Veda's Thoughts on Baseball

A Fevered Mind Reflects on the Pasttime

In Abstentia

So, when they gave me my last eye “treatment,” they scratched my cornea, and I am only able to start reading today. And I’m not doing that very well. So, this is why might be called The Suck.

Sorry, I’ll be back at some point later in the week.

The AL Central on Monday Night

 

W

L PCT GB RS RA RD Streak

Last 10

DET

33

27 .550 270 262 +8 L 2

3-7

CLE

33

31 .516 2 295 294 +1 W 3

9-1

CHA

32

33 .492 3.5 290 307 -17 W 1

4-6

KCR

31

32 .492 3.5 244 259 -15 W 2

6-4

MIN

29

33 .468 5 270 295 -25 L 2

4-6

You should read Jason Lukeheart’s excellent summary of life around the AL Central Division. Summary: Indians rise while Tigers continue to fall. His is much more succinct, focused, and readable than mine, but has fewer tasty links.

The Minnesota Twinsrallied against the Toronto Blue Jays, but the Jays were able to walk off in the bottom of the ninth, winning 5-4. Neither starting pitcher was sharp, at the start, though they settled down in the middle innings. Danny Santana continued to collect base hits. Edwin Encanacion continued to be awesome.  AP Recap. MLB Recap.Box Score. Win Expectancy. Play-by-play. Highlights. “Random” news item: The Twins decided to rent Kendrys Morales for a while.He could provide value, but without changes to the rotation, he may best provide it as a trade chip for a prospect if the Twins cannot remain in contention. And their ability to stay in contention is still at question, for if they really want to do so, they need to improve their starting pitching; if they don’t, Tom Powers argued in the Pioneer-Press,  they aren’t really trying:

To me, either you’re in or you’re out. Ryan and the front office indicated they were in by signing Morales. They will indicate otherwise if the Twins go through the rotation a couple more times with similar results and make no internal moves. The Morales signing fills a vital need but the pitching, overall, remains subpar.

Powers is even less patient that I am, indicating that only a couple more times through the status quo rotation will convince they don’t really intend to contend. There is a further impact to the deal, and that’s the one it has had on the players, with whom the deal is a hit. Can  Morales power the Twins? Maybe, maybe not, but even if he doesn’t make them contenders, there is much to like about the dea. The man Morales displaced from the Twins roster, Jason Kubel, is not willing to accept a minor-league assignment.

The Detroit Tigers visited the Chicago White Sox on Monday, beginning a four-game series, one considered the third-best early week series by one discerning viewer. Although Miguel Cabrera was initially listed as day-to-day with hamstring tightness, he played designated hitter Monday night. He hit a home run because, hey, he’s Miguel Cabrera and he doesn’t need a healthy hammy to abuse puny human pitchers. Cabrera Smash!. Jose Abreu, whose bat has been cool since his return from the disabled list, contributed early with a two-run home run in the bottom of fifth inning and the White Sox beat the Tigers 6-5. Ronald Belisario continued to have some of the worst batted ball luck of any reliever I can remember watching on a day-to-day basis, well, ever. He got shafted by poor corner outfield defense in the bottom of the ninth, as two catchable balls went for extra-base hits. While Belisario, whose best quality as a late-inning reliever is his incredibly high groundball rate–since, you know, groundballs don’t turn into homeruns–should not be giving up fly balls, corner outfielders are supposed to make those plays. AP Recap. MLB Recap. Box Score. Win Expectancy. Play-by-play. Highlights. “Random” Tigers notes: The Tigers remain the Vegas favorites to win the World Series, but here in reality, they have not been good of late. What’s up with the Tigers? The reason it is important to answer this question is that they begin a critical two weeks of play against their division rivals. Anyway, What’s up with the Tigers? Three big things:  (1) Torii Hunter’s defense ain’t what it used to be; (2) Justin Verlander’s pitching resembles Hunter’s outfield play; (3) the bullpen’s performance again resembles a “dumpster fire” its woes continuing. As the Detroit News put it, they keep dancing with danger in the ninth. That all being said, acknowledged, and repeated, Joe Nathan will remain the closer.

The Cleveland Browns defeated the Dallas Cowboys 17-7 on Monday night …uh, actually, the Cleveland Indians staged an offensive eruption in Arlington, Texas, concluding their over-the-weekend-four-game-series with the Texas Rangers by blowing them completely out of the ballpark by a football-like 17-7 score.  While Tribe third-baseman/first-baseman/designated hitter Lonnie Chisenhall has been hitting everything in sight in 2014, but he took things to another level on Monday night, recording a career night with three home runs, five hits, and nine runs batted in. In a single game. AP Recap. MLB Recap. Box Score.Win Expectancy. Play-by-play. Highlights. “Random” item deserving to be smashed with a hammer labeled “Small Sample Size”: Carlos Santana looked better this last few games so someone claimed he is “rounding into form.” Well, sort of. His performance since he returned from the DL has certainly looked better (.500/.667/.875), but that only comprises a sample of 12 plate appearances. Comcluding that he is rounding into form based on that subset is a fraught prospect. Looking at his 2014 numbers, though, you can completely see that it has been a strange year for Santana, with him producing an extreme walk rate (20.9%)  and BABIP (.191).

