Angelino in the Outfield (Episode VIII: Bottom of the 1st)

Written by :
Published on : April 22, 2016

 

 

Two years ago, I took my wife to watch a baseball game at Angel Stadium in Anaheim. And I pointed to center field and said, “That’s Mike Trout. He’s the best player in baseball.” That same game, Trout went 0-for-3 with a walk and my wife said, “I didn’t think he was all that good.” Now I know that what we’re dealing with now isn’t that much bigger of a sample size than my wife saw in 2014. But through the first two weeks of this season, Trout had really struggled, hitting only .220 and looking especially un-Trout-like on off-speed pitches.

 

On the other hand, Bryce Harper has been on an absolute tear in Washington. Sure, the Nationals have only played garbage teams. But still, they’re off to their best start in club history, thanks in large part to Harper, who might actually be better than he was in last year’s MVP season. And that’s truly scary. He’s improved his contact rate. He’s cut down on chasing pitches out of the zone. And that’s led him to currently have more walks than he has strikeouts. Not to mention hitting his second grand slam of the season in as many tries on Tuesday night, which was also his fifth home run in six games. Plus, having Dusty Baker in the dugout doesn’t really hinder everyone from making the comparison between Harper and Barry Bonds, who Baker managed in San Francisco from 1993-2002.

 

 

So… are we ready to officially declare Bryce Harper the best player in baseball? That was the big question this week. Which is not meant to disparage Trout, by any means. There’s no question he’ll improve. Everybody knows that. And it looks like he’s heating up as we speak. But even so, Harper’s WAR was slightly higher than Trout’s last season. And, like I said, he seems to be getting somehow better. So even if Trout rebounds to a .300/.400/.550 hitter with a 9 WAR, would it even be enough? With the NL East the way it is, I’m not so sure it will be. But as of right now, I’d say Mike Trout is still the best player in baseball. I’m not quite calling it a ‘clown question, bro’ (had to) but check back in with me after Harper is still doing this against teams that aren’t the fuck awful Braves, Phillies or Marlins.

 

And please don’t get me wrong. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; Harper is legit, the Nationals are legit. They were my pick to win their division, even when everybody else was picking the Mets. Especially if they stay healthy for once. Plus, what were they supposed to do – not beat the shit-ass teams they’ve beaten? Is Daniel Murphy not supposed to try to be the Lou Gehrig to Harper’s Babe Ruth, just because I hate him so much and because he probably thinks the Iron Horse is a down low bar in D.C. where he could run in to a lot of ‘like-minded’ conservatives who are totes just there because they “play such good house music” or whatever?

 

I’ll get over Murphy and last year’s NLCS at some point. I promise. But all that being said, the best team in baseball is still the Chicago Cubs. I think that’s safe to say at this point. I just watched their 16-0 drubbing of the Cincinnati Reds where Jake Arrieta just so happened to throw his second career no-hitter (the second-most lopsided no-no since Pud Galvin of the Buffalo Bisons defeated the Detroit Wolverines 18-0 in 1884). And it’s probably the greatest Cubs game I’ve ever seen in my life. Arrieta is 15-0 in his last 16 starts. He’s had 24 consecutive quality starts. And he also hasn’t given up a run at Wrigley Field since last July 25th. It’s bananas. Actually, all of their starters worked at least six innings in their first 14 games, which is also bananas. And even Jon Lester’s crazy, blooper-reel throws to first are getting outs. Just in case you needed more bananas.

 

 

What Lester should do is take a few throwing lessons from Jason Heyward, who those hillbilly Cardinal fans can boo all they want. Did you see that throw he made to nail Matt Holliday at the plate on Tuesday? He may have been 0-for-9 in those first two games of the series and batting .170 at the time, but that D don’t slump, son. And if Daniel Murphy is reading this, I’m talking about his defense. Double burn.

 

Anyway, with that pitching and that defense, the Cubs also lead the Majors in walks. Which is why their run differential still has them looking like the ’39 Yankees, even though Dexter Fowler is the only guy on the team with a batting average north of .260. But once those bats heat up, oh man, it’s crotch chop city in the Bridenstine household.

