Friday, September 17, 2021

MARCO'S BASEBALL BLOG-O-ROONIE 2021: WHAT WE KNOW

 

Marco’s Baseball Blog-O-Roonie 2021: WHAT WE KNOW


WHAT WE KNOW AL EAST: It’s a Wild Card Goat Rope is what we know. I’m looking at the Almanac to figure out who plays the most games against the Orioles in the stretch and it’s the Red Sox, so they should probably win the first Wild Card. That leaves New York and Toronto to slug it out for the second Wild Card. Problem for the Red Sox is, New York and Toronto typically beat up on Baltimore. It’s like Foreman vs. Frazier. I mean, they can hardly wait to see the orange bird on those Baltimore jerseys.


Boston seems to struggle against the Birds, both the Orioles and the Jays. They also struggle against the Yankees and they can’t handle the Rays at all, so expect Boston to fold under the pressure and finish out of the money.


But of course, Boston has already gone through a Covid crisis and lost twelve players or more for a week each. Builds character. Both the Yanks and the Jays had Covid issues earlier. The Jays seem to have the spark, though, and a healthy young glow, so I pick them.


WHAT WE KNOW: the Yankees are streaky. They won 13 in a row in August and then went 5-11!


WHAT WE ALSO KNOW: The Yanks have so many big guys...Stanton, Judge, Gallo, Rizzo, LeMahieu, Sanchez, Voit...but if it comes down to a clutch moment you know who will be coming to bat? Brett Gardner...every time. And he comes through, too.


WHAT WE DON’T KNOW BUT MOST CERTAINLY SUSPECT: It doesn’t matter who wins the Wild Card, Tampa Bay will smoke them in the divisional.


WHAT WE KNOW A.L. CENTRAL: It’s a tip toe through the tulips for the Chicago South Siders...the Pale Hose...the Tony LaRussa-rarians. The Hosers have acquitted themselves well this season, weathering the loss of several key players and still cakewalking into a division crown. But can they rally to the pressure of the playoffs and do some damage?


I love the White Stockings. They are one of the only teams that has enough starting pitching to challenge the Rays in that department. But I don’t think they’ll get past the battle-tested Houston Astros.


WHAT WE KNOW A.L. WEST: Houston’s offense is fairly awesome. And they play like they want to hurt somebody. Being reviled by the rest of baseball is obviously good for their concentration. The ‘Stros are counting scalps right now. I don’t see this slowing down in the playoffs, either. Houston’s pitching has to hold up, but they are the best bet against the Rays.


WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT SHOHEI OHTANI: Without Trout and Rendon, Ohtani has been without any protection the whole second half. The league is not pitching to him. He takes walks like a good player should, but he strikes out too much trying to hit bad pitches out of the park to please us. What a player... in a bad predicament.


WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT THE MVP: A.L. MVP is Shohei Ohtani. If Ernie Banks can win two MVPs on a losing team, so can Showtime. Second place is Salvador Perez of the Royals...where would they be without him? A new record for catcher home runs? From the top defensive catcher in the league? Forget-about-it! Vlad Guerrero Jr. would win it any other year but he finishes third if people can calculate the value of an ace pitcher and home run leader IN ONE PLAYER like Ohtani. Or a great defensive catcher who rakes like Sal. My hat is off to all three of these remarkable players. Well done, gentlemen!


WHAT WE EXPECT TO TRANSPIRE: Toronto wins the first wild card and defeats the Yankees at home in the play-in game, but uses up their ace Robbie Ray. Tampa makes short work of the Canadians in the division five-gamer.


Houston bludgeons the White Sox in the divisional, then gets sliced and diced by the Rays in a repeat of last year. Rays go to the Series.


WHAT WE KNOW N.L. EAST: The Mets are going to put you through a Circus of Pain. Their latest caper is for Lindor and Baez to play like helpless zombies for weeks...for the whole season in Lindor’s case...and then when the fans boo them...as they must in Queens...make rude gestures to the stands.


So Baez doesn’t care because he’s only signed for the rest of this season. Lindor, though, signed on for, what was it, ten years for $341 million? It was a mistake on the Mets’ part, whatever it was. No matter how good a shortstop Francisco is...and he is one of the very best defensively...this was a rash move. You can’t expect Lindor to hit home runs in Citi Field like he hit them in the A.L. in Cleveland. The ball park at Citi is just not that conducive. And Lindor is not a high average hitter. I expect him to hit around .260 with 20 dings and 80 rbis regularly. He is not Mookie Betts at the plate.


So now all the Mets fans are furious at him for failing to produce offensively and seeming to not care very much about it. Great...the Face of the Mets is now in an adversarial relatonship with the city of New York. For the next ten years?


Two words for the Mets front office: Miguel Cabrera. He was worth the money for the first six years of his gigasmic contract but since then it’s been a pain fest. Albert Pujols? He was already a Hall of Famer before he got to the Angels. It’s all been downhill from there. The new law of front office baseball is NO LONG TERM CONTRACTS. The Mets should have known that Lindor had peaked before he even came to New York. They couldn’t remember what happened with Robbie Cano? The Padres gave Tatis the giant contract but he was a rookie of 21 when they signed him up. Lindor is 27. And Lindor can’t hit like Cabrera. He can’t hit like Pujols. He can’t hit like Tatis. Right now he has 17 homers and a .228 average.


