Things to Know: Nolan Arenado, a four-time Gold Glove winner and NL home run and RBI leader in back-to-back seasons, completed hitting for the cycle on Sunday with a walk-off three-run bomb. Arenado is currently on-pace for an incredible 100 XBH while leading the league in defensive runs saved – forget about third baseman, he may be the best infielder in the entire game. It’s a crime that he only came 5th last year in the NL MVP voting, while fellow third baseman Kris Bryant won largely because he was fortunate enough to play on the feel-good Cubs. Let’s see how Arenado fares in this year’s voting with the Rockies finally looking like a playoff bound team… another infielder made news this week, as the Twins took high-school shortstop Royce Lewis 1st overall in the 2017 draft, and quickly signed him to a $6,725,000 bonus. The Reds selected 100-MPH flamethrower Hunter Greene 2nd overall, and some have compared him to a young Doc Gooden…as some careers begin, others must end, highlighted by 40-year old Reds starter Bronson Arroyo. Arroyo, a 1995 3rd round draft pick, saw his ERA rise to a bloated 7.35 with a NL Leading 23 homers allowed after Sunday’s loss. The veteran has been receiving cortisone shots throughout the season, but believes his shoulder is simply too frail to continue much longer, especially after missing the past two seasons to Tommy John…after winning six in a row, the Yankees have now lost six in a row, with injuries exposing a lack of depth in the rotation and bullpen. While the offense hasn’t been the problem, I’m certain GM Brian Cashman is taking note and will be looking to buy come the trading deadline, especially with the farm system being the deepest it’s been in over 20 years. An interesting trade candidate is Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, who can go free-agent at the end of 2017. He’s currently hitting .307 with an .824 OPS, and already has three Gold Gloves to his name. Despite two injury riddled seasons, the Yankees plan is for Greg Bird to handle first, but the lefty Hosmer, a 27-year old “veteran” and 2015 World Series Champion, could fit in nicely with the current young nucleus… the Twins finally fell out of 1st place in the AL Central, and sit only one game above .500 after their current four-game losing streak…the Mets got eight scoreless plus a homer from Jacob deGrom, avoiding a 4-game sweep at the hands of division leader Washington, who now leads by 10.5 games…the NL West has turned into the best division in baseball, with the Rockies, Diamondbacks, and Dodgers all on-pace for a playoff berth. Additionally, the only team in all of baseball with a better record than these three is the Houston Astros…Dodgers rookie 1B/LF Cody Bellinger has now hit seven homers in his last 10 games…not to be outdone, Brewers first baseman Eric Thames went deep in four straight this week and knocked in eight runs. He’s now leading the NL again with 20 taters…another first baseman crushing the ball is the Ray’s Logan Morrison, who hit four homers and knocked in nine runs this past week. Morrison is currently second the Aaron Judge for the AL HR lead, with 21 long-balls, and looks like an incredible bargain at $2.5 million…there definitely isn’t a shortage of first baseman having monster seasons, and Paul Goldschmidt might be having the best season of them all…Red Sox stud Mookie Betts is finally heating up as the Sox move to 0.5 games out of first…despite overall offense being significantly up, Max Scherzer simply doesn’t seem to care. In his latest victory, Scherzer tallied his fifth consecutive 10+ strikeout game, and now owns an incredible 0.84 WHIP…if there is any question about who the Cardinals ace is, Carlos Martinez has officially ended the debate. The 25-year old is third in the NL in ERA, fifth in WHIP, and currently on-pace for 259 strikeouts…don’t look now, but Royals starter Jason Vargas is leading the majors with 10 wins, second in AL ERA at 2.27, and could be prime trade bait…Pirates righty Ivan Nova has walked nine batters in 14 starts and leads the NL with 0.8 BB/9 and two complete games – Ivan, where was this when you were in New York for 6+ years?…a reliever I haven’t given any love to this season is Dellin Betances, who is averaging a career high 17 SO/9 and has only allowed one earned run the entire season… we’re around 40% of the way through the season, and Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen still hasn’t walk a single batter. Not only has he not walked a batter, but he’s recorded 48 strikeouts to those 0 walks. When people try to minimize the importance of a closer, it’s almost comical to me…just look at the impact new closer Greg Holland has had on the first place Rockies…the All-Star game is less than a month away, and with so many players having huge offensive seasons, there’s bound to be some unfortunate omissions…will Aaron Judge participate in the home run derby? I actually hope not, because players never seem to recover after altering their swings to purposely hit everything out of the yard – just look at the second half’s Bobby Abreu and Todd Frazier had after their awesome derby sessions. Judge seems to be a man of the people, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he not only knew these risks, but accepted regardless to keep his constituents in a state of frenzy. Let’s see how this one plays out in the coming weeks…
Beast of the Week: When you hit the longest home run of the entire decade, post a .600 OBP for the week, and score 10 runs, you’d be hard pressed to find someone more deserving of the Beast of the Week Award – all rise, judgment day is officially upon us.
