Johns Hopkins Scores The Best Lacrosse Goal Of The Year And It’s Only February

Written by :
Published on : February 9, 2017

 

 

 

 

You have to see this.

 

https://twitter.com/jhumenslacrosse/status/829163038838251521

 

Joel Tinney, a junior from Johns Hopkins, made his return to Homewood Field last night against Navy after missing his entire sophomore season due to suspension and he wasted no time scoring what might be the best goal of the season…in February.

 

 

What. A. Beauty.

 

Fooled pretty much everyone, including me. Poor goalie. I mean, that goal is straight up disrespectful. Can’t be disrespecting the future American Armed Forces like that, especially if your Canadian, like Tinney. We might have to declare war on Canada after this. But really, what a goal. It’s only week 1 of the 2017 College Lacrosse season and we’re getting perfectly executed hidden ball tricks. Buckle up, ladies and gentleman, we are in for one hell of a ride.

 

P.S. – This kid is a shifty MF!

 

 

 

Follow Chris on Twitter: @c_brown22

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XXXI: The ALCS and NLCS)

Written by :
Published on : October 21, 2016

 

 

We’ve come a long way. And it’s been an emotional roller coaster of a week. I’ve sat in silence in the nosebleed section of Dodger Stadium, while my beloved juggernaut of a team forgot how to hit. I’ve had a full-on doggypile in my living room. Somewhere in there, the Cleveland Indians won the American League pennant. For this week’s episode, I’m going to give you all of the games from the past week, and my reaction to them immediately after. You get to ride in the roller coaster with me for the ups and the downs. And then feel assured that we still have a long way to go.

 

Thursday, October 13th. NLDS Game 5. The Dodgers beat the Nationals 4-3. They take the series 3-2.

Wow. It’s pretty rare that a Division Series game would be considered an instant classic. But this year, we’d already had Games 1, 3 and 4 of the Cubs-Giants series vie for that title. And now we have what might go down as “The Clayton Kershaw Game” if it weren’t for the fact that that one-hour-and-six-minute 7th inning was one of the most bizarre/unique innings in the history of baseball. I could listen to people dissect every decision by managers, Dusty Baker and Dave Roberts, in that inning, forever. And luckily for me, baseball nerds are going to be talking about this one for a long time.

 

Prior to that 7th inning, the game already had its fair share of pivotal moments. The Nationals went up 1-0 in the 2nd, but also stranded runners on first and third. They also had runners on second and third in the 3rd inning, when Roberts brought in Joe Blanton (his set-up guy!) to replace Rich Hill. Blanton got Anthony Rendon to fly out and the Nats squandered another scoring opportunity. In the 4th, Max Scherzer still hadn’t allowed a hit. And he’d end up striking out the side, but it was his 13-pitch walk to Justin Turner in the inning that would be consequential deeper into the game. Yeah. A two-out walk in the top of the 4th, where the runner was stranded. It mattered. And that was all before third base coach, Bob Henley, waved Jayson Werth home in the 6th.

 

 That 13-pitch walk to Justin Turner would come back to haunt Max.

 

That was quite possibly the worst ‘send’ I have ever seen in my life. I know you’re supposed to be aggressive with two outs. I know the bottom of the order was coming up. And I know the Nats had already stranded two guys at third. But even the Dodgers seemed to be going, “What are you thinking???” when the ball was relayed home. I’ve re-watched that play ten times now. And my eyes tell me that Werth had already rounded third when Corey Seager got the relay throw. But in my head, I’ll always remember it comically, like the slowest, most awkward runner on earth was midway between second and third and just kept a-scootin’ on home. Maybe Henley lost the ball in the corner. Maybe Andrew Toles just played it perfectly. Maybe Julio Urias’ pickoff of Bryce Harper in the previous inning cost Werth valuable lead distance from first. Maybe it was just a perfect storm of suck. The juke attempt at the end and defeated facial expression from Werth did not help. The only thing that could have made that worse is if they only lost by one run or something.

 

The very next pitch of the game, in the top of the 7th, was bashed over the wall by Joc Pederson, tying the score at 1. Nobody thinks it was a bad pitch. There was no sign of fatigue or a loss in velocity in Scherzer. It was just a great piece of hitting by Pederson. And Baker still yanked Scherzer after 99 pitches. It might be the first time in history people were complaining for Baker NOT leaving someone in. But why even bring Scherzer out for the 7th if you were just gonna yank him after one ‘mistake’? And now how consequential does that 13-pitch walk to Turner look? Because if he’s at 80-something pitches, he probably gets left in the game. He’d only given up 1 run on 5 hits to that point. This is a guy who will probably win the Cy Young this year. He’s getting paid $15 million. Isn’t this exactly what you’re paying him to be? Instead, the Nats opted to send in the clowns.

 

Ah, the 7th. The Dodgers scored four runs off six pitchers in one inning. Scherzer, Marc Rzepczynski, Blake Treinen, Sammy Solis, Shawn Kelley and Oliver Perez. Roberts countered with three pinch hitters and a pinch runner. Harold Reynolds said his scorecard looked like a Jackson Pollock painting. You gotta love National League baseball. The chess match continued in the bottom of the 7th, when Baker called on Chris Heisey to pinch-hit off of Grant Dayton. And Heisey launched a two-run bomb to left, making it 4-3. With one man on and the top of the Nationals’ order coming up, Roberts called for his closer, Kenley Jansen, to make a 9-out save. And Jansen loaded the bases, before striking out Rendon to stave off any further damage. As if that inning couldn’t have gotten any crazier, it was also about the time in the game that Clayton Kershaw got an idea.

 

Before the game started, a reporter asked Roberts if Kershaw would be available to come out of the pen. “Absolutely not,” was the curt response. That reporter was a fucking idiot. Kershaw had thrown 110 pitches two days prior. And THAT was only on three days rest. It would be crazy to ask Kershaw to even consider pitching. But what if it’s his idea? When Jansen came on in the 7th, Kershaw started doing the math in his head and realized that Jansen was going to run out of gas before he got that 9th out. And after the 8th inning, the TV broadcast cut to images Kershaw making his way to the bullpen. It was all the announcers could do to stop from shouting, “No fucking way!” My phone started blowing up with texts.

 

 The Legend of Kershaw grows.

 

Jansen struck out Turner to start the bottom of the 9th. Then he walked Harper. At this point, Jansen was past his career high in pitches and looked like Ali at the end of the fight in Manila. But he stayed in to face Werth. That could have something to do with Werth’s .313/.389/.500 slash line against Kershaw. But Jansen walked Werth as well. And then Daniel Murphy was up next. That’s when Roberts called for Kershaw.

 

I mean, holy shit.

 

Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball. But he had a reputation for choking in October. Murphy plucked himself from obscurity last October and then proved it wasn’t a fluke over the course of the 2016 regular season, with one of the best hitting performances in the National League. He hit .438 in this series, for Chrissakes. Plus, Kershaw and Murphy have a history. It was Murphy’s home run in Game 1 of the NLDS last year that started his legend and simultaneously contributed to another Kershaw postseason loss. Then Murphy homered off Kershaw again in Game 4 of that series, exactly a year removed from when he’d be called to the mound with two on, one out and the season on the line.

 

Murphy popped out to second.

 

The next batter was Wilmer Difo, a Dominican pinch hitter whose name, when typed, looks way too much like Willem Dafoe. And Kershaw would strike him out to end the game. The Nationals have still never advanced past the NLDS. According to Sarah Langs, Kershaw’s last professional save was in the Gulf Coast League in 2006. His catcher was current Dodgers closer, Kenley Jansen. The team he was facing was the GCL Nationals. And that team’s manager was current Nats third base coach, Bob Henley.

 

 Live it up boys.

 

Add this game to the postseason legend of Dave Roberts. This guy isn’t going to just be defined by one stolen base in 2004. And mark this game as Exhibit A in the postseason narrative shift for Kershaw, who pitched in every game the Dodgers won in the series. Remember, Randy Johnson lost seven playoff games in a row with the Mariners, Astros and Diamondbacks between 1995 and 2001 before his dominance in the 2001 NLCS and World Series made him synonymous with postseason excellence. I feel like Kershaw could do the same. I’m a Cubs fan and I don’t want him to do that. But its not like it’s up to me. Congrats Dodgers. I’ll see you at Games 3, 4 and 5.

 

Friday, October 14th. ALCS Game 1. The Indians beat the Blue Jays 2-0. They lead the series 1-0.

“If this is what October is like, I want to do this every year.” That’s what Francisco Lindor said after Game 1 of the ALDS against the Red Sox. In Game 1 of the ALCS, Lindor’s two run homer off of Marco Estrada was all the Indians needed after Corey Kluber, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen silenced a Blue Jays offense that scored 22 runs in three games against Texas. Kluber is now at 13 1/3 scoreless innings in the postseason. Miller struck out five of the six batters he faced. Allen had a 1-2-3 9th.

