Friday, November 17, 2023

This Trade Makes No Sense: Massive Bummer Edition


First trade of the offseason is a head-scratcher. Like no time has passed.

So. The White Sox really wanted to get rid of Aaron Bummer. I get that. I think we all get that. I think it's what the Braves gave up that nobody really gets.

The Bummer part of the deal is understandable. Through two full seasons with the White Sox, Bummer posted some excellent relief numbers, including a 2.8 WAR and a 2.13 ERA in 2019. Giving Bummer a deal is a wise idea in 2019, but overpaying to keep him in Chicago, including giving him a FIVE YEAR DEAL for SIXTEEN MILLION...I kinda wouldn't have done that. This is why Kenny Williams is out of a job, because he was doing things like that and not procuring the finer points of this Sox team. Bummer is all well and good, but after 2019 his stock drops. He barely pitches in 2020, struggles in '21, has a rebound year amid injuries in '22, and has his worst season to date in 2023. I can see why the Sox want to get rid of him, especially as they're trying to start over for 2024. They're already letting Tim Anderson go, they might be trading more of their stars, the rebuild is upon us.

That being said, pretty much everything the Braves gave the White Sox is something they need. The issue is that I don't think the Braves should have been so quick to part with all of them.

Jared Shuster I get. He wasn't working in Atlanta. Tucker Davidson, Bryse Wilson, Kyle Muller and Sean Newcomb can tell you that's not all that uncommon. The Sox needed starting options, Shuster will do. Mike Soroka...that I'm still not sold on. The Braves were convinced he was cooked, but honestly I think he needed more opportunities in 2023. The team was struggling for starting innings, Soroka was healthy, he didn't do all that badly this year, even if he did finish with a 6.40 ERA. I kinda think he just needed a full year, the Braves didn't share that sentiment. So they parted with him. Fantastic. Maybe Chicago will work for Soroka like it worked for Lucas Giolito.

Then the infielders. In a skewed, squinty-eyed perspective, I can see why the Braves would feel it would be alright to trade Braden Shewmake. He's behind Vaughn Grissom in the depth chart, shortstop was won by Orlando Arcia this year, he might stay there for a while. Fine, give him to a rebuilder. But the fact that they're already dealing Nicky Lopez not only makes me wonder why they're throwing him in at all, but it makes me wonder why they even traded for Lopez in the first place.

If you'll recall, the Braves dealt for Lopez because they needed a versatile, young, contact-hitting 2nd-base type to back up Arcia and Albies. And then both Grissom and Shewmake both went 'AHEM, EXCUSE ME?'. Why do you farm these depth options if you're not gonna use them? And yes, it is nice that Lopez had some awesome contact moments late in the season, and in the postseason, but after he outdid expectations, now by trading him you are saying you no longer had any use for him, when it's arguable that you had any use for him to begin with. 

There is also the chance that Lopez was a throw-in because Chris Getz really wanted a surefire shortstop type to hop right in next year, and the Braves relented. If that's the case, fine. But I really don't think the Braves should be in the position to be fleeced in a trade for an overpaid, overrated middle reliever. That doesn't set a great precedent for the following year, even if they're probably gonna do well anyway.

I dunno, maybe they're onto something, but this feels like a win for the White Sox and a setback for a team that may well be going for a division title next year. Maybe it'll make sense in time, but I'm just not seeing it now.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

MVPs: The Faces of the 2020s



Ohtani and Ronnie. Why not?

No matter how things got sliced this year, this is a good pair of MVPs for 2023. There's no surprise villain, no flash in the pan flukey guy stealing the spotlight, no reparation a degree. Genuinely two of the best hitters in baseball right now, they're the MVPs. Fantastic. It claims the moment without talking over it with one's own narrative. 

If somebody other than Acuña won in the NL I would have rioted. Nobody had ever done what he did this year, with his 73 steals and 41 homers, in addition to 100 RBIs and a .337 average. From almost the beginning of the year, it was clear that Ronald Acuña Jr. was working on a completely different level. I was very worried that the September narrative of 'yeah that's nice and all, but look at what Mookie Betts is doing' would kill this, but thankfully it did not. Acuna's deserved an MVP for the past few years, and I'm glad he's finally gotten one. May he get many more.

As for Shohei Ohtani...I feel like when September didn't kill Acuna, it should have killed Ohtani. He only played 135 games this year, got hurt in late August and missed several starts due to that, along with the last month of the season. Meanwhile, Corey Seager used September to jump into high gear and tie his excellent, mega-WAR season with a nice bow. It also was followed by an equally impressive October run, something Ohtani hasn't exactly mastered yet. To me, Seager had the fuller, and more MVP-worthy season, but the sportswriters are so blinded by Ohtani, and honestly rightfully, that they turned Ohtani's shortened season into 'LOOK AT WHAT HE COULD DO IN THIS FEW GAMES', and that still managed to work.

