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 XXI: Crazy Trade Deadline. Crazier Cubs Game)

Written by :
Published on : August 5, 2016

 

 

Well, the trade deadline has come and gone. And it was a wild one. Maybe the craziest one ever. Since we last spoke, the Rangers got Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Beltran. The Indians got Andrew Miller. And they didn’t get Lucroy. The Giants got Matt Moore and Will Smith. The Dodgers got Rich Hill and Josh Reddick. And they couldn’t unload Yasiel Puig. The Nationals got Mark Melancon. The Mets got Jay Bruce. The Marlins got Andrew Cashner. Chris Sale’s scissors stayed in Chicago. And now we can finally talk about what’s actually going on on the field. Yay!

 

On Sunday, the Cubs and Mariners played in one of the wackiest, most amazing games I’ve ever seen in my life. First of all, it’s best that we don’t speak Brian Matusz’ name ever again. The first three innings were essentially batting practice for Seattle and they went up 6-0 on homers before Theo Epstein shipped Matusz off to Siberia, or wherever starters with 14.00 ERAs go to repent. Maybe Baltimore?

 

Anyway, Carl Edwards Jr. came in in the 4th and 5th to stop the bleeding for the Cubs, striking out five of the six batters he faced. At this point, I was getting text messages from my brother-in-law as if the Cubs were somehow back in the game. I’d already received multiple texts on the disaster Siberia Boy had caused. But now I started hearing some optimism from my multiple Cubs text messaging groups. You read that correctly. Anyway, the Cubs did manage to get on the board in the bottom of the 5th when Felix Hernandez walked Ben Zobrist with the bases loaded and then plunked Addison Russell while they were still loaded, making it 6-2.

 

 

In the 6th, it looked like the Mariners were going to tack on to their lead after Joe Nathan came in and decided he was too old to be of any use. So Travis Wood replaced him on the mound and, after walking Seth Smith to load the bases, he promptly struck out Shawn O’Malley and Leonys Martin and got Robinson Cano to pop out. It was still 6-2 and Wood was out of a jam. The fun part was, in the 7th, Pedro Strop came in to relieve Wood, but Joe Maddon didn’t take Wood out of the game. He sent him out to play left field. And that same inning, he happened to make a spectacular catch into the ivy on a Franklin Gutierrez line drive. And that’s when Wrigley Field went nuts and my phone started to blow up. Oh, and apparently, when Wood came back to the dugout, Cubs’ catcher, David Ross, jokingly gave Wood some guff for not hitting the cutoff man after his catch. To which Wood just replied, “Fuck you.” Amazing.

 

In the bottom of the 7th, Zobrist tripled in Dexter Fowler, making it 6-3. And then in the 8th, Wood came back in from left to pitch. Because Maddon is apparently a tortured artistic genius. And was just getting started. Wood then picked off O’Malley as he tried to steal second for the 3rd out in the inning. Out of left field, indeed. Fuck you, indeed.

 

In the bottom of the 9th, with one out, the Cubs rallied with a double by Anthony Rizzo and singles by Zobrist and Russell, making it 6-4. Jason Heyward was then hit by a pitch, loading the bases. And then Wilson Contreras beat a throw to first on a bases-loaded double play attempt, making it 6-5. At this point, my wife did not want to watch the game. But when Seattle reliever, Steve Cishek, unloaded a wild pitch to the backstop, scoring Russell to tie the game, even she was like, “Oh my god!” as Wrigley, my phone and my mouth started screaming in unison. I guess Seattle was screaming too, since Cishek has since lost his job as closer. But that’s not my problem.

 

 

Fast forward to the bottom of the 12th, still tied 6-6. And say what you want about Jason Heyward’s season at the plate. He’s still the best defensive outfielder in the National League this year (and probably 3rd overall, after Kevin Pillar and Adam Eaton). And yes, he’s hitting .231, with an OPS+ of 73 (jesus). But he still has a 1.4 WAR and he was about to show some offensive value. With an 0-2 count, Heyward cranked a double off the top of the wall in right-center that came about a foot away from ending the game. Then he made his way to 3rd on a Contreras sac fly. And I don’t think a majority of Major Leaguers are beating that throw.

 

What happened next was full-on bizarre. With Hector Rondon’s spot in the order up next, the only pinch hitter Maddon could use was a starting pitcher. And instead of going with Jake Arrieta (who is hitting .279 with 2 home runs, but also strikes out half of the time), Maddon went with Jon Lester, who has a whopping seven career hits, but also only strikes out 30% of the time. I really don’t know. I just stopped questioning Maddon.

 

 

With two strikes on him, Lester actually laid down a perfect safety squeeze, scoring Heyward with the perfect head-first slide and the winning run. And nothing will ever be the same again. Lester got mobbed. Maddon kept doing his Beautiful Mind baseball math equations in the dugout. Everybody else lost their own minds. And it’s probably going to be a game I revisit for years to come.