On Sunday, Aaron Judge hit a 495-foot moonshot to left center that actually cleared the bleachers and hit a fan who was basically standing in Connecticut. It didn’t seem humanly possible for the Yankees right fielder to get any better, but maybe he’s not really human after all…Judge possesses the demeanor of former Yankee Captain and future Hall-of-Famer Derek Jeter, the plate discipline of hulking Hall-of-Famer Frank Thomas, the defensive agility of an NFL linebacker, and the unsurpassed raw power of, well, only “The Judge” himself. Oh, and by the way, in addition to currently leading the AL in Walks, Runs, and WAR, he’s also leading the league in all Triple Crown categories. Not bad, for just a rookie.
Honorable Mentioned: Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett, who like Judge, had six XBH on the week, and also added four homers and 13 RBI. What was truly remarkable, is that the 5’10 singles hitter hit all four homers in the same game, while also knocking in 10 runs with a 5-5 effort. This incredibly historical day, and the first time anyone had hit four dingers in the same game since Josh Hamilton in 2012, is absolutely noteworthy. Hamilton, however, ended up hitting 43 that year. Gennett has 42 for his entire career…
Things to Know: Complete Games are at an all-time low as power bullpens can simply be more effective than starters on their third time through a lineup…Reigning NL CY Max Scherzer added another milestone to his exceptional career, reaching 2,000 strikeouts in the 3rd fewest innings ever. Scherzer threw 14 1/3 IP this week, allowed only two runs, and struck out 24 batters. His filthy 0.85 WHIP is tops across both leagues, and he’s slightly improved in almost every statistical category since last year. Scherzer can dominate on-par with Kershaw, strikes out more batters, and seems to be closing the gap between him and the best pitcher in baseball…another strikeout machine is Diamondback’s lefty Robbie Ray, who over his last 37 IP has allowed one measly run. That’s right, one run. During this five-start stretch, the 25-year old has lowered his era from 4.57 to 2.62, placing him third behind Kershaw and Scherzer. Opponents are hitting a microscopic .183 off him, and his development this season is a big reason the Diamondbacks are 13 games over .500…another team at least 13 games over .500 is the Yankees, who finished the week on a dominating five-game winning streak, and now lead the majors in run differential at +115. In addition to winning the important series against rival Red Sox and sweeping the division foe Orioles, the Yanks mashed their opponents 55-9 and lead the majors with 21 games of 8+ runs scored… pacing the NL with a league best 41-24 record, the Colorado Rockies finally had their seven-game winning streak snapped on Sunday. This past week the Rockies outscored opponents 44-14, and received some serious offensive production from centerfielder Charlie Blackmon. Blackmon posted a .535 OBP, hit six XBH, and scored 11 run – 25% of the team’s total runs. Interesting to note, the Rockies, notorious for playing better in the mile high air, are only 17-13 at home, but 24-11 on the road – could this finally be their year?…Heating up this past week, Reds first baseman Joey Votto is on pace to score, knock in, and walk 115 or more times in all three categories. He also leads the NL with 18 long-balls, quietly putting up an MVP caliber season…Dodgers rookie Cody Bellinger has three multi-homer games now and is a solid candidate to win the NL Rookie of the Year… if it wasn’t for Aaron Judge’s prolific start, rookie lefty Jordan Montgomery would be getting buzz for AL Rookie of the Year. On Friday night Montgomery had his best outing of the season, going seven strong while striking out eight for the victory. He currently leads all MLB rookie pitchers in strikeouts… bringing heat out of the bullpen, Red Sox righty Joe Kelly threw the fastest pitch of the season at a blazing 103.5 MPH…his bullpen counterpart, Craig Kimbrel, is currently having the most dominant season a reliever has ever had, and that’s not an exaggeration. He’s got the highest SO/9 rate at 17.9 in MLB history, has an 0.47 WHIP which would be the lowest ever for a reliever, and opponents are hitting .086 off him – let’s see what these stats look like at the end of September…interesting statistically for a different reason, Giants righty Jeff Samardzija has walked two batters in his last eight starts. He leads the league in a stat normally reserved for CY Young contenders, SO/BB ratio, at 8.33, and also leads the league in losses with eight. Somewhere in the mid-point between these extremes, his 4.31 ERA places him slightly below league average. Currently, he’s on pace to throw 215 IP, strike out 253 batters, post a 1.12 WHIP with a 4.31 ERA, and go a miserable 5-20. These numbers are reminiscent of Rays starter Chris Archer’s 2016 season, but highly unusual…the Rays suffered a big loss when Gold Glove centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier fractured his right hip sliding into first base. Kiermaier can go shag fly balls with the best of them, so hopefully this doesn’t permanently damage his defensive abilities…also hitting the shelf and for the second time this year, Astros ace Dallas Keuchel had a reoccurrence of the pinched nerve in his neck which will sideline him for at least another start.
