Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Drought of Sight


I don't know whether if it's funny or sad that Adam Frazier had a 3.1 WAR in the first half of the 2021 season, and hasn't been able to match that mark in any other season with any other team. 

It sums up the Mariners' approach, even if it is working. Frazier, Robbie Ray and Jesse Winker were all brought to this team because solely of how well they did in 2021. Frazier was a contact machine in Pittsburgh, Ray won a Cy Young in Toronto and Winker was an All-Star in Cincinnati. Of the three, Robbie Ray is having the best season, mostly because he's Robbie Ray, but even then, going 11-8 with a 3.58 ERA is a step down from his 2021. But Winker's hitting around .220 and only has 90 hits, while Frazier is hitting .244 with 110 hits. These are disappointing numbers for players that, thankfully, are only around for another year or so. 

Thankfully, the players being locked up are the foundational ones that could pave the way for a competitive stretch for the Mariners. Obviously Julio Rodriguez will be there for the foreseeable future, and J.P. Crawford, Eugenio Suarez, Marco Gonzalez and for some strange reason Evan White [who has yet to even show up this season] are all there for a little while. And at the same time there's people like Chris Flexen and Luis Castillo who probably want to stick around. And all the kids who are under team control for a bit.

But the fact is that with all the Mariners have right now, including a healthy Mitch Haniger, an excellent defensive catcher at last with Cal Raleigh, a strong rotation with George Kirby now coming into his own, several depth options, a packed heart of the lineup and Julio now one of the biggest stars in the league...guys...they've got a great position on the wild card standings. I know we're a month out and September's always tough, but this team's looking really good.

So let's take it one step further. Say the Mariners do break their 21-year playoff drought and make it in as a wild card. Then what? They'll have done the thing that 20 previous Ms teams couldn't do, and they'll be facing somebody like Toronto or Tampa for a further playoff spot, and having to prove themselves. Will they be able to keep the momentum going? Could this team be the one that actually runs up the board in October? I see a ton of promise with this team, just in terms of how varied its pitching is alone, and I think they can outhit a lot of competitors, especially their wild card competitors. 

It's just a matter of if they can keep this momentum going the whole time and surprise people. And that will be tricky, especially as these are the Mariners we're talking about. But I'm optimistic. If I'm seriously thinking this could be their year, you never know where they're gonna go next.

Coming Tomorrow- An impressive defender for another wild card team. 

The Friendzone and the Danger Zone


I said in 2020 that if Devin Williams had a career befitting of his 2020 season then I wouldn't be mad that he won the Rookie of the Year. Guess what? I ain't mad about it anymore.

In the shadow of the racist, problematic relief man who came before him, Devin Williams has become one of the best relievers in baseball, and now that Hader's gone, he's closing. He has 9 saves since Hader left. How about that? He's already an amazing eighth inning man, and now he can close, too.

I still think that Devin Williams was an odd ROY choice in 2020 because he only appeared in 22 games. Granted, in those 22 games he only gave up 1 run, and out of the 100 batters he faced he struck out 53 of them, but...the 22 games thing was odd for me. He was amazing for ONE MONTH. AUGUST 2020. And then he got injured and the Brewers had no postseason case without him. So...I guess that makes him valuable. It's just vexing because that season was so hard to gauge how a rookie even works, which explains why Randy Arozarena, another 2020 rookie, got the Rookie of the Year award in 2021.

Williams has never had his WAR fall below 1 in a full season. He had a 1.3 as a rookie, a 1.6 last year, and now, in his best season to date, Devin Williams has a 2.0 WAR, 78 strikeouts, a 1.80 ERA, and, yes, those 9 saves, the number of which will probably grow in the next month or so. This sort of stuff, the middle relief magic before slowly taking the ninth, is the exact same stuff Josh Hader did, and Williams might be better because A.) he's not a racist ass, and B.) this is just simply what he's capable of. He is THIS good. And I can't wait to see how much better he's gonna become over time for the Brewers. 

Speaking of the Brewers,'s it feel to be the fourth team in a three-man Wild Card race, boys? I'll give 'em this, they've got an easy schedule for the next week or so, but it's not a good sign when your biggest story is some poor fan getting friend zoned ON THE TRON at one of your games. NOT EVEN A 'We'll talk about this after the game'. No, you are letting ALL OF MILWAUKEE KNOW how cuckholded this poor guy, Mark, is. Christian Yelich has already turned the rest of the Brewers' season into 'let's win this for Mark.' How sad is that? When you hear a 'let's win it for this guy' thing, it's mostly 'oh, he's dying', 'oh, she has cancer', 'oh, he's injured and won't be back til next year'. No, the 2022 Milwaukee Brewers season has essentially become a fund to cure Mark's blue balls. 

Or 'brew balls' if you will.

I WANT TO SEE THEM KEEP THIS GOING. McCutchen hits a home run and dedicates it to Mark. Corbin Burnes creates an event where if he has more than 10 strikeouts, that means Mark gets a free first date COURTESY OF THE BREWERS. Hell, maybe Matt Bush can give him dating tips. There's so many ways you can take this. Hell, if they win the World Series, BY LAW, she has to at least kiss the poor guy, right? BY LAW. 

Look, I'm not sure if the Brewers have enough to stop the Cardinals, or even the NL East guys, from advancing. They could edge out the Padres, especially since they seem to have gotten the better relief piece in the trade, but even that'll be tough. There's a chance they squeeze in, but right now it's about as likely as Mark getting any in the next few months. 

...Like, it could happen, but a LOT OF THINGS NEED TO GO RIGHT FOR IT TO HAPPEN. 

Coming Tonight: A less funny post, I reckon. A former hits-leader now just a member of the gang in Seattle. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

No Distance Left Duran


Just as the Twins really need to win to stay in the race for the AL Central, let alone the AL Wild Card, they find themselves without Byron Buxton, the main piece keeping them competitive all year.

So what I'm saying is, if the Twins have any cool tricks they'd like to pull, now would be the time.

It's not really as if Buxton's the only great thing about this team, especially as Luis Arraez, Jorge Polanco, Carlos Correa and Gio Urshela [aka the whole infield] are playing really well right now, but Buxton gives this team an edge they don't have otherwise. And now that he's been gone, the Twins have been sinking fast, losing six in a row last week, and inevitably handing off the division to Cleveland.

However, all's not completely lost. The Twins have won their last four, and are up against some lower-tier competitors before heading to the Bronx, and it looks like they're getting Trevor Larnach and Bailey Ober back very soon. The team's also figuring out who fits best where, as Nick Gordon and Jose Miranda have been starting games and doing well with it, Gilberto Celestino makes for a decent backup centerfielder, and Jhoan Duran has become the more reliable pick in the ninth inning. Duran, who's a rookie, has been phenomenal this year, with a 1.91 ERA and 73 strikeouts, in addition to six saves he's picked up along the way. As the Twins have struggled to fill the ninth in Taylor Rogers' absence [as have, ironically, the Padres], having a young, efficient hurler like Duran is a very good thing, and I hope he benefits this team going forward. 

I also want to point out that even with all the injuries to starters, and even with Kenta Maeda and Randy Dobnak taking even more time to recover, the Twins have gotten innings out of people who wouldn't ordinarily be working options. Dylan Bundy has an ERA around 4 but he's still pitched 100 innings and won 7 games. Chris Archer has been very injury prone recently but he's made 22 starts and only has a 4.34 ERA. Aaron Sanchez was cut by the Nationals earlier this year and even he's a good innings eater still, with a 4.26 ERA and 13 Ks in 3 starts. They're all warming things up until Ober, Winder and Mahle get back [which is hopefully soon], but it could have been a TON worse.

I'm not sure if this Twins team will make it to October after all, but with the amount of working elements and the amount they're about to get back, I'm certainly not counting it out.

Coming Tomorrow- A solid reliever for a team that didn't want to ruin their friendship with the league by winning a division this year.

Attack of the Braves Rookies


You know how last year the Braves traded for a bunch of people and then they carried the team to a World Series? This year's like that, but instead of traded people it's rookies. Michael Harris, Spencer Strider, William Contreras and now Vaughn Grissom are giving this team the boost they need to make themselves a postseason contender again.

