MLB Week 15: Beast of the Week, Things to Know

Beast of the Week: Nine extra base hits in seven games with a .571 OBP is quite beastly – impressive, Bryce Harper. Over his past seven games, Harper has scored 13 runs and knocked in 10 with five home runs. He’s already exceeded last year’s home run total despite playing 57 fewer games, matched last season’s doubles total, and is two runs short of the matching his runs total – it’s amazing how inconsistent he’s been over the past six seasons. Lucky for the Nats, this season he’s 2nd in the NL in AVG and Runs, and 1st in SLG and OPS. He’s taking advantage of hitting in a stellar lineup that provides plenty of opportunity, and he’s making the most of it. Despite not being a web-gem highlight reel in right, and only stealing two bases then entire season, his power numbers across the board are MVP worthy. He’ll be a free agent after the 2018 season, and someone will foolishly cough up over $400 million for him…in a sport with 25-man rosters, no one player is worth tying up that kind of money – just ask the Ranger’s how that turned out with A-Rod…

Things to Know: Now that the All-Star break has come and gone, baseball is once again moving full tilt with roughly a week to go before the trade-deadline. While there’s been movers and shakers, I’d first like to touch on a few significant things of note…Ranger third baseman Adrian Beltre is 13 hits away from joining the 3,000 Club, and should seal the deal by early August. Every player to reach this milestone is in the Hall-of-Fame….Boston ace Chris Sale, continues to blow away hitters, reaching 200 K’s in the fewest innings ever for an AL pitcher. Sale also lowered his AL leading ERA to 2.48…the Pittsburgh Pirates have gone 8-2 over their last 10 games and now sit only 3 games out of 1st in the NL Central. It’ll be interesting to see if they add pieces or still decide to unload players like starter Gerrit Cole and outfielder Andrew McCutchen…the Royals are now just 1.5 games out of 1st in the weak AL Central, and also need to decide if they’re going to unload free agent to-be’s: Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, and Eric Hosmer… one of my favorite players in baseball for his unique combination of skills, 5’6 Jose Altuve, is now leading the AL in hits and average, which would be the third time in his career he’s achieved this. At 27, he’s the leader of the best team in the American League, has a .972 OPS, in addition to being on pace for over 30 stolen bases with power, and  he rarely strikes out while playing gold glove caliber defense at 2B. Given his unique talent, you can make the argument he provides greater value than a player like 2015 NL MVP Bryce Harper…further confirming this argument, Altuve’s 5.2 WAR is currently better than Harper’s 4.5 WAR, and Harper is still having an MVP caliber season…Altuve’s double play counterpart, Carlos Correa, had thumb surgery and unfortunately won’t return until the end of September, just in time for the Astros playoff run. In the midst of a breakout season at the age of 22, Correa already has reached the 20 homer plateau for the third straight season…another infielder whose continuing to break out is the Indians Jose Ramirez, currently leading the AL with 30 doubles, and has an OPS just below Altuve’s at .961. Another high contact player with power and speed, these are the types of unique players that teams should try to build around, not just the sexy power hitters who can hit tape-measure homeruns…another infielder with a power surge is Nats second baseman Daniel Murphy, whose currently on pace for 200+ hits 55 doubles, and 123 RBI. After finishing 2nd in the NL MVP race last season, Murphy hasn’t missed a beat, and is an absolute bargain at $13 million a year – think the Mets would like to reconsider letting him walk?…second base might currently be the deepest position in all of baseball, and the emergence of Baltimore’s Jonathan Schoop only adds to this embarrassment of riches. The 25-year old Schoop is hitting .302, and on pace for 34 bombs and 113 RBI…arguably the top prospect in all of baseball and the centerpiece to the Chris Sale trade, 22-year old second baseman Yoan Moncada was finally called up by the White Sox…staying with the theme, Yankees second baseman Starlin Castro is headed back to the DL after re-injuring his troublesome hamstring…symbolic of how ridiculous the amount of offense is this year, Giancarlo Stanton is quietly on pace for 52 bombs and nobody seems to care – you have to go back to 2010 for the last time someone hit 50+ homers…speaking of quietly, Nats third baseman Anthony Rendon has more walks than strikeouts and an OPS of 1.009, currently leading the NL with a 4.8 WAR…I’ve said it before but Nolan Arenado just doesn’t get the love he deserves because he plays in Coors Field. He’s led the NL League in HR, RBI, TB and won the Gold Glove two years in a row – so he provides value on both ends and is on pace again for 130+ RBI’s, 50 doubles, and a gold glove…

