Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XXVI: Rich Hill’s Spoiled Perfection and Kyle Hendricks’ Greg Maddux Impression)

Written by :
Published on : September 16, 2016

 

 

In a week that included the return of Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers’ pitching performance that everybody wants to keep talking about was actually the following night, when Rich Hill went 7 perfect innings against the Marlins, before being yanked by manager, Dave Roberts. I don’t understand the problem. Granted, there’s only been 23 official perfect games in the history of baseball. And that includes Lee Richmond’s perfecto in 1880 that featured three outs made on ‘foul bounds’ catches. Because apparently, you could catch balls in foul territory on one hop for an out until 1883 for whatever reason. My point is, a perfect game is a real rarity. But if you’re a Dodgers fan, you should absolutely agree with Roberts’ call.

 

First of all, the Dodgers are still in a pennant race. And they need Hill ready to go, not only down the stretch, but also into the postseason. Second, Hill didn’t pitch for over a month this summer because of blister problems. And those blisters haven’t healed 100%. Third, between Hill and Kershaw and the record-tying 25 other players the Dodgers have had on the DL this year, it seems like far too great of a risk to sacrifice a playoff rotation slot just so the fans get to care about something neat for 24 hours. Also, the fact that the Dodgers are somehow in first place with all of that happening is more of a case for Roberts to be the NL Manager of the Year than for any complaining on the part of the shitty fans.

 

Fourth of all (is that a thing?), Hill had six outs to go. That’s still not easy. 13 would-be perfect games have been broken up with two outs in the 9th inning. And 13 no-hitters have been broken up this season, alone, after the 7th.  One was broken up by Corey Seager with two outs in the 9th less than three weeks ago. Not that Dodger fans remember, since they think games end in the 7th inning, anyway.

 

 

Rich Hill and the unwashed masses of dumb baseball fans out there can be pissed all they want. Hill has gone 19 innings in LA without giving up a run. Yasiel Puig still made that circus catch in left. And Hill doesn’t have to walk around with a bloody shirt and missing fingertips, like he’s the killer from Se7en.

 

Speaking of near-no-hitters, Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs took one into the 9th inning at Busch Stadium on Monday. And man, I wanted that one. Stupid Jeremy Hazelbaker with his James-Hetfield-on-meth face and his eight seasons in the minors. But nonetheless, the performance catapulted Hendricks from a semi-anonymous ERA leader into the heart of the National League Cy Young conversation. Before the season started, I remember seeing that Hendricks finished 2015 in the top 15 in the league in WAR and FIP and thinking, “He might be the most underrated pitcher in the Majors.” What I didn’t expect to say was, “By September, he’ll be getting compared to Greg Maddux on the regular.”

 

For the record, I don’t think Kyle Hendricks should be the Cy Young winner. If we exclude Kershaw for the time being, right now, my top 5 looks like this…

 

ERA    FIP    WAR
1. Noah Syndergaard         Mets           2.43    2.25    6.2
2. Jose Fernandez             Marlins        2.99    2.39    5.7
3. Max Scherzer                 Nationals    2.78    3.13    5.3
4. Madison Bumgarner     Giants          2.66    3.19    4.6
5. Johnny Cueto                Giants          2.90    3.11    4.5

 

However, 6-8 would look like this…

 

6. Kyle Hendricks             Cubs                2.03    3.37    3.7
7. Jon Lester                    Cubs                2.40    3.45    3.9
8. Jake Arrieta                  Cubs                2.91    3.48    3.5

 

So the main debate Cubs fans should be having right now is who starts Game 1 of the NLDS.

 

Let’s go around the league.

 

The AL East

Eliminated This Week: The Rays.

 

The Blue Jays got cold at the exact wrong time. They’re 3-9 in September. They look tired. Josh Donaldson is hurt. And manager, John Gibbons, said they’d hit rock bottom. As of now, they still have a slim lead over the Tigers, Mariners, Yankees and Astros for that second Wild Card. So I’m guessing real rock bottom happens when only one of the AL East teams makes it to the postseason. Sure, the Jays (63.1%) and Orioles (66.1%) still have better projections than the other contenders, but here’s a little update on the remaining AL East Clusterfuck Death Match.

 

Red Sox vs. Blue Jays. 3 Games.
Red Sox vs. Orioles. 4 Games.
Red Sox vs. Yankees. 7 Games.
Blue Jays vs. Yankees. 4 Games.
Blue Jays vs. Orioles. 3 Games.
Orioles vs. Yankees. 3 Games.

 

The Red Sox (91.1%) may look like the favorites right now. But this is just a friendly reminder that 10 of their 17 remaining games are on the road. And seven games (Se7en!) against the red-hot Baby Bombers (9.4%) looks spoiler-tastic, if you ask me.

 

The AL Central

Since the Indians look like a lock in the division (Magic Number: 12), maybe we should talk about how Danny Salazar might be done for the season. Nah, let’s argue about who should win the AL Rookie of the Year. Here are the top 5 in WAR.

 

Michael Fulmer               Tigers         2.6
Gary Sanchez                 Yankees      2.4
Christopher Devenski     Astros         2.4
Tyler Naquin                    Indians       2.0
Tim Anderson                 White Sox   1.7

 

 

Fulmer doesn’t quite qualify for the ERA title just yet, but he does lead all AL pitchers with 20 or more starts. So he’s still the guy. That being said, what Gary Sanchez has done in 37 games is amazing. People keep bringing up how, in 1959, Willie McCovey won the NL Rookie of the Year after only playing 52 games. Well, he probably shouldn’t have.

 

Vada Pinson              Redlegs       5.3
Jim Owens                Phillies         4.5
Willie McCovey         Giants          3.1
Joe Koppe                Phillies         2.5
Ernie Broglio             Cardinals     2.3

 

Hey, this Broglio looks like he’s gonna be great! The Cubs should totally trade him for Lou Brock in five years! Anyway, it’s Fulmer unless Sanchez keeps becoming Pudge Rodriguez times Manny Ramirez over the final 17 games of the season. Which he might.

 

The AL West

Eliminated This Week: The Athletics, the Angels.
Should the Rangers worry about their pitching? Right now, they’re 21st in the Majors (4.41) in ERA. That’s worse than the Orioles (4.38), who have an excellent bullpen, but always get criticized for their starters. No other contender has an ERA that high. It’s also hard for me to understand why a team with a +19 run differential has the best record in the American League. If you took away their 15-3 record against the Astros this year, the Astros would actually have a slightly better winning percentage. Too bad for the Astros that those games actually did happen. I’m this close to declaring them dead.

 

 

The hottest team in the Majors happens to be the Seattle Mariners. And they also happen to have what is being declared a soft schedule going forward. 6 against the Stros, 3 against the cold-ass Blue Jays, 3 against the awful Twins and 4 against the almost-as-awful A’s. And most of those are at home. So maybe Kyle isn’t the only Seager who will get MVP votes this year. And maybe they’ll cool off as soon as I post this, just like every other sleeper team has the past few weeks and we’ll go right back to the Red Sox, Orioles and Blue Jays coming out of the East.

 

The NL East

Eliminated This Week: The Phillies, the Braves (Wild Card).
Not even Stephen Strasburg knows if he’s gonna pitch again this season. And while that might put extra pressure on all the other Nats starters, the team has stayed hot and will probably win the division by the next time we talk. That is, of course, unless the Mets stay hot. And with a schedule like theirs going forward, they probably will. Their upcoming opponents have a combined winning percentage of .424 and a run differential of -449.

 

Maybe now is a good time to mention that Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz will probably be back soon. And with the best chance (75.1%) to win a Wild Card slot and Thor going in that game against the Giants (70.9%) or Cardinals (52.1%), Mets fans are eager to point out that their team is 5-2 against the Cubs this year. Keep looking past everybody, Mets. The Cubs were 7-0 against the Mets in the regular season last year. You all saw how well that went. Also, yes I’m worried. And I’ll explain why in one second.

 

The NL Central

Eliminated This Week: The Pirates.

 

While the Cubs will have to clinch the division at Wrigley Field (oh, how I wanted them doggy-piling at Busch Stadium), they currently have 93 wins, which makes it the first back-to-back 90-win seasons they’ve had since the 1928-1930 Cubs did it in three straight. Their defense is far and away the best in the Majors. Kris Bryant is still the NL MVP. I already talked about their pitching. My only major cause for concern is that they haven’t actually played that well against the remaining contenders.

 

Nationals    5-2
Mets           2-5
Cardinals    8-8
Dodgers     4-3
Giants        4-4

 

The postseason is obviously a crapshoot and I already mentioned the 7-0 record against the Mets last season, but the overall 23-22 record against contenders with a 70-30 record against the bad teams in the haves-and-have-nots league is going to give me tidal waves of anxiety for the next month or so. It’s a problem I’m not used to having. But I guess I’d probably prefer this over eking out another Wild Card slot and having to pitch Arrieta 9 innings against Pittsburgh. Actually, the Pirates hate being in that Wild Card Game so much that they opted out of being good this year just to avoid it.

 

 

The Cardinals are the only team above .500 with a losing record at home. And that’s why they’re probably glad they’re playing this four-game series with the Giants in San Francisco. And in case you were wondering, yes, the Giants still have the worst record in baseball since the All-Star break. Maybe after the series we’ll have a better idea if it’ll be Thor vs. Carlos Martinez or Thor vs. MadBum on October 5th. I’d call Martinez “Tsunami” if I felt like anyone knew that was his nickname. And if it’s Adam Wainwright, I’m gonna have to give him a nickname. Loki?

 

The NL West
Eliminated this Week: The Diamondbacks, the Padres.
Kershaw keeps shaking off the rust. And he didn’t pull a Strasburg, so those are all positive signs for L.A. The only major concern for the Dodgers is how they hit lefties. Or is it? That’s the thing that everybody keeps harping on, but if you look at their potential NL opponents in the postseason, who are we talking about? Gio Gonzalez? The Cubs have Jon Lester, but I kinda doubt they’d start Mike Montgomery in October. And if we look at the Wild Cards, it’s Jaime Garcia, Bumgarner (who they hit) and Matt Moore (who they don’t). It looks to me like they’re gonna be fine.