 

Game 1 was probably a must-win for the Indians, since Kluber is really their only reliable starter. Especially now that Trevor Bauer has sliced his pinkie finger repairing a drone. You read that correctly. Dude is 25 and makes $2 million a year. He fixes drones, apparently. The positive for Cleveland is that this is their 4th win in a row. And current  projections still favor them over Toronto (FanGraphs gives the Dodgers a slight edge over the Cubs in the NLCS). And even the East-loving pundits, who still aren’t really sure what to make of Terry Francona’s bullpen usage are saying things like, “This is a team that swept a very good Boston Red Sox lineup.” Still mostly just a Red Sox compliment, but baby steps.

 

Saturday, October 15th. ALCS Game 2. The Indians beat the Blue Jays 2-1. They lead the series 2-0.

I’m sensing a pattern here. Indians pitcher keeps a formerly-unstoppable offense silent. Indians’ offense scores a couple of runs. Andrew Miller comes in strikes everybody out for two innings. Cody Allen slams the door. It was the exact same game as Game 1. Why would you change anything?

 

 ANDREW. MILLER.

 

For two games in a row, I thought the Toronto bats looked poised to explode. I was wrong both times. But we’re heading to Toronto, where things could change. If not, Francisco Lindor (who wasn’t even alive when Joe Carter hit that walk-off in 1993) is about to be really famous. And Andrew Miller (plus Buck Showalter) could change the entire way bullpens are designed going forward.

 

Saturday, October 15th. NLCS Game 1. The Cubs beat the Dodgers 8-4. They lead the series 1-0.   

Holy shit, that was beautiful. An 8th-inning gamble by Dodgers manager, Dave Roberts, backfired so epically and in such a shockingly unexpected fashion, that I doubt, years from now, many people remember all of the other Cubs awesomeness that happened in this game, prior to that 8th.

 

I doubt they remember Ben Zobrist throwing Adrian Gonzalez out at the plate in the top of the 2nd. I doubt they remember Javier Baez’ heads-up bloop double that put the Cubs up 2-0 in the bottom of the inning. They might not even remember Baez stealing home after he got caught off third base on a safety squeeze. And Dexter Fowler, who had a better game than anyone, made two diving catches, one of which was fucking spectacular. If you mention it at a bar years from now, you might mention that he broke his belt on the play, just to jog a memory or two. Even Joe Buck, who I’d spent years dogging, had a superb night in the announce booth. When Pedro Baez’ molasses pace was sucking the life out of the entire game in the 5th or 6th, he blurted out, “This Pedro Baez is really tough to watch.” But all of that is dust in the wind.

 

The only thing people will probably be talking about years from now (and they will be talking about it), was that 8th inning. Adrian Gonzalez’ two-out, bases-loaded single off Aroldis Chapman tied the game at 3 in the top of the inning. And then the Cubs came to the plate needing the same type of late-inning heroics that won them the Division Series in San Francisco. Joe Blanton was on the hill for Los Angeles. Oh man.

 

Zobrist led off with a double. Then the ice-cold Addison Russell grounded out and couldn’t advance Zobrist to third. Why Joe Maddon didn’t have Russell bunt there is pretty confusing, but I’m already over it. Then the Dodgers intentionally walked Jason Heyward to get to Javy Baez. At the time, everyone I was watching with said, “Uh… thank you.” But Baez flew out. Two down. This is when Roberts started doing his chess match shit that won him the NLDS in D.C. And Blanton intentionally walked Chris Coughlan, since Chapman was next in the batting order. Joe Maddon’s hand was forced. He sent Miguel Montero (a lefty) to the plate to face Blanton (a righty). In theory, Roberts was going to pull Blanton and bring in Grant Dayton (lefty) and then Maddon would burn Montero and counter with the hot-hitting Wilson Contreras (righty). But Blanton stayed in and went up on Montero 0-2. Oh man. Lemme quote Joe Buck one more time.

 

“Here comes the 0-2. Line drive into right, back at the wall, it is GONE!!! GRAND SLAM, MONTERO! Game 1 HERO!”

 

And here’s Pat Hughes on 670 The Score.

 

“Blanton ahead of Montero nothing and two. The windup and the pitch… Montero drives one in the air! Deep right field! It’s got a chaaaaaaaaaance! GRAND SLAM!!! GRAND SLAM, MIGUEL MONTERO!!! CUBS LEAD 7-3!” Then Ron Coomer added, “WRIGLEY FIELD IS SHAKING RIGHT NOW AFTER THE BLAST THAT MONTERO – UNBELIEVABLE!”

 

 

I completely lost it. A hugging, jumping, screaming fit in the middle of my living room that went on for so long that I barely noticed that Fowler hit a solo shot, back-to-back on the very next pitch. I honestly don’t even care how the game ended. I think Anthony Rizzo made a sick defensive play to double off Andrew Toles. Whatever. Nobody will remember. It was another dramatic victory for the Cubs. And their first in the NLCS since 2003. I promptly found a photo of Montero’s shot (the one where Fowler is tossing his bat into the air in the on deck circle) and made it my background photo on Facebook. One win down. And now we face Kershaw.

 

Sunday, October 16th. NLCS Game 2. The Dodgers beat the Cubs 1-0. The series is tied 1-1.

I think we can officially put the whole ‘Clayton Kershaw sucks in October’ narrative to bed. He was dominant through seven innings of a virtual must-win game, limiting the Cubs to two hits in a shutout. And Kenley Jansen struck out four in two perfect innings of relief. Kyle Hendricks made one mistake to Adrian Gonzalez in the 2nd. And that’s the ballgame. I was stuck complaining about Eric Cooper’s bullshit strike zone and occasionally popping out of my seat, like when Anthony Rizzo cranked that massive foul ball or when Javy Baez made a great play at second to force out Josh Reddick and then catch Gonzalez in a run-down. Or when I was convinced Baez hit a two-run bomb in the 7th. According to Statcast, 67% of balls like the one he hit have been home runs at Wrigley this year. Even Kershaw thought it was gone. And Dave Roberts’ annoyingly maniacal laughter after the fact leads me to believe he did too.

 

Kershaw is the greatest pitcher on Planet Earth. But (other than Baez and Kris Bryant) the Cubs just aren’t hitting in the postseason. Like, at fucking all. Ben Zobrist is hitting .182. Dexter Fowler is .167. Jason Heyward is .111. Addison Russell is .045. And Anthony Rizzo – their three hitter – is batting .043. They’ve gotten contributions from the pitchers at the plate. And they went off on Jeff Samardzija for two innings in Game 2 of the NLDS and then the Giants’ garbage bullpen in Game 4. Those bats need to wake up. And hopefully they do. Because I want to be sitting in a silent Dodger Stadium when the Cubs doggypile after Game 5.

 

I still think it might happen. In the last four games, Kershaw and Jansen have pitched more innings than everyone else on the team, combined. They’re 3-1 in those games, which were all one-run wins. But Rich Hill has a 6.43 postseason ERA. He also has blister problems. Kenta Maeda’s postseason ERA is 9.00. It’s like they either get shelled or Kershaw/Jansen save the day. This team just doesn’t have a rotation. If the Cubs can find their bats at all in Los Angeles, we should be moving on. I think.

 

Monday, October 17th. ALCS Game 3. The Indians beat the Blue Jays 4-2. The Indians lead 3-0.

Trevor Bauer’s finger is fucking disgusting. But so is the Cleveland bullpen. I think everybody thought the story of this game was gonna be Jose Bautista’s comments about the mysterious “circumstances” that inhibited the Jays in the first two games of the series (read: strike zone). Especially when his game started with Mike Napoli’s fly ball bouncing out of his glove for an RBI double. And then he led off the bottom of the first taking a called strike three. But it wasn’t too long after that Bauer started gushing.

 

I love that Bauer almost looked like he was trying to hide his pinky from the umpire. It’s still making me laugh picturing some old timer like Joe Niekro pretending it’s not his blood and then using his own wound like a sneaky emery board. But Bauer was out after only facing four batters and Terry Francona would have to rely on his bullpen for the remainder of the game. And I had to assume the Blue Jays would finally decide to hit and the Indians would be drone-fucked.

 

Michael Saunders tied the game in the bottom of the 2nd with a solo shot off Dan Otero. But it was answered in the 4th when Napoli hit a solo shot of his own. Ezekiel Carrera tripled in the 5th and was singled in by Josh Donaldson, tying the game again. But the Indians answered in the 6th with a homer by Jason Kipnis and some great base running by Napoli after he was walked. All the Indians had to do was get to Bryan Shaw, put in Cody Allen in the 7th and let Andrew Miller get the final four outs. Francona looks like a genius. But then again, any manager who has a guy with the ability to strike out 20 batters in 9 innings of postseason work is gonna end up looking pretty good.

