Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XXIX: Bumgarner, Britton, MY Final Awards and LDS)

Written by :
Published on : October 7, 2016

 

 

For this cautiously optimistic Cubs fan, there was something oddly poetic and metaphorical about watching Madison Bumgarner walk back to the dugout after pitching yet another October gem for a team that has been there so many times before. By now you should know the long and torturous history of the Cubs, the 107 years of futility and heartbreak, the billy goats, black cats, Leon Durhams and Steve Bartmans. This version of the team needs just 11 more wins on a season where they’ve already won 103. But in the process of chasing the championship, they’re also surrounded by ghosts, whether they be real or imagined. And so in a year where Cubs fans have never been more hopeful that the wait is over, that this is ‘Next Year’, that they can finally break a curse, of course the first obstacle in their way is a magical team with magical powers in even years, with a magical pitcher whose powers are heightened when they need him the most.

 

To me, Bumgarner symbolizes more than just a star pitcher on the San Francisco Giants. He’s also the poster boy for that magical thinking, superstition and all the other illogical nonsense that will be managed and tamed the further the Cubs get into the postseason. I’ve already seen multiple posts about how Bumgarner now has 23-consecutive scoreless innings in winner-take-all games. Before the Wild Card game, picking Noah Syndergaard to be the ‘winner’ was almost seen as contrarian, even though his numbers strongly suggest he’s the better pitcher. None of that mattered. MadBum was already at legend status. And by the time this is posted, it will have snowballed to godlike proportions. Meanwhile, I’m going to venture to guess that nobody, in their analysis of the Bumgarner vs. the Mets, is going to mention that the Mets were tied with the Milwaukee Brewers for 25th in the Majors in runs scored on the season. And that his next round opponent certainly ain’t that.

 

 

As God as my witness, the Chicago Cubs will eventually go the World Series and win the whole damn thing. It will happen before the sun swells up and swallows the earth or Donald Trump nukes Lakeview. So if a curse was actually a real thing, which I assure you it is not, the Cubs would probably have to break an ‘even year’ spell or whatever else is thrown in their way in the process. Good eventually has to defeat evil. You have to go to Mordor to get rid of the Precious. The 2004 Red Sox had to go through the Yankees to break a curse of their own. Because of course they did. Curses are fiction and fiction should have insurmountable odds right before a happy ending. If this were written by Hollywood, the 2016 Cubs’ storybook ending would go ‘Even Year’ Giants, Daniel Murphy, Boston Red Sox. And all of that can happen. So what better place than here? What better time than now? Who’s ready for some playoffs?

 

The AL Wild Card Game
The Blue Jays defeat the Orioles 5-2 in 11 innings

Oh man. I’d feel bad for Ubaldo Jimenez if I thought anybody was actually focusing on him and not on Buck Showalter’s decision to not use Zach Britton in the game. Jimenez, of course, had that infamous 7.38 ERA in the first half, which basically made him the worst starting pitcher in the Majors. But he’d been better lately, I swear. He had a 2.31 ERA in September. There were real people writing actual articles on ESPN.com saying Ubaldo should be starting the game over Chris Tillman. It’s just that Britton had a 0.54 ERA on the season. He hadn’t given up an earned run since August 24th. And that was the only once since April 30th. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

 

In the bottom of the 11th, after Jimenez came on in relief with the score tied at 2, he gave up singles to Devon Travis and Josh Donaldson, before Edwin Encarnacion hit a 3-run walk-off to send Toronto in to the next round. Jimenez threw a grand total of five pitches. Showalter used a grand total of six different relievers after Tillman exited in the 5th. None of them were Britton. Showalter was managing for the save, a made-up statistic for a made-up position that logic should have killed off years ago. And it probably took the strategic failing of a renowned baseball strategist for change to happen. I just hope Joe Maddon and Aroldis Chapman took notice.

 

The NL Wild Card Game
The Giants defeated the Mets 3-0

 

The pitchers duel lived up to the hype, all right. Syndergaard took a no-hitter into the 6th and looked dominant before his pitch count reached its limit at the end of 7. He was aided by a fantastic catch by Curtis Granderson in center. But the slumping Yoenis Cespedes and the mediocre bats of the Mets could get nothing going against Racist Legend Boy and a team that tanked the entire second half and had to sweep the Dodgers to hold off the Cardinals at the end of the season didn’t have to use their garbage bullpen. The game was scoreless until the top of the 9th, when Conor Gillaspie, who had six home runs all season, hit a three-run shot off of Jeurys Familia, who’d only given up one all year. Racist Legend Boy’s 4-hit shutout on 119 pitches and the fact that the year ends in a 6 means something very important to people who get paid money to talk about baseball for a living. Seriously, fuck this team.

