Bat Flip Crazy

 

In baseball, as with most sports, there are unwritten rules of the game.

 

For instance, you should never talk to a pitcher when he is throwing a no-hitter, or don’t hit-and-run when the count is 0-2. When it comes to sportsmanship, there are debates galore on what is considered to be appropriate or inappropriate. One in particular that seems to have current and former players buzzing is the art, or disgrace for some, of bat flipping.

 

While bat flipping is not new to the sport, it has become more prominent in recent years among some of the sports rising stars à la outfielder Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper.

 

In case you are not familiar with the action of which I’m referencing, allow me to provide you with a clip of Puig and one of his signature bat flips:

 

 

 

 (video courtesy of TBS Sports/YouTube User “LilCee354”)

As you can see in the video above, fans for the most part seem to enjoy it, as usually a bat flip follows when a batter knows the hit is a home run. But as fun as bat flipping can be, there have been instances where the action has caused quite the opposite effect.

A perfect example of this would be Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista’s “Bat Flip Heard ‘Round the World”. I’ll set the stage for you.

It was game five of the American League Divisional Series between the Jays and the Texas Rangers last year. With the score tied in the seventh inning at 3-3, Bautitsta launched a three-run rocket to take the lead, and the rest is, as they say, is history.

 

 

 

(Full clip of Bautista’s bat flip, and the craziness that followed. Video Courtesy of Fox Sports/YouTube User “Captain Canada”)

Flipping Out

Since then, there has been somewhat of a line in the sand drawn between players.

Speaking out against Bautista’s bat flip, Hall of Fame and former New York Yankees relief pitcher “Goose” Gossage was quoted by ESPN’s Andrew Marchand as saying:

Bautista is a —-ing disgrace to the game,” Gossage told ESPN. “He’s embarrassing to all the Latin players, whoever played before him. Throwing his bat and acting like a fool, like all those guys in Toronto. [Yoenis] Cespedes , same thing.

Bautista took the higher road in response to Gossage’ criticism:

He’s a great ambassador for the game,” Bautista told ESPN after being informed of Gossage’s comments. “I don’t agree with him. I’m disappointed that he made those comments, but I’m not going to get into it with him. I would never say anything about him, no matter what he said about me. I have too much good stuff to worry about his comments. Today is my first game [of the spring], getting ready for a new season; hopefully, we will whoop some more a**.

Gossage was later quoted as stating

Everything is good,” Gossage told reporters. “I lost my mind for a minute.

Goose isn’t the only Hall of Famer who has an issue with this “new fangled” celebration. Per Mike Axisa of MLB.com, former Cincinnati Reds catcher Johnny Bench spoke out earlier this spring in regards to Bryce Harper flipping his bat, as well as Harper’s comments on how baseball has become a “tired sport”.

Below is a transcript courtesy of Randy Miller (NJ.com) and the Rich Eisen Show where Bench made the following statements:

You can flip your bat. We had guys do that … and the next time up there was chin music. And if you want to play that way, that’s fine.

“Bring back the excitement? OK, we’ll bring back the brushback pitch, the knockdown pitch. That’s all part of the excitement.”

“I know a lot of the old-timers and a lot of people who watched baseball forever would love to see somebody have a little chin music (as retaliation),” Bench said. “If you want to do that, fine. Flip the bat, run around any way you want, but just expect the next time you come up to the plate, you better watching how much you dig into that batter’s box.

 

It is not just players from the past who are commenting, though, as Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout was recently qouted saying “you will never catch him flipping his bat”.

 

This of course, is not to assume that Trout agrees with either Gossage or Bench, though the Halo’s outfielder is probably the poster boy for baseball purists.

 

On the other side of that previously mentioned line in the sand are veteran sluggers like Boston Red Sox designated hitter David “Big Papi” Oritz. In a recent interview with the Boston Globe’s own Alex Speier, Papi had this to say on the matter:

 

People want to talk about old school. I am old school,” said Ortiz. “How many [expletives] are in the game right now who played in 1997 in the big leagues?

“This game is competition. This ain’t no baby-sitting. There ain’t no crying. When somebody strikes me out, I’m not up there crying, like, ‘Boo-hoo . . . this guy’ . . . No, no, no. There’s none of that. There’s no babysitting in baseball. There’s no babysitting. If you’re going to take it like a baby, I’m going to take [you] deep again. How about that? Take it like a man and make better, quality pitches the next time I face you, and then you get [me] out, and then you do whatever the h— you want. This is competition.”

“Respect? Respect my [expletive]. I don’t have to respect nobody when I’m between those two lines. I’m trying to beat everybody when I’m between those two lines. This ain’t no crying. There’s no, ‘Let me be concerned about taking you deep.’ No.

 

As you can see, there are two schools of thought when it comes to bat flipping. This is certainly something worth keeping track of in 2016, as it will be intriguing to see who does or does not flip their bat.

 

Final Thoughts:

I personally have no issues with athletes celebrating such things as home runs, slam dunks, slap shots, or touch downs. Of course, practicing humility every once and a while is good too.

That being said, I could not resist closing this post with a walk-off bat flip clip…Korean style:

 

(Video courtesy of YouTube User “mybonet”/www.mykbo.net)

 

 

 

 

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Looking Ahead: 2018 MLB Free Agents

Picture this…

It’s the winter of 2018. A few months earlier, the Chicago Cubs win their first World Series in 110 years by defeating the Houston Astros (hey it could happen). After jubilant Cubs fans everywhere calm themselves from a long overdue celebration, Chicago and the other 29 MLB teams turn their attention to the off-season.

The Free agency pool looks like the 1992 Olympics “Dream Team”. It features a host of all-stars, gold glovers, silver sluggers, Cy Young and MVP award winners. One major leaguer from this group will become baseballs first half-a-billion dollar man, others will strike deals that far surpass previous contract figures at their respective positions.

Reality Check

Ok, so the bit about the Cubs winning the World Series was purely for fun (though it’s not out of the realm of possibility), however, the rest could actually happen in 2018.