 

Corey Kluber is being called on for Game 4 on three days rest. If they win (53% according to FiveThirtyEight), it’s the Indians’ first pennant since 1997. It’s also their 10th win in a row. And everyone will rightfully heap praise upon Miller and the rest of the Indians’ staff. But the longer this team goes into October, the more evident it will be that they’re severely shorthanded. They’ve only started Bauer, Kluber and Josh Tomlin in their 6 postseason games. Now Bauer is drone-fucked. And they’d have to use Ryan Merritt for a potential Game 5. I don’t really know who he is either. The Red Sox and Blue Jays vanished in the first six games (seriously, the Blue Jays have scored three runs and have never had a lead), but I gotta think Cleveland is vulnerable for whoever they face (Cubs???) in the World Series.

 

Tuesday, October 18th. The Blue Jays beat the Indians 5-1. The Indians lead the series 3-1.

Well, the Blue Jays finally found their bats. And it started with Josh Donaldson, who also flashed a little leather at third to save a run. I don’t know how much to read in to the fact that Corey Kluber has never pitched on three days rest before. But with Ryan Merritt going in Game 5 for Cleveland and possibly no one (or probz Kluber again) available for them if it goes all the way to Game 7, this thing could have just gotten interesting.

 

 Hey Blue Jays, you got one!

 

Tuesday, October 18th. The Dodgers beat the Cubs 6-0. The Dodgers lead 2-1.

What a shitty time to go to my first Cubs postseason game. And good thing I also have tickets for Games 4 and 5. Ugh. I know Rich Hill pitched well this season. I know he pitched well enough in the game. I know Clayton Kershaw was good the game before. But that’s 18 innings in a row for the Cubs without a run. That’s not something that usually happens. The analysis prior to the game, at least by Jess Mendoza of ESPN, was that if the Cubs were going to bust out their slumps in the series, Hill wasn’t gonna be the guy they did it against. She also said the Cubs were gonna play better with their backs against the wall, and unfortunately, I’m probably gonna have to see if she’s right on that front too. I’ve watched the Cubs lose big games before, but never surrounded by so many people so happy about my misery. Fuckin’ Dodgers fans. Being down 2-1 would feel a lot less insurmountable if anyone on this goddamn team felt like hitting. 103 wins just to all collectively slump in October? So grumpy.

 

Wednesday, October 19th. The Indians beat the Blue Jays 3-0. They win the series 4-1. 

Prior to Game 5, Jose Bautista, who is not everyone’s favorite player, said that Indians’ starter, Ryan Merritt, would be “shaking in his boots” thinking about facing the Blue Jays’ hitters. Merritt is 24-years-old. He was a 16th-round pick out of a community college in Waco. He has an 83-mile-per-hour fastball. Prior to the game, he had one career start and 11 career innings pitched. Keep in mind that, if not for a freak drone accident, he probably wouldn’t be getting his second career start in a potential pennant-clincher. The kid’s from Texas, so he might own boots. But he was certainly not shaking in a goddamn thing.

 

 Believeland again?

 

Merrit pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings. He retired the first 10 batters of the game. By that point the Indians were up 3-0 off of a double from Mike Napoli and homers from Carlos Santana and Coco Crisp. And then that bullpen came in. Series over. Andrew Miller got MVP honors. The Indians had a little bit of fun with the whole boots comment in the clubhouse and on social media during their celebration. Jason Kipnis told reporters, “That’s why you don’t say dumb shit.” Now is as good a time as any to mention it was also Bautista’s 36th birthday. He batted .167 in what will probably be his last series with Toronto. You’re going to be hearing a lot about 1948, 1997 and the Cleveland Caviliers in the next week. I’ll be worried about what happens if the Indians have a lead on the Cubs after the 5th inning in any of the World Series games. But that thought will have to be tabled for the time being.

 

Wednesday, October 19th. The Cubs beat the Dodgers 10-2. The series is tied 2-2.

Addison Russell and Anthony Rizzo were a combined 3-for-50 in the postseason heading in to Game 4. Regression to the mean is a motherfucker. They each went 3-for-5 with home runs and the Cubs’ bats finally came alive after 21 scoreless innings. Maybe everything was a bit overblown since this is the Cubs we’re talking about. The ’98 Yankees were down 2-1 in the ALCS, for crying out loud. It happens all the time. Cubs fans may even remember the ’84 Padres being down 2-1. Or the 2003 Marlins. This is a fairly normal thing. But the Cubs hadn’t been in this sort of trouble all season long. Yeah, Dodger fans will cry about Adrian Gonzalez being thrown out at home in the 2nd (his hand looked like it was hovering to me). But the Dodgers gave up 10 runs and committed 4 errors. And if it wasn’t for Justin Turner’s grounder taking a bad hop off of Mike Montgomery’s glove in the 5th, the score would have been 10-0. I’d rather be Anthony Rizzo apologizing to Angel Hernandez for trotting to first on a called strike (and homering on the next pitch) than Adrian Gonzalez doing his best Jose Bautista whine impression in the clubhouse after the game. I just hope these bats can stay hot against Kenta Maeda in Game 5 before this series heads back to Wrigley Field.

 

 

Alright. That’s it for this week. If you need more baseball from me, check me out on Comedians Talking Sports with Joe Kilgallon, available on the podcast things. Until then, the Cubs’ Magic Number is 6. Ohmygod.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XVIII: The First Half in Review)

Written by :
Published on : July 16, 2016

 

 

Can you believe we made it all the way through the first half? We’ve already seen epic brawls, surprise teams, a 20-strikeout game, debilitating injuries, returns from debilitating injuries, historic starts, historic rookies and individual performances that range from career years to retiring veterans to perhaps the greatest pitcher we’ve ever seen in the prime of his career. And also, we saw a home run from big sloppy fatso, Bartolo Colon. So let’s look at the first half that was.

 

The AL East

 

Playoff Teams: Baltimore, Boston, Toronto.

 Big Papi looks to be headed for the playoffs in his final season.

 

The Orioles are the surprise team of the first half, and I dismissed them outright until they became the last remaining undefeated team in the Majors. Everyone thought their pitching was going to be terrible. And it hasn’t been good (ask your Orioles fan friends their thoughts on Ubaldo Jimenez). But they lead the Majors in home runs (as does Mark Trumbo), they also have Manny Machado and while their division lead might not be sustainable, it’s not like the rest of the division hasn’t been extremely flawed thus far either.

 

The biggest story in the division is probably the fact that the 40-year-old, David Ortiz – in his final season –  is the best hitter on a Red Sox offense that leads the Majors in Runs, Hits, Total Bases, RBI, Batting Average, On-Base Percentage, Slugging and Baby Powder Walk-Off Parties. The only problem is that, despite some pretty good individual performances from Steven Wright and Rick Porcello, the Red Sox are an even more extreme version of the Orioles (1st in Runs, 19th in ERA). Ask a Red Sox fan about Clay Bucholz. Or possibly, they’re just the Orioles with national media attention.

 

Update: I’ll probably have a lot to say about Drew Pomeranz next week.

 

After two last place finishes in a row, I just didn’t see how adding David Price and Craig Kimbrel (who have both disappointed) would be enough to justify their pre-season projections. And because I felt the baseball media was too giddy to anoint Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts as the heirs to the Big Papi iron throne, I took the Killer B trio as overblown media hype and focused my attention on Pablo Sandoval’s exploding belt. And boy was I wrong.

 

My pick to win the division was the Toronto Blue Jays, who might still be the best team in the East, overall. Josh Donaldson is quite possibly the first half MVP. I’d say they have the second-best pitching in the league, with a standout first-half performance by Aaron Sanchez. There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic north of the border, even though Toronto’s first half will probably be best remembered for the strong jaw of Jose Bautista.

 

The Yankees and Rays have mainly been discussed in trade rumors, with Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller being the prized possessions before the deadline. I feel like a lot more attention should be given to Masahiro Tanaka, who might have pitched better than anybody in the league in the first half, despite nobody giving a shit. And C.C. Sabathia wasn’t too shabby, either. On the other hand, the previously-lauded Rays’ staff is about as bad as it gets. And I’d look for a lot of their struggling starters to get a change of scenery after July.

 

The AL Central

 

Playoff Team: Cleveland.

 Kluber & Co have got the Tribe cruising.

 

I picked the Indians to win the Wild Card because of their staff, and yeah, it’s been the best in the American League this season. Danny Salazar is probably the first half Cy Young Award winner, Corey Kluber is right up there and Trevor Bauer could also be in the conversation. All of that pitching, along with a better-than-expected offense (without Michael Brantley), lead Believeland to a 14-game winning streak on the heels of the Cavs winning the city’s first world title in 52 years. And they’re the AL favorites going forward.