 

We’re coming down to the wire. If you need more baseball, catch me on “Comedians Talking Sports” with Joe Kilgallon on iTunes. Until then, the Cubs’ magic number is 1.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XXIII: The 3/4ths Awards)

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Published on : August 19, 2016

 

 

When fragile china doll, Giancarlo Stanton, went down with a groin strain, you have no idea how much I wanted the Marlins to go after Alex Rodriguez. If nothing else, just to keep the Yankees’ drama going. But since that’s not going to happen, this week has mostly been a discussion of who’s in position for postseason awards. Good timing. The season is about exactly 3/4ths done. And since I haven’t done this for a while, let’s get back in to it.

 

AL MVP

 
Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

 

Listen, Trout is not going to win this thing. The Angels are 21 games back of the Rangers, losing 11 in a row at one point this past week. But the fact that a player of Trout’s caliber has only won one MVP award is almost criminal. Here’s how I retroactively would have voted the previous four years.

 

2012                        WAR    wOBA

1. Mike Trout          10.3    .409
2. Miguel Cabrera    6.4    .417
3. Robinson Cano    7.6    .394
4. Adrian Beltre        6.5    .388
5. Prince Fielder       4.8    .398

 

Trout finished second to Cabrera because of the Triple Crown. That’s right, only four years ago, we still cared about RBIs. We were wrong.

 

 

2013                          WAR   wOBA

1. Mike Trout            10.5   .423
2. Miguel Cabrera      7.5    .455
3. Chris Davis            7.0    .421
4. Josh Donaldson    7.6    .384
5. Robinson Cano      5.8    .384

 

Trout finished second to Cabrera again. At this point everybody was saying, “Well, Trout’s a better player. But Cabrera’s a better hitter.” And I was all, “But not by much though. And also, WHAT???”

 

2014                             WAR    wOBA

1. Mike Trout                8.0    .402
2. Jose Bautista           6.4    .402
3. Michael Brantley       6.1    .389
4. Jose Abreu               5.3    .411
5. Adrian Beltre            5.7    .380

 

Trout’s ‘worst’ season is also his only MVP season. Also, this would be an excellent time to remind you that Adrian Beltre is the 5th greatest 3rd baseman of all time.

 

2015                                   WAR  wOBA

1. Mike Trout                    9.0    .415
2. Josh Donaldson           8.7    .398
3. Chris Davis                   5.6    .390
4. Manny Machado          6.8    .370
5. Nelson Cruz                 4.8    .396

 

Trout finished second to Donaldson, who he was clearly better than. But Donaldson won because the Blue Jays were clearly better than the Angels. Unless there is also a stat for ‘most annoying hillbilly voice of all time’, in which case Donaldson would clean up.

 

So…

 

 

This year it looks like this.

 

2016                          WAR   wOBA

1. Mike Trout                6.9    .412
2. Jose Altuve              6.3     .420
3. Josh Donaldson      6.2     .402
4. Mookie Betts           6.1     .390
5. Manny Machado     5.4     .377

 

So my guess is Altuve. No matter how bad ESPN wants to hand it to Betts. He’s also good at bowling!!!!!!!!! Unless there is also a stat for most annoying hillbilly voice of all time, in which case… Donaldson.

 

AL Cy Young

 

Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians

 

I’d give the Klubot a slight edge over Aaron Sanchez, Jose Quintana, Danny Duffy and Steven Wright. But I don’t understand why this so so hard for people. Zach Britton has only pitched 50 innings this year and has a 1.8 WAR. So can we stop pretending closers should even be in the conversation? Thanks. Also, the Indians’ overall staff is a tad bit overrated. Their team has scored 600 runs this season. That’s actually a bigger part of why they win. The best staff in the AL belongs to Toronto. You heard me correctly.

 

AL Rookie of the Year

Michael Fulmer, Detroit Tigers

 

I’d go so far as to say he’s 7th or 8th in the AL Cy Young conversation. And that’s ahead of Justin Verlander, who apparently decided he was still Justin Verlander.

 

NL MVP

 

Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals

 

I WANT it to be one of the MVP Brothers (Bryzzo). But it’s still the fluke homophobe in our nation’s capital. But since we’re talking about the MVP Brothers (I coined something!), did all of you see Anthony Rizzo’s balance beam catch in foul territory this week? Or the fact that the Cubs have a +209 run differential and haven’t had a +200 since 1945? They’re actually under-performing, folks. I blame the bullpen. And yes, I’m horrified of the Cardinals/Pirates winning the Wild Card and doing to the Cubs what the Cubs did to the Cardinals (and Pirates) last year.

 

NL Cy Young

 

I’ll let you decide. Because it’s probably still Kershaw. Like, you can say whatever you want. It’s still Kershaw.

 

2016                                 WAR   FIP   ERA

Clayton Kershaw            5.5    1.66    1.79
Noah Syndergaard         5.0    2.22    2.76
Jose Fernandez              4.8    2.21    2.81
Madison Bumgarner       3.9    3.14    2.11
Jacob deGrom                3.5    3.00    2.30

 

Kershaw is gonna fall off eventually. But that means the Mets have two of the four best pitchers in the league and still can’t win (maybe since one of them doesn’t capitalize his last name like an American person). Also, Clayton Kershaw has a 5.5 WAR and he hasn’t even pitched since June 26. I’m just saying. And the Dodgers have the second-best record (to my beloved Cubs) in the National League since then for some reason. The Giants have the second-worst in all of baseball since then. It must really suck to be the Giants right now. Even year, baby!

 

NL Rookie of the Year

 

Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers

 

Just so we’re clear, the Giants have a 9-21 record since the All-Star break. I mean, holy fucking shit. Both are odd numbers.

 

Okay! That’s it for this week. Next week, I’ll be in New York City, in a place that has no outfields. If you need more baseball from me you can check me out on “Comedians Talking Sports” with Joe Kilgallon on the podcast stuff. Until then, the Cubs’ Magic Number is 30. Which is an even number. That’s an important thing!

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XV: Ichiro and the hit record)

Written by :
Published on : June 17, 2016

 

This week, Ichiro Suzuki of the Miami Marlins got his 4,257th career hit, passing Pete Rose for the all-time lead… if you combine his MLB hits with the 1,278 he got in Japan. So the manufactured debate this week was whether or not Ichiro was the true hit king. You might be thinking, “Who would even make that argument?” But trust me, I’ve had it. Nerds find each other.

 

My short answer is, I love Ichiro. But Pete Rose is still the hit king. He got all 4,256 hits in the Majors and we don’t even have to bring the 427 hits he got in the minors in to the equation. What you do in the Majors should be the only thing that matters. Granted, what Ichiro has done in the Majors is also remarkable. I think he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer (something Pete Rose definitely can’t say) without any of his Japanese stats. I could give you a long list of all of his accomplishments in baseball since 2001, but it’s not like he’s dying, so we can probably save those for another day. Just know Ichiro is an all-time great and I’m taking nothing away from him. Besides, you know, about 1,300 Japanese hits.

 

My longer answer would include an analysis of the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization, where the final answer always ends up being, “Dude. Matt Murton was awesome there. It’s not as good as the Majors.” But I’ll go a little further. Ichiro broke into the NBP when he was 18. And he was a 4th-round pick in Japan because he only weighed 124 pounds. 124 POUNDS!!!  Nomar Mazara is the youngest position player in the Majors right now. And he’s three years older, with 90 pounds on young Ichi. No MLB team would bring up (or even draft) an 18-year-old outfielder with a weird swing who weighed 124 pounds. Hardly any teams bring up teenagers now. Julio Urias is the first teenager to play in the bigs since 2012. So I think we can rest assured that Ichiro (although very good) would not have come to the Majors in 1992, 1993 or 1994 as the first Japanese position player in MLB history and been plugged in right away. Scouts weren’t even sure about him after he’d gotten seven consecutive batting titles in Japan. So the answer is still no.

 

 

The fun part, for me is when you do go down that slippery slope of including every other professional league to see what kind of hit totals some other players would have gotten. Ichiro might actually be the 6th, 7th or 10th professional player to reach 4,000 hits. Nobody is really sure. Besides Rose and Ty Cobb, there’s also a guy named Arnold John “Jigger” Statz (whose name’s ironic value is not lost on me) who played 18 seasons in the minors between 1920 and 1942. There’s Minnie Minoso (of Bill Veeck publicity stunt fame), who also played in the Cuban, Mexican and Negro Leagues. Julio Franco (yes, THAT Julio Franco) played in the US, Japan, South Korea and Mexico. He’d be at around 4,000 too. Then you could add in the minor league stats of Stan Musial, as well as the Cuban League, Puerto Rican Winter League and all the exhibition stats for Cobb and Hank Aaron. And then the lost minor league stats for Jake Beckley and Sam Crawford, which would also bring them in around 4,000. It’s basically a disaster.

 

Ichiro was a great player who happened to play in a AAAA league for 9 years. Yes, their schedule is 32 games shorter than the Majors. Yes, Ichiro has been facing flame-throwing relief specialists that Rose never had to face. But Pete Rose did it all in the Majors. And, if anything, all this Ichiro talk has to make you appreciate what Rose did over 24 seasons even more than you already did. Forget the gambling and the lying for just one second. And just think about 4,256. It’s amazing. Then think about how Shoeless Joe Jackson was on the Hall of Fame ballot in 1936. Think about what an absolute piece of trash Ty Cobb was. And consider that, while we’re all congratulating Ichiro on his accomplishment, if it might be time to finally honor somebody else as well. And no, I’m not talking about Jigger Statz.

 

Okay. Let’s go around the league.

 

AL East

 

The East Cost media bias is hilarious to me. Because instead of talking about how the Orioles keep sticking around and mashing home runs, or how the Blue Jays keep gaining ground, or even how Evan Longoria and the Rays got red-hot this week, they’re mostly picking their favorite Red Sock of the week (Steven Wright) and deciding on which reliever the Yankees have to give up if, and when, they become sellers.

 

Sure, both of those things are probably important in the long run. Wright (a knuckleballer) didn’t even know if he was going to be a starter at the beginning of the season. Now he’s the best pitcher in the division. And that’s got to be a pleasant surprise for a team that’s paying $30 million to David Price. I’m just saying that since they can’t really call the Red Sox the best team in the league any more, they’ll figure out a way to talk about whatever bright spot they can. And Wright fills that position for the time being. Next week, we’ll probably be back to Xander Bogaerts, David Price and Jackie Bradley Jr.

