Thursday, June 30, 2022

Greene Light


I don't know what it is that makes the Detroit Tigers such a miserable, nondescript team to talk about year after year. I know they're trying. I know they're piping in talent. I know they have a lot of good people on board. But just looking at this roster, where there's only one guy with a WAR above 1.0, and...dear god it's depressing. You mean to tell me that Javier Baez, Robbie Grossman, Miguel Cabrera, Jeimer Candelario, Jonathan Schoop and now Riley Greene can't make this team into anything worth talking about? REALLY?

If anything, this Tigers team is proving that I don't know how WAR works. Miguel Cabrera is batting .300 with 25 RBIs, team-leading, and 70 hits, team-leading. As far as I'm concerned, from what I know about baseball, that's supposed to be a good thing. And yet because he's a 39-year-old baserunner and plays DH, this amounts to a 0.1 WAR. The best hitter on this team, regardless of whether or not he's Miguel Cabrera, doesn't really register in terms of wins above replacement because he doesn't do enough things that 'win games' for the Tigers. And while I trust WAR most of the time in terms of player value, the WAR as a statistic is trying to tell me Cabrera is not valuable to this team just because he's slower and plays DH. He's hitting better than a bunch of 20 year olds, you're just jealous because Cabrera's been in the league longer than you've been an officially regarded stat, WAR.

Riley Greene, for the record, has accumulated a 0.4 WAR since coming up in the majors ten games ago. The much-touted rookie is hitting .286 with 10 hits and 2 RBIs. Already, the contact abilities of the man who hit for the cycle in his first game in the minors are clear to competitors, and he's looking like a very vital piece of this Tigers team, seeing as the guys they signed aren't hitting, Austin Meadows is hurt again and Spencer Torkelson is absolutely refusing to hit for average. Having someone doing what they're supposed to is a breath of fresh air for this team.

And yet they're still doing better than the Royals, who arguably have more standout players but now are without Salvador Perez. The Royals are the more interesting team and yet they're in last. Hm.

I don't expect the Tigers to suddenly spring to life anytime soon. I do have a feeling that there's the possibility of even some of the people not playing well getting dealt at the deadline. Not an overwhelming possibility, but maybe this team is what's making them play so badly. Maybe that'll do it. Probably not, though. 

Coming Tomorrow- A Cubs outfielder who got really hot this month.

Ro Expectations


The Miami Marlins. About a month ago they were still kind of in the middle of the NL East race, enough of a tepid record to still contend with the Phillies and Braves. Then the Phillies and Braves got good. 

I don't know what else there is to say about this team. And it's June. We're out of narratives for this team and it's JUNE. Aw man. The Marlins were getting good a few years ago, made the playoffs, won a playoff series. Now it's midway through the season and I'm stumped about how to talk about them. Uh, I guess Miguel Rojas is still good?

Like usual, this is a one-dimensional hitting team, emphasizing people like Jesus Sanchez, Jorge Soler and Jesus Aguilar, while still having people like Jon Berti trying to get a word in edgewise. While both of these types of players can coexist, this isn't the kind of contact team where Berti can really be the center of things. 

One of the main central points of this team is Miguel Rojas, who's been here since around when everybody left, and he's having a decent enough year. He's still a great defender, and he seems to get along well with younger members of the pack like Jazz Chisholm. I think that he's humble enough to realize that he's not gonna be THE guy for this team for much longer, similarly to a realization that David Peralta's had recently, but he's still helpful enough both at the plate and in the field. Meanwhile, his fellow late-2010s battery partner Brian Anderson isn't getting much done at all. I think a lot of people had really high hopes for him, and I don't know what he has left.

I do get a kick about how flexible this rotation is. Alcantara, Lopez and Rogers are gonna be there, and they have a lot of other options for depth. Braxton Garrett has been doing a decent enough job in the low-rotation work he's been doing, and now Daniel Castano has been stepping up and doing really well through his first 3 starts. 

I dunno, there's not a lot to this team. They could spontaneously heat up down the stretch, but there's not a strong enough core, and there's not enough that assures me that they can get past the Braves or Mets. And so we go on unsteadily through the second half with these guys.

Coming Tonight: A Tigers rookie who was supposed to be up to open the season but is making up for it so far.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The Low Budget Monolith


I talked about how the Giants have succeeded by using unlikely players in big roles while not compromising their core earlier today, and I think it's an excellent business model. Gabe Kapler, though, does seem to be a few paces away from Kevin Cash, who had perfected the idea of taking low budget risks from other squads and making them into major parts of the team. 

Case in point: looking at the Rays' starting lineup, there are three actual homegrown players- Kevin Kiermaier, Brandon Lowe and Wander Franco. Everybody else was netted in trades or small deals. Ji-Man Choi spent years trying to find a squad to play 1st for, jumping from New York to Anaheim to Milwaukee until finally becoming a mainstay for the Rays. Now he's hit 35 RBIs and 6 homers, and he's a very important member in this lineup. Yandy Diaz was flipped from Cleveland and he's been a steady corner infielder for these teams, this year he's got a 1.4 WAR. Obviously Arozarena and Zunino were traded to Tampa and became All-Stars. Francisco Mejia, Harold Ramirez and Brett Phillips have all become great extra bats.

And NOW...we have Isaac Paredes, who was flipped to the Rays a few weeks into the season due to lack of room in the Detroit infield, is having a PHENOMENAL month in Tampa, hitting .283 this month with 13 RBIs and 7 homers, becoming the kind of killer corner infielder he could have become for the Tigers. And yet the Rays' GM knew to strike at the exact right time to land a new hero player. I don't know how they do it.

The Rays, while currently in fourth, are right there in the AL East race, and sort of deadlocked with the Red Sox and Blue Jays for second. The difference is that the Red Sox have had crazy momentum this month, the Jays, as per usual, are doing well in June, and the Rays, honestly, have lost more momentum than they've gained this month. Without a lot of big guys in the lineup and without Drew Rasmussen and now J.P. Feyereisen, they're a bit more human and have a few more people sticking out against the current. I still see the Rays as the dark horse of this division, but that's exactly what they want me to think, so they could go on a tear soon enough.

Coming Tomorrow- A foundational infield piece for a growing, but still mediocre, team.

Hand-Me-Down Giants


I don't know if you can credit this to Gabe Kapler, or the GMs, or whatever, but the Giants have been able to craft a lot of their team by making great players out of people other teams just hand to them. You look at this team, and they're everywhere. Mike Yastrzemski, Darin Ruf, Jakob Junis, Luis Gonzalez, LaMonte Wade...and now Thairo Estrada, who took a relatively open 2nd base race and became a really fun infield standout.

Thairo Estrada was a Yankees bench guy for years who we never really knew what to do with, and while I kinda figured we'd get rid of him eventually, I had no idea he'd eventually save his career by making camp with the Giants. So far this year, Estrada is .265 with 31 RBIs, and, while not a great defender, is definitely a solid young lineup presence. After Kapler already found Donovan Solano and made him a prominent lineup piece, seeing him do this again with Estrada is kind of incredible. 

