Friday, May 27, 2022

A Rays'd Brow


 Between now and the end of June, the Tampa Bay Rays have to play the New York Yankees 9 times, including tonight. And unlike previous seasons...this year, I think the Rays know they're not as good as the Yankees.

They're not bad this year, let's be clear. They're still a strong second place team with great performances from longtime veterans like Yandy Diaz, Kevin Kiermaier and Manny Margot, as well as newbies like Shane McClanahan and that big rookie guy everyone's on about. But a lot of the guts of this team is missing this year. The Rays' penchant for keeping their teams below a certain budget cost them Joey Wendle, Austin Meadows and Michael Wacha this offseason, and their insistence on using younger arms predominantly in the rotation has led to so many of them, including Tyler Glasnow, Yonny Chirinos, Brendan McKay, Shane Baz, Pete Fairbanks and Luis Patino, out indefinitely with injuries. I equate this to a few years ago in Boston, where their entire rotation was out, and even if the rest of the team was great, there really was no point.

Now the difference between this Rays team and the 2020 Red Sox is that this Rays team still has some decent starting pitching energy. Last night, Ryan Yarbrough didn't allow any hits until the 6th inning, which was the point where I jinxed the no-hitter on social media and Marwin Gonzalez could smoke a hit off of him. The Rays also have two very strong young arms in Shane McClanahan and Drew Rasmussen, and a fairly decent season from Corey Kluber so far. What sucks, though, is that they still have too few starters to make a full rotation, and have to have Jeffrey Springs open games [a lot like he has tonight] in lieu of having an actual starter go 5. On one hand, we're in the era of baseball where starting pitchers don't need to go far into the game, but on the other hand it certainly helps when they do. 

The Rays are really working with the same strategy as usual- low budget play, contact hitting, a superior bullpen. But the difference here is that with the strength of their competitors, small ball may not be enough anymore. The Jays are cold now, but we all know what happens to the Jays in June. The Yankees are still relatively hot and look to stay that way, even with the tough schedule load they have coming up. The Rays just may not have enough to really go head to head with these teams, and I think they're close to realizing it. Just having fun games, big moments and staying above .500 might be enough of a goal for these guys, I hate to say it. 

How this Yankees series goes is gonna dictate how the rest of the season goes, I think. 

Coming Tomorrow- Owner of one of the most awesome trivia distinctions in current baseball- a player promising enough to be traded for Zack Greinke, and awesome enough to be traded to play ALONGSIDE Zack Greinke. 

Return to Hoz

 


The best thing you can say about the Padres so far is that all the decisions you used to criticize them for are all paying off.

We were confused when they signed Eric Hosmer to a big deal in 2018, and now Hoz is having his best season in years, hitting .325 with 24 RBIs and a 1.5 WAR, his highest since leaving the Royals. This is a season it took Hosmer FIVE YEARS OF HIS EIGHT YEAR CONTRACT to get to. That is...something. Four years of perfectly okay baseball, teetering on the brink of negative batting percentages, and now a comeback for the ages to help out a team missing Tatis. I don't know how, or why, he does it, but...I'm glad.

It's not just Hosmer that's surprising the cynics who wrote off Padres moves. Jurickson Profar, after a weaker 2021, is having a huge year, doing some insane defensive numbers in left, and hitting a bit more than usual. This is the kind of season Profar would have at the end of his Rangers tenure, the kind he matured into. Two years after being signed as a backup, Ha-Seong Kim has become a handy, impressive defensive infielder, and has been doing a nice job filling the void Tatis has left, and fighting off competition from C.J. Abrams. I also think this team's ability to find players coming back from playing in the International leagues has been exemplary; Pierce Johnson is still a great bullpen piece, and now Nick Martinez has become a surprisingly strong back-half rotation member. Considering how many former Padres have made it to the asian leagues [Carlos Asuaje, Christian Villanueva, Freddy Galvis], it's only fair at this point for the asian leagues to return the favor.

As I write this, the Padres are a game and a half behind the Dodgers, and are looking pretty damn good overall. Darvish-Musgrove-Manaea-Gore-Martinez is a pretty strong rotation, and the fact that Musgrove's having the best season of all of them is pretty cool. Taylor Rogers is having one of his best seasons as a closer. Cronenworth, Kim and Profar are all excellent defenders. And Manny Machado is just as capable of leading this team as Tatis would be. This is a very cool 2nd place team that could lap the Dodgers if things go their way. 

Who knows what could change, but this teams looks shockingly good right now. Kinda cool to see it.

Coming Tonight- Third baseman for a team that's taking on my Yankees this week.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Shadow of a Trout

 


Only 5 MLB players who were drafted before Mike Trout in 2009 are currently active. 7 if you count two players injured for substantial periods of time. The Mariners, Padres, Diamondbacks and White Sox all picked outfielders before Trout. Two of the outfielders picked before Trout, A.J. Pollock and Randal Grichuk, had decent careers. But not Trout good.

For the record, a stat that could keep you up at night? If the Yankees never sign Mark Teixeira, then never give the Angels the compensatory draft pick they use to draft Mike Trout. Could you imagine that? If the Yankees decide to sign somebody else instead and the Angels don't draft Trout? Then the next team on the clock that needs CF help is the Red Sox. What a world that would be.

Regardless, here we are, Mike Trout is 30, he missed substantial time last season, we all hoped he'd be able to get a leg up on Ken Griffey Jr. by producing the one thing the Kid never could [a satisfying second act], and now he's giving us vintage Trout again. Hallelujah. 2.9 WAR through 40 games, hitting .319 with 26 RBIs and 12 homers, hitting figures already on par to match his 20-27 aged peak. And in addition, the Angels are in 2nd, the rest of the team is matching Trout in intensity [Marsh, Syndergaard, Ward, Ohtani, Sandoval and Rendon are all killing it], and the Maddon influence is actually aiding this team a great deal.

Here's the thing, though. The Angels are still behind the Astros for the division. Their next series are against competitive teams like the Blue Jays, Yankees and I suppose the Phillies, while the Astros don't get a team over .500 to play until mid-June. Between momentum, scheduling and the general fickle nastiness of the universe, the Angels, as good as they are right now, are being set up to fail. They're only a two game deficit between them and Houston right now, but as Houston plows through their series' with Seattle, Oakland, Texas, Kansas City and Miami, the deficit is gonna grow a great deal.

So the Angels have to figure out ways to match the Astros in intensity. The one thing the Astros don't have right now that the Angels do is, well, Mike Trout. The Astros have players who ARE good but none who will BE good even when time caves in on itself. Mike Trout, this season, is proving that he has enough in the tank to perform into his 30s, and is still an elite athlete who can hit, still keep a high average, and still run a season without breaking down. There's also so much more to this team this year, including a wider rotation, a huge arsenal of young performers, and some surprisingly awesome defenders. It is possible for the Angels to catch Houston. Not super-likely, but possible. And I hope they can.

Trout needs to get back to October in his prime. Maybe this is the team to bring him there.

Coming Tomorrow- Everybody going into this season thinking he was a disappointing contract signing can shut up now apparently.

Who'll Stop the Wain

 


This man is 40 and he's got a 2.87 ERA, 36 Ks and 5 wins. Most people, most pitchers, around this age, pack up and say they're done. ADAM WAINWRIGHT IS NOT DONE.

And that's honestly one of the reasons why sportswriters are gonna have a field day with his Hall of Fame case at the end of the decade. Wainwright not only had his peak, from 2007 to 2014, but where most careers would end around the time he misses seasons due to injury and has a comparatively lackluster full season [so 2019], Wainwright just kept going. His 2020 was great, last year he was excellent, going 17-7, his best record since his peak years ended, and now he's leading the Cardinals rotation ONCE AGAIN in Jack Flaherty's absence. And once again, might I stress that this man is 40 years old, and he still throws scorching fastballs. 

In analyzing the strikeout artists of the 2010s, and in figuring out which ones are bound for the Hall of Fame, you have a bunch down pat already. Verlander, Greinke, Scherzer, Kershaw, they're all going in. Kluber, Cole, deGrom, Strasburg...there are cases. Waino was one of the best pitchers in the league for a good 7 year period, and is currently STILL one of the best pitchers in the league. There'll probably be one guy that goes 'WELL WHAT ABOUT THOSE YEARS IN BETWEEN', forgetting that Dennis Eckersley is a Hall of Famer. Or somebody'll go 'he doesn't have enough individual accolades', even if he finished in the top 3 of the Cy Young voting 4 times and has a World Series ring [woulda had two if he wasn't having Tommy John during the 2011 season]. 

