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!

The 9th Inning (April): Vlad Jr’s debut, Mize’s Double-A gem, and what’s wrong with the Red Sox?

Welcome to the 9th Inning. This is the first edition of this in the 2019 MLB season. This is going to be 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 will happen near the end of every month. This is the debut 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 April with a few rounded-up thoughts in recap of the biggest stories recently, both on the field and off.

Vlad Jr’s debut

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. made his highly anticipated MLB debut this past weekend for the Toronto Blue Jays. MLB Pipeline’s number one prospect may have been the most hyped up debut since Bryce Harper. Guerrero is only batting .250 after his first series is in the books, but part of that is due to him not getting great pitches to hit. MLB.com says that Guerrero had a 37.3% zone rate over his first few games. The Blue Jays are set to take on the Angels in Anaheim in their weekday series, and it’ll be a great series to watch!

2018 top draft pick dominates in first AA Start

Not often will I talk about a player in the Double-A levels of minor league ball in this column, but I feel that this one is well deserved. Casey Mize, the number one overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, made his AA debut with the Detroit Tigers on Monday. The Auburn product dominated and sent a message to the scouts, throwing a nine inning no-hitter in a win for the Erie Seawolves. It was an impressive performance that caught the eyes of many, as Mize only walked one batter and hit another. If he continues to pitch like this, Detroit may soon have a bonafide ace on their big league roster.

What’s wrong with the Red Sox?

The defending champion Boston Red Sox are off to a sour start in the 2019 season, having a 12-17 record to show for it just one month in. They’ve cleaned it up as of late, but there’s still cause for concern with the Beantown squad. Jackie Bradley Jr. has been horrible with the bat, 2018 World Series MVP Steve Pearce is struggling, and Eduardo Rodriguez/Chris Sale both have ERAs over 6. If the pitching staff doesn’t get going soon, Boston may find itself in a hole too big to overcome, but there’s certainly reason to believe in this team. I mean heck, they are the defending World Series Champs after all!

Where do the Giants go from here?

A lot of talk has circulated about how the San Francisco Giants will attack the summer trade deadline. It’s the final season for manager Bruce Bochy, and it is perhaps the final year for longtime franchise ace Madison Bumgarner in the Bay Area. The Giants have built a team of veterans in hopes of competing in 2019, but it’s gone very badly thus far. They are 12-17 in the NL West, which is last in the division. They are not doing well at the plate, and Jeff Samardzija is their only qualified starting pitcher with an ERA below four. As we near June, the Giants are creeping closer and closer to being the first team to sell off their top veterans to buyers.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not?

The banged-up New York Yankees are the hottest team in baseball right now, as they’ve gone 11-2 since losing a home series to the Chicago White Sox on April 14th. Luke Voit was dominant for the Bronx Bombers last week on their West Coast road trip, winning AL Player of the Week Honors by going 13 for 30 with four home runs and 10 RBIs. In doing so, Voit has continued a ridiculous 39-game on base streak into the Yankees two game series against the Diamondbacks.

The Minnesota Twins have won 8 of their last 10 games and have taken 2.5 game lead in the AL Central over the Cleveland Indians. Eddie Rosario (11 HRs) and Jorge Polanco (.948 OPS) have lead the scorching hot Twins offensive attack and Jose Berrios continues to grow into an ace, leaving the Twins in great position to make a run at the postseason in 2019.

The St. Louis Cardinals have won 8 of their last 10 games as well, en route to taking a three game lead over the Cubs and Brewers in the NL Central Division. Paul DeJong (.342 AVG, 5 HRs) and Marcell Ozuna (.271 AVG, 10 HRs) are leading a Redbirds offense that is still awaiting an inevitable annual hot stretch from All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.

After a rough start to the 2019 campaign, the Chicago Cubs have gotten back near the top of the NL Central with a recent hot stretch. They are winners of 7 of their last 10 games, climbing into a tie for second in the division with the Milwaukee Brewers. Javier Baez has been otherworldly thus far, hitting .315 with 9 home runs and 22 RBIs. The Cubs are also getting great contribution from catcher Willson Contreras (1.033 OPS). They can certainly push for the NL Central, and I fully expect them to do so.

The Pittsburgh Pirates were 12-6 after a win over the San Francisco Giants on Saturday, April 20th. Since then? They’ve been one of the worst teams in baseball, losing eight straight and falling to fourth place in the NL Central Division. With competition like the Cubs, Brewers, and Cardinals, the Pirates cannot have losing streaks like this and expect to stay atop the division. If they don’t figure it out soon, Pittsburgh could be in serious hot water.

The Washington Nationals have also caught a case of the cold as we flip the calendar to May. They’ve lost three series in a row to teams that I’m just not quite sure they should be losing to. On paper, the Nats have one of the best complete rosters in all of Major League Baseball, but they haven’t been able to put it together just yet in 2019. Let’s see what this team does in May before we press the panic button!