MLB AARP Club: There’s something enjoyable about following the handful of players still suiting up in their 40’s, but unfortunately it appears father time might soon claim a couple members of this venerable club. Bartolo Colon, “Big Sexy”, has the worst ERA of all qualifying major league starters at 7.78. He’s been blasted for seven or more runs in three straight starts, before hitting the shelf with an oblique strain. Hopefully his current DL stint gives the 44-year old plenty of time to recharge…Marlins ageless wonder, Ichiro Suzuki, has largely been relegated to pinch hitting this season, and went 4-11 this past week raising his average to .198. He wants to play until he’s 50, but the career .312 hitter might not find any takers if his average continues to hover around .200…42-year old Cubs reliever, Koji Uehara, has fared much better than his older counterparts. In 23 games, the right is striking out 11.1/9 and has an 0.98 WHIP. He has a remarkable 0.87 career WHIP, so while he’s not the same pitcher who closed out the 2013 World Series, he’s still highly serviceable. The other 42-year old, knuckleballer R. A. Dickey, is 4-4 with a 4.73 ERA on the Braves. Dickey signed a 1yr/$8mm deal to eat some innings, which is what his knuckleball has been doing. The spring chicken of the group, 40-year old outfielder Carlos Beltran, is arguably having the worst season of his career while posting a .289 OBP. Providing veteran leadership may be his biggest contribution down the stretch for the young and AL West leading Astros. As you can see, being successful in your 40’s in a rarity in baseball, only supporting the idea that 10-year contracts that take players into the early 40’s are bad investments. Just look at A-Rod; the Yankees are paying him $21 million this year specifically not to play.
Yankees Report: I’ve resisted doing this segment as I’m admittedly biased, but the New York Yankees are more exciting than they’ve been all decade and I can’t temper my enthusiasm any longer. At the beginning of the season I predicted they’d win 85 games in a highly competitive AL East and finish 3rd, just missing the playoffs. After completing 1/3 of the season, the team currently sits in 1st place, 10-games over .500. Despite being in 1st, the five AL East teams are only within 5.5 games of each other, so it’ll be interesting to see what trade-deadline moves are made, or not made. These and injuries will dictate who moves on this October. The Yankees outfield has played a significant role in powering the early season success, and rank 1st in most major offensive categories. The team must be ecstatic with the development of rookie right fielder Aaron Judge, who with Mike Trout’s thumb surgery, now is the AL MVP front-runner. In leftfield, Brett Gardner has experienced a power surge, hitting 12 homers from the leadoff spot and is fourth in the AL in Runs. The biggest surprise, even bigger than Judge’s MVP season, is Aaron Hick’s transformation from a .217 hitter with a .617 OPS, to a .321 hitter with a 1.016 OPS. In almost 200 fewer at bats, he’s already matched last season’s totals for HR and RBI. This past week, Hicks hit .462 with six doubles and knocked in 11 runs in only seven games – he’s unrecognizable from last year. If he keeps playing like this, Ellsbury can spend the rest of the season on the bench. Newcomer Matt Holliday has provided veteran leadership and is on pace for 36 HR and 105 RBI, after hitting three bombs this past week. At 27, Starlin Castro is having the best year of his career and is third in the AL in Hits. After missing the first five weeks with a WBC induced shoulder injury, shortstop Didi Gregorius, is hitting .308 and working on a seven-game hitting streak. Last year’s rookie of the year runner-up, Gary Sanchez, has yet to hit his stride but still has an .810 OPS and while some of the players listed above will inevitably cool off, Sanchez should heat-up. The lineup has been so strong, that first baseman Chris Carter and third baseman Chase Headley’s struggles have largely gone overlooked. Both first baseman Greg Bird and first baseman/outfielder Tyler Austin are on minor league rehab assignments, which could spell the end of Carter’s tenure on the team – it would be a wise decision. The pitching staff has been reliable with a 3.76 ERA, and the bullpen has been dominant but not unhittable. My favorite pitching stat might be that the Yankees have used only five different starters the entire season. Despite having a fairly fragile starting five, they’ve all taken the ball every fifth day. For perspective, their cross town rival has used nine different starting pitchers this season. Most importantly, 23-year old Luis Severino has developed into a front-line starter, thanks to the development of his changeup to compliment his blazing 99 MPH fastball. He leads the pitching staff in IP, K’s, WHIP, and ERA. Southpaw rookie Jordan Montgomery, has shown promise of developing into at least a number three starter, if not better. In 61 minor league starts, Montgomery never allowed more than four runs in a start, speaking to his ability of making adjustments on the fly and pitching savvy. He’s allowed three or fewer runs in eight of ten starts this season, while averaging almost a strikeout an inning. Montgomery and Severino could head the starting rotation for the foreseeable future. Supposed ace, Masahiro Tanaka, in his opt-out season, is doing a jeckle and hyde act. He’s leading the league in earned runs, and is on pace to allow a whopping 43 home runs. Earlier this season, he threw a 3-hit shutout against the Red Sox at Fenway, and last week struck out 13 A’s in a dominant performance, so whispers about an injury are unfounded. Masahiro – get it together. The bullpen has been dominant, but has also struggled in Aroldis Chapman’s absence. Chapman is on track to return June 15th, a much needed boost to an overworked pen. The Yanks also have top starting prospect Chance Adams dominating at AAA, who in 220 career minor league IP has an 0.92 WHIP and 23-3 record. This team has youth, athleticism, and depth previous Yankee teams this decade have lacked – and they’re only getting better.