 

As far as the Yankees go, there are plenty of teams in contention who would love a bat like Carlos Beltran’s or the bullpen help of Andrew Miller or Aroldis Chapman. But, until the trade deadline, maybe I have to be the voice of reason here to say that Yankees are done and the Red Sox are are a slump or two away from being in third place.

 

AL Central

 

Does anybody want this thing? I’m not so sure. After a great month from the Indians, the streaky Royals decided they wanted to win again. Maybe they were feeling lucky after Yordano Ventura’s bullshit suspension. Maybe the whole division is mediocre. I don’t know. But I guess one interesting thing came out of the Central this week…

 

The White Sox designated Jimmy Rollins for assignment and I heard a few people discussing whether or not J-Roll is a Hall of Famer. The answer is a solid no, but it’s always fun to argue. And in case you were wondering, his career stats just aren’t there (231 HR, .264 AVG, 2,455 H), he’s not as good as Alan Trammell, who isn’t in the Hall of Fame, and he’s essentially a middle-of-the-pack shortstop with a handful of good seasons. That does include an MVP award and a ring. But he was the second-best player on his own team in both of those years. The guy has had a great career. He also had a 38-game hitting streak from 2005-2006. He was on a great Phillies team, and is the all-time leader in hits for the franchise. And he’s in the MC Hammer “Adams Groove” music video. That’s got to be worth something. He’s just not worthy of Cooperstown.

 

AL West

The Rangers are the best team in the American League. That’s become pretty clear. And that’s with Yu Darvish and Adrian Beltre fighting injuries. When you’re hot, you’re hot. And the Rangers are off to the best start in their franchise history.

 

NL East

 

The Nationals are also scorching hot. And everyone decided that their series with the Cubs, where they took 2-out-of-3, had a playoff feel to it. Even though Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester (with their sub-2 ERAs) didn’t pitch. And even though, when the Cubs destroyed them earlier in the season, nobody seemed to think it mattered. Daniel Murphy might end up being better than Bryce Harper this season. Stephen Strasburg is being hailed as the new Walter Johnson. Max Scherzer struck out 9 of the first 10 Cubs he faced on Monday. And they should just hope that Dusty Baker sending them out there to throw over 100 pitches an outing doesn’t come back and bite them. The Mets, with all their injuries and general lack of hitting, probably should though.

 

NL Central 

There hasn’t been a lot of good news for the Pirates lately, other than the emergence of Jameson Taillon, who was drafted between Bryce Harper and Manny Machado in 2010. That’s a first round that also included Matt Harvey (7), Chris Sale (13) and Noah Syndergaard (38), by the way. So like, WOW. With Gerrit Cole out, the Pirates might need to call up Tyler Glasnow and hope Taillon can keep up his hot start. Because the only way they can really avoid another Wild Card this year is by not making the playoffs.

 

The team that replaced Pittsburgh for the second Wild Card spot was the Cardinals, who are finally almost playing like the St. Louis Cardinals are supposed to play. I mean, they’re still 9.5 back of the Cubs. And the Dodgers will probably pass them eventually, but I’m letting them have their moment. Even though complimenting anything about them makes me feel so gross that I might need to take a shower.

 

As for the Cubs, they still have the best record in baseball. But the bullpen seems to be a glaring weakness that is feeding the rumor mill that they’d be willing to give up one of their young stars to the Yankees for Miller or Chapman. I just hope that young star is not Kyle Schwarber. Thankfully, Albert Almora came up recently and reminded everybody just how many young position players these Cubs can afford to give up to make a run at October.

 

Speaking of trades, also keep your eye on the Brewers, who could unload Ryan Braun and/or Jonathan Lucroy. Besides the Yankees’ Nasty Boys (or No-Run-DMC for Dellin, Miller and Chapman), the Brewers are the most talked-about trade deadline team in the Majors.

 

NL West

 

If there’s any pitcher in the National League who everyone should be talking about, it’s Clayton Kershaw. And yet all of the noise is being made about Madison Bumgarner. Just so we’re clear, MadBum has only had one 5+ WAR season in his career and Kershaw has a 4.8 RIGHT NOW. In mid-June. And isn’t Johnny Cueto having a better season on the mound than Bumgarner, anyway? I guess I’ve just never experienced anything quite like a guy hitting two homers and everyone acting like that makes him the greatest pitcher in the world.

 

Well, that’s gonna do it for this week in the outfield. Next week, I’ll be off in Iowa, where there are no outfields. If you need more, check me out on the MLB Recaps on “Comedians Talking Sports” with Joe Kilgallon. Til next time, Ichiro needs 21 hits and the Cubs’ Magic Number is 89.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XIII)

Written by :
Published on : May 27, 2016

 

 

Well, it’s the 75th anniversary of Joe DiMaggio’s illustrious 56-game hitting streak. Or so the MLB app on my phone keeps telling me. At the time, DiMaggio was a 26-year-old son of a fisherman with four World Series rings and an MVP award under his belt. And we were still six years away from integration. So it seems only fitting that, all these years later, a 26-year-old African-American son of a bus driver was getting attention for doing something (almost) similar.

 

I know that he had a long, long way to go, but we hadn’t seen a hitting streak last this long since 2011. And with a more difficult travel schedule and flame-throwing relief pitchers and, I don’t know, gloves that don’t look like big fat hands, you could even argue that what Jackie Bradley Jr. has done through his past 29 games is just as impressive as DiMaggio in ’41. Even though, you know, DiMaggio hit safely in his next 16 games after the initial streak and, if not for two defensive gems by Ken Keltner of the Indians, the Yankee Clipper would have actually had a 73-game hitting streak. But only an asshole would remind you of that sort of thing. Or the fact that he also hit a double in the All-Star Game during the streak, unofficially making it 57 and/or 74. Try not to think of that either. That was then. JBJ is right now.

 

It does seem like if anyone was going to approach DiMaggio’s record, it would be somebody on this Red Sox lineup. Good god. I’ve already talked at length about what David Ortiz has been doing because it’s still incredible. But Xander Bogaerts has a 19-game streak of his own and is currently second in the league in batting average, only one point behind Bradley. I mean, they’re hitting .298 as a team. I don’t know how long that’s going to last. But six runs a game is impressive enough that I almost don’t feel the need to mention Clay Bucholz’ 6.35 ERA.

 

AL MVP: Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles

 

The Baby Face Assassin has been in a bit of a slump lately (as has his team), but he still edges out Mike Trout this week. Speaking of which, remember a few weeks ago when it was Trout who was slumping and Bryce Harper who was murdering the world and in no need of a ‘mental day off’? Yeah. Baseball is hard. But right now, Trout and Machado are making it look easy.

 

AL Cy Young: Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox

 

Quintana still leads the league in FIP and WAR, no matter how hard everyone’s Chris Sale boner got when he was 9-0. I just want to point out that Sale’s BABIP is .220 right now, which is up from the untenable .197 he was sporting before his first loss against Cleveland. So I don’t know how much we’re kidding ourselves by congratulating Sale for relying on his defense, rather than striking guys out. And while I admit that I agree with every talking-head baseball pundit out there saying the best three pitchers in in the world are 1) Clayton Kershaw, 2) Jake Arrieta and then 3) Chris Sale, I also know that a BABIP one hundred points below normal means that Sale actually got pretty lucky in his first nine starts.

 

All that being said, the White Sox are currently in a major funk. They need help at the back of their rotation, the Indians actually beat Sale and Quintana in succession this week and the Sox’s lead in the Central withered away to half a game as of Thursday. I don’t care if Corey Kluber thinks it’s too early to look at standings. It’s also not helping that every other team in the division (other than the lowly Twins) is red hot right now. I guess not counting the Royals’ recent injuries. But even the Brad Ausmus shirt folding tirade seems to have worked in Detroit, where Miguel Cabrera has awoken from his early season slumber and remembered he was still Miguel Cabrera. We’ve got a ways to go, but it’s getting tight in the AL Central.

 

AL Rookie of the Year: Nomar Mazara, Texas Rangers

 

This week, the youngest player in the Majors also happened to hit the farthest home run of the season (491 ft). And the Rangers seem to be sticking around, even though Roog Ned will be gone for the next week. Oh, and Yu Darvish returns on Saturday to (hopefully) put an end to this Pirates surge.

 

If you’re an Astros fan, you might take solace in the fact that the 2005 team actually had a worse record than the 2016 team currently does and still managed to go all the way to the World Series. Then again, that team also had Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Roy Oswalt, not to mention Craig Biggio, a retiring Jeff Bagwell and an amazing season from Morgan Ensberg. But all I’m saying is that stranger things have happened.

 

NL MVP: Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals

 

You know what else happened 75 years ago, besides the DiMaggio streak? Ted Williams became the last guy in baseball to hit .400. So it only makes sense that this year there’s also some shitty-fielding second baseman in D.C. hitting .394. And also, I need it to stop.

 

The Cubs have been coming back down to earth a bit. And I need to keep reminding myself that even a 100-win team has to lose 62 games. So yeah, the pace they were on was probably impossible. Still, I’d say Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist are 2-3 in this week’s MVP picks. And Kris Bryant would also be in my top 10. And, since I’m over the injury scare, I’ll say that Jason Heyward’s catch in San Francisco was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. It’s just that he also has worse batting stats than Jake Arrieta.

 

NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

 

You know, I’m a big opponent of giving the MVP to a pitcher. But the Dodgers are the best team on the planet when Kershaw pitches. And they basically suck when he doesn’t. He has three shutouts so far this season and has only given up five walks. That should make your brain hurt. Mine does. His stats look like typos. And I really think we’re witnessing something special in Kershaw.

 

This week, the hottest team in baseball is the San Francisco Giants. Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Madison Bumgarner are as scary a front three as there is in baseball. Even Matt Cain and Jake Peavy seem to be figuring shit out. And Cain hasn’t won consecutive games since 2013. I just want to officially put an end to this ‘even year’ garbage that seems to qualify as analysis on places like ESPN. It needs to end now. And it needs to end once and for all.