The New York Yankees were to conclude their series with the Kansas City Royals on Monday night but weather intervened and the game postponed. “Random” blog post about the Royals offense being terrible: I guess it says  it’s bad, but it’s not as bad as it looks.

Divisionally Speaking: The State of the Central

After an other-writing-project-sprawl-related hiatus, Veda returns with the weekly review of life in the AL Central division.

First, look at this, a piece about the five most underrated pitchers in Major League Baseball. Three of them are from the AL Central. On the one hand, I think the division may be underrated a bit, but, on the other hand, it is only underrated to a small degree.

With this division, the spread from top to bottom is less than in other divisions, and the bottom of this division is better than the bottom of most of the other divisions, with the possible exception of how the Houston Astros as playing right at this moment (more on that later). Generally, though, when you look at the Rays, the Phillies, the Cubs, and the Diamondbacks, you see teams that would also finish last in the AL Central. In other words, despite the records, the AL Central may be the most underrated division in baseball. I think it may have something to do with market size, as both leagues’ Eastern and Western divisions are dominated by teams from markets bigger than any in the Central other than Chicago.

So, while the Tigers aren’t as good as the Blue Jays or the Athletics, neither are the Twins or Royals as bad as the Reds, Diamondbacks, Cubs, or Phillies. They may be worse than the Astros as playing right now, but despite the Astros not being completely terrible at the moment, they still aren’t great, and their fielding remains atrocious, as in Cleveland Indians-territory terrible.

Bottom five Defensive Teams in UZR/150 with other comparative defensive numbers thrown in for, uh, comparison; ranks in Major League Baseball given in parentheses.

  UZR/150 DRS rPM E
HOU -16.9 (30) -24 (24) -16 (23) 39 (19)
CLE -14.5 (29) -41 (30) -38 (30) 57 (30)
PIT -9.9 (28) 18 (6) 20 (6) 51 (29)
PHI -7.7 (27) -32 (29) -25 (28) 36 (13)
DET -7.7 (26) -26 (26) -27 (29) 37 (14)

It turned out I was wrong yet again, and the Astros are not as defensively putrid as the Cleveland Indians. To me, the two surprise teams to see on the list were the Phillies and the Tigers. The Phillies because, well, I just didn’t they stunk that badly, and the Tigers because just moving Cabrera from third to first should have fixed half their troubles. Well, their shortstop position is a disaster despite recent roster machinations, and their right field position is a disaster. Sorry, Torii.

The Astros are not totally sucking at the moment, and  they have been good against the AL Central over the last month, going 2-1 vs. the White Sox, 3-0 against the Royals, and 2-1 against the Twins. That just may be better than the AL Central teams have been against each other.  Nope, these aren’t April’s Astros anymore, sweetheart, they don’t completely suck. Their player development may be slightly ahead of schedule, as the arrival–either literal or figurative–of several key pieces has sparked something. They clearly have accumulated good young talent:

Springer, taken #11 in the 2011 Draft, struggled upon first arriving, but since has hit for more power than the Astros could have hoped for, blasting 10 home runs since May 8 — the Royals hit 12 homers AS A TEAM in May. Springer’s 9.8% walk rate is also encouraging, especially for a 24-year-old pup seeing his first Major League action. Of concern is the 31.1% strikeout rate, but he a) strikes out a lot anyway, and b) is still adjusting to elite pitching. His power plays in right field, and assuming he continues to grow, he’ll be a valuable middle-of-the-lineup piece in Houston for years.

In a way, the Astros performance against the AL Central convinces me the AL West is probably the best overall division, though I still think the AL Central stacks favorably against the other. But the Astros are kind of the canary in the mine.

To the Central!

  W L PCT GB RS RA RD Streak Last 10
DET 33 26 .559 265 256 +9 L 1 4-6
CLE 32 31 .508 3 278 287 -9 W 2 8-2
KCR 31 32 .492 4 244 259 -15 W 2 6-4
CHA 31 33 .484 4.5 284 302 -18 L 3 4-6
MIN 29 32 .475 5 266 290 -24 L 1 5-5

Wow, the standings look like what a lot of the preseason’s projections and previews claimed they’d look like: Detroit on top with Cleveland in second, the Royals struggling to contend, and the White Sox and Twins fighting to escape the cellar. Anyway ….

The Detroit Tigers still lead the AL Central Division, but not by as much as they did, and they certainly have not looked like an excellent, championship-caliber ballclub for about two weeks.

Over the past seven days, they lost three straight to the Toronto Blue Jays in Detroit, They then won back-to-back games at home against the Red Sox, and they led headed into the top of ninth inning on Sunday night until the bullpen went up in flames again as David Ortiz powered the Red Sox to victory. This time it was Joba Chamberlain rather than Joe Nathan imitating a Highly Combustible Substance. The Tigers went 2-4 for the week.