Beast of the Week: Congrats to Edinson Volquez, who threw the first no-hitter of the 2017 season against the Diamondbacks. Volquez completed the gem with a 98-pitch effort, striking out 10 D-Backs along the way. Volquez, an unlikely candidate to throw a no-hitter while leading the league in losses, has no lowered his ERA to a respectable 3.79. Honorable Mention: Houston Astros, who went undefeated this week, extending their win-streak to 10 games. The Astros clubbed their opponents into submission with beastly weeks by Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, and George Springer. All of whom, are 27 or younger.
Things to Know: We’ll be without the best player in baseball for two months as Mike Trout had thumb surgery after injuring it stealing second…let’s see if Aaron Judge can capitalize on Trout’s absence in the AL MVP race…another Angel made big news this week, as future Hall-of-Famer Albert Pujols hit his 600th career home run.
He’s now 9th all-time, and is on track to join Hank Aaron and Alex Rodriguez as the third member of the 3,000+ Hits, 600+ HR, 2,000+ RBI club in late 2018. Pujols is not only a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, but an all-time great and it’s sad this accomplishment got so little press. The steroid era has tarnished appreciation for home run records so much, that the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of apathy. Besides Miguel Cabrera potentially reaching 600 homers around 2022, we might not see another 600 home run career until close to 2030 with Giancarlo Stanton. Let’s take a moment to reflect and appreciate the incredible achievement that 600 home runs still is…another career milestone was reached this week by the best pitcher of this generation, Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw, fanned his 2,000th career batter, reaching 2,000 K’s in the 3rd fewest innings in history, behind only Hall-of-Famers Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez…Kershaw is settling into a two horse race with Max Scherzer for the NL CY this year. Not to be outdone by Kershaw’s 14-strikeout performance, Scherzer dominated again this week, throwing a CG while only allowing one run, no walks, and striking out 11…making strides in the AL CY race, Astros ace Dallas Keuchel improved to a major league best 9-0, 1.67 ERA, and 0.87 WHIP…the Red Sox got their $217 million dollar man back this week, and it feels like they’re about to make a run with Price finally healthy…trading places with him on the shelf, Royals ace Danny Duffy is out a minimum two months with an oblique strain…
in an incident that could have resulted in a DL stint for multiple players involved, Giants reliever Hunter Strickland plunked Bryce Harper with a 98 MPH fastball, which seemed intentional to the naked eye. Trading verbal barbs, Harper moved closer to the mound, and surprisingly Giants catcher Buster Posey was nowhere to intercept Harper before he finally threw his bat down and charged the mound, launching his helmet – supposedly at Strickland – in a throw more errant than Chuck Knoblauch trying to throw to first. Seemed like each connected somewhat with a punch before they were separated, leading to a 4-game suspension for Harper and 6-game suspension for Strickland…I’ve been impressed with Rangers SS, Elvis Andrus, who hit .520 this past week with 10 RBI and four steals. He’s already playing in his ninth season, which is shaping up to be his best, despite only being 28-years old…Nats second baseman Daniel Murphy raised his average from .319 to .340 this week, proving last year was no fluke…now to the not so impressive list – how ridiculously bad is Matt Harvey? He got rocked again on Friday, raising his season ERA to 5.43. The Mets are now seven games under .500 and 11 games out of first place. Their team ERA is 4.84, ranking 29th out of 30 MLB teams – what happened to one of the pre-season’s best rotations?
Opening Thoughts: There have already been as many rainouts as there were the entire 2016 season. This should make for some difficult doubleheaders later this season and scheduling conflicts, potentially leading to wild rides for multiple teams vying for a playoff spot…at least we’re not in a drought anymore.
