The 9th Inning Column: The London Series, Race for NL MVP, and Brendan McKay’s fantastic debut

Welcome back to the 9th Inning. This is the third edition of this in the 2019 MLB season. This is a monthly column on Pro Sports Fandom in which I roundup the month’s biggest happenings in the baseball realm. I’ll discuss what teams are hot and what teams are not. I will also give my personal thoughts on a few notable baseball-related events as well as giving out monthly awards for team of the month, players of the month, and rookies of the month. It’s basically a baseball podcast squeezed into an article that happens near the end of every month. This is the second article of this season and I hope for some immense success with this column. If you’d like, be sure to share with your friends, social media, and family! I’d love my column to reach as big a global outreach as possible.

I’m going to start the 9th Inning Column for June with a few rounded-up thoughts in recap of the biggest stories recently, both on the field and off.

The London Series

What a wild two game series it was in London this weekend between the Red Sox and the Yankees. The two teams combined for 50 runs, a two-game record between the two clubs. It was an offensive showdown on both days, as neither starting pitcher made it out of the first inning in Game 1, and the bullpen for both teams proved to be shaky at times. The Yankees had three innings in the series in which they scored six or more runs, and the Red Sox had two of these innings. When the MLB returns to London next season, hopefully they can give the fans a pitcher’s duel to remember.

The race for NL MVP

Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger are in a tight race for the National League MVP award at the moment. Both of these young outfielders are having fabulous seasons and Yelich is looking to win his second MVP in a row. Both are All-Star starters, so how do we separate them? Bellinger has a better batting average, RBIs, and WAR, while Yelich has more home runs and stolen bases. It’s extremely close at the moment, but Bellinger would be my pick if I had to choose between these two.

McKay’s fantastic debut

The Tampa Bay Rays had an exciting weekend by taking a series with the Texas Rangers, but also with the debut of highly touted prospect Brendan McKay, who came up as a pitcher who still has two-way potential. He was ranked as the 23rd best prospect in all of baseball by MLB Pipeline and he was the second best prospect in the Rays system. He retired the first 16 batters of his MLB career and finished a terrific outing by pitching six innings of one-hit shutout baseball with only one walks and three strikeouts. This is a sign of things to come for McKay, who has an extremely bright future in the big leagues.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not?

The New York Yankees have been on the hot section of this list for all three columns thus far in 2019, and it seems to be with good reason. Since losing two in a row to the White Sox on June 13th and 14th, the Yankees rattled off eight consecutive victories and have gone 13-1 overall, with series wins over the Rays, Astros, and Red Sox. Chad Green has found success as an opener as he pitched to a 0.69 ERA in 13 innings during the month. The offense was ruthless throughout the month, led by D.J. LeMahieu’s clutch hitting, Gleyber Torres balanced approach, Gary Sánchez’s pop, and the returning Aaron Judge. They are undoubtedly the best team in baseball right now, and they’ve shown no signs of slowing down.

The Oakland Athletics have once again gotten extremely hot near the end of the month, similar to how the month of May concluded. They’ve gone 7-3 in their past 10 games, climbing within a half game of the second AL Wildcard spot. Matt Olson was a big contributor for the A’s, hitting 9 homers and notching 20 RBIs. Ramon Laureano also showed significant increases in his power hitting abilities, hitting 7 home runs in the month. It certainly hurts to lose Frankie Montas to a PED suspension, but the Athletics are still hungry to make the postseason for the second straight season.

The Washington Nationals were struggling to win not too long ago, but recently they’ve found something that’s clicked. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games and still find themselves in the thick of the hunt for the NL Wildcard spots. Anthony Rendon continued to prove why he’s going to get paid this fall, as he batted .311 with 9 homers and 24 RBIs in the month. Max Scherzer was also phenomenal in June, but we’ll discuss that later. All this stretch did was prove that the Nats won’t sell and why would they?

The New York Mets were expected to contend in the NL East in 2019, but instead they looked like they’ve built an utter disaster. They just ended a seven game losing streak and have gone 3-7 in their last 10 games. The roster was built to win but it simply has not done that, as they now sit 12 games back of the first place Braves. Barring a massive hot stretch, it doesn’t look like Queens will be able to see their hometown Mets play in October this season.

The Boston Red Sox have simply not looked like a great baseball team this season. The defending champs have serious issues with the bullpen and getting run support for Chris Sale. The London Series was pretty embarrassing to be quite frank with you, as Rick Porcello and the bullpen got slaughtered. They’ve fallen 11 games back of the Yankees in the AL East standings amid a three game losing streak and a 4-6 stretch in their last 10 games.

The Monthly Awards:

Team of the Month is…

The Atlanta Braves (20-8)

Despite losing to the Mets on Sunday Night Baseball in difficult fashion, the Braves had a phenomenal month in June, going 20-8 and building a 5.5 game lead in the NL East Standings over the Philadelphia Phillies. They joined the 50 win club yesterday, becoming the fifth team to do so thus far in 2019. Freddie Freeman is unbelievable, Ronald Acuña Jr. is one of the game’s brightest young stars, and Mike Soroka has been unbelievable in his rookie season. Even if they don’t win the World Series this year, the Braves can rest assured that they have one of the brightest futures of any team in the MLB.

Hitter of the Month is…

New York Yankees 2B D.J. LeMahieu

LeMahieu was an absolute superstar for the unstoppable Yankees offense in June, and he is climbing his way up the AL MVP contenders list because of it. LeMahieu batted .395 in the month with six homers and 29 RBIs with a 1.092 OPS. He continues to be one of the most (if not, the most) valuable signings from the offseason. In fact, he’s been rewarded for his outstanding play by being named as the AL Starter at Second Base in the 2019 All-Star Game. He undoubtedly deserves the hitter of the month award for his performance in June.

Starter of the Month is…

Washington Nationals RHP Max Scherzer

Frequently being talked about as a long shot trade deadline target for a few clubs, Max Scherzer’s dominant month of June has been a huge reason why the Nationals are right back in the NL Wildcard hunt. He broke his nose and pitched a gem against the Phillies the next day. Not to mention, he made 6 starts in the month, getting the victory in all 6, and pitching 45 innings with a 1.00 ERA. He only gave up 25 hits, 5 runs, and had 68 strikeouts against only 5 walks in the month. Opponents were hitting just .156 against him and he had a 0.67 WHIP as a result.