Clayton KershawWith so much offense, dominant pitching stats like Clayton Kershaw’s are even more impressive compared to previous seasons this decade. Kershaw has won 15 of his 20 starts, and is currently on pace to go a monster 25-3 with an 0.89 WHIP. His career WHIP just dipped below 1.00 to 0.998, making the start of his career possibly the most dominant 10-year beginning ever. Given his recent injury history, I’m cautiously optimistic he makes it through a full season, and the Dodgers are being extra careful with him anticipating a deep playoff run which should help keep him fresh…his biggest NL CY Young competition, Max Scherzer, still has the edge in the race but surrendered homers to the first three batters he faced this past week and took a no-decision…Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman threw 7 2/3 IP of one run ball, lowering his ERA to 2.98, good for third in the AL…despite missing a month earlier this year, Cleveland ace Corey Kluber could still finish second in the AL CY race. Historically a 2nd half pitcher, the 2014 AL CY winner has a 1.41 ERA over his past 7 starts, and for the season a career best 0.96 WHIP and 12.1 K/9…a free agent after this season, the Yankees and Michael Pineda received sobering news that he’ll need Tommy John…lastly, Gary Sanchez defeated Stanton in his 1st Home Run Derby round, the final four contestants were all  25 or younger,  and Aaron Judge eventually won the entire derby, his longest a 513 foot blast – can’t wait for more of that in the future.

Yankee Trade

Trading Cards: Long rumored to be on the move, White Sox southpaw Jose Quintana finally has a new home, moving across town with the Cubs landing the reliable lefty for a package centered around top prospect Eloy Jimenez. The Cubs roster is in a precious window to win-now, and in consecutive trade-deadlines they’ve moved their top prospect for an established veteran to get them over the top. Look for the Cubs to step on the gas here in the second half with Quintana and take the division…Jose Quintana Cubs the Yankees, always active at the deadline, made a great trade acquiring former Yankees David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, and NJ native Todd Frazier. Giving up Tyler Clippard was an easy decision, and outfield prospect Blake Rutherford has two homers in A-Ball, so even if he develops into a quality major leaguer it’s still a win for the Yankees…real nice pickup by the Diamondbacks to get outfielder J.D. Martinez, who currently has an 1.008 OPS in 58 games. Insert him into a lineup that already features MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt, and third baseman Jake Lamb whose on pace for 132 RBI, and you’ve arguably got the best middle of the lineup in the NL alongside the Nationals…the Mariners are stockpiling arms, acquiring David Phelps from the Marlins and potential backend starter Marco Gonzalez from the Cardinals for prospect Tyler O’Neil…the Giants signed Pablo “Panda” Sandoval to a minor league contract. Despite his previous success in San Francisco, this seems more like a ploy to sell a few more Panda hats than it does to improve the team…most teams that make significant playoff runs acquire players at the trade deadline, so let’s see who thinks they’ve got what it takes to win it all this next week.