 

Hey, you might not like the Cubs as much as I do. But at least that’s not trade talk. Let’s go around the league.

 

The AL East

Dylan Bundy might be the savior of the pitching-starved Orioles this season, as well as the most exciting American League rookie not born in Germany. And with the addition of Wade Miley, they might actually have a real 5th starter for the first time. I still think the Blue Jays are going to win the division. Especially if Troy Tulowitzki’s thumb doesn’t fall off. Aaron Sanchez is a legit Cy Young candidate. And it turns out they’re not moving him to the pen, after all. The Red Sox are waiting for any of Dave Dombrowski’s moves to pay off. And just when you thought we could finally stop talking about the Yankees now that they dealt Miller and Beltran and Aroldis Chapman, they have to figure out how to break up with Alex Rodriguez.

 

The AL Central 

One of the most interesting playoff scenarios (besides Texas-Toronto) is probably going to be between Cleveland and Texas, since Lucroy shut down the trade that would have made him battery mates with Miller and Corey Kluber and Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco and Jeff Tomlin and Trevor Bauer and whatever other awesome arm he didn’t feel like catching. Until he went to Texas, I just assumed that Lucroy was an idiot. Either that or he saw the RNC and pictured Cleveland as a dystopian wasteland. But as of now, he might be getting the last laugh because Salazar is on the DL and Cleveland might not even win their division.

 

 

That’s because the Tigers are creeping. They’ve won eight of their last ten and are only 3 back of the Indians. Because while the Indians are 26-8 against the rest of their division (including 11-1 against the Tigers), they just cannot beat the Twins. So maybe if the Eastern teams beat up on each other down the stretch and Cleveland goes on another cold streak, the Motor City Kitties can slide in to the playoffs. 1908 World Series rematch, baby!

 

The AL West

A few weeks ago I was SURE the Astros were going to overtake the Rangers in the standings or at least move in to a Wild Card slot. But they got swept by the Tigers and now it looks like the Rangers are running away with this thing once again. I know AJ Griffin and Cole Hamels were their only starters to win in July. But with Lucroy and Beltran and a returning Shin-Soo Choo, that lineup is sick. The baseball pundits keep trying to sell me on the Mariners as a team to watch. And I’ll buy it as long as every game is as good as Sunday’s against the Cubs.

 

The NL East

The Nationals are viewed as trade deadline losers because they couldn’t land Chapman or Miller, but if that’s the case, why aren’t 27 other teams deadline losers? Mark Melancon is still a strong reliever. And they didn’t have to give up Lucas Giolito to get him. Then again, I’ve waited all season for Daniel Murphy to cool off. And now it’s August and he’s still hitting .358. The second best batting average in the league belongs to Wilson Ramos at .331. All that has to make them feel better about Bryce Harper hitting .234. What happened, breh?

 

The NL Central

 

Clayton Kershaw hasn’t pitched since June 26th, so he’s about to fall off all the NL leader boards due to inactivity. When that happens, Kyle Hendricks might actually have the best ERA of any starter in baseball. We can hold off with any Hendricks Cy Young talk for the time being. But these are the types of things I can talk about while the Cubs are hot. The Cubs were 11-17 without Fowler in the lineup. Now he’s back. The bullpen is upgraded. And John Lackey didn’t come here for a haircut. He came here for jewelry.

 

The NL West

The Giants have only won 5 games since the All-Star break. But with Hunter Pence and Joe Panik back in the lineup, as well as the additions of Eduardo Nunez, Moore and Smith, they might start to look like that Even Year team everyone seems to want. I don’t want it. But like, people who say words on TV seem to. But man, the Dodgers really need to take advantage of the Giants’ skid. I know they went 15-9 in July. And that they scored a lot of runs during that stretch. But only the Dodgers, who have seemingly had every single one of their starters on the DL this year, would actually go out to acquire another injured starter. But mostly everybody wants to talk about Yasiel Puig’s demotion from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Oklahoma City Dodgers. And then if he’s not careful, to the Tulsa Drillers, the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes and then the Great Lake Loons. Then maybe on a flight back to Cienfuegos. Remember 2013? Sigh.

 

The Rockies also got hot and were creeping up the division standings, as well as the Wild Card, but then Trevor Story went out for the season, destroying the worldview of every baseball fan who also loves shit-awful puns. I’m just thankful Jose Reyes went to the Mets and not Story, because of all the new lows the New York Post‘s headlines haven’t had to sink to yet.

 

 

Okay! That does it for this week. If you need more baseball, be sure to check me out on “Comedians Talking Sports” MLB recaps with Joe Kilgallon, available at all the podcast places. Until then, Ichiro needs 2 hits and the Cubs’ magic number is 46.

 

 


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