And a lot of these guys are providing the same kind of services the add-ons from last year did. Eddie Rosario, Joc Pederson, Adam Duvall and Jorge Soler all got added because Ronald Acuna was injured and Marcell Ozuna was out. This year, Acuna was only injured for a bit, but Duvall and Rosario were out for longer stretches. So in came Harris, a 21-year-old defensive upgrade with an excellent contact bat. Harris is currently hitting .298 with 45 RBIs and 13 home runs. Not bad for one of the youngest people on the roster. 

Then you have the Ozzie Albies injury. Last year, the Braves would have traded for somebody, Josh Harrison or Cesar Hernandez or somebody. This year they call up Vaughn Grissom, also 21, and he proceeds to hit .324 with 10 RBIs in 3 homers in his first 18 games. It's the kind of insane performance that makes me wonder what's going to happen once Ozzie Albies comes back. As great as Grissom is, can they really afford to keep him down in the minors again after this? Why do I see a trade in Grissom's future?

And then the other two, Strider and Contreras, have been here since the start of the season and have had great full rookie campaigns, building themselves into the foundation of the team and feeling like veterans already. Contreras has been an excellent catcher for a team that already has Travis d'Arnaud, and has a healthy version of him [Mets couldn't even secure that]. Strider has been excellent rotation security for a team that struck out with Huascar Ynoa and Ian Anderson this year. Strider might be a heavy ROY favorite, and I think he's got a strong case.

The team itself also has the strength of Max Fried, Austin Riley, Dansby Swanson, Matt Olson and, yes, Ronald Acuna, powering it through to September. I definitely think the Braves will be a heavy favorite this postseason, and could go pretty deep into things if other teams make the mistake of going against them as if they were still operating by 2021 rules. I finally figured it out. The 2021 Braves are like the 2010 Giants. Lots of veterans holding things together but the youth is juuuust ready, and now from here on in, they'll be running things just fine.

Coming Tonight: A nasty young reliever for a team determined to somehow stay in the fight.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Margot For It


The Tampa Bay Rays were in danger of falling out of the playoff picture after a miserable start to August. However, since August 12th they've been 12-4 and now have 70 wins. Which means...the Rays will once again be a competitive nuisance in the playoffs this year, it seems like.

It's interesting that the Rays have gone on this tear since getting Manuel Margot back from the IL. Margot has been fantastic all season, and though the injury did put a dent in things, he still has a .302 average, 32 RBIs and 64 hits in 59 games. Margot has been a contact beast for the Rays ever since coming over, and he's aiding this lineup now by making it feel a bit more full. The Rays can have fun with their dutiful band of role-players like Yandy Diaz, Ji-Man Choi and Francisco Mejia all the want, but people like Margot add pop and add the kind of energy that most normal competitive teams have.

I mean, I've talked about this before, but the Rays don't operate like normal teams in that they don't have big stars that dominate the statistical fields. A lot of the team's best players are people that aren't big names but succeed in very niche statistical categories. Taylor Walls is not hitting at all this year, but his defensive skills have made him the fourth-highest position player in WAR on this team. Jeffrey Springs and Jason Adam are incorrigible homophobes who won't get vaccinated, but both of them have ERAs below 3 and don't seem to want to go away. And as good of a team anchor that Randy Arozarena can be, Isaac Paredes is still leading this team in RBIs.

This Rays team is succeeding without Kevin Kiermaier, Tyler Glasnow, Wander Franco, Mike Zunino or Andrew Kittredge. That's NOT SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN. Imagine if they make the World Series. Joe Buck is really gonna be struggling to talk about the Rays whenever they come up. "And here comes Yu Chang, he has three hits already tonight, uh...John, what'd you do over your vacation?'

It frustrates me because this team does have traditional stars that could be doing something, like Brandon Lowe and Corey Kluber...and none of them really are. Kluber is having a smooth but pedestrian season. Lowe is hitting .234 with 8 homers in 61 games. The Rays wanted Lowe to be the Dustin Pedroia of this team, and instead Yandy Diaz is the guy holding things together. It's baffling. I suppose it's nice that Shane McClanahan is playing the role of the ace and delivering a season that definitely will get him some Cy Young votes, but it's really just him.

I dunno, the Rays just defy logic. They'll probably do really well, do it on no budget and then trade most of these guys away for the people who'll give them the next 5 years, and then repeat. Like the Astros, a very well run organization. But man is it boring to see them just buy a win for 50 cents every damned year when my teams overpay by the millions and fail miserably when everyone watches them.

Coming Tomorrow- A major rookie for the Braves. It could be one of several, honestly.

Lux Turned Up

I think what's kind of funny is that when the Yankees were going for an incredible record-breaking winning season, everyone turned their heads and marveled. And right now the Dodgers are 12 games away from 100 wins at the end of August and you don't really hear about it much. 

I guess it's cause people just expect the Dodgers to do well every year, and now that they are, there's really not much to write about. Then again, you always hear about it whenever they're on a losing streak, don't you?

Anyway, the Dodgers, as per usual, are great this year. You'd think a lot of it would come from their spending, locking up Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman during their prime and keeping Kershaw around, but this team's farm system is still insane. Not only can this team produce people who can perform to MLB quality right off the bat, like Walker Buehler, Dustin May and Will Smith, but they have so many sneaker-uppers, so many people who take a bit longer to develop but once they get there, they're incredible. Julio Urias, Tony Gonsolin, I suppose eventually Ryan Pepiot, are all examples of this.

The biggest one of these this year, though Gonsolin has had the more eye-popping season, might be from Gavin Lux. The Dodgers got some championship-caliber teams out of the infield of Muncy-Taylor-Seager-Turner, but the trouble with that is they're all getting old. Seager's in Texas, but Turner's showing his age, Taylor been injured, and Muncy only recently figured out how to hit again. And so this team has needed a younger infield, and this season they've had incredible infield pieces like Freddie Freeman, Trea Turner and, I suppose, Muncy, making this infield pretty strong across the board. All it needed was a full effort from Gavin Lux, one this team has been waiting for since his call-up in 2019.

This has been Gavin Lux's best season to date, and it was about time. The 24-year-old is hitting .297 with 105 hits and 39 RBIs, plus some excellent defensive play, and makes for an epic double-play combo with Trea Turner. Lux has a 3.0 WAR, which contributes to the infield's combined 14.1 WAR, which is pretty damn impressive if you ask me. Only the Braves can really compete with that right now.

And you're seeing so many piece of this team, like Joey Gallo, Trayce Thompson and now Dustin May, make this team stronger and more intimidating going into the playoffs. There's a month of regular season play left, and it's only a matter of how much of a flex the Dodgers want heading into October. They can go for a 110 win year if they want, all that matters is how the expand upon it in the playoffs. And I'm pretty sure these Roberts Dodgers teams want more than one ring to show for themselves.

Coming Tonight: Outfield veteran of a team intent on never keeping anyone around.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Urquidy Cornered


I think that if this was a few years ago, the big setback of this weekend for the Astros might be just...dropping two to Baltimore. 

I mean, then, it'd be an 'oh no, what are we coming to when we can't win 2 against a last place AL East team', but now it's 'a dramatic square-off between a potential playoff team gaining momentum with a young core', like...we're talking about the same Orioles, right? This is a team that signed Jordan Lyles just so they could have a starter with a winning record. And here they are, looking genuinely amazing and taking two from the best team in the AL.

Let me just state for the record that I like this. I like this a lot. Please keep having teams like the Orioles take 2 from the Astros. It gives me life.

But my point is that any other recent season, blowing some games against the Orioles would be the frightening takeaway of the last weekend of August. But not this year. Because this year, the frightening takeaway of the last weekend in August is that Justin Verlander was removed from today's start after 3 innings.

Verlander has spent the last two seasons struggling to recover from injuries. He comes back in full force this year, produces a gem of a season with a chance to win a Cy Young, and now...I don't know what the injury prognosis is right now, but even if it didn't show in JV's work from today, it's enough to pull him before five innings. So it's likely something pretty serious. 

Best case scenario, it's something small that makes him miss maybe a start. Likely scenario is he goes on the 15-day IL and he's back by October. Worst case scenario he's out for the rest of the year. The Astros have had tremendous luck all year, and this may be the one thing they weren't prepared for.