Reliever of the Month is…

Oakland Athletics RHP Liam Hendriks

Used as an opener near the end of the 2018 campaign, Liam Hendriks has reestablished himself as one of the better relief pitchers on the Oakland Athletics roster. He pitched 15 innings of one run baseball in June, good for a 0.60 earned run average. He gave up only 10 hits, struck out 22, and walked four batters. Opposing hitters batted just .192 against him in the month and struggled against him all month long.

Rookie Hitter of the Month is…

New York Mets 1B Pete Alonso

Despite being apart of a struggling Mets ball club, first baseman Pete Alonso coasted his way to his second Rookie Hitter of the Month award for my column. In June, the newly announced NL All-Star batted .309 with 9 home runs, 19 RBIs, and a 1.097 OPS. He also had an impressive on-base percentage of .437, as he walked 17 times compared to striking out 22 times. If he continues to hit like this, he’ll be the unquestioned NL Rookie of the Year.

Rookie Pitcher of the Month is…

Arizona Diamondbacks RHP Merrill Kelly

You might be questioning how a 30 year old can be a successful rookie, but Merrill Kelly fits the bill. An eighth round draft pick of the Rays in the 2010 draft, Kelly pitched in the minors until 2015, when he went to the KBO to play baseball. After three years there, Kelly has made his MLB debut in 2019. He was phenomenal in June, making six starts and pitching 39.1 innings with a 2.75 earned run average. He only walked five batters all month and opponents were hitting .212 with a .238 on-base percentage against him in the month.

Thanks for reading the June edition of the 9th Inning column! I hope you enjoyed! Don’t forget to share with your friends, family, and on social media! Feel free to contact me on my Twitter @TBeckmann24 if you have any questions! I’ll be back next month! Peace!

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The 9th Inning Column: MLB Draft Week, Jose Ramirez’ struggles, and RIP Bill Buckner

Welcome back to the 9th Inning. This is the second edition of this in the 2019 MLB season. This is a monthly column on Pro Sports Fandom in which I roundup the month’s biggest happenings in the baseball realm. I’ll discuss what teams are hot and what teams are not. I will also give my personal thoughts on a few notable baseball-related events as well as giving out monthly awards for team of the month, players of the month, and rookies of the month. It’s basically a baseball podcast squeezed into an article that happens near the end of every month. This is the second article of this season and I hope for some immense success with this column. If you’d like, be sure to share with your friends, social media, and family! I’d love my column to reach as big a global outreach as possible.

I’m going to start the 9th Inning Column for May with a few rounded-up thoughts in recap of the biggest stories recently, both on the field and off.

It is almost time for the MLB Draft!

We are less than a week away from the 2019 MLB Draft and there’s a lot of speculation swirling about the first few rounds. Firstly, nearly everybody in the business believes that the Orioles have to take Adley Rutschman with the top pick. Rutschman, a catcher for Oregon State, is a switch-hitter with solid power and great defensive skills behind the plate. Secondly, a lot of people believe that the Royals will take Bobby Witt Jr. with the second pick. Witt Jr. is a five-tool shortstop coming out of Colleyville Heritage High School in Texas, and he’s the son of a former big league starter. Overall, we are looking at a draft class that is somewhat weak on quality arms but more than makes it up for it with high potential position players.

What is wrong with Jose Ramirez?

In the past few seasons, Jose Ramirez gave the Cleveland Indians another budding star to put alongside Francisco Lindor. Yet in 2019, Ramírez looks to be well off his game. He doesn’t look like he’ll achieve a three peat of third place AL MVP finishes. In 55 games, the 26 year old third baseman is batting a mere .211 with only 4 home runs and 17 RBIs. He’s striking out more, walking less, and seems to have lost his touch at the plate. A good thing for Ramirez is that he’s been playing well lately, batting .357 in his last three games. Still though, the Indians are struggling as a team and falling way back in the race for the AL Central, and they’ll need Ramírez to start putting up the numbers that he’s capable of if they want to get back in it.

Former batting champ Bill Buckner passes away

An MLB legend passed away on Monday after a battle with dementia. Bill Buckner played in the big leagues for 22 seasons and totaled 2,715 hits on a career .289 batting average. Buckner was a great teammate and was highly valued as a utility player during his time in the MLB. In 1980, he batted .324 and was the National League Batting Champion. In 1981, he made his only All-Star team. Buckner deserves respect across the league for his great career. Rest In Peace, Bill Buckner.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not?

The New York Yankees were the best team in baseball throughout the month of May and I’ll discuss them later, because they won one of the column’s awards.

The Minnesota Twins were certainly in the mix for the team of the month award in May, but they were just edged out by the Yanks. They’re pulling away from the Indians in the AL Central, as they currently have a 9.5 game cushion. Newfound ace Jake Odorizzi was phenomenal in May, pitching his way to a 0.94 ERA in five starts. First baseman C.J. Cron led the high powered Twins offensive attack in May as he hit eight home runs, batted .301, and tallied 21 RBIs. The Twins continue to surprise folks and they are seriously one of the top five teams in baseball right now, without any doubt.

The Oakland Athletics have recently gotten themselves firmly back in the hunt for the AL West crown with a 10-game winning streak and an 8-2 stretch over their past ten games. They are alone in second place in their division and sit 7.5 games back of the Houston Astros. The Athletics were led by Frankie Montas strong pitching (2.64 ERA in 30.2 IP) and the offense was helped a lot by Josh Phegley (4 HRs and 20 RBI). With franchise cornerstone Matt Chapman and a solid pitching staff, last year’s second AL Wildcard team could be well on their way to another postseason appearance.

If you haven’t heard about Cody Bellinger’s stellar start of a 2019 campaign, then you’ve been living under a rock. Combine that with a dominating pitching staff and you can see why the Los Angeles Dodgers are continuing to build a sizeable lead in the NL West Standings. They either won or split every series in the month of May, proving that they can compete in every single game. Sitting at a 38-19 record, the Dodgers look to be well on their way to another NL West crown.