 

And yet, prior to the season, I picked the Royals. Because how could I not pick the Royals after they’d gone to the World Series the past two seasons? Sure, they had bad projections. But they always had bad projections. Then they’d just do whatever it is that they do to win. Did you watch the All-Star Game? Eric Hosmer and his faux-hawk might have been annoying as he yelled about the Royals performing on big stages before. But he’s pretty much right. The main difference is that the 2014 and 2015 Royals were relatively injury-free. That totally has not been the case this year, with Wade Davis and Lorenzo Cain currently on the 15-day DL and Mike Moustakas out for the season.

 

With apologies to my editors, other than the Indians, the entire Central has been mediocre. Except for the Twins, I guess, who are fucking terrible. Except, you know, right before the break for some reason. The Tigers are 1-11 against Cleveland. The White Sox have Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, but don’t score any runs (somebody call Drake LaRoche!). And it’s like a bizarro version of the American League East, where very few teams hit and nobody has a positive run differential, except for the Indians.

 

The AL West

 

Playoff Team: Texas.

 We are all hoping that the Rangers and Blue Jays meet up in the playoffs.

 

The Rangers were my pick in the AL West, solely because they won the division last year and they’d be getting a full season from Cole Hamels and the return of Yu Darvish. And when they were good, they were very good. But the Rangers limped into the All-Star break with Darvish and Derek Holland on the 15-day DL and Colby Lewis on the 60. But that’s not what we want to talk about, is it? We don’t even want to talk about the hot start of Nomar Mazara or the first half of Ian Desmond. We want to talk Roogie.

 

I’d say the most memorable moment of the first half of baseball this season was the Rougned Odor overhand right to the bat-flipping face of Jose Bautista. And, holy shit, do I want a Rangers-Jays rematch in the post-season. And you should too. So we should all pray to the baseball gods (Bill James and Peter Gammons?) that the Blue Jays stay hot and the Rangers can pick up an arm or two before the deadline.

 

Another reason the Rangers need help is because the Astros are creeping. And they were my pick for a Wild Card before the season. But I also took Carlos Correa as my AL MVP, so shows what I know (I meant to say Jose Altuve, I swear). After an awful start, the Astros turned things around. And they actually have better World Series odds than the Rangers currently.

 

Okay. Here are my Top 5’s of the AL first half.

 

Top 5 AL Position Players.

1. Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays.          5.4 WAR    .424 wOBA
2. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels.                5.5 WAR    .415 wOBA
3. Jose Altuve, Houston Astros.                     4.3 WAR    .400 wOBA
4. Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles.          4.3 WAR    .392 wOBA
5. David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox.                     3.3 WAR    .451 wOBA

 

Honorable Mention: Ian Desmond, Robinson Cano, Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, Kyle Seager.

 

Top 5 AL Pitchers.

1. Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees.       3.0 WAR    3.31 FIP    3.23 ERA
2. Danny Salazar, Cleveland Indians.             2.4 WAR    3.39 FIP    2.75 ERA
3. Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox.          2.9 WAR    3.48 FIP    3.21 ERA
4. Aaron Sanchez, Toronto Blue Jays.           2.5 WAR    3.52 FIP    2.97 ERA
5. Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians.               3.3 WAR    2.95 FIP    3.61 ERA

 

Honorable Mention: Steven Wright, Chris Sale, Trevor Bauer, Jordan Zimmermann, C.C. Sabathia, J.A. Happ, Rick Porcello.

 

Now for the National League.

 

The NL East

 

Playoff Teams: Washington, New York, Miami.

 Syndergaard has me eating crow.

 

If you’ve read this column for a while, you may remember something I wrote back in March saying to call me when the Mets’ front four approaches a 19-20 combined WAR. Even earlier than that, I said that the Nationals’ front four might be even better than the Mets’. Well, here’s how it looked at the All-Star break.

 

Mets (Syndergaard, deGrom, Matz, Harvey)             10.0 WAR

Nationals (Strasburg, Scherzer, Roark, Ross)             9.6 WAR

 

So, I’m an idiot sometimes. Noah Syndergaard has been amazing, bone spur or not. And Jacob deGrom is quietly having a good year. So if not for a few health scares with Jason Matz and, I don’t know, the fact that they’re losing Matt Harvey for the rest of the season, this staff really could have approached 90’s Braves-level awesomeness. And that’s all without mentioning America’s sweetheart, Bartolo Colon.

 

I picked the Nationals because everyone was so jacked up about them last year and I figured that there was no way their luck would be as bad as it was in 2015. What I couldn’t have predicted was just how good Daniel Murphy was going to be. I really thought October was a fluke. The 14 home runs he hit last season were a career-high. And yes, I still hate him.

 

Despite an underwhelming first half from Bryce Harper (although he started on a goddamn tear), Wilson Ramos has also picked up some offensive slack. Stephen Strasburg (with his new contract) is the only qualified starter in the Majors without a loss. As well as the first NL starter since Rube Marquard in 1912 to win his first 12 decisions of the year. Max Scherzer struck out 20 Tigers in a game, throwing 80% strikes and making Brad Ausmus a 20K victim for the third time. And all that adds up for the most franchise wins at the break, along with the infamous ’94 Expos.

 

The Mets have been plagued by so many injuries, that the only way to make this fun is to remind you of the things Bartolo Colon has already done this season. That Mays-esque catch off the mound. That home run in San Diego. The reaction of the Mets’ dugout. That time he promised the catcher he wouldn’t swing. Any of the times he runs the bases. And I repeat; that home run he hit in San Diego. It’s almost hard to believe Big Sexy exists sometimes.

 

All that being said, the door is probably wide open for the Miami Marlins to make a run in the second half. They’re getting Dee Gordon back soon. They have Jose Fernandez. And if the Home Run Derby is any indication, Giancarlo Stanton could round out an outfield so good, that Ichiro might have to wait a while before getting 10 more hits.

 

The NL Central

 

Playoff Team: Chicago.

 Looks for the Cubs to get it back together in the second half.

 

From the start, the Cubs were my pick to win it all. And they started so hot and so fun (wacky suits, mariachi bands) that a semi-epic collapse at the end of the first half still had them up 7 on the Cardinals in the division. Of course, there was the season-ending injury of Kyle Schwarber. And the past month of awful pitching. But overall, it’s been amazing. Dexter Fowler was Mr. April. Ben Zobrist was Mr. May. Jon Lester was Mr. June. Somewhere in there, Jake Arrieta threw another no-hitter. And Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo could arguably 1-2 in first-half MVP voting. Not that that’s a thing.

 

There was also the Javier Baez walk-off on Mother’s Day. The Travis Wood Game. The first Wilson Contreras at-bat. The game where Bryant had three bombs and two doubles. I just hope that the All-Star break was a reset button for a team that played 24 games in 24 days, that Arrieta can resemble his second-half performance from last year, that they get the help they need in the bullpen and all of their troubles are behind them. Then I can finally get to see the ending to what Sports Illustrated dubbed ‘the last great American sports story’. Ohpleaseohpleaseohplease.

 

You know, either that, or they could keep tanking and watch the Cardinals and Pirates pass them.

 

The NL West

 

Playoff Teams: San Francisco, Los Angeles.

 MadBum: Killin’ it.

 

All of the ‘Even Year’ dipshits can rejoice. The Giants are the best team in baseball at the half. Not that they were in 2010, 2012 or 2014. Uh oh, you fucking idiots. But Jeff Samardzija and especially Johnny Cueto were great pick-ups for San Francisco. Their front four has a 9.5 WAR, if you’re keeping score at home. And as good as the 20 K game by Scherzer and no-no from Arrieta were, the single best pitching performance in the first half was Madison Bumgarner’s from last week where he allowed 1 hit, 1 walk and struck out 14 in a complete-game shutout (98 Game Score). That would make me the only person on the planet actually talking about MadBum’s pitching.

 

In Vin Scully’s final season with the Dodgers, he might be witnessing the greatest pitcher in team history. Or maybe all-time. Or he could be hurt for a while. I don’t know. But Clayton Kershaw’s first half was so good, that I’d be willing to say he was the National League MVP, Cy Young and then Corey Seager could also let him hold his Rookie of the Year trophy while we’re at it (oh man, remember Trevor Story?). Anyway, the Dodgers’ staff was plagued by injuries. And I still can’t stand their fans. But I’d really love to see Kershaw come back soon and overtake San Fran in the Wins column.

 

Also, I was right about the Diamondbacks.

 

Now for the NL’s Top 5’s.

 

Top 5 NL Position Players.

1. Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs.                        5.0 WAR    .403 wOBA
2. Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs.                   3.5 WAR    .419 wOBA
3. Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals.       3.7 WAR    .410 wOBA
4. Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals.           3.1 WAR    .414 wOBA
5. Jake Lamb, Arizona Diamondbacks.          3.1 WAR    .407 wOBA

 

Honorable Mention: Nolan Arenado, Brandon Belt, Corey Seager, Marcell Ozuna, Paul Goldschmidt, Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler, Wilson Ramos, Freddie Freeman, Christian Yelich.

 

Top 5 NL Pitchers.

1. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers.          5.5 WAR    1.70 FIP    1.79 ERA
2. Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets.                 4.0 WAR    2.06 FIP    2.56 ERA
3. Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins                        3.9 WAR    2.13 FIP    2.52 ERA
4. Johnny Cueto, San Francisco Giants.              3.7 WAR    2.70 FIP    2.47 ERA
5. Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants.    3.3 WAR    2.96 FIP    1.94 ERA

 

Honorable Mention: Stephen Strasburg, Drew Pomeranz, Jake Arrieta, Jacob deGrom, Tanner Roark, Kenta Maeda, Kyle Hendricks, Max Scherzer, Jaime Martinez, Steven Matz.

 

 

Alright. That’ll do it. See you in the outfield for the second half. Check me out on Comedians Talking Baseball with Joe Kilgallon, available on iTunes. Until then, Ichiro needs 10 hits and the Cubs’ magic number is 68.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XII)

Written by :
Published on : May 20, 2016

 

 

To paraphrase Bernie Sanders, I was sick and tired of hearing about the damn bat flip. Seven long months had passed. And since then, that damn bat flip had become a meme, a tattoo, a reason for Goose Gossage to want his country back and everything else in between. But on Sunday, with one overhand right landing square on the very-punchable jaw of Jose Bautista, Rougned Odor (pronounced Roog Ned O’Door, like some kind of old-timey Irish criminal) has thrust last year’s ALDS between the Rangers and the Blue Jays back into the forefront of baseball once again.

 

So let’s talk about last year’s series for a second. So far, I’ve only really heard people talk about Game 5 in Toronto. And that’s fine since it was probably the wildest game in baseball playoff history, with a 53-minute 7th inning that stands right up there with the Billy Buckner 9th inning in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series and the Steve Bartman 8th inning of Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS, as one the most epic innings of all time. It had the little-known Rule 6.03(a)(3), with Russell Martin’s throw back to the mound hitting the bat of Shin-Soo Choo, allowing a runner to score and putting the Rangers up 3-2. That’s also the play where the umpire originally ruled the ball dead, but after the call was overturned, Jays fans spent the next 18 minutes pelting the field with Canadian garbage. Then the whole episode was rendered moot when the Rangers made three errors on consecutive plays in the bottom half of the inning (all somehow involving Elvis Andrus), before Bautista hit his infamous home run and launched his infamous bat skyward, prompting two bench-clearing brawls and the Canadian police being called in to control the mayhem.

 

 

Lest we forget, the Blue Jays had not been in the postseason since Joe Carter’s walk-off in the 1993 World Series. So Bautista’s homer was the second-biggest in their franchise history. And everybody at the Rogers Center went understandably crazy. It won the game and the series for Toronto, all after the heavily-favored Blue Jays had been down 0-2 in the best of five series. And the funny thing is, if not for that historic 7th inning, or at least the bottom half of that historic 7th inning, the star of the series was actually the 21-year-old Rougned Odor of the Texas Rangers. Who is Venezuelan, but sounds like a shitty peripheral character on season 3 of Sons of Anarchy.

 

In Game One, Odor got plunked twice by Jays’ ace, David Price. He also homered off of Price later in the game, made some fantastic plays in the field and also happened to knee Josh Donaldson in the head as he tried to break up a double play, forcing Donaldson to leave the game. Hey, that stuff sounds vaguely relevant. In Game Two, Odor was involved in another controversial play, as a throw from Bautista to second base probably caught Odor off the bag. But he was called safe after a review, allowing rookie back-up, Hanser Alberto, to knock him in with the go-ahead run in the 14th inning. By the way, benches also cleared in the 13th, when the not-at-all-concussed Donaldson was displeased with a quick-pitch from Keone Kela. And of course, in Game Five, it was actually Odor who scored on the aforementioned bizarre play between Russell and Choo. Because of course it was Odor. He was everywhere at once throughout the series. And yet we only remember Bautista and his damn bat flip. Maybe this was Roog Ned’s way of reminding the world what he could do. You know, besides fixing the 1960 election for John F. Kennedy or something.

 

 Shit got real.

 

The funny thing is, the Rangers and Blue Jays had already played six games in 2016 without an incident. Sunday’s game was actually the final time they’ll play this year. And with the Blue Jays sitting 7 back of the Orioles and Red Sox and four games under .500, not to mention the fact that both the Jays and the Rangers got swept in their next series, they’re also squandering a real chance for me to see the most-anticipated postseason rematch since the Red Sox and Yankees in 2004. But hey, the 2015 Rangers were just as improbable as this year’s Jays currently seem to be, sitting two games under .500 and 8 games back of the Houston Astros on August 2nd. So there’s still hope for me yet. Come on, guys!

 

If you missed Sunday’s game and only get your baseball news from this blog (which I admit I would be okay with), allow me to fill you in. In his final at-bat in the season series, Bautista got drilled by a 97-mph first-pitch fastball thrown by Matt Bush. Bush, a 30-year-old rookie who wasn’t even on the Rangers last year, was not ejected for the pitch. Not that Bush is a stranger to getting kicked out of establishments that serve alcohol. The former first overall pick in the 2004 draft, has been arrested for fighting a security guard who kicked him out of a bar just weeks after that draft, he’s also allegedly thrown a baseball at a woman’s head and banged on her car window because she drew on his face after he passed out at a party in 2009.

 

He also allegedly got drunk in 2009 and beat up a high school lacrosse player with a golf club while screaming, “I’m Matt fucking Bush!” as the whole thing was being filmed. And in 2012, he got kicked out of strip club for drunkenly trying to climb onto the stage, not knowing ‘Matt Bush’ is a horrible name for a stripper. Then he got in a friend’s SUV, ran over the head of a 72-year-old motorcyclist (he lived) and fled the scene. That landed Bush in prison for 51 months, although he’s still a suspect in two other hit-and-run accidents from earlier in the day. Dude is pretty bad at drinking. The fact that Matt Fucking Bush is finally in the Majors to begin with is an amazing story. Although the fact that a rookie with a zero-tolerance policy from his new club was the one presumably asked to do the deed against Bautista is way more interesting to me.

 

Anyway, next Bautista (angered by the HBP and the non-ejection of Bush) attempted to break up a double play with a newly-illegal slide aimed at Odor’s legs. Knowing that Bautista would be called out because of his slide anyway, Odor basically submarined his throw directly at Bautista’s still-unpunched face. And that’s when both guys squared off and Odor dazed Bautista with a solid punch that became the talk of baseball for the next week. Not detracting from all the talk was the fact that, after the game, seemingly everyone on both teams cut WWE-style promos on each other to the press, leaving the seven-month-old blood feud unfinished for the time being.

Marcus Stroman, who wasn’t even in Texas for the game because he was graduating from Duke, tweeted that he’s never respected Odor and never will. Erudito et Religio, Marcus! Bautista, who may actually have a strong chin, but also may have been saved from a knockout by good Samaritan, Adrian Beltre, said it takes a bigger man than Odor to knock him down. He also said he could have injured Odor with the slide if he wanted to, but chose not to. And he also criticized the Rangers for not going after him until his last at bat in the series. Jays’ skipper, John Gibbons, who ran back onto the field after an ejection (which is becoming a real thing this year), echoed Bautista with a similar statement and added that the Rangers were ‘gutless’. The thing is, Bautista was probably anticipating retaliation in the first four games of the series. And it’s possible that those delayed retaliation mind games held him to going 1-for-15 in those games. I’m just saying.

 

Either way, nobody outside of Toronto and the commissioner’s office really seems to be blaming Odor for the punch. Even though an old video has surfaced of him going all Bruce Lee on an entire infield during a minor league game. And even though footage also shows that he also tried to punch the spastic redneck Viking, Donaldson, on Sunday, after Donaldson came flying at him from the Toronto dugout like the spastic redneck Viking he is. And, even though it will be forgotten, everyone especially loved Prince Fielder’s reaction to getting plunked by Jesse Chavez later in the game. The whole episode has brought comparisons to the 1993 best-brawl-of-all-time between Nolan Ryan and the twenty-years-younger Robin Ventura. I guess because it was also in Texas. But the fun thing about that particular brawl (other than the classic Ryan noogies) was that Ryan stayed in the game and pitched hitless ball the rest of the way.

 

And that concludes the first and only time we should ever compare the Ryan Express to Roog Ned O’Door, who sounds like he was second in command to Bugs Moran and/or killed in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929. Okay. Let’s finally move on.