JD Martinez
New Diamondback Trade Acquisition – J.D. Martinez

MLB Week 13: Happy 4th, 1st Half-Awards, & Yankee Report

1st Half Awards: Happy July 4th! It doesn’t get much better than celebrating Independence Day with some baseball and barbecuing. The season is half-way through, but the official 2nd half doesn’t begin until after the All-Star game on July 11th. With that said, it’s time to give out some 1st half hardware. 4th of July FlagOutfielder Mike Trout was having the best season of his career before thumb surgery, opening the door for Aaron Judge to steal the AL MVP Award. He’s easily my mid-season AL MVP, currently leading the AL in Runs, AVG, HR, RBI, BB, OBP, SLG, OPS+, and TB. This puts him not only on pace to win the AL Rookie of the Year and AL MVP, but also the Triple Crown – no rookie has ever won the Triple Crown, ever. For the second half, it’ll be difficult for the 6’7 slugger to remain at the top of the AVG leader board, which might be his only obstacle to winning the Triple Crown. He’s also officially confirmed participation in the Home Run Derby, which will be must-see TV…in the NL, so far it’s a three horse race for MVP. You can almost flip a coin between slugging first baseman Joey Votto, Paul Goldschmidt, and outfielder Bryce Harper. Votto and Goldschmidt current edge Harper by the slightest of statistical margins, and it really comes down to how much value to place on players playing on contenders like Goldschmidt, versus players on non-contenders like Votto on the middling Reds. The two main statistical differences between Votto and Goldschmidt are Votto strikes out only half as much as Goldschmidt, but Goldschmidt is on pace for 25 stolen bases to Votto’s six. Votto  There isn’t another first baseman in the game with speed like Goldschmidt, which has helped him currently lead the league in Runs, but there also isn’t another first baseman with Votto’s combination of power and low-strikeouts in a strikeout driven era. With both players being statistically unique and dominant, I’ll go with Goldschmidt and his 52-31 Diamondbacks as the tie breaker…barring catastrophe, Judge will easily capture the AL Rookie of the year, and my mid-season NL Rookie of the Year also easily goes to Dodgers 21-year old slugger, Cody Bellinger. His historic home run streak has put him on pace for almost 50 bombs this season and he’s helping lead the Dodgers to the best record in the NL…in the AL, Chris Sale has hands down been the best pitcher – what an acquisition by Dave Dombrowski. Sale currently leads the AL in IP, K’s, WHIP, SO/9, SO/BB Ratio, and FIP, while sitting second in wins and ERA. With Jason Vargas currently first in both wins and ERA, Sale could easily surpass him in the second half, or a trade of Vargas to the NL could knock him out of the leaders by default, paving the way for Sale to not only be the AL CY, but also win the pitching Triple Crown…in the NL, it’s a two horse race between last year’s winner, Max Scherzer, and 3-time winner Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw currently leads the league in wins at 12-2, and has an filthy 0.91 WHIP, but it’s actually Scherzer who leads the NL in almost every major category. Additionally, Scherzer’s ERA + is an amazing 225, and his WHIP is 0.77, which would be the second lowest in over 135 years, only behind Pedro Martinez’s 0.74 WHIP in 2000. Only twice in his career did Pedro have an ERA+ higher than 225, and his current 225 would rank as the 8th best total over the past 100 seasons. Scherzer truly is having a historic season, and is currently in line to win his 3rd CY Award. Half way through 2017, Judge and Scherzer are especially having historic seasons, so let’s enjoy the ride and see what they can do in the 2nd half.

PNC PArk fireworks

Things to Know: We’ve officially hit the half-way point to the season, as we say goodbye to June and hello to July. Moves made these next couple weeks will separate those with staying power, and the pretenders who’ve had nice but unsustainable runs. As we hit 81 games, double players stats to see what your favorite players are currently on pace for – an easy way to get a feel for how good they’ve really been thus far…many baseball analysts had the Diamondbacks winning the NL West last season, only to watch them crash and burn while overhauling team management. The roster has remained largely the same, but the Diamondbacks this season are dominating behind an ace-like Zack Greinke, MVP caliber Paul Goldschmidt, and improved bullpen – sometimes luck just isn’t on your side, but what a difference a season can make… the Red Sox are slowly pulling away with the AL East division lead, up by three games on the 2nd place Yankees. With the Yanks struggling mightily thanks to their porous bullpen, it’s a miracle the deficit is actually only three games…there’s a lot of mediocrity in the American League, so much that the Astros and Red Sox are the only teams eight games or better above .500. This will complicate the trade deadline as GM’s will have a tough time deciding whether they’re sellers or buyers…in the NL, the Dodgers are finally separating themselves from the pack, thanks to a 20-4 record over their past 24 games…the Nationals are still 10.5 games ahead of the Mets in the NL East, despite the Mets playing better of late…Mets outfielder Jay Bruce is quietly having a nice year, and is on pace for 40 homers and 110 RBI…the NL Central has been disappointing, headlined by the 41-41 World Champion Cubs…despite going 2-8 over their last 10 and sitting in 3rd place in the NL West, the Rockies still are on pace to be the 2nd NL Wild Card team, a testament to how mediocre the rest of the NL also is – lots of mediocrity across the board, not to mention home runs and strikeouts…