The St. Louis Cardinals were very good in the first month or so of 2019, but they’ve fallen off to a below .500 record as we turn the calendar to June. They are 4-6 in their last ten games and now sit 4.5 games back of the first place Cubs in the NL Central. The Cardinals play in perhaps the toughest division in all of Major League Baseball, so they’ll need to stop skidding before they find themselves in too big of a hole.

Remember when the Seattle Mariners were hitting all sorts of bombs every day and were in first place in the AL West? Yeah, I do too, and those days are long gone as the Mariners have the worst record in all of Major League Baseball in the month of May at 6-21. They’ve struggled as a pitching staff and had tough offensive nights, leading to their fall to dead last in the AL West standings. It looks like the Mariners have run out of magic.

In last month’s column, I talked extensively about what the San Francisco Giants should do if they didn’t start winning soon. Well, the Giants haven’t done any better and are still in last place in their division as they’ve been extremely cold as of late. They’re in the midst of a 2-8 stretch in their last ten games and they are on their way to being an early seller on the summer trade market.

The Monthly Awards:

Team of the Month is…

The New York Yankees (19-7)

The New York Yankees have surged to the top of the American League East recently due to a continued stretch of dominance. They’ve gone 12-3 since May 12th and that includes series victory over the Tampa Bay Rays (twice) and the San Diego Padres. Masahiro Tanaka had been dominant in May until his start on Tuesday, having a 2.80 earned run average in 35.1 innings of work. Gleyber Torres (.308 AVG and 9 HRs) and Gary Sanchez (.288 AVG and 9 HRs) have carried the load offensively for the Yanks throughout the month. The bullpen is starting to round into form as well, proving it is as good as advertised with Chapman, Britton, Kahnle, and Ottavino all in peak form right now. With so many injuries, the Yankees performance has simply been impressive.

The Hitter of the Month is…

Pittsburgh Pirates 1B Josh Bell

One of the best hitters in all of the majors through the season thus far, Pirates first baseman Josh Bell has been absolutely smoking baseballs left and right. He is undoubtedly the hitter of the month of May, as he hit at a .389 batting average with a .444 on-base percentage and an .814 slugging percentage. He also has hit 12 homers in the month and has racked up 30 RBIs. He’s shown considerable improvements in the 2019 campaign so far, as he’s close to reaching previously career high numbers already. Bell is the unquestioned leader in Pittsburgh and if he continues hitting like this, he will be in Cleveland as an All-Star this summer.

The Starter of the Month is…

Los Angeles Dodgers LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu

Garnering praise as a “left handed Greg Maddux”, the 32-year old veteran Ryu is off to a Cy Young-esque start in 2019. In May, he was nearly unhittable, going 5-0 and pitching his way to a 0.59 ERA in 45.2 innings on the mound. Opposing hitters had just a .177 batting average against him in his six starts and he continues to provide great outings for the dominating LA Dodgers club. If Ryu continues to control the strike zone and limit walks, I could easily see him being named the Cy Young award winner for the National League in the fall.

The Reliever of the Month is…

New York Yankees RHP Adam Ottavino

Adam Ottavino has started off his 2019 campaign still right in his dominant 2018 form. The veteran reliever was superb in May, appearing in 13 games and not giving up any runs. Since April 21st, Ottavino has not given up a run. Thus far in 2019, the former Rockie has a 2-1 record with 12 holds and a 1.37 ERA in 26.1 innings pitched. He’s been exactly the guy that the Yankees wanted him to be when they signed him in the offseason. He undoubtedly deserves the reliever of the month award for his performance in May.

Rookie Hitter of the Month:

Boston Red Sox 2B Michael Chavis

The third best prospect in the Boston farm system, Chavis has immediately come up into the big leagues and helped provide a stable bat in the lineup. In May, he batted .255 with seven home runs and he’s showing off his advanced hitting tool. With other rookies struggling, Chavis has climbed his way up near the top of the American League Rookie of the Year award race.

Rookie Pitcher of the Month:

Atlanta Braves RHP Mike Soroka

Mike Soroka has been more than just a valuable contributor for the Braves rotation this season. He’s been dominant and looks to be firmly in the mix for the NL Rookie of the Year award. If the award was won in May, Soroka may have just clinched it. He pitched his way to a 0.79 ERA in 34 innings during the month. He only gave up three earned runs and opponents hit just .145 against him in the month. Soroka has been just as good as his prospect evaluation hyped him up to be, and he’s on his way to becoming the ace of the Braves already.

Thanks for reading the May edition of the 9th Inning column! I hope you enjoyed! Don’t forget to share with your friends, family, and on social media! Feel free to contact me on my Twitter @TBeckmann24 if you have any questions! I’ll be back next month! Peace!

Overcoming injuries, the Yankees are in the midst of an unbelievable run and the rest of the MLB should be scared

On paper, with 18 players having hit the injured list thus far in 2019, many baseball fans would have forecasted the New York Yankees as being in serious trouble. They certainly would have said this if you told them that Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Dellin Betances, Miguel Andujar, Jonathan Loaisiga, Luis Severino, James Paxton, Troy Tulowitzki, and C.C. Sabathia all being on the list on May 23rd. On top of this, the Yankees are still awaiting midsummer returns from a left handed MLB caliber starter Jordan Montgomery, possible bullpen depth in Ben Heller, and starting shortstop Didi Gregorius.

One good thing is that 2019 returns are expected for all but one injured Yankee, as young third baseman Miguel Andujar recently underwent season-ending surgery to repair his torn labrum. The ravaged roster won’t be fully healthy anytime soon, but there has been some good news lately and reinforcements are on the way. As of now, Judge, Betances, Tulowitzki, and Gregorius look to be on tap for returns in early to mid June. Giancarlo Stanton could join that group after he returns to rehab from his latest setback.

Offseason acquisition James Paxton (knee inflammation) should be returning for a start this weekend against the Kansas City Royals, which will be huge for the Yankees as the big lefty was dominating on the bump before he went down, racking up a 3.11 earned run average in 37.2 innings of work. It also will provide a rotation replacement for another fallen Yankee, as veteran lefty C.C. Sabathia just went on the IL with knee inflammation.

Luis Severino is not expected to make his season debut until after the All-Star break in July, as he is still recovering from a lat strain suffered in Spring Training. The good news is that Severino is likely to start throwing soon, according to Yankees skipper Aaron Boone.