 

Man. It’s so weird to be this excited about the Cubs in April. But, again, let me have this.

 

This Week’s NL MVP: Dexter Fowler, Chicago Cubs

 

He leads the league in wOBA, WAR and OBP. Harper and Murphy lead in about everything else. Fowler really has been the only consistent weapon for that offense throughout April (not counting that 16-0 clinic). And he’s also done it against teams that have actually won more games than they’ve lost. Seriously, there are rumors that even the Braves’ ground crew is phoning it in. I’m just saying.

 

This Week’s NL Cy Young: Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets

There was a brief moment right after I submitted last week’s post where I could have given it to Vincent Velasquez of the Phillies. But other than that, Thor has had this on lockdown. I’m sure Arrieta and/or Clayton Kershaw (with his new 46 mph eephus) will eventually put an end to this. But any time you’re getting compared to J.R. Richard and (especially) Nolan Ryan on a consistent basis, you’re doing something right. And it looks like the rest of his team might be ready to start turning things around too. The defending National League champions are not a .500 team, no matter how much I want them to be.

 

This Week’s NL Rookie of the Year: Aledmys Diaz, St. Louis Cardinals

 

You can probably tell that I do not like the Birds on Bats, but you have to just shake your head and shrug at their next man up mentality. First Jhonny Peralta goes down. Then Ruben Tejada goes down. Then like, 17 other shortstops go down in a game of shortstop dominos and next thing you know, there’s a 20th string shortstop in St. Louis hitting .385. And it’s not like it’s just him, either. They also have Greg Garcia and Jeremy Hazelbaker doing the same shit. And then Seung-hwan Oh in their bullpen. Oh, by the way, has two amazing nicknames that you need to know. They called him ‘Stone Buddha’ for showing no emotion when he pitched in Korea and Japan. And also, ‘The Final Boss’, which as far as relief pitcher nicknames go, has got to be in the top 5. Trevor Story is still having his moment in Colorado. But in terms of overall WAR, this week it’s Diaz.

 

This Week’s AL MVP: Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles

With all the Harper vs. Trout talk this week, I guess everyone forgot that Manny Machado is the best player on the (current) best team in the AL and he leads in every offensive category that Josh Donaldson doesn’t. I feel like more people talk about Adam Jones, Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo than they do Machado. And the only time this guy should come in 4th in a baseball conversation is if the first three people mentioned are Harper, Trout and Donaldson.

 

This Week’s AL Cy Young: Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox

 

That Sox staff has been insane so far. Chris Sale is 4-0. Mat Latos has been outstanding, which is odd to say. And the guy with the second-lowest FIP in baseball (and tied for the AL lead in WAR) is actually the 1-1 Quintana. Actually, his FIP is almost a full run better than the 3-0 0.00 ERA’d Jordan Zimmermann of the Tigers, who apparently gets a little bit of help from Jose Iglesias at short. The White Sox have been doing well early. And they’re probably a little annoyed by all the attention on the North Side. But just imagine what this team would look like if they weren’t also 24th in baseball in runs scored.

 

This Week’s AL Rookie of the Year: Tyler White, Houston Astros

He’s still my pick, even though everybody would rather talk about Nomar Mazara in Texas and what they’ll eventually do once Shin Soo-Choo returns. We should be talking about the regression of that Astros staff and how it’s squandering some great individual performances by White, Jose Altuve and Colby Rasmus though. Because right now, the Astros are in a category with the Yankees and Twins as AL doormats. And in a league with this much parity, that is not an ideal place to be.

 

Okay. See you next week. Where hopefully, I can be even more annoying about the Cubs.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode VII: Top of the 1st)

Written by :
Published on : April 17, 2016

 

 

Yeah, yeah. It’s still early. The Orioles have been amazing. The Mets have not. A lot of things are happening in baseball right now that aren’t necessarily supposed to be happening. I get it. There’s also been sub 40 degree weather and even snow flurries in a few games. And you don’t necessarily associate those things with baseball either. So it’s not quite time for most of these teams to freak out about anything just yet. That being said, these games still totally count. And these stats still totally count. Just like everything that happens in the top of the 1st inning of a game still totally counts. And that’s really mathematically how we should think about the first 9 games of the season.

