Tuesday, April 30, 2024

When All Else Fails, Call Someone Up


It's not uncommon for a team facing last place to turn to an organizational prospect to try and help them out of the hole. What is uncommon is the state of one of these teams, and the status of the player he's replacing.

Let's go over the likelier case first, the Colorado Rockies. They're in last place in the NL West. Everyone expected them to be in last place this year, because the other 4 teams set out to compete, and the Rockies...didn't. The one saving grace seemed to be Kris Bryant, and unsurprisingly he's already hurt, as is Kyle Freeland. Their 7-21 record is one of the worst in baseball, and they're already expected to sort of do what they can for the rest of the season.

And while it's not like there's nobody performing well on this team, the standouts are very few in Colorado. Ryan McMahon's once again an excellent performer, hitting .308 with 4 home runs and 16 RBIs, but people are gonna look at McMahon's numbers in a few years, compare them to Helton's and Arenado's, and go 'this guy was really our MVP every year?' Not that he's bad, he's very good, but he's just...Arenado but less so. Ezequiel Tovar is also off to a decent contact start, hitting .284 along with some excellent defense. Tovar has been solid so far for the Rockies since taking over short- nothing monolithic, but he's been steady and reliable. And Elias Diaz might still be one of the best hitting catchers in the game, which is surprising as hell considering he used to be a second stringer for Pittsburgh. But with no reliable homegrown starters, a ton of mediocre hitting and a lot of contracted players not showing up, it can only do so much.

Which does explain why the Rockies called up Jordan Beck, a winning outfield prospect who seeks to be an upgrade at left field. Funnily enough, the left fielder he is relieving is Nolan Jones, who is coming off an incredible 2023 where people thought he'd be a force going forward. I kinda figured he'd struggle to live up to that season, but Jones is hitting .170. Either he gets it together eventually or he was a fluke, sad to say. The reason for the urgency is Jones' back injury, so hopefully he works that out.  Beck, meanwhile, has been smoking it in Albuquerque with a .300 average and 28 RBIs already, so hopefully he can make the leap and help the team out. Even if he does, he'll at least give them a little more complexity, despite still being last place bound.

But the other case is...stranger. The Houston Astros have began this season 9-19, their worst start since 2016. The magic, it seems, is wearing off. With the amount of pitchers that have gotten injured, as well as the amount of games where they just appear outmatched, the Astros have needed to relegitimize themselves. This is the first time they've looked human since before the winning regime, and while people have pointed to a recently-departed GM and an unproven 'better off as a bench coach' new manager, I think the Astros have peaked. I hate to say it, even with Alvarez, Bregman and Tucker still on this team, but they've been better, and they could be headed downhill.

One of the harbingers of doom for this period was the signing of Jose Abreu, who was supposed to give them infield security as well as some 30 homer years. At 37, Abreu has shown them how foolish they were to give him such a strong deal, as he's hit .099 with 3 RBIs and 7 hits in 71 at-bats. That is a DIRE start from a former MVP, and it's honestly really upsetting to see.

So in response, the Astros are going with Joey Loperfido, a 1st base prospect from Philadelphia who turned to the dark side upon being drafted by Houston. Loperfido already has 13 home runs and 27 RBIs in 25 games with the Space Cowboys. Considering that this is 13 more homers than the 2020 AL MVP has hit for the major league club, I'd say he's ready. Loperfido seems like a proven slugger who can pop right in here and get back to what he was doing in the minors. The Astros seem really convinced that he can make something happen for this team, and while it's much more complex than 1 guy showing up [Spencer Arrighetti can tell you that], a revitalization of 1st base could definitely help, it's been 30somethings over there for like 10 years.

It will remain to be seen how much impact these two rookies have on these last place teams, but hopefully they can make something happen longer term. Though in Houston's case I'd be fine for them tanking for a little while longer.

Coming Tomorrow- I'd be madder if a guy who WASN'T talented was hitting home runs off my team. 

Noot Witness


I think after a month some of the frenzy has evened out in the NL Central. The Cardinals had a rough start but have at least amassed 13 wins, thanks to a series against the Mets bringing out their best attributes. The Pirates started super strong thanks to scheduling but have now tied the Cardinals in wins. The Cards could potentially sneak out of last place for the first time this season. All that remains is for this team to actually show combined hitting progress.

That's really how I would sum up this generation of Cardinals teams. You bring some really good hitters to St. Louis, call up some excellent people, get them in a lineup and they don't do anything. Jordan Walker, unless he eventually gets it together, is looking like one of the biggest missed opportunities in Cardinals history. The Cardinals have had a lot of setbacks, but failed prospects isn't really one of them; famously they've produced a ton of stars in the last decade or so that have found MLB success either with the Cards or elsewhere. This year alone they have Brendan Donovan, Nolan Gorman, Lars Nootbaar, Alec Burleson and Masyn Winn, they're all homegrown and they seem to be working. But Walker, and Victor Scott, seem to be evidence that this farm system is beginning to spoil, at least if the big guns are rushed. 

Hell, even the young players who've made it up that have seen MLB success are struggling. Lars Nootbaar is doing a lot of things right this year, but he's hitting below .200 at the moment. As is Nolan Gorman, one of two Cardinals sluggers with 35 strikeouts, the other being Paul Goldschmidt. Donovan's looking decidedly normal, hitting only .229. And Burleson is still really searching for an identity on this team. Now, for all of those guys there's somebody like Masyn Winn, who's playing extremely well. Winn is a .300 hitter with defensive perks, they need people like that. But everybody on this team either can only turn on one of those abilities...or they're, like, in their 30s and can't really play defense anymore [Goldy, Crawford and Arenado, sadly].

The best thing about this team has been the pitching, because the Cardinals have all these contracted guys actually playing well for them, which...as sad as it is to see no homegrown aces on this team [except for Lance Lynn, but...he's left and come back], at least something's working. Sonny Gray's been awesome in his first 4 starts, he's in full early 2023 'no one can hit him' mode. Lynn and Gibson are also holding up pretty well. JoJo Romero and Andrew Kittredge have been very keen pickups that have paid off so far. This team can keep runs down, they just can't outscore people.

I do think the Cardinals have a shot at getting out of last, but it'll take a lot of hitters getting hot at once, which...COULD happen, but is looking difficult at the moment. It sucks to see people like Brendan Donovan and Paul Goldschmidt looking helpless, but here we are..

Coming Tonight: One of the best hitting outfielders in the game, who's probably thinking about other places he wants to play after this year. 

Monday, April 29, 2024

The Rotating Good Player

 There's a term in politics, the 'rotating villain', someone who, at a particular moment in time, for whatever reason, gets to be the person whose moves directly slow the process of a party's progress. It's merely the way of the system, as if there were no rotating villains there would be no power in the hands of the voter. Obviously I can't point at specifics, because this is a baseball card blog that caters to a wide audience in a blogosphere that has remained nonpartisan, perhaps thankfully. But this happens a lot, and it happens naturally enough that there's no real thought to it. Sometimes it's just your turn to be the guy, y'know.

Looking at the 2024 White Sox, I'm noticing the exact opposite phenomenon. The White Sox have become so terrible that it's become impossible for there to be more than one good player on the team at one time. I think about how the season began with the incredible start by Garrett Crochet, and then promptly he inflated his ERA to 6.40, right around the time that Erick Fedde started pitching really well. Right now Fedde's having his best season to date, proving that the season he spent in Korea managed to fix his rhythm. He's 2-0 with a 2.60 ERA and 39 Ks, which seems pretty insane considering that the team has 6 wins overall so far, and Fedde's responsible for two of them.

But aside from Fedde, the nearest positive performer right now in Chicago is relief piece Jordan Leasure. After that nobody on this team has a WAR higher than 5, and the third highest WAR on the team belongs to the currently-injured Yoan Moncada, who arguably does the 'look, I'm gonna have a great start and immediately get injured' schtick better than Anthony Rendon does. Everybody's either hitting purely alright, like Gavin Sheets and Eloy Jimenez, or pitching serviceably, like Steven Wilson or Chris Flexen. Nobody's really excelling at anything on this team, other than Fedde for the moment. But I'm not even sure if he'll be a full season talent or if the other shoe will drop, like Crochet.

I look at Andrew Benintendi, who's beginning to heat up and now leads the White Sox in RBIs with...with 12 [Marcell Ozuna has like 30]. Benintendi is a solid enough player, and has gone from a multi-faceted hitter with Boston and KC to a middle of the road guy who can occasionally hit for power. But he seems to be hitting up, and I assume the spotlight will fall on him for a little bit. And then, by the rate this team's been going, he'll probably cool off and it'll be down to someone else. And they'll just switch off like clockwork til they finish with like 120 losses. 