And the further you go, you see more and more cases of people in useful roles who other teams gave up on. Jason Vosler was a Cubs prospect who didn't pan out, and now he's a bench bat when healthy. Donovan Walton was a Mariners bench guy that didn't work, and now he's been a decent backup infielder. Austin Wynns was a backup catcher in Baltimore, and now backing up Curt Casali he's hitting .242 and providing a decent upside. Heck, the Giants just brought YERMIN MERCEDES up. Yes, someone is giving the Yerminator another chance, and after the trouble he had with LaRussa, I am so happy that it's Gabe Kapler, one of the most progressive and forward-thinking managers in the league, that's giving it to him. Though he's yet to really get going, I do think that Mercedes has more of a chance to do so here than if he was back in Chicago.

And while this team can do little things like that really well, it's still clear how imperative their big moves have been. Signing Carlos Rodon was an excellent choice, as he's not only sporting a 2.70 ERA with 101 strikeouts but he's not overshadowing Logan Webb. Joc Pederson was not only a nice power-hitting pickup for the Giants, but he's been a wonderful clubhouse presence, and the fans love him so much that he's doing super well in the All-Star voting, which I can't exactly dispute. 

I think the Giants have a lot to conquer in order to really go after the Padres or Dodgers, but the things they're doing have led to a very efficient, smartly-run team that may be wiser than being streaky. I hope this pays off for them.

Coming Tonight: He leads a 40-win team in RBIs. Most times that might actually mean something.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Second's Notice


The more time the Rangers spend in second place in the AL West, the more people begin to think they actually belong there.

I've contrasted the Rangers' stay in second to the Pirates' stay in third before, as on the surface these are two teams that are this high up due to the merits of worse teams rather than their own. But the more you look at the Rangers, the more they look like a low-key, modest team that's blessed with two competitors that absolutely shit the bed. I think the Rangers are good enough that when given the position of having the Mariners and Angels fall in the standings, instead of buckling, they do exactly what they have been doing and stay in second. many people on this team have improved from where they were in April. Jon Gray, while injured for a bit, has a 4.18 ERA and is slowly moving back to his peak levels of performance. Nate Lowe, though not as top-heavy as he was the last two seasons, has mellowed into a .284 average, 10 homers and 33 RBIs. Even Marcus Semien, who struggled to meet expectations in his first two months as a Ranger, has hit .270 this month with 11 RBIs and 6 homers. I think he's finally heating up, and while he may not be the absolute winner of the Rangers high-spending offseason [that would be Corey Seager], he's becoming more helpful as we go.

It's also not worth understating how good both Martin Perez and almost the entirety of the bullpen has been the entire time this year. People like Joe Barlow, Brock Burke, Dennis Santana and Matt Moore have been this efficient the whole time- we're just noticing it now because the consistency is clearer now that the team's stayed in 2nd. Plus, Adolis Garcia was decent at the start of this season, and now he's slowly pedaling towards his 2021 numbers, as he has 48 RBIs and 15 homers right now. 

All this being said, while the stronghold in 2nd does make this team a minor competitor, I'm not getting a great deal of drive from them in terms of the bigger picture of the season. The AL Wild Card race still has the Blue Jays, Red Sox, Rays, Guardians and I suppose White Sox. Plus, the Angels and Mariners could come back still. The Rangers have done a lot well, and have improved so much in the last few months, but I still see them as a perfectly good-to-middle team. Maybe this will change.

Coming Tomorrow- A former Yankee that's been slid into a nice spot for a competitor.

Bednar and Breakfast


The Pittsburgh Pirates have two of the best players in baseball, one of the best relievers in baseball, and two absolute destructive forces that just came up from AAA. And a lot of other people playing okay. But they are a third place team. I get why Ke'Bryan Hayes, Bryan Reynolds and David Bednar are playing for a 1st place team, but...not with all this around them.

The Pirates, as they have been all season, are just this large pile of mediocrity outside of the big guns. You have people like J.T. Brubaker and Mitch Keller who, while not doing terribly, are clearly only doing so much suiting up for the Pirates. You have lots of guys like Dan Vogelbach, Michael Perez, Anthony Banda and Yu Chang, who probably wouldn't have jobs on any of the other 29 teams. You have great players like Kevin Newman trapped on the IL. Honestly, the most heartbreaking aspect of this team was Canaan Smith-Njigba getting called up, start hitting and wind up on the 60-day IL WITHIN THE SPAN OF ONE WEEK. Life hits you hard and fast. Say what you will about Oneil Cruz and Bligh Madris, but at least they're gonna make it through the week.

Cruz and Madris, by the way, represent a recent spark of hope in this Pirates team, after being called up together a few days ago. Cruz we saw a bit of last season, but here he's reaffirming how powerful he can be, as well as just how fast the baseballs can go flying off his bat. As a rare tall shortstop, he definitely stands out, and I think he'll continue to do so as we go. Standing out more than Cruz in their first week is Bligh Madris, who's hitting .360 with 9 hits and 6 RBIs in his first 6 games. Madris, like Cruz, is known for his contact work, and putting balls where people ain't, and so he'll definitely fit in with the core of Reynolds and Hayes. 

Additionally, David Bednar is not only still one of the best relievers in baseball, but this season he is proving that he can close games efficiently as well. In the midst of a bullpen that best sufficient, Bednar has 11 saves, a 1.78 ERA and 49 strikeouts. While it does seem like Bednar is a circumstantial closer, a guy thrown into the ninth in the absence of a proven closer [which the Bucs have not had since Richard Rodriguez left], he's also just a great relief piece in general, and any way of proving his versatility is a very good thing. Even if it took Joe Musgrove to get him, the Pirates must be very grateful of all the wins Bednar has secured for them in the last few years.

The Pirates will likely stay in third for a bit longer, as they're held inert by the rest of this damned division. I don't think they're gonna accomplish a great deal, though I do see a lot of fun storylines emerging, and Cruz, Bligh, Hayes and Jack Suwinski represent the next phase of this team. May it not be crap for as long as this phase.

Coming Tonight: A second baseman who has never been hot for consecutive seasons, but when he's out.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Ready, Aim, Fire Tony


Everything's in disarray, there's flagrant problems, the fans are disappointed, and the man in charge refuses to do anything about it. But enough about that, let's instead talk about the 2022 Chicago White Sox.

It cannot be overstated how much of a disappointment this team has been. This is a team that many people thought would be in the World Series, and the potential for greatness made it look like things wouldn't even be close in the AL Central. But a combination of injuries, inefficiency, and the Twins and Guardians using other means to climb the standings made the true problems of the White Sox arise, and most of them stem right back to Tony LaRussa.

This week's Christopher Guest vignette from Tony came from his defending of players not hustling to first, by saying that he's trying to conserve as many players as possible from getting injured. The team has already lost Eloy Jimenez, Yoan Moncada, Yasmani Grandal, Adam Engel, Danny Mendick and now Liam Hendriks to injuries, and they've had Tim Anderson, Lance Lynn and A.J. Pollock lose time this year. So I do get it. But any other year and players not hustling would be yet another decorum issue for Tony LaRussa- he literally blackballed a guy for hitting a homer off a position player as they were up by a large margin, he would totally bench someone for not hustling to first. So now that everybody's getting injured, and run the risk of getting injured again, his hands are tied. And of course, now that the opposing teams are making the easy outs at 1st a bit more often, the Fire Tony chants are getting louder.