 

I mean, everybody is still trying to find hope and meaning and clues in the smallest of things to see what the rest of the way to October will look like. But it’s still just the top of the 1st. Almost anything can and will happen. The bad news for the Twins and the Braves is that no team to lose their first seven games has ever made it to the postseason in the history of baseball. And I think only one team to ever go 0-8 even had a winning season. The good news for both of them is that they play each other at the end of July in a bizarro 25th anniversary rematch of that epic ’91 World Series and somebody will have to win. Okay! Let’s get started.

 

 

Are the Orioles for real? That was the biggest question this past week when the Orioles were the lone remaining undefeated team. And the obvious answer is probably not. But like, maybe. Hear me out. Before the season started, I listened to Tim Kurkjian of ESPN say that only 8 teams could go to the World Series from the NL. But in the American League, every single team had a shot. Then he added, “Even the Orioles.” Which shocked and dismayed the other baseball analysts who all do their best (but fail miserably) to hide their undying love for the Boston Red Sox.

 

But the Orioles almost make sense. Almost, I said. Baltimore isn’t THIS good. But we already knew they would hit a bunch of home runs. And that they play solid defense. And that they have a good bullpen. And that Manny Machado is awesome. So it makes sense that if their starting pitching could hold it together long enough to keep that offense in the game, they would always have a shot. It’s almost the exact same argument everyone made for the Blue Jays before the season started. The main difference is that Baltimore’s rotation is supposed to be terrible. And it hasn’t been thus far. But we shall see.

 

Speaking of terrible, don’t feel too bad for Pablo Sandoval, his mysterious shoulder injury or his exploding belt. Homeboy is owed $70 million through 2019. And I don’t know if David Ortiz watched Kobe go out with 60 points on Wednesday night, but it looks like he’s trying to do the baseball equivalent of the same thing. You know, overachieve for a team that won’t make the playoffs. I keed the Red Sox. They still have the highest projected playoff percentage in the AL I’m just waiting for somebody to explain to me why.

 

Sandoval

 

The most compelling division in the American League remains the AL Central, which arguably has the three best teams in the league right now. It feels like every single pitcher on the White Sox is amazing. It feels like every single pitcher on the Royals is amazing. The Tigers just took 3 out of 4 from the Pirates. And it looks like this whole Jordan Zimmermann thing is working out for them. The crazy thing is, it’s the Cleveland Indians who are still projected to win that division. None of this bodes well for Minnesota. But you probably already figured that out by now. Miguel Sano is about 60 points south of the Mendoza Line. Byron Buxton isn’t much better. And Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies has more RBI than the Twins do as an entire team. If they don’t drastically improve by next week’s column, I’m declaring them officially dead and over.

 

Do you know who the projected winner in the AL West is? It’s still the Houston Astros, who are currently in dead last place in the division. Actually, if the Twins didn’t exist, I might tell you the Astros had been the worst team in the league so far. Tyler White has been great. Colby Rasmus has been great. Carlos Correa has been good. But that staff ERA is north of 5, which is Boston-level terrible. I keed the Red Sox. The only good news for the Astros is that nobody else in the division wants to win that bad so far either. The fortunes of the Rangers might change with Nomar Mazara in right. But until somebody in the Nolan Ryan Division spends more than a day in first place, I’m not willing to trust anything.

 

Week 2 AL MVP & Rookie of the Year: Tyler White, Houston Astros

 

I still have no idea who this dude is. But the idea of considering Brian McCann the best hitter in the American League makes no sense either.