But then a funny thing happens. In the midst of the hate-fest controversary, the Mets suddenly wake up and start playing hard. They still lose one run games with alarming frequency and won’t make the playoffs regardless, but they look like a team again, at least. And who were the obvious leaders in this resurgence? Baez and Lindor of course. Lindor even had a three-homer game the other day. All is forgiven. These guys , in the best of all possible baseball worlds, would be the next classic keystone combo. Make everybody forget the Tiger Twins Trammel and Whitaker and play together into a happy old age.


What can you say? It’s the Mets!


WHAT WE KNOW BUT ARE REALLY ONLY GUESSING: The Atlanta Braves are the favorites to win the East?? Maybe?? They’ve shown some spunk rebuilding their offense with Adam Duvall and Jorge Soler, but the real change is Austin Riley providing power behind Freeman after they lost Marcel Ozuna to injury and marital assault and Acuna Jr. to a knee. They also got good years from Dansby Swanson (26 homers) and Ozzie Albeis (28 homers). Their starters are at least four deep and that may be enough to carry them home because…


...the Phillies tried to put on a rush but gagged in the turn. If Wheeler hadn’t gotten hurt, if Arrieta hadn’t lost it, if Nola was more consistent...alas, none of that happened and I think the Phils have settled into the position they have earned ...second in the East. Bryce Harper and Jean Segura had good years and should be acknowledged.


WHAT WE KNOW N.L. CENTRAL: Christian Yelich won the MVP in 2018 and finished second in 2019. Who won it in 2019? Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers. Since then, both of these dynamic, multi-talented superstars have practically disappeared. I’ll get to Cody in a minute.


Yelich has a history of back trouble. It’s very hard to play baseball with a bad back. In his 2019 season, Christian hit .329 (tops in the league) with 44 taters, 30 steals and an OPS of 1.100. One of the best seasons of all time, in fact...and that’s after his MVP season of 2018. In 2019 Yelich struck out 118 times in 580 plate appearances. This year he’s struck out 106 times in 419 PA’s. He’s hit 8 homers and is batting .249 with an OPS of .734. I hope he comes back strong and I hope he has a good playoff run this year, because the Brew crew is...well, cruising.


Everything changed for the Crew when they traded to Tampa for Willie Adames. Once they had Willie at shortstop it gave them an up-the-middle of Omar Narvaez at catcher, Adames at short, Kolton Wong at second and Jackie Bradley (with platooner Lorenzo Cain) in center. All of those guys are Gold Glovers or Gold Glove threats. This focus on defense (and at least four of those guys can hit) backed up by their very strong pitching staff has made the Brewers big winners this year. Burns, Woodruff, Houser and Peralta with Hader and company in the pen. They’ve opened some eyes in the National League.


WHAT WE KNOW: The Reds are even streakier than the Yankees. For one shining moment in July, Joey Votto ruled the world. Nine homers in 7 games? Am I counting right? Talk about carrying a team! But comes the sober dawn and Joey is a mortal once more. I’m not sure what’s missing for this team. They hit plenty and they have several stud pitchers. They just never seem to put it together at one time. Unless they get on another hot streak they don’t make the playoffs.


WHAT WE KNOW...THE CARDINALS ALWAYS SHOW UP: Sooner or later, you have to deal with the St. Louis club. They have that certain something...True Grit or something. They start channeling the Gas House Gang of 1934. Yadier Molina starts beating up the rookie pitchers who dare talk back to him. (Adam Wainwright always has Yadi’s back of course.) Nolan Arenado goes deep a few more times and Goldie starts bashing. The ghost of Dizzy Dean appears in the clubhouse and yells out: “HE SLUD INTO THIRD!!!”


If the Cards are going to contend for the second wild card we’ll know in a week, after they play the Padres and the Brewers back to back. Should be some good baseball. I wouldn’t advise the Milwaukee club to rest their regulars yet. They might load up to try to eliminate the Cardinals if they are smart. Drive a stake through their heart, because St. Looey keeps comin’.


WHAT WE KNOW N.L.WEST IS BEST: All season it’s been the same...the West rules the National League. We all know this. So why are we even playing these games? Because the Dodgers...by far the strongest team on paper going into the stretch...have not been able to put away the Giants and win their tenth title in a row. They are only a game and a half back but they are facing a Wild Card Play In game against San Diego or St. Louis or Cincinnati or somebody like that. And who knows...Joe Musgrove might throw another no hitter in that game and the Padres could advance. Maybe Adam Wainwright and Yadi Molina can pull a rabbit out of the hat and beat L.A. One game playoffs are a crap shoot.


In a seven game series, the Dodgers are really, really hard to beat because they have such good starting pitchers and so many more of them than anybody else. The Padres have an injured Blake Snell and a curiously ineffective Yu Darvish backing up Musgrove. The St. Louis Cards have Wainwright and some spare change.


But the Dodgers have been dealt a Cool Hand, so I expect them to finally “get mad at them damn eggs” and send the rest of the N.L. into the Sweat Box for the next two weeks. They need to spring this joint. After a season of failing to communicate (Trevor Bauer...Where Are You Now?) the Boys in Blue need to steal the truck and put some pepper out for the bloodhounds.


WHAT WE KNOW: The L.A. Dodgers once had a wunderkind in their outfield. His stats in 2019? .305/ 47 home runs/115 rbi’s/ OPS 1.035. He was the MVP. Yep...I mean Cody Bellinger.