 

ALDS Preview: The Rangers vs. The Blue Jays

Well this could be horrifyingly dangerous. The epic rematch that everyone outside of Baltimore should have wanted is actually going to happen. And if drunken Canadians are willing to throw Labatt Blue cans at Hyun-soo Kim, imagine what they want to do to Rougned Odor.

 

I actually think the Jays will take the series. While both teams can definitely score, I like the Jays’ pitching depth a lot more. That Rangers +10 run differential still doesn’t make sense. But why would we talk about any of that? Jose Bautista and Roogie could square off again, you guys!

 

ALDS Preview: The Indians vs. The Red Sox

I don’t think anybody has Cleveland winning this. Boston has the best offense in the Majors. Six of their hitters are at least pretty good. And the Indians’ staff is duct-taped together. Plus, Papi is the Madison Bumgarner of hitting. David Price does have a 5.12 postseason ERA. But Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin haven’t beaten the Red Sox this season. And Corey Kluber can’t match up with Price every game. But mostly, Joey Bats might fight Rougned Odor in that other series, you guys!

 

NLDS Preview: The Cubs vs. The Giants

 

The best pitching in the Major Leagues. The best defense in the Major Leagues. The best offense in the National League, outside of Colorado. The year 1908. The years 2010, 2012 and 2014.
This is the hottest the Giants have been since the All-Star Game, which isn’t saying much. The staff is pretty formidable, especially with Jeff Samardzija pitching well lately. But the team has trouble scoring. So if the Cubs’ deep lineup can heat up, that staff should hold the Giants off.

 

Should and will are two different things, obviously. The Cubs were 7-0 against the Mets in the regular season last year, before getting swept in the NLCS. But the Cubs are the story here. The sports media may be chasing after the Even Year Miracle Hillbilly like a dumb dog chasing a mail carrier. But the Cubs are the best team in baseball. And they’re the favorite until proven otherwise.

 

NLDS Preview: The Nationals vs. The Dodgers

No Stephen Strasburg. No Wilson Ramos. A banged-up Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy. And Dusty Baker managing them. This all bodes well for the finally-healthy Dodgers. The only thing is, the Dodgers have pretty mediocre hitting after Corey Seager and Justin Turner. Especially against lefties. And Clayton Kershaw has been pretty un-Kershaw-like in Octobers past. He’s getting matched up with Max Scherzer, who doesn’t quite suck either. I’ll take Washington. Really. I need them for my Daniel Murphy curse storyline and I don’t want to get jumped in Echo Park during the presumed NLCS while forgetting I’m wearing a Cubs hat.

 

Let’s give out some awards.

 

AL MVP FINAL ANSWER: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

 

As the Major League leader in WAR, by a pretty decent margin, Trout proved once again that he’s the best player in the game. It’s arguable that David Ortiz was a better hitter this year. But there’s really no other metric to suggest the A.L. MVP could possibly be anyone else.

 

I’ve already talked about this at length. Trout has led the league in WAR his first five seasons in the Majors and has one MVP award to show for it. Willie Mays led the National League in WAR ten times from 1954-1966. And he only has two MVP awards to show for it. Those voters look stupid to us now. And, unless Trout brings home some more hardware, they’re on their way to looking stupid again.

 

Honorable Mention: Josh Donaldson, Jose Altuve, Mookie Betts, Adrian Beltre

 

AL CY YOUNG FINAL ANSWER: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

I was surprised too. For me, this came down to the numbers. The narrative of everyone assuming Verlander was done is nice and everything. But that has nothing to do with who was the best pitcher in the league this year. And the numbers pointed to Verlander, Rick Porcello and Corey Kluber.

 

—————————WAR   FIP      ERA

Justin Verlander      5.2      3.48      3.04
Rick Porcello           5.2      3.40      3.15
Corey Kluber           5.1      3.26      3.14

 

That’s about as close as you can get. But it’s that ERA – actual results – that settled it for me. I’d hand Verlander his second Cy. Or his third, since I probably would have given it to him in 2012 too. Just saying.

 

Honorable Mention: Rick Porcello, Corey Kluber, Masahiro Tanaka, Chris Sale, Aaron Sanchez

 

AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR FINAL ANSWER: Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees

 

I’d love to be able to give you a great reason. But this came down to Sanchez, Michael Fulmer and Christopher Devenski. Their WARS were essentially the same, regardless of if anybody had Devenski in the conversation or not. And Devenski’s Win Probability Added (WPA) was better than Fulmer’s, as were his FIP and ERA. That’s pitching 2-3 innings at a time, instead of six. But still, that’s a good argument for why Fulmer wasn’t the even best rookie pitcher in his own league. On the other hand, no other American League position player is touching Sanchez. He hit 20 home runs in 53 games, which is a 61 pace. Holy shit.