What would you have guessed the Yankees record would be through 48 games? I wouldn’t have said 31-17, and you wouldn’t have either. So how have the Yankees been so prolific and dominant en route to the third best record in Major League Baseball?

There are many players who have been key to the team’s immense success, but perhaps none more important than right hander Domingo Germán, third baseman Gio Urshela, and middle infielder D.J. LeMahieu. In a season full of unknowns, these three have been the most consistent players for New York.

Germán has been a pleasant surprise for the Yankees, as he’s become the unexpected ace of the staff in 2019. Coming off of a rough rookie season in the Bronx, the 26 year old made the Opening Day roster and has dominated ever since. He leads the MLB in wins with 9, having lowered his walks and home runs allowed per nine innings. In 55 and a third innings, he’s pitched to a 2.60 ERA and opponents are hitting just .184 against him. He also has a sub one WHIP at 0.98. If he continues pitching like this, an AL Cy Young award would not be out of the picture.

Urshela was acquired for basically nothing from the Toronto Blue Jays last season, and he’s off to a torrid start manning the hot corner in the Bronx. He’s played in 38 big league games, made some spectacular plays at third base, and has been an extremely clutch hitter for the Yankees in late situations. Two weeks ago, down by two in the ninth and with one runner on, Urshela connected on his second homer of the year, tying the game against the Mariners before D.J. LeMahieu won the game for the Yanks a few batters later. Last Friday, tied at 3 in the ninth with the Rays, Urshela lined a walkoff hit over the head of Kevin Kiermaier to give the Yankees the division lead.

Looking back at the offseason, one of the most underrated signings was D.J. LeMahieu to the Yankees on a relatively team-friendly deal. He’s undoubtedly been the team’s most consistent hitter, as he’s sat with an average safely over the .300 mark for most of 2019 to date. He’s also hit four home runs and has 25 RBIs. Signed as utility infield depth, D.J. has certainly proven himself to be an everyday impact starter heading into the summer.

After these guys, there have been so many impactful players on the roster. Masahiro Tanaka has been utterly consistent and has been dominant in the month of May. Overall, the 30 year old right hander is 3-3 with a 3.09 ERA in 58.1 innings pitched. A big key for Tanaka in 2019 has been the lowering of the number of homers he is giving up per nine innings. Before his knee inflammation caught up to him, C.C. Sabathia was putting up solid numbers as he went 3-1 with a 3.48 earned run average. J.A. Happ is struggling to start the season (5.16 ERA in 52.1 innings), but the rest of the team is picking up the slack.

The fierce bullpen is starting to shape into form with plenty of All-Star caliber guys involved. Tommy Kahnle appears to have bounced back from a tough 2018 campaign. He has been a reliable reliever thus far in 2019, appearing in 22 games, racking up a 1.42 ERA in 19 innings. Zack Britton has been his nasty self so far as well, racking up a 2.53 ERA in 22 appearances and a total of 21.1 innings pitched. Adam Ottavino (1.54 ERA) and Aroldis Chapman (1.83 ERA) have been a lock down duo late in games. If Chad Green (12.41 ERA) figures himself out and reverts to something close to his 2017 self or even 2018 self, this could be an even more dominant bullpen.

22 year old rising superstar middle infielder Gleyber Torres has been superb in 2019 and has been really hot as of late. He’s hit 12 home runs and has 26 RBIs with a .302 batting average. Torres also is clocking in at a .906 OPS percentage. Luke Voit has been really solid following up his torrid two month stretch to end 2018, batting .259 with an .858 OPS, 11 homers, and 34 RBIs. Perhaps the biggest and most welcomed turnaround is that of catcher Gary Sánchez, who has bounced back from a historically bad 2018 campaign. The MLB’s best offensive catcher is batting .270 with a team-leading 15 home runs and a ridiculous 1.018 OPS.

When the injured Yankees start to get healthy, they should be feared by the rest of the MLB. There will also be a bunch of decisions that they’ll have to make, and some of them will be really tough. Looking at a healthy Yankees lineup later this season, you would see the likes of Sánchez, LeMahieu, Torres, Gregorius, Urshela, Stanton, Hicks, Judge, and Voit at the designated hitter spot. On the bench, you could have bats like Frazier, Gardner, Romine, and Tulowitzki.

You’re looking at a guaranteed four man pitching rotation of Tanaka, Severino, Germán, and Paxton. To fill the fifth spot, they’ll have to make a tough decision with three left handers in Sabathia, Happ, and Montgomery. Right now, Sabathia would be my choice and I’d move Happ to the bullpen. The bullpen would consist of Chapman, Betances, Ottavino, Britton, Kahnle, Holder, Happ, and possibly Chad Green if he figures it out.

What if the Yankees want to make a move at the trade deadline? Well, they certainly have the organizational depth to do so, but I don’t know what they would look for. The Giants will almost assuredly look to deal 29 year old ace Madison Bumgarner, but the Yankees would have a lot of competitors in that market. If the Indians fall out of the playoff race, they may trade 28 year old starter Trevor Bauer, and the Yankees reportedly attempted to acquire him in the offseason. The Nationals may opt to trade pending free agent third baseman Anthony Rendon, and the Yankees may look to get involved if Gio Urshela comes down to earth.

The Yankees could possibly dangle guys like Jordan Montgomery, Clint Frazier, Thairo Estrada, and some of their top prospects to acquire a big piece for the postseason push. But if they continue to play like this, they may not have to do so. It’s been an unbelievable run for the injury plagued Yankees and it doesn’t look to be close to stopping soon.

The 9th Inning: These Red Sox cannot be stopped and some interesting players of the week

Welcome to the 9th Inning. This is a weekly column each Sunday evening on Pro Sports Fandom in which I roundup the week’s biggest happenings in the baseball realm. I give my personal thoughts on a few events as well as tell you what to look forward to in the following week. I also give out weekly awards for team of the week and player of the week. It’s basically a baseball podcast squeezed into an article that will happen every week. This is the second article of this column and I hope for some immense success with this column. If you’d like, be sure to share with your friends, social media, and family! I’d love my column to reach as big a global outreach as possible.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not?

*Record for the week is in parentheses.