Joe Nathan, the Tiger closer, has been struggling, providing little relief. (Yes, I am aware that puns are the lowest form of humor.) Nathan’s recent woes continue the bullpen’s overall shakiness, and Nathan, is showing major signs of decline.

With Jose Iglesias done for the year, the Tigers have called up shortstop Eugenio Suarez, giving them a rookie left side of the infield.

The Tigers focused on right-handed pitching in the draft. Here is a list of their draft picks.

In the week ahead,  the Tigers visit Chicago to play a Monday-to-Thursday, four-game series with the White Sox. Detroit then returns home for three games with the Twins.

* * * * *

The Cleveland Indian traveled to Boston where they swept three games from the Red Sox  They then traveled to Arlington, Texas, where they games on Friday and Saturday against the Rangers before winning a tight 3-2 contest on Sunday. The final game of the four-game series is on Monday. So the Indians went 5-1 for the week.

Now that the draft has been completed, it is time to rampantly speculate about the trade deadline. Because there is no use to writing on the Internet unless you engage in rampant speculation, I’ll include a link to some rampant speculation just to contribute to my quote. My rampant speculation is that the Indians have in-house solutions to most of their problems, either guys coming back from injury or regression to the mean, since they struggled so much in April.

It seems clear that the Indians’ hopes of making a playoff run rest on their starting rotation and its performance.  Zach McAllister is heading towards a rehab assignment, which may thus be good news on this front, though what happens with Danny Salazar remains a real concern, and more development from Trevor Bauer couldn’t hurt at all, either.

Non-pitcher Nick Swisher is also headed for a rehab assignment.

While Carlos Santana has been better over the past week since his return from the 7-day concussion DL, Tribe fans should hold off on any “Carlos-Santana-is-back-to-his-old-self” euphoria:

But until we start to see some gradual improvement of more than one week, consider me skeptical in that he’s finally turned the corner. I may be the last one to buy in, and I’m okay with that. We are one full week into July, and the truth is exactly what my eyeballs see at this point. It’s probably best that you wait it out along with me, because it really sucks to get excited for ultimately nothing.

As the other big news of the week was the draft, you should know that the Indians focused on college talent in making their selection. Let’s Go Tribe conveniently provided full, seemingly pick-by-pick coverage of the Indians’ draft selections.

In the week ahead, the Indians will play three different opponents. First, they conclude their four-game series with the Rangers on Monday, before going north to Kansas City for two games with the Royals, before traveling to Boston for a four-game, Thursday-to-Sunday series against the Red Sox. This will be an interesting week to be following the Cleveland Indians.

* * * * *

The Kansas City Royals won three of four from the St. Louis Cardinals before hosting a Friday-to-Monday series with the Yankees. They split the first two games, and then James Shields shut down the Yankees with help from Aaron Crow, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland–the filthy Royals bullpen–as the Royals clung to a 2-1 victory on Sunday. The Royals thus went 5-2 on the week. 5-2!

At one point this week, there was rampant speculation, with nothing confirmed nor denied, regarding the Royals and a possible move to sign Kendrys Morales. Well, not quite, but it was something.

The reason such speculation made sense was that the Royals simply can’t hit, an observation that has become the team’s meme in 2014. Alex Gordon has been great, but even over the past two weeks, when the offense has kind of been better, the rest of the Royals have been batting like, well, the Royals.

In saying “the Royals are being the Royals,” I mean to highlight things like continuing to put Hosmer (.256/.295/.357)  in third spot in lineup. Manager Ned Yost explained. I will leave it to you to draw your own conclusions as all my synapses either just fired at once or completely stopped firing at the same time. Something brain-y.

Yordano Ventura felt well enough to start, which was very good news, and he was great in the start, which was even better.

Since no discussion of the Royals, however rambling and haphazard, would be complete without registering a complain about General Manager Dayton Moore.  This one is big,  a meta-complaint that Mr. Moor wasted Baseball’s premier farm system, turning gold into non-magical beans.

Since the draft was this week, it is time to recall the error of Bubba Starling and then understand why Moneyballing teams would not have made it.

Pitching was a priority for the Royals in the 2014. That sentence is so generic as to beggar imagination. I have yet to read a story about a team for whom pitching was not a priority. This is what everyone is going to say

The Kansas City Star’s Royals blog’s draft tracker.

In the week ahead, the Royals play a  Monday game with the Yankees. The Indians then visit for two games on Tuesday and Wednesday. After a Thursday off-day, the Royals visit the Chicago White Sox. Following next weekend, they play in Detroit, so the next ten days represent a vital stretch for the Royals.

* * * * *

The Chicago White Sox visited Tinsletown this week, playing three-game series at each of the Los Angeles teams. They took two of three from the Dodgers, but then dropped all three games with the Angels.  The Sox, then, finished the week 2-4.

