Friday, June 30, 2023

One Month Bader


So...Yanks without Aaron Judge. How we looking? Not...terrible, but there's clearly a palpable difference.

Like the 2019 season, the rent-a-Yanks are out in full force, with technical replacement level choices doing the best they can to fill big roles. The best of these so far has been Billy McKinney, the former Yankee farmhand whose return to the Bronx has resulted in 7 RBIs and 4 homers in 18 games. Willie Calhoun has somehow become a fan favorite, with 16 RBIS and 5 homers in 44 games, though ironically he's been injured as well. Jake Bauers even has 6 homers and 16 RBIs, and he's been a genuinely impressive power bat, even if he's not, like, the solution or anything. 

Of everyone to help pump up the Yanks in Judge's absence, the most successful has been Harrison Bader. I lamented Cashman's decision to give up Jordan Montgomery last year, but Bader has been everything we've wanted. Excellent defensive centerfielder, sneaky power bat, he's got 33 hits in 35 games. Bader has been the central piece of this team since coming back, and the team's still done fairly well since. Rizzo's dimmed a little but he still has 37 RBIs. Volpe's figured out the hitting bit and has 16 steals at the moment. Stanton and Donaldson are good for big dumb power. Everything's sort of settling around Bader, and it's been pretty satisfying to see him succeed like this. I'm still hopeful that Judge's return will build on this, and Bader will still succeed this year even with Judge having higher benchmarks, but it's good to have a solid force of good powering this team.

There's been lots of other success stories coming from this team, like Tommy Kahnle forgetting to allow any runs in his first 11 games, or Michael King becoming a surprisingly adept ninth inning man in addition to his long work, or Ian Hamilton and Nick Ramirez's continued solid stuff in relief, or gee I dunno somebody just pitched a perfect game the other night. We're still 9 games above .500, in a palpable enough position behind Baltimore, and not bleeding as much as we were. It's really gonna help once we start getting people back, especially the pitchers. Severino, German and Schmidt are doing fine, but the absence of Cortes, Rodon and Montas is very evident right now. Having to grab Jhony Brito or Randy Vazquez every so often and hope they're ready tonight is not the ideal fifth starter strategy, but they seem to be getting it.

This isn't the overwhelming Yankee success that we saw last year, but there's a lot of good in this team, and there's still promise even amid the injuries. I'm seeing this team like twice in the next month, and hopefully some of that will come through.

Coming Tomorrow- He's young, he's lanky, and he strikes people out.

On the All-Star Starters: Regional at Best


This is Will Smith. He's not the NL's starting catcher for this year's All Star Game. Honestly, he should be.

The one downside of the fan voting for ASG starters in the past decade or so is that regional bandwagoning shakes up what could be a clear picture of the first half of the season. In 2015, all of Missouri banded together to shoot almost all of their starters to the top of the leaderboards, and since then regional bias has multiplied the cases of serviceable-at-best teams. While I will admit that a lot of this bandwagoning wouldn't exactly happen to bad teams, they can definitely happen to less than ASG-worthy seasons. Robbie Grossman came higher in the ASG voting this year than several outfielders I voted for, and it's solely because Rangers fans went crazy at the polls. I haven't seen Texans so quick to defend mediocrity since...well, since the last gubernatorial election. But I digress.

And though the four-day 'final vote' process did curtail some bandwagoning, as several Braves starters were outdone in several spots this week despite ruling the preliminaries, it only helps so much. By the end of round one, you're stuck with two choices for several positions that are either the result of regional bandwagoning or a star who's having a good but not classic season. I can't vote for Juan Soto or Fernando Tatis, but I can vote for Lourdes Gurriel. And my choice at NL SS is between a very okay Francisco Lindor season or Orlando Arcia, who's having a great season but is a very risky pick for 'best shortstop in the NL' considering that Willy Adames, Dansby Swanson and Gerardo Perdomo also exist. 

So all of this in mind, we're left with a group of ASG starters that are valid picks but odd answers for questions that I thought ability itself had already made certain. 

As we wait three extra days for the rest of the rosters, which is yet another step in the direction of infuriating that these ASG roster reveals have taken since some MLB asshole decided that just posting the rosters online was too simple, I'll record my thoughts on the starting lineups as they stand at the moment.

C: Jonah Heim, Texas Rangers. I voted for Adley Rutschman. Rutschman seemed like the more logical choice. Not that Heim's not having the better season. I just take ASG voting very literally, and Rutschman is the STAR there. Heim is fine, and is a perfectly valid pick, it just caught me off guard.
1B: Yandy Diaz, Tampa Bay Rays. The most flagrant victim of the Blue Jays fans not showing up for the final vote. It's honestly infuriating. They got these guys into the final round but were clobbered at every position in this vote. I voted for Vladdie here, but Yandy got the edge, probably just for having the more dominant first half.
2B: Marcus Semien, Texas Rangers. The only Rangers starter I actually voted for that made it on. Semien's having an incredible year, why bet against him?
SS: Corey Seager, Texas Rangers. I voted for Bo every chance I got. Seager's a good choice too, I'm glad he's figured it out in Arlington.
3B: Josh Jung, Texas Rangers. Another shocker, as I voted for Chapman. Jung's rookie numbers definitely speak for themselves, as does the overwhelming Texas vote tallies. I'm just glad they didn't show up as much in Houston.
OF: Aaron Judge, New York Yankees. As valid as this pick is, the business with his toe is making me worried he's not gonna make the game, meaning this actual good pick is gonna be upended by Dusty Baker pulling some asinine replacement pick like Kyle Tucker. 
OF: Randy Arozarena, Tampa Bay Rays. I voted for Adolis Garcia here, mostly cause I like him better, but Randy's for real, and he deserves it.
OF: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels. Duh.
DH: Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels. Duh.

C: Sean Murphy, Atlanta Braves. Though the Braves' bandwagoning died down tremendously during the final vote, they did come through for Murph, which is funny because he's one of the few Braves I didn't consciously vote for. I thought Will Smith was the more logical choice, and at the very least he deserves to be a reserve member. Murph's still awesome this year, so I get it.
1B: Freddie Freeman, Los Angeles Dodgers. I think everybody felt bad he didn't get on last year. Deserves the hell out of it though. 
2B: Luis Arraez, Miami Marlins. An out-of-left-field choice I wholeheartedly approve of. Dude's chasing .400, he'd OUGHT to be here. Also weird that we've had two straight 2B Marlins starters, and it's two different guys but they're both still on this team. 
SS: Orlando Arcia, Atlanta Braves. Baffling. Extremely baffling. But as I've said, I sorta get it.
3B: Nolan Arenado, St. Louis Cardinals. Easy choice. There's injury rumors so it's not certain he'll make the game, but he's a forgone conclusion for 3rd at the ASG anyhow.
OF: Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta Braves. Yeah, like I'm disputing this. Especially this year.
OF: Corbin Carroll, Arizona Diamondbacks. See above. The shoulder injury worries me a little, but the team seems to be optimistic. I hope he doesn't miss the game, he's from Seattle after all.
OF: Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers. Another easy one. 
DH: J.D. Martinez, Los Angeles Dodgers. This one I still don't understand. J.D. Martinez is only having an okay season. So is Bryce Harper, but...Arenado still got on while putting up 'okay' numbers, why not Harper too? Is it because he's not at full Harper yet cause he's still DHing? I think that after all the ASGs JD has started, it sort of makes sense, but...I don't see why Harper didn't dominate this vote. 

This is at least a solid start, but several of these picks come off like fans with diehard allegiances were able to overlook mediocrity in favor of brand loyalty. I think a lot of these guys could earn this distinction if their full seasons keep impressing me, but a lot of these picks I have to squint to understand.

Full rosters on Sunday night. No shenanigans please, this time. Rob, let the managers put up who they want, put your silly suggestions away.

Coming Tonight: In Judge's absence, one of the highlights of the Yankee lineup.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Mickey Finally Shows Up


2023 has been an excellent season for latent #1 overall picks. Recent #1 overall picks have been doing well too, Adley Rutschman and Henry Davis are certainly getting their fair share of publicity, and Jackson Holliday's already burning up the minors, but the ones that took a while to find their footing in the bigs are also making waves this year. Dansby Swanson has finally hit his prime and the Cubs are loving what he's been putting up for them. Royce Lewis is finally healthy, and he's been an excellent addition to a Twins squad that's needed his help. Matt Bush, 19 years after being drafted, is still on an active MLB roster and is still a decent enough relief piece.