I also point to how much of a leader Wainwright became after Chris Carpenter retired. How the rotations would be designed basically around him. I also think about the 2015 season, where the Cardinals used John Lackey as the replacement Waino, and tried to make a recreation of that environment with a similarly tenured pitcher, and it WORKED. It saved Lackey's career and it allowed for an eventual Waino comeback. And in every season where the Cardinals have designed things around Flaherty, things have evened out to circle Wainwright instead, and it's still worked. The man has a 2.83 postseason ERA, 123 postseason strikeouts, and saved the last game of the 2006 Series. The accolades are there. The longevity is there. I think there's a case to be made.

As for the 2022 Cardinals...I'll say it again, this is the kind of Cardinals team that can lift my decade-long hatred of that organization. I thought they had a perfect lineup going into the season, and now that they've brought up Brendan Donovan, Nolan Gorman, Juan Yepez and Matthew Liberatore, the lineup's somehow even better. This team could do crazy things in the postseason, and I see them lapping the Brewers soon enough.

Coming Tonight: I hope none of you worried the legend was over.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Seven Stands for Something


 I wish we lived in a world where Tim Anderson could have one full year without butting heads with some moron about something asinine, but...this is the only world we've got.

Last year, Anderson, quite predictably, clashed with Tony LaRussa, whose old-school managerial style clashed with Anderson's status as a trailblazer for black athletes in a time of racial injustice. What has amazed me thus far this year is how cordial the two of them have been. I haven't heard LaRussa's name at all since the season began. Typically if you don't hear the manager's name at all, that means they're either not doing anything too huge, nobody's on twitter calling for their firing, or they're really not at fault for either the win or the loss. And that's where we're at. Everyone's talking about Tim Anderson because he's hitting .365 and the chief lineup performer on the White Sox, and no one's talking about Tim Anderson because he hasn't benched a rookie due to unwritten rules yet.

So, okay, the LaRussa thing seems to be on the back burner, so Anderson doesn't have any shit to worry about, right? Wrong. Here comes Josh Donaldson trying to be a smartass, trying to get a rise out of Anderson and getting himself suspended over racist crap. 

On one hand, I was initially surprised because usually the players who say something racist are relievers. John Rocker, Jonathan Papelbon, Josh Hader. You know, continue the tradition. There's a literal Australian that's one of the best closers in baseball, he hasn't done any racist stuff. Mostly because he's Anderson's teammate now. But Donaldson just...said something stupid, and exacerbated a rivalry that was already burgeoning with the White Sox because of a controversial slide the week before. So now he's going and calling him a name just to get him mad, just because Tim Anderson is...doing really well right now and considers himself a trailblazer for black athletes? 

I usually take the side of the Yankees, but Donaldson really should have picked a different battle. I already thought Yankees-White Sox was gonna become a big rivalry intrinsically with must-see matchups on network TV, but if it starts to become a rivalry over some racist stuff that we KNOW Donaldson's in the wrong for, then what's the point? And now every subsequent Yanks-White Sox matchup is gonna have that ugly subtext to it. Every time Anderson and Donaldson meet on the base paths, it's just gonna be ugly. 

I already respect how Anderson plays the game, because he's a natural hitter who's had several awesome seasons, and has been one of the reasons why the Sox are as powerful as they are [even in a down year]. I also respect him taking the high road through this and being the mature, composed antithesis to Donaldson's pissy complaining about missing a game or whatnot. I'm trying to like Donaldson cause he's doing well for my team, but if he's gonna pull this shit on people who deserve to be there, it's gonna be way harder to like him.

I think the White Sox are a tough competitor, they have a lot going for them, especially now with Michael Kopech, Johnny Cueto and Luis Robert all rolling. I just...feel really bad that any matchup the White Sox have with the Yankees from here on out because my team's the bullies, the antagonists. And I hate that. 

I've predicted the White Sox to make the World Series the last 2 seasons. Maybe if I don't this year they'll actually surprise me.

Coming Tomorrow- One of five people with major Hall of Fame cases on one team. I would rank this one third of five in terms of probability to make the Hall.

Fried All About It

 


The thing about this Braves team is that because so much insane stuff happened last year, it's hard to get excited about some of the developments comparatively. What's that? William Contreras has 6 home runs? What, Matt Olson has more doubles than he has RBIs? Oh, don't spoil me with the news that Spencer Strider's been killing long relief!

Once you win a World Series, it's hard to really enjoy a perfectly okay team again, especially if it's the year afterwards. And that's what this Braves team is right now- perfectly okay.

I mean, as I've said before, what made the Braves a World Series champion, a lot like the Nats two years before, was the time, the place, the momentum, the deadline acquisitions, all of that. That team at that moment was a World Series champion because no one could stop them. This team at this moment can be stopped. They've been stopped by the Phillies this week, because it's the Phillies turn to be good for a bit until they drop enough games for the Braves to end the season in second. 

Like, look at this rotation. Max Fried and Kyle Wright are both 4-2 and are doing well, but Ian Anderson and Charlie Morton are both doing very okay [Anderson's impending Tommy John surgery is staring him down]. The fifth starter spot is just a roulette wheel of great pitchers who cannot get a damned thing done this year. Kyle Muller is struggling, Huascar Ynoa is struggling, Tucker Davidson is struggling, and Bryce Elder, who started out doing pretty well, eventually started struggling. I imagine Elder'll get the fifth spot again now, but I don't know how well it'll go. Remember last year when the Braves had 5 starters and Drew Smyly hanging around for depth? They've gotta be missing Smyly about now.

The lineup is...very okay. Albies, Swanson and Riley have become great defenders but they're all hitting around .230. Acuna's himself but he's taking it very slowly. The hangers-on from last July onward, like Rosario and Duvall, aren't adding much at all. There's no real standouts on this team so far, everyone's just kinda doing alright and sort of getting by. 

The spark the Braves had last year hasn't really showed up yet, and I hate to think they're all waiting around for it to get there. 

Coming Tonight: The man of the moment, controversy be damned.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Reassessing the Blue Jays' Rotation Grab

 

Prior to the season, the Toronto Blue Jays, in an attempt to combat their AL East adversaries after missing the playoffs at their expense, decided to sign three starting pitchers. One of them, Jose Berrios, was being re-upped after the trade last July. The other two, Yusei Kikuchi and Kevin Gausman, were free agent signings. As a full rotation has always been hard for the Jays to come by, this move was made to give them a wider arsenal, and to supplant homegrown or preexisting arms like Hyun-Jin Ryu and Alek Manoah. 

Let's see how they're doing:

-Kevin Gausman is having a season very much in the same vein as his Giants numbers, which was one of the main make-or-break points of this plan working. Kevin Gausman was excellent in Baltimore, and San Francisco, but for some reason he went absolutely dead in Atlanta and nearly derailed his entire career with an awful start there. Like a lot of pitchers, Gausman's success is regional, and he can't always perform in big, pressing markets. So I didn't know if Toronto would be the best market for him, but...apparently he's been flourishing there, with a 2.52 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 8 starts, a start only dwarfed by Alek Manoah's. Gausman is a smashing success already and is getting some Cy Young buzz. In May. That's...very good.

-Yusei Kikuchi, signed after a great year in Seattle last year, is proving what I kinda knew, that his 2021 was the nth degree of his promise and not indicative of his promise in general. So far he's done alright. 2-1, 3.57 ERA, 40 Ks, nothing too fancy but I'm sure the Blue Jays are glad they have him around. Plus, with Hyun-Jin Ryu finally pitching like a 35-year-old, Kikuchi is providing some international appeal and dominance in the absence of the beloved Korean Monster. 

-Jose Berrios, re-signed in the nick of time as the Jays wanted Berrios as an ace, is still struggling a bit. Berrios is working with a 4.75 ERA, a 3-2 record, 35 strikeouts and a 1.437 WHIP. Though he had great numbers for the Jays last fall, he just seems to be having a shakier start so far, which is fine. I mean, he's 28, still in his prime, still capable of big game moments, but it's maybe just not his best year in general. If the Jays didn't have Manoah, Gausman, and Kikuchi doing better, I'd be more worried. I just think he'll make up some ground in the next few month. Remember, June is coming up, and the Jays always do well in June.