 

Honorable Mention: Michael Fulmer, Christopher Devenski, Tyler Naquin, Tim Anderson

 

NL MVP FINAL ANSWER: Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs

Like Trout, Bryant led the league in WAR by a decent margin. Unlike Trout, his play contributed to a winning team. Joey Votto, Daniel Murphy and Freddie Freeman were all better hitters. But they can’t hold a candle to Bryant, defensively. The title of best player in the National League has a new claimant.

 

Honorable Mention: Freddie Freeman, Daniel Murphy, Joey Votto, Anthony Rizzo

 

NL CY YOUNG FINAL ANSWER: Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets

 

I’m taking Clayton Kershaw out of the equation, since he pitched in 10 fewer games with 34 fewer innings than Thor. But with a full season, Syndergaard led the league in WAR and FIP, while finishing third in ERA. I love Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester (who finished 1-2 in ERA), but they also had that Cubs defense behind them. And I highly doubt Jose Fernandez would want the award handed to him (although he was right up there). Oh, and Max Scherzer is getting hype as a 20-game winner. But this isn’t 1986 and we have better ways of evaluating value.

 

Honorable Mention: Jose Fernandez, Kyle Hendricks, Johnny Cueto, Madison Bumgarner, Jon Lester    

 

NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR FINAL ANSWER: Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers

It’s really not even close. Seager is the best rookie position player since Trout in 2012. And I thought he’d be the best National League rookie since Albert Pujols in 2001 or Mike Piazza in 1993, but it’s actually Dick Allen in 1964. That’s not like, bad company.

 

Honorable Mention: Jon Gray, Kenta Maeda, Trea Turner, Trevor Story, Steven Matz, Zach Davies

 

Okay. That’s it for this week. If you need more baseball from me, check me out on ‘Comedians Talking Sports‘ with Joe Kilgallon on the podcast things. In the meantime, the Cubs’ Magic Number is 11. So nervous!

 

 


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 XXIV: Wake Me Up When September Ends)

Written by :
Published on : September 2, 2016

 

 

The Royals might be going back the World Series again this year, after all.

 

 

At the beginning of the week, the Blue Jays, the Red Sox and the Orioles were all postseason-bound teams coming out of the AL East. Unfortunately for one or (probably) two of them, there’s still a month left of baseball. And in that month, all three of those teams (plus rookie phenom, Gary Sanchez, and the Yankees) will play each other enough times and beat up on each other enough times that it will leave the door wide open for a team or two from the Central (the Tigers and/or the Royals) or the West (the Astros and maybe even the Mariners) to sneak into October. Let’s just take a look at how many times the Eastern contenders play each other the rest of the way.

 

– Blue Jays vs. Orioles. 3 games.
– Blue Jays vs. Yankees. 7 games.
– Blue Jays vs. Red Sox. 6 games.
– Red Sox vs. Orioles. 7 games.
– Red Sox vs. Yankees. 7 games.
– Orioles vs. Yankees. 6 games.

 

And that’s not even taking into consideration that the AL East doormat Rays have the best ERA in the league since the All-Star break. They’re also good for 6-7 games against the Blue Jays, Orioles and Yankees (and three more with the Red Sox). It’s going to be brutal. On the other hand, that amount of intra-divisional games that will take place for the Royals and Tigers with the mediocre White Sox and the lowly Twins, who have lost 13 straight. And the Astros and Mariners get to play the A’s and the Angels, who also suck. The East is going to fade. And it’s already starting to happen, as the Tigers have tied the Orioles for the second Wild Card slot after the O’s lost two-out-of-three to the Jays.

 

 

The only difference between the other Wild Card contenders and the Royals is that the Royals happen to be the hottest team in the American League over the past month. Since we last spoke, the World Champs rattled off 9 wins in a row, took two-out-of-three from the Red Sox and have won 18 of their last 24 games. And I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but they’ve managed to go to the World Series the past two years. They know how to get there. And they just won’t die. They are Grigori Rasputin holding a plate of slow-cooked ribs, Steven Seagal bebopping to Charlie Parker. I hate to tell you this, but the Royals will probably be back, projections be damned. And we’re just gonna have to get used to it. We’re gonna have to get used to that stupid rally mantis too.

 

Let’s go around the league.

 

The AL East

So who’s in and who’s out? Well, I think  the Blue Jays are going to win this division. Jose Bautista is back. Aaron Sanchez is rested. And Josh Donaldson is red hot. If you’re betting on anybody in the AL East, that’s your pick. The easiest team to dismiss has always been the Orioles. All along we’ve wondered how long their home run hitting offense could outpace their pitching problems. And that was before Chris Tillman went down with a shoulder injury. They’ve been proving people wrong all year, but I think they’re done. Not that anybody shows up at Camden Yards to care.