In what promises to be one of the best free agent classes we’ve seen in a long time, the 2018 off-season will be nothing short of astounding. Below are just some of the top names that could be available for hire:

Starting Pitchers

David Price*

Clayton Kershaw*

Matt Harvey

Jose Fernandez

Shelby Miller

Dallas Kuechel

Garrett Richards

Jose Quintana

Jake Arrieta

Closers/Relievers

Craig Kimbrel

Wade Davis

Trevor Rosenthal

Andrew Miller

Luke Gregerson

Jake McGee

Steve Cishek (pending he hasn’t completely combusted by 2018)

Infielders

Josh Donaldson

Manny Machado

Dee Gordon

Eric Hosmer

Mike Moustakas

Jose Iglesias

Outfielders

Bryce Harper

Andrew McCutchen

Jason Heyward*

Michael Brantley

Adam Jones

Lorenzo Cain

A.J. Pollock

(* indicates players who can opt-out of their current contracts in 2018)

Depending upon who ends up where, there could be a tremendous shift of power in both the American and National League. Of, course there are still three seasons to be played between now and the winter of 2018.

This means a number of the individuals listed above could very well be re-signed by way of contract extensions, or stick out their current contracts. Also, a few of these players could decline significantly in performance, suffer career altering injuries, or even become part of a blockbuster trade before 2018 arrives.

Nevertheless, the level of talent available by then will still be plentiful. While it’s difficult to say where these and other free agents will wind up, I will take a shot at projecting where four of the above free agents might land in 2018.

 

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

 

Fantastic Four

 

1. Bryce Harper (NYY,WSH,LAD)

Harper will be the most coveted free agent prize in 2018 for a plethora of reasons. At 27-years-old, he’ll be in his prime as a player and will likely command a record setting contract. Per ESPN.com, the gifted outfielder was interviewed recently by 106.7 FM The Fan, and was asked about his thoughts regarding his next contract possibly exceeding the $400 million mark, to which Harper replied

“Yeah, I mean, I don’t really think about that stuff” Harper said. “I just try to play the years out and do everything I can to help my team win. But don’t sell  me short. That’s what you’re doing right now to me, so don’t do that.”(quote per 106.7 FM The Fan interview)

Given that Harper himself expects a big payday, there are only a few teams I feel that can cash his potentially historic check. It’s no secret, or surprise, that the New York Yankees (notorious for big off-season spending sprees) are a likely destination for Harper in 2018.

Many MLB experts believe the Bronx Bombers have been inactive in the off-season recently, in order to cash in on the likes of Harper and others once 2018 arrives.

While there could be some risk involved with the Yankees playing the waiting game, being able to unload hefty contracts such as Alex Rodriguez (free agent in 2018, C.C. Sabathia (free agent in 2018), and Mark Teixeira’ (free agent in 2017) will allow New York to spend freely in the 2018 Free Agency.

Imagine a NYY outfield composed of Bryce Harper, Jacoby Ellsbury, and a still effective Brett Gardner entering the 2019 season. Harper’s home run power coupled with the hitter friendly dimensions of the New Yankee Stadium would be a match made in heaven for New York.

Furthermore, it would be fitting for the Yanks to yet again break the contract record books (as they did with A-Rod before, 10 years at $275 million) by signing Harper to say a 12-year $450 million deal.

Of course, just because the Yankees will have money to spend in 2018, doesn’t mean everyone else is out of the running for Bryce Harper. His current team, the Washington Nationals, could go all-in and up the contract ante to a whopping 15-year $500 million mega deal.

Then again, they could structure the deal to guarantee “x amount” of dollars in a 10-year $400 million deal ($40 million annually) that might appeal more to Harper.

The Nats, however, may not be able to best New York in a bidding war in 2018. Over the next three seasons they will have other key players looking to cash in for their time and services to the team (Stephen Strasburg, Jayson Werth, Danny Espinosa, etc).

Meaning, even if they manage to keep some of those players around by 2018, there simply may not be enough money in the bank to convince number 34 to stay in D.C.

Finally, another big market team (like the Yanks) that could potentially court Harper…the Los Angeles Dodgers. LA hasn’t been shy in seasons past when it comes to spending big money on top talent, though they have yet to see the desired results from said investments. Nevertheless, I think it’s safe to say the Dodgers pursuing Harper would surprise no one, and is highly probable.

Imagine for a second a Dodgers outfield consisting of Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson, and Harper. This would give LA one of the scariest 3-4-and-5 hitter combinations in the league, for years to come. Combine that offensive output with a Clayton Kershaw led pitching staff, and the Dodgers would be heavily favored champions entering the 2019 season.

 

(Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports)

(Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports)

 

2. Clayton Kershaw (LAD,ATL,PHI)

Speaking of Kershaw, and as previously mentioned in this post, he could very well opt-out of his current contract and seek an even bigger pay-day in 2018. While I think Kershaw will ultimately stay with LA, it is becoming more commonplace to see players using the opt-out clause of their contracts to seek larger contracts elsewhere, rather than stay with a franchise for their career.

Kershaw has been with the Dodgers since 2008, which would bring his tenure with the team to a decade in 2018. By todays standards, that’s a long time playing in one uniform. Given the post-season struggles LA has faced in Kershaw’ time out west, he very well could be ready for a change of scenery.

For the sake of this post at least, lets pretend Kershaw tires of being on the hill in Hollywood and opts out of his contract. One of the teams who I feel will be interested, is the Atlanta Braves. While they may not look like much entering the 2016 season, the Braves can certainly turn things around in 2018 by adding some top tier pitching and other pieces to go along with franchise player and first baseman Freddie Freeman.

Should Kershaw become available, Atlanta would likely try and persuade the three time Cy Young award winner to come to tomahawk chop country. As far as being able to afford Kershaw or outbid the Dodgers, the Arizona Diamondbacks signing of Zack Greinke in 2016 is proof that a deal can always be made.

Lastly, and this team comes in as a total dark-horse for Kershaw, the Philadelphia Phillies could shock the baseball world and strike a deal. The Phillies would not only have the salary cap space to sign Kershaw, but could also add another top-tier free agent like a Josh Donaldson, or Jason Heyward (should he also opt-out). This is because in 2018, the Phils have virtually no money going towards major contractual commitments (per MLB.com writer Anthony Castrovince).

Again, Philly may be a bit of a stretch, but like Atlanta, they’ll be rebuilding over the next few seasons. No better way to do so, than going after one of the best arms on the open market.

 

3. Josh Donaldson (TOR,BOS,NYM)

The reigning AL’s most valued player could bring in another MVP award between now and 2018, and will likely convince Toronto to keep him in Canada. The Blue Jays have certainly shown the other large market teams of the AL East that they too can splurge of talent. Of course, like the Dodgers, those dollars spent haven’t yet translated into gold rings.

Nevertheless, Toronto should be in a good position by 2018 to not only keep their multi-talented third baseman, but also compete for a championship. The Jays, will not be alone, however, in trying to talk money with the “Bringer of Rain”.