Beast of the Week: Do I care if it happened against the lowly San Diego Padres? Nope, absolutely not. This week’s honor goes to Nats starter Stephen Strasburg, for an absolutely filthy performance on Saturday. Strasburg threw seven shutout innings, while only allowing three hits, one walk, and fanning 15 Padres! For those keeping track, two of three batters every inning got blown away without touching the ball – for seven straight innings. Talk about demoralizing. Strasburg, the 1st overall pick in the 2009 MLB draft, was at one point billed the next Roger Clemens until Tommy John derailed his seemingly unhittable arsenal. He’s only managed to clear 200 IP once in his career, but when he’s healthy, he’s been absolutely dominant, posting a career 10.5 SO/9, 1.09 WHIP, and .641 Winning %. He led the NL in strikeouts during his only full season in 2014, and if his last start is any indication, the Nationals will run away with the division if he stays healthy – which is just what the Mets want to hear…
Weak Sauce of the Week: The Baltimore Orioles for not winning a single game the entire week. The Birds lost seven straight games and looked absolutely lost. Even worse, they’ve gone 3-13 over their past 16 games (not including Monday), but still only sit 3.5 games out of 1st as nobody has taken advantage of their struggles.
Things to Know: The first part of this decade was all about the pitching, but the tide is quickly turning as more and more box scores end up looking like my co-ed softball league scores…the surprising Rockies are in 1st place, thanks to some excellent rookie starting pitching and centerfielder Charlie Blackmon having an MVP caliber season. Blackmon currently leads the NL in RBI’s, Hits, Total Bases, and Triples. Just in case you were wondering, he’s on pace for 217 hits, 21 triples, 40 HR, 141 RBI, and 116 Runs – fear the beard…two under-the-radar guys also on pace for 40+ HR and 130+ RBIs are Reds outfielder Adam Duvall, and Diamondbacks third baseman Jake Lamb. Both players last year cleared 29 HR and 90 RBI, so there’s no reason they can’t build on those numbers this year – they’re the real deal…Reds defensive wiz Billy Hamilton is on pace to steal 87 bases, which would be the most in over 30 years…last week’s Beast of the Week, Devon Travis, has continued his hot hitting, and currently has a 12-game hitting streak. He’s also hitting .371 for the month of May…keep an eye on first baseman Jose Abreu and shortstop Carlos Correa – both finished the week hitting .302 and are heating up…shifting to pitching, the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen has the best ERA in the entire NL and six relievers with more strikeouts than innings. The bullpen has been so dominant, that 3-time CY Young winner Clayton Kershaw is eighth on the staff in SO/9…oh, and closer Kenley Jansen almost two months into the season has yet to walk a single batter while striking out 34…continuing his brilliance in May, southpaw Alex Wood extended his scoreless streak to 23 IP and lowered his ERA to 1.69…before Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman went on the DL, the bullpen ERA was 2.50. Without Chapman, the bullpen ERA has nearly doubled to 4.50…Ray’s ace Chris Archer threw a strong 7 2/3 IP while striking out 11 and walking one against the 1st place Twins. It was his fourth double digit strikeout game in his last five starts and has done a better job of keeping the ball in the park this season…2016 NL CY Winner Max Scherzer hasn’t missed a beat, throwing 8 2/3 IP with 13 strikeouts while allowing only one run for his fifth win of the season. In year three, Scherzer is making good on his seven-year, $210 million dollar deal…Red Sox ace Chris Sale didn’t set the record with nine consecutive 10+ SO games, but he does sit with 101 K’s in 10 starts, still an incredible feat…the bearded Dallas Keuchel made a quick recovery from a pinched nerve to throw six strong innings, improving to a league leading 8-0 on the season. The Astros are clicking on all cylinders, easily own the best record in baseball at 36-16, and have what it takes for a deep post season run…however, I’m just not convinced the 1st place Rockies have the pitching to finish the season in 1st, even with starter Jon Gray coming back from a broken foot. Antonio Senzatela is now 7-1, but the 22-year old and other young starters in their rotation can’t be counted on to throw the 190+ IP it’ll take to reach October, let alone advance…
the dysfunctional Mets received a much needed gem from Jacob deGrom, my favorite starter on their staff. The lanky righty pitched into the ninth inning, while allowing one run and striking out 10 Pirates. The Mets staff ace leads NL starters in SO/9 with 12.1, and is currently on pace for a stunning 290 K’s on the season. If he goes down like Syndergaard, the Mets can officially bow down to the Yankees as the best team in NY for 2017.