Only one member of the White Sox' lineup has started more than 60 games, and it is the 35-year-old Jose Abreu. Everyone else has missed time either to injury or platooning. Not to say that Abreu's doing a bad job, as he's leading the league in homers [with, uh, NINE], and has 32 RBIs, but it shouldn't just be down to the elder statesman to lead the team in things. Abreu is at the age where he might start putting in boilerplate seasons on clout's sake, and while I'm glad he's still performing at a nice pace, he can't be the guy with the most appearances. If the young guys are the ones getting hurt, that's not a great sign of longevity for your team's core.

I wanna believe that things will get better as Lance Lynn evens things out and the team finds its stride, but I still think that nothing's going to get done until the team does something with Tony LaRussa. I agree that a lot of what happened this season isn't exactly his fault, but seeing as firing the manager worked for Philadelphia, and sort of worked for's gotta be worth a shot, right? Better than missing the playoffs without having done anything, right?

Coming Tomorrow- One of the nastiest relievers of 2021 is still as dangerous this year.

Death, Taxes and Schwarber in June


Not everyday where I can write a post about a topic, and as I write it, something that proves its relevance happens. I'm writing a post on how powerful Kyle Schwarber is in June and a second ago he just hit another home run. Wonderful!

And you'd think this would be an upsetting time to be a Phillies fan. You know, Harper just hit the IL, he'll probably out for 2 months or so with our luck, Segura's out for about as long, and the once-strong June streak has hit a rough patch after some games against the Rangers [how the hell is TEXAS our kryptonite this year?]. But since we took 3 of 4 from a very strong Padres team, including the one that I'm assuming we finished out the ninth on as I'm writing this, the momentum seems to be going back up, and we're leaving June with, at the moment, an 18-5 record, which isn't bad at all.

What has definitely helped has been Kyle Schwarber, who is monumentally better in June than he is in any other month. He hits under .200 the first 2 months of the season, and in June he's hitting .276 with 10 homers and 23 RBIs, which has definitely helped this team stay in the race during a month where the top 2 teams are also excellent. Schwarber I always assumed would find his footing in Philly eventually, and even if he's usually a very one-dimensional hitter, he's more than capable of hot streaks, and as last season proved, he can definitely provide contact and average numbers if he gets hot enough. While I don't think this season will be enough for Schwarber to make an ASG roster, he's certainly affirmed a lot of the promise Phillies fans had for him. Just waiting on Castellanos. 

This is admittedly an imperfect team, but we're getting a lot more done than usual. Regardless of ERAs, we actually do have 5 guys that can go deep enough into games as starters, and if not, we have people like Nick "The Human Thumb" Nelson and the impressive Seranthony Dominguez to go long and save the momentum. Aaron Nola's having his best season in years and I sincerely hope he's rewarded in some way for it. J.T., Rhys and Didi are on nice tears right now, and Bohm seems to be on his way there. I see enough optimism in this team that it doesn't depress me.

Anyway, the Phils are playing Atlanta tomorrow night and I'll be at CBP to watch 'em there. I sincerely hope they put on a good enough show for me.

Coming Tonight: He has a Rookie of the Year, an MVP, and a shit-ton of home runs. 

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Return of the Inevitable


I will give the AL East credit for having variety the last few seasons. The mid-2010s had the Blue Jays rise, then fall, and then rise again, the Orioles had some runs in the middle of the decade, the Rays have been constant competitors, but...sooner or later, all things must revert back to how they were intended to go.

And so, after a season where the Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays have held 2nd place for portions of the it is held by the Boston Red Sox. Putting them roughly 11 games behind the New York Yankees for the division. And though the Jays and Rays aren't completely out of it yet, it now looks like the real story of this season, as I always figured it would be, will be Yankees vs. Red Sox. Just like in 1978, and in 2003, and in 2004...and last year. 

And as the Yankees pump the brakes on their huge start and the Sox continue their dominant June...this is an outcome we seriously have to consider. What if this whole season comes down to Yanks-Sox again? What then?

The way the Sox are playing right now, it's a possibility. They've won seven straight games, inevitably dominating lower-key teams as the Yankees are stuck trying to pry games away from Houston. They also have illuminated their core, and have Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez, Trevor Story, Christian Vazquez and, yes, even Jarren Duran all hitting well. Devers is once again looking like an all-league talent, and he's hitting .330 with 17 homers, so it's just getting ridiculous at this point. Martinez I genuinely have to give credit for taking the money and settling with dignity, instead of just selling out and not doing any good. Martinez still hits 30 homers per season and proves his worth with Boston, that's a step up from how things could have been. And Bogaerts, with his contact abilities, has been the clubhouse leader I worried this team had lost when Mookie Betts left.

This team is also proving how flexible its pitching staff is. Without Sale, Eovaldi and Paxton there's still enough people like Michael Wacha, Nick Pivetta and Rich Hill that can keep offenses down amicably. You also have several people who can jump into the ninth, with both Tanner Houck and Matt Strahm having success so far, while still conserving this bullpen's energy, and allowing middle relievers like Austin Davis, John Schreiber and Jake Diekman to shine and do excellent work.

This team isn't perfect, and there's a few pieces I wish were doing better, but this month has made it clear how much of a contender the Red Sox can be, and how much more powerful they'll become once they start getting their pieces back. The Jays and Rays may still have a stake in this race, but it's clear that after the start the Yankees have had, initially at Boston's expense, the Sox want blood. We'll see if they'll get it.

Coming Tomorrow- Well I HAD a Harper custom ready but, y'know...Blake Snell's aim would rather I push it to like September. So instead, a Phillie whose best numbers typically come in June, and oh boy have they this year. 



And I was just saying 'you know, it's been forever since there was a no-hitter' as well.

Congrats to Cristian Javier for proving his worth, Ryan Pressly for proving he's past the injury watch, and Hector Neris for doing the one thing he couldn't do in Philadelphia [keep down runs]. Heck of an achievement. Sort of puts a dent in the Yankees' indestructibility, do you, Houston.

Into the Crone Zone


So, to give you an idea how the NL East vs. NL West series' are going this week, the Dodgers, who've had to play the red-hot Braves, are losing ground, while the Padres, who've had to play the considerably-more-human Phillies, are gaining ground. Meaning this stalemate between these two teams is going to go on for even longer.

It's not like the Brewers-Cardinals one where I can kind of see an eventual winner coming a mile away. I still think either of these two teams could take first, because they both have different types of strengths that are coming through this year. The Dodgers are succeeding as a higher-budget team that can wield Freddie Freeman, Mookie Betts, and Clayton Kershaw while also having the depth to withstand injury and stay afloat. The Padres are succeeding as a scrappier, lower-budget team that, while they do have some contracts [Machado, Darvish, Hosmer] as tentpoles, filling things in with smaller contact guys that get the job done without being flashy.

What makes the Padres more interesting right now is that they're toe-to-toe with the Dodgers without Fernando Tatis. Tatis, when taken away in 2019, doomed the Padres and stopped them from competing. Now, the team has built itself up enough that it can sustain a Tatis-less run. I mean, let's be honest, the pitching staff in 2019 was Chris Paddack, Eric Lauer, Nick Margevicius, Joey Lucchesi and Adrian Morejon, and now it's Darvish-Musgrove-Gore-Manaea-Snell. There's really no comparison. 