Another team that may be in need of Donaldson’ services could be the division rival Boston Red Sox. Sure the Sox have current third baseman Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval under contract until the year 2021. But, considering that the Panda hasn’t exactly panned out the way Boston originally hoped, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Sox trade Sandoval away before the 2018 free agency, thus allowing the pursuit of Donaldson.

Of course, by trading Pablo away, the Bo Sox would have to eat a chunk of his contract. Throw in possibly having to re-bid or restructure a contract for David Price (should he opt-out in 2018) and the Sox might think twice about splurging the way they did back in 2011 (and we all know how that worked out, see 2012 Sox Collapse).

One last possible destination for Donaldson, could be the revamped New York Mets. Seeing as David Wright (who will turn 36 in 2018) could possibly hang up his cleats after an illustrious 14-year MLB career by 2018, Donaldson’ availability could be perfect timing for the Mets. Add Donaldson to an already potent lineup, with a rising, young,  and talented pitching rotation, and the Mets have a championship caliber team for years to come.

 

(Pat Sullivan/AP Photo)

(Pat Sullivan/AP Photo)

 

4. Dallas Kuechel (HOU,TEX,PHI)

Last but certainly not least on my brief list of possible 2018 free agents is Dallas Kuechel, currently with the Houston Astros. While Houston standouts such as second baseman Jose Altuve, outfielder George Springer, and short stop Carlos Correa all sound like future Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, and St. Louis Cardinals members, Kuechel may be one guy that the Astros can hang onto for a while.

Granted those other Astros listed above won’t hit the free agency until a few season after 2018, so Houston may still be able to keep a solid core together out West. If Keuchel plays his cards right, he could command a high dollar contract that rivals other top arms in this class. Whether or not Houston will be willing or able to pay up to keep their ace, will depend on who else throws their hat into ring for the talented lefty.

The in-state and AL West rival Texas Rangers could be one team that challenges Houston for Kuechel’s arm. The Rangers will still have the majority of their current 2016 pitching staff under contract through 2019 and beyond (Yu Darvish 2019, Derek Holland 2019, Cole Hamels 2020, Martin Perez 2021). When you add Dallas Kuechel to the mix, Texas’ rotation could rival other top staffs around the majors.

While multiple other teams could be in need of this lefties pitching power, I feel like no other team will need a left hander to build a team around more than Philadelphia. As previously mentioned about the Phillies in this post, the team will have the capital needed to bring in talent.

Quick Question: What if the Phils pulled off a major off-season sweep and sign Clayton Kershaw, Dallas Keuchel, and say Manny Machado?

Answer: That would be a great start to rebuilding a franchise that has suffered multiple sub .500 seasons since 2012.

(All contractual information and statistics for this post is courtesy of http://spotrac.com )

 

Final Thoughts:

While the majority of this post is pure speculation, a good number of these players will become free agents in 2018. Contracts will no doubt reach all-time highs, and depending upon how the upcoming collective bargaining agreement goes, teams will likely crush 2016′ $2 billion spending spree by a significant margin.

It will be a class to remember, and could be an off-season that leaves a decade long impact on the majors. Until then, we can only watch, wait, and wonder.

Yo 2, Storen 0 as Mets sweep Nationals again.

Kind of a big 3-game series took place in Washington this week between the first place New York Mets and their closest pursuer the Washington Nationals.

Monday night a 5-run fourth inning by the Nationals wasn’t enough as they kicked away a 5-3 lead in an 8-5 loss to the Mets. Max Scherzer wasn’t all that great by allowing five runs and three homers over six innings. The Mets Michael Conforto, Kelly Johnson, and Yoenis Cespedes had the home run honors. The Nats bullpen allowed three additional runs in the seventh and  Washington ended Labor Day five games behind the Mets.

Tuesday night the Nationals scored 4-runs in the sixth to take a 7-1 lead, but the Nats bullpen allowed 6-runs in the seventh and another in the eighth.

The highlight in the seventh inning for the Mets was Yoenis Cespedes delivering a 3-run double against Drew Storen. Storen reacted by walking the next three batters which allowed a run to be added to his ledger after allowing the three runners he inherited to score. Good times for Storen.

It got worse for the Nats and better for the Mets when Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit a pinch-hit go-head solo homer in the eighth against Jonathan Papelbon. Washington’s 8-7 loss saw manager Matt Williams storm away from the postgame podium in disgust. The Mets overcame a six-run deficit for the first time since 2011 placing the Nats six games back in the division.

Wednesday the Nationals tried to avoid their second straight sweep to the Mets. Bryce Harper flashed his MVP form and MVP hair by, speaking of hair, homering off Jacob DeGrom in the first inning.

Stephen Strasburg was brilliant until the he reached the eight inning for the first time since mid-April. He had 13 strikeouts in the game and had only allowed a homer to Travis d’Arnaud in the second inning. Kelly Johnson ruined Strasburg’s excellence by taking him deep leading off the eighth inning to tie the game at two.

Two batters later with Curtis Granderson on first, Matt Williams went back to Storen to face Cespedes for the second day in a row with the game hanging in the balance. The results were almost predictable. Storen served up a two-run bomb to Yo to give the Mets a 4-2 lead.

Drew Storen used to be the closer where he was pitching to a 1.62 ERA in the 9th inning. His 7th-8th inning ERA this season is 6.41. He’s was also a huge 0 for 2 against Cespedes this week.

Harper got a run back in the bottom of the eighth with his second homer of the game to cut the deficit to 5-4 against Tyler Clippard. Harper has 36 homers to go with that .336/.467/.657 slashline. This equates on the NL side of things to a .220 OPS LEAD over Rockies awesome guy Nolan Arenado.

Jonathan Papelbon fanned the Nats bullpen flame by allowing a run in the ninth before Jeurys Familia slammed the door on the Mets sweep of the Nationals. The Mets have won six straight games against Washington and lead the Nationals by 7-games in the NL East with 23 games to play. The Mets haven’t had a 7-game division lead since September 2007.

Chris Hilburn-Trenkle on this very site makes some valid points about Cespedes being incredibly valuable to the Mets. He has 14 HRs, including 5 go-ahead homers, in 36 games with the Mets and a 1.032 OPS. However, 18 of Cespedes’ 32 home runs came in the AL during his 102 games with the Tigers. I believe his time served with the Mets just isn’t going to be enough to win him the NL MVP given that Bryce Harper has been a one man wrecking crew for a Nationals.