 

Week 2 AL Cy Young: Edinson Volquez, Kansas City Royals

If that is his real name. I really don’t know. He signed to the Rangers as ‘Julio Reyes’ in 2001. Then he went as Edison (with no extra ‘n’) from 2004-2007. He should have changed his name again after that 50 game suspension for PEDs in 2010, but I’ll try to forget that for now.

 

Now for the NL

Since we last spoke, Kyle Schwarber went down for the season with a torn ACL and LCL. And I love Kyle Schwarber. As my buddy, Mike Burns, said last year during the playoffs, “Kyle Schwarber looks like he eats baseballs.”  So I’m really bummed about his injury. That being said, I’m pretty sure this team is going to be okay. As of now, the Cubs far and away lead the Majors in run differential. There’s no glaring weakness in their batting order. And this has all the makings of a really fun summer for yours truly.

 

In the Cubs home opener at Wrigley, Addison Russell’s go-ahead home run made the fans go so crazy that it shook the press box. Cubs’ announcer, Len Kasper, said he hadn’t experienced that happening since Kerry Wood’s home run in Game 7 of the 2003 NLCS. Of course, at the time, Kasper was the announcer of the Florida Marlins. And it was the day after the Bartman game. But I remember that home run well. It tied the game at 3 in the bottom of the 2nd. I jumped up and down screaming like a lunatic, watching by myself in my apartment in Chicago. And while the Cubs ended up losing that game 9-6, at that moment the fans truly believed it was going to happen, if only for that brief moment. And that’s what it’s like right now to be a Cubs fan. Let me have this.

 

Russell

 

It’s also got to be fun to be a Nationals fan right now. Bryce Harper is breaking scoreboards. Daniel Murphy is reminding me of why I hate him. And then Jonathan Papelbon is slamming the door. They were playing the lowly Braves, but still. And if the Braves didn’t exist, we’d really have to talk about the last place New York Mets, who apparently hate to score runs. The fact that Noah Syndergaard has pitched the way he has in his first two outings and still somehow has a no decision is borderline criminal. And other than Thor, it’s almost time to put that ‘greatest pitching staff of all time’ shit to bed. Unless Bartolo Colon’s ‘Fattest Willy Mays Ever’ impression counts for something. I think the word I’m looking for is ‘schadenfreude’. Stupid Mets.

 

If the Dodgers don’t want anyone to notice their middle relief sucking, then they shouldn’t blow the game when Ross Stripling is out there in the rain trying to become the first pitcher since Bumpus Jones in 1892 to throw a no-hitter in his Major League debut. Not necessarily the most fun position for Dave Roberts to be in in his fifth game as manager. Also not fun: Zack Greinke is 0-2 with a 9.90 ERA for the Diamondbacks. And Shelby Miller is 0-1 with a 8.18 ERA. Yuck. But let’s talk about who is doing well…

 

Week 2 NL MVP: Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals

I was actually going to choose Trevor Story just because I hate Murphy so much. But it also makes me happy that the Mets’ anemic offense has to look at the stat sheets and see what it lost. You know, when they’re not buying horses and pigs and tricked out whips and sucking at baseball.

 

Week 2 NL Cy Young: Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets

 

I think we’d better get used to him in this slot. Greatest one man staff of all time, everybody.

 

Week 2 NL Rookie of the Year: Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies

Yeah, he’s not done yet. I thought for sure I’d be handing it to Jeremy Hazelbaker of the St. Louis Cardinals this week. But Story leads the Majors in home runs and almost hit two more that would have been gone if the Rockies didn’t raise their fence. Just to be clear, three of the five best hitters in baseball right now are rookies. That’s nuts. The other two are Murphy and McCann. We’ll see how long this lasts.