And then there's Mickey Moniak, a guy who most Phillies fans wrote off a few years back when he didn't make the majors immediately like they thought he would. Moniak struggled with injuries throughout his development period, and right when it seemed like centerfield was his, Moniak gets injured and the team has to resort to Odubel Herrera again. Then, even as Moniak was still a multi-faceted outfield piece, the team dealt him in exchange for, essentially, a trustier centerfield piece in the form of Brandon Marsh. 

However, the Angels currently have the better record and are closer to first, so Moniak gets the last laugh.

As the Angels have come back into their own, so has Mickey Moniak. Since coming up from AAA, Moniak has a .314 average, 7 home runs and 20 RBIs, and that's just in 30 games. Moniak was also a very big piece of the offensive barrage in Denver earlier this week, being responsible for a nice slice of the pile-on alongside Trout, Ohtani and all the usual suspects. Moniak is a good outfielder with power perks and contact abilities. It's nice that this has all fallen into place at 25; there's a lot of 21 year olds burning up the leagues right now, but with the way development has wound up lately, having shorter MLB careers and later development periods is more welcome, and more common than someone like Juan Soto bursting onto the scene at 19.

Moniak has been a great help to the Angels' outfield, but at the current moment the infield is the piece of this team that's gone through the most retooling. With Rendon and Neto hurt and Jared Walsh in the minors, the only pieces of this infield to survive were Brandon Drury and Luis Rengifo, and Drury at the very least was doing well. This is why both Eduardo Escobar and Mike Moustakas had to be carted in from other markets, as they needed some level of experience to make this infield work. Escobar joined the team just in time to help out with the rout against the Rockies. Moustakas joined the team DURING the rout against the Rockies. The timing makes it look like he defected. Both are hitting very well in initial games in Anaheim, but we'll see if they have legs beyond that. Also, Andrew Velasquez is back up and he's doing what he usually does, excellent defense without a great deal of hitting.

The Angels are still a contender, but they've been lapped by the Astros in the last 24 hours, and have to play the D-Backs and Padres this week while they're both still relatively hot. I really hope they can hold onto their positive momentum and keep a hand on second place til at least the ASG break. They're more fun than the alternative creeping up to compete.

Coming Tomorrow- As I'm writing this we're not sure whether or not he nailed the starting catcher position for the NL, but if so it's about time. 

Zeroes Across the Board


On occasion, whenever I know I have a ballgame attendance on the way, I like to check the ESPN schedule to see if they have the pitching matchup posted yet. In a week and a half I'm catching a game in the Bronx against the Cubs, I wanted to see who we'd be getting. So yesterday afternoon I checked.

As of that very moment, it was looking like the matchup will be Domingo German, who I saw pitch a few months ago, vs. Drew Smyly, who I saw pitch for the PHILLIES back in 2019. Dupes, I thought. Two guys I'd seen pitch already, and one I'd already seen pitch this year. Sometimes seeing someone pitch twice in the same year is cool, I saw two Zack Wheeler starts last year and I'm not especially complaining. But German has been inconsistent and streaky all year, already got caught using tack, and I was worried it'd be more of the same.

Alright, fine, I thought. German it is.

...and then I checked the Yanks score around 11ish last night and my jaw dropped. Was this the same Domingo German we'd been dealing with all year?? How on earth was he doing this. Part of me didn't want to jinx the perfection that #0 was working with through seven...but I just had to know. How on earth could DOMINGO GERMAN, who'd struggled in his last two starts, be dealing like this? Yes, it was against the Oakland A's, but that doesn't always lead to a rout. Earlier this year, Jordan Diaz hit two home runs against us even during a blowout. The previous night, Sean Blackburn and the gang held us to one run. And now with Domingo German on the mound, they weren't doing anything.

I watched every A's at-bat in the next two innings with fingers crossed. If something this inexplicable could start happening, it had to see itself through. The eighth ended without a hit. Then after the Yanks added even more insurance in the ninth, it was down to the 25th, 26th and 27th outs. And part of me was nervous, even if, again, this was the 2023 Oakland A's. Even the last out, where Esteury Ruiz got up, I got a little nervous. Yes, he can't hit, but this is the exact kind of guy that could get us. And German I kept worrying was gonna get tired and do something silly.

But somehow, German tucked the last out away and Oakland exploded. I was in shock. Pumped as hell, yeah, but shocked. How on earth does Domingo German achieve perfection? It's never always the most iconic players that throw perfect games; Dallas Braden and Phillip Humber did theirs. But I'd seen German struggle in multiple scenarios, and yet he sustained perfection through nine on the road. Absolutely incredible.

I don't know what version of German we're gonna get in a week and a half when I catch a game, but hopefully there's more good things on the way. 

A Word on Journeymen


It's always fascinated me that there's still a lot of cases of players that are clearly good and consistent, but end up on a different team every year because they're more likely to be signed to a one year deal. Some of these guys, like Hunter Renfroe or Jesse Winker, are just flipped to different teams every year with the promise of solid power numbers. I loved this back in the day where it'd be almost like a game to see who someone like Kenny Lofton, Cameron Maybin or Nori Aoki got to suit up for.

It's still kinda like that for Wade Miley. Since entering the league with the Diamondbacks in 2011, the longest he's ever played for one team was the four years he had with Arizona; he's never had more than 2 seasons with a club since. And it's not that he's unreliable, either--Miley, pre-injuries, was routinely able to make all 30 starts with a team, and was a solid innings eater for both uncompetitive teams like the Mariners and Orioles as well as competitive teams like the 2018 Brewers and the 2019 Astros. Miley went from being a struggling late option for the Reds to leading their rotation post-Bauer and giving them a no-hitter without throwing especially hard. 

I feel bad that he's been so snakebitten in the past few years, because Miley, like Rich Hill, is a durable, reliable guy to have starting games for you. He's not flashy, he's not overpowering, there isn't much fear that he's gonna blow out his arm or anything [though, again, post-2021 his arm's been a bit more bothersome]. He just shows up, gets his innings in, doesn't give up a ton of runs, and leaves. With all the strikeout artists and throw-as-hard-as-you-can guys that have seemed to dominate the league, it's refreshing that somebody like Miley can still be a useful piece for a competitor like the Brewers.

Miley's 2023 stuff is still pretty good, he's 5-2 with a 2.91 ERA and a 1.025 WHIP. Numbers ironically on par with the last time he was a Brewer, back in 2018. Like 2018, he's missed a few games, but unlike 2018 he's been healthy and trustworthy when several great Brewers arms have been hurt, and that counts for a lot for this team. Having unlikely innings eaters like Miley, Julio Teheran and Colin Rea keep the momentum going in the absence of actual rotation icons like Peralta and Woodruff is an unexpected pro for this team. Plus, now that Peralta's back and Adrian Houser seems to be getting better, the depth can settle and form a wild-but-reliable rotation to last this team through the rest of the year.

The Brewers aren't as top-heavy as they used to be, it's currently just down to the stars, Yelich, Adames and Burnes. A lot of the other guys aren't really showing up to that extent. This is a good RBI team but not a great contact team, which is a contrast from earlier incarnations. With the division being so out of whack, the Brewers may still triumph at the end of the day, being the team that's honestly been the least disappointing of all of them, but you never know how long this Reds rebellion will last.

Coming Tonight: The Phillies got tired of waiting. Apparently if they'd hung on just a little bit longer, some of this could have been theirs.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Correa Opportunities


So, just for comparison's sake:

San Francisco middle infield: Thairo Estrada's having his best season to date, while Casey Schmitt is giving a decent audition for shortstop once Brandon Crawford retires.

Mets middle infield: Lindor and McNeil are having ASG-caliber seasons, Luis Guillorme is a solid backup.

Minnesota middle infield: Jorge Polanco is hurt, Edouard Julien is a solid offensive 2nd baseman with no defense, Kyle Farmer's taking the majority of reps at 2nd but isn't quite there yet, Royce Lewis is exactly what the Twins want in a shortstop and has no playing time there, and Carlos Correa is barely much of a lynchpin for it all, with decent enough defensive numbers and a .212 average. 