So...not perfect, but pretty good. I'd rest my head on a rotation like this, even if Berrios and Ross Stripling leave a bit to be desired. I can't imagine the Yankees having to take on Gausman or Manoah right now, especially during what I can only assume is their obligatory slide.

Meanwhile, Bichette and Guerrero are heating up, Alejandro Kirk might finally have the starting catching spot, Springer is valuable, and this team is slowly gearing up for some major damage next month. I just hope that the Yankees don't choose June for the moment where they fall apart, because a Jays comeback is all but inevitable. 

Coming Tomorrow- He has a World Series ring, but why's his team still struggling to stay out of fourth?

Belli of the Beast

 


I just think that if by 24 you have an MVP, a Rookie of the Year and have been to two World Series', your standard for greatness changes a little bit.

The thing about Cody Bellinger's last few seasons is that nobody was saying 'oh he's cooked'. It's more like 'oh, he has time to have seasons like this.' He came up at 21, which is rare for MLBers these days, had success almost right off the bat, and then had an explosive 2019 with 47 homers and 115 RBIs in the year that Rob Manfred has said that he juiced the balls a bit. Then in a COVID-shortened season he hit .239 and last year he couldn't even hit for average. The game changed, he had to keep up, and he had time to keep up.

Which should explain why his age-26 season is going better. He's a bit more comfortable, he's not relied upon as much, and he's not even at the period where most MLB players are fully in their prime. He knows the pressure's off, so he's hitting a ton better, and has a 1.1 WAR as of now, with some impressive defensive work lifting him as well as his recent offensive improvement. As of now, Bellinger only has 5 homers, but I don't think it's for lack of trying- the balls are harder to hit out, Bellinger lacks the homer-or-bust mentality of his earlier career, and he's still warming up. I reckon he'll hit 25 or 30 this year, and then next year he'll chase the big guns again.

Bellinger is just another one of the many intriguing pieces of another great Dodgers team. It should not surprise you that Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Trea Turner and Clayton Kershaw are the most efficient pieces so far, but great years are being had by Gavin Lux, Tony Gonsolin and, honestly, David Price. This is a team mixed between contract wins and curious farm system prizes, and they're all learning to coexist and play great baseball together. Kimbrel has 9 saves, Tyler Anderson and Andrew Heaney can start competently, and DHing Muncy has become a very, very good idea [motions to Sunday].

On this Dodgers team, with this kind of efficiency, Cody Bellinger can have a comeback year. It remains to be seen how his peak years will go.

Coming Tonight: One of two Toronto arms making waves right now.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Tucker Round and Find Out


 This may come off as hypocritical being said by a Yankee fan...but I am so damned sick of this team taking 1st every frigging year.

It's like clockwork. The Astros take a month to heat up, they heat up, and it's insufferable. Forget there are new teams with new narratives in the AL West, like the Angels and Mariners, no, we have to have the Astros in first for most of the damned season. Ohtani and Trout are both hitting? Hogwash, look at Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve and Kyle Tucker doing the same things they always do. Look, Yordan Alvarez is hitting home runs again, what the hell else matters in this division?

I know for a fact that the reason why the Astros have continued to be such a factor in the AL these last 5 years is the way the organization is built. It's a well oiled machine that has run splendidly for the last 5 years, and even the last 10, with everything they've done since moving to the AL including honing prospects like Springer, Correa and Keuchel yet still being alright when they leave. The Astros let Correa go fair and square because they knew they had Jeremy Pena right behind. The Astros let George Springer go to Toronto because they knew Kyle Tucker would move in and become the contact annihilator he is today. The Astros phased out Evan Gattis as DH because they knew Yordan Alvarez would jump in and become a home run hitter.

The only mark on their record since 2017 has been the cheating scandal, which only really Rob Manfred has forgiven them for. 

But taking away the villainous stance they have, taking away how they've been Yankee killers in the playoffs, all of the controversy and everything aside...this team just knows how to keep momentum going. They've been postseason regulars for 5 straight seasons and they're going for number six, and unless the Angels do enough to keep them fully out, they're gonna get it. With everything stacked against this team, they've still managed to win, and they've done so with Justin Verlander at 39, Jose Altuve past his contact-hitting prime, two catchers hitting around .100 and Jeremy Pena taking over for a legend. You kind of have to admire that. 

I don't, but I see why you could.

Coming Tomorrow- Similar to Christian Yelich, a former MVP trying to regain career momentum. This guy seems to have figured it out though.

Rebel Yelich

 


I think a lot of people have resigned themselves to the fact that Christian Yelich's peak was from his age-24 season in 2016 to his age-27 season in 2019. He had a very strong run, played for some great teams, won an MVP and nearly won a second one. And it was a great time, but he's no longer in that peak period, and a majority of people have accepted that.

...Christian Yelich has not accepted that, though.

So far, Yelich is hitting .250 with 20 RBIs and 5 home runs. Perfectly sane numbers. But Yelich is striving for more, and he's trying to go bigger, and in that want to go bigger he's garnered 38 strikeouts. That's on pace for 158 strikeouts, which would be a career high. Remember in 2019, the season he came 2nd in MVP voting, Yelich only struck out 118 times. That's low for 2019. And then he had 76 strikeouts in 58 games in 2020, and...look, I think he's just chasing the dragon at this point. 

The Brewers are at a point where they can rely on a full ensemble of people for a variety of things, and it's less and less reliant on Yelich being the complete leader he was in 2019. Like, yes, it helps and all, but we still have people like Lorenzo Cain, Willy Adames and Andrew McCutchen, who can also be the centerpiece if they want to. Plus, Yelich isn't the most consistent power guy on this team anymore- Hunter Renfroe and Rowdy Tellez are both bringing excellent power numbers so far, and they've both amassed 9 home runs each. I'm not saying the Brewers have evolved past the need for Christian Yelich, because they definitely still need him, but...I don't think they need him to be the only marquee guy anymore.

We're now at a point where the starting pitchers aren't the nobodies that they were. Corbin Burnes has a Cy Young now, people come to Milwaukee to see him pitch, and he delivers. Burnes has a 1.5 WAR, a 2.26 ERA and 62 strikeouts, he's on pace for another Cy Young if he desires. Despite Freddy Peralta landing on the IL yesterday, the Brewers have 4 guys with 48 strikeouts or more right now, and that includes Brandon Woodruff, who's a bit more scattershot than he's been in years. People come to see Josh Hader- the guy's got 15 saves already, and is on pace for 60. That's really damned good.

The goal is for Yelich to finish with a season he's proud of, and that the Brewers are proud of as well. At this pace, they're favorites for a playoff spot, and if Yelich plays a nice enough role in that endeavor, he'll be even. If not...the man may have to face the facts and modify his approach.

Coming Tonight: Outfielder and young standout from The Team That Wouldn't Die.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Buck Toothed

 


The conversation needs to be had of 'how good of a career would Byron Buxton have right now if he was at all able to stay healthy?'

All things considered, Buxton has played just one full season, in 2017, and even that was an age 23 season where he was still warming up and coming into his own, despite a 4.9 WAR and 29 steals. Buxton has matured into a pure hitter, an efficient power bat who has knocked 11 homers so far this season. But every season since 2017 he's struggled with staying healthy, culminating in an ever-so-heartbreaking 2021, where an injury ruined what could have been an MVP year for Buxton.

The best news about the injury he suffered last year is that it protected him from being traded someplace like San Diego. Now he gets to suit up and hit home runs for the Twins again, as they return to 1st place.

Regardless of the fact that Buxton isn't exactly hitting for average, 21 RBIs and 11 home runs is a very good look to be leading the team with. It's clear that the rest of the squad looks to Buxton as an authority figure, even if he is only 28, and Buxton having another nice season, even if he does miss a little time here and there, does keep the team centered as it goes into the heat of the season. I don't think Correa can be relied upon fully as a centerpiece yet, and Kepler and Polanco are too inconsistent, even if they are all doing well do far. Plus, now Gio Urshela is beginning to heat up at the plate, which will only help the Twins. It does shock me still that Gary Sanchez has only hit 3 home runs. I suppose we gave him up at the right time, especially considering how the returns are doing [racism notwithstanding]. 