I think it's still a good move, as it's also a capper on Ohtani's legendary Angels run, and his last accolade before the uncertainty of his next stage of MLB work. I just think that injury should have cost him the gold. But alas, here we are.

May both players prosper and build on this season. Hopefully I'll talk about them again next November.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Cy Youngs: An Ironic Reparation


Blake Snell won 20 games in 2018 and got a Cy Young. Gerrit Cole won 20 games in 2019 and got nothing. Both of them won Cy Youngs tonight. Confidentially, the wrong pitcher got his second.

I think about some of the pitchers that have gotten two Cy Youngs in the last 20 years, and not all have had the career legs that said accomplishment would normally denote. Johan Santana, Tim Lincecum, Corey Kluber..they all have 2 each, and they were unable to perform equally impressive second acts. Snell got his second Cy Young during his age-30 season, and he's a free agent. Sounds a lot like Robbie Ray after getting his first. Someone is gonna overpay for Snell this offseason and probably have to deal with some injuries. 

This isn't meant to diminish Snell's season. In a year where Darvish, Musgrove and Wacha were expected to perform, Snell just pitched steadily all year, setting a career mark in strikeouts with 234, and leading the league in ERA with 2.25. This was a season that was serviceable in the first half and became even more impressive in the second, as frontrunners like Zac Gallen and Logan Webb suffered inflated ERAs after choice starts. Snell is personally not the guy I would have gone with, as like in the AL last year, my pick for the top pitcher in the NL wasn't even in the top 3. Justin Steele was the top dog for me, but perhaps he'll prove himself in the coming years.

Snell had his most consistent, most healthy and most dominant season in 2023. I really hope he can recreate this somehow, though I'm not sure if he will.

As for the AL pick...we all knew. I knew in March when I saw Gerrit Cole in a Spring start. I knew when I saw him in June. I just knew he had the stuff, and if he kept rolling, no one would catch him. And that's exactly what happened. Gerrit Cole, surprisingly I might add, didn't have to out-strikeout everybody, with only 222 Ks [LESS THAN SNELL]. He didn't even need a 20-win year, he only finished with 15, thanks mainly to the Yankees' rough final 2 months. All Cole needed to do was cruise, and he absolutely did; he had league marks in innings pitched, starts made, ERA and WHIP. He also set a new career WAR mark, which, after his Astros years, is pretty satisfying.

This is the exact kind of season the Yankees signed Gerrit Cole for. He's delivered virtually every year of the contract, and this was the next logical step in it. This season also put him on the right track for both 200 wins and 3000 strikeouts. I sincerely hope Cole continues to deliver for us, and continues to be relied upon, even as he enters his mid-30s.

MVPs tomorrow. One is simple. The other...should be simple, but I'm kinda hoping isn't.

Monday, November 13, 2023

ROYs: Predictable Doesn't Mean Wrong

It's not everyday that the two rookies you could have predicted in April would take the Rookie of the Year actually do it. Y'know, the trades used to guess randomly, 'ahhh idk, Dalton Pompey takes it', and the season would happen and it wouldn't correspond to that. And you also have to think that they could have guessed Jordan Walker or Anthony Volpe might have epic full-season campaigns., pretty cut-and-dry Rookies of the Year. Not that this is a problem. Gunnar Henderson and Corbin Carroll had the two best rookie performances of the year. I'm glad we can all agree on that.

Corbin Carroll, I think, was a lock for this around April, he was already making waves for the D-Backs and making them an early story. By October he was still one of the most powerful forces in the game, had some amazing game-saving moments, and got his team to the World Series. Carroll was the exclamation point on this D-Backs team, and the poster boy for this new, young team. If he has more seasons like 2023, he could have an iconic career and launch the D-Backs back into legitimacy.

Gunnar Henderson slumped for a couple months, which I don't think people were expecting, but he kicked into high gear around June and started hitting up a storm. We all knew that Henderson was this complex, multi-faceted player, but this season confirmed it, and we got to see him crack 82 RBIs and 28 homers, and take home a silver slugger to boot. Henderson was a key piece in an Orioles team that won 100 games, and it's a great sign for the future, especially with Jackson Holliday possibly up in the next year or so.

No issues whatsoever with these picks. It's the Cy Youngs that may get a little hairy. 