This is what bottom feeding baseball is. It's not pretty. It just keeps going. There's occasional relief but it's just awful to get through. And I hope there's a great dynasty on the other side for White Sox fans. I just don't want it to take 3 more years of this kind of play.

Coming Tomorrow- A custom I've had saved since March, since the guy got injured in Spring Training. Thankfully he's had a decent enough start since.

Wasn't This Just a Playoff Team?


I give you the 2024 Miami Marlins. A team where every starting batter can leave the game with 1 or more hits, including a 4-RBI game by the marquee star of the team...and they still lose by 3. To the Nationals.

It is appalling to see this Marlins team floundering after such a spirited finish to the 2023 season. They finished that year with so much promise, so many fun new performers and rookies, so many heroes, and unfinished business for 2024. And they didn't even lose too many people, mainly just Jorge Soler. But starting this season without Sandy Alcantara, Braxton Garrett and Eury Perez did a lot to batter down this team's value, because without them, a lot of less-proven options like Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk, struggled to hold the weight down and are injured as well. And even some of the better starters remaining, like Ryan Weathers and Trevor Rogers, have had started where they've gotten absolutely lit up. Getting Edward Cabrera back is a very good thing, but even he's had a rough start he's trying to come back from. Without somebody like Alcantara or Pablo Lopez, there's nothing to keep this rotation pinned down, and anybody can really chomp at these guys.

Even worse, the hitters haven't really shown up. Luis Arraez is doing his usual contact thing, yeah, but with a lower standard of defense. And right now it's just him and Otto Lopez hitting over .250. Everybody else is struggling at the plate, either with ineffective power hitting, mostly Josh Bell, or decent power hitting with high strikeout drawbacks, like Bryan de la Cruz and Jazz Chisholm. And the rest of the team are just guys that are sort of there. Emmanuel Rivera and Nick Gordon are on this team, I always forget that. The Tim Anderson moment is over, he's still a .220 hitter who's yet to even hit a home run. And, as discussed by most of the leagues, the Marlins have the single most ineffective catching battery in baseball, as Nick Fortes, a .122 hitter, is being backed up by Christian Bethancourt, who has 1 hit in 30 at bats. Austin Wells is hitting better than both of them.

The best player on this team right now is Max Meyer, who famously came up in 2022 and got absolutely lit up by the Phillies, owing solely to his overworking in the minors destroying his throwing arm. He's now back, healthy, and is 2-0 with a 2.12 ERA in 3 starts. Meyer is currently...in Jacksonville. That's right. The Marlins are keeping their best player in the minors. They've even called up other Jacksonville players, like Anthony Maldonado, who had a 3-inning start the other day. And they're keeping Meyer in Jacksonville, despite him being the only Marlins pitcher so far not to get destroyed. I...do not get this tactic at all. It's like they want to lose.

I haven't even mentioned the fact that Sixto Sanchez is finally back up in the majors, healthy and able to play, and he's got a 7.20 ERA as a reliever. That is...so anticlimactic. They were setting this guy up as a foundational piece in 2020 and now he's just another crappy reliever? The Marlins seem to be good at anticlimaxes, as so much of what was being set up in 2023 has gone nowhere so far this year. Bell and Burger? The young rotation pieces? Arraez as a league talent? All of that seems to have dissipated, and we're left with just a mediocre, not-at-all fun Marlins team that lets easy games against Patrick Corbin get away from them.

I know it's early, but this is not the start this team wanted after their playoff finish last year. Hopefully they can improve as we go into the season's second month.

Coming Tonight: A year after ditching the bigs for Korea, he's one of the few proven options from a team without much to prove at all.

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Boxed Kutter


Unfortunately, Trevor Story getting hurt within 2 weeks of the season's opening was just the beginning for the Red Sox. Since then, Nick Pivetta, Brayan Bello, Garrett Whitlock, Isaiah Campbell and now Triston Casas have all gotten hurt. That is most of the starting rotation, as well as the starting 1st baseman who was looking to keep the team moving this year. 

Ultimately, there are immediate effects. The Boston infield, and I do not say this lightly, stinks. Both Romy Gonzalez and Vaughn Grissom are also hurt, so the nearest option at 2nd is Enmanuel Valdez, who is hitting .154 with more strikeouts than Casas had. He's also somehow a below-average infielder. David Hamilton, the backup shortstop, is hitting .211 with 8 hits in 38 at-bats. When your DP combo is...Valdez and Hamilton...and, like, it was just Story-Bogaerts a second ago, it's gonna be evident. The next option at 1st is Bobby Dalbec, and he truly is not the answer. So the Sox have brought in Garrett Cooper, someone who was at the very least performing in Chicago before he was ruled ineffective after a few call-ups. Cooper isn't the greatest defensive 1st baseman, but he can still hit and he's somewhat versatile. It's looking like the infield has turned into 'Rafael Devers and, uh, close your eyes', but Cooper can prevent against that. 

As for the rotation, the Sox are trying to figure out what to do with the missing rotation spots. Their first option was pulling a Tampa and taking a reliever, ironically a former Tampa reliever, and just moving him up to the rotation to see what happens. Cooper Criswell's been decent in a few starts, but so far he seems like a pure innings-eater. Josh Winckowski is also starting games, and seems to be a better pick for it, though for now they're only giving him 3 or 4 innings there. The next step seems to be Naoyuki Uwasawa, who was performing well enough in Worcester and now seems to be the 5 man.

The relieving part is that the solid two up front has continued to be very solid. Kutter Crawford's had an excellent start, with a 1.35 ERA and 36 Ks in 6 starts. Tanner Houck has been similarly excellent as a starter [FINALLY], with a 1.65 ERA and 32 Ks, in addition to a 3-2 record. Those two are holding up well and are a strong foundation for this rotation, especially as they go for less sturdy options. It would be amazing if they continued to be this reliable so that the Sox don't fall into 3rd string pitching hell like they did in 2020.

It must also be relieving to the Sox that so many young players are taking off. Wilyer Abreu has made himself a fixture in the outfield, he's hitting .309 with 11 RBIs in 22 games. Jarren Duran's finally looking like an everyday star, he already has 8 stolen bases. I was worried Tyler O'Neill would be another Adam Duvall-type magic hat guy for the Sox, but he and his 9 homers are back and healthy. And you've also got fun little bit players like Justin Slaten and Brennan Bernadino having strong campaigns.

The Sox are not a bad team, they're just running into a ton of bad luck. If these pitching options hold up they could be alright, but they're in danger of the Rays lapping them and putting them back in last, which is not an option for this team after everything.

Coming Tomorrow- A power hitting outfielder for a team that had a 7-0 lead going earlier today, and I'm just gonna assume that everything went well and the Nats didn't come back-what's THIS???

Cease Change


Dylan Cease really went from suiting up for a last place team to getting to play for a second place one. There's a lot of moves this offseason that feel like not enough thought went into him, but he really got out of Chicago at the exact right time.

I think what's helped Cease get off to a blazing start, with a 3-1 record, a 1.82 ERA and 35 Ks, has been the run support. Pretty much everybody in this lineup has 10+ RBIs. Even people like Manny Machado and Xander Bogaerts, who are trying to get back to peak numbers, can still score runs. Cease is a great pitcher, but he really just needs the right circumstances to truly standout. Like, in the poorer White Sox years his numbers just didn't look the same. Last year he had a 4.58 ERA. Cease is going to show up, and he's going to deliver solid stuff, he's just very much at the mercy of the team, and even if the Padres haven't been perfect so far, he seems to fit right in there and has been relied upon a lot so far.

Now, granted...he's also being relied upon a lot because Joe Musgrave's struggling and Yu Darvish is hurt. Right now the Padres' rotation is made up of a lot of second choices, people like Michael King, Matt Waldron and Randy Vazquez. And while some of those guys are working out, especially Waldron, we're coming off a couple years of 'see all these stars pitch for the Padres'. Y'know, Blake Snell, Michael Wacha, Seth Lugo, all these great guys. And now we're going with a lower budget kind of deal, which works, it's still efficient. But now a lot's been put on Cease, and while he's still doing great, it's...honestly not dissimilar from where he came from. Musgrove could still pull it together, but after getting killed by the Phillies the other day I'm not sure how long that will take. 