 

During the Giants’ weekend series with the Cubs, everyone seemed to think the games had a playoff atmosphere and were, in fact, a preview of the upcoming NLCS. And that’s fine. It may very well have been. But when you’re bringing ‘even year’ nonsense into the discussion, along with the fucking Cubs’ ‘curse’, nobody should have to take you seriously. Billy Sianis, a Greek immigrant with a pet goat who started a greasy restaurant with a bad check does not have power over every baseball season since 1945. Like, at all. And whether the year ends in a 2, 4, 6, 8 or 0 should not come in to your projections for how adult professionals will perform over the course of a season. And I know I’ve made jokes about it in the past. But now I wish Mike Jirschele had waved Alex Gordon home in Game 7 and/or Salvador Perez would have pulled a Bill Mazeroski. I’m proud of you if you know what any of that means. But it should all make more sense than just saying ‘curse’ and ‘even year’. This isn’t fucking Westeros.

 

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

 

Seager has the slightest of WAR leads over Steven Matz of the Mets. And I almost gave it to Matz this time, if nothing else, for calming down the New York media twice in a one week span about how terrible Matt Harvey is now. I know Matz had that injection scare recently, but man does that staff get treated like a bunch of fragile babies. Harvey and Jacob deGrom’s velocities are down. “Big Sexy” Bartolo Colon is in the tabloids for being a little too sexy. And if Harvey doesn’t talk to the media after another lousy start, it gets even more attention than if he’d answered the same old shit about how he doesn’t feel comfortable on the mound and how he basically looks like a thick Nicholas Cage. If Thick Nick Cage was also rocking a 6.08 ERA.

 

Okay. That’s it for this week. Next week I’ll be in Portland where there are no outfields. But I predict a big week for whoever is playing the Reds. And I also predict increasing trade speculation among the also-ran teams of the AL East and West. If you need more baseball, check me out on the MLB recaps of Comedians Talking Baseball with Joe Kilgallon, available on iTunes. Til next time, Ichiro needs 40 hits. And the Cubs’ magic number is 113.

 

 


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 XI)

Written by :
Published on : May 13, 2016

 

Heard anything about the Nationals lately? Good Christ. It seems like every game they played this week had some sort of national news attached to it. First, they got swept by the Cubs in four games at Wrigley, in a series between the two teams with the best records in baseball. That left the 24-6 Cubs with the best 30-game start to a season since the ’84 Tigers (26-4), as well as the best first-30-game run differential (+102) in the history of baseball. In the final game of the series on Sunday, the Cubs walked Bryce Harper six times, tying a Major League record set by Jeff Bagwell in 1999. And since he also got hit by a pitch in the game, that meant Harper reached base seven times in the game without a single official at-bat. That’s also never been done before, no big deal.

 

All that led to the first time (and there will be many more) that fans started to question Dusty Baker and his decision to bat Ryan Zimmerman behind Harper instead of Daniel Murphy, since Zimmerman went 2-for-19 in the series and left 14 runners on base, while Murphy has basically been Ted Williams unfrozen from carbonite. If any manager should know how to combat a player getting the ‘Barry Bonds Treatment’, you would think it would be the guy who also happened to manage Barry Bonds while he was getting said treatment.

 

 Stasburg

 

Anyway, the very next day, all of this would be put on the back burner for two major reasons. One, Stephen Strasburg signed a seven-year $175 million contract to stay with the team. And Two, Harper got ejected from the game in the 9th inning against the Tigers for screaming about balls and strikes from the dugout. And then Clint Robinson (who actually thought it was the 8th inning), immediately hit a pinch-hit, walk-off home run, sending Harper back onto the field to scream, “fuck you” at umpire, Brian Knight, in plain view of TV cameras, while also kind of celebrating the win with the very confused Robinson. Make Baseball Fun Again, Bryce!

 

Then finally, on Wednesday (the same day we learned Harper would be getting a one-game suspension for his F bomb), Max Scherzer goes out against his former team and strikes out 20 batters. ESPN said it looked like the scoreboard operator fell asleep on the K key. More amazingly, Scherzer did that throwing 80% strikes. So not only did he have 20 K’s, he also only threw 23 balls the whole game. Sexy is right, Max! This was coming off a start against the Cubs where Scherzer was terrible. Apparently, when this guy has his best stuff, nobody is better. You know, other than the two home runs he gave up.

 

What’s even more fun is that a 20-strikeout game has only happened four other times (I’m not counting Tom Cheney’s 21 K’s in 16 innings), and Tigers’ manager, Brad Ausmus, has been there, on the losing end, for THREE of them. He was on the Astros when Kerry Wood struck out 20 in 1998. And he was on the Tigers when Clemens did it a second time in 1996. Dude is like Robert Todd Lincoln at presidential assassinations. And this has been a horrible week for his ballclub.

 

Speaking of managers, the 20-strikeout game is something that a lot of people didn’t think would ever happen again. Sure, strikeouts are up. But also pitch counts are way down. Clemens threw 151 pitches in that ’96 game. Nobody would allow that now. Then again, this is Dusty Baker we’re talking about.

 

 

So, as you can see, the Nationals dominated the baseball world this week – a week when Papi got ejected against the Yankees, J.T. Realmuto got called out after hitting a home run, Aroldis Chapman and his first-pitch 100 mph fastball returned from suspension, the Zika virus cancelled games in Puerto Rico, Bartolo Colon hit a fat person home run and Thor actually managed to hit two of them in L.A. But, somehow, all the news kept coming back to the Nationals. I mean, I’ve heard of politicians in D.C. manipulating the 24-hour news cycle, but this was ridiculous.

 

Oh, there’s one more thing about the Nationals…

 

NL MVP: Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals

 

Murphy is hitting .409, you guys. He’s a career .290 hitter. He’s projected at .302 – .312. So either he’s figured something out, or this isn’t going to last much longer. Either way, I’ll say it again, Daniel Murphy is currently hitting .409, you guys.

 

Moving on…

 

As I said earlier, Bartolo Colon hit a home run this week. And with the Mets scoring all of their runs on long balls anyway, it’s almost fitting. As a Mets hater, I begrudgingly admit that it was a pretty great moment. He’s the oldest player in baseball history to hit his first career home run. He’s also a big fatso, so it was hilarious. And the Mets’ dugout reaction was equally great and hilarious. As was the radio call by Gary Cohen echoing Vin Scully’s “the impossible has happened” call of Kirk Gibson’s Game 1 walk-off in the 1988 World Series. If he hit two home runs in a game like Noah Syndergaard did on Wednesday, I’d probably assume the world was about to end. And that would be a shame because I never got to see the Cubs win it all.

 

NL Cy Young Award: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

 

We still know absolutely nothing about the NL West, where every team has major problems and we’ve been in a big rotating jumble of mediocre teams thus far. The Dodgers and the Giants (even year!) are still favored. Yasiel Puig’s highlight reel in right keeps growing. But the Dodgers have injuries and the Giants have major problems with Matt Cain and Jake Peavy in the 4 and 5 slots in their rotation. Cain is actually winless in his last 14 starts going back to last year. Meanwhile, the DBacks have only flirted with the idea of getting better. And although Nolan Arenado has established himself as an elite player in Colorado, nobody is buying the Rockies or the Padres. If this is how it stays, I might actually start feeling bad for the Phillies, Marlins, Pirates and Cardinals, who all seem like they could win this shitty division.

 

NL Rookie of the Year: Aledmys Diaz, St. Louis Cardinals

 

Yes, the Cardinals and Pirates are heating back up, but NL Central is still all Cubs all the time. I already mentioned all their first-30-game records. But the Cubs have been so dominant thus far, that when they lost back-to-back games in a doubleheader against the Padres, it felt like the sky was falling. There’s really no shame in getting shut down by Drew Pomeranz, but it still felt really weird. It was the lowly Padres. And all my Cubs’ fan friends were calling for Jorge Soler to be traded or sent down to Des Moines.

 

Still, it took 33 games for the Cubs to lose back-to-back, which is the deepest in to a season any team had gone without doing that since the 1929 Philadelphia A’s. Odd how all these teams that keep popping up in 2016 Cub comparisons won the World Series. Odd indeed. Although I highly doubt that Connie Mack had a mariachi band in the clubhouse on Cinco de Mayo for Mickey Cochrane, Eddie Collins, Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove and Al Simmons. So advantage Joe Maddon there.

 

This week, Sports Illustrated called Wrigley Field the happiest place on earth. And they also called the Cubs the ‘Last Great American Sports Story’. I’ve listened to people discuss the 116-win record. I’ve listened to Tim Kurkjian argue with Karl Ravech on Baseball Tonight about whether the Cubs will break the ’39 Yankees run differential record of +411. They’re currently on pace for +486. And it was well over +500. I’m also listening to myself argue about whether these Cubs would kill that ’39 Yankees staff, because they didn’t have any actual athletes.

 

 

Sure, I’d say to myself when nobody was looking, the rarely-used Oral Hildebrand was a basketball star and a national champion at Butler. But Red Ruffing, their Hall of Fame ace, lost four toes in a coal mining accident when he was 15 and had to learn how to pitch because he could no longer run. And Lefty Gomez, their Hall of Fame #2 pitcher who said he’d throw at his own mother, was 6’2″, 155 pounds. They eventually had to pull all of his teeth to get him to eat.

 

Plus, pitcher Wes Ferrell would refuse to be pulled from games, punch himself in the face and slam his head into walls until he was restrained by teammates. And I’d regret not telling you that Bump Hadley, their 3 starter, ended the aforementioned Mickey Chocrane’s Hall of Fame career (and actually almost killed him) with an intentional beanball in 1937. I’d doubly regret not telling you that Monte Pearson, their 5 starter, who threw the first no-hitter at Yankee Stadium in 1938, was arrested in 1962 for accepting bribes for approving shoddy septic tanks.

 

These are the conversations people are having surrounding the Cubs. Well, maybe not the last one. But Javier Baez hit that 13th inning walk-off on Mother’s Day against the Nationals. Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel and Jon Lester are 1st, 3rd and 4th in the league in ERA. Dexter Fowler, Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist are legitimate MVP candidates. And I haven’t been to Wrigley Field this year (although I’m told it’s insane), and I know this could all go away with a key injury or a bad postseason series against the Mets or the Nationals, but this is the Last Great American Sports Story. And I hope the happy ending comes sooner than later.