But what makes this team strong now even without Tatis, is the emphasis on defensive players like Jake Cronenworth, Ha-Seong Kim and Jurickson Profar. These guys can be outshone on teams like these, and while Cronenworth has found his place in this lineup, it's only now that Kim and Profar have. Kim is hitting .232, but his defense is filling a void left by Tatis and his extreme sports. Cronenworth has 41 RBIs, second only to Machado. Profar has 68 hits and 8 home runs, which is more homers than Eric Hosmer. This has definitely been the season of the little guy in San Diego, even if Machado still reigns supreme.

I think the Padres have more of a chance of getting far into the playoffs than they ever have, and they're more evenly matched vs. the Dodgers than they were in 2020. And I'm saying this now, in June...before Fernando Tatis Jr. gets back. Cause can you imagine how good they'll be once he returns?

Coming Tonight: To the people who worried when Mookie Betts left Boston, leadership stuck around, and probably will for even longer.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Shohei The Way to Go Home


While the Angels aren't quite as cold as they were earlier this month, the dignified, chasing-the-Astros start of the season has backed up to now, where the Angels are a game and a half behind the Texas Rangers for 2nd place. Even with Trout, Ohtani and Taylor Ward, something's just wrong with this team.

And the unlucky feel has continued even if the Angels have has a more win-friendly week. For starters, Anthony Rendon, who was playing pretty well honestly, is out for the rest of the season. A lot like the Josh Hamilton deal, the Rendon deal is looking like the Angels overpaid for someone who didn't have the career legs they were hoping for. This means that they have to platoon Luis Rengifo and Matt Duffy at third, which...while pretty efficient defensively, sure isn't as good as having Rendon there. I'll take somebody like Andrew Velasquez sliding into short and becoming a fan favorite on the basis of his defense alone, but I haven't gotten that feel from Duffy or Rengifo yet.

The team is also beginning to pile up demoted pitching prospects. We now have Reid Detmers, Jose Suarez, Chase Silseth and Jhonathan Diaz all chilling in the minors, and Janson Junk now up next to see if his starting material will fill that fourth spot. And while I'm glad that Ohtani, Thor, Sandoval and Lorenzen have been so efficient as a 4-man team, I genuinely think any of those other guys could be a solid fifth, and the Angels are just holding them back for service time because they're not confident in any of them. Reid Detmers threw a no-hitter earlier this year, now he's just supposed to head back to Salt Lake City like nothing's happened?

The bullpen has also been a disappointment, with trusted arms like Raisel Iglesias, Aaron Loup, Ryan Tepera and Archie Bradley handing in mediocre stuff. The Angels, a lot like the Phillies, are great at getting excellent players to come onto the team, but bad at getting them all to perform well together. And it saddens me.

This season is another excellent one for the Trout-Ohtani combo. Trout's having his best season in years, and already has a 4.2 WAR. Ohtani has 90 strikeouts as a pitcher and 70 hits as a batter, and he's far from finished. Those two alone are worth the price of admission, but the reality of this being the FIFTH Angels team to shrug its shoulders even with these two performing well is pretty upsetting. And I hope they can figure out a way to spread that energy throughout the team.

Coming Tomorrow- The Rays, to this day, look at this guy and go 'we really wanted Hunter Renfroe THAT BADLY, did we?'

Miles From First

 The Cardinals and Brewers are still going back and forth on who gets to be in first, as they have for the past few years. I honestly think this has been one of the most underrated battles in the game right now, because this has been since like 2018, these teams going back and forth. 2018 the Brewers take it, then 2019 the Cardinals make it to the NLCS, then it's been mostly the Brewers getting slightly further the last few years. And now here we are. Neck and neck, even play.

Although...if we're being honest, the Cardinals are the better team. By a large margin.

...but yeah, let's SEE WHO WINS I guess.

Realistically, these teams are kind of even because they're using different strategies. Brewers have the more pitching energy and defense, Cardinals have the more organizational depth and hitting energy. And it's gonna be a matter of which is bigger, and...I still think it'll be St. Louis, but I might be wrong.

What I can say about this Cardinals team is that there's so many incredible seasons happening here that it'd be odd if they DIDN'T make the postseason. Miles Mikolas is having his best season in years, fully healthy and confident. He has a 2.64 ERA with 69 Ks in 14 games, and he's even more consistent than Adam Wainwright, who, let's be clear, is also having a really damn good season. With so many injuries to this pitching staff, and Jack Flaherty, who just got back, in sort of meh condition right now, it's good to have people like Mikolas, Wainwright and Dakota Hudson who can eat innings and hold things down. I worry about the overall rotation depth, as they're doing some bullpen games and throwing in Andre Pallante, but the group they have has definitely been working. 

And then the lineup is just ridiculous at this point. What does Tommy Edman have, a 4.3 WAR right now? It's June. Lord almighty, this guy's good at baseball. And he's not even a marquee guy like Goldschmidt or Arenado. They just sort of have him around for contact, and this is how well he's playing. My gosh. And to have the entirety of Nolan Gorman, Brendan Donovan and Juan Yepez playing well in a year where big rookie prospects have disappointed in Detroit and Baltimore? It just proves how good this team's farm system is.

I genuinely think they're gonna outlast the Brewers. It won't be easy, and I definitely see the Brewers heating up in a bit, but...with everything the Cardinals are working with, I don't see them not doing something with it.

Coming Tonight: Not often do I see someone play baseball and think to myself 'well now he's just showing off'.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Rookies in Cleveland 2022, Part, Like, 30


I definitely think it's a compliment when a team that is doing well in the standings has so many different rookies having 'all-of-baseball' stretches over the course of a season. This is a team that's been desperate to rebuild for so long, and now here they are, first place. How great is that?

The carousel of rookies for the Guardians began in April, when Steven Kwan's contact abilities shocked the league right off the bat, and early ROY talks had Kwan's name on it [this was when Julio Rodriguez wasn't hitting]. Now, and I want to make this perfectly clear, while Kwan has cooled down a bit, he's still hitting .283 with 52 hits, 17 RBIs and a lineup-low 16 strikeouts. Just because other Guardians like Jose Ramirez and Andres Gimenez caught up to Kwan doesn't mean that Kwan isn't a story anymore. It's not like the Jeremy Hazelbaker debacle of 2016, which was interesting for a week before nobody ever heard from him again. Steven Kwan is a really cool contact player, he makes great plays in the outfield, and he's earned a place on this still-growing Guardians team.

Also earning his stripes this year is Oscar Gonzalez, who's been having an excellent June, hitting .323 with 32 hits, 13 RBIs and 2 homers in 25 games. More contact energy, more absolute rip-roaring hits, and another mainstay now in the outfield. Right now a lot of people are talking about Gonzalez because of his work in June, and while I don't think he'll be able to top a lot of other Rookie of the Year cases, I think that, like Kwan, he'll be a formative contact piece for this team.

The other piece of this rookie wave is that it's allowing the Guardians to finally admit that prior pieces are no longer working. Steven Kwan comes right out of the gate kicking ass, and it finally allows the Guardians to release the similar-but-ineffective Yu Chang, who's now in Pittsburgh. Oscar Gonzalez stakes his claim on the right field position, and suddenly there's a valid reason for the Guardians to DFA Oscar Mercado, another contact-hitting outfielder who'd failed to live up to his first month in the bigs. This is the sort of comparative hustle I'd been expecting from Andres Gimenez to deliver unto Amed Rosario, but both Gimenez and Rosario are playing well right now, and any attempt to cull them into a competition has dissolved into Gimenez and Rosario becoming a pretty strong double play combo.