The Oakland Athletics are in serious danger of not getting back to the postseason already in 2019, and that’s not because I don’t have faith in their ability to turn it around after a rough start. The AL West is more competitive this year, and the A’s have struggled as of late, getting swept by Toronto twice in two weeks and losing 7 of their last 10. Will Khris Davis and the Oakland crew figure it out before it’s too late?

The Monthly Awards:

Team of the Month is…

The Tampa Bay Rays (19-9)

The Rays definitely were not a lot of experts picks to lead the AL East through one month, but here we are. Tampa Bay holds a 1.5 game lead on the Yankees as we speak, and they’ve had a terrific first month of baseball. A big reason for their success is the pitching staff, as Tyler Glasgow (5 wins, 1.75 ERA), 2018 AL Cy Young award winner Blake Snell (2 wins, 2.54 ERA), and free agent acquisition Charlie Morton (3 wins, 2.76 ERA) lead the MLB’s top pitching staff thus far. Jose Alvarado has been one of baseball’s best relievers (we’ll discuss him later) and the Rays are much deeper than this, but there’s too many people to name. Austin Meadows was absolutely raking before he got injured (.351, 6 HRs, 19 RBIs), and he should be back rather soon. Yandy Diaz (.298, 7 HRs, 18 RBIs) is having a breakout season at the hot corner for Tampa Bay and veteran outfielder Tommy Pham continues to put up productive numbers (.294, 4 HRs, 12 RBIs). They should be taken seriously as one of the premier World Series contenders.

The Hitter of the Month is …

Los Angeles Dodgers OF/1B Cody Bellinger

Cody Bellinger has played at both right field and first base this year, so I’m not sure what to call him with such a small sample size. But I can call him something, and that is an absolutely on-fire baseball player. The third-year superstar has been nothing short of spectacular in 2019, batting .434 with 14 homers and 37 RBIs. His on-base percentage is over .500 and his slugging percentage sits firmly at .906. What’s even more impressive is that Bellinger has increased his base on balls percentage from 10.9% to 14.1%, while also cutting down his strikeout percentage from 23.9% in 2018 to 11.7% through one month of 2019. If he continues to play like this, he will shatter records, and with this hot start, he’s certainly the favorite to win NL MVP!

Starter of the Month is …

Cincinnati Reds RHP Luis Castillo

When called up to the bigs in 2017, Luis Castillo was the tenth best prospect in the Reds farm system. With a lot of patience by Cincinnati’s staff, Castillo looks to be turning the corner into one of the best pitchers in the National League. His first month of 2019 certainly proved such, as the 26 year old rising phenom has made six starts, going 3-1 with a 1.23 ERA in 36.1 innings of work. He’s striking out more batters than he has at any point in his young career, and has reduced his home runs per nine innings rate from a sour 1.49 in 2018 to an impressive 0.25 thus far in 2019. His HR/FB rate sits at a solid 4.5%, showing that Castillo has been stingy in terms of preventing the longball. At this point, batters just haven’t been able to hit his stuff, as hitters are hitting just .165 against him. If he continues to pitch like this, he may just deliver the NL Cy Young Award to Great American Ball Park.

The Reliever of the Month is …

Tampa Bay Rays LHP Jose Alvarado

Dating back to 2018, the 23 year old Alvarado has been one of the best relievers in all of Major League Baseball, and that trend has continued to pick up steam as we turn the calendar to May. Thrust into a big late-inning role in 2019, the lefty has been nothing short of excellent thus far. He’s made four saves in 14 appearances, pitching his way to a 1.38 ERA and a 1.82 FIP, proving his performance is no fluke. Alvarado has not surrendered a home run yet this season, and he’s striking out 13.1 batters per nine innings. The only negative in 2019 is that Alvarado’s walks per nine innings rate has increased a bit from 4.08 to 4.85, but it’s not too severe of a jump.

The Rookie Hitter of the Month is …

New York Mets 1B Peter Alonso

A second round selection by the Mets in the 2016 MLB Draft, Peter Alonso has made a quick transition to the pros. He is a phenomenal hitter and subpar defender at first base, and he showed that in the minor leagues all the way up until earning the Mets starting first baseman job in 2019. Since he earned the job, Alonso has proven why he was one of the Mets untradeable chips as they rebuilt last year. He’s an early frontrunner for the NL Rookie of the Year award, as he’s batting .304 with nine home runs and 25 RBIs in 2019. He will have to continue to work on balancing his approach and limiting strikeouts, but right now, Alonso is hot and off to the races, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.

The Rookie Pitcher of the Month is …

San Diego Padres RHP Chris Paddack

Paddack is the 31st best prospect in all of Major League Baseball according to MLB Pipeline, but after one month of him in the bigs, I think he may deserve a huge boost before he loses his eligibility on such lists. He’s 23 years old and has been firing on all cylinders to start his MLB career. He’s made five starts, going 1-1 and pitching 27 innings with a 1.67 ERA, ranking third amongst all National League pitchers with 25 or more innings pitched. He’s just been purely unhittable, as opposing hitters have a .111 batting average against him. He’s striking out 10 batters per nine innings, only walking about 2.6 per nine, and only surrenders 0.6 home runs per nine. If he continues to pitch like this, he’ll be right in the thick of the battle for NL Rookie of the Year with his teammate Fernando Tatis Jr. and Mets slugger Pete Alonso (mentioned above).