'People just not really showing up' is still honestly a theme in San Diego. Machado is certainly trying, he's now up to .260, with 4 homers and 12 RBIs, but people are still a little worried. Bogaerts is hitting .219, that's a far cry from where he was even LAST April. Cronenworth just seems like he's lost a lot of his versatility that made him great a few seasons ago. There are people like Jackson Merrill and Jurickson Profar and, well, Tatis, who are succeeding, but it's not really a full team effort right now. This is a sort of 'back to basics' approach for them, this season, and it's worked to some degree but there's a lot, and arguably more than in previous years, that just isn't working.

The D-Backs are slumping enough to give the Padres padding at 2nd, but I don't know how long that will last, especially with the Phillies still very hot. 

Coming Tonight: A lot of Boston pitchers are getting hurt, and if this one does I have no idea what they're gonna do over there.

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Blackburn Notice


I blink and this is suddenly a third place team. I don't know if this says more about the quality of play in the AL West, or just the improved quality of play in Oakland.

Like I said a few days ago, the A's have somehow held onto a 5-man rotation since the beginning of the season, and are still running with Paul Blackburn, J.P. Sears, Alex Wood, Ross Stripling and Joe Boyle. For comparison's sake, y'wanna know how many people started games for them last year? Fifteen, not including openers. That means they were throwing people like Drew Rucinski, Spenser Watkins and Joey Estes out there and hoping for the best, and for the most part things didn't go well. Comparing that to this year, where they haven't even used openers, and have gotten starts out of all 5 consistently...that's night and day.

I mean, say what you will about which ones are pure innings-eaters at this point [Mostly Wood and Stripling], but there's actually an enhanced degree of pitching in this rotation. Joe Boyle has struggled, yes, but his mechanics are there; he's got 24 strikeouts and the highest SO/9 figure of the rotation. J.P. Sears has had several really nice starts, including one against his old team, and has a 3.38 ERA right now. And continuing his unprecedented Oakland success, Paul Blackburn is once again off to an awesome start for the A's, with a 2-1 record, a 2.03 ERA and 23 Ks. He's the perfect rock for this rotation, and his consistency will be a great help going forward, even if there's a nice chance he might be suiting up for a competitor around August. 

And then it must be mentioned that the A's are working with a reliever that no one seems to be able to hit. Mason Miller, who was a starter for a spell last year before being moved to the 'pen, has this 100+ mph nonsense that everybody's been struggling with. In 10 games he has 7 saves and only 2 earned runs, along with 25 Ks. The funny part about those 25 Ks is that Miller has faced 48 batters, meaning he's struck out more than half the hitters he's squared up against, which is pretty insane. I do worry about elbow maintenance, as I do with all pitchers this year, but this guy is something special, and I hope the A's get to celebrate that for as long as they can.

The hitting half is less starry, but there are some nice RBI performers in Brent Rooker and Shea Langeliers, and you do have Esteury Ruiz figuring out the plate in addition to his already excellent base running. A bit too much dead air, but they're figuring out, and they have guys who can just show up every now and then. Not a full team menace, but enough where I can understand why they're in third right now. The key is staying ahead of Houston, which will be tricky but, seeing as the A's actually have pitching, not insurmountable.

Coming Tomorrow- He kinda figured he'd be playing this season in Chicago but I think he'll take the slight upgrade.

Red Notice


Well, I predicted my Phillies would have trouble with the Reds, and I was right. Go me.

Look, the Reds are a tough team, because the second you think you've figured them out, somebody else shows up. Christian Encarnacion Strand has been that guy for most of the year, the guy who hasn't really done anything, and then when you've counted him out he just does something against you. There isn't really a version of that specifically for the Phillies, and I've talked about Yankee killers but this is more broad. Thorzul a million years ago coined the term 'pissant', somebody who only does well against your team, and he specified that it was Colby Rasmus against the Brewers. Yeah, well it might be CES against the Phillies, because he's hitting .200 against the rest of the league and .300 against the Phils. The only team he's got a better average against is the White Sox, but he's got 5 RBIs against us. 

Christian Encarnacion Strand has 16 RBIs this year alone, and 5 of them, more than 1/4th of them, were against my team. This is exactly what I'm talking about.

Not only that, but there are just some guys that are GOING to drive you crazy, no matter who you are. Like, you try making Elly de la Cruz have an 0-4 night. He's gonna get on base, he's gonna steal something, or he's gonna have some crazy hit that nobody can get to because the exit velocity's over 100mph. It's just not gonna happen, and it's easier if you except it. Right now, even Jake Fraley is hitting .362. The man has a higher on base percentage than Elly, and this is the guy that was supposed to be the power bat. 

And if you look at the holes in this lineup, those are there because T.J. Friedl and Matt McLain are hurt. That is your reprieve. Because when they come back, they're gonna still be extremely good, and you'll be wishing for those holes. You'll be begging for Stuart Fairchild.

The worrying part, even through the success, is the rotation, because even with the number of guys here who are doing well, you're still without Brandon Williamson and, for a little while, Frankie Montas. And two of your arms are people like Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo, two really hard throwing guys who have already spent a long time on the IL. Luckily Nick Martinez and Brent Suter have enough starting experience that they can slide into rotation roles, but I do worry about the durability of some of these guys. Andrew Abbott does seem to be a little different, he just looks like a guy that's gonna keep getting ahead of you. Right now he's got a 2.60 ERA and 20 Ks, and he seems to have taken the head of the rotation away from Hunter Greene, who's getting lit up a lot [again]. I hope he keeps it up, somebody like him as a perennial guy is good for this team.

The Reds have a lot that's working even if there are multiple pieces waiting to come back. If this is what they look like at partial force, imagine how powerful they're gonna be when some of them get back.

Coming Tonight: It is wild that Oakland had enough pitchers to silence the Yankees this past week. Here's one of them.

Friday, April 26, 2024

Turn it On, Salvador


It's wild to me that Salvador Perez's career has been almost a two act process, where the first 8 years consists of some of the most consistent defensive catching, and the next 4+ includes some unbelievable power hitting. It's like Yadier Molina walked through a portal and became Mike Piazza. And the thing is, Salvador Perez's defense has gone down since his elbow injury, but he's still an above average defensive catcher. He's still back there more often than not, and considering that Freddy Fermin was SUPPOSED to take over and isn't having the season the Royals fans thought, it's nice that Perez is still a serviceable option.

So far, Perez is off to another wild start, as he's currently hitting .352 with a league leading 25 RBIs, plus 7 home runs. It is an insane offensive start, with enough contact hitting to round out the power numbers, and enough solid defensive moments to rationalize him still being back there at 34. I used to think that by the time the next wave of Royals superstars came around, Perez would have bowed out, but him being used as the veteran centerpiece of this team, much like Buster Posey for the 2021 Giants, is a cool outcome that I like. He's still really good, he can still hit, and he's still a very valuable member of this current Royals team, even ten seasons removed from winning his ring.

And that's the other wild thing about Salvador Perez. There aren't very many other members of the 2015 Royals who are still on a major league roster. It is literally just Salvy and Johnny Cueto, as Mike Moustakas did not make the White Sox's Opening Day roster, which...considering the start their off to, seems like a good decision. And Cueto's deal with Texas is very much a 'let's see if he still has anything left' deal, and that's an alternative to legging Jack Leiter out there apparently. So it's really just Perez left, and the fact that Perez is still an integral part of this Royals team...that says a lot about his overall value as a player. I think the Royals fans are gonna feel it whenever he ends up packing it up, more than they felt it when Alex Gordon retired. 

Perez is just one of many Royals who are over performing this April, and making their team a contender for first even this early on. Bobby Witt has fully come into his own, and has ascended to full throttle, hitting .308 with 7 steals already. Vinnie Pasquantino is back and power hitting like no time has passed. Seth Lugo, Brady Singer and Cole Ragans are all proving themselves to be extremely reliable starters, and though Alec Marsh's injury could be worrying, the idea is that Daniel Lynch won't be much of a drop-off. This team is doing so much right, and chasing even the greats. I'd love for them to keep it going, and for Perez to see the playoffs as a Royal again.

Coming Tomorrow- After an incredible start to his career last year, he gets to pitch for an even better version of that team.

Speaking Candidly About the Apparent Nats Rebrand


I hadn't had much of an opportunity to really look at the Nationals' new uniforms, and quite clearly they're trying to bring in a new aesthetic, which is...sort of odd, considering how iconic their 2010s curly W uniforms were. I didn't think there was anything wrong with them. But since 2020 they've been phasing them out, and going for the new straight W emblem, which I don't have much issue with. 

And now this season they roll out a completely new uniform design, with lettering like what you see above, a completely new font, and more emphasis on navy. Now looking at this, which I believe is the away uniform, I'm...reminded of a few things.