Cody has been exceptionally streaky...probably because of his all or nothing lefthanded power swing and his obstinate insistence on TRYING TO PULL glorious bombs into the right field seats all the time. This year Cody hurt and then retweaked his left hammie after suffering a hairline fracture in that leg. He also had shoulder surgery to fix a dislocated socket that he aggravated in the 2020 World Series when he got a brutal high five from his congratulating teammate after hitting a dinger. His timing got off. His swing got off. He changed his stance. He changed it again. Now he’s hitting .161 with an OPS of .536. 9 homers and 86 Ks in 333 plate apearances. Just about the worst stats in baseball for a big star.


I think the Dodgers better look for another hitting coach who can communicate with him.


WHAT WE KNOW: The San Francisco Giants are playing Throwback Ball. Today’s game is dominated by young, fast, power hitters and pitchers who are making their mark at 21,22 years of age. Not the Grizzled Vets of the City by the Bay. They should change their team mascot name to the O.G.R.E.S...(Old Guys Roaming Everywhere, Sonny.)


This season the Giants started quickly and then got better and better. We were waiting for the breakdowns and injuries to occur, and they did. But when the Giants lost a Vet they had another one step up. Donovan Solano goes down, Tommy LaStella comes up. Wilmer Flores plays all over. Longoria gets damaged so they trade for Kris Bryant. Still, at any given time of the season, the Giants would likely have at least 7 guys over 30 in the everyday line up. Everybody contributes on this team. They’ll have 15 players with over 200 at bats by season’s end. The main constants? Buster Posey (34)...the leader...having a terrific year after taking 2020 off for Covid. And Brandon Crawford...a criminally overlooked shortstop who scrapped his way through his very best season at age 34. Props to 33 year old first baseman Brandon Belt also.


The Ogres are for real. I expect them to fight like hell for the pennant, but if the Dodgers catch them, to go out and win the Play In with Gausman pitching in the must-win game. Then we’d surely get what we haven’t had in many a long year...a playoff series between the ancient enemies...the Giants and Dodgers.


Willie and Sandy will be there, I’m sure.


HAPPY PLAYOFFS!

Friday, July 30, 2021

Marco's Baseball Blog-O-Roonie 2021: SCATTERSHOT

 

Marco’s Baseball Blog-O-Roonie 2021: Scattershot


*OHTANI-SAN: We are of course being treated to one of those great phenomenons that baseball has the knack of serving up on occasion. I speak of the Ohtani Grand Tour. The Japanese Ruth is leading the majors in homers (37), leads all of baseball in extra base hits (64), has an OPS of over 1.000, leads the majors in slugging at .684, home run frequency with 9 at bats per tater, leads everybody in WAR with 6.2 and even has 15 stolen bases! (all stats as of press time) And then the punch line...he’s also pitching like an Ace!


Hasn’t been done. Ever. Even Ruth didn’t get his big bat really unlimbered until he’d given up the mound. Ruth would have been a deserving Cy Young winner in at least one season had they given that award in those days, and you all know what kind of hitter he became. But Ohtani ...in his first uninjured half season...is an All Star offensive player and defensive stopper simultaneously. It just hasn’t been done. He makes the majors look like your Little League team when the biggest kid on the team got to pitch and strike out all the puny little guys and then hit the big homers as well.


The only players who have awed the baseball world to this degree recently were McGwire, Sosa and Bonds. But Ohtani is without Sin. He’s more like those earlier sky rockets Mark Fidrych and Fernando Valenzuela. Just pure- pleasure- no- guilt kind of heroes.

As far as one individual generating this much baseball buzz I’d rank his season thus far with Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak of 1941 and George Brett’s 1980 season when he hit .390.


*THE .400 CLUB: I think it would take something like a full season pursuit of a .400 batting average to top Ohtani. And that hasn’t really happened since Tony Gwynn’s .394 in 1994. (The pursuit short-circuited by the strike that will live in infamy.)


Speaking of which...only 8 men have ever hit .400 or better since 1901. They are:


Nap Lajoie Phil. Athletics 1901 .426

Joe Jackson Cleveland 1911 .408

Ty Cobb Detroit 1911 .420

Ty Cobb Detroit 1912 .410

George Sisler St. Louis Browns 1920 .407

Ty Cobb Detroit 1922 .401

George Sisler St. Louis Browns 1922 .420

Rogers Hornsby St. Louis Cardinals 1922 .401

Harry Heilmann Detroit 1923 .403

Rogers Hornsby St. Louis Cardinals 1924 .424

Rogers Hornsby St. Louis Cardinals 1925 .403

Bill Terry New York Giants 1930 .401

Ted Williams Boston Red Sox 1941 .406


I start with the great French Canadian Napoleon Lajoie because before that, although the game of the nineteenth century was filled with .400 hitters, it was also filled with strange, random leagues and teams coming into and out of existence and the rules were also pretty random. Walks were counted as hits in 1887. Balls that bounced over the fence were home runs until 1930!

And don’t even ask about sacrifice flies. They weren’t counted as at bats in the early years, then were outs from 1931 to 1938 and again from 1940-1953...then counted as no at bat since 1954. If today’s rules had been in effect in 1941, Ted Williams would have hit .413 instead of .406.


Lajoie’s .426 was suspect because the American League had just come into existence in 1901 and it was in reality no better than the minor league teams of that era. Lajoie was the one true star of that League and took advantage of his abilities against very weak competition.


