Beast of the Week: Reigning Beast of the Week, Ryan Zimmerman, entered the week leading the entire major leagues in multiple offensive categories, including AVG at .420. The Nationals first baseman seemingly couldn’t get any better, but actually found a way to increase his average this past week by hitting .500, and raising his season total to a ridiculous .435. He now leads the NL in Hits, Doubles, Home Runs, RBI, AVG, SLG, OPS, and Total Bases. That’s basically every offensive category that means anything. If the season ended today he’d be your NL MVP, and thus is easily the repeat winner of the Beast of the Week Award – beast mode.
Opening Thoughts: I’m surprised more emphasis isn’t placed on home run rate for pitchers in this age of advanced statistical analytics. I’m seeing more and more box scores of pitchers who seemingly dominate with gaudy strikeout totals and minimal walks, only to get the loss because they give up the long ball when their opponent may have surrendered more base runners, but managed to keep the ball in the park. If you look at some of the best starting pitchers (Clayton Kershaw, Corey Kluber, Noah Syndergaard, Chris Sale, Madison Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, Zach Greinke, Jon Lester ) they’ve historically averaged less than a home run per start, and some of them have led the league in fewest HR/9 allowed. Keeping the ball in the park is a difference maker and should receive equal love as prominent pitching stats: WHIP, ERA, and SO’s.
Things to Know: In surprising or not so surprising news, Mets diva Matt Harvey got suspended three games for violating team policy – the endless Harvey saga continues. The Mets perpetually dominate the headlines for all the wrong reasons, but the good news is the team seems to be turning the corner. Manager Terry Collins has finally taken my advice and played Michael Conforto every day, jump starting a sluggish offense. T.J. Rivera, an easy guy to root for as a 28-year old rookie, should also receive more playing time and is an excellent example of perseverance finally paying off. The Bronx native is a career .324 hitting in almost 2,500 career minor league AB’s, and can provide value at multiple infield positions. Nobody can replace Noah Syndergaard, but the Mets still have a starting staff deep enough to consistently keep them in the playoff hunt…Sunday the Yankees will retire former Captain Derek Jeter’s number two jersey, making it the final single digit number to be retired by the franchise…Chris Sale and his herky-jerky motion has now punched out 10 or more batters in six straight starts…the Cardinals and Tigers should officially be concerned about starters Adam Wainwright and Jordan Zimmerman. Wainwright, whose finished in the top three in NL CY voting an impressive four times, is pitching like a 35-year old whose best days are behind him while leading the NL in hits allowed for a second straight season…Zimmerman, who signed a $110 million dollar deal with the Tigers after the 2015 season, has a 6.21 ERA and has seen his hits/9 increase each of the past five seasons, while his SO/9 have decreased each of the past four seasons – both troubling trends for a pitcher with guaranteed big money…arguably the two best players in baseball, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are battling nagging injuries and have missed consecutive games. Both players are hitting .355 or better and slugging a whopping .700 or better. Harper had some interesting sound bites on his injury, saying, “Got it a little bit on the fly ball. That dive. I gotta stop diving, trying to catch fly balls too much.” While I understand Harper is basically saying he needs to be less reckless to stay healthy, you never want to hear a player saying they’re basically going to give less on defense. This is why Harper will never be Mike Trout.…despite Harper being out, the Nationals have absolutely mashed the ball and lead the majors with a 21-9 record…Cubs second baseman Javier Baez is overrated and plays with an unwarranted cockiness. I can count at least 10 better second baseman than Baez…on the opposite spectrum, Rockies center fielder Charlie Blackmon might be underrated, and is currently on pace for over 200+ hits and over 100+ extra base hits – despite having significant home/away splits, the man can do it all. Also playing in the underrated category, Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez quietly leads all NL players with a 2.5 WAR and is on-pace for 120 Runs, 115 RBI, and 37 homers, quickly making Cincinnati forget 2015 Homer Run Derby Winner Todd Frazier…Yankee second baseman Starlin Castro is leading the AL in average at .381 and is on pace for 240 hits. The Yankees have top prospect Gleyber Torres playing second base two games a week, third base two games a week, and SS three games a week in preparation for the next lineup opening. It’s too early for trade rumors, but I wouldn’t hesitate to shop Castro or third baseman Chase Headley for a front-end starter considering 60% of the rotation will go free agent after this season and Gleyber is waiting in the wings…it feels like the Mariners are turning it around and within the next couple weeks will leapfrog the Angels to contend for a Wild Card spot. Powering their charge is right fielder/DH Nelson Cruz, who is searching for his fourth consecutive 40+ home run season. What a bargain for 4yrs/$56 million after the 2014 season…the new 10-day DL has changed how players and teams approach injuries, allowing players to only miss 10 days as opposed to the previous full two weeks. Teams are more inclined to place players on the DL, knowing they’ll have them back sooner while still allowing them ample time to recover…
The Yankees lead the majors with a .679 winning %, propelled by a dominant bullpen and powerful lineup. The pitching staff is tied for fourth out of 15 AL teams in home runs allowed, contributing to an above average 3.65 team ERA. Last season this never would have happened, but down to their last strike at Wrigley, Brett Gardner smashed a three-run homer to right putting the Yanks up 3-2 for another stunning come-from-behind victory. When it comes to the battle of NY, the Yankees are currently seven games ahead of the Mets, despite roughly being only a month into the season. This may be the biggest disparity between the teams all season, but with the loss of ace Noah Syndergaard and addition of Gary Sanchez, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Yankees build on their sizeable lead. Bring on week 6!