Yankee Report: It’s been a rough couple of weeks for the now 2nd place Yanks. The team either blows out the opposition or blows the lead in the late innings, losing in gut-wrenching fashion. In June, the Yanks actually scored on average more runs than they did in either April or May. Despite a rash of injuries to Hicks, Castro, Holliday, Dustin Fowler, and not to mention a glaring hole at first base, the offense has still been highly productive thanks to Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Didi Gregorius. The bullpen continues to collapse, with nobody seemingly able to throw strikes besides Chad Green. Every late inning lead becomes a high-wire act, eventually culminating with either Tyler Clippard, Domingo German, Jonathan Holder, Dellin Betances, or closer Aroldis Chapman coughing up the lead. Given the state of the bullpen, no lead feels safe. When Andrew Miller used to come into games, there was a sense that things were in complete control, especially because all he did was throw strikes. For his career as a Yankee, Miller went 9-3 with a 1.77 ERA in 107 IP, while striking out a ridiculous 177 batters with an 0.82 WHIP – those numbers are incredible and irreplaceable. The Yankees made the right move in trading him to help retool for the future, but the bullpen is paying the price this season.

Didi Gregorius

MLB Week 12: Beast of the Week, Yankee Report & Things to Know

Beast of the Week: This is really a two-week Beast of the Week Award, as this winner is working on a truly historic run. Congrats to Dodgers rookie first baseman Cody Bellinger, who had an incredible 10-homer in 10-game stretch, and currently has hit an amazing 12 homers over his past 15 games. The 6’4 lefty slugger currently leads the NL with 24 taters, and also hit five more at AAA before being called up to the big leagues. Bellinger is the National League’s answer to rookie Aaron Judge, yet he’s four years younger and hitting home runs at an even quicker rate. Judge is having an overall better season, but Bellinger is holding his own, and put together another beastly week, hitting five homers and knocking in 12 runs with eight XBH’s. He’s currently leading the NL with a .679 SLG%, and I’m looking forward to watching him crush the ball into October.