It's...kinda odd that of all of these teams, it kinda looks like the one that got Carlos Correa was the one that needed him the least amount. Not that the Mets and Giants had complete gaping holes at short, they just had more moveable pieces. Right now, there's a #1 draft pick shortstop that is trying to succeed on the Twins, and it's not Carlos Correa. Royce Lewis is actually up and healthy, hitting .333 with 14 RBIs and 4 homers in 23 games, and the Twins are kinda shrugging and going 'well how about this other guy we signed for 6 years?' 

It's a move that's looking more and more hare-brained in hindsight. Not because of some unforeseeable medical issue that kept scaring the Giants and Mets, but because...2023 Carlos Correa is not 2017 Carlos Correa. Back then he was one of the best shortstops in baseball, was multi-faceted, could give you insane defense as well as superior contact hitting, and was just another piece of a very close-knit competitive team. Now that Correa's alone, without a lot of likeminded peers from the same farm system, he doesn't stand out as much. Or, moreover, he stands out even more when he's not doing well, which is right now. Byron Buxton, Ryan Jeffers, and the bulk of the pitching is all pulling their weight, and Correa was signed to be a marquee star that'd keep doing what made him a hero in 2022. And yet here we are. The magic's worn off. 

Or, y'know, it's tougher being on a team that doesn't cheat.

The Twins are barely hanging onto a thin lead over the Guardians, and could lose it as soon as tomorrow. If Correa was actually playing well, I don't know if it'd be that close. The Twins are certainly outpitching the competition, but this lineup pales in comparison to early incarnations, and has too many fall guys, including Correa. It may get better, and the Twins may still end up winning this division, but it's gonna take a lot of big pieces suddenly falling into place.

Coming Tomorrow- Guy's played for eight teams in the last decade, and he's just getting around to repeats.

Arcia Next Month?


Orlando Arcia this year is one of those mind-bogglingly confusing things where I'm just gonna have to admit that I'm the problem. I don't get it. It doesn't make sense. I'm perplexed and confused and I have no idea how and why this has happened.

Here is what I know. I know that Orlando Arcia came up with the Brewers as a decent middle infielder, had a great full season in 2017 and was valued as a member of the Brewers' infield until the exact moment where his offensive abilities fell off a cliff. For a couple of years, despite Arcia's excellent defensive abilities at short, he was essentially dead weight in Milwaukee, a lot like Keston Hiura would turn out to be. And like Hiura, Arcia limped off the Brewers' roster a few years after the rookie explosion. He settled in Atlanta, and became a perfectly serviceable middle infield utility man, helping them out in times of injuries to Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson. Last year he actually posted decent numbers, but again, was mostly used in utility roles.

This season, the Braves were going into the year with a hole in the infield, and two potential young options to replace Swanson, those being Vaughn Grissom, who had an excellent rookie campaign last year, and Brayden Shewmake, who was cooking up excellent numbers in Spring Training. And yet neither of them made the team, because higher on the depth chart, as well as higher in seniority and experience, was Orlando Arcia. 

For a little while, I was getting flashbacks to Doc Rivers starting DeAndre Jordan over Paul Reed, as 'he's the one who's supposed to be there right now'. I had yet to see what exactly Orlando Arcia was working with in order to inspire such confidence in Brian Snitker, whose judgment I was also perplexed by last All-Star season [again for the western audience, RYAN HELSLEY??]. The season started and I began to get it, as through Arcia's first 13 games, he hit .333 with 15 hits and 7 RBIs. He was one of the best hitters in Atlanta through their first few weeks.

Then he got injured, Grissom and Shewmake came up, and I sort of figured that would be the rest of the year. But nope. 21 days later he was back and continued exactly what he was doing before the injury. He's currently hitting .314 with 64 hits and 26 RBIs. We are finally at the point where Arcia is as good defensively as he is as a hitter, and it's happened with a team that took a chance on him and let him germinate at the exact right time. 

So all of this I understand. It's a little baffling that he's finding it now and blocking the kids, but it's an intriguing story that I'm kinda happy with. What's baffling to me is that he's currently getting more ASG votes than Francisco Lindor, who to me is the more logical of the two SS options remaining. In a division with shortstops such as Willy Adames, Dansby Swanson, Ha-Seong Kim, Bryson Stott and Matt McLain, having the option of just Lindor or Arcia is a bit shortsighted, but of the two, one is a league star and one is just having a really nice season. Because this is the Braves, 'having a nice season' translates to 'WE'RE GONNA FIGHT FOR OUR BOY TIL THE BREAK OF DAWN'. Which is refreshing.

It's odd, because Ozzie Albies, Matt Olson, Michael Harris and Austin Riley all aren't doing as well in the voting through a day or so, and Arcia has a commanding lead over Lindor. Which is wild. I'm fine with the occasional inspired pick for the ASG, which this is looking like it'll be, but...I'm still baffled over all of this. I don't know if this means he's found it or he's going to go back to normal next year, or if it's just a sign of how well the Braves have been doing. I genuinely have no idea. This defies all logic to me, and I don't know if I ever will understand it.

I kinda hope he keeps it up. Maybe not for Grissom and Shewmake's sake, but, y'know...the A's can never have enough former Braves prospects, maybe Shewmake's the next one up.

Coming Tomorrow- Mets, Giants, take a look at what you could have won..

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Saint Repeat


The Rays are 5-5 in their last 10. After their immense start, they've leveled slightly. Don't get me wrong, they've still had extremely high highs, and are still running on great seasons by Wander Franco, Randy Arozarena and Shane McClanahan, but the April Rays were untouchable. The June Rays can get toppled by the A's or the Padres. 

It's not terribly surprising. Every great start can lead to a conscious leveling, and it's never stopped a great team cold. Last year the red-hot Yankees cooled down in July, yet still kept momentum enough to get to an ALCS, which to these teams is basically as good as winning a World Series, I suppose. The Phillies were level for most of last year, and most of this year, before they took off. A lot of this easier-going momentum does put some of the pressure off of the Rays, and allows them to still look dignified while losing games. April Rays couldn't get away with that. The first few losses were very much met with '[GASP] THE MIGHTY HAVE FALLEN', forgetting that momentum is fickle in baseball, and teams get hot and cold all the time.

Right now the Rays are still in a good spot, ahead of the AL East with enough of a cushion to keep the Orioles from lapping them for now. McClanahan is in danger of joining Rasmussen, Springs and Baz on the IL, and they're hoping he figures things out. McClanahan has proven himself worthy of the ace status in Tampa, even as Tyler Glasnow still exists on this team. Without him, they're not in AWFUL shape, but it could be better. Glasnow, Taj Bradley, Zach Eflin and Yonny Chirinos all have low enough ERAs, and it seems like the next starting option could be Luis Patino, who...admittedly hasn't looked great at all. With the Rays' luck, they'll get through it with relievers and openers and the usual smoke and mirrors stuff they do.

The usual barrage of loaned hitters is still working for the Rays as well. Isaac Paredes is having another great season, with 50 RBIs and 13 home runs. Yandy Diaz is hitting .316 and looking like he might start an All-Star Game over Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Jose Siri has 14 homers, which is a team high. Luke Raley has become an inexplicably good bench bat, with 12 homers to his name so far. Even Harold Ramirez is hitting .297 with 34 RBIs. Everybody in the lineup has 30+ RBIs save for Brandon Lowe, who is injured, and Christian Bethancourt. 6 of these guys are hitting over .250. The contact mentality is succeeding, the defense is succeeding, and the Rays are still looking very good.

I'm a little less harsh on the Rays. Most of the people who stirred shit up last year are playing lesser roles in this team, or are injured. The Rays' Pride Night seemed to go off without a hitch. And we've got a guy on this team who's a noted spokesman for autism awareness, as Harold Ramirez is his kid's biggest cheerleader. I can't...completely hate this team as much as I used to. Doesn't mean I want them to win, I just...rank them a little higher than Houston now.

Coming Tomorrow- There's a ton of Braves up for starting ASG spots, and somehow THIS GUY might be the most likely of them all to start the game.

Monday, June 26, 2023

Ketel One


There are currently two more Arizona Diamondbacks on the ASG final vote roster than I thought there would be in April.

