Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Keller Elite


The Royals clearly aren't good this year, but they are capable of doing very, very good things amidst the badness. For instance- the Royals have organized a bunch of people who can throw very hard and that's exactly what they're all doing.

Like, okay...Brad Keller. Not quite the strikeout artist that he was, he's limited himself to around 5 Ks per start, but he's got a 3.95 ERA and a 100 ERA+. Greinke is out, the team needs a solidified, reliable ace, and Keller, the senior most Royals pitcher right now, is the closest thing they have to that. And look, you can do a lot worse than Keller as a staff ace, honestly. At least he has experience, unlike the Reds guys. At least he's on target, unlike Eduardo Rodriguez. At least he's healthy, unlike John Means. He'll do.

But behind him you have Daniel Lynch, and after a struggle of a time last year, Lynch seems to have figured things out. A 3.92 ERA, a team-leading 37 Ks, and a comparatively low amount of earned runs. Lynch might be the showoff of this group, the 'damn he's fast' guy, and Lynch seems to be alright with that. I always thought that would be Brady Singer, and while he's coming into his own now after starting the season in the minors, he's overall been less reliable. The Royals also have Jonathan Heasley, who, laying it right down the line pitching to Jose Ramirez notwithstanding, seems to be doing the right things thus far, even if he's being hit too much. Now that Greinke's out they might try Kris Bubic again, and though his 2022 offerings have been spotty so far, he's had promising stuff and he can deliver consistency when he gets comfortable.

Compare this assortment of young arms, this batch of Keller, Lynch, Singer, Heasley, Bubic and I suppose Jackson Kowar, to the gang of youths in Cincinnati. Why them and not the Reds rookies? Well, the Royals guys just have to work the background and cover til Merrifield, Perez, Benintendi and Witt get going, and right now they ARE going. The Reds guys have barely any offense to protect them, and without the experience they're getting killed. Lynch, Singer, Keller and Kowar have had time to die. And now that they've been beat up a bit, they know the drill, and they can pitch 5 or 6 innings now.

Again, not a perfect team, I see some pieces getting dealt in a few months to pave the way for a team Witt can lead, but...with this pitching, things could be a lot worse.

Coming Tomorrow- Professional home run hitter landing in a place that'll utilize him.

Ex-Ray Vision


Joey Wendle, right now, is fitting in fairly well in a bench infield position for the Marlins. He's hitting .279 with 11 RBIs in 28 games, and he's finally figuring back into the infield conversation after being injured for a week or so. And as alright as the Marlins are right now, that's not what I want to focus on.

I want to focus on the fact that up until this season, Wendle could have been having this exact same season in Tampa. 

The Rays' ultimate strategy is staying a low-budget team while keeping a competitive mindset. They have an exquisite farm system and are able to cultivate your players and give them time to come up, while also giving them room to come up by trading away veterans before they can make money off of them. This has happened numerous times over the past few years, and it's become an understandable, but alarming, theme. I get why the Rays want to do this, but it's become so heartbreaking to see them just deal away great players and continue competing. 

Like I did with the ex-Yankee prospect marker earlier this season, I thought I'd look at each of the other 29 teams and talk about people who the Rays have traded away rather than pay money for a re-up. Cause, remember...they just paid Wander Franco a lot of money. They could always do this. But they still let great players get away, mostly in trades.

Angels: Matt Duffy was cut by the team in 2019, only to become a cheap bench piece for the Cubs and now the Angels. 

Astros: Ryne Stanek was dealt to Miami in exchange for Trevor Richards, now he's a setup man and relief specialist in Houston. 

Athletics: I think this sort of counts, but the Rays did trade Stephen Vogt to the A's before he had the chance to become a starting catcher. Adam Kolarek was also shipped to LA before he could really improve on his 2020 season, and now is a decent reliever in Oakland.

Blue Jays: Trevor Richards, who himself was traded for Ryne Stanek, was himself traded to Milwaukee along with Rays piece they didn't want to pay.

Braves: The Rays finally had a reliable catcher in Travis D'Arnaud after 2019...but they decided to let him become a free agent and come to Atlanta. They didn't wanna keep Guillermo Heredia either, so they let him sign with Pittsburgh. Quite obviously they didn't want to give Charlie Morton more money, even if he'd be a backbone for their rotation, so they didn't re-sign him. And just last year, the Rays had Collin McHugh, and could have re-upped HIM...but, you know, they let him sign a free agent deal with Atlanta.