Hot:

The Boston Red Sox (4-1)

The Oakland Athletics (5-1)

The Atlanta Braves (5-1)

The Philadelphia Phillies (5-1)

Not:

The New York Yankees (2-4)

The Seattle Mariners (2-5)

The Tampa Bay Rays (3-3)

The Weekly Awards:

The Team of the Week is the …

The Boston Red Sox (4-1)

There is no doubt in my mind, as a New York Yankees fan, that these Red Sox are the clear best team in baseball as of today. It hurts me to say it but I cannot avoid speaking the truth. Look at what they did to the Yankees over the past weekend, taking three straight and going for the sweep currently as I’m writing this. They also took their only loss of the week (so far) to the Philadelphia Phillies, who have been hot as of late and are certain to be one of the NL’s premier teams. This Boston team is one of the most well-balanced teams in recent MLB history with a powerful offense led by Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, combined with a Cy Young contender in Chris Sale and a Cy Young winner in Rick Porcello. Oh, and I shouldn’t forget about their all-star closer in Craig Kimbrel. The Red Sox had a great week and truly deserve this honor.

The Hitter of the Week is …

Arizona Diamondbacks SS Nick Ahmed

This might be a shocking name for the hitter of the week for you guys, but Ahmed is certainly delivering some offense for the Snakes out West. In six games during this week, Ahmed hit .529, hit three home runs, collected six runs and 8 RBIs. The shortstop also had a ridiculous 1.854 OPS this week. He is providing some unexpected offense for a D-Backs team that will certainly need it down the stretch as they are in a tough battle in the NL West.

The Pitcher of the Week is …

New York Mets SP Zack Wheeler

Yes, I know, it is shocking that a New York Met has earned an award of some sort in 2018. Well, it’s based on Wheeler’s individual performance, which was ridiculous over the past week. Wheeler had been frequently talked about in trades with other teams but it’s easy to see why the Mets held onto him. In two starts this week, he was 2-0 in 13 innings, while allowing zero earned runs, and having a 1.16 FIP. He certainly deserves it.

Series to Watch This Week:

Houston Astros @ San Francisco Giants

Atlanta Braves @ Washington Nationals

Philadelphia Phillies @ Arizona D-Backs

LA Dodgers @ Oakland Athletics

This Weekend?:

Seattle Mariners @ Houston Astros

LA Dodgers @ Colorado Rockies

Washington Nationals @ Chicago Cubs

Milwaukee Brewers @ Atlanta Braves

Anyways, thanks for reading the second ever edition of the 9th Inning column! I hope you enjoyed! Don’t forget to share with your friends, family, and on social media! Feel free to contact me on my Twitter @TBeckmann24 if you have any questions! I’ll be back next time! Peace!

The 9th Inning: Newcomb’s Tragedy, A Terrific HOF Class, A Rollercoaster Week for the Yankees, and The Tale of DeGrom

Welcome to the 9th Inning. This is going to be a weekly column each Sunday evening on Pro Sports Fandom in which I roundup the week’s biggest happenings in the baseball realm. I also give my personal thoughts on a few events as well as tell you what to look forward to in the following week. I will also be giving out weekly awards for team of the week and player of the week. It’s basically a baseball podcast squeezed into an article that will happen every week. This is the debut article of this column and I hope for some immense success with this column. If you’d like, be sure to share with your friends, social media, and family! I’d love my column to reach as big a global outreach as possible.

I’m going to start the 9th Inning column out with a few rounded-up thoughts in recap of this week’s action both on the field and off.

A Truly Deserving Hall of Fame Class of 2018

I know it’s not current baseball talk, but I have to tip my cap to all of the voters for the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Class of 2018 is one of the most deserving ones in years. It was an amazing ceremony and it fulfilled fans in attendance. Perhaps the most deserving inductees were none other than Chipper Jones and Vladimir Guerrero. Jones, the sensational switch-hitting third baseman, more than deserves this recognition, as he truly revitalized the third base position heading into the modern era. Guerrero, whose son is going to make a name for himself in the big leagues soon, also truly deserves this honor, as one of the most iconic players in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Congratulations to all of the six men who were inducted into Cooperstown this year!

The Sad Story That Is Jacob deGrom

Ok, it’s sad, but we have to address it. All jokes aside (including the Mets Franchise), Jacob deGrom is pitching his way to one of the greatest single seasons for a pitcher in recent baseball history. He is defying the shift in the newfound era of the home run ball. But the Mets offense seems to hate him. He won’t be getting traded this summer sadly and I think about every realistic baseball mind knows that. In his last 12 starts, Jacob deGrom has a 1.87 ERA in 87 innings on the mound with 95 strikeouts, 65 hits, and 18 earned runs. His record in those 12 starts? 1-6. The Mets offense doesn’t support him and the bullpen doesn’t finish off the unbelievable outings he has consistently put together. He’s on pace to finish with a 2.23 ERA and a 10-9 record, and because he doesn’t have a pretty record, people are worrying that he’ll be overlooked as a Cy Young candidate. Move aside, if the season ended now, the kid would be a lock to win the award.

The Yankees Rollercoaster Week

If I told you that the Yankees would’ve acquired Zach Britton and J.A. Happ before this week began, would you have been HAPPy? (See what I did there). Most likely you would’ve been ecstatic if you were a Yankees fan. They bolstered their bullpen by trading for the left-handed Britton and then replenished their starting rotation by adding another left hander in veteran J.A. Happ. But why are Yankees fans still acting disappointed and negative after this week? The first reason: their division rival Red Sox do not seem to lose much at all, and they trail them by 5 1/2 games in the AL East. Secondly, they have lost their superstar outfielder Aaron Judge for three weeks due to a chip fracture in his wrist. The negativity seems like it won’t stop coming! But as I said in my article yesterday, RELAX Yankees Fans!

Newcomb’s Tragic Final Out

A few weeks after Josh Hader caught the nation’s heat for some old racist, sexist, and homophobic tweets that were dug up, Atlanta Braves starter Sean Newcomb experienced the exact same issue. This is definitely not a good look for the MLB or baseball as a whole, so let’s hope that this doesn’t start becoming a trend. But what made it even more upsetting was the fact that Newcomb had just thrown his best outing ever in the major leagues, and was at an all-time high before he found out. He dominated the Dodgers lineup on Sunday afternoon, but he also dominated the media. He was one strike away from a no-hitter, which would’ve also set the Internet on fire. But a single from Chris Taylor ended his hopes. Such tragedy happens in the major leagues.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not?