Looking at this team, even as they did well, I saw some good things from Corbin Carroll, but not 'potentially starting at the ASG' good. And I figured we'd see a different side of Lourdes Gurriel in Phoenix, but I didn't think both the D-Backs fans AND the Blue Jays fans would rally behind him during the voting period. Even if it's unlikely they're both gonna start the game, and that it's probably going to be Carroll if anybody [at least that's who I voted for], the fact that these Diamondbacks have two people that the masses decided were in the conversation of the best in baseball is pretty cool.

But hey, we're living in a world with 1st place Diamondbacks, carrying three of the best players in baseball. So maybe it's not that strange.

Those three, for the record, are Carroll, Ketel Marte, who currently has a 3.3 WAR, and Zac Gallen who remains one of the best pitchers in the game. And even then, there's still people like Geraldo Perdomo, Merrill Kelly, Christian Walker and Lourdes Gurriel who are having excellent seasons and are still just very good players. There is depth on this team that you wouldn't have expected. Josh Rojas, the supposed third baseman, isn't cutting it so with his demotion, there's room for Emmanuel Rivera to start and Evan Longoria to take some reps at third while also occasionally DHing. Gurriel and Carroll have two OF spots down, and all of Alek Thomas, Jake McCarthy and Pavin Smith have been trading off for the other one. Drey Jameson is peeping in as a sixth option for a rotation that's settled but not ironclad yet. Carson Kelly's back but is trading off politely behind the plate with Gabriel Moreno. All this depth is fantastic, and proves how many legs this team has now.

That Ketel Marte is still here to see it is also pretty awesome. Marte had his incredible 2019 year that got HIM a starting 2B spot on the NL all-star team, and while he's been good since then, I did worry that he'd peak then and end up supplementing another team's playoff run at some point. But no, Marte's hung in there, and he's having another awesome season, hitting .294 with 42 RBIs and 14 home runs, as well as leading all non-Carroll D-Backs in OPS with .890. He might even sneak onto the ASG squad in some capacity, that is unless Rob Thomson just goes with the 2nd place finishers like Snitker did last year. I'm glad he's playing well, and I hope he keeps it up.

What's satisfying about the Diamondbacks is that they're much more than simply Carrollmania, and they have so many excellent pieces that are keeping them in the conversation. It's an outcome I'm glad is happening now, even if I swore they were still a few more years away. With the Dodgers and Giants approaching, it'll be interesting to see if they can hold onto this lead through July.

Coming Tomorrow- I love how the Rays will just give people a try as if they're not gonna completely revitalize their careers with them. Oh, let's see if this infield guy we got from Detroit works out, ya never know, right?

Gray Days


The good news is Jon Gray was able to get out of a loss against the Yankees while still keeping his ERA low. Because all it took to sink the Rangers the other day was one run from, of all people, Billy McKinney.

Jon Gray is one of the many veterans handing the Rangers great seasons this year, even as Jacob deGrom sits for the rest of the year [as I predicted he would when they signed him]. Gray has been a solid, consistent fireballer his whole career, never being an overwhelming standout but never completely disappointing people either. He was solid with the Rockies, and was the high-strikeout antithesis to German Marquez's low-ERA mentality. Gray's first year with Texas was alright. 4 ERA, 7-7 record. Even if expectations were relatively high, his season was lost in the shuffle of the full team's struggles.

With a better team, Gray's strengths are more evident. He's currently 6-3 with a 2.89 ERA and only 69 strikeouts. This is a Gray that's a little more careful on how hard he throws, but is equally aware of placement and mechanics. This is a smarter, less-overpowered Jon Gray, and he still fits in very well in this rotation. Gray is a strong piece of an already-strong rotation, as Nate Eovaldi, Dane Dunning, Andrew Heaney and Martin Perez are all putting in solid work. DeGrom did what he did, as he was thought to, and Jake Odorizzi hit the IL immediately upon signing, but those solid five have been everything the Rangers have wanted them to be, pure innings-eaters with consistent, admirable work that doesn't give a lot of room for the less-satisfying bullpen to mess things up.

And yet that's kinda where we've been at with this Rangers team lately. They're still strong, and they still have enough players capable of whapping balls to kingdom come, but it's been a week since they're last double-digit win. They were doing a ton in May and the beginning of June, and now they've become all the more rare. They've also had some rough matches against teams like the Blue Jays, Yankees and divisional competitor the Angels. The Angels just massacred the Rockies the other night, and are slowly inching up the standings towards the Rangers. And while the Rangers are lucky they have a series against the Tigers up next, could they have peaked too early? Even with the strength of their lineup, did they get their historic moments out of the way early?

I still think this Rangers team has more to do, but I also can't tell where this division is gonna go, considering how unpredictable all FIVE teams have been in the last month. I think Texas is still the frontrunner, but I could be proven very wrong soon.

Coming Tonight: He had a huge year in 2019, and I worried that his quieter follow-ups meant an end to his days as a star. Not quite the case.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Red for the Hills


First place Cincinnati Reds. First place Cincinnati Reds with the same record as the Houston Astros. First place Cincinnati Reds with three of the most exciting rookies of 2023. I...I love baseball, man. I really do.  

This Reds team is so much fun, man. Like, one of the most fun teams in baseball. I thought they were fun when they were in fourth, I think they're even more fun now. Elly de la Cruz and Andrew Abbott have made this team even better since coming up. de la Cruz is hitting .359 with 23 hits and 10 RBIs. The dude just hit for the cycle this week, and that just feels like...chapter one stuff. You know? This guy might be a very big figure in Reds baseball, and this is just the beginning. Getting a similarly young infield of him, Jonathan India, Spencer Steer and Matt McLain is the cherry on top, with Nick Senzel in support on days where he's not in the outfield. McLain is hitting .309 with 47 hits in 36 games. Steer leads the team in homers with 11 and is 2nd in RBIs with 42. The youth of this team is making the difference.

The central piece right now, statistically speaking, seems to be T.J. Friedl. The Reds fans complained when Friedl didn't immediately get to work once plugged into this team, but he's come into his own this year, hitting .314 with 27 RBIs and 11 steals. He's missed some time with an injury, but he's in really good shape right now, and is showing how multifaceted of a player he is both on offense and defense. He may not be THE marquee guy for this Reds team going forward, but he's a sharp guy to build off of, and as the team's current WAR leader, he's pretty handy. Yes, having India, Jake Fraley, Nick Senzel and, of course, Joey Votto, also helps, but you can see the type of people that are gonna be populating this team for a while.

And then there's Andrew Abbott, who has solved some of the Reds' rotation issues by going 3-0 in his first 4 starts, with a 1.14 ERA though that time. Obviously the Reds have struggled with injuries this year, and this current incarnation of the rotation, featuring Luke Weaver, Brandon Williamson, Graham Ashcraft and Levi Stoudt, is not what the fans were expecting after starting the year with Greene and Lodolo healthy. But Abbott, and Williamson to an extent, have been promising new options for this team, and have been consistent in this time of inconsistency. I think they'd appreciate it if they got Greene and Lodolo back, maybe that'd make things a little less dire when defending their division lead against the best team in the NL, but even until then they've got a hell of a lineup.

The Brewers fast approach, I know,, wouldn't it be awesome if the Reds stayed competitive this year? Wouldn't that be a cool, unexpected outcome?

Coming Tomorrow- A guy whose team got shaken up a bit by those fellas from the Bronx.

Witt and Without


The Royals are not the worst team in baseball, but they are the worst team in the AL Central, the worst division in baseball. So it's not exactly a serve that they're not as bad as the A's. At least the A's are being taken down by GOOD teams..

The Royals have been let down by both injuries and general inefficiency at the same time. Right now I count eight major pieces for this Royals team that are injured. A lot of them are bullpen pieces, like Josh Staumont, Amir Garrett and Ryan Yarbrough, but this team is without two of their best young players, Vinnie Pasquantino and Kris Bubic, for the rest of the year and two of their best first-half performers, Kyle Isbel and Brad Keller, for at least a few more weeks. 

And what they have...isn't much. I'll give the Royals credit for being able to bluntly decide something doesn't work, as they've DFA'd people like Hunter Dozier, Franmil Reyes, Mike Mayers and Jackie Bradley Jr. just because they weren't adding anything to this team. But you still have younger players like M.J. Melendez, Nate Eaton, Drew Waters, Daniel Lynch and Brady Singer who are struggling mightily. I thought Singer was gonna have a Cy Young season, he's 4-7 with a 6.34 ERA, and it's honestly awful to see. Meanwhile, Jordan Lyles, who I figured would be the backbone of the rotation, is 0-11. Joan Adon I could see losing 11 games, but Jordan Lyles, who had some really nice seasons since moving to the rotation? Baffling.