Brewers: Willy Adames is the most flagrant example of the Rays refusing to pay their stars and instead trading them away to make room for new stars they won't pay, though I think Adames has a right to be miffed that they're IMMEDIATELY paying Franco. They also could have re-signed Hunter Renfroe but instead let him go in exchange, ironically, for Manny Margot. And, quite obviously, Mike Brosseau was a hero with the 2020 Rays, and was subsequently traded to Milwaukee for it.

Cubs: Drew Smyly was traded to Seattle for Ryan Yarbrough, and bounced around for a bit before earning a ring with Atlanta and settling in Chicago. David Robertson had a strong finish last season in Tampa, but they decided not to give him a true 1-year deal the following year, so now he closes for the Cubs. 

Dodgers: David Price is the blueprint for all of these. 

Giants: And another classic is Evan Longoria, a foundational player who the Rays still didn't want to pay. Alex Cobb was also let go rather than being re-upped, and found more fame away from Tampa than he did in there.

Mariners: Diego Castillo was dealt to Seattle in the midst of a playoff campaign. While he was still doing well. That was when you knew that the Rays's strategy involved competing with less players than more. Also, Sergio Romo had an excellent comeback season with Tampa, and was rewarded with the Rays letting him walk. So he's played for 5 teams since.

Marlins: Aside from Wendle, Jesus Aguilar and Avisail Garcia had their tenures in Tampa financially cut short.

Padres: Most notably Wil Myers, in a massive deal for the Rays, as well as Blake Snell, fueled mainly by Kevin Cash pulling him early in a World Series game but also because they didn't want to pay him. 

Phillies: Really just Jose Alvarado, who was a big piece of the Rays' homegrown bullpen til his non tendering.

Pirates: Michael Perez could have been a starting catcher in Tampa, but the brass there figured non-tendering him was a better idea, so he became a backup with Pittsburgh. Obviously Yoshi Tsutsugo wasn't to their liking despite the contract, so they cut him and let him become a hero with the Pirates. 

Rangers: Nate Lowe was a depth piece that could have helped the Rays out, but he was traded unceremoniously to Arlington. Brad Miller was famously traded to Milwaukee, but, at the very least, for Ji-Man Choi. And Matt Moore was a huge rotation piece for Tampa before he was dealt to San Francisco during a playoff run.

Reds: Looking back on it now, perhaps trading Tommy Pham to San Diego was fueled by Pham not being a great person. Since then he's become one of the few lifelines the Reds have. Hunter Strickland was doing great for the Rays last year, but they didn't give him the kind of contract that'd sustain a demotion, so once the Rays waived him, someone took him. 

Red Sox: So many. Christian Arroyo, Nate Eovaldi, Rich Hill...all important pieces for the Rays that when the time came, felt easier to deal than to sign.

Rockies: C.J. Cron had a great season for Tampa in 2018, but they decided to let him go to sign with Minnesota. Alex Colome was famously traded to Seattle in the middle of the season to keep the cap tight. 

Tigers: AUSTIN MEADOWS, the latest and greatest star to get dealt regardless. This one flabbergasted me. Other than cap space, I couldn't think of a single reason to trade this guy. 

Twins: Chris Archer's the big one, they've let him go twice. Emilio Pagan they traded to San Diego right before he could become the everyday closer. 

So that's 20 out of 30 teams that have a remnant of the Rays' cost-cutting ways. That's...a lot. And again, I understand why they do it, I understand what it does to save money, but it doesn't make it any easier for great players asking for organizational loyalty. I wonder what Joey Wendle has to say about the Rays this year. 

Coming Tonight: No one said the Royals' farm system couldn't produce hard throwing pitchers.

Monday, May 30, 2022

Wacha the Line


Well, the inevitable may soon be approaching. After a nice couple of weeks, the Boston Red Sox might actually be approaching .500.

It was really a matter of waiting for everybody to get hot. So, now that Trevor Story has 9 homers and a team-leading 37 RBIs, Enrique Hernandez and Jackie Bradley are hitting more than they were, Rafael Devers is at full capacity with a .345 average and 11 homers, Christian Vasquez is actually hitting .300 for once, and Nick Pivetta, Rich Hill and Garrett Whitlock have nice seasons going, now we can actually talk about this team from a full perspective rather than just from 'oh, none of these people are actually doing what they're supposed to'.