Thanks for reading the season 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 month! Peace!

The Obstructed NL East Preview

No division in baseball upgraded so much over the off-season than the NL East.

Last year, the Nationals, who were supposed to run through the division failed with flying colors. A slump by Bryce Harper and issues with Stephen Strasburg kept them from getting off to a good start. Instead, the Braves and Phillies spent most of the year fighting it out for the division. Atlanta saw some of the prospects in their farm make a big splash and with a few key moves down the stretch, ran away with the division while Philadelphia fell apart. Washington never recovered from their slow start and didn’t really figure into the NL East race. The Mets battled injuries badly (again) and inconsistencies and weren’t much of a factor either despite having one of the best years for a pitcher in Jacob deGrom. The Marlins went through year one under new ownership in Derek Jeter. They have an uphill battle to climb not just with the other four teams but a city with a very depleted fan base who feel screwed for the xth time.

The Mets, Nationals, and Phillies all made major moves to take aim at the youthful Braves squad, who really was very quiet compared to those teams and failed to address key needs. The Marlins made moves, but just more of stop-gap fillers as Miami is in full rebuild mode….again.

So let’s look who will reign supreme in a tough-as-nails NL East

deGrom gets a newly signed contract, and could repeat his performance in 2019

(1) NEW YORK METS

Last year: 77-85

KEY ADDITIONS: 2B-Robinson Cano (Trade-Seattle), C-Wilson Ramos (FA-Philadelphia), OF-JD Davis (Trade-Houston) OF-Keon Broxton (Trade-Milwaukee), P-Edwin Diaz (Trade-Seattle), P-Juerys Familia (FA-Oakland), P-Justin Wilson (FA-Chicago Cubs), P-Luis Avilan (FA-Philadelphia)

KEY LOSSES: OF-Jay Bruce (Trade-Seattle), P-Anthony Swarzak (Trade-Seattle), C-Jose Lobaton (FA-Seattle), IF-Wilmer Flores (FA-Arizona), IF-Jose Reyes (FA), OF-Austin Jackson (FA), P-AJ Ramos (FA), P-Jerry Blevins (FA-Oakland)

“Do the Mets have enough offense to win the NL East?” Well, yes after the trade to get Robinson Cano, bringing up top prospect Peter Alonso, signing Wilson Ramos, and even Jed Lowrie can add some hitting pop as well. If Michael Conforto finally figured it out the Mets have a formidable lineup to go with that sick rotation with the deGrom/Syndergaard duo in front and then for added measure bring in Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz. How fair is that???? The Mets bring in stud closer in Edwin Diaz and bring back former closer Jeurys Familia to set up for him (also unfair). The Mets added Justin Wilson, a reliable reliever that didn’t have the best of runs in Chicago after being lights out with Detroit. And the likes of Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo will just add to that pen. This team, just watch out for them to make noise in the season, and October. MY PREDICTION: 94-68

Harper brings a lot of hope to the Philly faithful.

(2) PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Last year: 80-82

KEY ADDITIONS: OF-Andrew McCutchen (FA-New York Yankees), SS-Jean Segura (Trade-Seattle), OF-Bryce Harper (FA-Washington), C-JT Realmuto (Trade-Miami), P-David Robertson (FA-New York Yankees), P-Jose Alvarez (Trade-Los Angeles Angels), P-Juan Nicasio (Trade-Seattle)

KEY LOSSES: C-Wilson Ramos (FA-New York Mets), 1B-Justin Bour (FA-Los Angeles Angels), IF-Asdrubal Cabrera (FA-Texas), P-Luis Avilan (P-New York Mets), P-Aaron Loup (FA-San Diego), C-Jorge Alfaro (Trade-Miami), SS-JP Crawford (Trade-Seattle) 1B-Carlos Santana (Trade)

Had early March never arrived, the Phillies off-season could be responded into one word: “wow!” They brought in Andrew McCutchen. They traded for underrated yet excellent hitting shortstop Jean Segura. They brought in the best catcher when Buster Posey isn’t injured in JT Realmuto. They added bullpen depth. They signed quality reliever David Robertson. And they added Bryce Harper just for good measure. With it, the lineup with Rhys Hoskins, Maikel Franco, and Odubel Herrera, they are going to be stacked top to bottom. And they may have the best lineup in the east by far. Th question will be if the rotation can get it together behind Aaron Nola. That is Jake Arrieta, Vince Velasquez, Zach Eflin, etc. But the bullpen will get better with Robertson, and the improvement of Seranthony Dominguez, Pat Neshek, and a under the radar move in Jose Alvarez. It should be enough to fend off Washington, but will it be enough to win the division? MY PREDICTION: 93-69