It's also very promising to see the callups like Jose Miranda, Gilberto Celestino and Royce Lewis playing such a role in this team. Celestino seems to be pretty ready, as he's chasing Nick Gordon for a starting OF spot. Miranda is taking a bit more time, but he is a pretty useful infield piece, especially in Sano's absence. Lewis was doing so well covering for Correa that people began to think that Correa might get dealt so Lewis can play everyday, and while I don't think the Twins would do that so soon with their big 2022 pickup...I would rather see Lewis start than Correa, honestly.

The burgeoning youth is a fine factor in this team's success. Josh Winder was having a great go of things before he got injured. The second you forgot about him, South Jersey native Devin Smeltzer sprung back into the fold and notched two careful, low-hit starts. People like Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan are ruling this rotation in favor of people like Sonny Gray or Dylan Bundy, and it's very promising.

The White Sox are 4 games back as I write this, so the Twins' lead isn't guaranteed for the next stretch, but the Twins have stayed very hot recently, and they're just now getting some big pieces back from the IL, so maybe that'll propel them further into the lead.

Coming Tomorrow- A former MVP determined to stay relevant. 

Bassitt Found

 


It's always gotta be a little trickier than usual with the Mets, doesn't it?

We already knew the Mets would be starting the season without Jacob deGrom, that's all doable. They start the season with a Scherzer-Megill-Bassitt-Walker-Carrasco rotation. Walker misses a few starts, they have David Peterson, it's fine. Then Megill gets hurt. Now Scherzer's hurt. So now the rotation consists of Chris Bassitt, Taijuan Walker, Carlos Carrasco, David Peterson and Trevor Williams. And it's still sort of a win for the Mets.

They still have an ace, and that ace is Chris Bassitt, and after he's been locked up for a little longer in Queens, Bassitt is very capable of mowing down batters, as he always has. So far he's 4-2 with a 2.27 ERA and 49 Ks, which is still a pretty powerful ace performance taking Scherzer out of the equation. The funny thing about Bassitt is he's 33, and yet has only really become a force in baseball since 2018, so he's making up for a lot of lost time. As is Carrasco, who's battled injuries the last few years, and is off to his best start in years, with a 3.73 ERA, 3 wins and 37 Ks. Walker has been the comparative weak link so far, at least in terms of velocity, but he hasn't exactly been counted out yet. 

The other two are the intriguing bits, because the Mets aren't exactly out of luck. Filling in for Walker, David Peterson had a 1.89 ERA in 4 appearances, and fit right in with the rest of the bunch. I don't doubt he'll be fine. Williams, however, I'm confused by, as he's been problematic ever since his 2-8 2020 as the top pitcher in Pittsburgh. Williams has had only one true start, and it went well enough, going 4 innings and not allowing a hit, notching 6 strikeouts. His relief numbers are telling me he'll be in better shape as they go, and even if he is a bit faulty, he's still working with an excellent Mets lineup.

In addition to that, the Mets also have a sixth starter ready if they need him, in the form of Thomas Szapucki, who's been a fairly decent starter in Syracuse so far. So that's really what we're working with. Three Opening Day rotation members fall, there's four in waiting. 

As for the Mets in general, they're not doing a ton wrong. Starling Marte just got back from a week away and he's already back to hitting. Alonso, Nimmo, Lindor and McNeil are all pounding the ball. Edwin Diaz is actually working as a closer again. Patrick Mazeika actually works as a backup catcher. Travis Jankowski has fully embraced being a killer bench player. The fans are showing up, the belief is there, and nobody else in the NL East is coming close to them. May they keep it up, at least for a little while longer.

Coming Tomorrow- He was within inches of getting dealt last year, and he's stayed around long enough to see his team retake first.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

One After 99

 


The Yankees are 29-10. Only 4 of those losses have come in May. And this was the team I thought wouldn't be able to beat Boston or Tampa.

Maybe it's me. Maybe I'm just so terrible at predicting things that I've cut a hole in the universe. But this team does well when I expect them to fail and fails when I expect them to do well. And I'm afraid to get too confident and expect them to go all the way because I know they'll disappoint me. But...basically the whole team's playing really well right now. Just some catching issues and some guys like Loiasiga and Hicks who aren't keeping up with the rest of the pack, but...there is so much depth and variety to this team. It's not just on Judge and Stanton to hit all the home runs; D.J. LeMahieu hit a grand slam earlier today. It's not on all the big strikeout artists to walk away with wins- Nestor Cortes has a 1.80 ERA and 56 strikeouts. It's all spread out.

That being said, this team does come down to Aaron Judge, and he is delivering. This is his age 30 season, potentially the last year of his contract with the Yankees, he's been one of the strongest hitters in baseball since coming up in 2016, and this is another year where I'm thinking he'll get MVP votes. His 14 home runs lead the league, and he's also hitting .302, which is rare for him as a power hitter, and has 30 RBIs. That's some well rounded stats so far, proving he can also contact hit and go not just for the long ball. He's not even leading the team in strikeouts [that, unsurprisingly, would be Joey Gallo], but he's definitely the standard for the offense. And having him on is also lifting people like Gleyber Torres, Josh Donaldson, D.J. LeMahieu and, yes, Giancarlo Stanton, who's also having a great season. What worries me is that Anthony Rizzo has gone a bit colder since we've gotten further into May, but he's still capable of a lot, especially in this lineup.

Just watching today, I'm amazed at how much depth we have. Clay Holmes can close games if he wants to. He's on a hefty scoreless innings streak, and worked the ninth today. I know we have Chapman but he's been giving up homers a bit lately, as he tends to, and so...it's an option. We also have two long-men, Michael King and Clarke Schmidt, who can work long innings of relief to circumvent pitchers being taken out too early, and who could potentially start games if people [god forbid] start getting injured. What's fantastic is that we've done a great job of starting pitching maintenance so far. Sevvy's not throwing quite as hard, Cole is taking a more varied approach [read: he's not tacking up anymore], and Taillon and Montgomery are just solid mid-rotation choices. I said something similar last year and then Kluber and Taillon went down, so I hope it's not a 'well, it's May' sort of thing, but...the fact that we've only really had to start 5 guys so far, and that they're all in good shape, is a very good thing. 

It is still early, and the Yankees have been guilty of peaking in May before, especially as June, aka The Month Where the Blue Jays Absolutely Catch Fire And Nobody Can Stop Them, approaches, but I still feel pretty good about this team. I'm purposely underestimating them a bit, and going into the next few games I'll be alright if they can't get past either Kopech or Cueto, but...at the same time, this team might just be that good.

Coming Tomorrow- Elsewhere in New York, a pitcher who was just re-upped fights to stay healthy as his rotation battery members drop.

Chasing the Namesake

 


I dunno, putting a catcher with the name Daulton on a 1988 Donruss design just kinda felt right.

The Arizona Diamondbacks did something I didn't think they'd do this season. 2 things, really. They made it above .500 and spent some games at 4th place. That they did that alone is worth celebrating.

They're honestly not doing too badly, at 19-21, but for a team that was always gonna come in either 4th or last, the D-Backs have a lot to say for themselves right now. For instance, yesterday they had a guy, namely Josh Rojas, hit 3 home runs in a game. They also have a rotation where no one has an ERA over 4.50, which is rare for a last place team. Their marquee stars, like Ketel Marte, Zac Gallen, Christian Walker and Merrill Kelly, are actually worth the price of admission this year, and are beginning to get fans back in seats.

And what's most exciting about this team is that the slow rollout of the youth movement in Phoenix actually seems to be working. At the end of the 2020 season, the D-Backs brought up Pavin Smith and Daulton Varsho, and now they're both integral parts of the oufield. Varsho's having an excellent season, with 17 RBIs, 7 homers and a .790 OPS. Smith has 15 RBIs and 26 hits. Meanwhile there's guys from the latter half of 2021, like Seth Beer and Jake McCarthy, who got some stuff done earlier on but are hanging back in the minors.

And then there's some actual 2022 rookies. Gerardo Perdomo is starting at SS, and he's an excellent defender, especially alongside Marte. Alek Thomas is off to a phenomenal start in the outfield, and had a homer yesterday amid all the Rojas ones. Humberto Castellanos is starting regularly and doing pretty damned well, keeping his ERA around 4. The layering of the different incarnations of this team's youth movements is being very well handled, a lot better than the Tigers honestly. 