It’s been said that Cobb won the batting title in 1911 by psyching Joe Jackson out. Being fellow southerners, the two were friends and always had a “Hi...how ya doin?” for each other when their paths crossed. But they were locked in a race for the title and the Tigers went to Cleveland for a series. Jackson ambled over to say hi and Cobb told him to get lost. Wouldn’t talk to him the whole weekend. Bothered Joe Jackson so much that he went into a mini-slump and finished behind Cobb for the crown. Sounds like something Ty Cobb would pull.


So the big guns on this list are Cobb who hit over .400 three times. And Rogers Hornsby who also did it three times. Everybody knows those two and most remember George Sisler, who did it twice. Sisler ran into bad luck after his super season of 1922 with a sinus infection that affected his eyesight and he was never the same player after that year.


Most of these high average seasons took place in the decade of the ‘20s, after new (more carefully manufactured and tighter) baseballs were mandated to be put in use at all games throughout the majors and spitballs were banned as a response to the Ray Chapman beaning of 1920 (he was killed) and the great Flu epidemic of 1918-1919. (The direct cause of the demise of the legal spitball.) Bill Terry, first baseman of the Giants, was the last National League player to hit .400 and Williams of course did it in 1941.


But who was this Harry Heilmann guy? Most people have forgotten Harry “Slug” Heilmann of the Detroit Tigers. He was a big gun in the twenties but not as big as Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx, Simmons and Hornsby. Detroit never won a pennant when he was on the team and he didn’t hit a ton of homers. But he came very close to becoming the only man to ever hit over .400 four times.


Harry came up to the Big Leagues in the late teens and didn’t do much at all for four years until new Tiger’s manager Ty Cobb put him in right field instead of at first and gave him some batting tips. Then he went crazy and won batting crowns in 1921,1923,1925 and 1927.


In 1921 he hit .394...four hits shy of reaching .400. In 1923 he made it with an average of .403. 1925 saw him close again with .393...four hits shy of the magic mark. Then in 1927 he missed by one hit… .398. So Harry was nine hits in three seasons short of being a four timer .400 hitter.


The only other men to hit over .390 four times were Cobb, who had a .390 season in his run and Hornsby, who had one season of .397 to go with his three .400 trips.


Heilmann finished his career at a lifetime .340...good for number twelve on the all-time list.


Let us now praise forgotten men.


*PLAYOFFS 2021: Looking good for Boston, Tampa Bay, Houston and Chicago in the A.L. with Oakland trying to hold off Seattle for the second Wild Card.


The N.L. West seems to have three teams locking up spots. The fight is among Los Angeles, San Diego and surprising San Francisco to see who can win the division and get home field. The Mets own the East right now because their competition is so flawed and the Mets have their pitching working better. Losing Acuna was a disaster for the Braves. Strasburg is still hurting in the neck for the
Nats and God knows when the
Phillies will get a bullpen.


Milwaukee is in a similar position to the Mets over in the Central. St. Louis, Chicago and Cincinnati have too many holes. The Brewers have three strong starters and Josh Hader in the pen and I guess that’s enough to win the Central. I just find it hard to believe that a team batting .223 can win a flag.


*GUESS WE’LL BE MISSING IN THE PLAYOFFS: Most of the great young players that we wanted to see this year. In the A.L. Vlad Guerrero Jr. isn’t likely to see the post season, even though the Jays aren’t quite out of it yet. George Springer hitting long balls? Nah. And don’t expect to see any Yankee stars...they’re all on the IL. We will appreciate having Rafael Devers from the Red Sox and Wander Franco from Tampa (if he isn’t sent back down for non-excellence) on the Big Stage.


The White Sox are so superior to the rest of the teams in the A.L. Central that they lost half their opening day starters (Jimenez, Roberts, Madrigal, Eaton and Grandal) for extended stretches and still lead the division by a wide margin. Eloy Jimenez MIGHT make it back in August but what kind of shape will he be in? Byron Buxton of Minnesota? Injured and the Twins are in last place anyway. Franmil Reyes, the Big Bopper for the Cleveland Guardians? They are way back and pondering the rebuild. And how about Akil Baddoo, the 22 year old center fielder of the Tigers? Best name in the majors, right? You won’t see it on a playoff roster any time soon.


In the A.L. West the big disappointment is that Ohtani’s dream season will end when the regular season ends. The Angels are road kill. Shohei will have to take a seat next to Mike Trout, who has made exactly one playoff series in his career. MLB should just cheat and give the Angels about six top draft choices and Max Scherzer to get them into the limelight. MLB would make an extra billion dollars if they had Mike and Shohei in the post season.


Yordan Alvarez will be fun to watch if the Astros continue beating everybody in sight. He’s very quick to the ball for such a large human.


In the N.L. we lost Acuna Jr. to the dreaded ACL tear. Juan Soto has been percussive at the plate lately and really put on a show in 2019 when the Nats went all the way. He’ll be home this year. The Nats have not only inhaled the furball and then coughed it up, but they have now regurgitated, resnorted, rechewed and are attempting to digest it completely.


N.L. Central hasn’t had many of the hot new superstud young players...just hard-working Joes like Funky Jesse Winker-Bean of the Redlegs.


All the action is out West in the N.L. where the Padres possess the shining star of the league in Fernando (“There was something in the Air that Night”) Tatis Jr. I’ll stay up late to watch him. Can he survive his slash and burn, contortionist type of baseball long enough to make it to the Playoffs with the Dodgers and the Giants? Let’s hope so, otherwise the cupboard is pretty bare of young National League superstars in the Post Season.