Bobby Witt, as he was last year, is good at some things but not the multifaceted guy the Royals have needed. He's stolen 22 bases and has 12 home runs, but he's not hitting for average and he only has a .720 OPS. There's a ton of things he's great at, and he's been the Royals' best hitter this year on a number of levels, but similar to Spencer Torkelson, he hasn't taken to the majors as swiftly as one might expect. As we've seen in a number of cases, that doesn't mean he'll never figure it out, but it's a tad annoying. Not that the entirety of the hopes of the season were resting on Witt, and not that he's completely disappointing people, but...Adley Rutschman isn't struggling like this, and he was just as big of a prospect. 

The Royals are gonna need to cut their losses, sell high and hope they have enough to recoup a little quicker. This hasn't been a great run for this team. Yes, beating the Rays helps, I'm always keen for somebody to do that, but it needs to be more than that.

Coming Tonight: One of the forerunners of a team that leapt to first when no one expected them to.

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Lane & Simple


The Washington Nationals are, at the very least, an interesting bad team. They have two players above 2.0 WAR right now. The Pirates can't say that. The Mets can't say that. Not even the defending NL champion Philadelphia Phillies can say that.

And it's odd that both of those players for the Nats are Jeimer Candelario and Lane Thomas, two guys I've considered one-dimensional in the past. Candelario has never been especially good defensively, but he's been known to attack at any point, and his hitting numbers have been pretty cool on occasion. Right now he's only hitting .254, but his 8 homers and 32 RBIs are strong numbers for this team. The Nats, with Candelario, has netted a trusted veteran that's still young, can hit somewhat consistently and can work with the new pieces. It's exactly the kind of guy they've needed since Soto left. 

And then there's Lane Thomas, who's been slowly coming into his own since coming over in the Jon Lester deal. Like Candelario, Thomas has been a consistent force of hitting, which distracts from his passable defense. He's been starting more often in the past year, and this year he's leading the team in RBIs with 37, as well as home runs with 12. Far cry from Josh Bell and Juan Soto chasing the 20s around this time of year, but Thomas has been a consistent source of power hitting. And he's been very hot lately, hitting .290 right now and .307 in June. This is someone who can focus on contact as well as power, and he's been coming into his own as one of the stars in Washington, which they must be very happy with.

These are the two pieces that are working the best for this Nats team, mostly because Josiah Gray and MacKenzie Gore would be doing better if this team gave them more run support. Maybe I'm asking too much for people like Keibert Ruiz and C.J. Abrams to have things together at this point, they're still young, the team's still developing.  There's still a lot of replacement pieces holding things down. Good pieces as well, Joey Meneses and Stone Garrett have impressed, but I don't know if they'll last long enough to see this team compete.

The Nationals, at the very least, have pieces working and moving this team in the correct direction. But at the moment they're playing the Padres, who still have Juan Soto to wield right now, and it's currently not going well at all for them. Eventually they'll be able to completely rebut San Diego, but it's gonna take more than just two flourishing pieces.

Coming Tomorrow- A sophomore who's certainly figured out the base-stealing aspect of his supposed five-tools.

Yoshida Known Better


I don't talk about this much on here, but when I'm not writing up blog posts, I'm an aspiring screenwriter. It's what I went to college for. That whole business is who you know, I don't know many people, hence the 'aspiring' part. A few years back, around the same time as the Bryce Harper free agency sweepstakes, I wrote a massive script, long enough to even be a miniseries at this point, about a bunch of GMs and presidents that come to Vegas to poach the biggest star in the game to come to their team. I had a ton of fun working on it, there was a lot of good character stuff in there.

What was cool was that, though I was using real teams like the Yankees, Mariners, Brewers, Red Sox, Pirates, etc, and though I name-dropped actual MLB players, like Corey Seager, Nolan Arenado, Manny Machado and David Ortiz, I also had to weave in the fiction, and concoct new MLB player characters that'd had lived-in careers and lives to this point. One of the things I did in this script was tell the story of a Japanese player who came up with the Hanshin Tigers, crossed over to the states in the late 90s, after Hideo Nomo, signed a long deal with the Red Sox, pitched fairly well until blowing out his arm. By the time he's recovered from Tommy John surgery, in this altered reality the story takes place in, the Sox have won the 2004 World Series without him, and he's promptly cut from the team. It's an all-too-uncommon story, and its implications drive some of the narrative and some character decisions. 

I bring this up because the name of this Japanese Red Sox player, as I wrote in this script from 2019, was Masahide Yoshida. Folks...I was four letters off, and had the wrong position. But I think I predicted the future.

Masataka Yoshida may not be an adept defenseman, but he's been one of the biggest reasons for Boston fans to be cheerful since the start of the season. Yoshida is batting .304, with 39 RBIs, 8 home runs and 78 hits. The man is a contact machine with enough oomph to chase the occasional long ball, as the Brewers found out earlier this season. Even factoring strong campaigns by Alex Verdugo and Justin Turner, ironically both former Dodgers, Yoshida is the Red Sox' best hitter this year, and he's been one of the defining forces of a lineup trying to center itself without Xander Bogaerts or, for the time being, Trevor Story.

Yoshida's outfield follies do point to a terrifying trend on this Red Sox team, which may explain why they're in last; the Sox' defense is downright atrocious this year. As good as somebody like Rafael Devers or Jarren Duran can hit, their defensive numbers hold them back. This team has also yielded famously unwise defensive choices, like Reese McGuire, Kiké Hernandez and Adam Duvall. Yoshida is just another of the many, it seems. Having an outfield consisting of Duvall, Yoshida and Duran is, to say the least, not a great look. Especially in Fenway, which is a park that needs spry defenders in that outfield. Once Verdugo comes back they'll be a little better off, but yeesh.

Even worse, the Red Sox are currently working with a rotation consisting of Brayan Bello, James Paxton, Garrett Whitlock, Kutter Crawford and several question marks. The plan seems to be using an opener and letting Brandon Walter do the brunt of the work, they just not trust him in inning one? It's a very dire scenario for a team that thought they'd be getting more work out of Chris Sale, Nick Pivetta and Corey Kluber this year. And with the lack of immediate gems coming up as rotation options, it may continue to look this dire.

The Sox, even with their strengths, have too many flagrant weaknesses to be taken seriously as a contender. They may sit at .500 at the bottom of the AL East, but I don't think they can outgun the titans with all that's holding them back. Even with Yoshida.

Coming Tonight: The Cardinals gave him up for a rental, so that's robbed us of having yet another young Cardinals outfielder terrorize NL pitchers.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Bard to Kill


Look, man, the road trip started out alright. The Rockies won a series against the Red Sox, and the Yankees just found out how hard it is to do. And then...y'know...misery.

Losing 7 straight on the road isn't unheard of, but it's not a great way of spending a road trip. Keeping in mind, the away games give a leveler playing field to the starting pitching, who can get beat up more at home. But, y'see...if the Rockies rotation consists primarily of people like Connor Seabold, Austin Gomber, Noah Davis and Chase Anderson, it's not gonna make any difference. And so that's why I'm not shocked that the Reds and Braves kept beating them up.

...apart from the fact that, y'know, the Reds and Braves are two of the hottest teams in baseball right now, and what the hell did you think was gonna happen. Alright, Noah Davis against Elly de la Cruz. Sure, why not? Could be fine.

Without a substantial pitching rotation, a trusted and healthy lineup, and a real central piece like Brendan Rodgers, the Rockies are pretty powerless this year. Even the Padres, who have been called a major disappointment so far, are lapping them in the standings and keeping them in fifth in an otherwise relatively close NL West. There's a certain dreariness to this team that's only been hinted at in past years. Yes, it's nice that Nolan Jones has a place where he can eventually become a star, as I figured that'd be Cleveland, but there's so many other spots on this team where nothing's happening. 

The hero on this team, as it has been since 2020, has been Daniel Bard. Bard's comeback from the depths of injuries and the minors was inexplicable enough, but Bard continuing to be a consistently excellent relief piece for the Rockies is even more inexplicable. Most flashes in the pan burn out eventually, especially major comeback stories. Look at Eric Thames, Lucas Luetge and Rick Ankiel. They all sort of petered off as they went. A few recent success stories are still going- Rich Hill, Miles Mikolas and Merrill Kelly are all still trusted pitchers after their initial comebacks.