The first is the early Nationals uniforms. Like, remember before they really nailed the Curly W thing and thought the way was the DC logo? There were a lot of early uniforms that felt like they weren't quite there yet, and the away uniforms from like 2006 and 2007 were like this, just grey and navy with awkward lettering. And it reminds me of that, just not at all fitting with what I think the Nationals should be. The other thing this reminds me of are the 2003-04 Expos road uniforms. The blue and white stripe on the legs bring me there, as does the lettering. If the helmet color was bluer we'd be there. And I don't think it's a bad aesthetic but towards the end it was getting dull.

But the main thing I'm reminded of are the mid-2000s Reds uniforms, the vested ones with blocky lettering on the chest and patterned greys. I didn't love those but they certainly were distinct. And that's what these feel like, they feel more like Reds alts than Nationals mains. It's confusing because Jesse Winker and Nick Senzel are on this team, both ex-Reds, and both essentially in the same 2017-era rollout. So Winker could be wearing Reds throwbacks for all I know. Though Winker is currently hitting .297, so he may just be throwing back to Cincinnati in general.

It used to baffle me why the Nats would run from their more iconic uniforms, the red-and-white Curly W and distinct jersey designs. And then in the past week or so it became a lot more clear, because this is a team based in Washington, DC, and apparently fans in town didn't like wearing red hats, because from behind somebody could see them wearing a red hat and think they were supporting something other than a baseball team [closer to a USFL team, really]. So since people stopped wearing red caps, the Nats started rolling out different cap designs, and then shifted out of that aesthetic completely, despite it being...their best-looking one. And look, I get it, I totally get it, but...I'd be happier if what they were switching to looked, like...good. And these aren't great. The home ones are marginally better but I'm not in love with it yet. 

I think the other issue is that in order for me to really pin down this uniform era of the team, the team itself needs to do something distinct. And we're not really at that point yet. There are good players, like C.J. Abrams, MacKenzie Gore and now Mitchell Parker, but no good teams yet. It's a lot like the 90s Brewers. That weird uniform aesthetic didn't really become memorable to me because there weren't any legendary or distinct players or teams in them. And that's what the Nats are in danger of becoming at this point.

Maybe in a couple years they'll go back to the red Curly W. Maybe it's just a 'redlegs' thing, just waiting for passing Washington trends to tide over. 

Coming Tonight: Every time I count this guy out he comes roaring back. Now he's an RBI machine with a great team around him.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

The Apparent Toronto DH Brigade


Last year, the Toronto Blue Jays had an insanely fine-crafted lineup, made up of a ton of great young stars, and some really wise new additions, including Kevin Kiermaier and Daulton Varsho, who made the outfield even more of a force. And yet the one oddball, wild card type portion of the lineup that didn't seem especially patterned out was the DH position, which they gave to Brandon Belt, in his first season away from San Francisco. They didn't know if Belt had anything left, they figured they should give it a shot. In 103 games, Belt hit .254 with a 2.0 WAR, 19 homers and 43 RBIs. Not peak numbers, and potentially the last stats of Belt's long career...but he got the job done.

The idea seemed to interest the Blue Jays, because the 'last legs DH' strategy is one they're continuing to go with this year. There are three potential DHs in this Jays system that are people nearing the end of their careers who can still at the very least do some damage at the plate. And funnily enough, one of them has been one of the key performers for the Jays so far.

Justin Turner, though not a Hall of Famer, has to be one of the most crucial supporting players of the last 10 years of baseball. I cannot imagine those Dodger teams without him, he could hit .300 and drill you when you thought you were safe. He was also a respected leader in a clubhouse that needed a stable, reliable figure like that. Last year in Boston he continued the strong degree of play, despite being 38. He still hit .276 with 23 homers and 96 RBIs, the latter of which, if you can believe it, was a career high for Turner. So, despite the Mets putting a word in, the Blue Jays signed him and plugged him in as their starting DH.

So far, Turner's been pretty excellent, hitting .319 with 12 RBIs and 2 home runs. He's been one of the team's best hitting performers so far, which is weird considering that the team also has Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and George Springer on it. The slow starts of the younger guys does let somebody like Turner, or IKF or Varsho, who may not be the central figure ultimately, be a hero early on. And isn't it wild that Isiah Kiner-Falefa can be seen as a hero again? Not much offensively but look at what he's doing at short.

Behind Turner in the DH brigade is Dan Vogelbach, for his 2nd time in Toronto. Vogey was essentially run out of New York on a rail after pissing off all the Mets fans, and this season was to be his redemption. It's...taking a bit, as he's yet to hit any home runs. This isn't like Pittsburgh where he can just find his swing again, I think because he's mainly a backup, he hasn't really found his footing yet, and I don't really know if he will.

And then there's the third man. I have no idea when he'll show up, as he's nursing an injury from Spring Training, but Joey Votto is somewhere on this roster, and I think he intends on making the team at some point. This will probably be his last MLB action, whenever it happens, and he wants to play close to home. Votto getting to be the Jays' DH, perhaps down the stretch, could be pretty awesome, and would be a wonderful sight, no matter the quality of the play. 

The Jays' overall approach may be hazy this year, but at the very least this DH strategy seems to be a hit. I hope they keep at it.

Coming Tomorrow- A guy I saw walk-off back in Cincinnati. He's...a long way from that season, to say the least.

The Short Answer


Mookie Betts is at a point where if he retired today, he'd be a Hall of Famer. 2 rings, a 7-year run of ASG appearances, an MVP, and someone who has been routinely listed among the best players in the game. The closest thing he's had to a down season was his 4.0 WAR year in 2021, which was, at the very least, followed by two consecutive years where he hit 35+ home runs. 

Mookie Betts, at 31, has done it all, performed to the highest level, and cemented his status as one of the foremost figures of his era of baseball. And now, 10 years into his career, he's switching from outfield to shortstop.

This isn't completely unwarranted, he's played 2nd base the last couple years for LA, but this season began with Dave Roberts naming Betts the starting shortstop. Now, I can kind of see why, seeing at, in the absence of Gavin Lux last year, both middle infield options, Miguel Vargas and Miguel Rojas, underperformed. Lux is back this year, but he's still not a proven option, and Rojas seems to be shifting into a depth backup option, which cannot help his self-esteem considering the smack Jazz Chisholm has been talking. And then you have to figure that they wanna leave room not only for Teoscar Hernandez but for Andy Pages, who is up, even if he's not 100% killing it yet. And seeing that Betts can definitely play 2nd, even if he isn't a gold glover there, shortstop wasn't exactly out of the question.

So far, the 'Betts at shortstop' era of Dodgers baseball has been going well, mostly due to the fact that Betts is still an outstanding hitter. Dude's hitting .347 with 19 RBIs and 6 homers. His 2.2 WAR, before the month of April is even over, is a league high. To give you an idea, Shohei Ohtani is hitting .264 with 6 homers and 14 RBIs and he isn't even the most valuable Dodger right now. Betts' defense seems to be higher quality at short than his 2nd base material, just from what we've seen already. It is wild to see a player widely considered one of the best in the game evolve yet again defensively, but here we are.

Betts is the showiest of the Dodgers' Big 3 right now, but he's certainly not the only noisemaker. Ohtani of course makes the news by breathing, and Freddie Freeman's still hitting .297 with 13 RBIs, even if they're a little below his peak. What's been worrying has been the number of games where the heart of the lineup can't do anything, hence the 11 losses, as well as some of the troubles of having a rotation besieged by injury, but this is still a 1st place Dodgers team with their biggest players performing to high degrees, so they at least have that.

If this is what Mookie Betts is playing like after 10 years, I cannot imagine what he'll have done by the time he retires.

Coming Tonight: Ironically a former Dodgers infielder, who's been off to an excellent start for a new team.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

That's Certainly a First Place Rotation


There was a stat the other day, that was like 'only four many teams have only started 5 guys so far this season', which is absolutely wild considering it's only April. And on that list, there are teams you'd expect. Y'know, the Phillies are on there, that's pretty likely. The Mariners, even without Bryan Woo, are on there, they've held up. A few unlikely ones in there, uh, the Athletics. Yeah! They started the year with Sears-Wood-Boyle-Blackburn-Stripling, they've kept it going. More power to 'em. The Royals, nobody expected Alec Marsh and Michael Wacha to hold up their end of the bargain but here we are. 

But, considering what the Mariners were going with heading into the season, not really surprising that their rotation has held up. Maybe not all 100% excellent right now, but this is an insanely strong unit that might be the deciding factor for the M's this year.