 

AL MVP: Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles

 

Yes, Machado is bonkers. And yes, people are actually starting to notice. And yes, the Orioles are still hanging around. But this week, the Red Sox are actually worth talking about. You know, besides the Big Papi and John Farrell ejections that had people around baseball calling for robot umpires (it was a strike, guys. McCann just got crossed up). Anyway, after the Red Sox outscored the A’s 40-15 in three games, they were tied with the Cubs for the most runs scored in the Majors (with one more game played).

 

If Thursday is any indication, David Price isn’t going to have a 6.00 ERA for much longer (Dustin Pedroia found something wrong with his delivery!). But the fact that he was 4-1 before all that means that it might not even matter. Jackie Bradley Jr. is their 9 hitter. He’s got an 18-game hitting streak going. David Ortiz is retiring. He probably shouldn’t be. I’m almost ready to concede that he’s the 3rd best hitter in their franchise history after Williams and Yaz. The Red Sox are not only relevant for the first time in three years, they’ve actually convinced me that they’re the favorites in the American League for a reason. You know, other than the fact that the entire league isn’t all that good.

 

AL Cy Young: Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox

 

The White Sox still have the best record in the American League. The Royals are still below .500. And nobody can wrap their head around it. Not even White Sox fans I’m friends with are fully embracing the mid-May standings. But hey, this week ESPN’s Cy Young Predictor has Quintana at #2 behind Chris Sale. And he leads the league in ERA with Sale at #4. I’m still waiting for that Indians surge everyone is predicting, but right now I’m still saying the White Sox are legit. And you can put it on the booooo… I won’t do it.

 

AL Rookie of the Year: Nomar Mazara, Texas Rangers

 

The big story in the AL West this week has not been Robinson Cano and the first place Mariners. Nor has it been the never-say-die Rangers. It’s actually been whether or not the Angels should trade Mike Trout. Their ace, Garrett Richards, needs Tommy John surgery. Andrelton Simmons is going to miss two months due to torn thumb ligaments. There’s also CJ Wilson, Andrew Heaney, Huston Street and Craig Gentry on the DL. They’re just taking too much damage. So the question remains whether to try to remake their farm system with the monster return they would undoubtedly get for Trout or learn the lessons the Milwaukee Bucks learned after trading Kareem Abdul Jabbar to the Lakers in 1975. Either way, the Angels are screwed and the Astros are probably going to be out of last place real soon.

 

 

Alright. That does it for this week’s Angelino in the Outfield. If you need more you can always listen to me on the baseball recap shows on Comedians Talking Sports, available for free on iTunes.

 

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode X)

Written by :
Published on : May 7, 2016

 

 

It might be time to start looking at the 2016 Cubs as a historically good team. That’s a weird thing to say. But after the Cubs swept the Pirates on the road, they had a +93 run differential, which is the 3rd highest ever after 26 games since 1900 (after the +103 1902 Pirates and the +96 1905 Giants). I mean, they won 97 games last year and only finished with a +81 for the whole season. Now we’re bringing Honus Wagner and Christy Mathewson in to the conversation? Oh boy.

 

And let’s look at the Cubs-Pirates series for a second. It was billed as the bitter rematch of last year’s NL Wild Card Game, the budding of a great new baseball rivalry. The Pirates had been red-hot coming in. They’re a very good team. And then the Cubs murdered them 20-5 in three games. All without Jason Heyward and Miguel Montero and the grand-slam-hitting Matt Szczur, not to mention Kyle Schwarber. And all while they showed up in wacky fucking suits. You’re goddamn right Sean Rodriguez is tipping his cap. If the Cubs can stay relatively healthy (oh please, God), and actually start hitting on a consistent basis (other than Dexter Fowler and Anthony Rizzo), you could be looking at the ’98 Yankees. Or something even better entirely. I guess we’ll see what we learn after the big weekend series with the Nationals.

 

NL MVP: Dexter Fowler, Chicago Cubs

 

Oh, I forgot to tell you; the Cubs have also yet to lose consecutive games this season. And they’re on pace for that run differential to end up at +576 for the season. Which is nuts. The all time record is +411 by the 1939 Yankees. And I have a strange feeling that you might hear them get brought up more as the season goes along.

 

NL Cy Young Award: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

 

Your entire team is in a shit-awful hitting slump? On top of that, your middle relief is horrible? Okay. Just have Kershaw go out there against the Padres and pitch a 3-hit complete game shutout with 14 strikeouts. Oh, and also have him single in your only run. Amazing. And that’s how Kershaw edges out Noah Syndergaard and Stephen Strasburg this week. I know there’s been a whole lot of talk about what Jake Arrieta has done in Chicago since last season. And there should be, the Cubs have won his last 19 starts. He’s basically 1967-1968 Bob Gibson, if Bob Gibson also did sexy, bearded Pilates and had a better batting average than his opponents. But that being said, Arrieta is still the second-best pitcher in baseball and Kershaw remains #1. Hell, I would have given him his 4th Cy Young Award last season. And that’s coming from someone who loves Jake Arrieta and would love to have it be the other way around. But if Kershaw keeps this up for one or two more seasons, he’s a bona fide first ballot Hall of Famer and (dare I say) probably the best pitcher in the history of that franchise. Except, you know, in the playoffs.

 

Speaking of playoffs, how garbage is that NL West division right now? The Giants are technically still in first place. Even though the back of their rotation is completely no bueno. In fact, the lowly Phillies and Marlins would actually be in first place right now if they were in the NL West. Speaking of which…

 

Look at the Phillies! They’re not legit, but look at them, anyway! It’s fun to see when a team that’s supposed to be terrible is actually playing well in May. And the Phillies are playing well. They swept the Nationals last week. They’re getting some pretty decent pitching – especially from Vincent Velasquez and Aaron Nola. And no team has struck out as many batters so far this season. However, their run differential is at -27. The team just doesn’t score. And FanGraphs has them sitting at a 0.1% chance to make the playoffs. Only the Braves and Reds (with their historically awful bullpen) are lower that that. I’d love for Odubel Herrera and the rest of the Phillies to prove me wrong, but I don’t think this team will even have a winning record at the end of the year. In other words, they’re about as legit as a Dee Gordon piss test (Marlins burn!).

 

NL Rookie of the Year: Aledmys Diaz, St. Louis Cardinals

 

It’s still Diaz, but I keep forgetting that Steven Matz of the Mets is a rookie. And as it turns out, he’s a pretty freakin’ good one. I told you I thought the Mets might be in first place for this week’s post. Let me give it one more week. Those guys are playing home run derby in almost every outing.

 

AL MVP: Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles

 

Do you have any idea how much attention Manny Machado would get if he played for the Red Sox or the last place Yankees? He’s been lights out this season, but it seems like the only thing the media cares about in that division is how much Clay Buchholz and/or Dellin Betances suck. I’m so over it. At least Pablo Sandoval is out for the year, so I might not have to hear much about him anymore. Guys, it’s over. Travis Shaw is the Red Sox’ 3rd baseman. He’s doing okay. Just not as okay as the Orioles’ former (?) third baseman.

 

And for the love of Frank Thomas, Paul Molitor and (probably) Edgar Martinez, can we please stop referring to Big Papi as the greatest DH of all time? I know everyone loves him. I know he’s retiring. Yes, that “this is our fucking city” speech. Yes, the walk-offs in the 2004 ALCS. I get it. But come on. And, while we’re at it, can we also stop saying he’s the second-greatest Red Sock ever behind Ted Williams? Every time somebody does that I want to recreate the the Marshall McLuhan scene from Annie Hall, except I’m standing with Carl Yastrzemski, Wade Boggs, Dwight Evans, Tris Speaker, Bobby Doerr and Jim Rice. All that being said, Ortiz and the Red Sox’ bats are hot.

 

AL Cy Young Award: Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox

 

This is just about the same scenario we had last week. Except now it’s May and it’s becoming clearer that the White Sox are actually good enough to dethrone the slumping Kansas City Royals in the AL Central. The Indians are still slightly favored to win the division, even though they badly need hitting and everyone in that city is still watching the Cavs. Meanwhile, the White Sox finally cut John Danks and will be going with a fluid 5th starter going forward on their very impressive staff. I think this is shaping up to be a pretty big summer in the city of Chicago.

 

AL Rookie of the Year: Nomar Mazara, Texas Rangers

 

Shin Soo-Choo can come back whenever he wants. This dude isn’t going anywhere. Did you see that ALDS rematch series between the Rangers and Blue Jays in Toronto? If you did, then you saw Mazara, unfazed by the playoff atmosphere in May, show off his power at the plate and his cannon for an arm. And I’m sure Adrian Beltre will eventually have a say in this, but Mazara might already be the best player on that team.

 

The current most interesting team in the AL West (once we finally get over the Astros being bad) is the Seattle Mariners. Taijuan Walker and Robinson Cano have been great. Kyle Seager and Felix Hernandez have not. But they’re winning. And you can smoke weed there. And like I’ve said before, a lot of experts picked Seattle to go to the World Series last year. Partially on how high they were on all four of the dudes I just mentioned. I’m going to go ahead and assume Seager (.260 lifetime AVG) is going to get above the Mendoza Line at some point this season, but there is a real concern with King Felix’ velocity. And that sucks to see a player who has been so good for the Mariners for so many years start to drop off when everything else finally seems to be falling in to place.

 

Okay. That looks like it’ll do it for this week’s Angelino in the Outfield. Last week, as soon as I turned in my post, it was announced that Paul Rudd would be playing Moe Berg in The Catcher Was a Spy movie. So I guess this column has magical powers. Or that anything can happen in baseball. Either or. In the meantime, check me out on the MLB Weekly recaps on the Comedians Talking Sports podcast with Joe Kilgallon on iTunes. Go Cubs.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode II)

Written by :
Published on : March 8, 2016

 

 

Yoenis Cespedes is almost single-handedly making me want to root for the Washington Nationals in the NL East this year. After the Mets gave Cespedes a $27.5 million salary ($22.5 million more than the hated-but-much-better Bryce Harper makes in Washington), he’s turned their Spring Training camp into a a daily episode of MTV Cribs, with multiple custom cars, two tricked-out Polaris Slingshots and a fire-breathing Lamborghini Aventador. All custom-designed by some guy in Miami who is probably not a total douchebag of the worst kind or anything. Now Cespedes is buying $7,000 grand champion hogs at county fairs, slaughtering them and riding horses to work. We get it, you’re MC Hammer.