 

So the biggest question mark in the East is Boston. People talk about their bullpen like the sky is falling. 70% of their September schedule is on the road. Steven Wright has given up 9 runs his last 10 innings. And Adam Benintendi’s season might be over. On the bright side, Dustin Pedroia is healthy for the first time in years and got 11 hits in a row at one point last week. Mookie Betts is probably the 4th-best player in the league and also became the third player in Red Sox history to hit 30 home runs in a season before his 24th birthday (after Ted Williams and Tony Conigliaro). And David Price has a 2.14 ERA in his last four starts. Not to mention that he’s actually 6th in the league in WAR and also 6th in FIP. Your guess is as good as mine. That road schedule though…

 

The AL Central

 

With the Tigers and Royals hot on their heels, the only consistency for the Indians has been Corey Kluber. Their lauded starting rotation had a 5.68 ERA in August, which is second-worst to the Twins in the American League. Kluber’s August ERA was 2.43 and has been 2.04 since the break. On the season, he leads the league in FIP is (barely) second in WAR and is 5th in ERA. That’s your Cy Young, folks. I don’t know why it’s so hard for people. Here’s you: “The American League Cy Young race is a jumble!” Here’s me: “Why don’t you just look at the stats and pick the best guy?” It’s Kluber.

 

Also, I’d be remiss not to mention GUARANTEED RATE FIELD coming soon to the South Side of Chicago. “Hey, youz guys wanna catch a Sox game over at GUARANTEED RATE FIELD?” Just rolls right off the tongue, you know?

 

The AL West

I just want to remind everyone that the first week of the season, I picked the Blue Jays, Royals and Rangers to win their divisions and took the Indians and Astros in the Wild Card. And right now I feel pretty good about my picks, give or take the Tigers. The Rangers just took three-out-of-four from the Indians and swept the Mariners, effectively ending Seattle’s playoff hopes yet again. The Rangers also have a surprisingly-good record against teams above .500, which bodes well for them in October. Because I’m also going to will that Rangers-Jays rematch series to happen. Come on!

 

The NL East

Want to know who my opening week NL picks were? I took the Nationals, Cubs and Dodgers in the divisions. And I took the Mets and Giants in the Wild Card. And maybe since the Royals decided to get back in to the discussion, the Mets decided to get hot too. I know Jacob deGrom’s last two starts have been awful. And Steven Matz might get shut down for the season. But nobody should want to face Thor in the Wild Card. That team’s best-case-scenario staff is still horrifying.

 

 

And just in case any Nationals fans starts to freak out about Stephen Strasburg’s elbow, they should just direct their attention to what Max Scherzer has done his past two outings (5 hits, 1 walk, 21 K’s, 0.12 ERA over 16 innings) and feel a little better. Also, unless last year was a freakish anomaly, don’t we have to assume Bryce Harper is a sleeping giant right now? Just don’t look at his career stat line. Because this year looks pretty similar to the Harper of 2012-2014. And not at all like 2015.

 

The NL Central

Kris Bryant is the NL MVP. He leads the Majors in WAR. And he leads the league in wOBA. Plus, that home run in the 10th inning at Dodger Stadium led the Cubs to another win in a month where they went 22-6. Kyle Hendricks also leads the Majors in ERA with a 2.09. It’s been 1.34 in the second half, 1.28 in August and 1.21 at home on the year. This is a guy that throws 87 miles-per-hour. He’s a pleasant surprise on a staff that also includes Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester, who have also been top 10 pitchers in the league. Oh, and did you see Addison Russell’s catch against the Pirates on Wednesday? Wow. The Cubs are gonna shore this division up in the next week or two.

 

The Cardinals still hold the second Wild Card slot, which I hate. But they also don’t win at home (30-37) and don’t have a clear starter for the Wild Card game (I’d go with Carlos Martinez, but I’d guess Mike Matheny picks the struggling Adam Wainwright). Sure, they’re high up on rookies Alex Reyes and Luke Weaver. And Jedd Gyorko leads the league in home runs since the All-Star break. Actually, the Cardinals are tied with the Orioles for the most home runs in the Majors since the break. We’ll just have to wait and see if that’ll be good enough to hold off the Mets, Pirates and Marlins over the last month.

 

 The NL West

 

Well, the Dodgers have stayed in first place, despite every pitcher on their team (including the best pitcher on the planet) being hurt. If you’re counting at home, they’ve had 27 guys on the DL this year, which ties a Major League record set by the last place Boston Red Sox in 2012. But I’m guessing they lost a lot of sympathy when they traded away Clayton Kershaw’s personal catcher, A.J. Ellis (and his .194 batting average) for Carlos Ruiz. Why they would you create any drama or make Kershaw cry when their team is playing well is beyond me. I don’t care how much they struggle against lefties. You keep Kershaw happy. Or however happy a guy can be watching from the sidelines with a herniated disc.