Hot:

The Boston Red Sox (7-3 in Last Ten)

The Pittsburgh Pirates (7-3 in Last Ten)

The Colorado Rockies (8-2 in Last Ten)

Not:

The San Francisco Giants (3-7 in Last Ten)

The Houston Astros (4-6 in Last Ten)

The San Diego Padres (2-8 in Last Ten)

The Tampa Bay Rays (4-6 in Last Ten)

The Seattle Mariners (4-6 in Last Ten)

The Weekly Awards

The Team of the Week is the …

Colorado Rockies (4-2 record)

The Rockies started off the week with a split two game series against the Houston Astros, but finished the week with an impressive three-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics to finish the week with a 4-2 record. Both the Athletics and Astros are playoff contending teams in the AL, so it’s an extremely impressive week for the Rox. They sit just a game out of first place in the NL West as they mark their quest to a postseason berth!

The Hitter of the Week is …

Milwaukee Brewers OF Christian Yelich

Christian Yelich has had an extremely productive 2018 campaign in his first season with the Brew Crew. He continued his excellence this week with a fantastic seven day stretch. He had 30 plate appearances in seven games, hit three home runs, scored eight runs, had 10 RBIs, and maintained a prolific batting average of .536 with a 0.9 WAR for the week. Dating back to July 14th, the outfielder is on a 12-game hitting streak.

The Pitcher of the Week is …

Boston Red Sox LHP Chris Sale

It pains me a bit to say this but Chris Sale is the best pitcher in the American League. He further asserted his dominance with two fantastic outings this week en route to this honor. He pitched 12 innings, surrendered five hits, zero runs, while striking out 19 batters, walking only two, and having a 1-0 record for the week. He seems to be stretching out his cushion on the rest of the American League in terms of the Cy Young award race, but we will see if this continues.

What to Look Forward To:

In this upcoming week, there is a lot of baseball to look forward to! But the most notable even going on in the baseball realm is the trade deadline on Tuesday, July 31st. Everybody should be excited to see who is on the move on deadline day! Look forward to an action-packed Tuesday of moves!

There are plenty of series between great teams to start the week but I’ll name a few, such as the Brewers-Dodgers, Astros-Mariners, Phillies-Red Sox, and Cubs-Pirates. To close out the week, we will get to see four games of the Yankees-Red Sox at Fenway, three games of a World Series rematch between the Astros and Dodgers, and a three game stretch between playoff contending teams in the Rockies and Brewers.

Thanks for reading the debut of the 9th Inning column! I hope you enjoyed! Don’t forget to share with your friends, family, and on social media! Feel free to contact me on my Twitter @TBeckmann24 if you have any questions! I’ll be back next time! Peace!

R.E.L.A.X.: Why Yankees fans need to relax about the Aaron Judge situation and stay positive

It’s been an up and down week for Yankee fans. Brian Cashman has pulled off two solid trades to bolster their starting rotation and bullpen. Sonny Gray has looked very good in his last few starts and it seemed like something was starting to click with this Yankee squad. But on this night in which the Bronx Bombers celebrated a dominant victory over the Royals, there was one really bad issue.

Yankees fans cringed when they saw the trainers come out to check on their 6’7 superstar outfielder, Aaron Judge, after he was hit in the right wrist with a 93-mph fastball by Royals starting pitcher Jakob Junis. They breathed a sigh of relief when they saw trainers walk off the field and Judge still at first base, but that wasn’t the last of the issue. After hitting a weak infield single in the third, Judge was removed from the game as DH and replaced by rookie sensation Miguel Andujar.

And then Yankees fans saw the reports that Judge had been taken to a nearby hospital for an MRI and CT scan. How bad could it be? Would the season be on the line? Numerous Yankee fans had these thoughts swirling in their head. But after the game when they found out that Judge had sustained a chip fracture in his wrist, it seemed like nobody understand that there should be no reason to panic. In fact, Yankees fans should be relieved that the injury Judge sustained does not require surgery and is only a three or four week absence.

Instead of thanking the lord for Judge not having a fully broken wrist, Yankees fans scoured social media and dumped out all the possible negative scenarios with the Aaron Judge injury. What if he doesn’t come back as the same hitter? What if he can’t successfully rehab on time? Yes, these things can happen and maybe they will, but I’ve got one word for Yankee fans across the globe, RELAX.

I realize that Aaron Judge is a huge part of the Yankees team, he is a do-it all persona and he is much of the reason that this Yankee team is one of the best in recent history. Yes, it is a huge loss for one of the MLB’s best offenses. He is perhaps the biggest part of their offense, leading the team in home runs, runs, OBP, SLG, and base on balls. A three week absence from Judge isn’t great by any means, but it could’ve been much worse.

Judge could’ve had a worse wrist injury, such as a fully broken wrist or an even tougher fracture. But he luckily walked away with a chip fracture and a three-week absence. He will be back by the end of August and should be fully capable of helping the Yankees chase the Red Sox in the AL East pennant race.

And without Judge, there’s no reason to doubt the Yankees lineup and whether it can provide production itself. They have a reigning NL MVP in slugger Giancarlo Stanton, who has been extremely hot in the last month or so, hitting .323 with four home runs in the last 30 days. Didi Gregorius is starting to get back up to the level of play that he started the year with. Miguel Andujar is an absolutely sensational young hitter who has been terrific all season long. Greg Bird is starting to get comfortable in the lineup. Aaron Hicks is providing a good offensive punch as well as a defensive one. Gleyber Torres has been great all season and is back from his stint on the DL. Veteran Neil Walker should able to eat up ABs, and heck, even he’s been really hot as of late.

This offense is more than capable of carrying the load for a couple of weeks while Judge’s wrist heals. The last reason that Yankee fans should not panic is because of the schedule that is coming up while Judge will be out. He only misses one key series and while it is a big one versus the Red Sox at Fenway, we can live with it. The Yankees only play one other team with an above .500 record in the span that Judge is expected to miss, that being the Tampa Bay Rays. They have an easy schedule and therefore his absence should not hurt them too much. So please Yankees fans, just don’t panic, relax, and enjoy the rest of the baseball season. And the season is not over!