*The BOSTON RED SOX seem to have had a good sense of how Kiki Hernandez and Alex Verdugo would fit into the team when they acquired them from L.A. Sure, they lost Betts, but they got two guys who hustle, are versatile defensively and are glow worms in the clubhouse. I think the Dodgers made a mistake not retaining their services.


The Sox have good team guys all through the lineup...a highly underrated plus for a ball team. If Sale can pitch 5 or 6 innings once a week the Red Sox could get it done. I don’t think they’ll give up young talent or go over the credit limit to sign more help...except maybe for Anthony Rizzo.


The Sox have been playing rookie Bobby Dalbec at first and have given him all kinds of support and understanding to develop his confidence. What they’re getting in return is strike outs. Lots and lots of strike outs. Nobody else has stepped up at first base. Chavis, Santana, Marwin Gonzalez...whiff! The Sox need a steady defensive player with left-handed power at first. Voila...here is Rizzo, originally drafted by Boston back in the last decade.


What will the Cubs take for him? Jarren Duran and another top prospect? Not worth it for a one year rental. Two or three second tier prospects? Do it! Rizzo is an MVP-type team leader who should love it in Boston and how many chances are the Red Sox going to have to get into another World Series before the Yankees get their act together? (Or the Blue Jays!)


***NOTICE! EVENTS ARE OVERTAKING THIS CORRESPONDENT’S ABILITY TO KEEP UP! THE YANKEES JUST GOT RIZZO AND GALLO. WELL SHUT MY MOUTH AND STIR MY GRITS!***


*Kyle Schwarber. Okay, I get it. The Red Sox had to do something or lose the respect of the Boston punditry who freak out anytime the Yankees overspend on another slugger. Besides, I think the Sox really wanted Rizzo and were stunned that the Yanks stole him. I like Schwarber. He a jolly good fellow in the clubhouse and that’s always nice. He was on a terrific home run hot streak with the Nats just before he got wounded. But where do they put him? Forget left. Keep him as far away from the wall as you can possibly get. He’ll make you miss Manny Ramirez. I guess they’re thinking first base which is where they need a big leftie bat. One problem. Kyle hasn’t played hardly any first base. He’s a DH. The Red Sox have J.D.Martinez at DH with occasional outfield duty mixed in. Maybe somebody knows something that I don’t know about Kyle and he can do okay at first. Hope so. Meanwhile he’s at least an emergency catcher and a good platoon bat.


*YANKEES HONOR FAMOUS MAFIA DON! The Yankees just put Joey Gallo in pinstripes. Yes he’s got power of the leftie variety...but he’s pull happy and that short porch will get him into the bad habits that had his average in the .100s for years with huge K numbers. Also, I think he’s a country boy and I don’t know how he’ll like the Big Show in New York. Also, he’s the kind of player the Yankees already have four or five of.


They would have been better off grabbing somebody like Michael Brantley of the Astros who gets on base a lot in front of big bats. (I doubt the Astros would have traded him anyway...he’s too valuable to their pennant push. And I doubt they would even talk to the hated Bronxians.) What I like about Gallo is his great defense which separates him from Stanton and Sanchez at least. But that lineup is filled with human wind machines.



*LIFE IS SO REAL IN TINSELTOWN: It’s amazing to realize that the Dodgers are probably going to cut Trevor Bauer and eat a $100 million dollar contract! But the bad press from keeping him would cost them a lot more in community support, merchandise and boycotts. The guy has zero support from his teammates...and that says a lot. And if in defense of your actions the best you can offer is “She Asked me to choke her...”


After starting the season with one of the most impressive potential starting pitcher staffs ever assembled (Lefties: Kershaw, Urias, Price Righties: Buehler, Bauer, Gonsolin and Dustin May...That’s three Cy Young winners plus Walker Buehler as the Number 1!) the Dodgers watched Dustin May blow an elbow, Kershaw go down for a long spell and Trevor Bauer commit career suicide. So they go out and trade for Max Scherzer and Danny Duffy (Kansas City’s nifty left-hander). And... oh yeah… one dish of Trea Turner on the side!

Trea Turner is right up there with Tatis Jr. as the best shortstop in the league! He’s got 18 homers and a bunch of steals and also hits for average and is the fastest runner in baseball (unless this new kid in Boston, Jarren Duran, can beat him. Or maybe Roman Quinn of the Phillies. And there’s always Billy Hamilton.)


Don’t you feel bad for the Dodgers? Betts and Bellinger are having down years...but who can tell when you look at the standings?


*CONSENSUS FASTEST RUNNERS (IN THEIR PRIMES!) IN BASEBALL HISTORY:

Honorable Mentions: Ty Cobb, Cool Papa Bell (who can really tell with hand stop watches of that era? They were super fast though.)


10/ Lou Brock

9/Kenny Lofton

8/Ricky Henderson (once timed at 9.6 for the 100)

7/Jose Altuve (early in his career)

6/tie: Maury Wills and Ichiro!

5/Deion Sanders

4/Byron Buxton

3/Vince Coleman

2/ Billy Hamilton (the one who plays for the White Sox now...not ‘Sliding Billy’ from the 1890’s)

1/Mickey Mantle (timed at 3.1 going home to first from left handed batters box. That’s before his first major leg injury in 1951. Ah yes! The Commerce Comet)


*So my TRADE TAKEAWAY is that the rich get richer. The Yanks and the Dodgers can do pretty much what they want in this game. Also, when a team is obviously on the slow slide south like the Cubs and the Nationals...they’ve learned not to prolong the agony...just go ahead and commit seppuku and contemplate your torn innards on the ground in front of you. Just hope you asked for the right prospects in trade for your stars and maybe you’ll win another pennant sometime in the next hundred years.