 

 

AL MVP: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros

 

The shortest man in baseball leads in WAR, wOBA, OBP and OPS. I’ve been told that the Astros are turning things around. I’d rather talk about someone else until they do.

 

I could easily give this week’s AL MVP to the entirety of the Red Sox’ offense. That team is fun. They lead the Majors in runs, hits, doubles, runs batted in, batting average, slugging and OPS. Jackie Bradley Jr’s hitting streak is at 24 games. Xander Bogaerts leads the league in hits. Travis Shaw is making everyone forget about whoever was supposed to play third before him. And then there’s Big Papi. The scary thing is, if you set aside Altuve, Manny Machado and Mike Trout, David Ortiz would have been my choice for the best player in the American League thus far. The dude is 40-years-old! I don’t know if some sort of weight was lifted off of him after he decided to retire or what, but over the weekend at Fenway, he had a game-tying triple and a walk-off double (his 600th) before getting doused with baby powder or cocaine or something. After the game, he had to rush off to a family function, so he told reporters, “Just say I’m a bad motherfucker.” He really is. So much so that I’ll avoid talking about that 4.22 team ERA or the first place Orioles for the time being.

 

 Can’t stop, won’t stop.

 

Carlos Beltran hit his 400th home run this week, making it harder for me to say he’s not a Hall of Famer. Once he gets his 2500th hit, he’ll be one of only four current Major Leaguers (with Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols and Adrian Beltre) in the 400/2500 club. Which is not a bad group to be a part of. Beltran was the best player on the Royals from 1999-2003 and the best player on the Mets from 2006-2008. And from 2002-2008, only Pujols, A-Rod and Barry Bonds had a higher WAR. That makes him a close second to Bonds as the best outfielder in the big leagues over that period. His career numbers are similar to Billy Williams, Andre Dawson and Jim Rice. He has three Gold Gloves. And although the highest he’s ever finished in MVP voting is 4th, and despite not having won a World Series ring, Beltran has been a monster in the postseason. It was actually his playoff home run record that Daniel Murphy broke last season. Oh, and he’s also the best center fielder not currently enshrined in Coopserstown. I’d say that’s a pretty good case.

 

AL Cy Young: Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox

 

Chris Sale and Danny Salazar are right there, but I’m still going with Quintana, who leads in FIP and WAR. Brad Ausmus and the potential job opening in Detroit may have eaten up all the news in the AL Central this week. And Ausmus may have eaten up all the sunflower seeds (seriously, I’ve never seen a guy neatly fold his hoodie on home plate after an ejection), but with the White Sox cooling off a bit, this division remains wide open for everyone not named the Twins.

 

AL Rookie of the Year: Byung-ho Park, Minnesota Twins

 Congrats, you’re the only interesting thing involving the Twins!

 

Hey, prior to the season I said at least one of the Twins new hot-shots had to pan out. And while Byron Buxton and Jose Berrios need more time in the minors, the 29-year-old two-time former MVP of the Korean Baseball Organization is here to stay. So there. I finally said something nice about them.

 

NL MVP: Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals

I have to give props to the Mets fans, who gave Murphy a standing ovation prior to their first game with the Nationals, a standing ovation for his first at-bat and then promptly booed him the rest of the way.

 

For a brief moment on Wednesday, the Philadelphia Phillies were tied with the Nationals for first place in the NL East. And I love it. That’s with 58% of their wins coming from one-run games (shout out to Cameron Rupp for hanging on to that ball!). I mean, they’re seven games above .500 with a -28 run differential. That’s unprecedented. But nobody in the division outside of Murphy, Bryce Harper or Yoenis Cespedes has played as well as Odubel Herrera. And nobody in the division outside of Noah Syndergaard has pitched as well as Aaron Nola and Vincent Velasquez. That includes Stephen Strasburg and Jose Fernandez. I’m just as skeptical as anybody, but I have to love a team that I thought coming in to the season was actually going to be worse than the Atlanta Braves (as I pour one out for Fredi Gonzalez).

 

Gerrit Cole doesn’t think the Cubs are the best team in baseball. That’s fine. They looked like shit in Milwaukee. Other than the 13-inning ‘Travis Wood Game’ where Joe Maddon became a mad scientist, Kris Bryant used three different gloves in one inning and Wood got out of the most improbable jam of all time. Oh, and then Wood walked with the bases loaded in the 13th, which would win the game. That’s why he gets a game named after him. Other than that it wasn’t great. And Bartolo Colon hit a home run before Jason Heyward and his .225 batting average did. So Cole might be right. But it’s just kind of strange criticism coming from a guy who’s team isn’t even the best in Pennsylvania (Pirates burn!).

 

NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

 Best ever? Maybe.

 

Just so we’re clear, Kershaw’s strikeouts-to-walks ratio (K/BB) is currently sitting at 22.00. That’s 88 strikeouts and only four walks, almost doubling the single-season record. His career ERA + (which adjusts an ERA based on ballparks and eras) is also the best ever for a starter with Pedro Martinez at #2. His adjusted career FIP is the best ever too. And just look at this career stat line for a second.

 

                                ERA     FIP     WAR    IP
Sandy Koufax         2.76     2.78     54.5    2324.1
Clayton Kershaw    2.40     2.57     50.5    1681.0

 

Now I know that Koufax threw four no-hitters, a perfect game and won three World Series rings in 12 seasons with the Dodgers. In 1965, he also pitched what was the greatest game of all time until Kerry Wood came along in 1998. But Kershaw is only 28-years-old and wouldn’t even be eligible for the Hall of Fame until after next season. He has just as many Cy Youngs (3) as Koufax won. And Kershaw’s best game ever is slightly better than Koufax’s best game ever.

 

Koufax        9/9/65        9 IP    0 H    0 BB    0 R    14 K    101 GSc
Kershaw    6/18/14        9 IP    0 H    0 BB    0 R    15 K    102 GSc

 

Only Wood (Kerry, not Travis) and Max Scherzer (the 17 K, 0 BB no-no from last October) have ever pitched games better than either of those. But I’m basically laying out an argument for you with cold hard facts as to why Kershaw is actually better than Koufax was. The fun part is, we might also be currently witnessing the greatest pitcher of all time. I guess I could check in with Gerrit Cole to see what he thinks.

 

NL Rookie of the Year: Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers

 He does more than just sniff butts.

 

I’m finally giving it to Seager this week over Aledmys Diaz because, while Diaz keeps raking, Seager’s WAR is higher because he’s a much better defensive shortstop. Plus, I’m sick of typing ‘Aledmys’ and ‘Cardinals’.

 

You would think that since I just listed two Dodgers stars for Cy Young and Rookie of the Year that the team would also be doing awesome. Nah. They’re 8-1 when Kershaw pitches and 13-20 when he doesn’t. And it’s actually the Giants who separated themselves from the pack this week, winning seven in a row. And now they face the Cubs, who beat good teams and then lost to the Brewers and/or Padres. So I guess the Cubs will take 2/3 and the NL West will go right back to being a shitshow.

 

 

Alright. I’ll see you next week in the outfield. Remember to check out the MLB Recaps on ‘Comedians Talking Sports‘ with Joe Kilgallon, available on iTunes. Until then, the Cubs’ Magic Number is 117.

 

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode I)

Written by :
Published on : February 27, 2016

 

 

Last week on Monday Night Raw, Shane McMahon made a shocking return to the WWE after a six year absence. And it was soon announced that he’d be facing the Undertaker inside ‘Hell in a Cell’ at WrestleMania 32. I wonder if maybe, just maybe, Theo Epstein happened to be watching. Because just three days later, Dexter Fowler’s surprise return to the Cubs was as close to a WWE-style swerve as an actual non-scripted sport can get. The only thing it was missing was cued-up entrance music (“My Way” by Fetty Wap, would have been perf) and his Cubs teammates chanting ‘holy shit’ and ‘this is awesome’ (clap clap clap clap clap) after the big reveal.

 

Until that very moment, the consensus foregone conclusion was that Fowler had signed with the Baltimore Orioles. It was speculated and anticipated for weeks by baseball’s talking head community until it evolved into a full-blown fact. Right up until the moment it wasn’t. And after receiving a text that just said “Fowler!” from my ‘Go Cubs’ iPhone message group, I was so confused and skeptical that I didn’t believe the news until I actually saw the video of a 6’5″ dude in street clothes who looked a lot like Dexter Fowler walking onto the field with a guy who looked a lot like Theo Epstein and being greeted by a group of guys in Cubs uniforms who looked exactly like the rest of the Chicago Cubs. It wouldn’t take long for a meme to go out on social media with Steve Harvey holding the Miss Universe card and saying, “DEXTER FOWLER HAS SIGNED WITH THE ORIOLES.”

 

 Fowler will be back with the Cubs.