With Harper gone, the Nationals are Scherzer’s team

(3) WASHINGTON NATIONALS

Last year: 82-80

KEY ADDITIONS: 2B-Brian Dozier (FA-Los Angeles Dodgers), C-Yan Gomes (Trade-Cleveland), C-Kurt Suzuki (FA-Atlanta), 1B-Matt Adams (FA-St. Louis), P-Patrick Corbin (FA-Arizona), P-Anibal Sanchez (P-Atlanta), P-Trevor Rosenthal (FA-St. Louis), P-Kyle Barraclough (Trade-Miami), P-Tony Sipp (FA-Houston)

KEY LOSSES: C-Matt Wieters (FA-St. Louis), 1B-Mark Reynolds (FA-Colorado), OF-Bryce Harper (FA-Philadelphia), P-Tim Collins (FA-Minnesota), P-Kelvin Herrera (FA-Chicago White Sox), P-Greg Holland (FA-Arizona), P-Tanner Roark (Trade-Cincinnati)

You lose your best player through free agency and you may end up being BETTER than last year? It’s possible in Washington. Bryce Harper is one of the most gifted baseball players in this era, but it seems like whether or not he wanted it, there was a circus under Harper in Washington. It *could* have worn thin on his teammates. With Harper out of the way, there may be a stress reliever for his former teammates in DC. The Nationals lineup is pretty legit with young gun Juan Soto, Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon, and a healthy Ryan Zimmerman. If Adam Eaton can stay healthy and Victor Robles is up to the hype, the Nationals could have one of the best lineups in all of baseball. The Nationals pitching is legit with Mad Max Scherzer, prized free agent signing Patrick Corbin, and the reborn Anibal Sanchez, and if his head is on straight, Stephen Strasburg. However, it will come back to the bullpen which wasn’t as bad as advertised in years’ past but with a better lineup but a better division, they need to make sure there are no letdowns. It really is going to be down to which team’s bullpen has the most consistent group. Washington is getting better, but compared to the Mets and even the Phillies, they will have to be more consistent. MY PREDICTION: 92-70

Adding Donaldson to Atlanta’s offense helped, but the Braves inability to get relievers set them back this off-season.

(4) ATLANTA BRAVES

Last year: 90-72 (Lost to Los Angeles Dodgers in NLDS)

KEY ADDITIONS: 3B-Josh Donaldson (FA-Cleveland), C-Brian McCann (FA-Houston), OF-Matt Joyce (Trade), P-Josh Tomlin (FA)

KEY LOSSES: C-Rene Rivera (FA-San Francisco), C-Kurt Suzuki (FA-Washington), 1B-Lucas Duda (FA), IF-Ryan Flaherty (FA), P-Brandon McCarthy (Retired), P-Anibal Sanchez (FA-Washington), P-Brad Brach (FA-Chicago Cubs), P-Peter Moylan (Retired)

Perhaps outside of maybe the Marlins, not team is at odds with their own fan base than the Atlanta Braves and their fans. After saying they had a massive amount of money to spend in the off-season to get an impact player and make the needed upgrades to get over that hump and get far in October with the youthful players such as Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies, the Braves pretty much stood pat. Yes, they brought in Josh Donaldson when healthy is an offensive juggernaut. However, while Donaldson adds pop to a strong lineup with Acuna, Albies, and Freeman, the need for relievers went unanswered. Braves front office is relying and hoping that the young arms will solidify the bullpen, which was plagued. Fans had also hoped Atlanta made a push to get a starter to eat innings. The rotation did well, but was “guarded” and didn’t go far like many hoped. And in the division where pitching consists of Scherzer, deGrom, Syndergaard, Nola, etc. you need that guy. And the Braves are now lagging behind those teams. That is why I am giving Atlanta a 4th place finish. Their rivals made massive jumps in the off-season and the Braves didn’t and that is a problem. The hope is these pitchers get off to excellent starts and these other young arms that are starting in Gwinnett comes through. Right now, they need that one closer and go-to guy. They will lag this year because of it. MY PREDICTION: 84-78

Granderson’s role in Miami is more of mentor right now.

(5) MIAMI MARLINS

Last year: 63-98

KEY ADDITIONS: OF-Curtis Granderson (FA-Milwaukee), 1B-Neil Walker (FA-New York Yankees), C-Jorge Alfaro (Trade-Philadelphia), OF-Rosell Herrera (Waivers-Kansas City), P-Sergio Romo (FA-Tampa Bay), P-Nick Anderson (Trade-Minnesota), P-Austin Brice (Waivers-Baltimore)

KEY LOSSES: C-JT Realmuto (Trade-Philadelphia), IF-Derek Dietrich (FA-Cincinnati)

The Marlins enter the second full year of the Derek Jeter era. And well, it hasn’t gone too well. Now the Marlins made a splash in the international pool signing Victor Victor Mesa. But it may take another year or two. And yikes until then as the NL East looks to be a tough competition among the other four hated rivals. They brought in veterans Curtis Granderson and Neil Walker while bringing in relief help in Sergio Romo. It wouldn’t be surprising if any of those three are moved by July as the Marlins aren’t expected to compete in the 2019 NL East race as they said good-bye to JT Realmuto. Right now given how Yelich, Stanton, and Ozuna did with their new teams, it’s good for Realmuto to go because he could create some massive damage with the Phillies. But Jeter better hope these players he is getting back are going to be equal or better. If not, it will be a very long time before Miami competes. Right now, the Marlins lineup resembles that of those late 90’s teams in the fire sale. And that’s not good. The pitching staff after Jose Urena looks very problematic as well. Sandy Alcantara is a top prospect for the Marlins (as he was a part of the Ozuna deal) but aside from that, there will be issues when they have to face, deGrom, Syndergaard, Scherzer, Corbin, Foltynewicz, and Nola. It may be another long year in Miami before we see anything legitimately look positive. MY PREDICTION: 64-98

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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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!