Is the White Sox defense headed in the right direction? Well, Sox fans would sure like to see that because, well, there’s been some shoddy play that has cost them in 2014. It hasn’t been Cleveland Indians level terrible, but it hasn’t been a net positive.

Looking around the division may teach the White Sox some lessons.

First, other teams have closer issues, too, even those teams with Proven Closers, like, as noted, the Detroit Tigers.

Second, the White Sox have had some Adventures in Outfielding, which is something the Twins have contended with at times this year. The Twins spent most of April and May with non-corner outfielders playing corner outfield spots. And they paid a price, which can be seen here for left field and here for right field, which are the UZR 150 ratings of corner outfield positions; if you don’t want to waste time following the links, the summary is that they are very, very bad. And if Chris Colabello were still on the Big League roster and still being used in right, they would be much, much worse. (Of course, the really shocking thing about looking at the bottom of the rightfield fielding rankings is realizing how far Torii Hunter has fallen.)

Is Chris Sale the best pitching in Baseball? Naturally, Dave Schoenfield of ESPN had impeccable timing in asking and trying to answer that question on Saturday:

The case for: 5-0, 1.59 ERA in seven starts. Has allowed a .126 average against with a 52-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His slider has been known to make grown men cry. He had a 3.05 ERA in 2012 and 3.07 in 2013, while pitching in one the best home run parks in the majors. Distinctive three-quarter delivery and unusual arm angle have earned him the nickname “The Condor,” which is worth bonus points. Arguably improving as strikeout rate has increased and walk rate decreased.

The only knock against Sale that Schoenfield records is his lack of durability, noting that has not repeatedly recorded 200+ IP seasons. Those are increasingly rarer, though, across all of baseball. The other contenders that Schoenefield considered included Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish, Masahiro Tanaka, Max Scherzer, Adam Wainwright, Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, and Johnny Cueto.  And Saturday night made Sale look like clearly the best, and then the eighth inning occured, and Mike Trout ruined Chris Sale’s day.

Since this week the draft happened, here is a look at the 40 players the White Sox selected. They chose another left-handed starting pitcher, Carlos Rodon,  with their first pick. The roundtable of pretty good thinking about Rodon appeared at the Catbird Seat.

The Way the White Sox loaded up on college pitchers seems like an indication GM Rich Hahn is looking to contend “sooner” rather than “later,” by selecting pitchers closer to being Major-League-ready. After his on-the-fly reconstruction of the White Sox offense, this draft indicates that the White Sox intend to compete in the near-term.

Over the next seven days,  the White Sox return to Chicago to host the Tigers in a critical four-game series starting Monday. The Royals then follow the Tigers into U. S. Cellular Field. Seven AL Central games for Chicago in seven days. A crucial week.

* * * * *

The Minnesota Twins split four games with their Wisconsin neighbors, the Milwaukee Brewers. The then hosted the Astros over the weekend, and you know what? The suddenly-not-so-laughable Astros don’t suck. They exploded for two grand slams on Sunday’s game to take the series two games to one from the Twins. Minnesota thus finished the week 3-4, but they came away from the week with a new piece on the roster.

Hopefully, Oswaldo Arcia can fill the black hole that has been the right field position for the Twins so far this year.

In other news, the Twins signed DH/1B Kendrys Morales. This has several implications including the possible banishment of Jason Kubel from the Twins Major League Roster (DFA’d). If he DHs, then Willingham has to play the outfield, so, again, the Twins will be trading some defense in the corner outfield for some offense. At least Willingham and Arcia provide much better offense than did Kubel and Colabello in the corner outfield in May.

It had been known that the Twins might seek stopgap help amid Aaron Hicks’s struggles,  I guess this is one means they can do so, as by adding a potent bat, they can let Hicks play every day and work on batting right-handed full time even if he hits below the Mendoza line because Morales adds enough to the lineup. And what he adds could be enough to keep the Twins competitive:

Though it will likely be at least two weeks before Morales is ready to join the team, he’ll be inserted into a lineup that has suddenly awoken after posting a .639 OPS in May, the second-worst mark in the American League. A big part of that is the returns of Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia from the disabled list; the former has hit .316/.490/.658 since May 26, and the latter has slashed .348/.348/.696 in that same timeframe. Add in Morales, who posted a 123 OPS+ last season, and the Twins’ middle of the order should now possess some increased pop. Whether his signing will be enough to pick up a team currently three games under .500 and five back in the AL Central, however, remains to be seen.

Though Morales may be seen as a bit of an “odd fit” for the Twins, the signing indicates the Twins are going for it and aiming to be comptet in 2014. At the very least, it would seem to push the Rangers closer to “completely doomed” territory, as they just lost Mitch Moreland for three months and could really have used Morales. So, in a way, the Twins have already affected the American Playoff Race just by signing the guy, independent of anything else he does.