 

Believe it or not, the Giants still have the worst record in baseball since the break. The Twins have lost 13 in a row and the Giants would still be a game back in the loss column since July 12th. They’re not scoring runs. They have problems at the back of their rotation. And Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto had ERA’s in the 4’s in the month of August. Matt Moore (and his 133 pitches) came within a Corey Seager bloop of no-hitting the Dodgers last week, and holy shit was that a pleasure to watch with Vin Scully making the call. But they’d better hope MadBum and Cueto can figure this out. Or that Kershaw stays on the sideline. Or that they also don’t get passed by one of the other Wild Card hopefuls in the league. Maybe they only win in even years that end in 0, 2 or 4. You ever think of that?

 

Okay. That’ll do it for this week. Next week, I’m sure we’ll have some mathematical eliminations from the standings (looking at you, Braves, Twins, Brewers and Reds). And if you need more baseball, you can always check me out on “Comedians Talking Sports” with Joe Kilgallon on all the podcast things. Until then, the Cubs’ magic number is 16.

 

 


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

Written by :
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 IX)

Written by :
Published on : April 30, 2016

 

 

This week has been all about the resurgent Mets, the historic disparity of the National League, as well as the semi-real possibility of an October Red Line Series between the Chicago White Sox and Cubs. But it was mostly me going down an internet rabbit hole of Japanese baseball information. Because as I was looking up Kenta Maeda of the Dodgers, the deeper I dug, the more immersed I was into a world of Jewish spies and evil judo masters and the actual Heisenberg. You know, regular baseball stuff. Allow me to ease you in with some basic info…

 

Did you know that Maeda wears #18 because it’s a tradition in Japan for the ace of the staff to wear that number? I didn’t. But you might notice that Hisashi Iwakuma of the Mariners wears #18. And it’s been worn by Daiske Matsuzaka and Hiroki Kuroda and a number of other pitchers from Japan – the same way #10 is usually worn by the best player on a soccer team. Maybe it is a bit presumptuous for a guy on the same staff as Clayton Kershaw to sport the ace’s number, but whatever. We don’t have that tradition. And it’s not like anybody is crying about Matt Cain wearing #18 in San Francisco.

 

 

Maeda actually earned his #18 in Japan as the two time winner of the Eiji Sawamura Award, which actually predates, but is the Japanese equivalent of the Cy Young. I’m simplifying things here, but they have a checklist of sorts that a pitcher needs to meet to qualify (25 starts, 15 wins, 10 complete games, a .600 winning percentage, 200 innings pitched, a 2.50 or lower ERA and 150 K’s). And just to give you an idea, if we had those qualifiers here (because of those 10 complete games), nobody would have won the Cy Young since Randy Johnson in 1999. Nevertheless, the Sawamura Award has also been won by Matsuzaka, Iwakuma and other guys who eventually came to the big leagues like Hideo Nomo, Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka.

 

Also, the story of Eiji Sawamura, himself, and the 1934 American barnstorming tour that inspired his legend (as well as professional baseball in Japan) is so good that it’s worth retelling briefly here. In 1934, a group of American league all-stars (including future Hall of Famers, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Charlie Gehringer, Earl Averill and Lefty Gomez) came to Japan to play a group of Japanese amateurs. During one of the games, the 17-year-old Sawamura struck out Gehringer, Ruth, Gehrig and Foxx in succession, impressing American manager, Connie Mack, so much that he offered him a contract with his Philadelphia Athletics. The only issue was that, while the American baseball players were greeted as heroes everywhere they went in Japan, relations between the two countries was at a very low point, since, at the time, America was opposing Japan’s expansionist policies in Asia. And Sawamura turned down the contract saying, “My problem is I hate America and I can’t make myself like America.”

 

And this is where it really gets interesting. Because also on that American team was Moe Berg, known around the league as the brainiest guy in baseball. Berg was educated at Princeton, the Sorbonne in Paris, as well as Columbia Law. He is said to have read 10 papers a day and spoke seven languages, although teammates used to joke he couldn’t hit in any of them. The fact that Berg was such a mediocre catcher, and the fact that he later worked for the CIA (with a license to kill Werner Heisenberg if Berg suspected the Germans were close to developing an atomic bomb), has led to documentary shorts like 30 for 30‘s Spyball (I watched it) and books like, Banzai Babe Ruth: Baseball, Espionage & Assassination During the 1934 Tour of Japan (I’m thinking about it). I’m beginning to suspect Berg’s entire reason for being in Japan was to spy on the country. And that sounds to me like the most amazing movie that’s never been made. It’s Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own meets Tom Hanks in Bridge of Spies. I mean, holy shit.

 

Sawamura

 

On the Japanese side, the team was formed by media mogul and (I’m not kidding) judo master, Matsutaro Shoriki. And besides Sawamura, their other star pitcher was Victor Starrfin, “The Blue-Eyed Japanese.” Starrfin was born in Russia, but his family fled to Japan during the Revolution. Anyway, in 1934, his father was in jail on involuntary manslaughter charges and the family was being threatened with deportation back to the Soviet Union. So Shoriki actually blackmailed Starrfin to force him on to the team or else he’d cause a scandal in his newspapers. So Starrfin agreed, Shoriki eventually turned his team professional and they’d become the Yoriumi Tokyo Giants, the New York Yankees of Japan.