And it's not that this is a real dealbreaker for their rotation or anything. Without JV, the Astros' rotation consists of Framber Valdez, Jose Urquidy, Lance McCullers, Luis Garcia and Cristian Javier. That is still pretty damn good, guys. Even Javier, who got the shaft once McCullers returned, still has a 2.97 ERA and a team-leading 150 strikeouts. Luis Garcia, despite a 4.14 ERA, still has an 11-9 record and 132 strikeouts. And Jose Urquidy has been heating up in the last month or so, with a 12-5 record and a 3.69 ERA. 

And while Verlander is still a very big personality to fill, McCullers has done a great job filling it over the last few seasons. In his first 3 starts since coming off the IL, McCullers has a 1.69 ERA and 13 Ks. Even without Verlander, I think they definitely have some aces between McCullers and Valdez.

The Astros are looking very good heading into the last month of the season, and are working on taking that first seed and first round bye in the playoffs. Considering that the Astros have been unbeatable in the past few playoff seasons, I'm thinking they'll be even more of a force this year, and hopefully one of their AL competitors will be able to take them out before they threaten us with another boring World Series win.

Coming Tomorrow- A second baseman who took a few years to develop but is now a trusted starter for an excellent team. 

Cardinals Update: This Isn't Fricking Funny Edition


What usually happens on here is that I get really mad when the Cardinals sneak into the playoffs without deserving it. Well, now the opposite has happened. The Cardinals are absolutely dominating, doing so many things right, looking like a playoff threat...and I think I'm still mad. 

The Cardinals now are falling into the Astros category of making so many good organizational moves that it makes me mad. How the hell are you supposed to beat that in a playoff scenario? Not only is the team really good now, but 7 of their top players are homegrown younger players, and 5 of them are under 25. 

This season you are seeing Brendan Donovan, Andre Pallante, Lars Nootbaar, Nolan Gorman and Dylan Carlson inherit this team, and the handoff is going pretty damned well. Nootbaar has come into his own this year, not only being fantastic defensively but hitting 8 homers. Gorman has 13 homers and 33 RBIs, and although he and Donovan are blocked from starting positions thanks to people like Paul DeJong and, rightfully, Nolan Arenado, they're great depth pieces that can go in whenever and pave the way for their own tenures. Pallate, though he's been phased out of starting thanks to Quintana and Montgomery, is still an excellent, versatile pitching piece with a 2.96 ERA.

And then Dylan Carlson, who had a strong rookie season last year, has worked his way up to some impressive sophomore numbers. Though he only has 8 homers and 39 RBIs, Carlson is still an asset in the outfield, and with Harrison Bader gone, having him, Nootbaar and Tyler O'Neill as an outfield schematic still makes sure that there aren't going to be a ton of errors back there. Carlson's also just 23, and already has some great experience under his belt. The fact that this team can bring people up in their early 20s and let them develop in the majors instead of keeping them in the minors for too long [which, admittedly, they were guilty of with Tommy Pham], is a good sign for the next decade of Cardinals baseball.

Beyond that, the Cardinals have two solid MVP candidates in Goldschmidt and Arenado [I don't see any universe where Goldy doesn't get it, though], an incredible [and regrettable] trade deadline acquisition in Jordan Montgomery, and dammit Albert might get to 700. I know I view the Cardinals from a very Yankee-centric lens, but Albert going for 700 as Judge chases Ruth is pretty damn cool. 

I may not like this team as much as I did when they were scrappy competitors underneath Milwaukee, but I respect a lot of what this team is doing, and I hope they do as well as they can without having to face one of my teams and risk making me mad all winter.

Coming Tonight: On a rotation with a Cy Young candidate, a future Hall of Famer having one last classic season, and a scary talent back from the IL, a similarly impressive talent lays low and provides his services.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Why Can't the AL Central Get a Good Seed?


The good news is that the Cleveland Guardians, after sportswriters assumed they'd lay low this year, have a nice margin over the Twins and have a nice shot of winning the AL Central and going to the playoffs.

The bad news is that the way the Yankees and Astros are playing, the Guardians are basically guaranteed they will be seeded third and therefore will have to play during wild card week. 

The AL Central, recently, has had great teams that have managed to look minuscule in comparison to other AL titans. Last year, the White Sox were a fun, formidable team who only won 93 games, compared to Houston's 95 and Tampa's 100. That lower seed eventually doomed them in the playoffs, making them have to contend with Houston in October and fail. And the trend keeps going backwards as well, with all three AL Central teams making the playoffs in 2020 losing their wild card series, with the Twins being upset by the 29-31 Astros because, again, October. 

And you keep going back and see that even titans like the 2019 Bomba team out of Minneapolis, and the underrated 2018 Guardians, also seeded third. The last time an AL Central team didn't have that third seed was 2017's monster Guardians team, yes, the one with the 20 game winning streak. But even then, both them and the wild card Twins wound up losing their postseason series' anyway. 

You have to go back to 2016 to find an AL Central team that didn't lose in the first round of the playoffs. And funnily enough, that came after two other years where an AL Central team made the World Series. So the Royals and Guardians were lucky and competitive for 3 years...and then essentially silence ever since.

The way we're looking at things right now, unless the Yankees skid even further in September [which isn't impossible given their Sept. schedule], the Guardians, or Twins or White Sox if they catch up, will be going in as the third seed and will have to outlast Tampa, Toronto, Seattle or, potentially another team that could sneak in. 

Which means, the Cleveland Guardians, as they were in 2016, are kind of an underdog. 

Now, let's be clear, I don't think they have the kind of team they did in 2016, but they do have Jose Ramirez, a pretty strong rotation, and lots of fun contact guys like Andres Gimenez, Steven Kwan and Myles Straw. In addition, Jose Ramirez is having a 25-homer/100-RBI season that is unfortunately gonna get overlooked in MVP voting because Aaron Judge exists. The team also has one of the best closers in baseball, a concise and strong bullpen, and future pieces like Nolan Jones, Tyler Freeman and Will Benson sneaking up in the background.

There is so much going on in this team, and so much that has built from Opening Day. Right at the beginning, Steven Kwan taking off right off the bat, and people went '...huh.' And they just built on that feeling. 'Huh, look at what the Guards are doing'. And now they're ahead of the AL Central in one of its tightest years in a while. I think they have a good chance of sticking the landing, but they need to really ensure that Minneapolis or Chicago doesn't leap over them at the last second.

Coming Tomorrow- You take away one excellent outfielder in St. Louis, and like 2 or 3 more grow back in his place.

Always Be Closing: The Edwin Diaz Post


I can say without a doubt that, statistically, Edwin Diaz is the strangest closer in baseball right now.

If you were to be following proper statistical terminology, then you'd see that Edwin Diaz has only had one truly down season, and that was 2019, his first year after landing in Queens. Around that, he had his tremendous 2018, where he led the league in saves with 57 and chased the record set by Francisco Rodriguez, a closer he's been compared to numerous times, and an impressive pandemic season in 2020 where, despite not having many save opportunities, he still managed a 1.75 ERA the whole year.

But...Edwin Diaz has illuminated something about the modern closers- some of the most perennial 'great closers' aren't usually the ones who get the most saves. 

I think the age of someone like Rod Beck, Mariano Rivera or Eric Gagne getting 50 saves for consecutive years are over. K-Rod got to the 60 mountain and then only got as high as the 40s afterwards. The people who do go for those league-leading numbers, like Shane Greene, Greg Holland and Jim Johnson, can never sustain it. The great closers are the one that don't rely on saving the most games, but being the most efficient at the games they do save. The most likely Hall of Fame candidates from this current batch of closers are guys like Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen, who are good at saving games for numerous consecutive years. 

But...I look at the season Edwin Diaz is having this year, and I think this year Edwin is getting a lot of 'best closer in baseball' talk. Josh Hader was for a bit and then he crapped out, I dunno, someone online joked that his timeline of blowing saves matches up with the timeline of when the FBI went down to Florida, but I'm not gonna do that kind of math.'s turned into the point where every time Diaz comes in for a save, it's a show. He has the most chill-inducing walk-up music, which is just a trumpet anthem, and he just stands there, intimidates you, and leaves. That alone gets people talking. 

No other closer in baseball has that power right now. 