Changing of the times claims another victim and one of my favorite baseball publications – Who’s Who in Baseball, obsolete after an impressive 101 years. The internet’s ability to provide unobstructed and instant access to baseball statistical information has sadly rendered the annual publication a baseball relic. For over a century, Who’s Who in Baseball has been a portable baseball encyclopedia, cataloging active major league ballplayers and providing their career statistics. The history of the publication dates back to when Babe Ruth was a left-handed pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. Countless Hall-of-Famers have graced its cover, with over ten decades of ballplayers calling its pages home. Who’s Who has a special place in my heart because my dad started getting me the publication in 1994 (before we even had a computer at home), and despite having plenty of baseball cards, the book easily let me find my favorite players to compare their stats. I quickly learned at the age of seven, that the players with stats in bold were the league leaders, so a player with a lot of bold on their page was probably really good – like Nolan Ryan. Thus began my baseball education and love for stats. I can only imagine how many others over 101-years had a similar experience and took great enjoyment from this once-a-year book. Every spring I’d eagerly anticipate seeing its signature red cover in a stationary or bookstore. Having to wait a full year until the next one, there was something extra satisfying about getting my hands on a freshly printed edition. In a world of instant gratification and insatiable consumption, my appreciation for once-a-year pleasures only grows knowing their days are numbered. This is disappointing news, and it won’t ever appear on ESPN or any other major news outlet, but a loss nonetheless. Cheers to Who’s Who in Baseball, for a fantastic century-long run whose editions transcended so much more than just another baseball season.
I asked my dad to separately write some thoughts in memoriam about Who’s Who, so here’s what he’s got:
It’s spring and so that means for many years I’ve anxiously anticipated the annual release of Who’s Who in Baseball. Oddly, this year it was nowhere to be found. I learned it has been discontinued after 101, yes, 101 years of continuous publication. Another iconic publication done in by the Internet. No longer will we see the classic red and white paperback that contained career stats and photos of each year’s current players. There where great pictures of league leaders, a current world champion team shot, and league stats as well. For some, opening a new WW each year was like opening a Christmas present in spring. And it was never a generational thing. My son Kyle enjoyed WW just as much as I did. It was always a joy watching him bury himself into it, voicing opinions, quoting stats and hearing his musings. In fact, WW was a cornerstone building block for Kyle’s love of baseball stats while providing an evolution to his wonderful blog.
I recall as a child having a neighborhood friend who couldn’t afford baseball cards. But instead, he had his WW. He’d say that he didn’t need the cards as long as he had the red and white. Each year had a different player featured on the cover depending on who won an award the previous year. I got my 1970 edition, and was mortified to see Tom Seaver on the cover. Being a die-hard Yankees fan even then, and still upset at the Mets winning in ‘69, I couldn’t get past the Cy Young winner was staring at me and would be all year! I proceeded to deface Tom’s picture. My only recourse of revenge. I have no regrets.
In later years I’d take Kyle and his sister to baseball card shows. Inevitably, we’d encounter a vendor selling old WW’s. 1957, fair condition, $40. Must have! Mickey Mantle, the ‘56 MVP, was on the cover! Fast forward to 2016, the 101th continuous year. No cover shots of Yanks, but still a treasure. Simply put, WW was a yearly treasure. Sadly, Christmas in spring comes no more. – Mark Jelléy.
Beast of the Week: Previous winners have generally been high-profile players, but this week’s winner is relatively unknown. Playing north of the border and listed at a generous 5’9, Devon Travis is this week’s Beast of the Week after putting up some ridiculous numbers. Travis hit .542 this past week, raising his season average 61 points with five multi-hit games. In six games he knocked in eight runs, aided by seven XBH’s. Travis clubbed six doubles, and now leads the AL with 16, while currently being on pace for 58. Going into this season he was a career .301 hitter, and has the potential to develop into one of the better second baseman in the AL. After an icy start, Travis is heating up and absolutely worth following. Honorable Mention: Corey Dickerson who crushed five home runs this past week.
Weak Sauce of the Weak: This week’s winner is San Diego Padres veteran and home run serving machine, Jered Weaver. The righty couldn’t get out of the 1st inning while allowing seven earned runs on Friday. Weaver is winless in nine starts, with an 0-5 record and bloated 7.44 ERA – looking more and more like big brother, Jeff Weaver. Weaver led all AL pitchers in HR’s allowed last season with 37, and despite pitching in pitcher-friendly Petco Park, Weaver has allowed a stunning 16 home runs. That not only leads the league, but he’s on pace to easily set the record with 58 home runs allowed. Luckily for him and the Padres, they’ll have to wait a little longer for his march towards history as he just hit the DL with a bad hip…that’s some serious weak sauce.