Bard is just one of those guys that puts in the work and tries hard enough to make a difference, and that's why he's still here. He missed some early games due to anxiety issues, and had to overcome them to get back to Denver. Once he got there, he posted a 0.79 ERA in 22 games, only allowing 2 earned runs. The one detail is that he's not closing games, as that's still Pierce Johnson's department, but Bard is still insanely successful as a middle-reliever, and he's just thankful to get any playing time in the bigs these days. 

I'm glad Daniel Bard is still a major talking point of these early 2020s Rockies teams. Because they don't have a ton of other ones right now.

Coming Tonight: He went from being a crucial piece of a huge WBC team to helping the Red Sox take down my Yankees for a few games.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Breaking Up in Vegas


A few years ago, the last MLB player to have suited up for the Montreal Expos retired. I know there was some other well-publicized Big 4 guy who was drafted by the Expos who retired earlier this year, I just meant the longest-lasting baseball player. Bartolo Colon. Tom Brady wishes he was Bartolo Colon. 16 years, that's as far back as you could reach to find someone from 2018 who remembered the fall of the Expos. 

I wonder who's gonna be the last A's player left standing who remembers playing in Oakland. Cause that's really how things are looking.

It's not gonna be as drastic of a rebrand, as I imagine the Vegas guys are gonna keep 'Athletics', not only to keep the legacy of the original ballclub [I chuckled a little, thinking that the owners of the A's give a damn about legacy], but because 'Athletics' isn't Oakland-specific, as it wasn't Kansas City specific or Philly specific. They may change uniform colors a bit, even though the green has suited them, and they may go through more of a modernization to match the silver or gold that other Vegas Big 4 teams have adopted. But these last few Oakland A's teams are gonna be very similar to the last Expos teams. Just a bunch of people hanging on at the end of the journey, as everyone, especially the fans, had abandoned them.

Like the 2003 and 2004 Expos, I can see some pieces of this team actually affecting future MLB progress. Unless something goes terribly wrong, I can honestly Esteury Ruiz being the flagship star of the first Vegas A's team, star of all the rebranding artwork, all of that. There is a chance that somebody like J.P. Sears could also be like that if he stays on the team long enough. Sears is the best starter in Oakland right now, he's got a 1.061 WHIP and 76 Ks despite only going 1-4 just from how pitiful the team's run support and bullpen have been. Sears had the support of the Yankee offense last year, and now he's just hoping for Tony Kemp or Seth Brown to perhaps do something. And maybe Mason Miller, who is currently injured but has been fantastic when healthy, will be one of the homegrown arms that gets this team back on the right track.

Honestly, the first few years of Vegas A's ball might not look too different from how the A's are right now. A bunch of low-market free agents trying to find a chance to play and give them something, some decent prospects that can't lead a team by themselves. Like the post-division-swap Astros teams. And then eventually somebody huge will come along and make this team a contender again, that's at least how baseball is supposed to work, I guess.

The Oakland A's were able to win 7 straight this year. Since then, they've lost six straight. They were able to take games away from the Tampa Bay Rays, which not everybody can do. There are fleeting moments where this team can actually do something right, and give the fans some hope that something will eventual happen. But I don't think anything's gonna happen while they're still in Oakland.

Coming Tomorrow- The fact that one of the coolest comeback stories of the decade so far has remained in the league, and GOOD, is pretty awesome.

Miles from Contention


Only 4 teams have a worse record than the Cardinals right now. I don't know if the penance for Ryan Howard's achilles was having the Phillies come back and cause an even more painful quality drop, but if so I'm so happy about it. I was getting used to being alright with the Cardinals, but if this is the norm for them going forward, that's incredible. 

This team is never gonna be the absolute worst in the league because, at the end of the day, they're still gonna have people like Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt and Miles Mikolas playing for them. Goldy and Arenado have played for dire-looking teams in their prime, but have usually propelled them beyond true awfulness. That's really what those three have been doing so far. Goldy's still putting up prime numbers, he's still hitting .289 with 37 RBIs and 13 homers. Arenado is still pulling ASG votes, and leads the team in RBIs with 49. Mikolas, after a shaky start, is still giving a lot to this team, eating innings with an ERA around 4. 

What's alarming about this team is that nobody on it has an ERA lower than 3.50. The collective ERA is 4.48, 9th-highest in baseball. I did not expect the Dodgers' team ERA to be higher than theirs, even with the Cardinals this bad. Other teams are just getting the best of this team's pitching, especially their bullpen, and I did not expect this at all going into the season. Not that people like Giovanny Gallegos and Chris Stratton are bad, they're just not as ironclad as they were last year. And that's really how you'd describe a lot of this team, just not as strong as the 2022 squad, which is funny when you remember how they went out last year. 

You also just have players with great skillsets hampered by their own faults. So many players on this team, including Jordan Walker, Nolan Gorman, Alec Burleson and Juan Yepez, are great hitters that are terrible defensively. Walker's hitting .302 but thanks to his defense he has a negative WAR. Even Brendan Donovan's having a disappointing defensive year. I know they're trying to build a youth movement but they need to be a bit more multi-dimensional than this.

Granted, their schedule is getting slightly easier now. They took 2 from the Mets, they took 2 from the Nats, and they play the Cubs next. But then they get to play the Astros, and while I'd prefer neither of them win those, it's more likely the Astros take those just on account of their talent. I don't see the Cardinals' luck changing anytime soon, because the wins are still small margins of victory.

I'm...a little sad about how far this Cardinals have fallen, but at the same time, I don't have to hear about them dominating another division, so I still win, I guess.

Coming Tonight: The Yankees gave him up for someone who hasn't pitched yet this year. So the A's have to be happy about that.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Five Years After Kopechmania


There's so many baseball events from July/August 2018 that I can pinpoint to how I saw them while staying at a shore house in Manasquan, NJ, as I was that week. I remember Players' Weekend was going on, the A's were looking for a wild card, Matt Adams and Daniel Murphy were walking right out of Washington a year before the ring, and I think the Mets were playing the Little League Classic? Lot of things I remember. But one of them was the oncoming of Michael Kopech, the ever-present White Sox prospect who made some waves in his first few starts. With the Sox slowly building their own case for legitimacy, Kopech's performance was giving fans a lot more to be excited for.

And then he got hurt, needed surgery and wouldn't pitch again til after the pandemic. That's two and a half prime years, gone. I know there have been other players that have had to get around entire prime years, like Fernando Tatis, Carlos Rodon and, well, Stephen Strasburg, but it's not quite a death sentence. As long as somebody gets there, the road can be worth it.

So Michael Kopech, 5 years later, has basically had 3 years of MLB service. His best year has been last year, which was a decent year as a starter with a 3.54 ERA. This year is looking like the same kind of quality, a 3.92 ERA and a 3-5 record. The one detail that intrigues me is that he's struck out 89 batters through 14 games, while he struck 105 out in 25 games last year. I think he's just slowly hitting his stride and figuring out what he's comfortable doing. The further he gets from the surgeries, the easier it is to just embarrass people at the plate. Even if he's not, like, stellar, Kopech has still been one of the best players for the White Sox this year. 

Which...yes...does say a lot about this White Sox team. It's really just Luis Robert, Lucas Giolito, Kopech and Jake Burger that are worth anything right now. They're also in the midst of a run where they have to play hot teams like the Rangers, Red Sox and Angels. The bulk of the roster isn't pulling their weight, and they're not doing much better than most other AL Central teams. I thought they'd be running the division by now, but they couldn't sustain what they had in 2020, and I still blame Tony LaRussa.

The good news about the division being this bad is that if a low-ranking team figures out how to put something together, they could mop the floor with everybody else pretty easily. Not sure if the White Sox are gonna be that team, but there's more of a chance of it happening to them than the Royals at this point.

Coming Tomorrow- Ironically another guy who missed a couple full years with injuries.

Trea Table


Screw it, I'm taking ownership of this one. Since I went to see the Phillies a few weeks back, they're 12-2. They have only lost TWICE since I came to a game. Which tells me I should probably go to more games.