I don't expect the D-Backs to accomplish a great deal, but if people like Varsho, Gallen and Marte end with great seasons, more power to them. It'll be better for the long run, especially if they stick around.

Coming Tonight: All rise..

Friday, May 20, 2022

Salt of the Murph

 


With all the impressive gameplay going on in the AL West right now, you can't blame the A's for being out of touch comparatively. All this talk about Julio Rodriguez and Taylor Ward and Jeremy Pena. Meanwhile, the best players in Oakland are two pitchers with long red beards and a guy named Sheldon. They're basically the Amish.

I mean, it's apt. The other four teams are doing all these advanced things, the division has advanced far enough to allow for a competitive Angels team, and the Athletics are just...getting there a lot slower. The stadium still has fingerprints from 1965. Jed Lowrie's 38 and he's being relied upon in a major role. It's very much a different expectation with this team. The odds are they're probably going to lose 100 games and fall on their face while doing so, just two years after winning playoff games and contending for a spot in the ALCS. 

The goal is just to make sure they can establish enough of a core group so that not everything about this team has to be washed away when it's over. I imagine that a lot of the replacement players aren't gonna make it, and some of the carry-over standouts like Sheldon Neuse, Seth Brown and Tony Kemp might get dealt in July. But if people can stick around til the next competitive A's team, then it'll all have worked out.

But, looking over this team, who would that be? Sean Murphy? Murphy has sort of backed himself into being one of the longer-tenured A's on this team, even if he's only 27. He's not hitting for average, he's only a decent defensive catcher, and he's leading the team in strikeouts. Chad Pinder is hitting .250 but only has 11 RBIs. Ramon Laureano has eyes upon him after serving his suspension and he's only hitting .174. Even if Laureano-Pache-Pinder is a pretty awesome defensive outfield, there aren't a lot of offensive perks to it, especially since Cristian Pache STILL can't hit. 

So far the standouts have been bit players, like Kevin Smith, Nick Allen and Luis Barrera. Of the starters, oft-optioned Paul Blackburn is doing the best of everybody, with a 1.67 ERA and 4 wins, while former prospects Daulton Jeffries, James Kaprielian and Cole Irvin aren't doing too badly either. The biggest surprise of this team has been Dany Jimenez coming out of nowhere to become a truly unhittable closer, and I hope he keeps it up. 

I'll admit that the fun of this team is watching the spare parts come forward and have big games, but that's really the full extent of it. There's no true heroes for the A's, and it's just a 'wait for it to come together' kind of club, which is fine...but the A's have had a lot of those recently.

Coming Tomorrow- Two seasons after his call-up, a prospect takes command of a low-end roster.

The Drury is Still Out

 


I'll give the Reds this. They've won 8 of their last 12 games. Before that, they were 3-22. Now they're 11-26. That's...better. Not terrific, not playoff-quality, but better than they were.

A few things happened in the last 12 games. For one thing, Hunter Greene no-hit the Pirates, Art Warren walked a guy home and nobody on the Reds could score a run. Additionally, people who know how to start games came up; Connor Overton has been the best of the rookie call-ups so far, with a 1.82 ERA in 4 starts, and Luis Castillo, while still not great, knows how to make himself look good statistically even if he gets lit up. 

The Reds have also emphasized the players nobody thought anything of who are playing incredibly. Alexis Diaz has been lights out in relief, the Reds are flirting with making him the closer. Brandon Drury was hitting well off the bench, the Reds have given him the starting 2B gig and have moved Moustakas to a DH-3B role. Colin Moran had a hot series a week ago, he's DHing more. And cheap-pickups like Moran and Drury lead the team in RBIs with 21 and 22 respectively. Tommy Pham isn't doing too bad either, though he's nowhere near Cardinals/Rays numbers.

And the Reds have also made sure that the homegrown talent that they do have left isn't going to get poached immediately. Of the original starters intact, the one having the best season is Tyler Stephenson, who is hitting .329, has 20 RBIs, and is proving what happens when the Reds start him everyday instead of stagnate him with Tucker Barnhart or Curt Casali. Some of the other hangers-on, like Moose and Naquin, are doing alright, but not great.

Otherwise, the Reds have become a revolving door for talent not good enough for most other rosters. Albert Almora, Matt Reynolds, Aramis Garcia and Hunter Strickland have crucial roles with this team. J.T. Riddle, Robert Dugger, Buck Farmer and, ultimately, 2019 hero Aristedes Aquino, have failed to make enough of an impact to stick around. And when you're not good enough for the 2022 Reds...oh my.

I hope the rest of the Reds' season works like this May stretch. A good run of wins here and there, not a ton of bloodloss, heroes and guys that get the job done. I'd hate for it to be all depressing stuff for them.

Coming Tonight: One of the few 2021 starters left in Oakland.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Crippling DET

 


I don't get it. I just don't get it.

The Detroit Tigers have two former #1 draft picks in their primes on the team right now, and neither is doing particularly well. Spencer Torkelson is hitting .173 with 37 strikeouts, and Casey Mize is still injured. Additionally, Riley Greene is still injured, cause he's not up in the majors right now. The three prospects who were supposed to save this team aren't doing so at all. 

And so it's up to other prospects. And they've called up lots of them in Detroit. Ones from last year, ones from two years ago, new ones. It's a group prospect effort. Like, Tarik Skubal, who came up in 2020, is having a fantastic season so far, with a 3-2 record, a 2.50 ERA and 45 Ks. Alex Faedo, who came up this month, has been fantastic in 3 starts, with a 2.87 ERA and 12 Ks. Derek Hill and Daz Cameron, rookies of the last few years, have been getting reps in the outfield and they've been doing decent work. 

Though, interestingly, it's the people who the Tigers brought in to help the homegrown guys that are the ones who are doing most of the heavy lifting right now. And not just the big guns like Baez, Barnhart and Meadows. Michael Pineda, a cheap free agent pick up, had a 3.22 ERA before landing on the IL. Andrew Chafin is back to his Cubs numbers, and has struck out 10 batters in 7.2 innings. Re-upping Wily Peralta turned out to be a smart move, because he has a 1.10 ERA in mostly long relief work. And slowly, SLOWLY, Eduardo Rodriguez is getting back to his peak consistency.

But the thought that the mixture of a healthy youth movement and decent contracts would make this team a competitor was a mistaken one. This is still very much a last place team that will have decent wins and big heroes but still not do anything that disrupts the Twins or White Sox. And I kinda hope Javier Baez knew something of that when he signed, cause he seemed pretty happy chasing a playoff spot in Queens last year and he's really not gonna be doing that now...while the Mets are the alpha of the NL East starting Jeff McNeil everyday.

The Tigers aren't gonna be much this year. It'd be nice if the homegrown stars could blossom a bit more, but...alas.

Coming Tomorrow- A year ago he was out of the league basically. Now he's just lucky there's a team bad enough to start him everyday.

Have You Ever Been This Lopez

 


In 7 starts, Pablo Lopez has a 1.05 ERA, 4 wins, 46 strikeouts and a .814 WHIP. And because his name isn't Verlander, Scherzer, Manoah or Burnes, you probably had no idea.

That's the thing about the Marlins since like 2004. When they're bad, everyone looks and listens as to how bad they are, but when they're good, no one cares. Maybe it's because they're a small-market team whose business dealings have read more 'sideshow' than baseball team [ooh, let's have Derek Jeter own the team and sell everyone! Let's hire Kim Ng and blame her when everyone gets traded again!]. Or maybe it's just because the Marlins have only ever been truly 'good' twice...and both have ended in a World Series. So nobody is prepared for the Marlins to be good, but not good enough to go all the way. That's why their 2020 season vexed so many people. They made the playoffs, beat the Cubs, and legitimately contended with the Braves before being eliminated, but people now can rationalize that as 'oh there was a larger playoff circuit and a shorter season, and they wouldn't have made it otherwise.'

Actually, if the 2020 season had gone with the current postseason schematic, the Marlins would have contended for a playoff spot and would have probably won a 1-game playoff against the Reds to get there. There's even be a chance that the Marlins AND Reds would have made it anyway due to the two games the Cardinals neglected to play that season. So nyah.