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

Should the Braves go All-In For deGrom or Syndergaard?

It’s safe to say that the Atlanta Braves have exceeded everybody’s expectations.  We are past the halfway point in the season and Atlanta is tied with Philadelphia in the NL East with Washington currently a healthy distance back.  The Braves just ended a 5-5 road trip where they had to go to St. Louis, the Yankees, and Milwaukee.  If you listen to the local sports radio station in the Atlanta area, you know the vibe from the people on there “yeah, I would have been happy for 5-5 before the trip, but how we ended it stunk.”

I think that most Braves fans have that attitude. While the Braves couldn’t net a home run in the 4-game series in Milwaukee, the more alarming part was the fact that the Braves pitching staff, who had been pitching incredibly well this whole season, imploded.  It actually imploded the last two games in New York as well.  The big concern for Atlanta even before this to me has been the starting pitching.  Yes, Atlanta has been good with the starters, but nobody has been a real inning eater save for and I cannot believe I am saying this Anibal Sanchez.  He is actually having his best year overall in the Majors, even over the year where he was a Cy Young candidate in Detroit.  But the thing is, you wonder when Anibal from 2014-2017 will return at any point.

Braves

The rotation is a solid rotation overall, but a couple of concerns.  Sean Newcomb has seen his ERA jump from 2.59 to 3.44 in his last 3 outings and hasn’t made it past the 4th inning in either of his last two starts.  His walks per 9 inning rate is very alarming on top of it.  So trusting him to break losing streaks is a concern.  Mike Foltynewicz has been dealing all year, but since his complete game shutout win against the Nationals June 1st, he’s had a stretch of working only 5 innings in 4 of his last 5 starts (part of it due to injury and Snitker didn’t want to further the injury I suppose).  But even before the injury and the shutout, Foltynewicz does not work long into games.  He’s only made it to the 6th inning 5 times out of his 17 starts.   Julio Teheran, you never know what you will get.  Some games he looks like a stud and the ace the Braves hoped he would be.  And other games you wish you could put him on the first plane out of Atlanta.  And Brandon McCarthy has been a mess.

So if you want to say the Braves have overachieved at the starting rotation spot until the young arms in Atlanta’s farm system develop.  We are slowly seeing some of those guys come up, notably Max Fried and Mike Soroka who’ve done okay in sporadic starts, but are both on the DL.  Foltynewicz deserves to be an all-star but he isn’t Atlanta’s ace.  Actually there really isn’t any ace on the staff right now because how I view an ace is a guy who can work into the late innings when needed.  The Braves need that ace of the rotation.

Currently the pitcher’s market at the deadline is, meh.  JA Happ seems to be a key target to many who need to bolster the rotation.  However, the Braves while having a great farm system, aren’t really in the process of trading key prospects for rental players which I think eliminates Happ.  I said Atlanta could go after Rays starter Chris Archer, who can eat innings, but has consistency issues himself and injury issues.  His ERA hasn’t been under 4 since 2015 and doesn’t have an impressive WHIP total either.  And I’m not sure the likes of Kyle Gibson, Danny Duffy, or Francisco Liriano will invoke fear into the rest of the NL either if the Braves opt to go those routes.

Braves

Which brings the idea of Jacob deGrom & Noah Syndergaard.  The Mets from all looks of it sounds like they may wipe the slate clean at this point.  Yes, most fans will tell you the injury bug has doomed New York the last two seasons.  Well, at some point if the same guys keep getting injured for the Mets like they’ve been, maybe it’s time to move along from them.  And also, the Mets also thought they can rely on power hitters such as Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce and others in that monstrosity of a park known as Citi Field, and it has been an epic disaster in Queens this year.

Both Mets starters are true aces.  deGrom when healthy hasn’t gone less than 6 IP since opening day (excluding his first two May starts) and his numbers this year are mind-boggling (1.79 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 11.1 K/9 rate).  If not for being on the Mets and having a 5-4 record, he is without question the voters pick for Cy Young.  Syndergaard is slightly more of a question mark.  He’s been dinged up since late May with a strained ligament in his right index finger and hasn’t pitched.  But when he pitches, he’s also on (3.06 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 10.6 K/9 rate) and he is also coming back soon, which means scouts galore in his first start back.  But the best part is for both deGrom and Syndergaard, they will be locked up until 2020 (deGrom 2020, Syndergaard in 2021).