It’s not Harper’s fault his team has reverted to being disappointing again. If you haven’t noticed the Nats aren’t exactly the best starting rotation in baseball, now are they? According to baseball-reference.com the Nationals’ rotation is 11th in MLB allowing 4.07 runs per game. The Mets are 5th at 3.75. That’s runs allowed, not ERA, but you get the idea.

The Mets were 4-15 against the Nationals in 2014 when New York finished 17-games out of first place. During 2015 the Mets are 10-6 vs the Nationals in a rivalry that is gaining momentum. Both teams will close the season against each other.

“We’re legitimate,” Manager Terry Collins said to the New York Times. “This is not a fluke.”

Hair flips may win style points in the MVP voting, but they don’t necessarily secure playoff spots.

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Yoenis Cespedes: National League MVP?

The day after Yoenis Cespedes was acquired by the New York Mets from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for minor league right handers Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa, the Mets were sitting two games back of the first place Nationals and were desperate to spark a run.

Then entered Cespedes, who in his first game went 0-3, but drew a walk, something that he had not accomplished in nearly six weeks, and the Mets ended up beating the Nationals 3-2. The next day the Mets won 5-2 and Cespedes went 1-4 as the Mets took a share of first place with the series win against the Nats.

The New York Mets have played thirty four games since trading for Cespedes and have amassed a 23-11 record during that span. The Mets went from two games back of the division leading Nationals to leading the division by five games as of September 8. The biggest reason for this turn around has been the hot hitting of Cespedes. In 34 games Cespedes is hitting .311 with 13 home runs and 31 RBIs, to go along with a .669 slugging percentage.

Those are video game numbers and since joining the Mets, Cespedes has had an offensive Wins Above Replacement of 1.9, which if factored in for a 162 season would finish up to be an astonishing 9.1 Overall on the year the 29 year old outfielder has hit .298 with 31 home runs and 92 RBIs and is having his best year as a pro.

Picking up Cespedes was an outstanding decision by Mets brass and having the menacing right hander in the lineup not only helps the team, but helps the individual hitters around him as he gives strong lineup protection. With David Wright back for the Mets they now have a lineup led by Curtis Granderson, Wright, Daniel Murphy, Cespedes and rookie Michael Conforto.

The lineup went from being considered weak in late July to now being a quite formidable lineup with the acquisition of Cespedes and the return of David Wright. With 25 games left in the season the Mets are inching ever closer to their first playoff appearance since 2006, something that almost no one would have guessed at the beginning of the season.

The Mets young pitching has been tremendous for the team this year, but without Cespedes the Mets would still be in second place. Cespedes is fifth in the National League in WAR this year at 5.8, and is third in runs batted in at 92 and fourth in home runs at 31.

A strong argument can be made that fellow NL East outfielder Bryce Harper deserves the Most Valuable Player award as Harper has 34 home runs, 83 runs batted in and a .336 batting average. Harper has no doubt been one of the best players in baseball this year, but the award is for the most valuable player, not the best player, and Cespedes has certainly been very valuable for the Mets. The Mets have gained seven games on Harper’s Nationals since acquiring Cespedes and now lead the division by five games over the Nats.

The Mets are 3-0 against the Nationals with Cespedes on the roster and yesterday Cespedes blasted his 31st home run of the season to help lead the New York ball club to a victory over the Harper led Nats. Both players have been fantastic this year, but one key stat to look at that separates the two is their hitting with RISP. Cespedes on the year is hitting .328 with RISP with 9 home runs and 62 RBIs and with the Mets is hitting .343 with 3 home runs and 16 RBIs, whereas Harper is hitting .306 with 8 home runs and 51 RBIs.

Both players have been great for their respective ball clubs, but Cespedes has been the difference maker in the Mets success this year and he is the reason why the Mets are going to beat out the Nationals and make the playoffs for the first time since 2006. At the end of the season it should be Cespedes receiving the National League Most Valuable Player award.

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Making The Case For Anthony Rizzo As NL MVP

Yesterday Anthony Rizzo launched his 24th home run of the season for the Chicago Cubs, helping the team win 7-1 over the Atlanta Braves. After the game Anthony Rizzo was sitting at 24 home runs and 73 runs batted in, both of which are top ten in the National League.

The Chicago Cubs are 68-51 on the season and are well on their way to making the playoffs and Rizzo has been the biggest reason for their success. At only 26 years old Rizzo is the leader of the Cubs offense and has done a magnificent job of guiding an extremely young team.

Once a top prospect for the Boston Red Sox, Rizzo was traded to the San Diego Padres as part of the Adrian Gonzalez trade in 2010. The Padres quickly gave up on the lefty hitter after the 2011 season and Rizzo was shipped to the Cubs, where he got the opportunity that he needed. Rizzo has gotten better each year and is having his best season as a pro, primed to set career highs in hits, RBIs, batting average, walks, on base percentage and slugging percentage.

Rizzo has also stolen 15 bases on the season for the Cubs, something that is impressive considering that he is a first baseman. His 5.7 Wins Above Replacement ranks him fifth in the National League and in a year where no player has stood out as a popular candidate for MVP, Rizzo is making himself be heard.

The Cubs first baseman has quietly become one of the best in baseball at his position and is one of the most valuable players to his team in all of baseball. Earlier in the season many wanted to give the MVP to Bryce Harper, who has 30 home runs this year, but the Nationals are likely to miss the playoffs. The Cubs however are primed to make the postseason for the first time since 2008 and look to win the World Series for the first time since 1908.

Looking at the Cubs roster, the team would not be very good without Rizzo and with him leading the way the Cubs are 17 games above .500 and have the fifth best record in all of baseball. The Cubs would be division leaders in four other divisions in baseball and their success has been because of their star player.

If the Cubs do indeed continue to play well and make the postseason, Rizzo should win the MVP award as he has been key to his team’s success. Very few players in baseball have been more important to their team than Rizzo has to the Cubs and Rizzo is on his way to winning what could be the first of multiple MVP awards for the lefty.

The Youth Movement Taking Baseball By Storm

In the midst of a division race Friday night Bryce Harper hit his 30th home run of the season for the Washington Nationals, becoming one of seven players in the major leagues with 30 this year. Harper is only 22 and has not reached his ceiling yet, and is quickly already becoming one of the best players in baseball and a legitimate MVP candidate.

Joined by Bryce Harper at the top is 24 year old Mike Trout, who has hit 33 home runs this year. Trout has been off the chart for the Los Angeles Angels and is likely on his way to winning his second consecutive Most Valuable Player award. The Trout vs Harper debate will be around for years to come, but there are many other young superstars in the game that should be getting fans’ attention during this exciting season.

Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies is only 24 years old, but leads the National League with 86 runs batted in and has hitting 29 home runs on the season. The 24 year old third baseman might not even be the best young player at that position, with 23 year old Manny Machado also having a prolific year and Kris Bryant learning the ropes for the Chicago Cubs.

The 2015 season has been taken over by young players led by Trout, Harper, Machado and Arenado and baseball is seeing a movement that will make the game more exciting for years to come. In the national league 24 years olds Shelby Miller, Gerritt Cole and Michael Wacha have all put up great years and all have ERAs under 3 for the season. Wacha’s teammate for the Cardinals, Carlos Martinez, is only 23 years old and has a 2.59 ERA on the season for the St. Louis ball club.

Over in the American League Sonny Gray has dominated hitters and is leading the league in ERA at 2.06. At 25 years old he has a good shot at winning his first CY Young award for the Oakland Athletics. Gray has been overpowering and leads the league in ERA, WHIP and BAA.

In Houston we are seeing the emergence of a 20 year old shortstop that might already be the best at his position in baseball. Carlos Correa has been on fire since being called up by Houston this year and has 14 home runs in 227 at bats, good for a .537 Slugging percentage on the year. Correa has been a catalyst for the Houston ball club and is a big reason why the Astros are winning the AL West.

In Minnesota 22 year old slugging third baseman Miguel Sano has hit seven home runs and ten doubles in 125 at bats and is hitting .280 for the season. He is joined by 21 year old center fielder Byron Buxton, who when healthy, is one of the most exciting players in baseball and is a top prospect.

Giancarlo Stanton has not played since June 26, but is still tied for fourth in the National League with 27 home runs on the year. Stanton at 25 years old has more power than any player in the big leagues, and is joined by Jose Fernandez as two of the most exciting players in the game.

Over in Chicago the Cubs have a team stocked with young talent headed by 23 year olds Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler. At the age of 23 Bryant is already tenth in the majors in walks and has been as good as advertised. However as good as Bryant has been, he is not even the best young player on his team with the way that Kyle Schwarber has been swinging the bat since being called up.

Schwarber is a 22 year old catcher that is hitting .313 with 8 home runs in 112 at bats for the Cubs. He has been phenomenal and with Schwarber, Bryant, Soler and 21 year old Addison Russell the Cubs have their own young all-star roster.

In Los Angeles 23 year old Joc Pederson has had an impressive rookie campaign, hitting 23 long balls on the year for the first place Dodgers. Pederson is joined by 24 year old Yasiel Puig, who has had a down year, but still has managed to hit 10 home runs and when he is in the zone is one of the most dangerous hitters.

All around baseball young players are stepping up and making an impact for teams and the tide is changing in the major leagues. A game that was once dominated by veterans is being pushed aside as the exciting young superstars get their chance at glory and with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper at the helm, baseball is in great shape for years to come.

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MLB Mid-Season Awards

(Photo from Zimbio)

As a famous commercial ad once stated-chicks dig the long ball!! So as baseballs most ferocious free-swingers flock to Cincinnati to show off their long-ball power in the 2015 Home-Run Derby, you may finally have a better excuse to head to Cincinnati than the fact that you’re going to visit “Kings Island”. With all the festivities coming during All-Star week next week, it seems as good as time as any to show off MY PICKS for mid-season MVP’s, CY-Youngs, and Manager of the year. So lets get to it!

 AL MVP -JOSH DONALDSON

This was a very close race for me when I looked at the candidates. Mike Trout is having his annual MVP-type campaign and Manny Machado has become the most well-rounded lead-off hitter in all of baseball, getting on-base at a clip of .360 while exhibiting power to the tune of an .895 OPS. However Josh Donaldson has simply been ridiculous this season. Donaldson has hit in either the 2 or 3 spot in the order in every game that he has played thus far and has produced accordingly, posting elite-type numbers with 21 Home-Runs, 60 RBI’s, while hitting at a clip of .299/.358/.543/.901. On the team with the best offense in baseball, Donaldson is the best offensive player.

Though we are only at the mid-season point, Donaldson has already posted 4.9 Wins Above Replacement Player, putting him on track to record an almost ridiculous 10 WARP on the year! Adding to his case for MVP, Donaldson has posted a UZR(ultimate-zone rating) of 7.4 on defense which trails only Nolan Arenado for 2nd place in all of baseball while placing a significant 1.3 point difference between himself and 3rd place Manny Machado at the 3rd base position. On a team in the Blue-Jays that has little help on the mound, ranking 12th in the AL in with a forgettable 4.16 team ERA, for the Blue-Jays to be only 3.5 games out of the lead in the AL East and only 3 games back of a wild-card has everything to do with the move they made in the offseason to acquire the mid-season MVP of the AL-Josh Donaldson.

 

 AL CY Young- Chris Archer

Quick note: It kills me that both the AL midseason MVP and AL midseason  Cy-young are products of my Chicago Cubs system before being traded for Rich Harden and Matt Garza!(ugh!)  I guess I can be happy that at least they’re not in the NL. In my estimation this is a 2-pony race, and the pony’s share the same name. Chris Sale and Chris Archer have been the best 2 pitchers by a long shot in the AL.

Chris Sale has actually posted slightly better numbers on the year but call me old-school in a sense that I provide a slight bump for being the ace on a team that is in contention.(Statisticians bring your punches, I’m ready!) While Chris Sale has been absolutely dominant posting a 2.80 ERA to go along with an FIP and xFIP of 2.31 and 2.35, good for a 3.7 WARP this season, he has also played in a less offensively dominant division, in my opinion.

In an AL-East division which sports the top 2 teams in ALL of baseball in terms of run-scored by means of Josh Donaldson’s Toronto Blue Jays and (gulp) Alex Rodriguez’s New York Yankees, Chris Archer has put up tremendous numbers on the year. Posting a 2.74 ERA and a FIP and xFIP of 2.64 and 2.57, Archer has gone 9-6 thus far while striking out 10.87/9 innings and posting a left-on-base percentage of 76.2, all of which is good for 3.2 WARP in the heavy-hitting division.

Furthermore, on a team that was all but left for dead with the departure of their GM Adam Friedman to the Dodgers, shortly followed by their eccentric manager Joe Maddon to the Cubs, Chris Archer has anchored a rotation for a Rays group that finds themselves just 4.5 games back in the division and 4 games back of a wild-card heading towards the break. Throw in the fact that their offense ranks an abysmal 25th in all of baseball in terms of run scored, and you’ve got an AL Cy-young winner in Chris Archer.