And that’s all for today ball-fans!





Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Marco Perella's Baseball Blog-O-Roonie 2021: RATS!

 

MARCO’S BASEBALL BLOG-O-ROONIE 2021: RATS!


From whither comest the storm? Pre-season was so much fun...analyzing and staring at stat graphs and coming up with sophisticated new ways of predicting how everything ...would be going to hell in the first third of a season!


I was so sure that the White Sox were going to bust out this season. Well, they are in first place by 4 games, but only because the Twins collapsed, the Indians never came up with any outfielders and the Royals shot their wad early. Still, they don’t exactly have a Death Grip on the AL Central.


As per the White Sox, I predicted the Latino superstars were going to ignite the offense. Well, Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert aren’t even going to play anymore this season! Bang Bang My Baby Shot Me Down. But that’s the theme of this season: BIG STARS GET OUCHIES…RATS!


Just a cursory glance at the roster of teams shows a super high attrition rate for superstars. And if they’re not hurt they’re slumping. Result? Parity Plus Exploitation.

Translation: weird teams are leading the divisions and strange unheard of heroes are leading the league in everything.


I also said that success for the Sox depended on Abreu and Tony LaRussa inspiring the troops and Lucas Giolito settling in as the Ace. Sorry Lucas, didn’t mean to startle you with the sudden saddles of expectation. Go back to being your happy little Number Four starter self. Lance Lynn, Dallas Keuchel and Carlos “No Hit’ Rodon are doing the heavy lifting for the pitching staff. The bullpen is not that deep but Liam Hendrick and company have been good enough. (And Lucas has been respectable in 3 out of the last 4 starts.)


Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson have been helping Abreu offensively, but the shocker has been a third string catcher turned DH named ‘Squirmin’ Yermin Mercedes. Big old guy who gets up there, jiggles his fat boobs like nobody since Panda Sandoval and takes an exaggerated ‘leg load ‘ swing. He hits screaming line drives to all fields and is the most entertaining hitter I’ve seen all year...(along with Ohtani, Soto, Acuna and Vlad Guerrero Jr. )


I was a little better foretelling the fairly close race in the AL East. I had the Rays in first and now that they just had an eleven game win streak they look pretty solid over the Yankees, who, in what has begun to be an all too predictable tradition, again lost their entire starting outfield to injury. Their starting pitching after Cole was abysmal early, but suddenly on track when Corey Kluber found the control button on his breaking ball and became a dangerous number two behind Cole. Domingo German and Jordan Montgomery also showed a pulse and suddenly the Yankees stopped losing series. But now they’ve regressed again.


The offense has been horrible for the Bombers. 5 Starters below the Mendoza, very feeble power numbers, even when playing in home run heaven Yankee Stadium. Aaron Judge is carrying them with some help from Urshela and DJ LeMahieu. Giancarlo was starting to get hot before he got his first trip...for THIS year... to the IL a couple of weeks ago. And just the other night...Gulp!...Corey Kluber came out of the game with a sore shoulder left over from his no-hit effort of his last start. The Yankees can ill afford etc. etc. The upshot for Corey? Out at least 8 weeks. Rats!


Both the Yanks and the Rays have one Big Weapon...their Bullpens. Of course Aroldis Chapman re-kindles the embers of my childhood truculence toward all things pinstripe with that insulting stare-down gimmick he does when he strikes out anybody. What a Man you are Aroldis! Let them know that you are just So Magnificent! Shame them for their weakness! You win again, Aroldis!


Not enough mustard in the world for that hot dog. Makes me want them to outlaw the DH so sometime Aroldis will have to go to the plate and get humiliated.


Remember a player named Mariano Rivera? He was a pretty good player. He made hitters look helpless when he threw that same cutter over and over and over. He NEVER did anything to show up an opponent. It was his creed. People now call him the greatest relief pitcher ever. Wonder why he gets the Love? Sure he was talented. But he treated his opponents with Respect, win or lose.


The Rays have to lean on the bullpen because they won’t leave their starters in for more than 4 innings. They just traded their shortstop Willie Adamis for two more relief arms. Their plan is ‘burn up the bullpen’. We’ll see if that lasts. Meanwhile, when Wendle and Weathers and Arozarena are hot, the Rays win monotonously.


I expected the Blue Jays to wedge into third place in the East with their core of Hall of Famer-spawn. But they have broken the magic code of successful teams: not enough good starters, not enough good relievers. Sure enjoy watching that team hit, though. Key injury? George Springer has yet to pounce upon anyone at all.


Second place is a surprising spot for the Red Sox. (They were the winningest team in the majors for awhile there.) It turns out all the ingredients are present, starting with 3 MVP candidates: J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers. All are double figures in doubles and homers, all have 30+ rbis and an OPS of over .960. If those three stay healthy, the Red Sox will score runs. Verdugo, Enrique Hernandez, Hunter Renfroe...all versatile and valuable guys. Vasquez and Plawecki are solid at catcher.


The starters are not flashy, but they keep the Sox in most games. Their closer, the oft maligned (in these quarters) Matt Barnes, has been awesome. Nobody seems to be able to lay off that high heater. If the Red Sox get Chris Sale back or some reasonable facsimile of an outstanding starter, they could go all the way...again! Fun to contemplate but my money is still on the Rays.