As he has been since coming up, Logan Gilbert has been the top performer here. So far he's 2-0 with a 1.87 ERA and 35 Ks, one short of Luis Castillo. Gilbert might be one of the most underrated pitchers in the game, because he's been insanely consistent in his 3 years in the bigs, always relied upon, always has a low ERA and always gets you out of trouble, and he's never really gotten much credit for it. No All-Star nominations, no Cy Young voting, nothing. I mean, last year Luis Castillo was the crowdpleaser of this group, and George Kirby had flashier numbers, but Gilbert might be the better bare-bones pitcher, and he's helped this team go from a middle of the pack wannabe to a more respectable competitor. He came up the same day as Jarred Kelenic, and one of them's not here right now. 

I mean granted he's....doing really well for a better team but that's not important right now.

The other strong arm so far for the Mariners is Bryce Miller, and after his incredible start last year it's a welcome presence. Miller's 3-1 with a 1.85 ERA and 24 Ks, he's perhaps a quieter presence than Gilbert but it's important that he does well. So far, the two biggest names, Castillo and Kirby, are having mediocre seasons buoyed by disappointing starts. They're still great pitchers with excellent technique, they're just trying to come down from rough outings. Emerson Hancock is the only pitcher who's truly struggling in this rotation, and I think the team's counting down til Woo gets back, but he's still got the occasional perk. Again, with the way they built this unit, mostly with homegrown arms, even the lower-tier guys can still give you good stuff.

The pitching has been the main saving grace for the Mariners, but the hitting is just taking off. Julio Rodriguez just hit his first homer of 2024, and is at least using that to heat up. Cal Raleigh's having another awesome year with 6 homers and 13 RBIs so far. Mitch Haniger's picking up where he left off a year ago, and is a great power bat still. There's a ton of holes in this lineup, and Polanco seems to be telling me that 2nd base is cursed in Seattle, judging by what it did to Adam Frazier and Kolten Wong. But this is a 1st place Mariners team, by the grace of the pitching, and they're gonna try and hang onto that for as long as they can, even if the Rangers might be the better team.

I hope Logan Gilbert can keep it up, he just might be the force that keeps the Mariners in the conversation.

Coming Tomorrow- The most versatile player in the game just adds another position to his resume.

Waiting for Paul


This is Jared Jones. He throws really hard and plays for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Jones currently has 39 strikeouts, which is the second most in all of baseball. It might also be one of the highest strikeout totals in someone's first 5 games or something like that, bottom line is he's doing things that not a lot of rookies have done, and he's doing it in Pittsburgh. 

However, the Pirates, who were 11-5 last week, are now 12-11, meaning the Pirates have once again squandered a huge start by being the Pirates. They're currently in fourth place in the NL Central, and a lot of the pieces that were delivering in week 1 are now barely hitting for average and don't have more than 10 RBIs to show for it. The team has series against the Brewers and Giants, two tough teams, before a much gentler batch of games against the Rockies and A's, and with the more tepid tides pulling into Pittsburgh, fans are growing worried. They saw this team's potential, and even with someone like Jared Jones, or even the last three powerful rookies, Ke'Bryan Hayes, Henry Davis and Oneil Cruz, they're still not playing as well as they should be.

And I know that things aren't great. I know they just lost like 6 in a row. And I know that Quinn Priester doesn't seem like a very sturdy fifth rotation option. But it is wild to me that a Pirates fan can look at a rotation where Mitch Keller, Jared Jones, Bailey Falter and Martin Perez are all performing extremely well, and have each contributed excellent starts throughout April, and go 'this needs Paul Skenes'.

I think it is fairly understandable that the Pittsburgh Pirates are being extremely careful with Paul Skenes. They're making sure he only pitches a few innings in Indianapolis, spacing his starts out, and they're definitely ensuring he has enough time in the minors, even if Wyatt Langford can do what he's doing. The state of pitching right now is dire, and everyone's been throwing so hard in developmental leagues that they're at risk of blowing a gasket by the time they hit the majors. Paul Skenes throws hard, and nobody can hit him. But at any point, he could wear out his arm and need surgery. It happened to Andrew Painter last year and we still haven't heard from him.

Rushing Skenes and injuring him minutes into his rookie campaign is the worst thing the Pirates could do. After what happened to Jasson Dominguez, it's a possibility, and not one they want on their conscience right now. So I get why they haven't promoted him. If they're doing well enough right now, and if Priester and Falter can still at least keep runs down, we don't need Paul Skenes. And might I also add...the Pirates HAVE a rookie who can throw smoke right now. Jared Jones. Remember him, top of the post? So like, it says a lot for a fanbase to see someone playing beautifully and pitching like a god and immediately go 'WE WANT BETTER'. Skenes and Jones in the same rotation is a great idea, but we will get there naturally, otherwise it'll be like the 2010s Mets rotations where they're never healthy at the same time and the moment they are is like the moment in This is the End where Michael Cera is being really mean to Jonah Hill and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, like this is what we wanted all along only now it's nowhere near as happy.

The Pirates could be slowly on the upswing, though. Andrew McCutchen's getting hot again, that's always a good thing. Aroldis Chapman can still hit 100, he's been useful. Nobody's really hitting for power but you can see people starting to. So maybe it won't be all bad. 

What I'm saying is, Pirates fans...have a tiny bit of faith. They may not need Skenes. The O's didn't necessarily need Holliday, did they?

Coming Tonight: Speaking of people from strong rotations that can throw really hard...

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Subtlety in First


The best record in baseball right now belongs to the Cleveland Guardians, and if you didn't know better you'd assume it didn't. So much of baseball media has been showcasing the Yankees and Dodgers and Orioles and Braves and Rangers, and they're all doing fine, but the Guardians are 16-6 and still looking as good as they did at the start of the season. And they're doing this without big players and huge performances and a big newsmaker. No, they're just...playing really good baseball. And right now, that's enough.

Right now the Guardians are without Shane Bieber, they're only getting a .239 average out of Jose Ramirez [despite 18 RBIs and 3 homers], and only Ramirez and Carlos Carrasco remain from the 2016 World Series squad [though Carrasco famously skipped town for a couple years]. So a lot of the great players they're relying on are just statistical favorites without a lot of brand recognition. 

But, to be fair, Andres Gimenez and Steven Kwan might be among the best bare-bones players in the game right now. Gimenez is an excellent defender, and he's hitting .293 so far this year with 14 RBIs. Gimenez is one of the players this season who's yet to hit a home run, but seeing as Gimenez is best known as a contact hitting defensive guy, it's not a huge loss. Meanwhile Steven Kwan, much like he did to start off the 2022 season, is on an absolute tear right now, with a .358 average and 34 hits. Kwan has become one of those guys that rarely has dull moments, and can do something awesome either at the plate or in field, whenever he wants. Kwan has that x-factor, and in a year where Jose Ramirez is taking a longer period to get up to 100%, he'll do just fine in that role.

And then you have Josh Naylor, who I'm so happy has worked out in Cleveland, hitting over .300 with 20 RBIs and 6 homers already. Naylor just needed the space to become a XBH machine, and though he couldn't find it in San Diego he's been a fixture of the Guardians' lineups ever since the 2020 playoffs. Naylor's coming off a .300 hitting year for Cleveland, and he's still in that headspace. Plus, his brother Bo is up in the majors and is hitting alright, at least compared to Austin Hedges. 

I'm also bewildered by the fact that, while the Cleveland rotation is perfectly fine, the bullpen might be the real reason this team is 16-6. Not that any starter's doing particularly badly right now, they've just all got ERAs over 3. The bullpen, which I need to clarify is without James Karinchak, Eli Morgan, Trevor Stephan and Sam Hentges right now, is still phenomenal. Emmanuel Clase already has 6 saves. Hunter Gaddis has yet to give up a run. Tim Herrin and Nick Sandlin have been excellent. Hell, they may have even fixed Peter Strzelecki after his poor finish with Arizona last year. This is a strong unit, and it's helped the starting pitching, which still isn't...terrific, get a ton of wins so far.

The Guardians are this good not because they have the biggest stars, but they're an excellent technical, and statistical, team. Stephen Vogt is an excellent fit for this system because he's clearly been on a stats-driven team or two, and the team already seems to respect him as a savvy manager. It's still early, but the Guardians have enough to keep ahead of the showier competitors below them in the standings, and it'd be cool if they did.

Coming Tomorrow- A Pittsburgh rookie who throws smoke. Surprisingly, not the one you may be thinking, at least not yet.