 

NL MVP- Bryce Harper

I’m on the Harper-wagon! Heck, I’m driving the wagon. After an off-season that saw Bryce Harper not attend “NatsFest” (come on Nationals marketing, there has GOT to be a better than that) due to some front-office turmoil as Harper was heading towards arbitration. Harper has come out swinging, literally, to show WHY he’s worth much more than the 2 year, 7.5 million dollar deal that was eventually reached to avoid the arbitration judge. Harper has already quadrupled his Wins Above Replacement Player total from last year even though he has played 22 less games so far, posting a 5.7 WARP.

He has become the most-feared left-handed hitter in all of baseball in my opinion by posting an outstanding slash-line of .343/.471/.709 with a wOBA of .490 per fangraphs. He has hit 25 home-runs on the year and knoced in 60 rbi’s while scoring 58 runs himself. While his strike-out rate is at 19.9% he is walking at an all-time career ML high rate of 19.0%, forcing pitchers to pitch to him or walk him. As the Nationals sit ahead of the offensively-starving New York Mets in the NL East by 3 games heading into the break, Bryce Harper has been head-and-shoulders above any other candidate in the race for MVP in the NL to date.

 

NL Cy-Young- Zack Greinke

I REALLY wanted to give this to Max Scherzer. Mainly because a co-worker of mine is a Dodgers fan and has done nothing but harp on how Greinke would beat Scherzer in a head-to-head NLCS match-up, which I don’t buy. However he is right about one thing, Greinke is the mid-season Cy Young award winner. While Scherzer put up the best 3-game stretch of any pitcher I have seen in my lifetime in early June, posting a one-hitter, no-hitter, and taking a no-hitter into the 6th inning the following game, Greinke has been nothing short of amazing the entire season.

Posting a miniscule 1.39 ERA to go along with 2.65 FIP and an xFIP of 3.18, Greinke sits at 8-2 for the Dodgers as they hold a 5.5 game lead over the Giants and Diamondbacks in the NL West. While his xFIP isn’t as strong as Scherzers, Greinke is pitching incredibly well with men on base, posting an 89.5 left-on-base percentage. With the season at the mid-way point, the Dodgers sitting comfortably in first place in their division, and Greinke posting numbers like these, I have to give it to my co-worker and place Greinke as my mid-season Cy Young winner.

 

AL MANAGER- Kevin Cash(in a landslide)

As mentioned in the AL Cy-Young award-winner portion, the Tampa Bay Rays were left for dead. They lost 2-time AL Manager of the Year Joe Maddon to the Cubs, they lost super-executive Andrew Friedman to the Dodgers, and they traded away Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar. They rank 25th in all of baseball in runs scored in a division that has the top 2 overall teams in that category, and one of their trade acquisitions, John Jaso, has been on the DL for most of the year until being activated in the last 2 weeks. Somehow, someway, Kevin Cash has this team in contention in both the wild-card and the AL East.

Now, the AL-East hasn’t exactly had a team run away in the division to date, but for the Rays to have held 1st-place at multiple times throughout the first half of the season is nothing short of a miraculous management job by Cash. It was reported by multiple media sources that, if healthy, the Rays don’t intend to do their annual trade-deadline sell-off and allow Cash to stand pat with the roster he has. If that’s the case, I’m not betting against Cash to get the Rays into the AL Wild-Card game and potentially make some noise in the AL-playoffs this fall.

 

NL MANAGER- Joe Maddon

Respect 90! That was the moniker Joe Maddon implemented upon coming over from the aforementioned Tampa Bay Rays to the Chicago Cubs in the controversial management acquisition in the off-season. His players have listened. With a team full of 21-25 year old’s and minimal playoff experience outside of David Ross, Miguel Montero, and Jon Lester, the Cubs were not expected to contend this year, as many media pundits all but circled 2016 as the year that competitive baseball returned to Wrigley Field. Well to that Joe Maddon has done what he does best, shock the media!

With a team  that saw mega-acquisition Jon Lester get off to a slow start and has had less-than-stellar performances out of other veterans such as Dexter Fowler, Joe Maddon has found a way to have his team in the 2nd wild-card spot as of today. The Cubs are tied with the Nationals for the 4th-best record in the NL despite being in arguably baseball toughest division that includes the MLB-leading St. Louis Cardinals. While the Cubs do sport rookie of the year candidate Kris Bryant, MVP candidate Anthony Rizzo, and super-prospect 21-year old Addison Russell, this Cubs roster is one that would most likely be on the outside looking in of fall baseball  in Wrigley if not for the efforts of manager Joe Maddon.

 

National League MVP Race Shaping Up with Two Early Contenders

(Photo courtesy of Fox Sports)

Huge month of May has Harper leading the race

After never hitting more than 22 homeruns in a single season before, at 22 years old, Bryce Harper appears to be in position to have a huge breakout season.  With 11 homeruns hit in a stretch of 45 at bats recently, the month of May has been very kind to Washington’s young superstar outfielder.  By pushing his homerun total to 16 as the final week of May approaches, Harper has put himself in position to pass his career high in homeruns by the halfway point of the season.  Bryce Harper is not the only National League power hitter who is producing at an elite rate however, as Diamondbacks first basemen Paul Goldschmidt hit his 11th homerun of the season while pushing his RBI total close to a rate of one per game played.  Goldschmidt’s presence in the Diamondbacks’ lineup has helped the team to stay alive in the standings through the first quarter of the season, despite not having much power around him.  Goldschmidt does not play a defensive position that allows him to add as much win value to his team as Bryce Harper in the outfield, but with excellent defensive work at first base, he has been a strong contributor.  A further look at all the ways each of these players are contributing so far this season, will help to determine who has the edge throughout the rest of the season in the National League MVP race.

Bryce Harper

At just 22 years old, Bryce Harper is already in his fourth season with the Washington Nationals as a member of their 25 man MLB roster.  With the 139 games played in his rookie season being the most games he has played in a single season throughout his young MLB career, it is quite evident that Bryce Harper has not been fortunate enough to experience good health early in a season until 2015.   With the current state of his development, his maturity as an MLB player and added strength, Bryce Harper is living up to the expectations that made him the first overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft.  So far this has resulted in Bryce Harper contributing in nearly every category to help his team, as his two stolen bases in five attempts have been the category where he has contributed the leastWith 16 homeruns, one triple and eight doubles already in the early going this season, Harper is proving to be the homerun hitter that many thought he would be when he was drafted .  After three straight seasons where Harper produced a batting average right around the .270 mark, an improvement in his walk to strikeout ratio has him hitting over .330 through almost two months of the 2015 season.  With a strikeout rate of just 23 percent, compared to a walk rate of 20 percent so far this season, Bryce Harper has been able to post numbers that are on par with what the National League’s elite have done the past few seasons .