Ultimate MLB Second Half Guide: Analysis and Predictions for Trade Deadline, Standings, Awards, and the Playoffs

We are one week away from the MLB All-Star break and inching ever closer to the July 31st league-wide non-waiver trade deadline. We have watched more than one half of the season and we are starting to get a good idea of the playoff picture, trade fits, standings, and award candidates. That’s why I felt that it was the perfect time to release a massive guide to the second half of the baseball season. My guide is here, complete with predictions and analysis on the trade deadline, final standings, playoffs, and season awards.

Table of Contents:

Trade Deadline Predictions- PG. 2

Standings Predictions- PG. 3

AL Playoff Predictions- PG. 4

NL Playoff Predictions- PG. 5

World Series Predictions- PG. 6

Season Awards Predictions- PG. 7

Concluding Thoughts- PG. 8

MLB Summer Trade Market 2018: An early forecast on this year’s trade deadline

The MLB season is in full swing and we are getting ready to reach the start of the summer of the long baseball season. June is a few days away and that means that we are inching closer and closer to the trade market heating up in its classic summer form. With my knowledge, I’ve mapped out multiple trades that I think could happen during the trade deadline. So without further ado, let’s get into my early trade deadline predictions. And we will surely look back at this in July and see if I was right with any of my predictions. Let’s go!

  • The Boston Red Sox acquire catcher J.T. Realmuto and second baseman Starlin Castro from the Miami Marlins.
  • The Philadelphia Phillies acquire third baseman Josh Donaldson from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for multiple young, talented prospects.
  • The Cleveland Indians acquire reliever Kelvin Herrera from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for a prospect or two.
  • The Atlanta Braves acquire third baseman Mike Moustakas and veteran starter Ian Kennedy from the Kansas City Royals.
  • The New York Yankees acquire reliever Brad Hand from the San Diego Padres.
  • The New York Yankees acquire left handed starter Patrick Corbin from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
  • The Chicago Cubs acquire right handed starter Chris Archer from the Tampa Bay Rays.
  • The Milwaukee Brewers acquire first baseman Justin Bour from the Miami Marlins.
  • The Houston Astros acquire left handed reliever Zach Britton from the Baltimore Orioles.
  • The Los Angeles Angels acquire left handed starter J.A. Happ from the Toronto Blue Jays.
  • The Cleveland Indians acquire veteran outfielder Adam Jones from the Baltimore Orioles.
  • The Los Angeles Dodgers acquire utility specialist Jed Lowrie from the Oakland Athletics.
  • The Milwaukee Brewers acquire veteran lefty Cole Hamels from the Texas Rangers.
  • The Philadelphia Phillies acquire right handed reliever Brad Brach from the Baltimore Orioles.
  • The Seattle Mariners acquire veteran second baseman Brian Dozier from the Minnesota Twins.
  • The Milwaukee Brewers bring back veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy in a trade with the Oakland Athletics.
  • The Cleveland Indians acquire second baseman Scooter Gennett from the Cincinnati Reds.
  • Despite the Orioles being huge sellers at the deadline, they hold off on swinging a deal trading away All-Star shortstop Manny Machado.

17 of 19 and Rolling: How the Yankees are shaping up to be the best team in baseball

Writing an article of this sort seemed probable in December, but I thought I’d overhyped the New York Yankees once I saw their subpar start to the season. I started to question that maybe I’d been wrong and that the addition of reigning NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton wasn’t going to help bolster the lineup.

I mean, on April 20th, the Yankees looked like one of the few overhyped clubs in baseball. At this point in the season, the Bronx Bombers were considered a team that would stick in the Wildcard race in the American League. They’d limped out to a 9-9 record and their division rival, the Red Sox, the hottest team in baseball at the time, had fired its way to a 17-2 start. And I know it was way early in the season, but at this point, it felt like the Red Sox were the most complete team in the league.

The Yankees just hadn’t been good to start off the season. Sonny Gray was struggling to take command on the mound in his starts and Masahiro Tanaka struggled to consistently dominate deep into his starts. The bullpen was just remotely off and they needed more than just a few hot bats to win ball games.

It All Clicked:

But when the pieces seemed to have been unglued, Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman came to a consensus on calling up top prospect infielder Gleyber Torres. Heading into 2018, Torres was ranked as the fifth best prospect in baseball and his major league debut was expected by fans at some point this season. But I can guarantee you most of these fans expected him to debut during the summer, and definitely not in the middle of the first month of the season. I can confidently tell you that the move was warranted however.

The Yankees needed a spark in the clubhouse, on the field, and in the dugout. They didn’t have an everyday second baseman on the active roster and Torres got the call. Torres debuted on April 22nd, going 0 for 4 in his first game. But since he got to the Bronx, he seems to have a tremendous fit, and he certainly always had the potential to be the next great Yankee on a roster filled with all-star talent. He’s been tearing it up since his debut, batting .344 in 18 games, along with two home runs, including a walk off homer against the Indians last Sunday. And not to mention, the Yankees have only lost twice since Torres debut.

Now while it hasn’t been a pretty start for star slugger Giancarlo Stanton, I expect him to find his stride soon. He’s a great hitter and great hitters tend to eventually figure it out. Stanton hasn’t had to be great however, as these Yankees are the hottest team in baseball right now and they show no signs of bowing out. They’ve won 17 of their last 19 games and it’s certainly not a cheap hot streak to take for granted. Of their 17 wins, only four have come against a team with a record that is below .500. And that team is a Minnesota Twins team that’s starting to heat up.

An Unmatched Streak:

The Yankees swept the Twins, Angels, won 3 of 4 on the road against the defending World Series champion Astros, swept the Indians, and took two of three from their division rival Red Sox. The Red Sox are also the second best team in baseball. But it’s becoming quite clear that the New York Yankees are the best team in baseball.

The Bronx Bombers are already reaching new heights this season and it’s scary to consider that two of their best hitters have really yet to catch fire in Gary Sánchez and Giancarlo Stanton. And don’t forget that first baseman Greg Bird, expects to soon return from an injury. Bird is a very talented and young hitter who adds to the power and nightmare aspect of the Yankee lineup.