Better Beard

 So far we've got a guy with an XBH streak, a bunch of pitchers who go deep into games without allowing runs, several relievers with very low ERAs, and a few games Bryce Harper will be missing not due to injury, but because he's expecting a kid. And all the while we're 5+ games over .500 earlier than we have been in either of the years we made the NLCS. So suffice to say, great time to be a Phillies fan.

The way all of Trea Turner, Brandon Marsh and Alec Bohm are all playing is what we'd been wanting for them for a while. Turner has this insane extra base hit streak, in addition to an amazing .348 ERA and 31 hits. This is the Turner we signed up for, and this is the kind of season he gave to the Nats and Dodgers willingly. Turner has a place right in the heart of the Philly lineup, and I love seeing him come into his own. Marsh is equally dominant right now, hitting .288 with 13 RBIs and 5 homers. This is the more well rounded, contact-friendly season that I'm guessing the Angels wish they'd gotten to see more of. And then Bohm's actually mixing solid offensive play with some halfway decent defensive numbers this year, so he's on our good side for the moment. Could use something a little more from Bryson Stott, but he'll get there, probably.

The single most impressive thing about this Phillies team, to me, has been the degree of excellence coming from the starting rotation. I worried about Aaron Nola, as I think I have a right to at this point, but even he's evened things out to a 3.16 ERA, 3 wins and 26 Ks. He still gives up more runs that a lot of the rest of them, but when he's on, he's extremely handy. Wheeler's only 1-3, which is weird, but he's in peak shape, and is coming off a start where he went 7 or so innings without allowing a run. Cristopher Sanchez has been a pretty strong 5 man in the absence of Taijuan Walker, he's got a 2.53 ERA. And then you've got...y'know, Ranger Suarez and Spencer Turnbull, who've both been incredible through their first 4 starts and have ERAs lower than 2. I really hope both of them can keep it up, especially Turnbull, who's really good at being excellent for a good 10 starts and then getting injured.

The Phillies have been doing a lot correctly, but a lot has been thanks to an easy stretch of opponents. They've had the White Sox in town, and they're easy to make quick work of. The Rockies were in town before that, they were easy to beat. Now the Reds and Padres, who are a better degree of opponent, have to square up. And here is where things may get trickier for the Phillies, especially with the Mets creeping up. I do think the Phils have more to work with this season, and will eventually triumph, but it's going to take a lot of strong play in tougher matchups. Considering how long it took for the Phillies to even out, I do worry for the team, but with the degree I've seen from people like Ranger Suarez, Trea Turner and Brandon Marsh, I'm somewhat optimistic. 

Coming Tonight: The Mets passed on one of the best defensive players in the game to get a guy who's hitting .210 for them right now. That must smart, I think. 

Monday, April 22, 2024

AV Can Hit Now, Too


The theme of this Yankee team, at least in its first month, has been improvement. You've seen improvement from a lot of the pitchers we thought were cooked, like Carlos Rodon, Nestor Cortes and Luis Gil, as well as people who struggled at the plate last year, like Oswaldo Cabrera, Giancarlo Stanton and Anthony Rizzo. Just in the last few weeks you've seen Alex Verdugo begin to come into his own in the Bronx, and he's beginning to get the fan following he deserves. 

But most crucially, this season began with Anthony Volpe, who showed his fielding prowess last season without any offensive production, hitting like he should have been all along. I forget exactly how he conditioned himself but he fixed his swing and is hitting like a major leaguer, with a .288 average, 9 RBIs, 2 homers, 23 hits and 6 steals. Add that to continued success as a fielder and Volpe is looking like a well-rounded, versatile player. This is the guy who tore up the minors a few years ago and got prospectors really excited. To see him become one of the most crucial pieces of this team, in multiple senses, is really satisfying. It's also nice that this is happening underneath some of the already-proven successes. Like, this is a team with Aaron Judge, Juan Soto and Gerrit Cole, and now in addition we have a top tier shortstop with killer contact numbers. It's a nice perk, I'll give ya that. Considering two players headed to the majors in the next year or so, it's nice that the farm system is delivering massive wins again.

The Yankees have been able to pull themselves out of some tight spaces earlier incarnations couldn't have imagined. The Yanks-Rays game the other day was tight all the way through, but Verdugo and Trevino clobbered the Rays' bullpen on 2 outs and were able to squeeze out of it. It's also been helpful having Clay Holmes in the ninth, as his league-leading 8 saves is a very interesting staff. Yes, they're not all going to be blowouts, but you'd think that Holmes wouldn't be the deciding factor as much as he is. Again, we'll see what happens once Judge and Rizzo really heat up, but it's definitely worth nothing. 

There have been some worrying details, most notably the fact that we couldn't get things going earlier today against the notoriously-bad Oakland A's. On one hand, yes, you try hitting Mason Miller, but J.P. Sears shouldn't be enough to keep people like Soto and Volpe at bay. I'm also not wild about the whole Boone thing. We're really past 'the emperor has no clothes' territory with this umping shit, and I'm tired of people passing it off as nothing. Boone isn't afraid to hold back, and if that makes him the enemy of the umpiring community, then fine. But it doesn't make them any more correct. The bullpen also worries me, they're not as strong as they were at season's open, and losing both Loiasiga and Nick Burdi is a bit distressing, but Victor Gonzalez, Ian Hamilton and Rob Marinaccio have continued to deliver great work. 

The Yankees have a scorching couple weeks without much of a break, and will have to play the Brewers, Orioles and Tigers, after 3 more from the A's. If they're still in 1st by the end of it I'll be pleasantly surprised. 

Coming Tomorrow- A man whose beard is always bushy, whose hair is always damp, and whose average is always higher than yours.

How The Boras Guys Are Doing


The story so far: this offseason, it took what seemed like forever for a ton of Scott Boras clients to find places to sign. The negotiating that Boras was doing, asking for huge contracts and not coming down, despite teams being more realistic about how much they wanted to spend, and for how long, on these guys, annoyed the hell out of the whole league. It got to the point where, after he signed, Jordan Montgomery went with a different agent. I think that teams, and players will be less prone to work with Boras going forward, though considering that he represents one of the biggest free agents of the 2025 offseason...hold onto your hats, folks.

But I thought it'd be interesting to look at those main 5 guys that Boras held til the last month of the offseason, and see how they're doing, if the shorter spring training period has affected their gameplay, if teams were right in holding out. 

Matt Chapman: The deal that Chapman signed with the Giants is a 1 year deal worth 20 million, with mutual options for the next three years, and judging by how he's been doing so far, I hope for the Giants' sake that Chapman enjoys his return to the Bay Area. Defensively, Chapman's still one of the best third baseman in the bigs, and he's fit in well with this infield. He's only hitting .224 with 12 RBIs and 4 homers, but it's still decent production. I think that Chapman's more likely to shoot for 25 homers these days than 35, and I think the Giants are aware of that; seeing that they have Jorge Soler and Michael Conforto, they're not 100% relying on Chapman for power. I do think that, of the Boras guys, Chapman has had the least amount of learning curve to the new location, though the hope is that his hitting numbers will heat up soon enough.

Blake Snell: Of all of these guys, I think this is the case where I get why the teams didn't completely go all in. Blake Snell is an excellent pitcher, and a Cy Young winner, but he's never been excellent multiple seasons in a row. He needs his comedown periods, and I think everyone's aware of it. Snell got 1 year 32 million from the Giants, with an option for Snell if he wants to stick around for 2025. Truthfully, it's because they don't know if Snell's 2024 will be a disappointment or not, and want to hedge their bets. And so...so far, it's looking like the Giants made the correct move. Blake Snell, through 3 starts, has an 11.57 ERA, an 0-3 record and a 1.971 WHIP. He's struck out 12 batters, so he can still do that, but people are hitting him more frequently than they did last season. Now, the case could be made that this wouldn't be happening if he had a full spring with the Giants to iron out the kinks, but...after last season, there's a chance he overexerted himself and needs a longer cooldown period, or perhaps another damned surgery. He could come back around, he could just need a few starts to adjust, but this isn't looking great.

Cody Bellinger: It was pretty clear that Bellinger was gonna end up back with the Cubs, it was just a matter of how long he'd be down for. Because of Boras' prattling they only got 1 year guaranteed with a couple options, for 30 million, and while it does prevent against Bellinger's 2023 being a fluke, it also makes this process repeat if Bellinger's 2024 goes well. So far, though, he's been purely alright, with 4 homers, 14 RBIs and a 0.3 WAR. Basically, he needs to have a few more really strong hitting weeks and he'll be 'back' in a sense. I'm not thinking he's reverted to how he was in his last few years in LA, at least not yet, but Bellinger is the kind of guy that could heat up out of nowhere. 