Of course, one of the key obstacles of a possible Braves/Mets trade is the fact they are in the same division and that really frightens away some teams giving up top prospects for the fear of seeing them on more than a few occurrences.  Normally when we see teams trade within the division, it is low-risk, low-reward situations.  This would obviously be different in that sense if a trade was made.  And the Mets would certainly get a gem of a package coming back which you have to figure that any deal would include Ian Anderson and maybe Max Fried.  And the Braves would get their ace, whether that is deGrom or Syndergaard.

Braves

This will be the biggest test for Atlanta as many view the Braves season being better than what was projected.  The hitting is there thanks to Markakis, Freeman, Albies, and others while Ronald Acuna has come up.  But the pitching and all the arms stockpiled on the farm, is still a year off in reality.  Should they send some of those arms away for a deGrom or Syndergaard from a key rival within the division and have a super strong chance at a World Series this year and for years to come?  Or do they trust the process and think that Anderson, Fried, Kolby Allard, and/or Joey Wentz becomes an ace in their own right, but in 3-4 years?

One argument to not trade for one of the Mets aces is that the Braves farm will put out the stars soon and Atlanta will win a championship without either one of them since the potential is so very high right now.  Well, we’ve seen that road before from teams of “well, look at what they have, there is no way they won’t win a World Series.”  Ask Detroit from 2011-2014.  Ask Washington right now as that window may end up starting to close.  Ask Baltimore.  Ask Texas.  Ask these teams that have come so close to a world championship only to fail, especially if it meant getting that one piece because they held onto a prospect that may or may not have panned out.  Heck, it happened to Atlanta 20 years ago when they could have ended up with Randy Johnson (and the rumor was the Braves didn’t want to include George Lombard in any trade with Seattle).

We saw it with Houston last year when they had to make that trade to get Justin Verlander.  It netted them a world championship because of it.  But before that trade was made, Houston balked at getting Verlander at the non-waiver deadline and they really scuffled until they changed their minds and made the trade.  Had they not changed their minds and got him I doubt Houston would have even made it in the World Series last season.  And remember, Atlanta had 14 straight division titles but with only 1 world title to show for it.  Early on in that run, it seemed like the Braves weren’t afraid of making that big move (Fred McGriff anybody?) and it did net them what felt like World Series appearance after World Series appearance with not being afraid of making a needed trade.

They keep saying the best trades are the ones that weren’t made.  But you can make an argument saying the worst trades are ones that weren’t made too.  Alex Anthopoulos will have a tough decision to make as the deadline continues to approach.  Does he make a splash and get that ace the Braves desperately make right now or just hold off and see if Foltynewicz becomes that ace in 2019?  Does he keep those prospects in his back pocket and not ship them off to a rival team or does he roll the dice and think deGrom would be better than whatever prospect the Braves have for the future?

Either way it will be a tough decision.  My take is, yes, go for it because we don’t have any crystal ball to see if the Braves are a world championship team in 2018, 2019, 2020, or 2021.  And with Philadelphia also looking to re-enter the fray as contenders at the same time the Braves are, this run may not be as huge as what people may think.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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The Mets Should Sell Before it is Too Late

Another year, another disastrous Mets season looks to be happening.

And it started so well too.  Everything that could go right for the Mets in April went right.  They were 17-9 in the NL East and fighting with their two of their big rivals the Phillies and Braves while the Nationals were scuffling.  Since that point however New York has gone 11-25.

So what happened?  Or was it always in the cards even when the Mets were winning?

And a lot of things can be blamed.  Injuries can take its toll.  But the Mets offense has not been there at all even when they had been winning.  In their 14-2 win over San Diego on their last game in April, New York had two guys hitting over .260 on the team and that was Asdrubal Cabrera and Brandon Nimmo.  The rest of the crew had been mess.

Conforto

Since then it has somehow gotten worse.  A friend of mine and I had a debate whether or not the Mets would be competitive in 2018.  He said yes but I said no.  He had valid arguments such as the likes of Michael Conforto would take the next step of being an All-Star, Jay Bruce was back, and getting Yoenis Cespedes fully healthy would really create havoc.  My argument was that something about Conforto didn’t sit right with me as I just felt he was more of an average hitter who played above his potential in 2017.  Cespedes has too many nagging injuries to be taken too seriously.  Jay Bruce I thought would come back better in his second go around, but Frazier is all-or-nothing, mostly nothing.  What we’re seeing is an implosion by the offense where the Mets rank in the bottom 3 or 4 in the NL in nearly every category save for triples and walks.  Worse, the outfield that had high hopes, is looking more what I viewed them.  Cespedes has been on the DL for what was supposed to be a short stint, could be now 2 months when all is said & done.  Even when he had been the lineup he hasn’t been producing on Cespedes levels (.255, .790 OPS isn’t horrid, but not what Mets fans were expecting either).  Michael Conforto has been a nightmare at the plate, hitting .215 and an OPS under .700 after the Yankees series.  It has been so bad for Conforto that the Mets are seriously considering sending him down to Las Vegas.  Worse, Conforto is not taking it well to that idea.  And given how manager Mickey Callaway called out Conforto on a defensive blunder after a game, there may be tension with Conforto and Callaway in the clubhouse.  And Jay Bruce has been a nightmare himself, hitting only .219 with 3 HR and an OPS if he is not careful that is starting to drop to the .600 mark if he isn’t careful.  And the irony has been he is one of the healthiest Mets this year.  Todd Frazier save for his 2-run HR tonight against the Yankees, hasn’t done much.  Adrian Gonzalez has underperformed to the point that the Mets just released him after his 3 strikeout outing.  Amed Rosario is still young but he hasn’t done much.