Now, Diaz only has 28 saves. 'Only'. His highest non-2018 season has been 34 saves, and that was 2017. But as of now, Diaz is in the midst of a tie for 2nd on the saves leaderboard. He is tied with Liam Hendriks, who is also having a great season. And he is behind Taylor Rogers and Josh Hader, who are struggling, Kenley Jansen, who is losing innings to Raisel Iglesias, and Emmanuel Clase, who all have 29. 

There is, therefore, still a chance Diaz could lead the league in saves, and he could do so while putting in a solid, mid-30s number of saves and being respectable about it. Because I honestly think he's at the point in his career where he doesn't need to crack 50 saves to prove himself anymore. He's been solid since 2020, and is finally a dominant closer again. And now he's beloved to the point where even his fanfare is famous.

I hope he keeps it up. He has the presence down, and all he needs is the longevity.

Coming Tonight: A guy who was traded out of Houston and still, somehow, got to start for a first place team.

Friday, August 26, 2022

When the Trevvy Breaks


We were waiting all year for the Yankees to lose games like a normal team. It happened. And I think they're moving on pretty quickly for it.

Look, August has humbled this Yankee team in so many ways. A lot of the team's feel-good stories, like Nestor Cortes, Clay Holmes and Matt Carpenter, are on the IL for a bit. Gerrit Cole has gotten beaten up for a few starts. There's no ironed-down closer, and I think they're afraid to use Chapman in the ninth again. Frankie Montas has a 7+ ERA over his first 4 Yankees starts, CONFIRMING the fact that they should have either kept Montgomery, gotten Castillo or BOTH. 

I think what's helped has been the return of Giancarlo Stanton, as well as the fact that right now they have to play the frigging A's. Yeah, 13 runs in the midst of a playoff stretch, that always helps.

Look, I did get to see this team play at home last week. Granted, it was a loss to Toronto and the team was still on its 'we're not hitting' stretch, but I could see some signs that made me optimistic. For one, Andrew Benintendi has started hitting. It took him a bit in the Bronx but now he's getting back to the contact stuff he was great at in Kansas City, and now he has a .261 average with 11 RBIs in 27 games in New York. Additionally, Jose Trevino is such a handy guy to have around because not only is he a great defensive catcher, but he can just slam doubles where they ain't whenever he wants to. I think he had a few moments like that during that game. 

And also, we're just pretty awesome on defense. I was sad I didn't get to see Donaldson play in pinstripes, but his replacement, rookie Oswaldo Cabrera, made an insane diving catch into the third base stands that, as impressive as it was, made me worried he was gonna get hurt. Also, and people don't give him credit for this, but Aaron Judge is a pretty awesome right fielder. He made a terrific catch to rob Bo Bichette of a home run when we were there, and he can just do that whenever he wants. I think every sportswriter who argues he's not the MVP this year should be shot on sight.

The Yanks have a pretty easy end of August, and then it's all competitors for the first 2 thirds of September. They do have some easy games to finish off the year, but by then hopefully they'll still have a decent playoff seed and not be struggling to scrape in. I've really appreciated this team, and I hope they can ride this late momentum over some tough series' with teams like Tampa and Boston. 

Coming Tomorrow- Cue the trumpets.

No Church in the Wild


I'll give the Rockies this, with a lot of their teams failing recently, a lot of the storylines behind their seasons have just been 'which reclamation project is gonna win over the fans next?'

Cause think about it. You've already seen Daniel Bard, Connor Joe, Chad Kohl and now Wynton Bernard figure out their careers while playing for the low-stakes Rockies. Honestly, from a storytelling perspective, it's definitely still a step up from a lot of teams, because at least you can talk about how and why players find their stuff here. It's been fun following Daniel Bard's comeback, honestly.

But now we have Jose Iglesias having a similar comeback year. I remember him for his breakout 2013 that began in Boston and ended in Detroit, as well as his strong Tigers years as a perfectly strong offensive shortstop. The last few years he's bopped around everywhere, having decent years in Baltimore and Cincinnati, struggling in Anaheim and then having a bench support year for a Red Sox playoff run. And when I signed late with Colorado, I worried he'd sort of flame out here.

Not really the case. Yes, his defense isn't as strong as it was, but he's hitting .308, has 120 hits and 47 RBIs. In a season where there's been instability, especially with Kris Bryant, having a guy like Iglesias who can show up everyday and deliver in some way is pretty beneficial. This is why C.J. Cron has been such a success, he shows up, plays a solid 1st base, hits 25 home runs and doesn't let ya down. The Rockies are building the team up with contracted guys who don't let you down, and it's distracted a lot from the one contracted guy who HAS let them down.

And of course you can also see them locking up people like McMahon and Elias Diaz and the pitchers, and making sure they have a large base to rely on as they go forward. It does ensure that the Rockies will never be completely terrible, which does contract nicely with a lot of other last place teams.

I'm guessing next year will be a step up if everyone, including Bryant, performs to standard. I dunno if Iglesias will stick around, but they could use a guy like him.

Coming Tonight: A surprise pick for one of the best catchers in baseball. 

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Hanging Chad


The 2022 Oakland Athletics have to play the Yankees this week, the week they lose Nestor Cortes to the IL. Somehow, between James Kaprielian and J.P. Sears, there might be more Yankee pitchers in the A's rotation than there are in the Yankees' rotation.

I mean, the Yankees are having some trouble lately but looking over this A's team...jeez, is there ANYTHING THERE that could be a match for this team? Sean Murphy is having his best season to date, with 16 home runs and 53 RBIs. Shea Langeliers already has 5 RBIs and 7 hits in 8 games as a rookie. Irvin, Kaprielian and Sears have been solid in starts. 

But like...that's kinda it. The best parts of this A's team are just small circles in a field of nothing. Some good relievers, some good starters, some good hitters. We just had a long run of seasons where the A's competed for the wild card spot, and a 2021 season where the A's had the Astros on the ropes til the sticky end of the year. And now...nothing.

I mean, Chad Pinder was always a spare piece and utility man turned starter in a lot of those old competitive A's team. Everybody leaves and he's now a trusted veteran. He's hitting .236 with 38 RBIs. That's...not terrific. Only Murphy is hitting over .250. 

A lot of middling teams are at least finding the pieces they're gonna bank on for the next several years. The Cubs are putting the pieces in place for future success. The O's have brought up a ton of prospects and trying something this year. The Royals teased all those prospects the week everyone went on the COVID list. The A' not have much in that regard. I guess Nick Allen is a good defensive piece right now, but Pache and Smith have failed, Norge Sosa isn't perfect yet, Jared Koenig struggled in his first few starts, and Shea Langeliers, while impressive, is being slotted in as a DH.

The A's might need a few more years of truly atrocious baseball before they even figure out what the next stage is gonna be. Which sucks, but it's kinda necessary. 

Coming Tomorrow- A shortstop who's been everywhere lately and is having his best season in years.

The Reds Are Running Out of Pitchers


So here's the good news about this Reds team: The bulk of the rotation this year consists of four rookies who are fully ready for the show. Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo took some time but they've warmed up to things and are performing very well. Graham Ashcraft and Connor Overton took to the majors instantly and have had great starts without being too flashy.

Now, here's the bad news: all of them except for Lodolo are currently injured.

So this means that without Greene and Ashcraft, with Vladimir Gutierrez injured, and without Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle, the Reds, who are already one of the worst teams in baseball, have turned their rotation into a game of 'let's see who we can throw in there for 5 innings'. Some of these choices I do understand- Mike Minor was a flyby from the offseason who they're making good on, and while he's completely lost his second wind with a 2-10 record, at least he can eat innings. Justin Dunn I also understand, he was a key piece of the Eugenio Suarez/Jesse Winker deal, and he's finally healthy enough to start. Unfortunately, through 3 starts he has a 6.08 ERA. Is it the wear and tear, or is it just having to pitch for the Reds? I suppose we'll find out.

The other 2 spots are being filled by so many out-there pitchers who are just hanging around the Reds' roster. Luis Cessa has been starting games, he's doing a serviceable job. Former Blue Jays prospect T.J. Zeuch has started two games, and just had to go against a surging Phillies lineup. Reiver Sanmartin is also hanging around, but I'm not sure if the Reds want to risk starting him anytime soon considering how badly he did before. 