Jordan Montgomery: Gumby was the longest holdout, signing near the very end of Spring Training, and this saga ending in a 1-year, 25 million dollar deal with Arizona does explain why he eventually sought out different representation. Because of the late signing, he began the season in extended camp, made some minor league starts, and didn't make it up to the D-Backs til a few days ago. Thankfully, his first start for the team seemed to be indicative of his 2023 success, as he went 6 innings with a 1.50 ERA, allowing only 1 earned run and getting the win. Funnily enough, said debut was in a game against Blake Snell, who did not do as well. I'm thinking Montgomery got enough done in the minors to let the adjustment not completely psych him out, and he should be good going forward.

J.D. Martinez: The only one of the Boras guys that has yet to play this year, J.D. Martinez signed a minuscule by comparison 1 year, 12 million dollar deal with the Mets, went through a similar extended camp period to Montgomery, and because of some injury setbacks, has remained in Port St. Lucie. The Mets announced yesterday that they're hoping Martinez will be up with the club by the end of the week, and seeing as the injury to Francisco Alvarez has left them really needing a DH, it could come at a great time for the team. Time will tell if Martinez is worth his weight, and at 36, he hopefully has enough left to calm Mets fan concerns.

We'll see if these early periods have any effect on the full seasons of this group. It's looking good for Chapman and Montgomery at the moment, but you never know how things will fully develop.

Coming Tonight: At worst, he's still a gold-glove infielder. We're beginning to see him at his best. 

Sunday, April 21, 2024

L.A. Reid


The Angels have evolved from their usual problem. Typically, the issue is that Mike Trout is playing really well and no one else is. Now, it's evolved to....Mike Trout, Tyler Anderson, Reid Detmers and Taylor Ward are playing well, and no one else is. Which is an improvement.

The Angels' rotation for the past few years has been horrifically inconsistent. They'll get one or two guys working, and then they'll lose other people or somebody'll start giving up too many runs. The good news is that the Angels have Tyler Anderson, Reid Detmers and Jose Soriano pitching well. Soriano had a great start today, he might be a rotation staple going forward. Anderson's more than making up for his weak 2023 with a 1.42 ERA in 4 starts. Detmers, though, is looking truly impressive, with a 3-0 record, a 1.19 ERA, 30 Ks a 0.975 WHIP. Detmers has struggled since his come-up, and has flirted with excellent material but has struggled to finish a season with something especially strong. This is the best Detmers has looked in a while, and the team would really appreciate it if he put in a full season of work this consistent.

I just think that it would be more appreciated, the work Detmers and Anderson have put in, if Patrick Sandoval and Griffin Canning were in any way holding it together this year. Canning has an 8.05 ERA right now. It's not as bad as Kyle Hendricks but it's not great. And the thing is, these guys have enough equity that it's easier to just wait for them to turn around. Which means the Angels have to stomach these poor starts and hope the offense can bail them out. 

And generally they can. Y'know, Trout, Ward, Logan O'Hoppe, Miguel Sano honestly, they're putting in good work. Trout has 8 homers, it feels like vintage Trout. All the young guys they really want to rely on...aren't really playing well. And two of them are people who skipped minor league service time, Zach Neto and Logan Schanuel, and you never want someone to make a manager go 'well we should have kept them in the minors'. Schanuel's hitting .167, Neto's hitting .164. Mickey Moniak is similarly struggling. This is not what the Angels wanted after those guys helped out a great deal in the second half.

And that's honestly what the Angels feel like, a lot of the time: a house where after you fix one thing, three more things break down. Y'know, they have Trout playing well, the kids start hitting. They finally get Anthony Rendon on a tear, he gets hurt. It doesn't build on itself because things keep going wrong the second they're gonna build. 

The Angels are lucky that being 9-12 in April isn't enough for last in this division. The A's aren't doing very well either, and the Astros have no pitching. So they need to have some great games coming up to stay where they are, unless it'll go just about as well as the other Trout seasons in LA.

Coming Tomorrow- It took him a while to figure out where he was signing, and judging by his start to the season he picked a decent place.

Alternate Sho


...He does know you're allowed to give up runs over here, right?

It took until Game 4 of Shota Imanaga's MLB career before he gave up a run, to the Miami Marlins of all people. Until then, he was completely unbeatable out there, and kept opposing offenses at bay like a pro. Now that he's drawn blood, I don't think we should hold him in any less regard. In an era where great Japanese pitchers are blowing their arms out and not playing [Senga, Darvish and Ohtani are all hurt right now], it's nice to see someone try a different approach and just outthink people. Imanaga's 30, he's not like the Roki Sasaki child prodigy thing who can throw fire, he's got 18 or so strikeouts so far, and is mostly just winning by being dominant. It's not the Yu Darvish style that Cubs fans may be used to, but they certainly love this guy already, and he's already given them some big games before the first month of the season has even elapsed.

The Cubs have been doing a lot right this year so far, and Imanaga is just the biggest highlight. But there's a lot of other smaller bits of progress, like ensuring Adbert Alzolay's continued success in the ninth, procuring Miguel Amaya's promotion to starting catcher, and the rise of Michael Busch, a guy the Cubs weren't sure about when he came over from LA. Busch has been a mainstay at 1st base, is hitting .300 and has 6 homers and 17 RBIs already. And for the biggest offensive performance so far to come from a guy the Cubs were shrugging off in March...that says a lot. Yes, Bellinger, Swanson and Hoerner are performing well too, but they haven't fully taken off yet. Mostly, Swanson and Hoerner are getting accolades for their defense, which...should go without saying at this point.

And that's important for this team. I assume the hitting will fully take off sooner or later, but the defense and pitching has made this team a competitor. Imanaga has had Javier Assad, Ben Brown and Jameson Taillon by his side, with great starts from each. The only weak link in the rotation has been Kyle Hendricks, who's been...unsettlingly bad this year, in a way that's worried many fans. If Justin Steele's gonna be out for a while and Hendricks isn't gonna be the rock, it makes things a little more nerve racking. The next guy in line is Hayden Wesneski, and after last season he's not a surefire hit in the majors, much like Jordan Wicks at the moment. So thankfully the guys that are working have continued their success, and the bullpen has enough people like Mark Leiter Jr. and Keegan Thompson to provide solid work.

I think the issue right now is that the Cubs just aren't the overpowering favorites the Brewers are. The Brewers have shown success in power hitting, starting pitching, and tons of small stuff. The Cubs aren't there yet. But thankfully there's enough time for them to get there. Hopefully Imanaga can give them a few more awesome starts along the way.

Coming Tonight- It's a wonder the Angels have seen this guy mellow out after pitching a no-no so early in his career.

Saturday, April 20, 2024



A Twins season where Carlos Correa and Max Kepler are hurt, and all of Byron Buxton, Carlos Santana, Edouard Julien, Christian Vazquez, Kyle Farmer and Manny Margot aren't hitting, and the majority of the rotation options aren't hitting? Not quote what was forecast.

The Twins have this sort of 'on again/off again' tone to them, a lot like the Panthers used to when Cam Newton was there. One year they'd be unbeatable and contend with the greats, the next year they'd fail to get off the ground and struggle to remain in the conversation. The Twins' inconsistency goes back to the mid-2010s, where they'd go from last to competitive 2nd back to last back to a wild card team. Last year was the highest peak in some time, not only winning the division but winning their first playoff series in decades. And considering the Twins' track record, the only way to go was down from there, apparently.

It's puzzling why so many of the team's most reliable pieces just haven't shown up this year. Buxton appears to be all healthy again, but he's hitting .197 with homers yet. Farmer only has 3 hits in 34 at bats. The only people hitting decently in this lineup are people like Alex Kirilloff, Ryan Jeffers and Austin Martin, none of which had been especially trusted to lead the team this year. Jeffers, at the very least, is proving he can be a consistent hard-hitting catcher, and has 11 RBIs and 3 homers so far. Him being the only person on this team with more than 10 RBIs is definitely an issue, but it's important that he can provide for this team when nobody else can.

I think this team can still rely on its big three starters, Pablo Lopez, Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober, but even then they're just not as sharp as they've been in the past. Ober has been improving vastly over his last few starts, and had a great one today, but he's still got a bunch more to go before his ERA looks impressive. Joe Ryan is the best statistical arm they've got, but he's got a 3.57 ERA and an 0-1 record. There's some clear omissions in this pitching picture, like Jhoan Duran, Josh Winder and Justin Topa, that explain why things have gotten so diluted. Simeon Woods-Richardson did really well in his start recently, perhaps he should have a rotation spot instead of Chris Paddack, who's looking extremely burned out [despite his massive 2019]. 