 

Starrfin would go on to become the first player in Japan to win 300 games. All with the added pressure of xenophobia surrounding his life and career there. In fact, during World War II, Starrfin was placed in a Japanese detention camp and years later, he eventually committed suicide. Meanwhile, Sawamura went on to pitch the first no-hitter in Japanese baseball history, as well as two more before, in a strange twist of fate, he was killed by American forces in combat during the war. And while Ruth’s playing days were numbered by 1934, the tour made him legendary in Japan and his name became an anti-American rallying cry for the Japanese who would yell, “To hell with Babe Ruth” during battles.

 

That whole tour sounds insane to me. And that story doesn’t even include Masaichi Kaneda (aka “The Emperor”), who won 400 games in Japan between 1950 and 1969, even though he played for the Kokutetsu Swallows, who were name-appropriately horrible. Kaneda is said to have thrown so hard that a game he played in his rookie season was stopped so that the umpires could make sure the pitchers’ mound was at the appropriate distance away from home plate. And towards the end of his career, his arm caused him so much pain that he actually developed an underhand change up. Like I said, rabbit hole. But I think it was worth it. Okay. Let’s get to this week’s stuff.

 

AL MVP: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros

 

Well, the Astros might be playing like total garbage right now, but you certainly can’t blame Altuve. Actually, you can’t blame Colby Rasmus either. But Altuve leads the league in WAR, wOBA, slugging and OPS. He’s also the shortest man in baseball. And he’s the only guy to be selected to an All-Star game in both leagues for the same team. I guess I’m trying to put a positive spin on things. The Astros are in big trouble.

 

AL Cy Young: Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox

 

I love the national attention that Chris Sale is getting all of a sudden. The White Sox have the best record in the American League. Sale is 5-0 and therefore we must assume he’s the early front-runner for this year’s AL Cy Young Award. And he was also my pre-season pick for the award, so I’m almost fine with it. However, if you look at advanced stats, Sale hasn’t even necessarily been the best pitcher on his own team so far this season. And I only say that because Sale’s FIP is a full run ahead of Jose Quintana’s, even though Quintana is merely 3-1. And despite Sale’s undoubtable greatness (and also the fact that I would put him neck-and-neck with David Price as the best overall pitcher in the American League), I’d say his current stats also rank behind Taijuan Walker, Price and Rich Hill as my #5 pick for the early Cy. I still think Sale will win it. But right now he’s already this year’s Zack Greinke.

 

The White Sox, by the way, are still projected to finish behind the Indians in the Central, which is kind of crazy considering Carlos Carrasco is out 4-6 weeks and nobody knows how healthy Michael Brantley is yet. But the White Sox swept the Rangers this week. And then they swept the Blue Jays, shutting out that offense for the first time this season. They also had that wacky 9-3-2-6-2-5 triple play. And they have the best team ERA in baseball. And they moved up to 19th in runs scored. All because of the loving memory of Drake LaRoche bonding them together or something. Even better for the White Sox, I don’t really know what’s going on in the rest of that division at this point, other than the Twins doing nice things for Prince (RIP) and Tyler Collins flipping everyone off in Detroit. Hey, maybe he’ll run in to Byron Buxton somewhere in the minors.

 

AL Rookie of the Year: Nomar Mazara, Texas Rangers

 

So… apparently Shin-Soo Choo is feeling better. And everyone still has huge expectations for Mazara.

 

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

 

I told you about this guy last week, but now he’s the NL leader in wOBA, batting average, on base percentage, slugging and OPS. So I gotta give it to him over Dexter Fowler and Bryce Harper. I understand that Fowler had been getting overlooked by everybody, but between all the talk about Harper and even Trevor Story and Maeda, I haven’t even heard anybody taking about Diaz yet. Sports Illustrated just did an article on all the young shortstops taking over baseball and didn’t even mention the 25-year-old Diaz once. So few people have talked about him that I don’t even really know how to say his name. Ah-Led-Mees? Uh-Led-Mee? I guess we could all be learning it real soon.

 

NL Cy Young Award: Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets

 

It’s been Thor every week so far this season. Except this time, the Mets are hot as shit and somehow knocking on the Nationals’ door for first place. After Tanner Roark struck out 15 Twins this week, Nationals fans were going apeshit about how good they were because he’s only their #4 starter. They were being declared the hyperbolic juggernaut we thought they would be last season. Bryce Harper was going to break Hack Wilson’s single-season RBI record from 1930. Dusty Baker was a goddamn tooth-picked genius. And nobody seemed to mind that the Nationals had only played shit teams so far. Now Neil Walker is the most-talked-about second baseman in Mets history (with apologies to only Edgardo Alfonzo). And Yoenis Cespedes is doing impressions of Kirk Gibson in 1988 out there. The Nats also just got swept by the Phillies. They haven’t scored in 22 consecutive innings. And by the time we talk next week, the New York Mets could have actually crawled out of their early season hole and back into the driver’s seat in the NL East.