What was funny was that even when the rest of this team was struggling, Michael Wacha was having his best season in years, with a 3-0 record, a 2.87 ERA and a 1.086 WHIP. He missed a few starts, and rejoined by the time the Sox were actually able to win games again, and now he's a lot more at home. The crappy part is that in this time we've lost Nate Eovaldi's better numbers after a few rough starts, but...somehow, Eovaldi-Wacha-Pivetta-Whitlock-Hill is actually a pretty strong rotation. I thought they'd be set back a lot without Sale, Rodriguez and Paxton, but this actually does work. I'm honestly really happy that Rich Hill can still strike people out at 42 years old. 

And now that Story and Hernandez are hitting, they join the already strong core of Bogaerts, Martinez and Devers, who were all doing pretty well before, and battering down opposing offenses. The Sox are now 2 games under .500, and are heading into series' against the Orioles, Reds and A's.

....oh crap.

I know I have enough to worry about with the Blue Jays' inevitable rise next month, but the Sox could very well lap some people and make a run at first as well. I kind of ruled things out from the start, but I also thought this Sox team would have the best playoff case before the season began, and...maybe they just took a bit longer to keep going. I'm still hoping they're not entirely for real, but...I did think they'd eventually put things together. Now we see where this puts them in relation to the other 3 competitors.

Coming Tomorrow- One of the many preventions against Rays salary cap overflow that's paying off for other teams this year. 

Joc Pederson Narrowly Avoids Controversy


I'm still reeling from the Donaldson-Anderson thing. Still being wary of great players who may have beliefs that piss me off. Still smarting from Aaron Judge almost being an antivaxxer. Still a little shaken. So when I heard that Tommy Pham and Joc Pederson got in an altercation before a game a few days ago, I got very worried.

Worried mostly because everything I've seen from Joc Pederson paints him as a super guy. I remember him showing up to the Home Run Derby in 2015 and bringing along his older brother Champ, who has down syndrome. And man, speaking as someone who runs a little league for kids with disabilities, there is nothing more awesome than seeing a kid with down syndrome or autism being told they're part of the team. So Joc bringing around Champ and introducing him to all these players and teammates, that was a cool thing. Joc's also a rare Jewish baseball player, and I've already been burned by Shawn Green and Ryan Braun. So I was genuinely worried that, after Josh Donaldson's name-calling, that Pederson was the instigator. 

But no. Turns out Tommy Pham's just an asshole. 

The whole thing was a whole overblown brouhaha that started because Tommy Pham thought that Joc broke a rule in their fantasy football league by benching Jeff Wilson for an injury. And while Joc was trying to be diplomatic and explain how what he did was perfectly fine, and that it's literally only fantasy football, Tommy Pham just goes and slaps him. And then Pham gets a suspension, which, honestly, for something so childish, he deserves. You don't do that shit on the field, you send angry texts and do it that way. Joc did the right thing, and thankfully he didn't fight back at all. 

Meanwhile, this is all going on as Gabe Kapler, who's always been a few steps ahead of a lot of other people, is talking about skipping the national anthem in the light of recent events. And...look, I don't talk politics on this blog because it never does anybody any good. We're all spread out geographically, financially, and sometimes politically, and I'm not gonna make the mistake of parading in here with my beliefs. But...I think Kapler does have a right to do what he must in response to things like these, and to sit here and assume that America's the greatest country in the world while we allow what we allow so willingly is hypocritical. 

And the Giants have been standing by him for the most part, which is great. I know that if Sam Coonrod was still on the team, he'd be livid about all of this, but they threw him to Philly, which...has its own issues with racism anyhow. Unsurprisingly, the one person who's spoken out in opposition to Kapler, the most progressive manager in baseball....is the most ARCHAIC manager in baseball, Tony LaRussa. Who's doing his usual 'that's not how things should be done' schtick. And I don't know about you, but I'm honestly tired of Tony LaRussa telling people half his age, a quarter his age and such, how things should be done. I know Tim Anderson agrees with Kapler, but he's afraid to do anything similar because he plays under Tony LaRussa. 

I think I'm just pleasantly surprised that a team is making political statements and stands against people and they're all pretty much in the right mindset. Kinda rare these days.

As for the Giants themselves, they're still a bit too far behind the Padres and Dodgers, are a bit injury-bitten in places, and don't have nearly as much depth as they did last year. But they do have a strong rotation, a strong bullpen, and power hitters like Mike Yastrzemski and Joc Pederson helping the cause. This isn't a perfect team, especially in comparison to last year, but it's doing a lot of things right, and it might pile up in the long run.

Coming Tonight: Failed with the Cardinals. Failed with the Mets. Figured it out with the Rays. Succeeding with the Red Sox. 