The main issue is that previous years could have still allowed for the Twins to make this many mistakes. But this year the Guardians, Royals and Tigers are all good, and it makes the Twins' flaws stand out more. And it's even more worrying when the big players aren't showing up. I assume there will be a revival, and judging by today's work against Detroit it's definitely possible for this team to win big games this year, but it's gonna take a lot of under-the-radar guys to make it happen.

Coming Tomorrow- He-Seop Choi. Kosuke Fukudome. Kyuji Fujikawa. Tsuyoshi Wada. They all wish they could do for Chicago what this guy's been doing. 

Reverse Polarity


The 2024 New York Mets. 0-5 in their first 5 games, 10-3 in their next 13. Never a dull moment.

It's just as well, because this is a season where the New York Mets aren't entirely sure where they fit into things. There's already a two horse race between Atlanta and Philly, the Nats and Marlins have decided to be mediocre, and the Mets...had a lot to decide. Obviously they weren't going to lead outright like they did when all the contracts first got here, but would they commit to being terrible? And as it happens, no. They're not. They've won 6 of their last 7 games, all against teams over .500, including a sweep of the Pirates, who had a stellar first week of the season. 

But then you look around at this team, and you see a lot of high-price-tag players that haven't committed. Francisco Lindor's still not hitting. Brandon Nimmo's only hitting .217, despite 15 RBIs. McNeil and Alvarez aren't hitting. The biggest overwhelming pitching standout might be Jose Butto, who the team isn't sure whether or not he's legit yet. This is a perfectly alright team with some perks and a lot of dead space, and they're somehow playing like a great team.

Sometimes all it takes is one guy doing what he's supposed to, and in Queens this year, that guy is Pete Alonso. Very famously nearing the end of his initial contract, probably gonna be one of the biggest free agents of 2025, he's gonna hit his 200th home run in a matter of days probably, and he's gotten 3 100+ RBIs years and 3 40+ homer years by 29. Not many people can hit like Pete Alonso, and not many people can do it without stopping to breathe like he can. 

I just did some math. There's only one season he hasn't hit over 35 homers, and that's the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, where he hit 16 homers in 57 games. Using the simple math of proportions, I can reason that if the season had been full, Alonso would have hit 43 home runs in 152 games, meaning he wouldn't have ever played a season where he hit lower than 35 home runs, and his career total would be 27 higher at this point. I'm saying this because people...don't hit as ferociously as Pete Alonso as much anymore. It's important that somebody like him exists, because even the big hitters have down seasons. So far, Pete Alonso hasn't had one.

To this point in 2024, Alonso already has 6 home runs and 10 RBIs, while hitting .261. He's unquestionably one of the top pieces of this lineup, and one of their best players right now. So having Alonso hot, and hitting for power, still puts a team like the Mets ahead of a lot of equally-stacked teams. He's the x-factor guy, the kind of hitter that not everybody has. And even if the Mets don't have a ton this year, that puts them ahead of a lot of teams.

I have no idea how the Mets' season will shake out, or if Alonso will want to come back by the end of it, but him being there makes it a lot easier for the Mets to stay relevant. If he's hitting like he has been, and if he keeps doing that, you won't be able to count this team out.

Coming Tonight: A hard-hitting catcher who's trying to keep his team from sliding off the edge any further.

Friday, April 19, 2024



For a division as close as the AL East, there's other tactics at this stage to really separate teams. You can tell who had the early upward momentum that are now heading downward [the Red Sox], or which teams that started off cold are beginning to find their footing [Jays]. The Rays, however, have the worst SRS figure in the AL, meaning their run differential contrasts wildly with the strength of their opponents so far. This means dropping games to not only evenly-matched teams, like the Jays, Angels and Giants, but the worst team in the NL. Their -2.0 SRS is worse than the A's, and even the White Sox, meaning the White Sox have at least been as bad as expected given their schedule.

It illuminates the fact that the Rays...might be just plain okay this year. The big newsmakers are either injured [Brandon Lowe, Shane McClanahan, Josh Lowe], slumping [Randy Arozarena, Yandy Diaz], or...I dunno, kinda there but not wowing anybody [Zach Eflin, Jose Siri]. There's only two people currently with more than 10 RBIs, one is Diaz and the other is Isaac Paredes. The big average guys are people like Amed Rosario and Ben Rortvedt. There's a ton of starters that are clearly fill-ins and shouldn't be; Rene Pinto, Curtis Mead and Richie Palacios are contingency plans, not starters. Again, it's not their fault the starting shortstop for the next 10 years decided to ruin it all by being a creep. This is the path that has been chosen for the Tampa Bay Rays, despite the best laid plans of everyone who put this team together.

And I think you're beginning to see the limits of this team in that respect. If the big guys the team is centered around can't do anything, the team just...isn't as good. Having all people from other farm systems lining the team works if it leads somewhere. This year, the heart of the lineup is Paredes and Siri. Isaac Paredes has 5 homers and 12 RBIs. Jose Siri has struck out 32 times in 20 games. Yes, he has defensive perks and can get stuff done at the plate but his dimensions are falling off. Aaron Civale is essentially the ace this year, and even in Cleveland he had someone like Shane Bieber to work behind; here he's got a 2.74 ERA but I don't think it's ace material. Even Ryan Pepiot, who had some monster starts to begin the season, has leveled out to a 4 ERA and a 2-2 record.

And yet the Rays are still above .500 by two games and winning series'. This is still a decent team, and playing in the AL East allows an 11-9 start to blend in, because even the worst teams in this division are still doing better than most of the other divisions. The quality is so high that the Rays having a rough start still comes off as a win for them. 

This week they play the Yankees, who had a monster start but are cooling down a bit. Logically, the Yankees outmatch the Rays in almost every way, but this is a team that can give us trouble. We'll see how the Rays show tonight, and if that says anything for what we'll see from them the rest of the season.

Coming Tomorrow- I figured he'd have a miserable last contracted season and then his team started playing really well.

New Trim, Same Approach


There's picking up where you left off, and there's the 2024 Diamondbacks. Who are beginning the season with exemplary production from Ketel Marte and Lourdes Gurriel, stellar starts from Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly, an appalling back half of the rotation and some missed 'big games'. The most striking difference between this year and last year might be the newfound emphasis on mint green, lacing the uniforms in almost every opportunity. I do really like a lot of the D-Backs' new uniform rotation, and the cream-and-maroon ones should be their new standard, it really works for them. 

I will add, by the way, that there are some new faces on this team, and they have mostly boosted the power department. Joc Pederson is hitting .333 in the DH position, with 6 RBIs and 2 homers, and he seems honestly pretty perfect for this team. As does Eugenio Suarez, who already has 13 RBIs. The one issue with that is that it has made this team a lot bulkier and less defensively-inclined. Yes, they still have Christian Walker and Ketel Marte, but without Gerardo Perdomo and Alek Thomas, the number of great defenders has gone down, and that does explain why the D-Backs are down a few pegs in the standings. 

The pitching picture is basically the same as last year. Same bullpen picture, same back half, all of that. And both Kyle Nelson and Tommy Henry are picking up from last year by being mediocre. Brandon Pfaadt is improving, but had some dismal starts to start off as well. And that's really the issue, as it was last year- once you get past Gallen and Kelly, it's easier to win against these guys. It's especially the case this year, because Gallen and Kelly are having excellent seasons. Gallen's 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA and 26 Ks, and Kelly's 2-0 with a 2.19 ERA and 21 Ks. Both of these guys are still in their prime, and both are among the best pitchers in the league. The fact that Kelly was able to go from a fluke 'let's see if this guy has anything after coming back from KBO' guy to a trusted member of this rotation is fantastic. He's barely missed any starts, and has been reliable pretty much every year he's been in Arizona. This is the last year he's contracted with the team, though he does have an option if the D-Backs like what he does for them this year [which is pretty likely].

I just wish the D-Backs had a more definitive answer about the rest of the rotation. The idea is that they'll get Jordan Montgomery eventually, and that Eduardo Rodriguez will pop by at some point, but until then the really need to turn around people like Nelson and Pfaadt, or else it's just gonna be easy to beat this team for a while. And in a season with so many NL West competitors, they need to make it more complex than that.

Coming Tonight: One of the many traded players the Rays have turned into stars.