exactly complaining right now]. And now they're 8 or so games ahead of the Brewers, looking at a nice playoff seed that, with my luck, would absolutely put them against the Phillies [I know it's gonna look like this won't happen for a while but I know this is what's fated to happen]. The team's looking good, the youth is making the difference, and there might be some deep October action in this team's future.

I just have to learn to be okay with it.

Coming Tonight: Kinda awesome timing that this guy came off the IL and started surging the moment Justin Verlander got injured.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Late Suspense in the AL Central

 


With around 2 weeks left in the season, only two divisions have a deficit of three games or less separating them from a competitor, and you can honestly really guess three of the division leaders [Astros, Cardinals, Dodgers, put it in the bank]. But one of those relatively open divisions is the AL Central, the division that once again will be playing for a third seed and this year will be the only division leader without a first round bye. The division where there's a low amount of stakes, because it'll take a ton of momentum for the division winner to make it past the first round, and because only the division winner will be making the playoffs, as the nearest AL Central wild card competitor has a 7 game deficit and an Orioles team to get past.

So the three teams who are still technically in the AL Central division race are fighting for one playoff spot, even if it is a low one that will not hold the odds. As of now, the Cleveland Guardians have the division lead, the Chicago White Sox are 3 games behind, and the Minnesota Twins, who had the lead for most of the season, are 5 games behind. As much as I want to assume that the Guardians can tough it out for the rest of the season, I assumed this about the White Sox in April and the Twins in June. 

The Guardians right now are in a decent place. They've won their last 4, they have almost their entire Opening Day lineup still with the team, in addition to rookies like Oscar Gonzalez, Richie Palacios and Tyler Freeman helping out. They only have one real hole in the rotation next to Shane Bieber, Triston McKenzie, Cal Quantrill and Konnor Pilkington, and so far the best person to fill it has been Cody Morris, who's starting tonight against the Angels and will be trusted to not give up a home run to Mike Trout. The people who have powered this team to this point, like Jose Ramirez, Andres Gimenez, Triston McKenzie and Emmanuel Clase, are still in great condition and are dealing great stats even late. Gimenez might even get more MVP votes than Jose Ramirez in a season which started with a lot of MVP buzz for the third baseman. Still, Ramirez is sitting on his third 100+ RBI year and his fourth 25+ home run year, so he's got plenty to be happy about.

At the same time, the White Sox have gained a ton of momentum recently. In Tim Anderson's absence, Elvis Andrus has been turning in career work that might be his most relevant season in years. The homegrown guys that could never sync up, like Robert, Jimenez and Moncada, are syncing up finally, Dylan Cease is making a run at the Cy Young, and their wins in the past week have been huge. The White Sox also have an easier schedule this week, and while they do have a Guardians matchup as a makeup in a few days, the odds are they're gonna try and capitalize on this week and try to take the division back.

Now...I am all for comeback stories, but at the same time, to me, the White Sox taking the division back after it'd been the Guardians' year to win it is kind of anticlimactic. The White Sox failed in April, the Twins and Guardians conquered the division all year...from a storytelling perspective, that's the arc right there. It's less satisfying that the thing that was gonna happen all along just happens right at the end. 

I think the Guardians do have the better team right now, but the White Sox are using the momentum to make up for a ton of lost time, and they could lap the Guardians at the last second. I hope it doesn't happen for the sake of a ton of the Guardians who worked hard to make them into a postseason team, but this division isn't theirs yet. We've still got a lot of games to play.

Coming Tomorrow- Yet another homegrown Cardinals rookie who figures out how to kick ass in the majors.

The Uncle Charlie Factor

 


Hey, I don't know how many people have tracked this, but Charlie Morton has made the World Series three times with three different teams in the last five years. Two of the three he's won. Not a lot of people have that kind of track record. Joc Pederson may have won 2 rings consecutively, but Charlie Morton went from a low-level, low-market starter with no real upsides to a key starter for THREE DIFFERENT WORLD SERIES TEAMS. 

People are gonna talk about career second acts a bit in a year or so when Adrian Beltre is up for Hall of Fame induction, but right now I don't think there's anyone who's as indicative of a second act as Morton. Since rushing to the forefront with the Astros in 2017, Morton is 69-29 with a 3.47 ERA and 1042 strikeouts in 157 games. Before that he was 46-71 with a 4.54 ERA and 630 strikeouts in 162 games. I do love that he's turned things around like this [even if, yes, he could have proved this with the Phillies in 2016 if he'd have just stayed healthy].

And right now, with the Braves, Morton is not only a great mentor figure for a lot of young Braves, including Ian Anderson, Bryce Elder and Spencer Strider, but Morton's fitting right in with them and still a great rotation piece. Morton's got a 4.08 ERA, a 8-5 record and 180 strikeouts, which is still a pretty awesome K total for a guy who's 38 years old. I think the Braves are really gonna bank on this guy for postseason starts, in addition of Max Fried, Kyle Wright and Spencer Strider. If he can still be an excellent October pitcher, the Braves are even luckier.