 

The thing is, for all the love that Cespedes, the Mets and their pitching staff is getting right now, it was the Nationals who were in their same position this time last season. Now the Nats have Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman back for full seasons. And while Max Scherzer and a healthy Stephen Strasburg may not be deGrom-Harvey-Syndergaard, they’re still pretty fucking formidable. Especially since Scherzer is the best pitcher in the National League not named Clayton Kershaw. And despite all the fanfare, Steven Matz’ projections are pretty pedestrian, Bartolo Colon will be 43-years-old in May and Zack Wheeler’s stats don’t really inspire awe right now either.

 

Hate you.

 

There’s a bit of a drop-off in the rotation after the Mets’ Big Three. So I could see an argument why Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark and Joe Ross actually round out a better overall rotation than the pitching Murderer’s Row/Greatest Staff Ever in Queens. And I haven’t even talked about Lucas Giolito yet. Call me crazy, but with identical Vegas odds (89.5 wins) and my growing hatred of the 22nd-best hitter in baseball (Cespedes), I am thinking the Nats’ luck can’t be nearly as bad as it was last year. Now somebody just needs to call Dusty Baker and remind not to do to Strasburg what he did to Mark Prior back in Chicago.

 

Around the League

Last week, I named Carlos Correa as my pick for AL MVP. This week, I’ve also made up my mind on my AL Cy Young choice and it’s Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox. If you ask me, he should have won the award last year since he had the best FIP and second-highest WAR in the league. But as of now, he’s the best pitcher of the past 2-3 years who still hasn’t brought home the hardware. I think he’s due. And it’d be nice if his teammates scored some runs for him to help in his cause. I’m sure Sox teammate Jose Quintana feels the same way since it’s probably not fun for someone with a 3.18 FIP to go 9-10 on the year. That’s approaching 2015 Corey Kluber-level ridiculousness.

 

In the National Leauge, the Cy Young is always Clayton Kershaw’s to lose. I know that. You know that. Everybody knows that. But what do you want me to do – actually pick Clayton Kershaw? That’s no fun. That’s like picking Mike Trout to win AL MVP. It’s actually probably even easier than that. You gotta go bolder sometimes. And so I’m going to chose somebody else who’s never won it, and that’s Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants. His projections are among the league leaders (with Kershaw, Scherzer, Jake Arrieta, Strasburg and Jose Fernandez), but MadBum is also looking at a league-topping 17-18 wins for the Giants. And that’s how Arrieta and Dallas Keuchel put the award away last year. I’d love to think another very-good-but-never-won-it player, Jon Lester of the Cubs, could have been my choice. But I already got my miracle pitching season out of Arrieta last year, so I can’t be too greedy. Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija may be bust risks in San Fran this year, but Bumgarner never is.

 

Death, taxes and MadBum.

 

Also, since the Red Sox-loving media has spent about as much time as it could the past two weeks gushing over David Price and Craig Kimbrel and then crying about Pablo Sandoval’s tummy, this week they seem to have moved on to gushing over Mookie Betts. Next week I assume they’ll move on to Xander Bogaerts. But for now, did you know that Mookie Betts is also the greatest bowler of all time? You didn’t? Well he is. I don’t know how that will help the Red Sox to not finish in last place for the third straight year, but anyway, Mookie Betts, Mookie Betts, Mookie Betts. If you’re a Yankees fun, your current Mookie Betts is Andrew Miller. He’s the reason you can rest assured that the same Aroldis Chapman you were super excited to have signed in the offseason is also the guy you can now be like, “30 game suspension? Pffffff. We have Andrew Miller!” My own personal Mookie Betts this week is Addison Russell of the Cubs. I love my Barry Larkin Starter Kit. And did you see the monster bomb he hit in Arizona in the second game? It went so far that it totally didn’t make me give a shit if he could bowl at all.

 

Alright. We’ve got four weeks to go before the season starts. And I need all of this to distract me from whatever insane shit happened in the 2016 Presidential race this week. I might even suggest Yoenis Cespedes as a third party write-in candidate. A Cuban-born New York billionaire who loves publicity? He’s like all the GOP candidates wrapped into one. Which gives John Kasich another reason to drop out since he doesn’t fit into this equation either. I’d actually be hard-pressed to think of many things inside the Yoenis Cespedes/John Kasich venn diagram. But that doesn’t mean I won’t try. Four more weeks of Spring Training, baby! And I’ll be heading to Arizona to see the Cubs in three. If you see a Polaris Slingshot in the parking lot, it’s totally mine.

 

 

Angelino in the Outfield (Episode 1)

 

 


Great Expectations: A Spring Training Preview

Written by :
Published on : February 23, 2016

 

Oh no. This is a really weird feeling for a Cubs fan to have. For the first time that I can ever remember, the Lovable Losers on the North Side of Chicago seem to be both the unanimous pick to win their division and also a trendy choice for the 2016 World Series. And on paper it even makes sense. Last year, they proved that their young squad was ahead of their projected timeline, won 97 games and then went deep into the playoffs until they ran into a freakishly overachieving Daniel Murphy and a young Mets pitching staff that seems to remind everyone of the nineties Atlanta Braves. And then they went out in the offseason and got the best healthy pitcher and the best position player from their hated Cardinal rivals, and also added a guy who led the majors in WAR in 2009. Oh, and the rest of their seemingly-all-rookie lineup from last year is back and probably better than ever and still way too young and dumb to comprehend how a jaded, cynical asshole like me can still hesitate to be bullish on the prospects of a Thousand Year Cubs Dynasty.

 

This has to be too good to be true, right? There’s too much pressure. The Cubs never follow up a good season with another good season. Look at 1985, 1990 and every other year since The Year That Shall Not Be Named. And Jake Arrieta has to regress. Because he just has to. And John Lackey is 137 years old. And their bullpen isn’t quite there. And Jason Heyward isn’t a natural center fielder. And because they’re the fucking Cubs. Right? Like, why should I get my hopes up just to have them crushed again and again like I have my whole life? Why? Well… Because of Theo Epstein. And because of Joe Maddon. And because of that offense. Oh, that offense. And Kris Bryant. And Addison Russell. And Kyle Schwarber. And Anthony Rizzo. And the fact that Heyward is actually younger than Anthony Rizzo. And the fact that Heyward could win a Gold Glove in center. And because Arrieta may have pitched an assload of innings last year, but he famously stays in excellent shape. And because of how great of a story it would be if they actually did do it. And because, on paper, the Cubs just so happen to have the best team in baseball by a decent margin. Oh no, indeed.

 

 

The Rest of the NL Central

The Cubs may have kicked their ass and stolen their girlfriend, but the Cardinals are still the Cardinals. You just kind of assume they’ll be playing in October, no matter what. But even with Adam Wainwright back, the mystique feels like it’s gone, with a bad offseason and Yadier Molina needing to grow another thumb. Maybe their insane luck will finally run out. I also thought that about the Alabama football team back in September. Not that I should talk about football in the same breath I talk about St. Louis. Anyway… Then there’s the Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s not like they sucked last year either. But nobody likes to talk about them because they’ll probably just get to the Wild Card and lose again, if they do anything at all. And the only fun thing about that is if Sean Rodriguez goes HAM on another water cooler. This division will inevitably be drowned out by the tidal wave of Cubs expectations. And the Reds and Brewers have probably already
drowned in it.

 

The NL East

According to EVERYONE, the Mets have the greatest pitching staff of all time, ever. And, yes, it’s horrifying. Matt Harvey is another year removed from Tommy John surgery. Jacob deGrom is a floppy-haired pitching monster. Noah Syndergaard actually is Thor. Big fat Bartolo Colon doesn’t age. Steven Matz would be a #1 starter on every other non-Mets team. And Zack Wheeler will be back in July to seal the already-done deal. Plus, all of them except Colon are 19 years old or something. The only problem is that nobody knows what type of hangover these guys will have from all those innings they ate up against Kansas City in the World Series. Or if they’ll even stay healthy. But if they do all bounce back, holy shit. Plus, they re-signed Yoenis Cespedes, which all makes for an excellent case for them to go back to the World Series. No matter how much I hate that.

 

 

Overall this division is horrible. But Bryce Harper and the dysfunctional Nationals should contend. Even though Dusty Baker is their new manager. And nobody knows what to make of the Miami Marlins quite yet. Don Mattingly is their new manager. Barry Bonds is their new hitting coach. Giancarlo Stanton will be healthy. So will Jose Fernandez. But we’ll have to see what all that means, if anything. Or if those guys can even stay healthy in the first place. And anyone looking to make a bold prediction on the division a la the 2015 Cubs and Astros might want to keep their eye on the Atlanta Braves, who are building a monster farm team, even though they’ll most likely be just slightly less shitty than the Phillies in 2016.

 

The NL West

I hate to say it, but 2016 is an even year. So we can probably throw all the analytics out the window and just hand the San Francisco Giants their fourth world title seven years. Their pitching staff picked up two possibly-great/possibly-hugely-disappointing acquisitions in Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. And that could give them an edge in what everybody seems to think will be a three team race with the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks.

 

The Dodgers lost Zack Greinke. To the Diamondbacks. They also have a rookie manager in Dave Roberts. In a market that wore out Mattingly and sent him to Miami. They also didn’t do anything with their gigantic payroll in the offseason. And any time you need to rely on Yasiel Puig for anything other than drama, it’s a pretty scary predicament. But this is a deep team with a crazy-good farm system. And they’ll probably be in enough contention by the time the trade deadline rolls around to throw money at whatever problems they have (that don’t involve lack of team chemistry). Plus they still have Clayton Kershaw. At the end of the day, as a resident Angelino, I just want to see Vin Scully go out in style. And if that means the Dodgers have to be good for that to happen, I can accept that.

 

 

Yes, Arizona got Greinke. And Shelby Miller. And they still have unrecognizable superstar, Paul Goldschmidt and equally unrecognizable AJ Pollock. But their projections aren’t too high as of now because of a lack of offensive depth (sup, Yasmany Tomas?). And it seems more likely they could be this year’s Padres and/or White Sox. As for the 2016 Padres and Rockies, I’m not wasting my time. It is an even year, after all.