The ironic part was many thought the Mets did addition by subtraction by trading the unhappy Matt Harvey out to Cincinnati.  Well, while Harvey didn’t do anything to help the Mets, it showed there may have been more problems than just him.

Vargas

From a pitching perspective, the Mets have dealt with the injury bug pretty badly through here as ace Noah Syndergaard is on the DL while two key relievers of AJ Ramos and Jeurys Familia are also on the list with no timetables for any return just yet.  Aside from Jacob DeGrom and Steven Matz, the Mets starters have been a mess, notably their prized free agent pickup in Jason Vargas (2-4, 7.71 ERA in 7 games) and Zack Wheeler hasn’t excited many with his pitching (2-4, 4.57 ERA in 11 games).  The bullpen has been fine but starting to get overworked and doesn’t mean a whole lot if the starters can’t stick around for a while.

So right now, the Mets have issues needless to say.  Add in the fact they have now seen the Nationals start to click as we have expected while the Braves aren’t going anywhere and the Phillies are still in the mix and it is going to be a tough climb.  But Sandy Alderson has said there will be no rebuild to the Amazins.  He may need to re-think that before he gets his pink slip.  If the Mets are out of it by the end of July (which is becoming more and more of a possibility), they HAVE to start moving pieces especially given the farm system many regard is near the bottom of the Majors right now.  They can move somebody like Cabrera (who has been the Mets offensive MVP alongside Brandon Nimmo).  They can try to find a taker for Frazier as well.  But one rumor that has really picked up steam is the possibility of trading Jacob deGrom (who is already 30) which could replenish the farm big time as he is locked into a nice contract and teams could use an ace like him.

To me, the Mets are clinging onto a slim hope that the team they built will push past their hated rivals in the NL East and again in October to get back to the World Series.  But the team is incredibly thin on the offensive side with too many guys trying to go for the long ball and not enough guys trying to get on base and drive in runs.  And being in the park like Citi Field it only spells disaster for them.  Teams with that kind of hope and mentality normally are the ones we see that ultimately fail to rebuild when the time is right and years of futility that follows.  We saw what the Phillies had to endure as it took them nearly 5 years to recover.  We are seeing that the Tigers may have sold too late on some of their guys and one wonders how long it will take Detroit to recuperate.  The Orioles once again failed to rebuild when needed and maybe another long period of futility is hitting Baltimore.  The Mets need to learn from these teams and say “it’s time to go back to the drawing board.”

If they don’t, it may be a while before meaningful baseball is played in Queens.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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Has Matt Harvey Pitched His Final MLB Game?

5 years ago seems like an eternity in Major League Baseball.  The All-Star Game featured two pitchers to start somewhat on different stories.  Max Scherzer, then pitching for the Detroit Tigers, had one of the best pitching seasons in a long time, but there was that vibe that he would not “make it” over a long period of time.  On the flip-side, Matt Harvey, a rookie for the Mets, took the league by storm and just was lights-out.  He was must-see TV to say the least.  And pitching in Citi Field for the All-Star Game was just a cherry on top.

 

One month however, Harvey tore a ligament in his elbow, thus needing Tommy John surgery.  He tried rehab first but failed and after the season, got the surgery, which eliminated his entire 2014 season.  Funny how things go however, as most players who have gotten Tommy John Surgery it isn’t the death blow like it was 20-30 years ago but more of a “meh, I just need to find a way to pitch stronger when I am fully healthy.”  Harvey was no different.  When the 2015 seasons started, Harvey picked up where he left off, dealing like he had before the injury.  Media, fans, and players (both former and current ones) alike gave praise for Harvey as some believed he would be the greatest Mets pitcher in history.  He impressed those such as former Met standout Dwight Gooden & Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez and foes like Bryce Harper, who believed he was a Cy Young winner down the road.

People all around loved his toughness and Harvey showed in 2015 he was a tough pitcher.  But maybe the first crack of his career came when his own agent (shocker: Scott Boras) expressed concern of he’s pitching too much and needed an innings limit before he needed to be shut down for the remainder of the season.  The Mets, who were playoff-bound, wasn’t keen on it and of course, being in New York it did not sit well with the fans.  Maybe it was a backtrack on Harvey or maybe he went against his agent, but he came out and said he would pitch in October.  And the Mets fans were glad he did, going 2-0 with a 3.04 ERA and a 1.09 ERA.  The Mets got to the World Series for the first time in 15 years in a surprise fashion before bowing out to Kansas City.