The AL West is muddled. The Astros have a +69 run differential over their opponents, but are neck and neck with the Oakland A’s. Still, the Astro hitters are steadily warming up with the summer weather and I fully expect them to prove to be a big problem for other teams with that lineup of Altuve, Bregman, Bradley, Correa, Gurriel, Alvarez and Tucker. They may need another pitcher or two unless they start letting Greinke pitch complete games every time out.


Seattle is a sub .500 team. And the Angels have proven once again that you can’t win games without a pitching staff. They seem to think that Trout, Rendon and Ohtani are enough to get into the playoffs and they are wrongy wrong wrong. Especially when the Stud of Studs Mike Trout pulled his calf muscle.


Oakland seems to have the tenacity to keep the heat on the Houstonians despite having received instructions from MLB to build a new stadium immediately or move to another city. The Coliseum is falling down around their ears and has been the worst baseball venue for years. The big plan to renovate a waterfront wasteland of Oakland into an entertainment/office/ballpark type area is also looking less likely and would take until 2027 to finish. It’s just a shame that MLB lets their neighbor, the cosmopolitan Giants, bully the A’s out of being able to set up shop in or around San Jose, one of the most populous areas of the country with no major sports franchises. Somebody help this club...they have managed to get into the playoffs year after year with virtually no support.


Anyway, with a lousy stadium at one quarter capacity the A’s don’t have any money for upgrades. What you see now is what will have to get them through. First baseman Matt Olsen and centerfielder Ramon Laureano have been their big guns. If some of their young pitchers would round into form they could do something in the playoffs.


It might come down to the “Orphan” A’s and the Tampa Ray “Prisoners of the Tropicana” for the pennant. It would be ironic justice. So would the San Antonio Alamos vs. the Austin Athletics...coming in 2024!


NL EAST:


The New York Mets lost 6 out of 8 starters all at once and several reserves who tried to replace them. It seemed like the only guy not hurt was Francisco Lindor. Could Frankie carry them? Not when he’s batting .200 with 4 homers and about 12 ribbies. He’s been almost totally embalmed for the whole season. I guess $363 million wasn’t enough to inspire Lindor. Or else the large dimensions of Citi Field intimidated his bat.


Also, the Mets were counting on Thor Syndergaard coming back by about July 1 to boost their rotation. His elbow is still creaky though. So all this sounds like the Mets should be eating the dust of the NL East. SURPRISE! The Mets lead the East by 4 1/2 games! That’s how out-of-sorts everything got this first third of the year.


The Mets have 3 great pitchers going well: Stroman, Walker and DeGrom. DeGrom especially is just dominating the league. His WHIP is 0.569 which is almost unheard of. He’s struck out 82 batters and walked only 7... in 51 innings! Not a misprint! So even though the Mets have a bad offense and suspect defense, the Mets are winning enough to be safely in first place in the East. Their bullpen has been very good as well.


My pick to win a Wild Card out of this division, the Atlanta Braves, have fallen and can’t get up. They lead the league in home runs and are number 2 in OPS, but their record is 28-29... barely good enough for second place behind the Metskies. MVP Freddie Freeman has 12 dingers but is batting .232 with no protection behind him now that Marcel Ozuna has broken his fingers with a headfirst slide and then broken his wife by shoving her into a wall. Ronald Acuna Jr. has carried the team with his power numbers (17 four-baggers, 35 rbis and an OPS of 1.016). But nothing can make up for a staff ERA of 4.50 and holding the 14th spot in home runs allowed. The Braves are in real trouble this year.


So that must mean the Nationals are back to contend for another title? Not quite. They are in fourth place in the division at 24-32.


The Nats are only dangerous when Scherzer is pitching. Everyone else they send out to the mound is punctured like balloons at a darts tournament. Strasburg has been hurt all season, came back, pitched badly and got hurt again. Juan Soto tweaked a hammy (I think it was) and slumped for the first time in his career. (He’s still hitting .285 with an OPS of .847 which is slumping for him.)


So that must mean the Phillies are on the warpath? Are you kidding? With Bryce Harper on the plank they are barely a .500 team. If they hadn’t gotten Zach Wheeler they’d be in last place easily. Zach has been a superstud Ace for them. A lonesome ray of sunlight in the Gray Spring of Philadelphia.


So that must mean the Miracle Miami Marlins are gleefully marching to a division title? No. It means you should go to your room with no dinner. The Marlins are bottom five in every important offensive category. Hope for the future? Yes. Their pitching staff is fifth best in the NL, led by apparent Ace-in-Waiting Trevor Rogers and his 1.87 ERA.


The NL East...it’s like there’s one clean pig in a really mucky sty. That’s the Mets. I still say the Nationals wake up and smell the pig-poo and start winning. They’ve done it before!


NL CENTRAL:


Best Laid Plans department: The brain trust of the Chicago Cubs quietly decided to dismantle this team because they couldn’t afford to keep their free agents. They let Darvish go. They traded Schwarber. They seem to have no intention of trying to retain Baez, Rizzo, Bryant or Contreras. (They have to keep Jason Heyward so they can keep paying him 21 million a year to bat .181 on into the foreseeable future.) Their pitching staff has become a collection of change-up artists in the era of triple-digit Mega-Hurlers. The bullpen was left to it’s own devices after what was left of Craig Kimbrel.


But wait a minute...nobody in the National League seems to be able to hit a change up! The bullpen has gotten astoundingly effective! Craig Kimbrel is looking like a hunchback right-handed Billy ‘the Kid’ Wagner! They even caught lightning in a bottle when call-up Patrick Wisdom hit 8 bombs in his first 40 at bats!