Things to Know: Current National League HR, SLG%, WAR and OPS leader Freddie Freeman broke his left wrist and is out at least two months. A huge loss for the 18-23 Braves, but also for baseball as Freeman was having an MVP caliber season – on pace for 57 home runs and 142 runs scored… Speaking of MVP caliber seasons, MLB home run leader Aaron Judge covered a ridiculous amount of ground to make one of the best diving catches I’ve ever seen, showing he’s more than a one-dimensional power hitter…on the flip side, Chase Headley has struggled to flash the leather, already collecting nine errors and on pace for a disastrous 40. He’s a below average hitter, and if he’s going to play like there’s a hole in his glove, maybe it’s time for the Yankees to focus top prospect Gleyber Torres on third base …I pleaded for the Mets to play outfielder Michael Conforto every day and they finally listened. Conforto is crushing the ball, leading ESPN to do this cover story on him – you heard it here first…Chris Sale tied his own and Pedro Martinez’s record with eight straight 10+ strikeout performances, but seems to always be the recipient of poor run support…another southpaw whose dominating is Alex Wood of the Dodgers. Wood put up more goose eggs this week, and is currently working on a streak of 18-shutout innings that has dropped his ERA to a league leading 1.88…Not to be outdone, one of my breakout pitchers for 2017, Lance McCullers, is currently working on a 19-inning shutout streak…Looks like Twins former top pitching prospect Jose Berrios is figuring it out, after dominating a powerful Rockies lineup over 7 shutout innings with 11 K’s. If the 23-year old continues to develop, the Twins will have a formidable 1-2 punch to push for a Wild-Card spot in a mediocre AL Central…the Astros own the best record in baseball, but are keeping their fingers crossed as ace Dallas Keuchel hit the shelf with a pinched nerve in his neck. Keuchel is leading the AL in wins and ERA and is giving Chris Sale his stiffest competition for AL CY…
Is there any player in baseball more disliked than Jose Bautista? After hitting an inconsequential home run, Bautista had another ridiculous bat flip, bringing both clubs to the brink of a brawl. I guess getting punched in the face last year by Rougned Odor wasn’t enough…John Sterling, the radio voice of the Yankees ever since I can remember, unknowingly took a shot from my wife this past week. While driving home from Martha’s Vineyard, I had the game on, and after a Chris Carter home run Sterling bellowed, “Carter hit it harder!”…my wife immediately goes, “What is with this guy and his rhyming?”! That’s when it hit me, that for casual fans, Sterling’s home run calls aren’t exactly homers, instead they come off more like nursery rhymes…also falling flat this past week are the Cincinnati Reds, who fell from 1st place in the NL Central to 4.5 games back and 4th place…who would have guessed the Brewers, Twins, and Rockies, would all be in 1st place…more teams are using 13-man pitching staffs as managers increasingly use analytics for optimal bullpen matchups…
In Other News: I was saddened to hear of rock and grunge legend Chris Cornell’s tragic passing at the age of 52. The Soundgarden and Audioslave front man had a transcendent voice that can never be replicated. Soundgarden will always be special to me as their 1994 hit CD, Superunknown, was the first CD I ever listened to on a Discman. I was seven, and a friend and I listened to that CD constantly on the bus after school. Now, four of the five biggest transformative grunge bands of the 90’s have lost their lead singers – Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden. Eddie Vedder has got to be looking over his shoulder… interestingly enough, somehow rock front-men from the decadent 80’s have lived on from headline bands including: Guns N Roses, Metallica, Van Halen, and Mötley Crüe. I saw Metallica on Wednesday at Nassau Coliseum and they’re still crushing it – go figure.
Beast of the Week: The Beast of the Week Award goes to 2012 NL MVP Buster Posey, who slugged four home runs this past week, had four multi-hit games, and posted a .500 OBP while only striking out once in 24 plate appearances. Posey raised his season average to .370, and his 173 OPS+ is currently higher than the 171 OPS+ which netted him an MVP. The three-time World Series champion is now 30 but still playing like he’s in his prime, fresh off a 2016 Gold Glove Award. Posey currently has more walks than strikeouts, an increasingly rare feat in today’s strikeout acceptable environment. He’s the best catcher in baseball and the only real bright spot in a dismal Giants lineup. Cheers to you, Buster.
Opening Thoughts: If baseball played once a week like football, would more people care? I doubt it, and here’s a few quick points why baseball is great just the way it is. For starters, baseball is the only major sport that plays anywhere close to a grueling 162-game schedule. The NBA and NHL play roughly half that number of games, and the NFL plays less than 10% of an MLB season. How many times have we seen the NBA and NFL defraud paying fans, who’ve potentially sacrificed financially to bring their family to a game, only to see their team “resting” marquee players – it happens way too often, but rarely in baseball. The best player in baseball and two-time AL MVP, Mike Trout, has averaged 158 games over the past four seasons – he’s playing unless he’s actually hurt, end of story. Nobody is “resting” Chris Sale – he’s going to make as many starts as he possibly can for the Red Sox. That’s what aces do, because even in a 162-game season every game matters. The fate of the season comes down to the final games for a handful of teams every year. The 162-game season rewards those who understand it’s a marathon, not a sprint. It provides so many players an opportunity to prove their worth. It weeds out the pretenders from the contenders. It also provides fans ample opportunity to show they care by coming out to the ballpark. You’ve got a team in Canada that averaged 41,878 fans per game in 2016, a team in Middle America that averaged 42,525, a West Coast team that led attendance with 45,720, and a team on the East Coast that averaged 37,820. Whether you’re just a casual fan, or someone who lives and breathes the sport, 162-games is a win for all fans. Any calls to shorten the regular season are misguided, and instead, maybe other sports should take notice of how baseball has managed to create value in every game.