 

And while I could talk about what the Fowler signing means for the 2016 Cubs (the best team in baseball on paper just got better, Jason Heyward can now move back to right field where he’s won three Gold Gloves and it creates an insanely flexible lineup depth with Fowler, Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, Ben Zobrist and Kyle Schwarber in the other outfield slots, etc.), it’s probably best to use this as further proof that conventional wisdom at the start of Spring Training doesn’t necessarily equate to actual regular season results. And everything we think we know about the 2016 season before it starts is probably just as true as the fact that Dexter Fowler is the new leadoff hitter for the Baltimore Orioles.

 

All that being said, I still can’t think of a reason why it won’t be the Cubs’ year in 2016. Yes, I’m still worried about the Cardinals. And I still think the Pirates are probably vastly underrated. And I know that saying, “Anything less than the World Series would be a huge disappointment” is a statement that is probably held equally true for the Mets and the Dodgers. And I know that the Nationals were the team that looked like the hands-down best-on-paper team last year. That is, of course, until they weren’t. But it’s still February as I type this. And hope still springs eternal. So as of right now, I’m a believer.

 

Around the League

 

The more I think about the 2016 Boston Red Sox and their high win projections, the more I have a problem with them. Pablo Sandoval showed up to Fort Myers looking like me after a cake bender. And if you combine that with Hanley Ramirez at first base, I don’t see why every team they face wouldn’t just put on a dead-ball-era bunt clinic until the Red Sox can figure their own shit out? But the good news for the Red Sox is that every team in their division has a really good reason why they won’t win either. The best one is that 5’8″ Marcus Stroman is going to become the the ace of the Blue Jays like he’s pitching’s Jose Altuve. And Jose Bautista’s contract looks like it’s already a distraction. As are the whispers that Troy Tulowitzki can’t hit outside of the thin air of Coors Field. And those two teams are the favorites in the division. If you add to that, the uncertainty of the rotation and age of the position players in New York, a possible 30-40 game suspension of Aroldis Chapman, a Tampa Bay Rays team that doesn’t score runs and an Orioles team that doesn’t prevent runs, it leaves me throwing up my hands and saying, “Let them eat cake.”

 

I’m increasingly curious to see Byron Buxton and Jose Berrios in Minnesota. Not to mention Miguel Sano and Byung-ho Park. That’s too much young talent to not pan out in a division where I’m totally ready to see something new and exciting happen. That could also occur if the White Sox can score runs and if the Indians can play defense. I just don’t want to see a scenario where these Kansas City Royals, who have the 13th-highest payroll in baseball and who will not be sneaking up on anyone this time around, can become the 1998-2001 Yankees or the 1988-1990 Bash Brother A’s. I can only take so many cuts to Happy George Brett in the owner’s box before I get sick of this double-tapered shit.

 

 Can the Royals really do it again?

 

My way-too-early AL MVP pick is going to be Carlos Correa of the Houston Astros. Especially now that they created the Chase Utley Slide Rule to protect him. Mike Trout is still probably going to be the best player in the league. But he’s going to get ‘LeBron Ruled’ out of the award until the Angels can put a decent lineup around him. The same probably goes for Josh Donaldson and even a returning Miguel Cabrera because nobody likes repeats. So that probably leaves us with Manny Machado, who probably won’t be in playoff contention and Correa who probably will. And my backup choice is obviously Dexter Fowler, the definite new right fielder for the Baltimore Orioles.

 

And while I haven’t decided on my pre-season NL MVP pick quite yet, I will say that if the Diamondbacks are really going to be in contention, then there’s no reason it won’t be Paul Goldschmidt. But you can’t rule out never-been-picked guys like Giancarlo Stanton (with his zero facial hair and his Barry Bonds) or whichever Cubs player hogs up the most attention in their historic season. Or it could even be whoever this Royce Harper guy is Dusty Baker keeps talking about. I’ll have to get back to you on that.

 

Well, we have actual Spring Training games next week. We’ll get to see Lucas Giolito and Julio Urias and Corey Seager and Byron Buxton and Joey Gallo and start forming actual thoughts about these teams as they move towards the regular season. I’ve given you my picks for World Series champion and AL MVP. And with just a little bit more information, I can form enough of an opinion to the wrong about the rest. Stay tuned.

 

 


Champ and Chump: Week 6

Written by :
Published on : October 25, 2015

 

 

 

A little late with my Champ and Chump picks this week but even with the few extra days, there was nothing that could save the Wolverines from finding a less than desirable spot on the charts over here. Spoiler alert, not that you needed it, Michigan finds itself on the wrong side of the Champ and Chump board this week and boy was it ever something special. See what other special performances happened this past week below, and take a scroll through my Champs and Chumps of the week.

 

Champ: Daniel Murphy

Murphy has been a home run machine this post-season.

 

What a post-season for Daniel Murphy thus far. As the New York Mets enter the World Series, they do it with the hottest hitter on the planet right now. In a series sweep of the Chicago Cubs, Murphy hit .529 and has homered in 6 straight post-season games, a Major League record. The Mets are heading to the Fall Classic for the first time since 2000 where they lost to their cross town rival, the New York Yankees. This time they’ll take on the Kansas City Royals, who lost the World Series last year in a 7-game thriller against the San Francisco Giants.

 

 

 

Honorable Mention: 

Landry Jones- The third string quarterback came in for the injured Mike Vick and went 8-12 for 168 yards and 2 touchdowns in a win over the Arizona Cardinals.

Cristiano Ronaldo- Became Real Madrid’s all-time leading goal scorer (324 goals) passing Raul who played in 741 games with Madrid from 1994-2010. Ronaldo accomplished the feat in just 310 games with the team.

Christian McCaffrey- The son of former Denver Bronco’s wide receiver Ed McCaffrey had a school record 243 yards on the ground and 4 touchdowns, helping Stanford beat the UCLA Bruins last week. McCaffrey, who also returns kicks, finished with 369 all purpose yards.

 

 

Chump: Tie: Jim Harbaugh and Blake O’Neill

Harbaugh and O’Neill dropped the ball in a big way.

 

On what will likely be the play of the year, Michigan State defensive back Jalen Watts-Jackson took a fumbled punt attempt 38 yards to the house as time expired to give the Spartans a win over archrival Michigan. We’ve all seen the play, (as a Spartan fan I can’t watch it enough) with Michigan up 23-21, the Wolverines faced 4th and short with just 10 seconds left. On the other side of the ball, Michigan State figured they had one shot at a miracle and that was to go all out for a block. The snap came in (a bit low) and Michigan punter Blake O’Neill did the unthinkable and dropped the snap. In a panic, O’Neill picked up the ball, turned and tried to get off a kick while getting swarmed by white jerseys. The ball was fumbled up into the air and came right down into Watts-Jackson’s arms. Shocked, speechless, in disbelief, Michigan fans could hardly move. Once they could, and they realized what happened, naturally, the thought was how the hell could you fumble that snap?! Why didn’t you just fall on it?! Both good points, and while O’Neill no doubt is quite the goat for this incredible finish, I think equal blame should fall on the shoulders of their coach. Jim Harbaugh called two timeouts on that drive allowing the clock to dwindle down as much as possible on 2nd and 3rd down before ultimately deciding to punt. I have no problem with the decision to punt, however, how do you not prepare your team to setup in max protect, knowing the Spartans are bringing everyone to block this kick. Again, no Spartans were back to field the kick, yet Michigan sent four gunners down to cover the return? While O’Neill fumbled the ball, I think the Spartans may have got in there to get the block even if O’Neill caught it clean. Four guys had a free release, Harbaugh and company enjoyed their spot as my Champ of the week last week, a complete 180 here as they are big, big Chumps this week.

 

 

 

Dishonorable Mention:

Colts 4th down “fake punt”- Every once in a while a team calls a play or a player does something that leaves you speechless. The Indianapolis Colts provided us with one of these moments last weekend in a highly anticipated game vs the New England Patriots. Down 6 in the 3rd quarter, the Colts faced a 4th and 3, they shifted 9 guys down towards the sideline leaving a wide receiver and safety to act as the quarterback and snapper. Hut, hut, hike…and then 3 unblocked New England Patriots tackled the Colt “QB” for a loss.

David Price- This may be a bit harsh, but for an ace entering free agency one can’t ignore the struggles that Price can’t seem to shake in the post-season. With a career 0-7 post-season record as a starter, and an overall post-season ERA of 5.24, Price was given the ball again for Game 7 in the ALCS vs Kansas City and didn’t pitch well enough, getting a no decision.

 

 

 

 


Winners and Losers from MLB’s Trade Deadline

Written by :
Published on : August 2, 2015

 

The trade deadline has passed, and what a deadline it was. We had big names on the move, guys getting shipped after just being dealt last year, a deal which included thirteen players, and everything in between. It was an action packed week culminating with an explosive final two days, but the question is, who were the winners of the trade deadline and who left us shaking our heads in disappointment.

