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.