 

Alright! Tune in next week as we begin the bottom of the 1st.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode VI: Opening Week)

Written by :
Published on : April 10, 2016

 

I love opening week. Everything is possible. Every team has a chance. And we’re already speaking hyperbolically about everybody we’ve seen, even though there are like, 159 games left. “The Red Sox need pitching! They have nothing after David Price!” That was the consensus around baseball this past week. And at that point Boston was 1-1. “The Cardinals have no hitting! Their pitching will have to carry them all season!” That was another one. At that point St. Louis was 0-1. And so forth and so on. I mean, both are probably true. But it’s April. You didn’t even know who Trevor Story was a week ago. You might forget all about him by June. And by the time I write this next week, the Padres might have more RBI than Kenta Maeda. We don’t really know. All that being said, I think it’s about time I put out my official predictions for the season to come for the very last time and also look at the Opening Week that was.

 

AL East

Stroman

 

I’m going with the Toronto Blue Jays. But mainly because I’m buying in on Marcus Stroman. I like the swag. I like that he beat Chris Archer head-to-head on opening day. And he looks like he’s going to help an otherwise so-so rotation (except for Aaron Sanchez, apparently) from ruining that great offensive output. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are playing for contracts. Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki are also going to hit. And Kevin Pillar is trying to out-Kiermaier Kevin Kiermaier in center field. I think they’ll repeat as the division champions.

The Orioles and Yankees may lead after a few games (and I have no idea what’s going on with Starlin Castro, other than he likes to make huge debuts and then slowly let you down over time), but I’m still not sold on the Orioles’ pitching (even though, WOW! so far) or the Yankees’ collective age. Didi Gregorius and Castro may only be 26. But they also both hit .265 last year, so let’s not act like this is Derek Jeter and Tony Lazzeri quite yet. And I love the Rays’ pitching. I just don’t think Steven Souza Jr. is going to head up that offense. And I’ve never been sold on the Red Sox. We honestly didn’t need Clay Bucholz to suck to know that rotation has no depth past Price. At least Papi seems to be hitting. And maybe Mookie Betts will eventually warrant all the overblown hype. We’ll see.

 

AL Central  

Volquez

 

I’m picking the Royals to win the division, even though I really don’t want to. And I’ve got the Indians in the Wild Card. Edinson Volquez looked great in his debut. And we know that the Royals just do whatever it is that they do to win. I do feel like they’ve been extremely lucky with their lack of injuries the past two seasons and that the whole thing could be derailed. Because honestly, I think this division should be wide open.

I’m taking Cleveland because of their pitching. But the White Sox have that in spades too. And if they keep hitting with Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton and Todd Frazier in that lineup, I’ll completely forget about Drake LaRoche’s shitty homeschooling. I already gave my picks on a podcast before the season started, or I might go back and retroactively pick them. And as I type this, the Tigers are also 3-1, beating Jose Fernandez in their second game. And the 0-5 Twins need to show me something. Other than that they can lose to the Orioles.

 

AL West

Correa

 

I’m taking the Rangers to win the division and the Astros to win the Wild Card. Even though right now, it looks like Robinson Cano is going to hit 200 home runs and the Mariners will walk away with this thing. Hey, everybody seemed to pick the Mariners for the World Series last year until Cano had his worst season since 2008. He hit three bombs (one to each field) in the spring training game I saw on Easter, so who knows?

I just feel like the Rangers have too many weapons. And people are already arguing whether or not Carlos Correa is the best player in baseball. Because a rookie season and three games in 2016 trump everything Mike Trout and Bryce Harper have ever done. It’s April, like I said. This is what we do. So let’s already give awards while we’re at it…

 

Opening Week A.L. MVP: Starlin Castro, New York Yankees
In Castro’s debut with the Cubs in 2010, he became the first Major League player born in the 90’s. Then he homered in his first at bat. Then he set a record with 6 RBI in his debut game. Long story short, he made a lot of errors and wasn’t very good after 2011. Cut to 2016, and Castro is making the most of his Yankees debut, where he leads the league in RBI, SLG , OPS and WAR. And I don’t know if he still has the same walk-up song as he did with the Cubs, but that was THE jam.

 

Opening Week AL Cy Young: , Toronto Blue Jays

 

Advanced stats tell me it’s Jake Odorizzi of the Rays or Chris Tillman of the Orioles for striking out almost everybody he saw in those two innings, but I like the story of a guy who fought for the 5th spot in the Blue Jays’ rotation in spring training and emerged big in his first start of the season with the club. I don’t even know if he’ll end up in that rotation or in the bullpen, but whatever, man. Dude was good in the first go-round.