Over the week ahead, the  Twins visit Toronto to play the really good Blue Jays. After a Thursday off, Minnesota will leave Ontario and enter Michigan, where they will spend the weekend playing the Detroit Tigers.

Tasty Links Thursday

These are the kind of links you follow for reading pleasure rather than eating for, uh, eating pleasure.

First up, of course, is the news of Don Zimmer’s death. He played for the ’55 Dodgers and the ’62 Mets, so he saw the highs and lows of baseball. Everyone will miss him. He was manager of the Red Sox when I started paying attention to baseball (1977), and the first time I saw him was the Saturday afternoon NBC Game of the Week in which Billy Martin yanked Reggie Jackson in the middle of an inning.  MLB.com has a story, ESPN has a story, and there are many more stories out there from a variety of sources and voices, including a tremendous profile by Tyler Kepner in the New York Times. Enjoy. Ah, the profiles, and reflections, and commentary.

Second is this wonderful long-form profile of Vin Scully that was almost as much a pleasure to read as Scully is to listen to talk about baseball.

Vin Scully talks about Don Zimmer.

Yes, the draft begins today. A look at the draft rules and regulations.

Yasiel Puig, May NL Player of the Month.

Gregory Polonco will only help the Pirates so much, for it is their pitching that is problematic.

Dirk Hayhurst, who is quite a good author, responded to Tim Kurkjian’s piece about baseball’s “unwritten rules.” He begs leave to disagree.

About that “parity” that is being discussed … consider the Wild Card Standings in the American League. Here are some “tiers,” and if you examine them, you will probably find that anything could happen within them, any team can beat any other team, and practically any scenario remains realistic within the groups, though not much good seems possible for the Rays right now:

The Top

W

L PCT GB RS RA RD Streak

Last 10

LAA

31

27 .534 273 244 +29 W 1

4-6

BAL

30

27 .526 248 248 0 W 4

6-4

SEA

31

28 .525 247 22 +25 W 5

7-3

 

 Close

W

L PCT GB RS RA RD Streak

Last 10

CHA

31

30 .508 1 273 284 -11 W 2

6-4

CLE

30

30 .500 1.5 263 276 -13 W 6

6-4

NYA

29

29 .500 1.5 238 267 -29 L 4

4-6

TEX

29

30 .492 2 246 275 -29 L 2

5-5

MIN

28

29 .491 2 244 263 -19 W 2

5-5

 

Could Be Closer

W

L PCT GB RS RA RD Streak

Last 10

KCR

28

31 .475 3 229 248 -19 L 1

4-6

BOS

27

32 .458 4 240 252 -12 L 3

7-3

 

 Not Close

W

L PCT GB RS RA RD Streak

Last 10

HOU

25

35 .417 6.5 223 267 -44 L 1

7-3

TBR

23

37 .383 8.5 222 264 -42 L 9

1-9

Do the current AL Wild Card Standings accurately reflect the listed teams’ true talent levels?

Wednesday’s Action in the AL Central

Wow, the last two weeks have seen this division actually turn into kind of, potentially, maybe a race.

  W L PCT GB RS RA RD Streak Last 10
DET 31 24 .564 245 236 +9 L 4 3-7
CHA 31 30 .508 3 273 284 -11 W 2 6-4
CLE 30 30 .500 3.5 263 276 -13 W 6 6-4
MIN 28 29 .491 4 244 263 -19 W 2 5-5
KCR 28 31 .475 5 229 248 -19 L 1 4-6

Jose Bautista again led the Toronto Blue Jays who rallied late to blow out the reeling Detroit Tigers 8-2. The Tigers, 4-12 in their last 16 games, lost their fourth in a row, despite another good Rick Porcello start. AP Recap. MLB Recap. Box Score. Win Expectancy. Play-by-play. Highlights. “Random” news article. Brad Ausmust called out the bottom of the lineup. Next “random” news article: Tigers calle up minor shortstop to spark the bottom of the lineup. They might as well since Jose Isglesias will miss the remainder of the season. Draft preview from a Detroit newspaper: The Tigers want a power arm. MLB draft preview: Jason Beck reports the Tigers are excited to draft in the first round.

Oswaldo Arcia continued his hot hitting (.316/.316/.553, .377 wOBA, 141 wRC+) since his return from the DL and some time lighting up the International League, hitting his third home run in ten days and driving in four runs pushing (.429 WPA) the Minnesota Twins to a 6-4 win over the visiting Milwaukee Brewers. Josh Willingham is hitting the daylights out the ball as well. AP Recap. MLB Recap. Box Score. Win Expectancy. Play-by-play. Highlights. “Random” opinion piece: Power is good. Oswaldo Arcia! Twins draft preview from Twins Daily, and Rhett Bollinger’s MLB.com story discussing the Twins’s targeting of impact player.