The lineup isn't fairing much better. Yes, people like Aristedes Aquino and Donovan Solano have stepped up, and Jake Fraley, Alejo Lopez and Nick Senzel seem to be ramping up, but with so many pieces gone, and with Joey Votto out for the rest of the year, this seems like a Reds team without a purpose. Who's the central lineup figure? Jonathan India? Senzel? There's so many young people that there's really no leadership here, and it's coming from people like Mike Moustakas and Mike Minor who aren't playing well. 

With really only one truly safe starting option right now, the Reds are just patiently waiting for either people to get healthy or for the season to end. I wish it wasn't as cruel.

Coming Tonight: A former depth piece for a competitor who's now struggling with a larger role.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Sour Candy


The Detroit Tigers this year have hit just 72 home runs.

Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton this year have hit 72 home runs combined. In fact, if we're sticking with Yankee comparisons, EIGHT Yankees have more home runs than any member of the Tigers does right now. Which isn't a very high bar, as the Tigers' home run leader is Javier Baez with 11. 

...Joey Gallo hit 12 home runs as a Yankee. And people point to his Yankee tenure as a failure. If THAT's what a failure is, who even knows what to classify any of these Tigers as?

The Tigers are just dripping with people brought in to perform to standard and refusing to. Javier Baez is comparatively having a nice year, but he's hitting .224 with 45 RBIs. In 2018, he hit .290 with 111 RBIs, and nearly won an MVP, ultimately thwarted by Christian Yelich. Now, on a team that is relying on him to perform to his peak, Baez is providing his most subpar season since his .203 pandemic-shortened year in 2020.

Even worse, the preexisting power hitter, Jeimer Candelario, is hitting just .194 with 65 hits and 10 home runs. This comes after Candelario had the best season of his career in 2021, leading the league in doubles and hitting his career high RBI mark with 67. Candelario is 28, is still in an important role in keeping the Tigers along, and even he's floundering. Meanwhile, Miguel Cabrera is hitting .260 but because he's not getting on base much, the WAR gods are calling his season another negative one. 

So many people this team banked on to succeed this year, like Akil Baddoo, Eduardo Rodriguez, Tucker Barnhart, Spencer Torkelson and Casey Mize, have all let them down. One of their best success stories, Tarik Skubal, just got shut down for the rest of the season. The people helping this team along have been mostly pitchers, bullpen pieces, and spare parts like Willi Castro, Eric Haase and Victor Reyes. The core this team was trying to cement has caved in.

And I feel like a lot of 2023 is gonna be spent undoing a lot of this year's mistakes. Waiting for some contracts to expire. Maybe shuffling some out the door at the deadline. And then actually picking the right guys to rebuild and compete again. I hate that this wasn't the year for the Tigers, but I hate even more that this year might have made things worse.

Coming Tomorrow- A rookie pitcher for the Reds. No, not that one. Not that one either. Ooh, yeah, I should do that one eventually, but no. Yeah, that's the one. 

The Latest in 30-Year-Old Rookies

 Joey Meneses is the latest in an interesting trend recently, and that trend is career minor leaguers making the show and making up for lost time in SECONDS FLAT.

The news outlets fawned over the story of Wynton Bernard, the 31-year-old who finally got a shot for the Rockies, as well as Nate Fisher, the financial analyst who'd given up on the game til the Mets came calling, and Mark Appel, the former #1 draft pick who retired, came back and made the Phillies. These are always cool, but I worry about the fleeting nature of a lot of them. For instance, you definitely heard about Fisher getting called up by the Mets, but you probably haven't heard about the fact that Fisher, because of team control rules being what they are, already having been DFA'd by the Mets after ONE GAME. And yes, I get it, it's a formality, the Mets will likely not release Fisher and simply send him back down to Syracuse, but...the general consensus is that these stories have a lot of novelty and not a lot of other significance.

I mean, you remember the story of Jim Morris making it to the Rays but not that the Rays cut him after 2 years. You remember the majesty of Adam Greenberg finally making it back to the plate after 10 years but not that he struck out and never played again. And you remember the joy of Chris Coste in Philly during the 2006 season, but not that the Phils waived him in favor of the slightly more amicable defensive abilities of Paul Bako in order to compete for a World Series.

This shit generally doesn't end well. It's a nice STORY, but unless you're an anomaly, generally those good feelings don't always last if your glorious achievement is just making the show.

But then you have Meneses. Career minor leaguer, drafted by the Braves in 2011, carried til he hits AA in 2017, then picked up by Philly, where he becomes a pretty memorable part of the 2018 IronPigs season. He then goes off to the Japanese leagues, where he only hits .206 in 28 games, and cools down in the Mexican leagues. In 2021, he made a name for himself as a member of the WooSox and kept on fighting to make a major league roster. This year in Rochester, Meneses hit 20 home runs and 64 RBIs. And, after the Nats got picked clean at the deadline again, it was finally time for the longtime utility man to make the majors.

Since coming up, Meneses has been a jolt of energy for the Nats, batting .318 with 21 hits and 5 homers. It's clear that he's no Juan Soto, and considering that the Nats also have 34-year-old sophomore Yadiel Hernandez and 41-year-old DH Nelson Cruz, it doesn't set the best example for new rookies, but...he's already a big part of this team, and he's finally achieving his dream of making the show. 

The end could be as fleeting for Meneses as it was for Morris, Greenberg and Coste. But I hope he enjoys every last second of it.

Coming Tomorrow- A power hitter for a team that's burned through a lot of valid choices this year.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Full Circle in Fenway


The Boston Red Sox began the season struggling to stay out of last, then became a 2nd place standout in May and June, and are now back to struggling to stay out of last. It's all cyclical, I suppose.

It's even more cyclical considering that a few years ago, the Sox were blocked from competing because of a lack of pitching. And now, the team is still without Chris Sale, they might be losing Nate Eovaldi to the IL, and they're relying on a lot of nobodies like Kutter Crawford and Brayan Bello to cover important innings. Guys...the ace of the Red Sox right now might just be Nick Pivetta. A year where the team was banking on Tanner Houck, hoping Sale would be back on time, and thinking they'd compete, and just...well, Rich Hill is plan C I guess.

It's just unsettling how many times the Red Sox pitching has just sort of thrown up their arms and shrugged. Garrett Whitlock has been starting games, then since he got back from the IL he's been relieving games, and it's sort of puzzling to me that he was starting games to begin with. Tanner Houck was moved to a closing spot, and now HE'S hurt. Kutter Crawford and Josh Winckowski have essentially been trading off the 5th starting spot. Both Bello and Connor Seabold have fumbled the bag when given a shot outside of AAA. It's...chaos. 

I mean, at the very least there's people like John Schreiber who can come in and do solid relief work despite no one having heard of them. Schreiber is breaking out at 28 after two middling seasons with the Tigers, and he's clearly the best reliever on the team. Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier and Austin Davis are all struggling, Matt Strahm and Hirokazu Sawamura are good but imperfect, and Schreiber has just been impressive as hell, with a 2.39 ERA and 59 Ks. He's not as flashy as, say, Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts, but right now this team can take efficient over flashy if it means staying in the wild card race.

And, yeah, the Sox are still technically in the wild card race, but they're behind the White Sox, who also have a flawed postseason case. They could still catch fire and make this happen, but I fear they'll be in their own way with their pitching woes again.

Coming Tomorrow- Some career minor leaguer who finally made it up in one of the worst markets in baseball and is making news. 

Snake, Rattle and Roll


The best way I can describe the Arizona Diamondbacks this year is 'inert'. They didn't have any truly terrible look, they retained almost all of their strong pieces, but they were just never a real match to compete. So they just kept puttering along, doing their thing, and the rest of the season is kind of going on without them really factoring into things.

It sucks, cause this is actually a pretty decent team. I trust almost all of the lineup with an at-bat, especially now that Jake McCarthy is finally hitting. He, Daulton Varsho, Josh Rojas and Alex Thomas have all stepped up big time this year and make me a bit more confident about what this team will look like going forward. I'm also intrigued by how well Emmanuel Rivera is doing so far. He could definitely be a nice infield depth piece going forward. I still really think the Royals shouldn't have let him go, especially in exchange for someone as inconsequential as Luke Weaver.