Paul Goldschmidt

After finishing second in the MVP voting in 2013, Paul Goldschmidt is a name that many baseball fans know and associate with excellence based on what Arizona’s first basemen has been able to produce early in his career.  After his season ended early due to a hand injury last season, Paul Goldschmidt is right back on the MVP track with his 12 homeruns early in 2015Like Harper, Goldschmidt is also batting above .330 this season because of his impressive 21.1 percent strikeout rate so far on the 2015 seasonHis 15.7 percent walk rate puts his plate discipline on display, showing that even as a run producer he is willing to do what is best for the team by being a base runner without making an outWith nine doubles and one triple, Goldschmidt’s power goes well beyond just his abilities as a homerun hitter, and his 22 extra base hits have been the key in helping him to drive in 38 runs for this season .  Goldschmidt’s contributions go beyond just what he has done at the plate however, as his excellent defense has helped the Diamondbacks to win games in the first two months of the season.  With four defensive runs saved already this season, Goldschmidt’s contributions have been enormous defensively at the first base position .

Who has the edge?

Right now Bryce Harper has the edge because he is taking Major League Baseball by storm with his production at the plate.  Paul Goldschmidt is right up there among the league’s elite however, and Goldschmidt has played better defense at first than Bryce Harper has played in right field.  Over the course of the 2015 season however, Bryce Harper’s fantastic throwing arm should come into play by allowing him to save some runs defensively for the Washington Nationals.  Paul Goldschmidt and a few others will be waiting right there just in case Bryce Harper falters, but as of right now his 3.5 wins above replacement on the scale provided by Fangraphs, has him ahead of every other player in the National League .  It is unlikely that Bryce Harper maintains a slugging percentage above .700 throughout all of the 2015 season, but with the raw power he possesses, a slugging percentage of .600 or better is likely.  Bryce Harper at 22 years old is putting on a show that very few players before him have been able to produce.  Now baseball fans around the nation can sit back and enjoy the show as Bryce Harper looks to continue his fantastic production as the Washington Nationals right fielder throughout the summer of 2015.

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When It Comes To All-Star Ballots, Don’t Shy From Rivals

In the world that we live in, we are consistently connected to our favorite athletes and teams via social media from our computers, tablets, phones, you name it. With that being said, it is easy to see why baseball fans know more about their favorite players than ever before. We follow them on Twitter and Instagram. We see them on the TV every day, through interviews, practices, games and so much more. We are invited into their personal lives.

With these new tools of following athletes, however, we can, in fact, see everybody. We not only see the athletes that we grow to know and love, but we see the athletes that we may not necessarily like. Every person has a player or two that they, for whatever their reason is, hates that certain player. It could be a player for a rival team. It could be a player (I’m looking at you Ryan Braun) who is looked down upon for past decisions. Whatever the reason, everybody has players they simply do not like, even sometimes very talented players.

So, you probably are wondering, what does this have to do with ballots? Why do I need to read about players I like and don’t like, and following them on social media? Well, that’s because social media and All-Star Ballots are more connected than ever. Yes, people have been voting for their favorite players for years, but now, people are able to vote for players just because they follow them on a social media site. That’s why you have to read through an intro about social media. I’m here to tell you that, whenever you decide to cast your All-Star Ballot for the mid-summer classic later this year, do not, I repeat, DO NOT, vote for players just because they are your favorite or you follow them on Twitter or you see them often on TV.

It’s true, and I apologize if you’re the person who voted for Derek Jeter every year of his career because you liked him or thought he was cool. This article has probably wasted your time, and for that, I’m sorry. But, if I can change your mind, please, stay on. This is just my opinion that I hope you can take into consideration before you vote.

I’ll admit, my favorite team, the Phillies, are absolutely atrocious this season. It makes things incredibly easy for me to shy away from voting for any Phils just because they don’t deserve it. But, if your a fan of a team that has actual talent, like, say, the Tigers or Cardinals or, and I can’t believe I’m writing this, the Astros, then this one is also for you. Yes, I said it, the Astros are competitors. Regardless, it is up to you, the voters, to keep the All-Star game what it should be, a display of the best players in each league. I’ll use Derek Jeter as an example again. I know DJ had an outstanding career, but in the last few years of his career, did he really deserve to be an All-Star? I don’t think so.

Alright, alright, you’ve heard my rambles about how I feel on who you should vote for. So you’re probably wondering, Tyler, if I can’t vote for my favorite player, then who should I vote for? And my response is simple: I can’t tell you who to vote for, but I can give you some advice.

First, and it can’t be said enough, don’t vote just for your favorite player. Second, don’t vote for all players on your favorite team because, let’s be honest, most don’t deserve it. Finally, and this is a big one, don’t shy away from voting for a player on a rival of the team you root for if they deserve it.

With that being said, here’s my very early All-Star ballot that will probably change throughout the season a few times. First, we’ll start with the NL.

NL Starters:

  • C- Derek Norris, San Diego Padres
  • 1B- Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Dbacks
  • 2B- Dee Gordon, Miami Marlins
  • SS- Freddy Galvis, Philadelphia Phillies (Yes, I did vote one Phillie, he’s hitting .351 through nearly 100 AB’s)
  • 3b- Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies
  • OF- Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins, Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies, Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals (one guy I can’t stand, but is absolutely deserving this season)

AL Starters:

  • C: Caleb Joseph, Baltimore Orioles (please, please take a look at this guy, he’s outstanding)
  • 1b: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
  • 2b: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
  • SS: Jed Lowrie, Houston Astros (imagine that, a twin killing duo of Astros??)
  • 3b: Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays
  • OF: Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles, Lorenzo Cain, KC Royals, Avisail Garcia, Chicago White Sox

So there you have it. My, albeit early, All-Star Ballot for this season. Again, it will probably change throughout the year. Don’t take this team as concrete, but instead, just my opinion. Guys I don’t think will make the team despite needing to include Joseph, Garcia, Galvis and Lowrie. I would enjoy the game more if they were included because it would show the best of the first half. If they are not included, I’ll still watch, but I’d be impressed if more voted for some or all of them. Regardless, enjoy the season and I’ll check back in closer to the All-Star Game.