Though they rallied in the ninth against St. Louis Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal, the Kansas City Royalsbullpen stumbled in the eleventh, with Kelvin Herrera surrendering three runs as the Cardinals won 5-2. Matt Carpenter had a career-high five hits for the Cardinals, his fifth driving home the game-winning runs. Adam Wainwright had held the Royals scoreless before turning over the game to Rosenthal. AP Recap. MLB Recap. Box Score. Win Expectancy. Play-by-play. Highlights. “Random” opinion piece: Cardinals fans are disappointed because they have been spoiled.  Draft Piece: Making the most of early picks. Random blog post: Why can’t the Royals develop starting pitching?

John Danks pitched very well for the Chicago White Sox for the third straight time, allowing only one run and two hits over eight innings. Supported by the power of Adam Dunn and Leury Garcia (!), both of whom hit solo home runs, Danks and the White Sox won 2-1 over the Los Angeles Dodges, who remainedoffensively inept and baffling, some might say, “selfish.”. The White Sox took the series, winning two of the three games, and their power proved decisive in both victories. They may–may–have actually found something in Hector Noesi while rehabilitating John Danks. Ronald Belisario pitched a clean ninth inning for the save, allowing no baserunners and striking out one, just in case you were wondering, you know, if you follow the White Sox bullpen’s misadventures. They are entertaining. AP Recap. MLB Recap. Box Score. Win Expectancy.Play-by-play. Highlights. “Random” blog post: White Sox draft calculations.

Were you aware that at the start of play on Tuesday, the Cleveland Indians have made up six games in the standings? The Indians have excelled while the Tigers have stumbled. Cleveland continued its climb toward the top of the standings, both achieving the .500 mark and sweeping the Boston Red Sox by winning 7-4 in 12 innings on Asdrubel Cabrera’s walk-off, three-run home run. AP Recap. MLB Recap. Box Score. Win Expectancy. Play-by-play. Highlights. “Random” blog post: Danny Salazar placed on DL in Triple-A. Random MLB note: The Indians have four draft picks on Thursday!

The AL Central on Tuesday Night

  W L PCT GB RS RA RD Streak Last 10
DET 31 23 .574 243 228 +15 L 3 3-7
CHA 30 30 .500 4 271 283 -12 W 1 5-5
CLE 29 30 .492 4.5 256 272 -16 W 3 6-4
KCR 28 30 .483 5 227 243 -16 W 2 4-6
MIN 27 29 .482 5 238 259 -21 W 1 4-6

Drew Hutchigson of the very impressive Toronto Blue Jays and Anibal Sanchez of the so-last-week Detroit Tigers staged an impressive pitching duel on Tuesdan night in Detroit, but late-inning relief speicialists on both ateams faltered with Detroit’s faltering more fully than Toronto’s leading to a 5-3 Blue Jay win. Questions about the value Joe Nathan is providing the Detroit Tigers this season have already been asked, so Tuesday night’s performance will not further endear Nathan to Tigers fans, for he entered the game in a scoreless tie in the top of the night and proceeded to fall completely apart. Number nine hitter Anthony Gose (career .243/.306/.356) walked to lead off the inning after falling behind 0-2; yeah, Nathan had him down 0-2 and lost his command. With Jose Reyes batting, Gose stole second. He then advanced to third when Jose Reyes lined a single to left. Melky Cabrera popped out in the infield, leaving runners on the corners and one out. Jose Bautista then tapped a single to center, scoring Gose and sending Reyes to third with Bautista advancing to second on the throw. Edwin Encarnacion then drew an eight-pitch walk, loading the bases. Ausmus replaced Nathan at that point with Ian Krol. John Gibbons pinch hit for Adam Lind, who is terrible against left-handed pitchers, with Kevin Pillar. He hit a sacrifice fly scoring Reyes. Runners at first and second, two out, another pitching change, with Ausmus bringing in Al Alburquerque in to face Brett Lawrie. Lawrie hits the three-run shot, making the score 5-0, completely breaking the game open. Nathan’s line: 1/3 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 0 K, 4 R, 4 ER. Rough. Now, the Tigers rallied, spoiling setup man Steve Delabar’s outing and necessitating the use of a “proven closer” to secure the victory. AP Recap. MLB Recap. Box Score. Win Expectancy. Play-by-play. Highlights.

The Minnesota Twins hit home runs, got good startging pitching, and turned double plays in their 6-4 win over the Milwaukee Brewers. What wouldn’t Earl Weaver like about that? AP Recap. MLB Recap. Box Score. Win Expectancy. Play-by-play. Highlights.

The offense the Kansas City Royals have been missing all year showed up on Tuesday in one game as they rallied to win a wild outburst of run-scoring 8-7.  AP Recap. MLB Recap. Box Score. Win Expectancy.Play-by-play. Highlights.

Michjael Bourn again contributed (.254 WPA) as the Cleveland Indians gave T. J. House just enough batting and bullpen support for them to win a 3-2 decision over the Boston Red Sox. AP Recap. MLB Recap. Box Score. Win Expectancy. Play-by-play. Highlights.