The rotation, even with Madison Bumgarner's late-season woes, is also a strong asset. Merrill Kelly and Zac Gallen seem to be sticking around, and they both had amazing seasons. Zach Davies may not be back next year but he's had a strong enough year as an innings-eater. And recently the D-Backs have been enjoying the presence of Tommy Henry, who has a 2-2 record and a 3.57 ERA in 4 starts. Henry, Gallen and Kelly could pave the way for a nice stretch of seasons for this team if they stay this good and this healthy. And yes, they do have Bumgarner for a few more years, even if he's been a bit more spotty recently.

It honestly makes you wish some of the edges of this team weren't so unsanded. There's a lot of messy bullpen pieces, a few young guys who won't hit, and some other minor factors. Carson Kelly has proven that he's a great catcher, but he spent a bit too much time on the IL this year, meaning Jose Herrera had to start a lot of games behind the plate. Mark Melancon can still close games, but apparently not without a high ERA. Nick Ahmed's elite years seemed to have ended. Though, I will admit, getting Christian Walker down from his usual strikeout percentage was a nice touch.

There's still a lot of good things going on for the Diamondbacks, and I'd love for this team to make the most of it, but I don't know if they have enough room to really get there with the NL West being as perpetually crowded as it is. Maybe I'm wrong and they go flying right out of the gate next year, but it's gonna take something huge.

Coming Tonight: In 2020, the pitching held this team back from competing. In 2021, the pitching wasn't an issue. Here is a pitcher I hadn't heard of til a few weeks ago when I had to make customs. Take a wild guess where we're at.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Nevin Can Wait


The Los Angeles Angels. The only team where the only person who's been busted for performance enhancing drugs is the manager, and he ain't helping nobody.

One of my usual laments about the Angels, which carries over to this year, is that they have enough depth 'break glass in case of injury' people that are MEANT to be depth pieces and not play many major roles, and they've been the same for the last few years- Luis Rengifo in the infield, Taylor Ward in the outfield and Jose Suarez in the rotation. These are three players who are meant as reinforcements, as every year the Angels pack their team with so many sure bets and key players to ensure that they don't need to use these players. 

And every year they've had to use them. And this year, all three of them are among the highest earning players on the team. This is not how you're supposed to use depth pieces, Angels. You're supposed to use them for DEPTH.

The Angels have Anthony Rendon, David Fletcher and Matt Duffy on their payroll and they've played 134 games altogether. They signed Jonathan Villar and Tyler Wade for infield depth and neither of them delivered. Any of those players could have either stayed healthy or delivered a key season, and none of them did. Not to completely discredit Luis Rengifo, who's having a great season, but...Rengifo to me has always felt like the last resort, and he's started more games at 2nd than Fletcher. Hell, I don't think the Angels went in with the idea that Andrew Velaszquez would be their starting shortstop. They are 100% working on the fly.

As for Suarez, who has replaced Jaime Barria as the 'well all our starters are injured, let's bring in the next best option' guy for the Angels, is 4-5 in 13 starts. He's certainly not bad, but the Angels went out and got Michael Lorenzen and Noah Syndergaard so they wouldn't have to bank on him, then Lorenzen got hurt and Syndergaard got traded, we are again. Not only is Suarez starting games for the Angels, but other last resort options like Touki Toussaint and Tucker Davidson, in from Atlanta, are picking up starts with middling results. The top four of Ohtani-Sandoval-Detmers-Suarez is decent, but they are very quickly running out of fifth man options.

All I'm saying is it's a good thing that Taylor Ward graduated from last resort to trusted starter this year, because if not it would have been more monotonous failure for these guys. 

I want somebody on the Angels to do something to make people believe that 2023 isn't gonna be another year of the same exact thing happening. I want them to move the pieces to sustain momentum and not crap out by June. I want them to learn from this, because this is the worst one of these uneventful years they've had yet, and it's damning.

Coming Tomorrow- A starting catcher for a team that, at the very least is still full of surprises.

Beg, Borrow and Steel

 The Pittsburgh Pirates currently have NINE major players hitting under the Mendoza line. NINE OF THEM. And one of them is Oneil Cruz, who was thought midway through the year to be one of the people destined to save this team.

That's the unsettling bit. A lot of the people who aren't hitting in Pittsburgh are prospects and people recruited to help the team evolve into its next stage. Bligh Madris, like Cruz, was brought up as a heroic signal of things to come, and now he's hitting .175 with 30 strikeouts and 18 hits. Jack Suwinski was a big part of the first half, with 14 home runs and some great outfield play, but his average dipped under .200 and he hasn't been in the majors in a few months. Nobody who has suited up behind the plate for the Pirates this year has hit over .250. Tyler Heineman and Michael Perez didn't break .200, Roberto Perez was around the 210s, and Jason Delay is at least doing better. 

The team is working with an accumulated batting average of .221. By far the lowest average in the NL, and the second worst average in baseball, only ahead of the Oakland Athletics. Though, at this rate, with all the rookies they've been bringing up getting hot recently, that may change very soon.

The Pirates, for the record, are also in the bottom 5 in terms of accumulated ERA. Honestly, I think they're pitching is close to okay, though. They at least have people like J.T. Brubaker and Mitch Keller who can go several innings and provide results despite the lack of run support. But when it comes to this lineup, which, without Ke'Bryan Hayes, is relying on people like Michael Chavis and Ben Gamel for the bulk of their runs? No wonder Rodolfo Castro had his phone handy last week. 

At this rate, I have no idea when this team will be watchable again. The majority of the team is replacement level, and while there are decent pieces and performances, I don't know how much longer they'll stay in Pittsburgh. Bryan Reynolds and Ke'Bryan Hayes are this team, but Reynolds might be gone in the next year or so, and Hayes, while he's locked up for a while, hopefully won't be the only gun in town for the next decade. 

Coming Tonight: An infielder who is doing his best to keep good news coming through to his team after all the collapses.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

The Great Kansas City Catch-Off


For the first time since 2012, Salvador Perez's status as perennial starting catcher in Kansas City may be in jeopardy.

Perez has missed a bit of time this year due to injury, and he's beginning to be shifted over to DH, but currently is mostly being used as a catcher because A.) Vinnie Pasquantino has a lock on the DH position, and B.) Vinnie Pasquantino isn't playing first much because Nick Pratto has been taking most of his reps at first, and C.) What reps Pratto isn't taking at first, Hunter Dozier is playing first.

Okay. So Salvador Perez is catching. He can still catch. He's still a solid enough defender despite being in his 30s. But...while Perez was gone, the majority of starts at backstop went to rookie MJ Melendez. Melendez is an excellent power bat, and already has 14 homers and 41 RBIs, so he's been a lineup mainstay for a bit. Only problem is he's not a very good defensive catcher, and he's more of a liability there than Perez. But the batting element was enough for the Royals to part with longtime backup Cam Gallagher, who they traded to San Diego, where he is now trapped behind Jorge Alfaro and Austin Nola. 

So now Perez and Melendez are battling for that starting catching spot. On one hand, this should be simple- Perez would be a first team All-2010s catcher if that list would be made today, and he has a chance for Hall of Fame consideration if he has a few more solid years. Meanwhile, Melendez, while an amusing bat, isn't the best catcher on the team. But at the same time, the Royals are trying to reestablish themselves as a younger, rebuilding roster, and having Bobby Witt, Nick Pratto, Michael Massey, Nate Eaton and Vinnie Pasquantino all up and doing well does speak to these future aspirations. Therefore somebody like Melendez fits more in that core than Perez, even though I imagine the Royals plan to use Perez in a veteran role going forward.

But Perez is just having the better season. He's only hitting .224, but he has 17 home runs and 51 RBIs. Yes, his transformation into a power hitter is pretty complete, but he still is a nice fit as a backstop, and he has a higher WAR than any hitter on this team not named Michael Taylor. Injuries in mind, I still think Perez has some more elite years left, and I think there's a way of keeping him around while also fitting Melendez into the equation without resigning oneself to having a bad catcher. 

The Royals still have some things to sort out, but hopefully they get this one right.

Coming Tomorrow- A guy who probably wishes he was hanging out with little leaguers like his old Boston teammates tonight. 