 

Opening Week A.L. Rookie of the Year: Tyler White, Houston Astros
I don’t know anything about this guy other than that he’s 25, he was a 33rd round draft pick and that he currently leads the American League in batting average and OBP. You know, after those three games.

 

Let’s do the National League.

 

NL East

Harper

 

I’m picking the Nationals with the Mets in the Wild Card. And that’s about exactly how things look as I type this. I’ve already written way too much about both teams. But what I didn’t know was that new acquisition and known homophobe, Daniel Murphy, would look every bit as good as Bryce Harper through the first three games for the Nationals. Also, I hate him.

 

NL Central

Arrieta

 

I’m picking the Cubs to win it all. You already knew that. I’m not changing my mind. And after a lot of internal debate, I decided not to take the Cardinals or the Pirates in the Wild Card. And I think I might be regretting that after Pittsburgh’s three game sweep of St. Louis to start the season. If Juan Nicasio can be that #3 starter after Cole and Liriano, they’re going to be hard to put away. Not to mention Tyler Glasnow showing up in July. Plus, didn’t they start off slow last year? Ugh. The good news for me is that the Cubs are fucking ridiculous.

I was there opening day in Anaheim. There is no Jake Arrieta regression to speak of. Then Lester looked great the next game. And he seems to be getting more comfortable in the National League, pickoff moves or not. Then there’s the fact that the Cubs have scored 29 runs in three games, which is somehow second to the Dodgers, who’ve played four. The only damper was the Schwarber injury which is a sobering reminder that, while embracing the bullseye, anything can happen. As I knock on wood nervously. But the sky really is the limit for that team. And the Reds are also 4-1, but somebody does have to play the Phillies after all.

 

NL West  

Seager

 

I like the Dodgers to win the division and the Giants in the Wild Card. And I said that before the Dodgers destroyed San Diego in the first three games. I expect a lot from Corey Seager and just assume they’ll buy away whatever their weaknesses are by the trade deadline. Conveniently for my choice, Clayton Kershaw (obvs), Scott Kazmir and Kenta Maeda looked great in their first starts. And Yasiel Puig could have finally decided he wants to be awesome. Inconveniently for my choice, the Giants might be even better.

They’re really deep and that park is only going to help Johnny Cueto. Who I never liked was the Arizona Diamondbacks, and they’re trying desperately to prove me right. It’s a shame AJ Pollock is out. And while Jean Segura and David Peralta seem like they’re trying to pick up the slack, it looks like that pitching staff is a dud. You know, four games in.

 

Opening Week N.L. MVP: Dexter Fowler, Chicago Cubs.    
You may think I’m still high from Fowler’s surprise return to the Cubs in spring training. But he’s also been killing it in the first three games (and almost killing Kyle Schwarber in the process) going 7 for 12 with a double, a triple and a home run. And with that tiny sample size, he’s tied for the Major League lead in WAR and 4th in the Majors in wOBA. And Schwarber really had no chance at that ball.

 

Opening Week N.L. Cy Young: Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets.

 

Of all the great one game pitching performances in the past week, Syndergaard’s was probably the best. The Royals can play “American Woman” when he takes the mound all they want. Thor doesn’t care. And either does that nasty slider.

 

Opening Week N.L. Rookie of the Year: Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies.
Eventually we’ll all get over his last name. But in the past week, Story became the first player in Major League history to hit home runs in his first three games. Including two off of Zack Greinke in the opener. His first four big league hits were also home runs. And he hasn’t even played in Denver yet. He may not be the best hitter on his team thus far (that would be DJ LeMahieu), but if you want to forget all about Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Reyes, he’s your man.

 

Okay, we did it. One week in the books. And there’s a long way to go. Check back next week, where everything will be thrown out the window and we’ll start all over. You gotta love April.

 

 


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