And the beauty of this team, I think, is the emphasis on contact, and on hitting it where they ain't. So many Guardians this year, including Amed Rosario, Steven Kwan, Myles Straw, Owen Miller and even Richie Palacios are more intent on contact than on power. And they're all playing really well right now. That's not saying this team doesn't benefit power hitters, as Josh Naylor's having a great year as well, but it's definitely a team that's built around someone like Jose Ramirez, a five tool guy who's as well known for his averages as his home runs.

The Guardians are doing so much well right now, and they're dominating a division that could have belonged to Minnesota or Chicago. I sincerely hope they hang onto it.

Coming Tomorrow- A pitcher who very nearly walked away with a no-hitter this season, but hasn't let it affect his best season in years.

The Braves Spring to Life [Again]


There's a Looney Tunes cartoon where Bugs and Daffy are competing for applause onstage, and Daffy's grand finale involves shallowing nitroglycerin and essentially blowing himself up, just so the audience will love it. And as they do, Bugs congratulates him on it, saying "they want more", to which Daffy, ascending to the afterlife, responds "yes, it's a great trick, but I can only do it once"

The Atlanta Braves.

At least...that's what I thought the Braves were til this month.

You see, the Nationals have proven that capitalizing on momentum by pulling out all the stops and going for broke at the deadline hoping it stays on isn't a long-lasting business model. Last season, when the Braves went crazy in July and rode that high all the way to the World Series, I was entertained, of course, but I spent a lot of time wondering what their plan was to repeat the success. Because there was the threat of Freddie Freeman leaving, and he did, as well as some of the contracts being too big to re-sign [prompting the loss of Joc Pederson and Jorge Soler]. And I'm not saying that everything good about that Braves team came in July, but a lot of it did. And with the Mets, Phillies and Marlins preparing to compete for 2022, I just thought it'd be a lot trickier for them to sustain their success if they went with the plan that got them the ring. 

However...the plan of 'being mediocre for two months and then getting hot midway through the year' seems to still be in place this year, and so far it's been working well for the Braves. In June, the Braves are 17-3, and before June they were 23-27. They have gone from a middle of the pack team to a team that's well over .500 with so many pieces working and so much moving in the right direction. Sportswriters point to a 'closed door meeting' in June that turned things around, and I'm skeptical that it's always gonna be as simple as a 'closed door meeting' to turn things around. This month the Marlins had a 'closed door meeting', but it wasn't a 'Mattingly wants to turn the team around' meeting, it was an intervention to get Jazz Chisholm to stop acting like a jackass.

Whatever it is, the results can't be argued with. Swanson, Riley, Acuna and Olson are hitting really well, with Riley leading the team in homers with 18. Contreras and d'Arnaud have made an excellent battery at catcher, and the NL having a DH now means that both of them can be in the lineup in the same night and perform independently of each other. Michael Harris has been having an excellent rookie year, hitting .333 with 13 RBIs in 24 games. Orlando Arcia has been excellent filling in for Ozzie Albies, hitting .329. The rotation has evened out to a decent, consistent order, and Anderson and Morton have brought their ERAs under 5. Kenley Jansen's actually a great closer still, and has 18 saves to show for it. And this Spencer Strider kid might be the answer to a lot of the Braves' questions.

A lot is going right. I know June can't last forever, but it's illuminated the best qualities of this team, and proven that they can contend. Who knows what it says for their postseason prospects, but they certainly look good now. Of course, I'll be seeing them live against my Phils in a few days, so hopefully they won't completely overpower my hometown team.

Coming Tonight: The Guardians just cut Oscar Mercado. Why? Cause there's a new Oscar in town.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Manoah Your Enemy


Yes, I know the Blue Jays are 12.5 games behind the Yankees. Yes, I know the Blue Jays' usual June come-up is a lot more muted than usual. Yes, I know the Yankees pitching is still among the best in the leagues. But none of that makes Alek Manoah any less terrifying to me. He's big, he's strong, he throws hard, and he's looked like a thorn in the side of my Yankees ever since he came up. I'm serious, he comes up last year and immediately starts pitching well, and I'm immediately going 'ohhhh no, not you too.'

I equate it to the late-coming guy who comes up and is ALSO good at everything. Somebody like Roberto Osuna, Yordan Alvarez or Jose Martinez, just pesky because he's an addition to everything else that's also already really good. And the fact that Manoah has fit right in with the rotation AND excelled on his second year is great news for the Blue Jays and terrible news for everyone else in the AL East.

I mean, so far Alek Manoah has an 8-2 record, a 2.00 ERA and 73 Ks. The opposing offenses have gotten to Yusei Kikuchi and Jose Berrios, and they're just starting to figure out Kevin Gausman, but the only team to really get the best of Manoah so far has been the Yankees, who got to him the last time they squared off during the Yanks' hot streak. And I think the Jays are banking on that, and on Manoah's ace-type status. Clearly without Ryu, or the better numbers of Kikuchi and Berrios, the Jays' rotation hasn't been exactly what they planned, but I think Manoah's outdone their expectations, and I don't think they banked on him being a full-fledged Cy Young candidate, which he certainly feels like right now. 

But the problem we really have is this- the first part of the season, the rotation was in great shape and the lineup was kinda dead. Now Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Matt Chapman, Alejandro Kirk, Santiago Espinal, Teoscar Hernandez, George Springer and Lourdes Gurriel, which is pretty much their entire lineup, are all hitting...and the rotation has slowed down exponentially. So the trick is getting everyone to be on the same page at the same time, a lot like the Yankees have been for most of the season and a lot like the Red Sox have been lately. I still see the Blue Jays being a playoff team, but in order to really stand out in this division, they'll need to help the rotation up and get these guys to really outsmart offenses again.

Until then, though...Alek Manoah alone is more than a lot of teams have.

Coming Tomorrow- Hard-hitting third baseman for a team that just woke up this month.

Trea Magnifique


Right now, there are three divisions of six that have cutthroat back-and-forth battles at the top. The AL Central is a duel between Cleveland and Minnesota, the NL Central is the Brewers and Cardinals squaring off, and the NL West is a race between the Padres and Dodgers to see who can outlast the other. Obviously, most MLB eyes are fixed towards the NL West battle. If the Yankees aren't gonna lose the division for a little bit, it'll have to do seeing the Dodgers lose theirs.

The Dodgers, as it happens, are still a few games ahead of the Padres, and have been a bit more consistently good than they have in the stretch that started at the very end of May, but they're not out of the woods yet. The Padres, like they were in 2020, are the underdogs trying to take the crown for themselves, and the Dodgers need to prove they're as good as their reputation says they are.

And currently, even without Mookie Betts, they still look pretty good. Trea Turner has taken this month to go into overdrive, and leads the team in batting average and RBIs. Freddie Freeman, Will Smith and Cody Bellinger still make a pretty strong top of the lineup. Hanser Alberto has become one of the most versatile bench utility men in the leagues. The ENTIRE ROTATION, including Kershaw, Urias, Tyler Anderson, Andrew Heaney and the absolutely unhittable Tony Gonsolin, is keeping down opposing alliances and dominating on a major level. Losing Buehler is tricky, but getting Heaney back and having him still be really good is also excellent. And thankfully, while Craig Kimbrel has been imperfect in the ninth, Daniel Hudson is a fantastic backup closing piece.