Coop d'etat


You know, a lot of these competitive teams, you have to play the game of 'what is gonna be the takeaway from this season if they don't win enough to matter', and it's hard for some of them. What the hell is the Tigers' takeaway this year? 'That didn't work, Part 11'? What are we gonna say about the 2022 Nationals? 'At least these players from other farm systems are good?'

Suffice to say, I do not have that problem with the 2022 Miami Marlins. As far as bad teams go, this is a pretty good one. I can confidently say that a Cy Young candidate, multiple all-stars and a 30-steal guy came from this team. That is a lot more than most bad teams have.

The one downfall is that a lot of the all-star energy from this team got injured pretty quickly. Jazz Chisholm got his starting ASG gig and wasn't healthy enough to truly enjoy it. Garrett Cooper got a surprise DH appearance at the ASG and then missed, like, a month of play. And then the team is playing without a lot of key players, like Avisail Garcia, Jorge Soler, Trevor Rogers and now Braxton Garrett. Hell, in the time it took for me to slot Cooper back into the schedule after he got activated again, Cooper is now injured AGAIN due to concussion protocol. But I'm not gonna move him again. Look, I've got two other customs I've been holding for months due to injuries, and it looks like I'm finally gonna get to one of them in a week or so. So I'm posting this friggin Cooper one. 

Garrett and Rogers' injuries do clue us into the Marlins' biggest problem at the moment, which is the carousel of low starting candidates. Sandy Alcantara, Jorge Lopez and Jesus Luzardo are all great in those first three spots, it's the rest of the rotation that hasn't been consistent. The good news is that this team finally has Edward Cabrera healthy, and he's been beautiful in all 6 of his starts. But this team has gone through all of Elieser Hernandez, Daniel Castano, Cody Poteet, Max Meyer, Nick Neidert and now Bryan Hoeing in open starting positions. Hoeing just gave up 7 runs against the Dodgers last night, which goes back to my age-old theory, Hoeing ain't easy.

Funnily enough, this problem hasn't spread to the rest of the roster. There's plenty of steady depth options in the lineup, and we've seen people like Nick Fortes, Charles Leblanc, J.J. Bleday, Luke Williams, Peyton Burdick and Jerar Encarnacion provide decent results when thrust into the spotlight. Though they're getting these opportunities due to injuries to veterans, I'm not sure when they'll inherit this team, but hopefully it's soon. I'd be a lot comfier with Nick Fortes catching everyday vs. Jacob Stallings, who is looking more like a backup than he did with Pittsburgh.

So yeah. Tons of takeaways from this team, even if they aren't great. I wish all the non-competitors were like that.

Coming Tonight: I talked last year about this guy could be a future Hall of Famer if we're not careful. This year I still kind of think that, even if he's not catching as frequently. 

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Baltimore Than a Feeling


5 games over .500, down only 2 major players at the deadline, with an incredible defensive infield and a Rookie of the Year candidate. Look at those damned Baltimore Orioles go!

I swear, this O's team has gotten to the point where even people from other countries are wandering in and exclaiming how incredible this team is. A British comedian I follow was apparently in town for an O's game today and was just lauding how excited he is about this team. This is a guy who, like, has BETTER SPORTS TO WATCH AT HOME. And here he is saying 'I say old chap how's about these Baltimore Orioles?'. It puzzles me. One of my favorite British comedians is a diehard Red Sox fan, I'm like 'there's NICER TEAMS IN YOUR VICINITY.'

I mean, I kinda don't blame them, because nobody thought this Orioles team was gonna be anybody, and now they have a better record than the Red Sox team that I was CERTAIN would take the division this year.

What's been great about this Orioles team is that, while the big exclamation point guys like Mullins and Rutschman have been leading the team, there's been a ton of lower-key standouts like Ramon Urias and Jorge Mateo to do underrated work in the field. Urias, in addition to being an excellent defender, has 13 home runs and 44 RBIs. Urias has 27 steals, which is even more than Mullins. Anthony Santander has been slowly building a great season and is working on a 25-homer year. Cionel Perez, Dillon Tate and Felix Bautista have been excellent in relief, and Bautista has been a great 9th inning man. Austin Voth has been a solid fifth starter somehow. Things are just working in all the little places. 

And I really want this team to outdo the odds and make it into a postseason spot, even though it's still pretty unlikely. Yes, there's a chance that a 2022 Orioles postseason run could be short-lived, but...I still want it to happen. It could be the first of many. Adley Rutschman could lead a ton of teams to the postseason just on sheer force of will. This could be the start of something amazing for the Orioles.

So whatever they have right now, I hope they hold onto it.

Coming Tomorrow- A 1st baseman who was traded from two competitors to become a standout in a smaller market.

Knock on Wood


I think we're gonna look back at the 2021 Giants in a bit and it's gonna be clear that Buster Posey was the lynchpin holding that team together. The Giants were mediocre without him in 2020, a 1st place team in his final season, and mediocre again this year. Yes, maybe a few more people present in 2021 but not in 2022 can be held responsible [Kevin Gausman, Donovan Solano, Mauricio Dubon, Darin Ruf's better numbers], may be as simple as these Giants teams are competitive under a solid leader like Buster Posey, and uncompetitive when their other leadership figures, like Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt and Evan Longoria, fail to stay healthy.

The injuries are just a universal thing. Only 3 Giants have played over 100 games- Thairo Estrada, Wilmer Flores and Mike Yastrzemski. Aside from Yaz, not quite 'heart of the order' guys. Crawford, Belt and Longoria are both injury-laden this year and are having past-their-prime seasons. Anthony DeSclafani has been hurt for most of the year, hence the surprisingly solid starting turn by Jakob Junis. And, most hysterically, Matt Boyd has been injured all year and had been such a roster nuisance that the Giants traded him to Seattle without Boyd having played a SINGLE GAME for the Giants. And they threw in Curt Casali, who'd essentially been their starting catcher without Joey Bart's better numbers.

It sucks that all this disarray has happened this year, because generally it was another awesome year for this team's rotation. Logan Webb has cemented his status as a perennial ace, he's 11-6 with a 3.08 ERA. Carlos Rodon is proving his incredible 2021 wasn't a fluke, he's got 179 strikeouts and a 2.89 ERA. Jakob Junis has outdone expectations as the fill-in fifth starter and has a 3.53 ERA. Alex Wood has been having a routinely solid season as a mid-rotation man, he has 119 Ks, though he is the only starter with an ERA higher than 4. And Alex Cobb, while not the standout the others are, still has a 3.99 ERA and is solid enough. It's a strong rotation that deserves a better team, honestly.

I want to think that next year some of the youth options can really take over this team, but we're still waiting on Joey Bart, Luis Gonzalez, Heliot Ramos and David Villar to really provide a sense of comfort in the majors. Bart, to be fair, does have 9 home runs, but he's not the all-around standout that Posey was, and that conflicts with what the scouts were saying. It's clear that this team will get better when some of the older players leave, but some of them are contracted for a little longer and won't give the youth much room. Even with the success of 2021, this Giants team is ultimately blocking its own immediate success, and they need to figure things out before they go back to being a last place team again.

Coming Tonight: I am going to a Yankees game today, but I have no idea if it'll be worth writing about. This team's been letting me down a lot lately. I could write it up. If not, expect a custom of an incredible defensive infielder from one of their rivals.

Friday, August 19, 2022

Lowe Rider


The Texas Rangers. Prior to the season they had the hope to compete. Now they have no Calhoun, no Gray, no playoff chances and no manager. So it's going great.

Look, say what you will about Chris Woodward, I actually thought he had a decent head on his shoulders and was enough of a fit for the Rangers to stick around. I do, however, find it very funny that he lost his job the same week that Tatis got suspended. So he had maybe 3 or 4 days to gloat and then he was out. And they're shaking up most of the team, too, so it's gotta be crazy over there.

The Rangers have thankfully gotten nice seasons out of Corey Seager, Marcus Semien and Adolis Garcia, so it's not all a wash. They've also developed an excellent bullpen thanks to Brock Burke, Joe Barlow, Matt Moore, Brett Martin and Jose Leclerc. And, again, they've gotten such amazing material out of Martin Perez that it's a wonder they let him go in the first place. Unlike the Cubs, a lot of this is contracted stuff that can be built off with the rise of a strong youth movement.