So the Marlins, who are relatively competitive right now and are tied for second with Philadelphia, are still being written off as a novelty. On one hand, it is hard to convince the league of your legitimacy when you haven't been above .500 yet this season, but on the other...the Marlins have been making some nice strides this year, including Lopez's insane start. Jazz Chisholm is having a star-making season at the plate, Alcantara's still an ace with a lot of upsides, Anderson and Aguilar are hitting again, Joey Wendle was having an excellent contact year before he hit the IL, Cody Poteet has barely allowed any runs filling in for Jesus Luzardo, Bryan de la Cruz is making another case for starter ship, and quietly you can see Joe Dunand make a case to be up more often. A lot is going on, and because this Marlins team has been up-and-down, you're not hearing a ton about it.

The rest of May, the Marlins have a nice bit of schedule where if they choose to, they can go on a tear. The only truly great team they have to play are the Rays, and other than that they have the Braves and Rockies and Nats and people like them. This is all pretty winnable if they can find the parts of themselves that can deliver the edge over these teams, and if that is the case, they can finally go into a comfortable 2nd place in the NL East.

Unless the Phillies feel like hitting this century.

Coming Tonight- Six prospects poised for the Tigers' rotation and this is the one killing it right now.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

O's Update: Let's Get This Week Over With Edition

 


Bit of a contentious week in the AL East. 

The Orioles and Red Sox are both fighting each other to stay out of last. The Sox have been in last for the past few weeks, the O's have rather enjoyed their time in fourth, but we all know the Sox can't be a last place team all year, then I'd actually be happy in October and lord knows we can't have that. So this week is one of those weeks that could decide how the hierarchy is gonna go for a bit. 

Right now, the Orioles are playing the Yankees, who have only lost 9 games to this point, and somehow two of them have been at the hands of the Orioles. The Yankees have been the hottest team in baseball for most of may, have retained a great deal of their momentum, and in the first two games of the series have won handsomely. Tonight, they're starting Gerrit Cole. I can be wrong when making this kind of prediction, but...the odds are not necessarily stacked in the Orioles' favor right now.

Meanwhile, in...one of the most difficult-to-watch series' of the year for me, the Astros are playing the Red Sox. It is one of those series, much like in postseason play, where I would be fine if neither team won and they just gave the win to the umpires. This season it's equally infuriating no matter how it goes. If the Astros win games, they stay in 1st. If the Red Sox win games, they begin to climb up the division and lap Baltimore. We want NEITHER. I would love a season where neither the Astros or the Red Sox can make the playoffs, and I will say vocally that I'd be fine seeing the Cardinals in the postseason over either of these teams. But...right now the Astros are hot, and last night they hit 5 home runs off of Nathan Eovaldi in 1 inning. Because this is the thanks he gets for helping knock out the Astros during the 2018 playoffs. So far they're split, and the best case scenario is something like that, rather than a sweep by either one.

It's the best case scenario for the Astros as well, because it keeps the Sox within enough reach so they can possibly lap them again. The Sox have games against the Mariners coming up, and that could be evenly matched, while the O's have games against Tampa coming up, which they'll need at least some momentum for.

As for the Orioles themselves...Look, there's more going on here than the average bad team, but there's still a ton of meh. Cedric Mullins is still the centerpiece of the whole team, with 15 RBIs, 5 homers and 7 steals so far. Could he go 30/30 again? Possibly! Jorge Mateo, however, is leading the team with 10 steals right now, more than anyone else in baseball who isn't named Julio Rodriguez. I'm glad Mateo's finally panned out, though it did take him 3 farm systems to do so. Santander, Hays and Mancini can still do power numbers, that's all welcome. Bruce Zimmermann is the clearest ace we have here but MAN can Kyle Bradish strike people out. 22 Ks in 4 starts for Bradish, that's not bad at all. The issue is that not enough hitters are hitting for average and too many starters have high ERAs, but this is a team that's meant to be lower key, and I'm glad there are at least some heroes to run with.

I'd rather have the Orioles in fourth than the Red Sox, but...the Orioles would have to earn 4th, and I'm not sure if they're there yet. Especially this week.

Coming Tomorrow- Possibly one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball. He's got an ERA circling 1 and most of you had no idea.

Kuhl Places

 


How is a career 4.33 ERA starter who's come in and out of the IL for Pittsburgh for 5 years suddenly working with a sub-3 ERA after 7 games in one of the toughest pitchers' parks in baseball?

I don't get it. Maybe this is some stuff Kuhl has been hiding all these years, maybe he was stuck hiding behind people like Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon and Ivan Nova, but...it's vexing to me. Last year, he was given the head of the rotation, the Opening Day start, and he only ended up starting 14 games with a 4.82 ERA before being passed over for the likes of Wil Crowe and J.T. Brubaker. 

I'm glad that he has this here in Denver, and now when they need him, but I wonder where all this was in Pittsburgh. It's a lot like Carlos Rodon suddenly springing to life last season. Maybe it's that late-20s stride a lot of pitchers can hit. Maybe there's no science to it. I don't know.

At the moment, though, Chad Kuhl and his outrageous start is one of the few good things to talk about as far as the Rockies are concerned. I mean, you can't really go wrong with a core of C.J. Cron, Charlie Blackmon, Ryan McMahon and Connor Joe, and having Austin Gomber and Kyle Freeland in good shape always helps, but this team is teetering on the brink of .500 and below the Diamondbacks in the standings. Maybe you can make the case that the series with Philly turned the tide for the Rockies and pointed out most of their flaws, but it's a point I am too humble to make.

The main issue with the Rockies is that the bullpen is godawful and only Daniel Bard and Tyler Kinley have really shown up from it. But there are smaller issues, like the heart of the lineup, Kris Bryant, going down on an injury, bad defense, the number of blowouts, and the complete lack of control coming from German Marquez. Any sign of promise this team had in April seems to have vanished, and all they can do is hold onto success stories like Kuhl and Cron as if to say 'well at least it wasn't all bad'.

I do think the D-Backs are gonna drop back into 5th at some point, but I'm not sure if the Rockies will be a bottom feeder for the majority of the season.

Coming Tonight- The Orioles' new man above the marquee, just as I predicted in 2018.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Do the Rangers Actually Have a Shot?

 


This morning I talked about the Pirates being a third place team because the fourth and fifth place teams exist, not really owing to their own merits. Today we talk about the Rangers, a team that could very well be sliding into third place due to the total collapse of the Mariners...and who could very much use this to their advantage.

The Rangers aren't specifically a bad team, but they sure have been resembling one. Kole Calhoun, Marcus Semien and Jon Gray haven't been up to the standard they've been signed at, most of the team was picked away by the Yankees, and right now the majority of the lineup filled by replacement guys. However, some of these replacement guys are turning out- Eli White, Jonah Heim, Brad Miller and Dane Dunning are certainly playing worth their weight, despite all of them filling roles left by trades and free agent departures. 

Plus, Martin Perez came home after being in Boston for 2 years and is already back to the degree of dominance he flirted with back in the mid-2010s. Perez, in 7 starts, has a 2.01 ERA, 2 wins and 33 strikeouts. I saw him pitch against the Phillies and despite the strength of the Phillies' lineup, we could not get anything done against him. Perez isn't flashy, he isn't a full throw-hard, strike-everybody-out kinda guy, but he is consistent. He was a strong low-rotation man in Boston and he's a strong high-rotation man in Arlington. And for a very inconsistent roster, Perez provides a needed boost of consistency.

The big problem with this team is that the core that was advertised is not doing well. Adolis Garcia only has 6 homers and is hitting .206, a far cry from his start last year. Corey Seager is doing pretty well, but it needs to be more than him. Willie Calhoun, once again, when the team needs him the most is nowhere to be found. And once again, Marcus Semien, after an MVP quality season, has nothing left to challenge it with. 

So, like the Pirates, this team could get to third despite some huge structural problems. Unlike the Pirates, though, they do have the wherewithal to stay in third on their own merits. They've won a few games in a row, they have the potential to sweep series'. The Rangers might be better than the Mariners right now, and they could block them from competing. Of course, this could all be for nothing. It's the Rangers that get to decide.

Coming Tomorrow- Former Pirates low-tier pitcher, FINALLY turning it around in Denver.

The Man Who Won While His Team Was Being No-Hit

 


Sometimes baseball is too funny for words.