Sunday, May 29, 2022

The M's Come Together


It's no secret that the Mariners' season has been something of a disappointment so far, spending most of May and the back half of April struggling, blowing a nice lead in the AL West and now struggling to stay in fourth. The division that once could have been theirs has now gone to the Angels and Astros, and a lot of the early strategies, like starting Jarred Kelenic, throwing Matt Brash into the rotation and platooning Luis Torrens and Cal Raleigh at catcher, have not worked. 

So...the last few games have felt like a bit of a reset. First of all, it's kind of impressive the change this team can go through with or without Kyle Lewis. The team's been without him for around a year and they've struggled to get too much done. Now he's been back for 4 games and they're back to winning a bit more consistently. Lewis himself is hitting .267 with 3 RBIs and 2 homers, numbers befitting of his 2019 and 2020 breakout seasons. Taylor Trammell also seems to be MLB ready at last, hitting .273 with a homer. The trio of Lewis, Trammell and Sam Haggerty is bringing some energy to this lineup that felt absent before.

It's honestly the cherry on top of some building developments, like George Kirby's entry into the rotation, Julio Rodriguez coming into his own, and Eugenio Suarez having his best season to date. Plus, you also have Logan Gilbert, who struggled few his first few starts last year before becoming a reliable force for the Ms, going 5-2 with a 2.29 ERA with 60 Ks so far. Gilbert, even in a rotation with Robbie Ray and Marco Gonzales, is giving the kind of reliability and edge that this Mariners team needs. Ray is giving a lot of strikeouts but so far isn't as dominant as he was last year, but he's also not doing TERRIBLY, either. 

And though some big pieces, like Jesse Winker, Adam Frazier, Diego Castillo and Chris Flexen aren't performing to par so far, you still have J.P. Crawford and Ty France running this team, and capable of big moments whenever. This is not a perfect team, but it's definitely capable of hero moments, and with Rodriguez, Lewis and Trammell now, there are more heroes.

I don't know if June will hold the stretch that gets them back into the race, as they're more of an August/September comeback kind of team, but...with these tools back with the team, and with Haniger not too far away, it definitely could happen. And since these recent wins have been coming against the Astros...the tide could soon turn.

Coming Tomorrow- A big fun home run hitter who likes fantasy football. 

Stro Far Away


I remember when the Game of Thrones cast was beginning to get asked about the final season, you could see a lot of them wincingly try to hide their disdain. I remember Emilia Clarke especially looking pained as hell going 'best season ever', just...not loving what she had to do for work that year.

Marcus Stroman must know a lot about how she feels. 

When Stroman got traded to the Mets in 2019, according to a lot of sources, he was a bit caught off guard because he was expecting to get traded to the Yankees, and he grew up a Yankee fan. And so his response to the trade was basically 'yeah...the Mets are okay too I guess'. And while he did pitch pretty well in Queens, especially last year, you could tell he was a bit dissatisfied with the whole ordeal. Being traded out of Toronto before the playoff runs, being stuck in New York, but not the good one. 

And...I don't know how substantiated these claims were, but not too long into his time as a Chicago Cub, I think I saw inside reports saying 'Stroman's already miserable, he wants to be traded'. And then the season started and...the Mets are one of the best teams in baseball and the Cubs can't even stay out of fourth.

The poor guy. 

You look at so many people on this Cubs team, and you're just going 'they were tricked'. Seiya Suzuki was gonna sign with the Padres and then he stuck to his guts and went with Chicago, cause they were 'always there for you'. Yeah, they were always there because they needed a new advertising hook. Wade Miley was traded from the Reds, a sinking ship, thinking he'd be getting a big step up, and really...an 18-26 3rd place team is not much of a step up. Andrelton Simmons, Jonathan Villar, Drew Smyly, they all thought they'd be heading somewhere somewhat competitive. But, no.

And, look...I would say that this team is lucky to still have Willson Contreras and Ian Happ, but...I'm thinking both of them are gonna get traded in July. Contreras will be a Yankee probably, Happ will be a rent-a-Giant. And the Cubs still do have people like Patrick Wisdom and Frank Schwindel and Nico Hoerner, but...come on, man. The age of futility is upon us again in Chicago, and they all know it.

I just hope Marcus Stroman has a season he's proud of on the mound. Because this isn't what he would have got if he'd stayed in Queens.

Coming Tonight: Of the plethora of rookies to come up in Seattle, would you believe that this one has been the most successful thus far?

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Cleveland Evens Out


With all the excitement and frantic energy of the first month of Guardians baseball, it was only a matter of time before things kind of balanced out, and the Guardians are now having a perfectly okay go of things.