 

All that being said, the Cubs are still the best team in baseball. This week, their run differential climbed to +74, which is so insane that fans of opposing teams are starting to claim that Pilates is a PED. Even when Jake Arrieta has an off night, he only gives up one run. And Arrieta doppelgänger, Jason Hammel, might have even better stats than Arrieta at this very moment. And next up the Cubs play the Atlanta Braves, who are truly terrible. As a Cubs fan, I think I can even wear my ‘Try Not to Suck’ t-shirt around L.A. under the radar without some hoodlum Dodger fan knowing what it is and wanting to stab me.

 

Brido cubs

 

Speaking of which…

 

I went to the Marlins-Dodgers game this week. And, for the most part, it was nice. I didn’t get to see any Yasiel Puig circus throws or catches. But I got to see Kershaw pitch. I got to see Ichiro’s 2,944th Major League hit. And I also had a pretty good view of the left field bleachers, where fans were getting into drunken fist fights and aggressively screaming at other fans in opposing baseball caps, indiscriminate of whether that team was in the same division or even the same league as their beloved Dodgers. This was a Tuesday night, mind you. In fucking April. All of which reminded me that this is Vin Scully’s last season in the broadcast booth after 67 seasons. The Dodgers just honored him by renaming Elysian Park Avenue ‘Vin Scully Avenue’. And he’s a man of unequivocal class and greatness. But to see that juxtaposed with the Mad Max/Idiocracy scene in left field is truly bizarre to me and completely unworthy of the man’s legacy or his final season.

 

Plus, it doesn’t even make sense. Most of those dipshit fans were gone by the 7th inning, anyway, with L.A. only down by 3 runs. So you’re telling me you’re willing to fight people and cause physical harm to anyone opposing your favorite baseball team, just as long as you don’t have to hit any traffic? That’s so stupid. And while I used to chalk up the drunkenness at Wrigley Field to the drunken culture surrounding Harry Caray. This just proves that I couldn’t have been more wrong. This is Vin Scully we’re talking about. The only way for my theory to work with Dodger Stadium is if Tuco Salamanca from Breaking Bad was announcing the games (had to throw in Tuco since we already had a Heisenberg). Which, on some level would be pretty entertaining. But it’s not necessarily a place you want to bring your family.

 

Okay. Check back in with me next week. And feel free to listen to me talk baseball on the MLB weekly recap of Joe Kilgallon’s podcast, “Comedians Talking Sports” on iTunes, Soundcloud or www.joekilgallon.com.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode III: The Greatest Pitching Staff of All Time)

Written by :
Published on : March 14, 2016

 

Ah, the Dog Days of March, am I right? The days when the initial excitement of Spring Training has probably started to wane and, admittedly, there’s not a whole lot going on in the game of baseball. I was going to use this week’s column to bash the kid in the ‘Dad Saves Son From Flying Baseball Bat’ photo for being on his fucking iPhone during a live baseball game. But then I realized the kid was nine-years-old, celebrating his birthday with his dad and adorably sending photos of the game to his mom back home. And I don’t want to sound like Goose Gossage telling Bryce Harper to get off his lawn or watching a Jose Bautista bat flip and wanting his country back. So this week, I’m going to do a continuation of a theme I’d touched on the previous week, and that’s hating on the New York Mets.

 

At some point last week, I heard Karl Ravech of ESPN say that he really thinks the young Mets staff is going to go down as the greatest pitching rotation of all time. My immediate reaction was to think, “Okay great. Now I know I never have to listen to anything Karl Ravech says ever again.” But the more I thought about it, the more I decided I should probably know which staffs in baseball history are currently in that conversation to begin with. I can’t just be some derpy politician claiming Hillary Clinton is the worst Secretary of State of all time if I can’t name anybody else who did the job. I mean, I assumed the Maddux-Glavine-Smoltz Braves teams of the nineties had to be in there somewhere. But I didn’t know if there was some rockstar Philadelphia A’s team in the 1920’s with Flippo Gumslaw and Pud Hayseed or some shit.

 

 

So I decided to look into it. And yes, it turns out the nineties Braves are the greatest pitching staff of all-time. I can go ahead confirm that for you right now. That’s based on the combined WAR of each team’s top four starters. And yes, I know everybody has a five man rotation now. And yes, I know the Mets might go with a six man this year. But I had to stay with four to keep things fairly even across eras. We good now? Okay. Let’s get back to the Braves. I could have just said “Seven Cy Youngs, 873 wins and three first-ballot Cooperstown plaques” and dropped the mic. But again, what about the Flippos and Puds of the world?