The Pittsburgh Pirates, who are currently in third place in the NL Central, not by being the third-best but merely by being the third-worst, won on Sunday, under a start by Jose Quintana, without even getting a single hit. Because Art Warren of the Reds walked some people and one of them scored on a fielder's choice, he and Hunter Greene could not technically be charged with a no-hitter because the Reds weren't good enough to score a run.

Now, did the Pirates win because their pitching was good enough, or did they win because the Reds' batting is so bad? I...honestly think it's kind of the former.

Until last week, none of the Pittsburgh starters had been credited with a win, but...at the same time, it wasn't fully indicative of the rotation's awfulness. You do have people like Zach Thompson, Mitch Keller and Bryse Wilson who just can't seem to get anything done, but you also have Jose Quintana quietly having a comeback year, with a 2.19 ERA and a 1.081 WHIP. Even if Wilson will give up a grand slam to Willson Contreras or J.T. Brubaker will lose 3 games without a win, you still have Quintana almost singlehandedly lifting the rotation.

The bullpen though, like last year, is non ironically good. David Bednar is still for real, with a 1.00 ERA, 25 Ks and 7 saves in 18 innings. Wil Crowe has become a pretty solid long-man with excellent strikeout energy. You also have Dillon Peters, Chase de Jong and Max Kranick, all typically starters, providing nice bullpen innings.

Now...there are enough issues with this lineup that you can understand why none of them got a hit on Sunday. For one thing, some of them, like Josh VanMeter, Yoshi Tsutsugo and Jack Suwinski [despite defensive upsides] aren't hitting at all. You also have the catching position, which has been left to Michael Perez in the absence of Roberto Perez's health and Andrew Knapp's DFA'ing. Plugging Diego Castillo, Rodolfo Castro and Michael Chavis helps things, but only so much. And with the upsides of people like Ben Gamel and Dan Vogelbach come the downsides of them striking out a lot.

The Pirates are good enough of a team to win a no-hitter, but they're not good enough to not get no-hit. I sincerely hope Bryan Reynolds heats up and this team begins to earn their 3rd place over time.

Coming Tomorrow- I saw him shut out the Phillies a few weeks back. 

Monday, May 16, 2022

My World 2.0

 


I was talking to my friend's dad yesterday. Lifelong Cleveland sports fan stuck out in South Jersey. Suffering beyond suffering with the exception of the Cavs and also some pennants from the Guardians. I said 'you guys might have a shot to sneak in this year', and he seemed slightly less optimistic than me [60 odd years of following Cleveland sports will do that to you] but agreed there was a chance. 

Going into this season, that's more of a chance than I thought the Guardians would be working with.

If you'll remember, my theory was that the White Sox would take first, the Royals would be behind them after their second consecutive killer Spring Training start, and then the Tigers, boosted by healthy and good performances by Javier Baez, Eduardo Rodriguez and Austin Meadows, would be in third, and I figured the Twins and Guardians would be back there due to how much of a downturn both teams seemed to be after last season.

Well, as it turns out, the Guardians' smaller moves and roster refinement was enough of a strategy to remain somewhat of a competitor. And for my friend's dad's sake, I'm kinda happy for that.

The rotation is...slightly shaky in places [Aaron Civale], but for the most part it's a pretty concise, strong group of people that the GM was banking would all be healthy and moving together. Shane Bieber seems to be in pretty good shape, and he's leading the team in strikeouts with 36 without overexerting himself too much, which is the name of the game if you're a pitcher in 2022. Quantrill and Plesac are having calmer but still strong years. And as a pure contrast to Bieber, you have 24-year-old Triston McKenzie, who has 34 strikeouts and is a pure hard-throwing menace, additionally working with a low ERA of 2.97 this year as opposed to his typical 6-ish range. If McKenzie's figured out how not to get hit as often, and Bieber's plan is to stay healthy, this rotation could be intact for a bit. Of course, if Civale gets demoted, there's always Eli Morgan waiting on standby, and he's a lot better this season. 

Elsewhere, the Guardians just have a pretty solid contact based team cooked up, with Steven Kwan, Owen Miller, Josh Naylor, Myles Straw and Andres Gimenez all having excellent contact-centric years. Gimenez I'm excited to see hitting at MLB level, because I was worried that last season's down year meant he wouldn't fit anywhere other than Queens. Gimenez, though, is having the best season of anybody, hitting .326 with 20 RBIs. And in terms of power, Ramirez and Reyes are still reliable as well. I really just wish Josh Naylor was able to do something incredible without immediately getting injured afterwards, but I suppose as a Canadian he takes less after Wayne Gretzky and more after James Paxton.

The Guardians have a lot to work with, and need to figure out how to outrun the competition if they can't quite out-power-hit them. The White Sox could rebound, the Twins could hold, the Guardians need to outdo both of them, which could be tricky. But with the people still in Cleveland, it's not impossible.

They're just an underdog again. They were one in 2016...

Coming Tomorrow- [uncontrollable laughter]

Geaux the Distance



The Phils taking down the Mariners I could have seen coming. But the Phils taking a few games away from the Dodgers? The same Dodgers that have been on first most of the season and look to make the playoffs yet again this year? That shocked me to my core.

Cause deep down, while this Phillies team is an improvement over the last few, they still make very human mistakes. Kyle Schwarber can't hit for average, Alec Bohm is streaky as hell and still makes errors, for every strong night by a reliever there's one night where Hand, Familia or Alvarado nearly walk a guy home, and Bryce Harper's throwing injury has made the outfield a bit haphazard. But they are still very much a Phillies team, and that means big moments and big wins even when you're not expecting it. That means hitting home runs off of Walker Buehler and still taking the game even as the Dodgers score 10 points off you. That means getting leveled by Kyle Gibson or Ranger Suarez.

I mean, at the end of the day, this rotation schematic of Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Kyle Gibson, Ranger Suarez and Zach Eflin is pretty dang good. It's not like last year where you have 3 good days and then dammit Chase Anderson and Matt Moore are here. All five of those guys are pretty sharp this year. And even when Eflin's injured, Bailey Falter makes a surprisingly alright starting pitcher. I did not know that. I thought we'd be working with Cristopher Sanchez as the 6th man, but Falter kept shit down last week, and I respect him for it. Nola, though, is having the best time of any of them, with 47 Ks and a 1.000 WHIP despite getting the rap for 4 losses. Gibson, Wheeler and Suarez are relying more on control and putting it where they ain't and less on striking out every guy. Wheeler just had a major strikeout year, and now knows how dangerous that is to a pitcher's longevity, so he's being more careful and I respect that. 

At the same time, the core of this team is doing pretty well. Harper, Segura, Castellanos, Realmuto, Hoskins and Bohm are all hitting, and Herrera, I suppose, is a pretty solid CF backup. I also like that we have people like Johan Camargo and Garrett Stubbs who can pop in and surprise everybody. I always wanted depth like that. 

This is a good enough Phillies team, and the goal will be outlasting the middle of the NL East and eventually climbing back up to take on the Mets, and not get no-hit this time. It will be tricky...but it can be done. 

Coming Tonight: Former Cy Young winner struggling to stay un-figured-out.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Continued Nastiness

 


My dad has the theory that the reason why the Yankees have had such a strong start and the Red Sox have had such a weak one is all in scheduling. The only competitive teams the Yankees have had to play have been Toronto, Cleveland and Chicago. No Tampa series' yet, no west coast road trips yet. Meanwhile, the Red Sox have had series' against the Twins, Blue Jays, Rays, Angels, White Sox, Braves and Yankees, and this week they have to play the Astros. Next we're gonna drive through that cactus field as well, which is right next to all those overturned rakes, and down the street from the parade of elephants celebrating Hannibal's ascent of the alps.

My dad is also convinced that even though the Red Sox are bad now, and are in last as I write this, they will get hot suddenly and be unstoppable. And looking at this Red Sox team...okay, there is the POTENTIAL for that. Is there a red-hot ace? Yes, Nathan Eovaldi is excellent as usual, and has 42 Ks over 7 starts. Have the big hitters shown up? Yes, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers and J.D. Martinez are all hitting, even if the power numbers haven't exactly come through yet. Is there depth and flexibility? Yes, Garrett Whitlock can start games and Jarren Duran and Jaylin Davis are down in Worcester ready to go when needed.

But...what is this team as a whole? Well...a disappointment.