The streak truly started off with shortstop Didi Gregorius. He has looked exactly like the kind of player we saw a glimpse of in the postseason last year, as he is a perennial AL MVP candidate who is officially a star and deserves recognition as a top five shortstop in the league. He’s been arguably the team’s best player this season and has put together career numbers thus far, batting .280 with 10 HR and 31 RBIs. And to be fair, nobody expected Didi to be one of the top three hitters in this loaded Yankees lineup. His breakout to stardom is an added bonus to a team full of all-stars. And while Didi has been in quite a slump as of late (5 hits in his last 48 at-bats), he’s established himself as an impact player and he’ll likely get back into that form soon.

Gregorius and Torres aren’t the only impactful bats so far this season. Star outfielder Aaron Judge looks just as good as how he started off last season. In 37 games, he’s batted .311 with nine home runs and 28 RBIs. He’s also quite the defensive right fielder and he’s one of the more underappreciated defenders in baseball.

Even through his struggles, Gary Sánchez has been a clutch hitter in multiple games this season, as he has hit two game winning longballs in 33 games. He’s batting a very rough .202, with nine home runs and 29 RBIs. The Kraken has also been a extra base hit machine so far this season, with 17 of his 25 hits going for extra bases or more.

Sánchez still needs to improve his skills as a defensive catcher and it will come in due time, but his value as a hitter is untouched by any catcher in the rest of the league. Giancarlo Stanton’s rough start has gotten better lately, and he’s got his batting average up to .238, as well as having nine home runs and 23 RBIs. Once he gets on a tear, I don’t see any way a pitcher can get out of the game without giving up at least 5 runs.

Brett Gardner, the leadoff hitter in most games for the Yankees, hasn’t been amazing to start the season, but he still puts together quality at-bat after quality at-bat at the plate. He’ll eventually see his .208 batting average rise and hopefully his home run total too.

The Pitching Is Mostly Spectacular:

The Yankees are once again seeing true ace colors from young star pitcher Luis Severino, who has started off the season as dominant and fearless as they come on the mound. He has made eight starts, compiled a 5-1 record with a 2.21 ERA in 53 innings of work. He also is pitching strongly with a 0.87 WHIP and recently threw a complete game shutout against the Astros.

C.C. Sabathia has been resurgent as the veteran pitcher for the rotation. He’s made seven starts, has a 2-0 record in 36.1 innings pitched, with a 2.23 ERA. Aroldis Chapman has been the dominant closer like always, making 17 appearances this season, totaling nine saves with a 1.59 ERA. The Yankees bullpen has been rough at times, but they have a really solid couple of pitchers in Chad Green, David Robertson, and Dellin Betances. They are hopeful that relievers Tommy Kahnle and Adam Warren soon make their returns from the DL.

The Yankees have battled the injury bug a ton throughout the young season. Brandon Drury, Greg Bird, Jordan Montgomery, Tommy Kahnle, and Adam Warren are all on the DL. With Montgomery out at least six weeks, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for general manager Brian Cashman to pursue a fifth starter as both insurance and a fill-in for Montgomery.

What To Watch For This Summer:

The Yankees could be big players on the summer trade market. They have a loaded farm system with top prospects like OF Estevan Florial, LHP Justus Sheffield, RHP Albert Abreu, RHP Chance Adams, and a young and injured MLB-ready outfielder in Clint Frazier. The Yankees could pursue a bit more in terms of bullpen help, so look out for guys like Royals closer Kelvin Herrera, Orioles relievers Darren O’Day and Mychal Givens as potential targets. They could pursue a talented starting pitcher like Tigers starter Michael Fulmer, Rangers starter Cole Hamels, or Rays starter Chris Archer.

No matter what happens over the next month or two with these Yankees, I’m confident that they are a prominent World Series contender until they prove otherwise. They are talented, hungry, and are in a great position with Cashman having tons of trade chips to work with come July. They’re tied for the AL East division lead with the Red Sox. They start a three game series tonight at home against the Oakland Athletics. Sonny Gray will be on the mound in a game that will start at 7:05 p.m., and will be aired on MLB Network (subject to market).

The Yankees blow by Chris Sale and the Red Sox as the offense erupts for 9 runs

Tonight’s matchup was a highly talked about matchup. This was one of the biggest games of the season for the Yankees. It was a battle of the aces as Yankees young stud Luis Severino went toe to toe with CY young favorite, Chris Sale. The Yankees have never lost to Sale, and they looked to keep it that way. 

One of the hottest hitters on the team right now, Chase Headley hit a solo shot off of Sale in the bottom of the 3rd inning. In the 4th the Yankees added on with back to back home runs. Both solo shots coming from Matt Holliday and Todd Frazier. Until tonight, Chris Sale hadn’t allowed 3 HRs in a game since July 8, 2016 w/ White Sox. 

The Yankees continued to make Sale work, his night was done after 109 pitches and 4 1/3 innings of work, giving up 3 solo HRs. The Yankees weren’t done yet. The bottom of the 6th was the turning point of this game. With the bases loaded and 2 outs Gary Sanchez grounded a ball to Red Sox 3B Rafael Devers. Devers made a diving play and fired to first and got Sanchez out. The play was way too close not to challenge it. 

The Yankees challenged the play and it was indeed overturned. The next batter, Starlin Castro ripped a bases clearing double to right field scoring 3 runs. The very next batter, Aaron Judge. Judge had been struggling very bad since the All-Star break and hasn’t been able to get anything going. Until finally, Judge connected on a 2 run blast. His 38th HR this season traveled 469 feet into the left field stands. 

On the other side of things Luis Severino continued to amaze with his great pitching. He picked up his 200th strikeout on the season and he’s only the 2nd Yankee ever with a 200-strikeout season at age 23 or younger, his final line: 6 IP, 2 H, 1 R (0 ER), 0 BB, 9 K. 

The bullpen did a good job of closing this one out. Tommy Kanhle entered the 7th and struck out 2 and stranded 2 runners. Chasen Shreve entered the 8th inning and struck out 2 in a 1-2-3 inning. Giovanny Gallegos came in the 9th and struggled a bit but finally closed it out.

Honorable mentions- Jacoby Ellsbury ( 3 hits ) Brett Gardner ( Walk, run scored ) Gary Sanchez ( RBI, run scored ) 

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