And we're sort of beginning to see that movement come up? Ezequiel Duran and Josh Smith have been up, and they've both taken to the majors pretty comfortably. Smith's average is down but he and Duran have been a fun rookie platoon at third base. Nate Lowe is a pretty steady power bat at 1st, and is having more playing time than he ever did in Tampa. Jonah Heim is the starting catcher, he's a key part of the team. They have this rookie named Bubba Thompson who can hit for contact. I honestly missed having a major leaguer named Bubba. What a country. And Cole Ragans has started 3 games for the Rangers. He's not 100% acclimated to MLB pitching yet, but I reckon he will be soon enough. Ragans, Otto, Dunning and Alexy is a strong little core of starters.

Also...Kohei Arihara is still on this team? Why did I think they DFA'd him at the end of last year? I guess Arihara's still here. He was alright in his first start back. I get the sense he's gonna eventually Kei Igawa his way out of the leagues, but I understand the Rangers' point of view, it worked perfectly well the first time.

There's a lot of messiness on this Rangers team, but I do think these pieces are gonna form the next decade of Rangers baseball, and I do think they'll be a competitive nuisance within a few short years. Won't that be fun for me to cover on here.

Coming Tomorrow- A mid-level starter who really thought his team would be more competitive than it was this year.

Steele Away


I'll say this about this newest Cubs rebuild- almost all of the key players on this Cubs team are actual Cubs farm products. 

Yes, the 2016 World Series team relied upon a ton of homegrown talent, but it's easy to forget that the key piece of that team, Anthony Rizzo, was a player drafted by the Red Sox, traded to San Diego in the Adrian Gonzalez deal, and then traded to the Cubs in the Andrew Cashner deal. The cornerstone of this current iteration of the team for right now is Willson Contreras, who was a Cubs product. As it's likely he'll bounce after this, that right may fall to Nico Hoerner, who was also a Cubs product. And right now, the big rookies, such as Justin Steele, Christopher Morel, P.J. Higgins and, yes, Seiya Suzuki, all came up in the Cubs system.

So at least you can say that. The Cubs may not be doing great right now, but most of what's working is homegrown. In fact, the biggest disappointments of the season, like Marcus Stroman, Andrelton Simmons, Jonathan Villar and, eternally, Jason Heyward, are all contracted players. I know it may still be a few more years before the Cubs come back and compete, but at the very least this season is proving that the farm system can produce gems to refill the team. 

Now, it hasn't helped too much, as the team is still well under .500 with little to no chance of making the playoffs, but these farm pieces have been putting a bit more confidence into a shaky lineup. Justin Steele has come forward as a breakout starter, with a 3.43 ERA and a team leading 111 strikeouts in a full season in the rotation. It's honestly pretty rare for a guy that a team takes a flyer on out of camp to be such a backbone in a rotation, but I'm glad the Cubs accomplished it with Steele. They also lucked out with Keegan Thompson, who's mostly picked up where his 2021 left off, with a 9-5 record and 88 Ks. And Nico Hoerner's been having a fantastic season, giving the Cubs reassurance that he can carry the team going forward.

And...honestly, some of the fill-ins aren't too bad either. Drew Smyly's finally achieved something of ratedness, in between his overrated seasons in Tampa and Detroit and his underrated seasons in Philly and Atlanta. And Franmil Reyes already has 11 hits and 2 homers as a Cub, because of course he does.

This is not a good Cubs team, and isn't gonna be remembered, but I definitely see them setting up the dominoes for a future run. May not be for a bit, but this isn't as dire as a lot of rebuilding teams.

Coming Tonight: He got some playing time with the Rays, now he's a trusted corner infield bat with the Rangers.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Sox to be You


You's really hard for a team to have a serious postseason attempt when they get 21 runs scored against them. 

I don't care if it's against the Astros, who have an offense that is rightfully feared by most teams. Dropping 21 points to ANY TEAM is not good. And for those runs to come against Lucas Giolito, who used to be such a great pitcher but mysteriously stopped being good around the time umpires started checking for tack, seems like more of an insult. The White Sox banked so much on Giolito being their ace, much like they banked on Lance Lynn being healthy, and both have let them down this year. 

I do want to say that the Astros scoring 5 runs off of Vince Velasquez is something I did see coming. It's kind of his thing. 

What's very funny is that the one White Sox pitcher today to allow the fewest amount of earned runs is the guy at the head of this post. Infielder extraordinaire Josh Harrison. As documented by Topps in their 'pressed into service' insert set a while back, Harrison has pitched before. He's...a position player for a reason, but he could always be an option. He gave up 4 earned runs today, which makes him an ace in comparison. Nothing even remotely close to Darin Ruf, who shut down the Braves the other night when no other Mets pitcher could, but...he did the trick.

Forget that the White Sox were actually doing well pretty recently. Forget that Dylan Cease, Johnny Cueto and Michael Kopech have been excellent starters this year. Forget that Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez, Yoan Moncada and Yasmani Grandal are all healthy right now. If you're gonna give up 21 runs, you need to seriously look into how you're doing things. And...the White Sox still refuse to let Tony LaRussa off the hook, even if he is clearly one of the sources of the troubles this year. I thought LaRussa was wrong for this team the second he signed, and I think that any of the guys who HAVE lost their jobs so far this season, including Chris Woodward, Joe Girardi, Joe Maddon or Charlie Montoyo, would be better fits for it. Even Girardi. 

This is actually a decent White Sox team, and they've made a lot of strides since the All-Star break to get back up the wild card ladder, but...this was never supposed to be a Wild Card team. This team was supposed to be a division competitor like they were last year, and thanks to injuries, banking on the wrong guys, and, cough, MANAGERIAL WOES, it hasn't happened. The Wild Card race is getting awful crowded, and with 21-5 losses like today's, it's become less and less likely for the White Sox. It's gonna take something incredible for them to catch up. Not impossible, try getting past the Orioles right now.

Coming Tomorrow- A young, homegrown Cubs pitcher.

Deck the Hall


Okay. So we can no longer play this game with Tatis and San Diego, so let's play this with Philly. The Philadelphia Phillies have been excellent since the All-Star Break. They played the deadline very smartly, have gotten 3 strong starts out of Noah Syndergaard, have been reaping the benefits of this rotation, have Edmundo Sosa making web gems all over, and have Rhys Hoskins, Darick Hall and now Nick Castellanos all hot as hell. 

In a couple weeks, Bryce Harper is going to come back. And they're going to get even better. 

There. I can say that because Harper's not gonna do something stupid like take the wrong medicine for something. Worst he can do is re-injure the thumb, I like to think Harper's smarter than that but I also don't know a lot of stuff. I just know that Harper's been incredible all year, even in the DH position, and getting him back for the stretch might make us a playoff team again. 

I also just think about what the lineup's done without him, and I'm just thrilled. This was the season where we needed Rhys Hoskins to step up after 2 years of missing time with injuries, and he totally has, with 26 home runs and 59 RBIs. I've worried about his ability to live up to the hype of his rookie season, and he's finally proven himself to be a solid, reliable star player, and it's about time. Darick Hall has also been filling the DH position admirably, with 9 homers and 16 RBIs in 35 games. It's also nice to finally have the lineup security of people like Castellanos, Realmuto, Nick Maton, Alec Bohm [defensive errors notwithstanding] and Garrett Stubbs, who got in on the fun the other night with a massive homer. 

Plus, I just feel really confident about this pitching staff. I know the bullpen usually burns us because...I dunno, something in the air, but this bullpen has been really nice so far. Seranthony Dominguez is delivering 2019 levels of dominance, and I'm happy to see it. Brad Hand, though not quite the closer he was, is still pretty strong in middle relief. Connor Brogdon has been an understated menace for opposing offenses. And now we have David Robertson, who is healthier, stronger and more thoughtful than he was during his last stint in Philly. Robertson already has 2 saves and hasn't allowed a run yet, he's a solid solution to the closing pitching problem that has plagued this team for a while. 

I know there are still worrying details, like the outfield defense issues, and little things like dropping a game to Cincinnati yesterday, but I feel better about this team than I have about a lot of recent Phillies teams. If anyone has a chance of breaking the drought, it's these guys, though the Brewers, Braves and Padres certainly won't make it easy for them.

Coming Tonight: He's played everywhere in the last few years, but now he's determined to help his current team sneak into the playoff picture.