The Chicago White Sox unbelievably found something useful in Hector Noesi. Since I live in Oregon, I get Mariners games on cable, and I thought the guy was terrible and that his release by the Mariners long overdue. White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper is a miracle working of some kind because Noesi was again decent for the White Sox, holding the Los Angeles in check en route to a 4-1 win. The White Sox bullpen still made it interesting as Jake Petricka turned into Wild Thing during his appearance. AP Recap. MLB Recap. Box Score. Win Expectancy. Play-by-play. Highlights.

 

Some Dodgers Stuff

I wrote a little about the Dodgers since I follow the White Sox for the White Sox blog Southside Showdown.

How I build stuff is that I read way too much, and I collect way too many links, and they I eliminated what I can’t fit in. So, I had some Dodgers stuff left over.

First, the Matt Kemp Situation. Yes, it is a big enough deal to capitalize, because he does not like not playing full time. With Crawford injured, Kemp has been playing in left rather than in center, where he played when earning accolades and his monster contract. Kemp thinks playing in left is better than not playing full time. The problem for the Dodgers is that Kemp does not appear to be part of the Dodgers’ big picture moving forward. The Dodgers also have have a potential star, Joc Pederson, absolutely raking at Triple-A (178 wRC+!); he is just waiting for a spot on the Big League Roster:

The four-man competition of Matt KempYasiel PuigCarl Crawford and Andre Ethier was relieved temporarily this past week when Crawford sprained an ankle and was put on the disabled list. However, the only way Pederson gets a call-up is if Kemp fails in his switch to left field or Crawford’s ankle doesn’t heal. When Pederson finally comes up, the Dodgers want him playing every day, not platooning or sitting on the bench.

Therefore, it should shock no one that rampant speculation regarding Kemp being traded has emerged on the Internet. For example, take a look at this piece suggesting Seattle might be a nice landing spot for him.

* * * * *

At least one person has advocated moving Hanley Ramirez to third base, with Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles suggesting that the Dodger rotation is worth building around, and therefore the team should use its best defensive infield:

If the Dodgers really are serious about going all in on their starting pitching — and that seems like a smart bet if you’ve been watching these guys throw lately — they’d be crazy not to at least consider going to their best defensive alignment. The way Dee Gordon has improved at second base, imagine how impermeable this team could be up the middle with Gordon and Arruebarrena turning double plays.

It’s simple and doesn’t involve shifting Ramirez back and forth, the one thing he has asked the team not to do. Move Ramirez to third and leave him there. It might even take some of the pressure off and allow him to start swinging the bat better.

Make no mistake, either, the Los Angeles Dodgers rotation should be the core around which the team is built.

* * * * *

Amid a bullpen that has struggled in 2014, Brandon League has stood out as a bright spot.

Matt Kemp

The Toronto Blue Jays, Having Their Expected 2013 in 2014. Maybe.

The Blue Jays shouldn’t be this good. But then again maybe they should. This was a team around which a buzz formed in spring training 2013. They then stumbled and did not perform to expectations. Perhaps they are doing what they many expected them to do last year. The lineup returned intact. The change in the rotation had more to do with players returning from injuries sustained in 2011 and 2012. While they lost Josh Johnson, he spent most of 2013 injured (and all of it ineffective), and thus unavailable to pitch, so not much has changed there.

Toronto had a monster May, with a and they outscored every other team in Major League baseball by more than 20 runs over the month. Yes, the outscored the ridiculously awesome Oakland A’s, who lead the Majors in both runs scored and runs allowed.  Their key players–Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, and Melky Cabrera–have been on fire, and Mark Buehrle has been good.

Cliff Corcoran of Sports Illustrated concedes they will score runs, as the offense is well constructed, yet he thinks that they still should not be taken seriously as contenders as they have overperformed and regression is coming, which will prove them to be a “middling ballclub”:

Given that they are the only AL East team currently boasting a positive run differential, however, that just might be enough for them to contend deep into the season. If Toronto’s luck persists — be it via a lack of regression by some of the players enjoying seemingly unsustainable performances or the avoidance of major injuries — or if it make a key mid-season addition, ideally to the pitching staff or at second base, the team may yet fulfill the promise of its 2012-13 offseason. However, from this vantage point, the Blue Jays do not look like a serious title threat.

Dave Cameron disagrees, thinking that despite the coming regression they will remain in contention:

But even with that coming regression, the Blue Jays still have to be considered the favorites to take the AL East. The division isn’t the behemoth it once was, and supposed-to-be contenders in Tampa Bay and Boston have dug themselves holes large enough to make comebacks difficult. The Yankees and Oriolesaren’t anything special, and the Blue Jays’ early lead gives them a leg up on both. As it currently stands, the FanGraphs Playoff Odds projection has the Blue Jays winning the division with an 87-75 record, and no other team in the division finishing better than 82-80. Even if the Blue Jays just play .500 ball the rest of the year, their 31-22 start should be enough to give them a real chance to win the division.