Corey Kluber
2014 AL CY Corey Kluber

Things to Know: The defending AL Champion Indians are going to be just fine, because after missing roughly a month, staff ace Corey Kluber is officially back to CY form. This past week, Kluber threw 16 shutout innings, with 24 strikeouts, and an 0.50 WHIP. Since coming back in June, Kluber has thrown 35 IP, striking out 52 batters, with a 1.29 ERA and 0.71 WHIP…Red Sox starter Rick Porcello, another former AL CY winner, isn’t faring as well, leading the AL in losses and hits allowed, with a 5.00 ERA – what a difference a season makes…Lanky ace Jacob deGrom has now thrown three-straight starts of 8+ innings while allowing one run or fewer, doing everything he can to keep the sinking Mets out of last place in the NL East…Nationals ace Max Scherzer took a no-hitter into the 8th, only to lose it and the game 2-1. Both runs were unearned, and Scherzer extended his streak of 10+ strikeouts to six straight starts, while lowering his major league leading 2.09 ERA and 0.80 WHIP…the most dominant pitcher this season in the AL has unquestionably been the Red Sox Chris Sale, who just threw another 8+ innings of one run ball with 10 K’s. Sale has thrown exactly 110 pitches in four straight starts, but threw: six, seven, eight, and eight innings over those same 110 pitches – so it seems that’s the threshold the Sox have interestingly decided to hold him at…The Cubs finally demoted Kyle Schwarber and his .171 AVG to AAA. Too bad they didn’t take my advice and just do it after Week 6…Despite only going 3-4 on the week, the Red Sox now sit only a half-game behind the Yankees for 1st place in the AL East, with the Rays only three back of the struggling Yankees…the Astros became the majors first team to 50-wins, joined shortly after by the Los Angeles Dodgers…23-year old shortstop Corey Seager looks like he’s going on the DL with an unfortunate hamstring injury. This is a blow for the surging Dodgers and my pre-season NL MVP pick, who currently has a higher OPS+ than he had last season when he finished 3rd in the NL MVP voting…Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen continued his historic streak of not allowing a walk, extending his run to 51 strikeouts and 0 walks before walking a batter late last night. His 51 K’s before walking a batter shattered the previous mark of 35 by Adam Wainwright in 2013…Despite their incredibly disappointing season, the defending World Series Champion Cubs are only one game out of 1st place. Starters John Lackey and Jake Arrieta are largely to blame for the pedestrian start, but if the team can straighten out one of the two, they’ll still have enough to win their mediocre division. Lackey is 38 and likely beyond repair, but I think Arrieta, at 31 and entering free-agency, will turn the corner…another NL Central team currently disappointing is the St. Louis Cardinals, currently seven games under .500 but still in the playoff race at only five back of the Brewers. The Cardinals lack a big-bat difference maker in the lineup, and are getting blasted by starting Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright for 40% of the team’s games. Both pitchers are showing their run-of-the-mill 2016 seasons were no aberration, and it’s critical the team make a deadline deal for a bat and starter…I think they’re pretenders, but the 1st place Brewers have received unexpected all-star caliber play from former Red Sox Travis Shaw (wouldn’t the Sox love to have him back over Panda), and All-Star pitching from Chase Anderson and closer Corey Knebel. Shaw is on pace for 30-100, with 42 doubles, and Knebel is the best reliever you’ve never heard of. A former Tigers 1st round pick in 2013, Knebel is leading the league in appearances, has an 0.96 ERA, and is on pace for 78 IP with 137 K’s and an 0.96 WHIP…the Giants have gone 1-11 in their last 12 and became the first team to reach 50 losses. While outfielder Hunter Pence and shortstop Brandon Crawford are having down years, Buster Posey is having an MVP caliber season, and it’s really been the lack of quality pitching that has doomed their season. Pitching ace Madison Bumgarner’s value always shows when he’s on the mound, but it’s shown even more while he’s been on the DL as his void has been replaced with awful pitching by Matt Cain/Ty Blach. Barring any setbacks, Bumgarner will return in roughly two weeks, but the Giant’s 2017 season is all but lost…their AL West counterpart, Arizona Diamondbacks, are cruising at 48-28. The offense is clicking, the starting pitching is living up to expectations, and the bullpen has been solidified by the transition of Archie Bradley from the rotation. The former 2011 1st round pick has been lights out with a 1.08 ERA and 0.84 WHIP, while averaging 11.3 K’s/9…after the failed trade attempts and mismanagement of their most recognizable player, Pirate outfielder Andrew McCutchen, it’s great to see the 2013 NL MVP heating up. So far this June, McCutchen has hit .387, with a .472 OBP and .693 SLG%, leading me to believe the Pirates will again attempt to trade him while his value is up…Indians sparkplug Jose Ramirez is on pace for 53 doubles and just keeps on hitting…lastly, great job by the Braves picking up first baseman Matt Adams from the Cardinals after Freddie Freeman went down. For the month of June, Adams has a .322 AVG to go along with 10 bombs and 25 RBI’s.

USP MLB: MIAMI MARLINS AT PITTSBURGH PIRATES S BBN PIT MIA USA PA
Andrew McCutchen, trade bait? 