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Last Gun in the West


I think I've said this every year, but all I want out of an MLB season is a great story. I'm a writer after all. There's nothing worse than a story that doesn't feel like it needs to exist. Most of the time, you can tell a great story from the narrative that elapses over the course of a season. Sometimes it's easy, like when the Cubs won their first World Series in over 100 years. Sometimes it's a little less likely but still welcome, like when the Nationals and Braves came back from rough midseason finishes and took it all. And sometimes the story ends anticlimactically, like last year. 

All I needed was something better than 2022. And I can say definitively that the Texas Rangers winning their first ever World Series ring is better than a second Astros win. 

I checked back on some of my early thoughts on the Rangers this year, ironically after they beat down my Phillies to open the season, and I was worried initially. Jacob deGrom got lit up a bit, and had to work to come back down from that. The contracted stars took a bit to find themselves [as Semien tends to]. It was people like Josh Jung that were leading the charge from the beginning. I wasn't sure if this would be a marginal improvement over their previous year or if Bruce Bochy was the missing piece they needed.

Slowly, their story unfolded. By May, they were known for their double digit victories and their incredible offense, led by Adolis Garcia, Jonah Heim and Corey Seager. By July, though still in the lead in the AL West, they sent five starters to the All Star Game. Then in August, despite nabbing Max Scherzer and Jordan Montgomery at the deadline, they fell apart and lost the division to Seattle, and eventually Houston. In September they'd have to fight to secure a playoff spot to begin with, and rode a winnable final week to a wild card spot. Then they battled back against monolithic regular season teams like the Orioles and Rays in order to face the Astros. I was hoping beyond hope that the Rangers would be able to take down the Astros and fulfill a season-long arc, and they did that.

And then they took down the streakiest team in the NL, who came at them with 6-innings of no-hit ball from Zac Gallen last night, to win their first ever World Series. THAT is a good story, and a great ending, too.

So many heroes on this team. Scherzer wins his second ring, that's cool enough. Will Smith has now won three rings in as many years, making him the single luckiest guy named Will Smith in this country. Jordan Montgomery was traded by the Yankees last year cause Cashman didn't think he'd start playoff games, and he only had to start one World Series game to keep the train rolling. Travis Jankowski came off the bench to start in place of Adolis Garcia and got his hero moment. Evan Carter came up the month before the playoffs and is a playoff hero for life. And, of course, Corey Seager won his second WS MVP after a back-to-back HR stretch, and cemented his status as one of the most underrated players of the modern era. This was also his single best season to date, and while I'm not sure if that last month will be enough to get sportswriters off the Ohtani train, I feel like he deserves more MVP votes than he'll ultimately get.

I'm 100% satisfied with this outcome. I also think the Diamondbacks had a hell of a run, and can hopefully build off this season with their young stars. But man could those Rangers not be stopped, just like we thought back in May. 

Great ending. I'm good for a few months. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

World Series Update: Replacement Killer


Being up 2-1 in a World Series is all well and good, but if both your best power hitter and one of your best pitchers are done for the season, you can't be blamed if you panic a little. The Rangers didn't.

They chose to start Travis Jankowski in right. Yes, Janko didn't have the power bat that Adolis Garcia so regularly sported, but he was a defensive upgrade with contact perks, and a genuinely fun fringe player to rally around, in the same vein as Brett Phillips or Ben Zobrist. Janko absolutely delivered during Game 4, with a 2-run double during the 3rd that sparked the defensive onslaught that would lead to Marcus Semien making it 10-0. He also had an insane diving catch that made headlines, all the more reason to love this guy. Even though this series, if it is won by Texas, will belong to Corey Seager and Adolis Garcia, Jankowski being the hero last night was kinda awesome. Like 'Pham giving his at bat to Peterson', but on a much larger scale.

Also, hats off to Andrew Heaney for shutting the D-Backs down for 5 innings and lessening their impact. The Rangers' starting depth means in addition to Eovaldi and Montgomery battering you, somebody like Heaney can jump in and do something just as cool. If this somehow needs a Game 7, the ball may be handed to Dane Dunning in a starting position, they just have that many guys on hand. Though an honorable mention goes to Ryne Nelson from Arizona, for staying in for the majority of the game in relief and striking out 6 guys in 5.1 innings. He may not have been trusted to start games, but he can still act like a starter.

I'll admit that the D-Backs made it closer than it should have been at the end, as this was a 11-7 victory, but the Rangers once again pulled out a double-digit win and put the series into check. Tonight, they could end the whole thing. It's a matter of whether Ketel Marte and the Diamondbacks will let it happen.