(I love it when they actually go “To the Data!” [Which should be said as one would say “To the Batcave!”])

Jose Reyes and Jose Bautista

 

Monday Night in the AL Central, Late Night in the Hotel California

 

W

L PCT GB RS RA RD Streak

Last 10

DET

31

22 .585 240 223 +17 L 2

4-6

CHA

29

30 .492 5 267 282 -15 L 1

5-5

CLE

28

30 .483 5.5 251 269 -18 W 4

5-5

KCR

27

30 .474 6 219 236 -17 W 1

4-6

MIN

26

29 .476 6 232 255 -23 L 1

3-7

Justin Masterson  and the Cleveland Indians halted the winning streak of the Boston Red Sox, assuring us of another round of anguished cries demanding an answer to the perennial question, “What’s the mattah’ with the Sox?” Oh, they are missing some components that made them go (Jacoby Ellsbury) and definitely can’t replace both that bat and glove in center. As for the Indians, they are so hard to figure, and their hitting and defense quite haphazard. Michael Bourn, Lonnie Chisenhall, and David Murphy continued to swoing hot bats for the Tribe. AP Recap. MLB Recap. Box Score. Win Expectancy. Play-by-play. Highlights. “Random” blog post: Grady Sizemore’s bittersweet return to Cleveland. You know, back before the news cycle got so crazy, and that item appeared as a blog post, it may have gotten a proper write-up in Sports Illustrated. Anyone remember that? Really good long-form sports writing. Series recaps that riveted. Thumb through SI from the ’78 Series sometime.

Danny Duffty threw six strong innings but received no run support until the top of the seventh, when Alex Gordon of the Kansas City Royals blasted a solo shot over the bullpen in right-center to break up a scoreless tie. That ended the pitchers’ duel, and the Royals continued with the offense, scoring two more times in the seventh and three more times in the top of the eighth. Royals pitching completely stymied the Cardinals, making them look offensvely inept the way so many Kansas City opponents have made Royals hitters look throughout the first third of 2014. AP Recap. MLB Recap. Box Score. Win Expectancy. Play-by-play. Highlights. “Random” blog post: Rampant speculation indulged as to how the Royals should act like a team trying to win now and sign free agent Kendrys Morales who couldn’t hurt this team offensively

In a scenario scripted to attract Veda’s attention, two small-market teams from the Upper Midwest met in Milwaukee. As it cool as it would have been for them to engage in a freestyle, alliterative poetry throwdown, they did something much cooler and played a baseball game. Kyle Gibson started for the  Minnesota Twins, and he continued to struggle away from Target Field, and  Milwaukee Brewers took advantage, beating down the Twins 6-2. Matt Garza and Jonathan Lucroy led the Brewers, the former with six and a third strong innings pitched, and the second with three hits. AP Recap. MLB Recap. Box Score. Win Expectancy. Play-by-play. Highlights. “Random” blog post: Being wrong can sometimes mean being pleasantly surprised.

Despite Jose Abreu’s fourth-inning two-run home run, the Chicago White Sox could not convert batted balls into outs when they needed to in the bottom of the sixth, and the Los Angeles Dodgers scored enough runs for their left-handed ace Clayton Kershaw to win 5-2 in Los Angeles. Abreu’s home run fooled the great Vin Sculley. When the ball left the bat, Scully said its was a flyball, that Abreu didn’t get all of it, and then it flew over the wall, and Sculley was kind of shocked. Yeah, that guy’s got power. The Sox were done in by their Defensive Indifference sixth, as two errors in the permitted the Dodgers to score five runs. Scull;y called it “a nightmare inning for Robin Ventura,”and he really didn’t overstate things at all. AP Recap. MLB Recap. Box Score. Win Expectancy. Play-by-play. Highlights. “Random” blog post: Abreu’s back!

The Detroit Tigers had Monday off. They will host the Toronto Blue Jays for three games from Tuesday through Thursday. The powerful Blue Jays aim to keep things rolling. More on them after a while.

Just Passing Along Some Reading

A reader alerted me to the following excellent Tim Kurkjian piece. If you have ever been confused about the “unwritten rules” of baseball, you are like everyone else; they are murky. Kurkjian published this very thorough long-form piece on the topic. It’s a good read, and worth the time. A reader sent me a link; he is a good guy and good fan. You know who you are.

Jonah Keri has a new The 30 column up at Grantland today wherein he discusses the youth movements afoot in Houston, Miami and Milwaukee, and the Orioles’ contrasting reliance on a veteran slugger. Good stuff as always from Mr. Keri.

FOX Sports has their MLB power rankings up. Read them and grouse.

The Oakland A’s have a ridiculous catching platoon. Oakland’s catching position is the Best in the Bigs in SLG, wOBA and wRC+, and it isthird-best in terms of WAR (Jonathan Lucroyis good).

The Cubs rotation is second in the Major Leagues in WAR. I just can’t get over that because their record screams that they are terrible.

Brian Dozier is about as cold as you can be.

 

 

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