Yankee Report: It’s been a turbulent two weeks for the Yanks, who momentarily lost command of 1st place to the Red Sox, and are still struggling to get on track. They mercifully designated first base enigma Chris Carter for assignment, making rookie Tyler Austin the starting first baseman until Greg Bird’s troublesome ankle heals…the Yankees have far bigger problems than just first base, starting with a bullpen that’s posted an ERA approaching 6.00 over the team’s past two weeks. One of the team’s greatest strengths to start the season, they’ve burnt out exactly as I predicted in my Week 6 post. As I noted a month and a half ago, “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.” I take no pride being right here, as it means the team is struggling mightily. The Yankees desperately need rookie relievers Giovanny Gallegos, Ben Heller, Domingo German, and Tyler Webb to step up and assert themselves. If he stays healthy, I’m predicting righty swingman Chad Green will become the Yankees 7th inning go-to guy, behind Betances in the 8th, and Aroldis Chapman in the 9th by season’s end. Starting pitching issues have exposed the bullpen, especially Michael Pineda’s ineffectiveness, having allowed 5+ runs in three of his last five starts, something he didn’t do in his first 10 starts. Lefty CC Sabathia is still on the DL with a pulled groin, and nobody knows which Tanaka is going to show up. 23-year old Luis Severino’s development has been incredibly encouraging, but the team can’t only count on him and rookie Jordan Montgomery to anchor the rotation if they’re going to play meaningful baseball in October. Interestingly, the Yankees promoted starting pitching prospect Domingo Acevedo to AAA, who started the season at Tampa before being promoted to AA Trenton. Cashman no doubt is leveraging Acevedo to maximize his trade-value as a budding major league starter. If Cashman deals for a legitimate starter at the trade-deadline, looking into my crystal ball, I see Acevedo as a part of that deal…acquired at last year’s trade deadline, Yankees #1 prospect Gleyber Torres injured his Ulnar Collateral Ligament on a slide at the plate and had Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing elbow. Torres was ticketed for the majors by season’s end, if not sooner, so while this isn’t a career threatening injury, it’s disappointing fans will now wait until sometime in 2018 for his debut, and more disappointing that below average Chase Headley is now secure as the Yankees third baseman through the seasons’ end

Gary Sanchez
All-Star Catcher Gary Sanchez

…on a positive note, I love the hustle and versatility that 24-year old Ronald Torreyes provides. The little guy plays great defense, makes constant contact, and seeing him hoisted up to high-five Aaron Judge after home runs is hilarious…Catcher Gary Sanchez has 25 RBI over 19 games in June, and has mashed nine home runs during a stellar month. Sanchez is second in the majors for homers by a catcher despite missing five weeks, and has an .942 OPS which would rank 6th in the AL if he had enough AB’s to qualify. Right in front of him, rookie Aaron Judge has scored 24 runs in 22 June games, while also slugging nine home runs and knocking in 21 runs. These two talents can anchor the lineup for the next decade, making the Yankees desire of bringing in a Bryce Harper or Manny Machado after 2018 less imperative.

MLB Week 11: Things to Know

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. Royce Lewis signs 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… Kenley Jansen 2 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…

MLB Week 10: All Rise, Judgement Day is Officially Upon Us & Things to Know

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.

Aaron Judge Triple Crown
AL Triple Crown Leader – Aaron Judge

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…

Scooter Gennett
Scooter Gennett 4 HR 10 RBI on 6/6/17

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. Robbie Ray 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.

Jordan Montgomery
Yankee Rookie Jordan Montgomery

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.

bartolo-colon-hamburglar

MLB Week 9: Yankees Report & Things to Know

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.

Volquez no hitter
Edinson Volquez 2017 No-Hitter

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.

Career HR Leaders 6.4.17
Career Home Run Leaders

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…

Bryce Harper Strickland Posey Punch
Notice how catcher Buster Posey is still behind the plate…

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?

Bryce Harper Strickland Jeff S Fight
Once more for good measure…who doesn’t like a good baseball brawl?

MLB Week 8: Beast of the Week & Things to Know

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.

Charlie Blackmon Rockies

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…

Jacob deGrom
Met Ace, Jacob deGrom

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.