 

What I found is that, for the top four starters on any given team, a combined WAR of 15 means a staff is pretty good. An 18 means they’re really good. And anything above a 20 is basically all-time great. Last year’s Mets staff (where the best four were Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Bartolo Colon) got a 15.2 combined WAR. Their projections for 2016 (with Steven Matz replacing Colon as the #4) are also between a 15 and 16. Just so we’re all clear, let’s look at what those nineties Braves staffs did.

 

1993. Maddux. Avery. Smoltz. Glavine.         19.8
1994. Maddux. Glavine. Avery. Smoltz.         15.6*
1995. Maddux. Smoltz. Glavine. Avery.         19.3
1996. Smoltz. Maddux. Glavine. Avery.         23.9
1997. Maddux. Smoltz. Neagle. Glavine.       23.5
1998. Maddux. Smoltz. Glavine. Milwood.     20.8
1999. Maddux. Milwood. Smoltz. Glavine.    20.7

* Strike-shortened.

 

That’s insane. But when I looked through all the stats, I also realized just how rare it was for a team to have that many quality starters to get to a 18-20 WAR. Especially after the Dead Ball Era. For a pre-Babe-Ruth Era team (when the players were white, but the balls were not) to be in the ‘best of all time’ running, they usually had to revolve around a Hall of Fame-level super-ace like Christy Mathewson or Walter Johnson. And while there have been plenty of amazing individual single-season pitching performances over the years, the idea of a dominant staff is a much more recent phenomenon. In other words, aces come and go. That part is fairly easy. The hard part is getting yourself a Steve Avery – the Braves’ #4 pitcher, not the beloved Manitowoc County murderer from the Internet.

 

So who’s the second-best rotation ever, you ask? Surely it must be the Sandy Koufax/Don Drysdale Los Angeles Dodgers of the 1960’s or the Randy Johnson/Curt Schilling Diamondbacks of the early 2000’s or that 2011 Phillies team with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. Nope, Nope and Nope. While those teams are up there near the very top, I’d say the second-best staff of all-time and the placeholders before the Braves came around were the 1969-1970 Chicago Cubs. Seriously. Well, I guess it’s hard to be a placeholder, when nobody back then had advanced stats and everybody would have just been looking at stuff like win totals and then slobbering over overrated teams like the 1971 Orioles, who had four 20-game winners, but a combined WAR of 14.8. But that Cubs staff anchored by Fergie Jenkins, Ken Holtzman and Bill Hands put up a crazily-impressive 23.4 in 1969 and a best-ever-in-history 24.7 in 1970.

 

 Ken Holtzman

 

And while it may be easy on the surface of things to poo-poo a Cubs staff led by a 3rd-ballot Hall of Famer and some other dudes you’ve never heard of (especially when the 1969 Cubs are synonymous with curses, black cats and choking) just realize that Jenkins is one of the more underrated pitchers of all-time, Holtzman threw TWO no hitters in his career and also the cold hard fact that no other team in the history of baseball besides the ’96-’97 Braves ever put up those kind of combined WAR numbers. Like, ever. Not the Christy Mathewson-led New York Giants. Not the Walter Johnson-led Washington Senators. Not the Flippo Gumshaw/Pud Hayseed Philadelphia Athletics of the pretend 1920’s. Not even even those ’72-’74 Oakland teams where Holtzman ended up winning three World Series rings. And they did it all in Wrigley Field, which isn’t necessarily known as a pitching-friendly park. The numbers are there, whether you’ve Googled these guys or not (and fun fact: Googling ‘Bill Hands’ in 2016 gets you some equally interesting results on both Bills Cosby and Clinton).

 

All of this is probably why people like Karl Ravech think they have a point. A staff as deep as the current Mets are on paper is a rare sight in baseball history. And we don’t celebrate many of the other great staffs in history besides Glavine, Smoltzie and the Professor. Individual pitchers, yes. But great staffs, not so much. So it seems easier to spout off about ‘greatest ever’ without some asshole like me with the free time to do some basic fact checking. And since we’re dealing with the entire history of baseball here, the 1990 Mets had Dwight Gooden, Frank Viola, David Cone and Sid Fernandez. Their combined WAR was 20.8. There’s also three Cy Young Award winners, 14 All-Star Games and 10 World Series rings among them. Call me when this Mets staff even approaches that level. In fact, call me when they approach the 1976 Mets (19.0 WAR) with Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Jon Matlack and Mickey Lolich. And know that just because you don’t know something, it doesn’t give you the right to spout off about it with confidence.

 

You really think this Mets staff is going to go down as the greatest of all-time? Keep checking your iPhone for it to happen. Maybe your dad will save you seconds before a bat smashes you in your stupid face.

 

 


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)

 

 


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.

 

 

 


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