 

THE BIG WINNERS:

 

Toronto Blue Jays-

 

Ben Revere makes a circus catch in the 4th inning against the Royals on Saturday.

 

Additions: SS-Troy Tulowitzki (COL), SP-David Price (DET), OF- Ben Revere (PHI), RP-LaTroy Hawkins (COL), RP-Mark Lowe (SEA)

 

The Blue Jays went all in this past week and came home big winners. Having the longest playoff drought in all of baseball, Toronto is very much alive for both the American League Wild Card and even the AL East. Toronto lost two of their top prospects in Starting Pitcher Daniel Norris and 2014 first round pick Jeff Hoffman, but adding to an already potent offense, and adding one of the top pitchers in baseball was well worth a shot. Both Troy Tulowitzki and David Price are among the best at their positions, and Ben Revere rounds out a very talented outfield. Toronto is set up nicely down the stretch to get a wild card spot, but I think they will wind up catching the Yankees and winning the AL East outright. However, if they fail to make the playoffs, going all in could be a very costly risk should David Price sign elsewhere at season’s end.

 

Kansas City Royals-

 

Newly acquired Royal Ben Zobrist is congratulated by Salvador Perez following a game tying home run on Saturday.

 

Additions: SP Johnny Cueto (CIN), INF/OF Ben Zobrist (OAK)

 

The Kansas City Royals had the tying run just 90-feet away when they recorded the final out in Game 7 of last year’s World Series loss to the Giants. This year, Kansas City looks poised for another deep playoff run but came into the deadline with a scuffling starting pitching staff and a couple big injuries. They did an exceptional job addressing both needs and in my eyes remain the favorites in the American League. After starting pitcher Jason Vargas went down with an injury that could require Tommy John surgery, Kansas City knew they needed to get a big gun to replace him. Many starting pitchers were allegedly on the trading block, and Kansas City struck first by getting Johnny Cueto from Cincinnati. Cueto is set to be a free agent next season, but will be a pivotal part of the rotation heading into October. Kansas City also went out and got utility man Ben Zobrist from Oakland to play primarily left field, but he can also play the infield as well if needed. Zobrist fills a huge void in left field due to the injury to Alex Gordon, and already has had some clutch hits for the Royals, including a couple home runs. With a large lead over the rest of the AL Central, the Royals look ready to represent the American League again in the Fall Classic.

 

Houston Astros-

 

Kazmir in the third inning of the Astros game against the Angels on July 30th.

 

Additions: SP Scott Kazmir (OAK), CF- Carlos Gomez (MIL), SP- Mike Fiers (MIL)

 

The Houston Astros are one of the biggest surprises in the American League, and perhaps in all of baseball. Loaded with young talent, Houston faced the tough decision to sit pat and fight for the playoffs with what they had, or give up on some prospects and make a splash with some trades. They chose the latter and I think it was the right move. Houston already had a very strong rotation but added some depth by getting a solid #2 starter in Scott Kazmir from Oakland and a back end of the rotation type guy in Mike Fiers. Houston also added Carlos Gomez from the Milwaukee Brewers, who earlier in the week was thought to have been sent to the New York Mets, but the deal fell through. Gomez adds power, speed and some experience to an otherwise young team.

 

THE BIG LOSERS:

 

New York Yankees-

 

Dustin Ackley at bat against the Yankees on July 17th. Less than two weeks later he was traded to the Bronx Bombers.

 

Additions: OF Dustin Ackley (SEA)

 

The New York Yankees enjoyed a comfortable 7-game lead in the AL East late last week, but have too many questions with their rotation to feel all that comfortable. With numerous quality starting pitchers on the market, the Yankees were thought to be a lock to acquire one. Instead, the Yankees sat back until acquiring outfielder Dustin Ackley of the Seattle Mariners. Hitting just .216 with 6 home runs this year, Ackley isn’t by any means a marquee pickup for the Yankees, and considering all the moves made elsewhere around the AL, New York should be on watch. It is also worth noting that Yankees and Blue Jays meet thirteen times the rest of the season.

 

San Diego Padres-

 

The Padres loan acquisition on the mound on Saturday.

 

Additions: RP- Marc Rzepczynski (CLE)

 

The Padres make this list not for who they didn’t acquire but instead for the contracts/players they didn’t get rid of. San Diego made a lot of upgrades to their roster this past off-season and while their post season hopes may still be alive, it appears to be a steep uphill climb. With the Dodgers and Giants both playing really well, the Padres should have tried to move any (or all) of players like James Shields, Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner, Ian Kennedy, Craig Kimbrel, Joaquin Benoit, or Justin Upton. Instead, the Padres brass decided to contend rather than trying to sell, and that decision could make rebuilding next season even more difficult given the pay raises due to many of the players listed above that could have been dealt.

 


 

The trade deadline has come and gone, but not before shaking a lot of things up and setting up for a very exciting final couple months of the regular season. By adding an additional Wild Card team a couple years back, the deadline has created a lot more buyers and thus we have seen a lot more trades. While many of these transactions are the exchange of a proven major leaguer for a prospect or two, time will tell on who the true winners or losers will be, but for this season expect the winners of the trade deadline to be contending down the stretch.

 


Tigers and Blue Jays Trending in Opposite Directions

Written by :
Published on : July 30, 2015

 

For the Detroit Tigers this season began with high hopes and sights set on a World Series title that has eluded them for the past handful of years. Despite coming close in both 2006 and 2012, when they rolled through their American League opposition only to be annihilated by their National League opponents in the Fall Classic, this team has tasted the glory only to have it smacked out of their mouth both times. This season started off like many others in recent years, and after cruising to a 15-8 record in April, it looked as though the Tigers would be right back in that familiar spot at the top of the AL Central all year. Then May happened.

 

 

In sports things can turn on a dime, and for the Detroit Tigers they most certainly did. The team hit a rough patch in May and no one really panicked, after all, the baseball season is a very long one and most teams go through some losing streaks. But the losing didn’t stop. It was the first time since 2003 that this team had a losing May, followed by a losing June, followed by a losing July. I don’t think I have to remind baseball fans what the 2003 Tigers are famous for, and I’m certain that no one would have guessed prior to this season that the Tigers would revert to the type of ineptitude we saw in those years, but that’s just what happened. And that’s why for the first time in a long time, the Tigers have given up on their current season and begun selling pieces off in order to re-tool for the next season.

 

With many impending free agents and a ridiculous amount of payroll already wrapped up in a handful of other players, the Tigers have begun to sell pieces of what many thought would be a contending team. As I type the team has traded their closer Joakim Soria to the Pirates, and Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Avila, Rajai Davis and all of their expiring contracts still remain on the team, and could provide something to any team willing to give the Tigers a decent return. The team has already dealt arguably their best player this season, and the prize of last year’s trade deadline, David Price to the Blue Jays. In return they received three left handed pitchers, including top prospect Daniel Norris. This is the kind of prudent move that will help the team quickly turn things around for next season, especially when you consider that there’s no way the team could afford to re-sign Price this offseason while still paying the shadow of Justin Verlander $30 million a year.

 

 

As for the Blue Jays, losing a top prospect is tough but they are making it clear that they see this season as one in which they can catch the Yankees to win the AL East, or at least make the AL Wildcard. Two days prior to acquiring one of the best left-handers in baseball, the team in Toronto traded for one of the most exciting, albeit injury-prone, shortstops in the game in Troy Tulowitzki. He promptly announced his arrival by sending a home run deep in the second at-bat of his first game, following that with two doubles later on to finish 3-for-5 with three RBIs, helping his new team win 8-2 over the Phillies.

 

 

While David Price will probably end up being a short-term rental to help the Blue Jays make the playoffs this season and succeed once they get there, the Tulowitzki trade means that they intend to be relevant for years to come, considering they will have him locked up until at least 2020. If he can stay healthy, and thats a big if, he should help cement the Blue Jays as a real threat to the Yankees dominance in that division for the foreseeable future.

 

The Tigers have hit the reset button and begun planning for next year, which is probably the smartest move they can make. Anyone who has watched that team can recognize that there are some giant holes, mostly in the pitching staff, that need to be filled. By being realistic and knowing that there is no way they can catch the Royals in the AL this year, they have raised the white flag for 2015 in hopes that the moves they make now will help solidify them for 2016.

 

The Blue Jays are the exact opposite and they are digging in for a dogfight for the rest of the season. One team is already looking forward to next season and the other is focused on the next couple months. Three months ago I would have told you that you were crazy if you said this was how things would shake out, but that’s baseball and you never really know what’s going to happen. Next year could be very different but as for now the Tigers and Blue Jays are two American League teams that are headed in polar opposite directions.

 


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