My big issue with this team is the lack of depth in the lineup. There are so many bench pieces who aren't hitting right now. Austin Barnes, Eddy Alvarez, Zach McKinstry, all not hitting. They also brought back Trayce Thompson, whose ENTIRE THING is how much he refuses to hit. And the two bench pieces that had upsides, namely Edwin Rios and Kevin Pillar, are currently injured. And when people in the lineup like Max Muncy and Justin Turner are beginning to let the team down as well, it doesn't bode well for if more people get injured. It sucks, cause this team used to have so many backup plans, and now a lot of them are failing as well.

I still think the Dodgers are the team to beat in this division, but they need to be very careful over the next week or so, because the Padres could definitely catch them and keep them down.

Coming Tonight: The one pitcher in my division that frightens me the most.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Brantley Clad


...yeah, the Houston Astros have a 10 game lead in the AL West, have one of the best records in the AL, and have players in the races for MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year. I don't know what sacrifices they've made to which god to stay this good despite an actual cheating scandal, but the Astros are just doing a ton right.

The bad news is that Jeremy Pena is injured and might be out for a little bit. The good news is that simply slotting either Mauricio Dubon or Aledmys Diaz into short seems to work just as well, and the majority of the lineup is getting the same amount done. Altuve and Tucker have 13 homers, Brantley's hitting .299, and Bregman, while down a few pegs from usual, is still reliable. Additionally, Yordan Alvarez is having an MVP-caliber year, with 19 homers and 49 RBIs, plus a .312 average. In a week where Aaron Judge's average has gone down to .300, and his homers have quieted a bit, Alvarez, has joined him in the MVP conversation, and could very well lap him if this stretch isn't kind of the Yankees. 

The pitching is also still pretty volatile, with Verlander and Valdez working on great seasons, Javier and Garcia warming up, and Ryan Pressly still in great closing shape even after an injury. The ability for this team to reinvent itself year after year with new elements working while keeping the preexisting core intact is honestly pretty fascinating, and is the type of competitive play that other teams should study. Y'know, without the cheating part.

Oddly enough, the biggest knock against this team in the last week has been Dusty Baker joining fellow old-timer Tony LaRussa in starting shit over decorum. Apparently after Jose Siri sort of took his time watching a home run of his fly, Baker reamed him out and made him apologize. Over...a home run jog. I am absolutely sick of these establishment managers coming in and telling young people the way it's supposed to be. This shit ran Yermin Mercedes, a fantastic player, clean out of the league before Topps even had a chance to print cards of him. Jose Siri isn't playing too well right now, but this homer was his first big hit in 10 at-bats, and he should have taken every opportunity to bask in it. Rocco Baldelli, Oli Marmol or Aaron Boone wouldn't have given him shit over that. Dusty, if you're gonna ream somebody out, how about either of the 30+ year old catchers who refuse to hit. They're closer to your age anyway.

I can't believe it, I'm doing an Astros post and I'm mad at DUSTY BAKER? I think I should be. Dude's surrounded by sign stealers and he targets a guy for running incorrectly. JOSE ALTUVE is certainly one to talk about decorum. 

The Astros will probably continue to win games and piss me off. Hopefully Dusty keeps things like this to a minimum. 

Coming Tomorrow- After having one of his best seasons last year, he's got more to love with an even better team. 

Brew To Their Word


As expected, the Cardinals caught up to the Brewers and have made things very close in the NL Central. What you may not expect is that the Brewers took this opposition as a tip to shift back into high gear, and they've won four straight agains not just easy teams like the Reds but also...well, the Cardinals. So, for those of you who thought they'd just defer to the Cardinals for the rest of the year because that's what tends to happen...that doesn't seem to be the case yet.

It's been clear how injuries have really knocked this team back, and losing Freddy Peralta, Brandon Woodruff and now Aaron Ashby to injuries has been a bit of a setback. The Brewers have employed some decent replacements so far- their biggest asset so far has been Jason Alexander, Scott's brother not Jerry Seinfeld's friend, who's had a 2.42 ERA through 4 starts. They've also brought up Aaron Small, and though they seem to be using him cautiously, he seems to be on the right track. I'm a bit puzzled as to why they got Chi Chi Gonzalez up starting games instead of Small, as Gonzalez was a bit wobbly in his starts in Minneapolis, but...look, at this point Craig Counsell knows what he's doing, so I just assume he sees something in Gonzalez that he doesn't see in Small right now. Of course, if Gonzalez botches his start, expect Small back up in no time.

Willy Adames is back off the IL, and has 13 home runs and 33 RBIs in 47 games. Even with lost time he still leads the team in home runs, tied with Hunter Renfroe. And, of course, Adames' defense is still as good as it always was, and he's filling a bigger role in Milwaukee than he did in Tampa arguably. This is also a team that actually re-signs people, so he could be on the right track. 

I honestly think this is a perfectly consistent team, with the lineup very much on the same page, and people like Hunter Renfroe, Omar Narvaez, Daniel Robertson, Rowdy Tellez and Victor Caratini can all have nice nights whenever they need. My worry is that the Brewers are a fairly standard, small team with quiet efficiency, and the Cardinals have an incredible lineup, incredible prospects and a 40 year old ace. The Cardinals have more exclamation points, and I still think they have a better chance of conquering the NL Central. The Brewers need to prove me wrong. A true hero needs to emerge, and if it's not gonna be Christian Yelich, it needs to be someone like Adames.

Coming Tonight: I think this guy's one of the few Astros that it's okay to like?

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

What Did Carlos Correa Know and When Did He Know It?

 Giving up on your longtime squad, destined for another division title, in favor of a team that had most recently come in last as a means of helping them compete? It had to have been more simple than that. Carlos Correa must have known what was on the way for the Twins this year.

There were small indicators, like the team keeping Byron Buxton, as well as letting extraneous figures like Josh Donaldson and Mitch Garver leave while keeping the main core of Buxton, Polanco, Kepler, Arraez and Sano intact. But at the same time, I don't think anybody saw that rotation of Ryan-Gray-Bundy-Archer-Ober and thought anything of it at all. So I wonder what Rocco Baldelli told Correa to get him to come over. I wonder if Baldelli knew that this was coming, or if the GM knew that getting rid of some of the load last season would set up a lower-stakes run like this. 

Regardless of the cause, the effect is a completely different kind of first place team from the 2019 bomba-friendly squad. There are definitely power hitters, like Byron Buxton and his 19 homers, but the emphasis this year is more on contact hitters like Arraez and Polanco. There's a lot of people on this team, including now Correa and Gio Urshela, who can be classified at perfect 'hit it where they ain't' slap hitters, who just get on base and make things difficult for defenses. It's odd having a lot of those types of players while Gary Sanchez does his usual one-dimensional hitting thing, but...I doubt he'll last as long as the rest of this unit.

Correa himself has been having a decent year as well, hitting .293 and notching 21 RBIs in 45 games. I honestly think he fits right in with this team, and having him in an infield with Luis Arraez, Jorge Polanco and Gio Urshela is a very wise idea. I dunno if it'll be quite as iconic as Bregman, Altuve and Gurriel, but I think these three fit his contact sensibilities a little better. 

Getting Joe Ryan back has helped the rotation a ton, though honestly Devin Smeltzer being there did fill the void a bit. It surprises me how good Ryan, Smeltzer and Sonny Gray have been, and how efficient, if boilerplate, Chris Archer has been. There's no insane standout ace like Jose Berrios, but this rotation is still getting it done. 