The other day somebody on social media did a comparison between last season's Phils start and this season's, and it's practically the same in terms of W/L ratio. I find that interesting. Last season's start was thanks to a Phils team that still felt very rudimental and not there yet. I think of so many April/May elements of that team, like Corey Knebel in the 9th, Didi Gregorius at short, Odubel Herrera leading off, and, well, Joe Girardi, that were jettisoned in favor of what would lead them to October. 

And yet I don't feel like the 2023 Phillies have needed to shed that kind of skin yet. There are players that have filled holes, like Matt Strahm and Kody Clemens, that are slowly being phased out, but I don't think there's elements of the first two months that feel like the last few years of the team struggling to let go, like last year's first two months felt. What am I supposed to say? It's not like the Phillies' infatuation with Dylan Covey and Jake Cave had anything to do with personal loyalty. 

The bottom line is they've been great since the 4th of June, and have had an excellent run, taking two from the Dodgers and three from the Diamondbacks. Wouldn't you know it, Trea Turner's figuring it out in Philly, hitting .321 with 17 hits, 6 RBIs and 2 homers since I saw them on the 5th. Now, granted, Turner has not hit a run since I was last at CBP, which is also kinda worrying, but he's beefing up his average and building towards his usual pace, which is welcome here. His stolen bases are also picking up, he's got 12 so far. I honestly think this is just an adjustment year, or period, and he's slowly getting back to what he was doing before, and maybe the WBC burned him out early as well.

A lot is working with this Phils team now. Kyle Schwarber has 20 homers again, and he's creeping up the leaderboards. Cristopher Sanchez is a much better fifth starter than he was through 2 games. Alvarado's still lights out in the ninth, and Kimbrel has improved greatly behind him. Wheeler's having yet another strong year with us, thank god. Castellanos has finally figured it out, Stott's still hitting for average, so much is coming together and the team's looking better than it has all year.

This week we play the Braves. This is a true test to our ego, cause we were doing so well, even against good teams, and now we have to play a team that's been known to kick our asses. They may also still be mad at us for last October. I hope we can keep the momentum through this series, cause it's easy to get tripped up by these guys. 

Coming Tonight: He debuted, missed two seasons, arrived, fell off, and is figuring it out again.

Monday, June 19, 2023

Starting Gunnar


Y'know, with all that buildup as an acclaimed prospect, it's not like Gunnar Henderson was just gonna...NOT figure it out, right?

Of all the mega-prospects the Orioles have slowly let onto the major league roster, the only ones who've truly struggled the whole way have been some of the pitching prospects, like D.L. Hall and Grayson Rodriguez, neither of which are up at the moment. Mullins, Rutschman, Mountcastle, they've all figured it out and are integral pieces of this team, even though two of them are currently injured. And while Gunnar Henderson worried me for about a half-second, now people are talking about him as a reason why the O's are staying hot.

It's really just been since the beginning of June that the O's SS has finally cracked MLB pitching. This month alone he's been batting .364 with 12 RBIs and 5 homers, which is a sizable fraction of his full-season totals. He's doing it in style, with a run of multi-RBI games, and a lot of contact work as opposed to the listless power he was working on before. Henderson is currently the anchor of this infield, as Mountcastle's hurt, and Mateo's only hitting .230. The goal is to have a healthy Mountcastle-Frazier-Henderson-Mateo infield, or maybe Urias in somebody's place, and once that all gets in line this team could be good for a little while. This team has also gotten great performances out of Ryan O'Hearn and Aaron Hicks lately, so maybe there's just something in the water in Baltimore. 

I'm really happy with the number of people that are just figuring it out this year for the Orioles. I thought Kyle Gibson was headed for a Jordan Lyles-esque stable veteran season, where he'd just be around to push the kids upwards, but he's actually having some extremely good starts, and is sitting on an 8-4 record and a 3.94 ERA. Tyler Wells, in the continued absence of John Means, has been the young, homegrown ace this team's needed, with a 3.20 ERA and 82 Ks. Felix Bautista has a 1.08 ERA and 19 saves already, meaning Jorge Lopez skipped town at the exact right moment for the big man. And Yennier Cano's ERA has dipped below 1 again.

This is a very strong Orioles team that is heading for a Rays series right after the Rays have lost a ton of ground over the AL East. The Orioles are just 5 games back from the top of the division. Wouldn't it wonderful if this happened? 

Coming Tomorrow- I came to a Phillies game and he started figuring it out. Also a beginning of June thing.

The Return of El Niño


How foolish of me, last year when the suspension was placed on Fernando Tatis Jr. for using a prohibited substance to, so says he, treat an unrelated injury, to think that that would be the premature end of the Tatis Jr. legend. And yet here we are.

I'm still not quite sure if I'm allowed to like Tatis again. I've been like this with most players suspended for different types of PEDs that aren't exactly steroids. A lot of the time it is intentional, like Robinson Cano and Richard Rodriguez, and I have to grapple with that. Sometimes the player claims that it's a mistake but you're not exactly sure. This grey area stuff always drives me batty, because I genuinely don't know what I'm supposed to believe, and I just have to forge my own path. When Trevor Bauer's suspension came up, I was trying to hear both sides out and I was just confused as to why suspensions were being given out over what I thought was just a rough sex thing, and then more allegations came out and then...yeah, let him rot in obscurity. Tatis's, yeah there were talks that he was telling the truth and he didn't mean to, but there were also people who went 'yeah, right' and thought he was playing the naive card, a lot like many Mitchell Report attendees did. 

Granted, he didn't pull a Sammy Sosa and play the 'I can't speak English' card, but when you're just given a statement, it's hard to pull intent and genuine emotion out of that.

So, needless to say, Tatis is doing awesome again. He's hitting .285, has 34 RBIs, 14 homers and 59 hits in 50 games, that's pretty insane. Not only is he hitting well and playing like he did before the injury, he's taken to the outfield fairly easily, and isn't a defensive liability there. The fact that you can keep both Ha-Seong Kim and Tatis in the lineup ups the defense by a lot. Hell, the Padres have begun to turn things around in the last week or so because Tatis is doing so well. He's a big part of why this team could sneak up and do something big late in the year.

And...I think I'm alright with him? I think it's okay to like Tatis again? Cause he's still one of the most electrifying players in the game, he's still in his prime, and having him, Machado and Soto in the same lineup is friggin awesome and we may never have the stars align like this again. But...I'm still slightly conflicted. We'll see what happens going forward, or if he actually was telling the truth and just made a mistake. I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt for now, especially as he performs this well, but I'm open to new information.

Coming Tonight: A heavy Rookie of the Year candidate just beginning to figure things out.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Sea Us Settle


There's a few teams that were great last year whose slow starts have worried lots of people. The Padres obviously, to an extent the Dodgers, the Phillies I suppose, the Cardinals. And it's hard to really gauge if a lot of these teams are just not as good this year, or if they're waiting for a similar slow spool season that becomes unstoppable after a certain point. If you look at a lot of recent Championship teams, that's what's happened. The Nats and Braves won World Series' after having drastically uneven starts. Last year's Phillies fired their manager then completely turned things around. 

And last year's Seattle Mariners worked their way up after the All-Star Break, caught fire and notched a playoff spot, then took out the Blue Jays. So maybe the 2023 Mariners still bobbing around .500 and not having things completely figured out yet isn't a death sentence.

The Mariners are riding a lot of great performances, even with a mediocre record, and are definitely going in the right direction as far as future organizational growth is concerned. J.P. Crawford, still a huge piece of this team, is having another awesome season, and is still excellent on defense. It is Crawford's contact numbers that are keeping him a valuable asset, and keeping him respectable with 4 guys on the team striking out 80+ times. Eugenio Suarez and Teoscar Hernandez lead the team in RBIs, but they both strike out too often, which is the consequence of letting contact guys like Adam Frazier go. 

And we're really just working with a Mariners team where Kelenic and Rodriguez are purely alright. Not overwhelmingly amazing, not commanding the conversation like Acuna or Tatis, just...alright. They'll get there. But they're not there yet, and this stretch of the season, where the fans desperately want them to look good, which they have at points before this, and they're just...hitting around .250 and striking out a ton, isn't ideal.

The rotation is keeping this team afloat for sure, but it currently seems like at least one rotation spot is cursed. Like, everyone who passes through that one specific spot needs Tommy John surgery. Robbie Ray, and then Easton McGee after literally ONE major league start. They get Bryce Miller up, and then Marco Gonzales gets hurt. So now we have Bryan Woo who, while very K-friendly, is struggling like most rookie pitchers that aren't Easton McGee or Bryce Miller usually do. I want him to figure it out, but I worry it means he'll get injured as well.