However, a debate happened the year after as Harvey wasn’t even near the player he was in 2013 or 2015 as he was hit hard, going 4-10 with a 4.86 ERA.  His final start was on the 4th of July against the Marlins, a team he stymied down in Miami a month earlier in a great pitcher’s duel with Jose Fernandez (I remember that since I was actually at the game) and didn’t make it past the 4th inning, getting hit for 6 runs on 11 hits.  But the shoulder was now and issue and needed to have season-ending shoulder surgery.

The one thing about Harvey however was that he was nicknamed the Dark Knight.  He loved Batman growing up and Sports Illustrated gave him that moniker for a cover.  But it seemed like if he couldn’t be Bruce Wayne, the next best thing was to be a pitcher.  He loved the playboy lifestyle, dating supermodels, partying, etc.  That’s all fine and well if it doesn’t interfere with your job.  But it started to net himself into trouble with the Mets, getting himself fined and suspended for numerous issues relating to it.  After the 2016 season, Harvey continued to struggle, going 5-7 with a 6.70 ERA.

When Terry Collins stepped down and the Mets hired Mickey Callaway, a friend of mine mentioned that with a new manager and coaching staff, there should be hope for Harvey (as well as Mets fans).  However, things went south fast.  And when asked about heading to the bullpen, Harvey responded by saying “I’m a starting pitcher” in somewhat of a defiant attitude.  Yes, we understand that in your job and a job that you feel like you’ve done great in, you deserve to earn that spot.  However, it has been 3 years ago since Matt Harvey was productive for the Mets.  And the Mets still sent him to the bullpen.  However, talks of partying continued as on the west coast, Harvey gave up a home run the appearance after this.  2 outings later, Harvey got shelled for 5 runs in 2 innings against the Braves.

That was it, the Mets said.  Harvey needs to go back to the Minors to figure things out or he needs to go.  Harvey said no to the Minors and the Mets have said “bye-bye” to Harvey.

So now a debate has begun of “well, where does he go?”  And it is hard.  Of course, the cross-town foe Yankees have been mentioned as they have been known to take up former troubled Mets greats of Gooden and Daryl Strawberry and turn them around, but it seems like they may err on the side of caution and take a pass.  When the Yankees grabbed Doc & Daryl, remember it was a time period where the Bronx Bombers didn’t care about if you were a knucklehead, if you could play you could play.  And kind of seeing how the Yankees are with the young group and a group that is very close-knit, I don’t know if it is a good fit.  But right now, even the Yankees would probably tell Harvey “hey, you have to go to the Minors.  We cannot use you as you are now.”  And given how the Yankees have a pretty strong rotation so far in 2018 (and still waiting for Sonny Gray to get his act together), there may not even be an open starting spot, which Harvey so desires.  I don’t think Harvey would go to a city that isn’t really front & center where it is a media hub (Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati) or a lavish spot just  So that would narrow it down a lot.  Maybe the Marlins would consider it, but we would also have to consider Harvey’s ruthless agent Scott Boras.  He will try to get Harvey top dollar even at this time of his career and given how Harvey believes he is a starter, it may be a bit where he expects to be injected in the rotation from the first day of his signing.  And given how the Marlins are the Marlins, I don’t think they are going to give him a heavy contract assuming if the Mets release him (which is more likely than a trade).  And I am not sure if Harvey or Boras wants an incentive-laden deal (which may be his best shot) so there may be issues there.

The problem with Matt Harvey is that he let success get to his head and fast.  Yes, the two major surgeries have played a major part.  However, what I think happened was that in Harvey’s growth from an early stage (and even through this) was that there wasn’t a veteran pitcher to show Harvey the ropes early on.  RA Dickey comes to mind in 2012 but Harvey was not there for a full season.  New York did have Bartolo for a few years and players loved him, but I don’t see Colon being considered as a “mentor.”  If you look at the likes of the pitchers today who have great careers like Kershaw, Bumgarner, Verlander, and a few others that had that veteran to somewhat show them how to handle being a Major League pitcher (Kershaw had Randy Wolf, Bumgarner had Zito, Verlander had Kenny Rogers).  Harvey had…….Dice-K?  And he couldn’t really go to deGrom (a year older than Harvey) nor Syndergaard (4 years younger than Harvey) either.  I’m not saying it is the Mets fault for Harvey’s lack of maturation as a professional baseball player, but it just seems as if Harvey’s issues may not be as mechanical as many point out, but more of a mental/emotional issue……the same issues that took a Met great in Doc Gooden out of Flushing at a relatively early age.

I will use the cliche of “never say never” with Matt Harvey making the bigs again because if Johnny Venters can do it for the first time in 6 years, so can he.  But the problem is Matt Harvey.  He can re-invent himself but he seems to have that mentality of he can still pitch high 90’s and be a dominant pitcher as well.  And he also has that vibe given out that if it doesn’t go his way, then “screw it.” And that is not a good attitude to have, especially if you’re career is already at a crossroads like his.  For Harvey to stay in the Majors, something needs to change of his, and I don’t think it is a mechanical issue.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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