The Twins still have a strong lead on the AL Central, but their inconsistent last few weeks have made it a little easier for the Guardians and, I assume, White Sox to catch up. They've been lucky enough to be on the same page overall, but they need to have some big nights to make up for the messy stretch. And having Correa on his a-game will certainly help.

Coming Tomorrow- Shortstop for a 1st place contender as his old team drops to 4th.

Polar Bear Plunge


You know, when it came out that Pete Alonso's 53-homer rookie year was the result of altered baseballs, a lot of people figured Alonso would never reach that mark again because the circumstances would never be equal to that of 2019. Different balls, different probability of him getting there. And people thought his stock would sink. 

Well uh...Alonso currently leads the NL in home runs with 19 and the MLB in RBIs with 64. Pete Alonso has 64 RBIs in JUNE. This is the power hitter from the best team in the NL. This was not a one-time thing.

And so the Mets, who have been losing slightly more frequently before, are still capable of the big wins, and are still a heavy favorite in both the NL East and the NL in general. And what sets this team apart from earlier iterations is that there are some definite injuries affecting this team, not even just DeGrom and Scherzer but also Jeff McNeil now, James McCann and Tylor Megill again, and the team is still acting the same. deGrom, Scherzer and Megill are all incredible rotation assets, and even without them and with people like David Peterson and Trevor Williams, the team is still holding up. The team could be without Jeff McNeil for a bit but Luis Guillorme is literally RIGHT THERE, and is a perfectly suitable 2nd baseman in his own right. 

This is also just a very complete and consistent team right now. Every starter except for Nido and David has more than 50 hits and more than 20 RBIs. 5 starters have averages of .280 or higher. The Mets are getting great seasons out of Alonso, McNeil, Francisco Lindor, Brandon Nimmo, Starling Marte and Mark Canha. And that's not even counting the number of great pitching performances this year, such as Taijuan Walker, Chris Bassitt, Carlos Carrasco and David Peterson. This Mets team feels very full, very complete, and very unified, which means they've solved a ton of problems from the last few seasons. I don't think it's as simple as just adding Buck Showalter, but that must have helped a ton.

And yet it's not a runaway. The Braves just won 14 straight. The Phillies were streaking as well. We're at a point where three NL East teams have momentum, and not just momentum but CRAZY momentum. And then all three of these teams have to eventually play each other and grapple for dominance. I'm not saying this dulls the Mets' chances, but it's not exactly a foregone conclusion that they win the division with teams as good as those two chasing them. 

I'm fine with any outcome, honestly. Maybe they all make the postseason. Maybe the battle gets even bloodier in October. Can you imagine Alonso's bat in October?

Coming Tonight: We thought he was a fool for nixing a contract to stay in Houston and signing with a low-tier rebuilding team. Who's laughing now?

Monday, June 20, 2022

Rage Against LeMachine


...and now we've only lost twice in June. I continue to be flabbergasted by how good this Yankee team can be.

This was not an outcome I was prepared for. I was prepared for another year of waffling, losing ground midyear, having a late comeback and not getting a goddamned thing done in the postseason. Though the latter detail could still apply, this team has been completely steady pretty much all year. We've been lucky enough to have five solid, consistent starters that go late into games and all have ERAs lower than 4. There's four people on this team with over 10 home runs, and two are in the leaderboard for the whole league. We lost Chapman but somehow backed into an even better closer who has a 0.28 ERA. And even stranger, we're DHing Matt Carpenter and he has six home runs. 

And, again, the 'anyone can be a hero' mentality puts less pressure on the marquee guys like Judge and Stanton and lets the team be more varied and even. Gleyber Torres can have big days, but he's at the point this season where he can just have some contact energy and still contribute a lot that way. Donaldson can be the hero one night, Rizzo the next, Gallo the next. Not a lot of letdowns, even if Gallo's hitting below the Mendoza line and Higgy's dropped the ball. 

And going into the All Star Game next month, there's a good chance of seeing a lot of Yankees in Los Angeles. I assume Judge will make it, and LeMahieu, Cortes, Holmes and Trevino are safe bets for somewhere in the roster. With all the eyes on this team, and all the heroes making the news, it's impossible to avoid seeing the Yankees all over this ASG. 

Yet there's also the fear of backlash, as people already dislike the Yankees but now have both this hot streak and the Donaldson controversy to fuel the dislike even further. While I personally don't think the Yankees are as hate worthy as the Astros, a lot of fans could view the Yankees as the ultimate evil again and champion other teams, even in a World Series scenario. There's also the fear that this powerful gameplay is going to peak, and that by the time we get to October there won't be much left for them to work with.

I remain skeptical, and I hope this Yankee team can sustain this insane energy for as long as they can. I'd love for this to be our year. I really would. But I also know that it's still a 1 in 30 shot, and there's a lot of variables that aren't even on the table yet. 

Coming Tomorrow- A home run hitter on the other side of New York. 

Always Be Closing: Bard Target


Daniel Bard is an example of a rare type of closing pitcher that has began to pop up more and more in recent years, and that is the Comeback Closer. The guy who you stopped thinking about five years ago who bursts back onto the scene and starts closing games like no time has past.

Transfers from International leagues have aided this distinction, as people like Rafael Dolis, Chris Martin, Tony Barnette and Ryan Brasier, but a lot of times it's people who fell on hard times and had to fight to come back, like Matt Bush, Trevor Rosenthal and, honestly, Dennis Eckersley. The thing is, not all of these stories amount to longevity- Barnette struggled in years after coming back from Japan, Matt Bush had a few more injury plagued years, and Rosenthal's career might be over now. 

However, I do like that we're still hearing about Daniel Bard, because his story, as cool as it was in 2020, is still pretty cool. Boston prospect, played in some games in the early 2010s, had some great years, fell off right around when they won the ring in 2013. Then he resurfaces for the Rockies in 2020, makes the team as a NRI, has to fashion his own uniform essentially during a game, and becomes a hero closer during the shortened season. That alone would be a great story.

Last year, Bard retained the closing gig, and notched 20 saves, though with a less consistent year, and a 5.21 ERA, the odds were low for him to keep the job this year, especially with perennial knockout closer Alex Colome joining the squad prior to the 2022 season. But...Bard's still working the ninth, and he's better now than he was in 2020. His ERA's down to a 2.05, he has 13 saves, he's the second highest WAR earner on the Rockies, and he's probably having an even stronger statement than the true 'comeback' year. And I kinda love it for him.

However, there is the idea that Bard might be so good this year that other teams could trade for him, and I get the sense that Bard does enjoy himself in Colorado. I equate him to LaTroy Hawkins in the early 2010s, he's found a nice place to pitch, he loves it there, why trade him? It's almost similar to Kendall Graveman last year, becoming a clubhouse leader for the Mariners and infuriating the club once he was traded to Houston. I also think about whether these numbers will persist for Bard if he does get traded to a competitor, or whether he works best out of the way of the limelight. I guess we will have to find out.

Even if the Rockies don't get a ton done this year, they'll at least be able to rally around another strong season from Daniel Bard, and I'm glad this particular Comeback Closer was able to keep things going.

Coming Tonight: A jack-of-all-trades for, and I love saying this, the best team in baseball.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Brownie Points


The best way I can describe the 2022 Oakland A's is that they have a Cy Young caliber pitcher by complete accident. 