Weak Sauce of the Week: Kyle Schwarber picks up the deleterious award by going 1-18 this week and playing below average defense for an underachieving Cubs team – a triple whammy. By the way, that 1-18 equates to an .056 AVG…Schwarber is Joe Maddon’s leadoff man, which might be the worst managerial decision in all of baseball. Since Schwarber is basically an automatic out these days, Maddon’s “creative” lineup is an automatic failure. The Cubs went 1-4 this week with Schwarber as their offensive catalyst, furthering the idea that the experiment simply isn’t working. Schwarber’s average dropped from .198 at the start of the week, to a miserable .179. At this point, a return trip to AAA where he’s only played a total of 17 games might be necessary to straighten things out…Honorable Mention, Masahiro Tanaka, who threw seven quality innings to start the week, only to finish the week by giving up four home runs and eight earned runs in 1 2/3 IP to the Astros.
Things to Know: Piggybacking on my opening thoughts, the 162-game season is a battle of fortitude, a marathon which tends to level hot starts and reward consistency. The current league leaders in most major offensive categories like Ryan Zimmerman, Eric Thames, and Aaron Judge all had relatively quiet weeks. They’ve all put up previous MVP worthy weeks, but the long season will level off their stats and inevitably expose their flaws. Zimmerman’s greatest flaw is his injury history, Judge’s greatest flaw is his high strikeout rate, and Thames’ greatest flaw is never being good enough to last an entire season in the majors. This is why I predict other sluggers like Joey Votto, Nelson Cruz, and Paul Goldschmidt to all finish with better season totals by October. Regardless of the final numbers, Zimmerman, Judge, and Thames have all provided thunder to an exciting April/May and energized their respective fan bases… CC Sabathia has a 9.61 ERA over his past four starts, and while there hasn’t been talk of it because the team is winning, the Yankees should seriously consider yanking him from the rotation in favor of Chad Green…the Yankees hot start is also masking another serious issue – bullpen workload. By not getting length out of their starting rotation, the team has already set themselves up for a mid-season bullpen burnout. The bullpen has been exceptional, but rookie Jonathan Holder is on pace for 74 games, Tyler Clippard is on pace for an unmanageable 79 games, and Warren has also received a heavy workload. Dellin Betances has thrown more pitches than any reliever in baseball over the past three season, and with the significant loss of Aroldis Chapman, who last year appeared in a career high 72 games between the regular and postseason, the bullpen is about to get seriously strained…
Thriving for the division rival Red Sox, southpaw Chris Sale tallied his seventh straight start of 10+ strikeouts with a 12 K gem on Saturday against the Rays. He now leads the majors in IP, SO, WHIP, WAR and is the unquestionable front-runner for the AL CY award. His Red Sox counterpart, closer Craig Kimbrel, has been equally dominant on the back end. Right handed batters are currently an unimaginable 0-30 against Kimbrel – that’s the equivalent of 10 no-hit innings against righties and counting. Overall, opponents are hitting .107 off him. He currently has complete control of his slider, which complimented with his 99+ MPH fastball has made him virtually unhittable. He’s on pace for 70 IP, with 144 K’s and an 0.48 WHIP with 48 saves…another player providing excitement is Dodger rookie Cody Bellinger, a 21-year old first baseman/outfielder with big power that’s propelling the Dodgers in the standings… thankfully for Mets fans, Terry Collins listened and Michael Conforto is playing every day while slugging .686…Mike Trout returned from his hamstring injury and homered in three consecutive games. More importantly, he stole two bases on Sunday, proving the hamstring issues are behind him…Indians starter Carlos Carrasco is healthy again and quietly having a tremendous year, posting a 1.86 ERA and 0.77 WHIP while on pace for 207 strikeouts and 18 victories…making more noise as the leader for Comeback Player of the Year, Rockies closer Greg Holland is a perfect 16-for-16 in save opportunities with a 1.08 ERA. He’s currently on pace to break Frankie Rodriguez’s single season saves record…Dallas Keuchel improved to a perfect 6-0 and continues to absolutely own the Yankees…Max Scherzer is leading the NL in K’s, WHIP, and now is on pace to strike out 300 batters…it sounds ridiculous to say a pitcher leading the league in Wins, IP, and 2nd in WHIP hasn’t clicked yet, but Clayton Kershaw has yet to hit his stride…in his first start since his embarrassing suspension in which a potential drinking problem was insinuated, Matt Harvey got blasted for three home runs and walked five batters en route to another loss…the Mets are now 7.5 games out of first place and have a rotation ERA over 5.00, worst in the NL – amazin for a rotation that was hyped as potentially being the best in baseball.