 

The AL East

Every team in the division not named the Baltimore Orioles seem to have a chance this year. But the overall consensus comes down to the rebounding Boston Red Sox and the reigning division champion Toronto Blue Jays. Personally, I don’t know how acquiring David Price and Craig Kimbrel turns a 78-win last place team into a division favorite, but that’s just how the east coast media bias works. But it will be fun to see how fat Pablo Sandoval is. And if Hanley Ramirez can play first base. And it’s also the swan song for Big Papi. Plus, David Price is actually really fucking good. So I don’t know.

 

 

The Blue Jays have the best offense in baseball. And reigning MVP, Josh Donaldson. And their offense might be even better than last year since Troy Tulowitzki never got comfortable in Toronto in 2015. They’ll just have to stay healthy. And hope somebody on their team can pitch. As for the Yankees, they’re really old. And look how that worked out for them last season. Plus, you never know about that staff. And as good as their bullpen looks right now, we still don’t know what’s going to happen with Aroldis Chapman’s domestic abuse suspension. And the Rays have Chris Archer and the rest of their great starting five, but they’ll basically need everybody else on the lineup to be awesome to compete. Oh, and also the Orioles are in this division too, I guess.

 

The AL Central

The Royals won the World Series last year, no big deal. And they were one Madison Bumgarner away from being back-to-back World Series champions. Yet for some reason, Baseball Prospectus has them projected to be in last place in the Central in 2016. What gives? Maybe you can’t project things like ‘putting the ball in play and its positive consequences’ or ‘playing with a chip on their shoulder’, but whatever they did the past two seasons worked, so I don’t know why it wouldn’t work again. They have the defense. They have the bullpen. It’s just so hard to make a good enough argument for or against a team with relatively zero stars, that’s this mediocre on paper, going to three straight Fall Classics.

 

 

The hot pick in the AL Central continues to be the Cleveland Indians because of an extremely good pitching staff. Add Francisco Lindor’s defense behind them and they could be a powerhouse. Or Michael Brantley could be hurt and their offense could struggle and they won’t have the money to make acquisitions at the trade deadline to compete. And while I have a soft spot for the Detroit Tigers, they’re also getting a little long in the tooth. They got Justin Upton to aid a pretty good, but aging offense. And they picked up Jordan Zimmermann and K-Rod to help out a healthy, but aging Justin Verlander-led group of arms. Health is the key here. And if they have it, they might compete. The White Sox might also compete, even though nobody outside of Bridgeport is talking about them. They got Todd Frazier. They have Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and a full season from Carlos Rodon. It’s just that everybody is distracted by the heat of a thousand suns ™ on the North Side. And the Twins have Miguel Sano, who is going to hit 40 dongs this year. Even though they were so terrible last year, that even when they were in first place for a while nobody bought it. If that makes any sense. Not that it should. Why would anything in this division make sense? I mean, Royals went to the World Series the past two years.

 

The AL West

Even though the Astros are the unanimous choice to win the division, everybody would rather talk about the Texas Rangers. Their 2015 playoff run was nothing short of a miracle. And now they’ll have full seasons from Cole Hamels and a healthy Yu Darvish. It’s just that nobody really expected the Astros to be where they were last season either. And now nobody expects them to regress. And the former hot choices in the division seem like yesterday’s newspaper. Mike Trout has no talent around him in Anaheim. Nobody wants to get fooled by the Mariners ever again. And the A’s need too much to get anything done.

 

 

So there you have it. Now you’re ready for the baseball season. And now you know why your team probably sucks and why you should switch allegiances to the Chicago Cubs. Or at least that’s how everything looks right now. Spring training, when nothing counts. And before the actual season comes with all its shitty reality to break hearts, launch new stars into the stratosphere and ruin every expectation, rendering long-winded predictions like the one I just spent way too long typing on a nice afternoon completely worthless. But hey, that’s baseball.

 

What else were we gonna talk about, Donald Trump?

 

 

 


How Many Cy Youngs Should Cy Young Have Won?

Written by :
Published on : August 23, 2015

 

 

In 1955, legendary pitcher, Cy Young, died at the age of 88. The following year, Major League Baseball honored Young by creating an award in his name, which was originally to be given out to the very best pitcher in all of baseball. Brooklyn’s Don Newcombe won the inaugural award (even though it totally should have gone to Herb Score of the Indians). To that point in history, Young was probably not the greatest pitcher of all-time. The fact that he wasn’t inducted into the first Hall of Fame class of 1936 is pretty indicative of that. But he did have the most career wins, career losses, complete games, innings pitched, etc, etc. So that got me thinking: Cy Young pitched from 1890-1911. If his own award had existed way back then, how many would The Man, Himself have won? Let’s take a look.

 

1890. Just to be clear, this was still old-timey baseball. 1890 was only the second season in history that four balls equaled a walk. And only the fourth season where batters weren’t allowed to call for a high pitch or a low pitch. Pitchers had to throw underhand with a stiff wrist and elbow until 1883. And they couldn’t even throw all the way overhand until 1884. Coincidentally, that was the same year the catcher’s chest protector was introduced. Times were a tad different, to say the least. On top of all of that pitchers pitched inside of a flat box from 50 feet away. Nevertheless, my winner for 1890 is Kid Nichols of the Boston Beaneaters. Like Cy Young, Nichols was also a rookie and a future Hall of Famer. He’d go on to become the youngest pitcher to win 300 games. And he also claimed that (even though he started 562 games in his career) he was never removed from a game for a relief pitcher.

 

Kid Nichols during the 1897 season

 

1891. I’d give the award to Kid Nichols again. But this was also the first season when catchers were allowed to wear large padded mitts. And one of Young’s catchers was said to put a steak inside his glove to better protect himself.

 

1892. Young had the best standard stats of anyone in baseball. He led the league in wins, ERA, WHIP and shutouts. But “Wild” Bill Hutchinson of the Chicago Colts had better advanced stats, so he wins. Still, his 36-36 record that year makes my brain hurt.

 

1893. Because of hard-throwing pitchers like Young, Amos Rusie and Jouett Meekin, Major League Baseball decided to move the pitcher’s box back to its current distance of 60 feet, six inches. Nobody knows for sure how hard those guys threw. But Young got the nickname ‘Cy’ in 1889, because the fences he threw against looked like a cyclone hit them. The odd thing was, Young was only recording 2-3 strikeouts per game during that period. He later said, “I aimed to make the batter hit the ball, and I threw as few pitches as possible. That’s why I was able to work every other day.” I’d give the Cy Young Award to Cy Young in 1893. I wish I could give it to ERA champion, Ted Breitenstein, because I like his last name. But it’s pretty impressive that Cy Young’s first Cy Young Award would have been in a transition year for every pitcher in the league.

 

The 1890 Cleveland Spiders. Cy Young pictured middle row, third from the left.

 

1894. I’d give this one to “The Hoosier Thunderbolt” Amos Rusie of the New York Giants. People have tried to estimate that Rusie threw in the mid to upper 90s. But he was also wild as shit. And he led the league in walks from 1890-94. Even so, in 1894, he won the pitching Triple Crown and had the best advanced stats of anyone in baseball. A sensation during his career in New York, and considered huge by 19th Century standards (at 6’1″, 200 lbs), Rusie was eventually elected into the Hall of Fame in 1977.

 

1895. Cy Young would have won his second Cy Young Award. It was the year he added a ‘slow ball’ to his repertoire. And it was also the year he started wearing a glove.

 

1896. Cy Young would have won his third Cy Young. He also led the majors with 3 saves.

 

1897. I’d give Kid Nichols his third Cy Young Award. But in 1897, Cy Young also pitched his first no-hitter. Young initially gave up a hit down the third base line in the game, but his third baseman sent a note to the press box saying he’d committed an error, so they reversed the call. Throughout his career, Young still considered the game a one-hitter.

 

1898. Cy Young would have won his fourth Cy Young.

 

1899. I’d give it to Noodles Hahn of the Cincinnati Reds. Although he wasn’t a power pitcher, Noodles led the league in strikeouts from 1899-1901. He’d go on to pitch the first no-hitter of the 20th Century. After retiring in 1906, Hahn continued to work out with the Reds on game days until he was almost 70. It’s been said that the Reds players of the 1940’s had no idea ol’ Noodles was a former big league player.

 

Cy Young poses for a portrait in 1899, when he was with St. Louis.

 

1900. Cy Young would have won his fifth Cy Young. It was also around this time that the pitchers mound was invented. Seriously.

 

1901. That was the first year of the American League, and Young moved to the Boston Americans, where he won the pitching Triple Crown. He would have won his 6th Cy Young. 1901 was the year he began as a pitching coach for Harvard, which the Boston media found hilarious, since Young only had a 6th grade education. This was also the first year that catchers (in both leagues) had to remain under the bat.

 

1902. I’d give it to Rube Waddell of the Philadelphia Athletics, who is one of the most unusual and unpredictable players in the history of baseball. He once left the mound in the middle of a game to go fishing. He’d sometimes chase after fire trucks during games. Opposing fans held up puppies and shiny objects to distract him. He wrestled alligators in the offseason and was once bitten by a lion. They called him ‘Sousepaw’ because he once spent his entire signing bonus on a drinking binge. He forgot how many wives he’d had. Nobody really wanted him on their team, and yet he was the premier power pitcher of his day. In exhibition games, he’d wave his players off the field and then strike out the side. He’s even the second guy in history to strike out the side on 9 pitches. And he probably had some sort of mental disorder or spectrum-y thing. All that being said, Waddell was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1946. He and Young would have a rivalry for many years.

 

Rube Waddell warming up before a game in 1905

 

1903. Rube Waddell would have won his second Cy Young Award. But Cy Young would go on to pass Pud Galvin as the all-time winningest pitcher in 1903. And he’d start in Game 1 of the first modern World Series, throwing the first pitch in World Series history.

 

1904. Rube Waddell would have won his third Cy Young. On May 2, Waddell one-hit Young’s Boston Americans and then taunted Young to face him in a game, so he could do it again. On May 5, they went head-to-head and Young pitched the first perfect game of the modern era. Waddell was the 27th and final batter. And as Waddell flied out, Young shouted at him, “How do you like that, you hayseed?” Young went on to pitch 25 1/3 innings without giving up a hit (still a record), as well as 45 consecutive scoreless innings. Still, somehow Waddell had better advanced stats. Also, Young’s perfecto was the first of the modern era because two pitchers in 1880 (when you still had to toss underhand and batters could call for pitches) threw perfect games. We know that in one of them, three outs were made when a fielder caught a foul ball on one bounce. Rules are rules (and that used to be the rule), but that’s fucking stupid.