The A's, in a year where tanking is frowned upon, decided to tank anyway. Sean Manaea gets traded, Chris Bassitt gets traded, Mike Fiers doesn't get re-signed. And you figure they wanted to trade Frankie Montas, and might get to do it midseason anyway. So the idea is, trade away all the good pitchers, team loses a lot of games, in come draft picks hopefully. Keep the rotation bad, let the good pitchers come up.

And then...they forgot that they had a really good pitcher left, cause he's been injured the past few years. So now Paul Blackburn's 6-2 with a 2.26 ERA and now all of them look silly. You know, 'come see our team with all these bad pitchers and this one really good one we forgot we had.'

This is like the plot of a 90s film or something. You know? Joe Pesci plays an MLB manager determined to tank his team and sell it to european industrialists, then retire to Guam. And the one guy getting in the way of doing this is the new golden boy pitcher, played, I'm assuming, by Brendan Fraser, who can't stop winning games. So Pesci tries to have him killed, he narrowly avoids death, and things get worse for Pesci. Like a cross between Major League, Mouse Hunt and Death to Smoochy. Call it Splitting the Ace, give it an August release, it's the surprise hit of 1994. 

If it seems like I'm struggling to figure out how to write about this A's team, it's because there's not really a ton to talk about. Nobody in the lineup is hitting over .250, and the top hitter on the team seems to be Christian Bethancourt, whom nobody has thought about since 2014. Seth Brown is leading the team in home runs with a blistering EIGHT. Cristian Pache is an incredible outfielder with a -15 batting runs average. Ramon Laureano, Tony Kemp, Elvis Andrus and Chad Pinder are doing nothing to keep the momentum of the old squads going. Jared Koenig has joined Adam Oller and Zach Logue as call-ups who can't seem to keep MLB runs down. It's just a dull, unexciting mess, and I feel bad for A's fans that their GM had to tank as well.

If they trade Blackburn, they're gonna riot, pretty much. Nobody's going to games, then even less people will go to games, and then Manfred will come in like 'what's this? A baseball stadium that's RANDOMLY APPEARED IN LAS VERGAS?'.

Coming Tomorrow- A recent comeback story that's actually persisted. 

2022's Super Veterans

 Lately I thought about how long I've been running this blog. It's been thirteen years and some change. Which is insane. It's insane to do anything for 13 straight years. But especially this. 

I was thinking about some of my early custom card projects, and one of them was doing the 1983 Topps Super Veteran subset for some of the players that'd been around for a while in 2009. And it was a murderer's row of big names. Ken Griffey Jr., Manny Ramirez, John Smoltz, Ivan Rodriguez, Jim Thome, Jason Giambi, etc. And I can say now that these were pretty amateurish, because I didn't have great photo selection for the archive side of the card. 

So I was thinking about it from a 2022 standpoint, and how many players have been around since I started making customs, and there's a great deal. 20 in all, I counted. I initially had 19 but one came in right under the wire. And so I figured...why not go for a new round of Super Veterans, dating all the way back to 2009? Wouldn't that be cool.

I hope so, because here they are, the 2022 Super Veterans:

Elvis Andrus:
In 2009: Young, defensively-inclined shortstop putting some life into a slowly growing Rangers lineup.
In 2022: Hitting in the .220s and a bit slower on defense, trying to lead by example in a sluggish A's team.

Miguel Cabrera:
In 2009: A year into his Tigers tenure and at age 26, 'only' hitting .324 with 34 homers
In 2022: At 39, hitting .294 and notching his 3000th hit.

Robinson Cano
In 2009: Indispensable 2nd baseman for the World Champion New York Yankees.
In 2022: Wearing a SpongeBob jersey in El Paso waiting for the Padres to need him again.

Nelson Cruz:
In 2009: His first of seven All-Star seasons, with 33 homers, his first of 8 30+ home years.
In 2022: Still a power-hitting fixture, now in an elder statesman role in Washington.

Johnny Cueto:
In 2009: Just bounding onto the scene in Cincinnati as a young fireballer.
In 2022: After a few down years, gaining back some cred as a veteran arm in Chicago.

Andrew McCutchen:
In 2009: A rookie standout with amazing outfield plays and a great contact bat.
In 2022: Mostly relied on for power and DHing, but still a fan favorite in Milwaukee.

Zack Greinke:
In 2009: The Cy Young winner with an impressive grasp of command after years of anxiety.
In 2022: Back in Kansas City after 11 years away, a trusted veteran taming a wild rotation of youngsters.

Rich Hill:
In 2009: Blowing an opportunity to stay relevant as an Orioles starter, and beginning a number of years as a bullpen piece.
In 2022: Commonly revered as 'Dick Mountain', returning to pitch for his hometown team at the ripe old age of 41.

Clayton Kershaw:
In 2009: Second-year flamethrower that found his control by the end of the season.
In 2022: Resting on a Hall of Fame case, still striking out batters even as Walker Buehler and Julio Urias rule LA.
Evan Longoria
In 2009: After making the World Series in his rookie year, winning the first of his three gold gloves with Tampa.
In 2022: Though a little more injury-prone, helping the Giants stay in the NL West race.

Yadier Molina
In 2009: Finally emerging as a varied player, and getting his first of SEVEN STRAIGHT ASG jobs.
In 2022: Still catching for the Cardinals, and helping Andrew Knizner move towards taking his place.

Oliver Perez
In 2009: A lower tier member of the Mets rotation.
In 2022: Still relieving games, and up for his final MLB season with the Diamondbacks 20 years after breaking in with San Diego.

David Price:
In 2009: The can't-miss prospect who racked up a ton of Rookie of the Year votes, eventually losing to Andrew Bailey.
In 2022: Used primarily as a relief piece for the Dodgers, a far cry from where he was in Tampa.

Albert Pujols:
In 2009: Winning his third and, to date, final MVP award, and leading the league in homers with 47.
In 2022: Ending his career back where it started while mentoring the next wave of Cardinals heroes.

Max Scherzer:
In 2009: Striking a ton of people out in Arizona before he really figures out the majors.
In 2022: At 37, and 3 Cy Youngs in, indisputably one of the best pitchers in baseball, and a trusted ace for an NL titan Mets squad.

Kurt Suzuki:
In 2009: A solid defensive catcher for an uncompetitive A's team.
In 2022: One of the more reliable backup catchers in baseball, now backing up Max Stassi in LA.

Justin Upton:
In 2009: The poster child for the Arizona Diamondbacks, making an All-Star team and representing the future of the squad.
In 2022: Trying to make one last try at MLB glory as a late addition to the Seattle Mariners.

Justin Verlander:
In 2009: Leading the AL in wins, strikeouts and innings pitched, and cementing himself as a hero in Detroit.
In 2022: Still at peak levels, currently leading the league in wins with 8, and helping the Astros stay in 1st.

Joey Votto:
In 2009: Hitting .300 with 25 home runs for the first of six times.
In 2022: At 38, only hitting .206, but you never know what he'll do once he really hits his stride. 

Adam Wainwright:
In 2009: Going from 'the guy who recorded the last out of the 2006 World Series' to the league leader in wins and innings, showing the Cardinals there's more to their rotation than just Chris Carpenter.
In 2022: Still leading the Cards' rotation at the age of 40, and still throwing to Yadier Molina every 6 days.