A lot of the intrigue of this team was based on the signing of Trevor Story, who was willing to move over to 2nd base to accommodate Xander Bogaerts in what may be his last year in Boston. Unfortunately, Story is not as adept a 2nd baseman as he is a shortstop, he's only hitting .210 and has only hit 1 home run. Say what you will about Javier Baez, Carlos Correa and Corey Seager, but they're all hitting to some degree right now. Story is not delivering to the degree that he did in Denver, and it is almost heartbreaking. Additionally, last year's success story Kiké Hernandez isn't hitting, perennial power man Bobby Dalbec isn't hitting, and defensive hero Jackie Bradley, as usual, isn't hitting.

As for the rotation...while Rich Hill did just get activated, Michael Wacha, Chris Sale and James Paxton are all injured, making it hard for the Sox to keep things together. It also doesn't help that two of the healthy starters they have, Nick Pivetta and Tanner Houck, both have ERAs around 5. So even if Eovaldi's doing well this season, you're relying on him and Rich Hill basically. If you only have 2 good starters and one of them is a 41-year old trickster who's basically Bartolo Colon if he was from Boston instead of the DR, you need to rethink things. The WooSox have Connor Seabold doing well right now, he's always an option. 

So what I'm saying is, for the Sox to be able to compete and come back from this, a lot needs to snap into place at once, and a lot of disappointments need to turn around. I wanna give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they're just having a tough month or so, but a lot of this team doesn't necessarily scream 'competitor' right now. 

Coming Tomorrow- A perennial ace whose team just went toe-to-toe with the best team in the NL.

Gore and Peace

 


The following is an actual thing the Padres did.

The San Diego Padres, who have six major players who are not hitting currently employed in their lineup, figured that the best way to solve their hitting gap...would be to sign Robinson Cano, who hasn't been hitting well at all, and whose best recent numbers came during a season where it would later be revealed that he was taking HGHs.

The San Diego Padres, everybody. Trying to take great strides forward but getting clotheslined by the hurdles.

And look, let's say that Cano does end up hitting a bit for the Padres. You play him at 2nd base it relocates Jake Cronenworth to the outfield, which is fine because it displaces the not-hitting Trent Grisham. You play him at DH it relocates Luke Voit to the bench, and we all know how pissed off Voit got last year when he got put on the bench. If you're playing a 38-year-old Robinson Cano, on sheer mythology at this point, over Luke Voit, I wouldn't be surprised if he quits the league and goes to play in Korea. 

The good news is that people like Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer, Ha-Seong Kim and Jurickson Profar are delivering on multiple levels for the Padres. But...this is a Padres team without Fernando Tatis Jr., and they're only barely lapping the Dodgers, rather than the full domination. I don't like how different this team works with and without Tatis, a team shouldn't be like that.

What's making this team a contender, and what's probably the reason why this team is breathing up the Dodgers' necks right now, is the pitching. Darvish-Manaea-Musgrove is a pretty awesome initial hydra of a rotation. And while you'd have thought going in that Snell and Lamet would supplant them, the Padres have explored other ideas. Nick Martinez, in from abroad, is dealing some solid low-rotation numbers, ERA around 4, 2 wins. MacKenzie Gore's been fantastic in his first 5 starts, with a 2.42 ERA and a 2-1 record. Gore's been germinating for a while and it's awesome that he's finally ready. And meanwhile Musgrove has 4 wins and Manaea has 38 Ks, so...the rotation's doing what it's supposed to. And it's getting them over the top.

The trick will be getting the lineup on the same page, and even if Tatis shows up in a bit, I'm not sure how exactly that's going to work without a lot of people going on tears at the same time.

Coming Tonight: The Yankees called him Nasty. The Red Sox call him an ace.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Ward and Peace

 


It couldn't be going better for the Angels right now. Trout's hitting! Ohtani's hitting and he's pitching well! Syndergaard's healthy and on fire! Walsh is hitting homers! Velasquez and Rendon are great defenders still! Reid Detmers just pitched a no-hitter! And Taylor Ward, who the Angels have been waiting to develop for 3 years now, is finally playing like a pro, hitting .367 with 17 RBIs and 7 homers.

...for those keeping score, Ward has hit more home runs than Anthony Rendon, Jared Walsh or Shohei Ohtani. Crazy, crazy stuff. 

Ward really unlocks the last piece of the puzzle for the Angels. There's always been a lot of power hitting on this team, a lot of great defense, a lot of contact hitting. In David Fletcher's absence, Ward provides a contact hitting outfielder who can also hit for power. And that gives us an outfield of Ward, Brandon Marsh and Mike Trout, all of whom are playing very well right now. Trout, at 30, is hitting .339 with 9 homers, and seems like he wants another MVP. 

The only real issue with the lineup right now is that Suzuki and Stassi are both injured, so they've had to wheel in Chad Wallach and Austin Romine, and neither is fully to the level of the first two. Either they're gonna ride it out with Wallach or they're gonna trade for somebody's backup. Or maybe they'll do what everybody else did last year and sign Jonathan Lucroy for 3 games.

The pitching is pretty smooth right now, thankfully. Ohtani, Syndergaard, Sandoval and Detmers are pretty awesome right now. Michael Lorenzen has surprisingly been pretty strong as a starter, and though the ERA is in the 4-zone, he's seemed to be in better shape than he has in a little bit. There's also a ton of depth in here, like the fact that this is all happening while Griffin Canning is injured, and Jhonathan Diaz is just...there for a call-up whenever the need arrives. The Angels' rotation hasn't been this strong in years, and I'm glad it's this year that it's happened.

Pretty much everyone on this Angels team is playing well, and they're riding a ton of momentum into some easy division series' against lower-tier competitors. I am so excited to see this team finally at a competitive level, and I hope they can keep it up and get Trout and Ohtani to the postseason.

Coming Tomorrow- The Padres are trying to make a power move over the Dodgers, and they're doing it with the help of a former #1 draft pick that's finally blossomed. 

The Cycle Completes Itself in Chicago

 


In 2012, the Chicago Cubs had a slight backbone but were rebuilding and taking on prospects and trying to build a new competitor. 

In 2016, the Chicago Cubs were the best team in the NL and won a World Series.

In 2018, the Chicago Cubs won 95 games but only qualified for a Wild Card spot, which they couldn't win. 

In 2019, the Chicago Cubs failed to make the playoffs and let their manager leave for Anaheim.

In 2021, the Chicago Cubs had a massive firesale, and dealt away the majority of the squad that won the World Series. 

And now, in 2022, the Chicago Cubs have a slight backbone but are rebuilding, taking on prospects and slowly trying to build a new competitor. What I'm saying is that the Cubs are back where they started.

I would say that this team is a little better than the 2012-2013 one was...but they're not great. The Cubs are very lucky to have large shards of the old WS teams- Kyle Hendricks is still pretty on, and has 30 Ks so far this year. Willson Contreras is still an elite catcher, and he's hitting .304 right now. Jason Heyward is doing the same low-average stuff he does every year. Ian Happ has finally developed enough to be in a position to help carry the team. 

But it's really about the next stage of things, and the people they can bring in to keep the Cubs, at the very least, out of last. And right now, Seiya Suzuki has calmed down IMMENSELY, and is only hitting around .250. Which isn't good, especially considering that we all thought Suzuki was for real a few weeks ago. We already had Fukudome crap out after a little while, we can't have this again. You have Keegan Thompson working really well as a long-man, but Justin Steele struggling as a starter. Nico Hoerner's finding the majors finally but Nick Madrigal's taking longer. And the signings, like Marcus Stroman, Wade Miley, Yan Gomes and Drew Smyly, haven't added too much. Maybe Smyly a little, but not much more.

And the sad part is that the Pirates have lapped this team. The Pirates, who took their starters over a month to get a win, have a better record than the Cubs right now. These are both not great teams right now, but who'd have thought the Cubs would be worse.

The goal for Ross and the gang is gonna be to stay out of last, and stay away from the Reds. Only problem is that lately the Reds have been figuring out how to win games. They've won 5 of their last 7. You never know. I hope the Cubs can find some stuff that can help them not be completely embarrassing, but it hasn't been looking good lately at all.

Coming Tonight: On a team with Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Jo Adell, Anthony Rendon, Noah Syndergaard and newly-minted no-hitter recipient Reid Detmers, would you believe that this guy is making all the headlines?