Also...guys, the Braves have lost 7 games since August 9th. SEVEN. And they've had a ton of wins, building so much momentum that they've lapped the Mets for the division. This is a contrast from last year- in 2021, the Braves squeaked past the Mets and Phillies and won the NL East with only 88 wins. This year the Braves have 87 wins as I write this, and could have won 88 by the time you read it. By design, the Braves have gone beyond their 2021 shocking breakthrough and become a more consistent, more durable team, with so many young pieces making sure they'll stay good for the foreseeable future.

The Braves are succeeding where the Nationals failed. And if the Braves can stay hot, they could go back for another ring.

Coming Tonight: A second generation major leaguer trying to keep his team in 1st.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Who'll Stop the Rain?

 


Well, guess what? Looks like the Yankees can still beat the Rays after all.

I've been worrying about this team for the last month because for a whole the pitching dried up, everybody but Judge stopped hitting and I feared the usual bad luck these Yankees teams run into would be waiting for us to keep us from truly dominating. But the one thing we needed was some cushion against the Rays, and the Yankees went and took two from the Rays, each taking 10 runs from them complete with homers. 

The power numbers are coming from lots of different sources now. Stanton is hitting, Torres had multiple homers recently, Judge is obviously still hot and is still chasing 60. But now Oswaldo Cabrera is hitting, and is adding some extra padding to his insane defensive numbers. And you have the recent callups like Miguel Andujar, Oswald Peraza and Ronald Guzm-AND HE'S GONE. 

The strangest case on this team, especially now that Carpenter's still injured, is Josh Donaldson. I was really worried he'd be a risky contractual add-on, somebody that'd maybe look good on paper but fail to live up to his Blue Jays years. And honestly, Donaldson has made news for the Yankees in a lot of non-savory ways, like starting a feud with Tim Anderson and nearly starting a fight with most of the Rays' bullpen. At the same time, he's managed to not beat up Gerrit Cole, so that's good. Donaldson's having a pretty nice season, with 52 RBIs and 13 homers, in addition to some of his best defensive work in years. Clearly he hasn't been perfect, but I'm glad he's been a productive and interesting piece of this Yankees team. 

The Yankees also have been slowly getting pieces back, and have Nestor Cortes back and surging from the IL. They also are FINALLY getting a look at Ben Rortvedt, who came over along with Donaldson from Minnesota, and is supposed to be another great defensive player to back up Trevvy [when he comes back and Higgy inevitably leaves]. It looks like Rizzo will be back soon, and the goal is for Zach Britton to be back in a bit as well. 

I...I still think this team could go far. I know it has some flaws and can lose multiple games out of nowhere, but...when they're good, they can score 10 runs against the Rays, which they haven't always been able to do. Maybe there's hope. Maybe the Yankees can do well this year. 

Coming Tomorrow- An ageless wonder for a 1st place team. 

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Germanated

 


So much for 'we got Kris Bryant so we're gonna compete'.

The Rockies this year were always gonna struggle for 3rd or 4th, but for them to be a 5th place team, cornered by a much younger Diamondbacks team, even WITH Kris Bryant and a re-upped C.J. Cron, has gotta suck. Cause they were putting the work in, they've got people locked up and ready to fight for them, and now without Trevor Story and Jon Gray they've sunk even further.

I just think about German Marquez, who was their reliable ace going into this season, and who always seemed to outdo even the most formidable of Coors Field currents. And how even he's been struggling, has an ERA over 5 and is 8-10. This is the guy that's supposed to hold things down, and in his age-27 season he produces his worst numbers to date. Marquez is locked up for one more year, and I'm assuming he'll put on a tour de force to either boost his free agency case or pitch in a stadium that doesn't bog down his ERA, but this season is very worrying. Marquez used to be this rotation's rock, and now someone like Kyle Freeland, who's good but still a bit unreliable at times, has to take over.

You're also seeing Charlie Blackmon slowly phase himself out in what will possibly be his last season in Denver, and make way for younger pieces like Michael Toglia, who's a lineup piece that could infuriate NL West teams for years to come, and Elehuris Montero, who's just putting some nice contact numbers together himself. Plus, this team has a 35+ year old closer who is one of the most efficient in baseball, and they've got him for two more years. On one hand, this could be a recipe for disaster, as Bard is gonna start pitching his age eventually, but on the other hand, it's security a lot of teams don't have.