The Hype Machine Spectrum – From Harper to Weaver

This is either Jered Weaver being thrilled about his CG SHO on Friday…
or being mad about getting hit with a water bottle during the postgame interview.

(Photo Courtesy: Fox Sports West)

Bryce Harper

October 6, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; Washington Nationals left fielder Bryce Harper warms up before game three of the 2014 NLDS baseball playoff game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The often-quoted Elias Sports Bureau pointed out that 22-year and 204-day-old Bryce Harper is the youngest player in MLB history, with well maintained hair that should be sponsored, to hit five home runs in a two-game span. He passed Big Mac who was 23-270 in 1987. You may not remember that McGwire took the title from Don Mueller who was 24-141 in 1951.

Don Mueller? Where’s my baseball-reference.com bookmark ? Mueller was a post WWII New York Giants outfielder who hit 65 career home runs, but sixteen of them happened in 1951. Five of the sixteen went down on September 1st and 2nd against the Brooklyn Dodgers. Mueller led in NL in hits with 212 in 1954 which was his first of two consecutive all star seasons.

Back to Harpo. He’s 6-for-8 with 5 HRs in the last two games. It brings him to ten homers on the season with an OPS of 1.053. Harper slammed three home runs on Wednesday against the Marlins Tom Koehler. Following a Nats off day on Thursday, Bryce victimized Eric Stults and Williams Perez on Friday night.

harper

Sports Illustrated: May 2009

Hitting five homers over a two-game span is a rare feat that hasn’t happened since…wait, the equally powerful hair of the Athletics Josh Reddick turned the trick in 2013.

My opinion has been that Harper is the most hyped player on the most hyped team in MLB. Lets give him credit He was still a 19-year old all star and the NL Rookie of the Year in 2012.  He was also an all star in 2013 before an injury plagued 2014 season limited him to 100 games and 13 home runs. Regardless, I’ve had him on the far right side of my Hype Machine Spectrum since this 2009 magazine cover.

He’s still only 22 so I realize he can only get better, more frustrating, or hurt. That pretty much covers it.

Peter Ginter right here on SportsRants analyzed the Nationals just before Harper started becoming a one man wrecking crew. The Nationals are 8-2 over their last ten games, but still trail the New York Mets by 3.5 games in the NL East entering Saturday’s games.

Opinions from fantasy and real baseball pundits will vary on Harper, but I’m pretty sure I won’t find much argument about placing Angels starter Jered Weaver on the opposite end of my Hype Machine Spectrum.

Jered Weaver

No high 90s heater with a wipe out slider means Weaver doesn’t carry around a tremendous amount of hype on his shoulder now that he’s in his 10th major league season. He was a 1st round pick for the Angels in 2004 out of Long Beach State. He started making an impact during his rookie 2006 season when he was 11-2 with a 2.56, but since this early days he tends to blend into the crowd of major league right-handers despite cranking out positive results. Weaver has also never come across as in love with his talents.

Weaver shuts out Astros on 5/18/15

Jered Weaver shuts out Astros on 5/18/15.

The Weave has crafted three top five finishes in AL Cy Young voting (2010-2012), has pitched a no-hitter, won 64% of his decisions. He has a career FIP of 3.77 which is a tad higher than his 3.33 career ERA, but has an above average career K/BB ratio of 3.10 for a pitcher who Ks just less than 7.5 batters be 9-innings.

Yet, I’m pretty sure regarding on field accomplishments that only the no-hitter is anything he cares all that much about. 10-years into his career he still sounds like he’s trying to convince everybody he’s actually any good.

Weaver’s a rooting, tooting, sometimes cussing right-hander who where’s his pride on his sleeve. He throws a mid to upper 80s fastball. This season the “heater” is hovering around 84-mph which is a few mphs below the velo of the last two seasons. It’s been am initial cause for concern as he figures to want to maintain good separation in speeds between the two and four-seamers when combined with his effective change and curve ball. He entered Friday night’s start with an 0-4 record and 6.29 ERA.

Free club level tickets afforded me the opportunity to check out Weaver in person Friday night for the second time this season. Astros against the Angels is relevant these days.

Weaver didn’t disappoint this time around. He settled in after the 3rd inning allowing only one hit after that third. The end results was complete game shutout. It was his first shutout since 2012 when he no-hit the Twins on May 2nd. It’s the fourth complete shutout by a pitcher in 2015.

AltuveHernandez_050815

Jose Altuve and Roberto Hernandez

No Astro ever made it to 2nd base, although Jose Altuve tried twice. He was thrown out attempting to steal in the first inning and was picked off first base in the third-inning after making an initial break for second. Altuve later reminded Astros starting pitcher Roberto Hernandez that is might be a good idea to not allow any runs in this contest.

The change up and slow curve kept Houston off balance. Six of Weaver’s 61 fastballs were 84 mph or below, according to PITCHf/x. Thirty-four were 86 or 87 mph and two reached 88. He had a little extra giddy-up in getting his ERA to fall below 6 and then 5 in the same game. He currently sits at 4.98. In typical Weaver fashion he was less concerned with the stats and more concerned with the results.

Still intense after the performance, Weaver didn’t enjoy the CG SHO accomplishment for long. First there was the silly Gatorade and ice bath attempts, but then he cut short the post game on field interview after an unnamed Angel threw a water bottle from the dugout that hit Weaver in the chest.

ErickAybar_MovesTo3rd

Erick Aybar moves to third on CJ Cron sac fly. He then scored on a Carlos Perez single.

The Angels still only scored twice on Friday, much like they did on Thursday when Houston beat the Angels to open the 4-game mother’s day weekend series. Huston Street (no relation) blew a second consecutive save then. Weaver’s performance was bulldog in nature because it was set against the backdrop of knowing Joe Smith and Street had both pitched on three consecutive days.

When walking off the field at the end of eight innings with 106-pitches having left his right arm I could see Weaver talking to himself. The G-rated version of his personal conversation probably had something to do with the fact that there was no way he was going to let Scioscia go to the bullpen to bring in Fernando Salas to finish the game.

Weaver finished what he started. It tabulated to a 6-hit, 6 K, no walk 120-pitch performance to get his first win of the season. An early mother’s day present for his mom Gail, no doubt, although Weaver’s presence in the form he displayed on Friday is exactly what the Angels needed as they continue their chase of the Houston Astros. Happy Mother’s Day.