 

1905. Cy Young would have won his 7th Cy Young. Roger Clemens currently has the most ever at 7.

 

1906. Cy Young would have won his 8th Cy Young. Roger Clemens can suck it.

 

1907. Rube Waddell would have won his fourth Cy Young.

 

Young when he was with the Red Sox in 1908.

 

1908. Cy Young pitched his third no-hitter and broke the all-time record for strikeouts. But I would give the award to spitballer, Ed Walsh of the Chicago White Sox. Walsh has the lowest ERA in Major League history (1.82) and in 1910, he had a 1.27 ERA with a losing record. Legend has it that when they built Comiskey Park in Chicago, the architect consulted with Walsh before creating the park’s dimensions. He was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1946.

 

1909. I’d give it to Chief Bender of the Philadelphia Athletics. Bender got his nickname because he was part Native American and was raised on a reservation in Minnesota. Throughout his career, Bender faced discrimination and racist taunts from the opposing dugout. The only thing was, Bender was awesome. Sometimes when he’d shut down a team, he’d yell, “Foreigners! Foreigners!” right back at them. Oh, and he also invented the slider. Bender was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1953. His brother also played Major League Baseball, but wasn’t as fortunate. He ended up getting suspended after stabbing his manager multiple times.

 

Chief Bender

 

1910. Cy Young won his 500th game, but his torch was finally passed. Walter Johnson of the Washington Senators would have won the Cy Young. And he’d go on to win 417 games, the second-most all-time. He also lost an amazing 65 games because his Senators failed to score a run. In 1936, Johnson was part of the inaugural class at the Baseball Hall of Fame, along with Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner and Christy Mathewson.

 

Young retired after the 1911 season with 511 career wins. To put that into perspective, that’s about what Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez had combined. And it’s more than Felix Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and Zack Greinke currently have combined. It’s a record that will never be broken. Young was also seen as the bridge between the early days of baseball and the modern era. He pitched against Cap Anson, who became a pro in 1871. And he also pitched against Eddie Collins, who played until 1930. And he absolutely deserves to have the award named after him.

 

The Answer: Cy Young should have won 8 Cy Young Awards.

 

 

 


Zack Greinke, Sabermetrics and the Greatest Season of the Past 25 Years

Written by :
Published on : August 17, 2015

 

From June 18th of this year to July 26, Zack Greinke of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitched 45 2/3 innings without giving up a run. It was good enough for the 4th-longest scoreless innings streak in Major League history. In that period, he struck out 43 batters and only walked 4. Opposing hitters only reached third base twice. It was insanity. That’s around the time I got an email from my friend Rob. The subject was ‘Greinke’ and the body of the email just said, “On pace for best season in the last 25 years?”

 

The short answer was “No.” The dick answer was, “He’s not even the best pitcher on his own team.” But the honest answer is, I’m not even really 100% sure how to evaluate that question. So I started to ask around. I have plenty of friends who profess to be sabermetric nerds and I said, “If you had a vote for the Cy Young Award, what criteria or statistics would you use to make your choice?” The answers I got were all over the place. So I finally did something I’d been putting off for years. I went down the advanced stat rabbit hole, using places like FanGraphs as my Rosetta Stone. So when analysts argue things like Corey Kluber vs. Felix Hernandez for the Cy Young (as they did last year), the stats won’t look like total gibberish. This is what I found…

 

Felix Hernandez

 

Most of you probably already know that wins and losses are not a good judge of a pitcher’s worth. Wins just tell us how many games your team scored more runs than the other team. But what I didn’t know was that ERA (Earned Run Average) and WHIP (Walks Plus Hits Per Innings Pitched) are probably out too. The main thing most of the stat geeks are trying to get across is that once a ball is hit, pitchers have no control over whether it lands in someone’s glove or not. That’s the defense. So not only can a pitcher win games with an amazing offense, they can also look like studs because of amazing defense. Last season, Jordan Zimmermann completed his no-hitter because of a circus catch by Steven Souza. In 1990, Andy Hawkins pitched a no-hitter for the Yankees and still lost the game 4-0 because of fielding errors.

 

One stat for that brand of luck is called BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) and hitters actually have more control over it than the pitchers and fielders. Voros McCracken best explained this stat by saying that in any given Home Run Derby, you’ll see guys hit balls that would clearly be outs in a real game. And those pitchers are TRYING to give up home runs.

 

The league average for BABIP is always .300. So you can actually look at a player’s career BABIP (Greinke’s is .301) to see if their current numbers (Greinke’s is .236, which is the lowest in the Majors) are sustainable. In this case, Greinke looks like he’s been pretty lucky this season, but I still want to evaluate players based on what they’ve actually done.

 

Zack Greinke

 

The best way to really evaluate a pitcher is to focus on things they CAN control. That means walks, strikeouts, home runs and HBP (Hit by Pitch). There are a few ways to do it, but I prefer FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) as a starting point. FIP shows what a pitcher’s ERA would look like if they had a league average BABIP. So it takes the role of defense and luck out the equation. It tells you how well a pitcher pitched, regardless of how the fielders fielded. Where ERA tells you what actually happened, FIP tells you what should have happened. It’s not perfect, as it doesn’t take into account HR/FB (Home Run to Fly Ball rate) or how good the pitcher is at stranding runners. But almost everyone agrees it’s better than ERA at summing up a player’s overall contribution to run prevention. Just for fun, here are the top 10 FIPs of the past 25 years:

1999 Pedro Martienz 1.39
2014 Clayton Kershaw 1.81
2013. Matt Harvey 2.00
1995 Randy Johnson 2.08
2001 Randy Johnson 2.13
2000 Pedro Martinez 2.17
1990 Roger Clemens 2.18
2011 Roy Halladay 2.20
2003 Pedro Martinez 2.21
1998 Kevin Brown 2.23

 

Greinke’s FIP is currently at 2.63. Kershaw would just miss the list at 2.24. What’s interesting is that Harvey, Halladay and Brown didn’t win the ERA titles in those years. And only half of the list won the Cy Young in those years. Because we’ve all been living a lie.

 

Roy Halladay

 

Now, there’s also xFIP (Expected Fielding Independent Pitching) that takes BABIP and HR/FB into the equation. It does even more to remove the randomness from a pitcher’s performance. But I feel like if you gave up the home runs you gave up, they should count against you no matter what. xFIP and a few other stats are better predictors of future performances than they are assessing a pitcher’s current value.

 

There are still people who think batted balls can tell us SOMETHING about a pitcher’s actual skill level. Ground balls and fly balls produce outs at the highest rates (74.8% and 77.7%, respectively). While line drives have the best chances of becoming hits (and 73.6% of them will). SIERA (Skill Interactive ERA) tries to account for some of the complexity of balls in play, and it ends up being a more accurate ERA estimator than xFIP. Plus, it adjusts for differences in park sizes. Both xFIP and SIERA started getting data in 2002, so let’s look at the best FIP, xFIP and SIERA since then:

 

                FIP                 xFIP                 SIERA
2014 Clayton Kershaw 1.81 2014 Clayton Kershaw 2.08 2014 Clayton Kershaw 2.09
2013 Matt Harvey 2.00 2015 Clayton Kershaw 2.08* 2002 Curt Schilling 2.18
2011 Roy Halladay 2.20 2002 Curt Schilling 2.21 2015 Clayton Kershaw 2.21*
2003 Pedro Martinez 2.21 2002 Randy Johnson 2.44 2002 Randy Johnson 2.38
2002 Pedro Martinez 2.24 2014 Felix Hernandez 2.51 2002 Pedro Martinez 2.42
2015 Clayton Kershaw 2.24* 2011 Zack Greinke 2.56 2015 Chris Sale 2.46*
2004 Randy Johnson 2.30 2014 Stephen Strasburg 2.56 2014 Felix Hernandez 2.50
2009 Zack Greinke 2.33 2015 Chris Sale 2.56* 2014 Chris Sale 2.56
2009 Tim LIncecum 2.34 2014 Corey Kluber 2.57 2015 Max Scherzer 2.57*
2014 Corey Kluber 2.35 2015 Chris Archer 2.57* 2004 Randy Johnson 2.60

 

 

Clayton Kershaw

 

All three stats agree Kershaw’s 2014 season was the best since 2002, and this year, it’s unanimous that Kershaw is the best and Chris Sale is #2. All that being said, xFIP and SIERA are only ERA estimators. They give hypothetical home run and BABIP rates while FIP uses players’ actual home run rate in its math. I don’t want to predict the future as much as I want to show past value.

 

FanGraphs’ WAR (Wins Above Replacement) tells us how many more wins a player would have given his team over a replacement. It’s their total contribution. They use FIP in its calculation, rather than one of the estimators, and also adjusts for park size and how many innings the pitcher throws (something everyone I talked to finds highly important). The problem with WAR is that it’s not precise, since they haven’t figured out how to put SIERA’s balls in play math into the equation. There’s also RA9-WAR, which uses actual runs allowed instead of FIP. It’s just a matter of how much you want to account for defense and luck. Is it better to be lucky or good? I’d say it’s better to be good. So I’ll go with WAR. Here are the top 10 WARs for pitchers in the last 25 years:

1999 Pedro Martinez 11.6
1997 Roger Clemens 10.7
2001 Randy Johnson 10.4
1998 Kevin Brown 9.6
2000 Randy Johnson 9.6
2004 Randy Johnson 9.6
1995 Randy Johnson 9.5
1999 Randy Johnson 9.5
2000 Pedro Martinez 9.4
2002 Curt Schilling 9.3

 

Pedro Martinez

 

Okay. So we have FIP and WAR as pretty good tools in evaluating what a pitcher has done, without luck and fielding involved. Last year’s King Felix vs. Kluber argument could have been summed up by saying Felix had a 2.51 FIP and a 6.0 WAR. Kluber had a 2.35 FIP and a 7.3 WAR. Case closed. The right guy won. So back to the email I got from my friend Rob. Is Zack Greinke on pace for the greatest season of the past 25 years?

 

The short answer is still “No.” The dick answer is still, “He’s not even the best pitcher on his own team.” And the correct answer is, “Good luck beating Pedro in ’99.”

 

 


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