I think if Brendan Rodgers, Ryan McMahon and Michael Toglia perhaps stay good, this could be the beginnings of a nice core if the Rockies ever decide to compete again. Only thing is the Dodgers are gonna be good for a while, and the Padres have some stars locked up for a while. Not to mention the D-Backs are still building something great. I'm kinda intrigued to see what their 2023 statement is gonna be.

Coming Tomorrow- A very divisive third baseman for a team that just won't fade into the sunset.

Sears for Fears

 


I just have to laugh at this point. Right now the A's rotation features James Kaprielian, J.P. Sears and Ken Waldichuk. Right now the A's have more Yankee pitchers starting games for them than the Yankees do. 

It's just this league-wide trend of the Yankees getting rid of perfectly good pitching options and then those options doing better in other markets than most of the pitchers on the Yankees. I've already talked about Jordan Montgomery, who shouldn't have even been traded in the first place, and I've hinted at J.P. Sears. Sears was a pretty good depth starter for the Yankees, then the Frankie Montas deal happened and Montas forgot how to keep runs down while Sears took off. So far with the A's, Sears has a 4.30 ERA with the A's through 6 starts. Not perfect, and a few recent starts against decent teams have took off some edge, but he's still a great young asset and he's gonna blossom into a trusted arm in Oakland, while Frankie Montas probably plays for somebody else next year.

Then you have Ken Waldichuk, who I think the A's brought up while the Yankees were still in town, as a sort of 'ha-ha' move. Waldichuk is doing alright through 2 starts, he has a 3.60 ERA and 10 Ks. Nothing too shocking so far, but remember that this is still a feeble A's team that is going up against a lot of teams who are built better. Eventually this team is gonna find the tools necessary to outhit Houston or LA or somebody, but until that happens, good pitchers like Waldichuk and Sears might get lit up a bit.

I think the absolute best news is that Sean Murphy is having a great season, lifting the team in a lot of cases and outdoing a lot of young players for the WAR bonus that exists this year. You're also seeing a lot of young players like Jonah Bride, Shea Langeliers and Cody Thomas begin to inherit the team. Langeliers isn't fully well rounded yet but his power numbers are insane and he already has 13 RBIs. So while a lot hasn't worked for this team, and a lot of decent players have gotten injured, there's at least some reassurance for the next stage.

I'm not sure how many Yankees it'll take to get to the next stage, but I guess we're gonna find out.

Coming Tonight: A Rockies pitcher with ERA issues. So...a Rockies pitcher.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Strange Brubaker

 


For comparison to the post I put out earlier today, the Pirates have 7 guys with a 1.0 WAR or higher. And only one of them isn't healthy. Pirates > Tigers. Somehow.

Let's see, how do I best describe this latest in the line of losing Pirates teams? Uh...only three players have started more than 100 games. Two of them are, like, the marquee guys, Ke'Bryan Hayes and Bryan Reynolds. And the other one's Michael Chavis, who, while hitting .238, still has the second-most home runs on the team with 14, a mark for which he is tied with rookie Jack Suwinski, who is hitting .201. 

And look, let's be clear, the Pirates woes at the plate this year haven't been without a lack of trying. The team was doing really well with Roberto Perez behind the plate, then he got injured and the team has been forced to start either Tyler Heineman or Jason Delay. The team brought up Canaan Smith-Njigba, and he was on the right track, but then he got injured 3 games in and is out til next year. So many interesting prospect options, like Cal Mitchell, Bligh Madris and Diego Castillo, haven't worked in the majors. And even with Oneil Cruz, who's at least fun to watch, they're not getting the complete range of his abilities yet because he's only hitting .226. It's gotta be frustrating.

And then the frustrating part of the pitching is that they've gotten all these pieces to help from other teams, and none of them are. The Marlins gave them Zach Thompson, he's 3-10 with a 5.24 ERA. The Braves gave them Bryse Wilson, he's 2-8 with a 6.11 ERA. The Giants gave them Tyler Beede, he's got a 5.24 ERA and is down from where he was a few years ago. The Cardinals gave them Johan Oviedo, through two starts he has a 7.71 ERA. The Mets gave them Colin Holderman, in 9 games his ERA ballooned to 6.75 and now he's out for a while. And even some of the pitchers who are there, like J.T. Brubaker, who's been a loyal innings eater for the past few seasons, still have a 3-11 record and a 1.428 WHIP. Even the good pitchers like Brubaker and Keller aren't being done many favors.

Eventually this team is going to need to trade Bryan Reynolds, and then things might get worse for a while before they get better. There's so many big pieces being filled by replacement players that I don't see this team competing for a while. And this season hasn't done anything at all to calm worries about the team's direction. They're thankfully not gonna lose 100 games, but they're also not gonna have much to show for themselves, and for Pirates fans, that's not gonna sit well at all.

Coming Tomorrow- Another former Yankee pitcher who's doing way better away from the team that a lot of current Yankee starters.