And you know, I get it. Steven Kwan and Owen Miller had great starts, Richie Palacios got off to a great run after coming up, Jose Ramirez was ruling the MVP conversation. Now it's just...you know, somewhere towards the middle. Great players, not-so-great players, they're in 3rd behind the White Sox at .500. The Guardians honestly didn't have a ton of pressure going into this season, even with Ramirez re-upping. They had a quieter offseason, they focused more on call-ups, they were expected to come in, like, 4th, and they've been a modest competitor around 3rd all year. Fine. Great.

With the pressure down, you can actually appreciate some of the prospects coming into their own. Andres Gimenez, whose 2021 was a disappointment due to recovering from the trade from New York, has been having a fantastic year, hitting .288 with 20 RBIs. He's only 23, so to have a hiccup year early enough is healthy, and now he's an amicable double play combo with the guy he was trying to replace in Queens. Triston McKenzie is also coming fully into his own, with a 2.70 ERA, less emphasis on strikeouts, and a 0.900 WHIP. He's found the control he's been searching for since 2020, and he's leading this rotation by example, as Cal Quantrill, Shane Bieber and Zach Plesac all have comparative down years right now.

The Tribe is also seeing some other recent struggling prospects find themselves, like Eli Morgan and Sam Hentges, who are both doing a lot better in middle relief than they did as starters last year. There's the aforementioned Owen Miller, whose .270 average and contact maneuvering have finally answered the Guardians' burning 1B question since Santana left. And the Guardians now have a new Oscar, Oscar Gonzalez, who looks to replace the other one in right field. 

Honestly, all of this development stuff and young players figuring stuff out is a lot more promising stuff than I thought we'd be getting in Cleveland this year, so even if they're kinda okay for most of the year, which they could be, it's a better alternative than a full rebuild year where everybody sucks for a while. I'm hoping for good things from them, even if it may be hard to get past the White Sox in the end.

Coming Tomorrow- He could have stayed for the revolution in Toronto. He could have re-upped and been a contender in Queens. But no...he's in Chicago.

Mean Jean and the Phightin' Machine


In 2019, the Phillies signed Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Jean Segura and Andrew McCutchen. I think it's an understatement to say that they've all done well there, even if Cutch is now in Milwaukee. Harper has a 13.9 WAR since joining the Phils, J.T. has a 10.4, and Segura has a 7.9. What's cool is that in Segura's 4 years in Philly, he's eclipsed his WAR earnings in all four other teams he's played for, including the Brewers, who he's played for around the same amount of time, the D-Backs, where he had a 6.4 WAR in 1 season there, and the Mariners, where he had a 7.4 WAR in two seasons.

So what that tells me is that Jean Segura hasn't performed with quite the pop of his prime years in Arizona and Seattle, but he's still an excellent everyday second baseman, and so far he's on par for another strong season. I think what's struck me about Segura this year in particular is how reliable he's become for us. He's hitting .289, he has 18 RBIs, he's still a major defensive piece that's a leg up from some of the more inexperienced types like Bohm and Stott, and people around the clubhouse love him. 

And honestly, I'm very thankful that with all the inconsistencies of the last few years in Philly, Harper, Realmuto and Segura have remained reliable pieces and are just as much factors in this team as they were when we got them. You hope that everyone you sign major deals to will deliver for you, and these three have. Harper has an MVP, Realmuto's started every ASG he's been able to, and Segura has continued his impressive run into his 30s. None of these guys have flamed out. Wheeler and Gregorius haven't flamed out. We've picked good people and put them into the right places. It's just...sometimes none of them perform when they need to.

And that's the sort of limbo the Phillies are perpetually in. They'll have huge games where the offense comes alive and the starters go for 7 and everything feels great, and they'll have games where none of them show up and the bullpen gives up 5 runs and nothing goes right. I saw one of each of those in the last month. I saw a great win agains the Rockies and a stifling loss against the Rangers. This is, and always will be, a Jekyll and Hyde team of the highest caliber. Corey Knebel will blow a save and then a night or so later will sweep through the ninth like it's nothing. Something about playing for the Phillies erases any opportunity to be consistent, and it confuses the hell out of me. Maybe it's the water, maybe it's the air, maybe it's Philly fans, I don't know. But this team should be able to get something done with all of this talent handed to them, and the fact that their only consistency is consistently NOT doing anything with it is maddening. 

I'd love this team to make the postseason this year. I'm not holding my breath for it, though.

Coming Tonight: Well, look who's finally proving why he was the top piece in the Lindor trade!

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.