The Mariners play the Yankees starting tomorrow night. Two teams that have paled to their expectations. I think it'll be an evenly matched series, and I think the Mariners could get some of their groove back, may honestly be another second half comeback for this team. At least I hope it is.

Coming Tomorrow- The apology tour is over. Time for the redemption arc. 

Happ Decision


Ian Happ is the current Cubs RBI leader. Granted, Cody Bellinger was injured for a few weeks and Patrick Wisdom is currently injured, but...Ian Happ's still in his prime, and he's just one piece of this Cubs team. 33 RBI is certainly not a bad shake of things for a guy who took his sweet time fitting into this team. 

This is a fourth place team, this Cubs team, but they've also won five straight against tough teams like the Orioles and Pirates, and are going right back to Pittsburgh in a few days anyhow. What's different about this team now vs. last week when they were struggling? They have Cody Bellinger back, and they just got Justin Steele back yesterday. Their big pieces are active again, and even if Chris Morel filling that hole still worked, there were holes in this team that they couldn't immediately recover from. Now Bellinger's back, and had an RBI double the other day, and Steele is back, bringing his record to a 7-2. This has helped.

It also helps that there's already a solid enough core on this team that all the need is a little push every so often. You already have Marcus Stroman, Nico Hoerner and Dansby Swanson giving league-wide great performances, and, yes, Ian Happ notching 33 RBIs. Morel has been hot ever since getting back from Iowa, hitting .301 with 12 homers and 26 RBIs. I think Morel is gonna be the answer for them going forward as a big piece. You also just have a lot of this team hitting for average, and a lot of cool pieces, like Yan Gomes, Mike Tauchman and Nick Madrigal jumping in for fun roles. Tauchman being the Cubs leadoff batter during a strong stretch is not something I saw coming this year, and I hope the Sockman keeps it up.

The issue is the pitching just keeps giving up too many runs. Too many bullpen pieces have gotten rocked, too many once-trusted arms have struggled, and even starters like Jameson Taillon and Hayden Wesneski are having trouble. What's odd is that the Cubs are still below league averages in terms of ERA, runs allowed and the like, which just means that the starters, and the last few days, have leveled things out a bit. I think they just have a troublesome bullpen, which is...allowed at this stage, but does explain why they're in fourth.

I think the Cubs will be alright going forward. I have no idea what to make of any of this division, but they still have a ton going for them, and may still rise to the top as a few of these guys get over their overexposure periods. Unless, in fact, the Reds and Pirates are, in fact, for real and the Cubs aren't gonna be able to get over them. Which would also be interesting. I think the Cubs could end up surprising people, but it's gonna take avoiding extreme drop-offs like they just got back from. 

Coming Tonight: Now I can say definitively that this guy was not, in fact, worth Jean Segura. 

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Tork and Spoon


So the other night a legendary baseball card blogger jinxed Spencer Torkelson.

I know the blogosphere isn't what it was 10 years ago, but I think we still have a sense of each other's work, and twitter especially helps that. You know, it's always nice to interact with other bloggers on Twitter. I admittedly don't talk about cards as often as I should, as this is one of like 40 special interests for me, but it's nice interacting with people like that. But yeah, the other night, Braves-Tigers was going on, and right before one of the games Dayf opened a pack of Chronicles I think and kept pulling Spencer Torkelson cards, and went 'he hasn't really done much, but since I said that and since he's against my Braves tonight he's probably gonna catch fire now', and that's exactly what happened, Torkelson had 3 RBIs including a homer against the Braves, and contributed greatly to the Tigers' 6-5 win over Atlanta.

Now...A.), the Braves ended up winning that series, and B.) Torkelson's still only hitting .238 but...he was working on a 6 game hitting streak til today's loss against the Twins. Torkelson's stock is higher now than it was before Dayf posted that pack and said that thing.

Who says the blogosphere didn't contribute positively to society, right? I think Night Owl's getting his own commemorative stamps next month. And didn't Ben Henry get the Medal of Freedom a few years back?

Torkelson may not be, like, officially for-real for real yet, but he's on the road to improvement. He's already achieved more in terms of average and RBIs than he did in 110 games last year. Last year he had a negative WAR, he's beginning to boost his 2023 totals into the positive, and this recent stretch is helping him get there. 32 RBIs and 60 hits in 68 games isn't perfection, but it's an improvement, and for a 23-year-old that is still feeling out the cracks of playing in the majors, it's needed improvement. We've seen people like Jarred Kelenic, Carlos Rodon and Javier Baez take a few years to really feel out the MLB, and Torkelson may be one of those people. I'm not getting 'bust' vibes yet, and this week definitely helped his case out a lot, but...I guess we're gonna see as we go.

The Tigers, meanwhile, are still doing their thing. Not flying as high as they were when they came to Philly, at least having Baez and Vierling playing better, but...y'know...still not great. Two best players are currently injured, there you go. The division in general is not terrific, and they're at least staying in third and not sinking too much, but it could be a lot better. 

It'd help if Torkelson got even hotter than this, maybe then it'd be a better picture of what this team can do. I dunno if Dayf wants to pull any more of his cards though.

Coming Tomorrow- Honest to God, I thought the Cubs were gonna trade him last July. Yet he's still here.

Subway Traffic


Brandon Nimmo did a lot of celebrating the other night after providing a run that ensured an exact tie in runs scored between his Mets and the Yankees. He seemed so excited, mostly because the walkoff eradicated the memory of an earlier base running error, but the Yankees and Mets both score 10 runs over the 2-game half series. Nobody's really come out on top yet. You have Cole and Verlander against each other, shit's gonna be pretty even.

To be honest, this half of the subway series came at a somewhat even period for both teams. The Yankees are down a ton of great players due to injuries, and are starting a lot of replacement players right now. The Mets, meanwhile, are coming off a truly horrid stretch of games, getting swept by the Jays and Braves and losing two out of three to the Pirates. And while the Mets are missing a rather crucial piece thanks to injuries, that being Pete Alonso, whose home run lead is currently being threatened by a red-hot Shohei Ohtani, the majority of their best pieces are still active. The team just...isn't as good as one would expect.

Which isn't really all that irregular for the Mets this decade. You know, 'we just spent millions on two guys in their late 30s, why aren't we winning games?'

I know, it's more complex than that. Cohen dished out a truckload to keep Francisco Lindor in Queens, and while he's been good, and has 43 RBIs, he's not the well-rounded, versatile player he was in Cleveland. Starling Marte's here for another 3 years, but at 34 he's beginning to show cracks, which isn't ideal. And Verlander and Scherzer are just...okay right now. Very okay. Not overwhelmingly good or bad, just okay. Verlander looked good the other night against the Yankees, but this is 40-year-old JV, and even if he can stymie some batters, he's nowhere near, like, 2007 JV. He's got a 4.40 ERA, and Scherzer has a 4.45. Thank god Kodai Senga's been somewhat affirming for this bankroll, as he's 6-3 with 79 Ks. But a lot of time and energy was spent on curating this rotation and a lot of them are either hurt or not pitching to their usual standard.

What is somewhat promising is the beginnings of the next generation of Mets, which is finally beginning to populate these teams. Not all of them are completely ready yet admittedly, as evidenced by an error Mark Vientos made covering first the other night, but they're getting there. Brett Baty's bat is catching up slowly, he has 18 RBIs in 47 games. The big crowd-pleaser is clearly Francisco Alvarez, who did a phenomenal job covering for Omar Narvaez, with 12 homers and 25 RBIs in 46 games. The fans were waiting for Alvarez to properly sprout, and he seems to be performing to what people expected. I'm intrigued as to what's gonna happen now that Narvaez is back, I assume the other catcher will DH when the first one starts? I can't imagine the Mets bringing Alvarez down now. Maybe they deal Narvaez for a rental in July.

The Mets have fallen a bit since the beginning of the year, but they're battling back, and could still hang around long enough to be formidable again once Alonso returns. There's visible flaws, but a lot of perks that could keep them in the conversation even as other NL East teams lap them in the standings.

Coming Tonight: Could it be that this Tigers hitter took off the second a well-known baseball card blogger jinxed him?