UH-OH...the Cubs are in first place!


All those free agents-to-be who sucked last year are on hot streaks. If they trade them now the Cubs fans will go 6th of January all over them. So the Cubs Brass are just quietly hoping that the Cubs will lay down so they can execute their plan to “go for the price on Wilson” (in the immortal words of Marlon Brando).

I say the Cubs should have a little faith in the old pros and buy some help for them. Nothing too radical...just a pitcher or two and maybe one more hitter. We could have one last glorious pennant race among the Cardinals, Brewers, Reds and Cubbies and let the Adorables give the fans something to remember before they go elsewhere to collect their millions.


The Brewers representative in the “Whose superstar player is injured the most?” sweepstakes is Christian Yelich. Old Yeller had a back injury that dove him down from back-to-back batting titles in 2018-19 with 80 home runs to the low .200s and 15 long balls since then. And it’s not like he has much help on that roster. The team average is .211! And yet the Brewers are in it because of their great pitching! (Led by Brandon Woodruff with an ERA of 1.42 and Josh Hader at 0.76). If only Yelich could heal up he might carry them to paydirt offensively.


The MilBrews have gone 11-3 since they traded for Tampa shortstop Willie Adames. He sparked the team. And catcher Omar Narvaez is hitting .317 and should be an All Star.


Meanwhile the Cardinals have been cruising in neutral for awhile but are right there at the top of the standings with Chicago and Milwaukee. They got a big surprise when their Gold Glove outfielder Tyler O’Neill started hitting to help Goldschmidt and Arenado provide some pop. Yadier Molina has been an offensive weapon too, but he’s temporarily wounded.


Where the Cards look weak is in their pitching. They can’t afford to lose anybody else like Flaherty. At least their closer Reyes has been lock down.


Yes, the Cincinnatti Reds are in it. They are playing .500 ball and in fourth place but they’re just as likely as anybody else in that division to get hot. But what happened to Luis Castillo? He looked bad early on. He needs to put more resin on the ball like all those other pitchers who rely on sinking change-ups. (MLB is just about to almost seriously go after that little problem...now that the whole league is threatening to hit the Mendoza Line and striking out two six packs a game.)


What’s this Jesse Winker guy up to? At first I got him mixed up with the Tampa wunderkind third baseman/shortstop Joey Wendle because they both have Mother Goose type names but now I am willing to admit that they are actually separate people. They are both having great years but Winker-Bean has gone yard three times in a game twice this season!


And Pittsburgh sleeps on…


NL WEST:


Everybody in baseball was ready to hand the trophy to the Dodgers in April. I agreed that they were stacked...especially with their pitching. But Brian May went down. Corey Seager went down. Bellinger went down. Mookie Betts couldn’t get it going. Hello, Third Place!


But let’s not forget that the Bluebloods have a +83 run differential...just like last year when they wound up at +171. they’ve outscored that opponents at home by +55 runs!

Don’t underestimate the Dodgers. To me, it looks like they’ve been on cruise control all year.


My pick to win it all this year was the Padres and they’ve been following the script for the most part. Stay close to the Angelinos until all the new players get used to each other and then turn it on in the summer and boogie. The Pads are different from other teams in that they have a dynamic offense that not only crushes home runs, but steals bases. They’re not totally helpless against these big pitchers because they can manufacture runs. And in the field they have strong defense and strong starters like Darvish and Musgrove. It looks like Blake Snell is finding a rhythm at last and Mark Melacon has saved 19 games already.


The most impressive thing I’ve seen this season (with competition from Ohtani’s all-round awesomeness) was Tatis Jr. coming back from a dislocated shoulder, taking a long week off and retooling his swing on the fly to keep both hands on the bat so he wouldn’t reinjure himself. His first series? 4 games against the Dodger pitching staff in their place. The Friars win the series and Tatis hits 5 touch-em-alls. That was an announcement of greatness.


The Big Shocker of the season so far? The San Francisco Gigantics. I wouldn’t even rate them because I didn’t think they had a prayer in that division with all those aging, creaky players. Stupid me. Those aging creaky players are playing way, way better than ever before. Shortstop Brandon Crawford (14 homers/41 RBIs) and especially Buster Posey (.336/.988 OPS) are having great, if not CAREER years. They bet heavily on 30 year old starter Kevin Gausman and he’s gone out and given them a .0760 WHIP/1.27 ERA/93K/16BB third of a season.


It’s an unexpected pleasure to have the Giants leading the division with a 38-22 record. Who will win the West is now not a rhetorical question. The Giants have a very easy schedule for a month, then they play 9 games against L.A. from the end of June until the end of July and 10 games versus San Diego in September. That should be fun.


The Diamondbacks and Rockies are playing for pride but let’s face it...they are mostly fodder.


And Now…


...a curiousity from Baseball’s Past that illustrates the Evolution of the Game!


The Philadelphia Athletics played through two World Series without a substitution.

Manager Connie Mack never made a change in the lineup during any game. No relief pitchers, pinch hitter, pinch runner...no substitute for the full 9 innings of any contest.

He used twelve men in the five games of both the 1910 and the 1913 Series. In 1910 he only used two pitchers...Chief Bender and Jack Coombs. In 1913 he had Bender, Eddie Plank and Bullet Joe Bush pitch 5 complete games.


The Athletics won each Series 4 games to 1.


See you by the All Star break!


Marco Perella