Cubs Lose Jake Arrieta’s Start

The Chicago Cubs finished their series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 2nd. The Cubs won three out of the four games against the Dodgers, but failed to take advantage of a Jake Arietta start in their one loss. Arrieta went seven innings giving up no runs.

The Cubs lost the game in the last two innings. After seven innings, the game was scoreless, but two runs were scored off pitcher Clayton Richard in the eighth and three runs were scored off pitcher Adam Warren in the ninth.  The Cubs lost 5-0.

The last time the Cubs lost a game when Jake Arrieta started a game was in July of 2015. The game was officially a no-decision for Arrieta so it didn’t affect his win-loss record.

On June 5th, however, The Arizona Diamondbacks managed to put up three runs on Arrieta. The Cubs offense only managed to put up two runs in that game. The final score was 3-2, giving Arrieta his first loss in eleven months.

Best Rotation in the MLB?

As of June 4th, the five starters of the Cubs rotation all have an ERA under three. John Lackey has a 2.88 ERA, which is the best among starters. The average ERA of the five starters is 2.55, the best statistically in the MLB as of June 4th.

Hot Streak

The Cubs have won ten of their last twelve games as of June 5th. This comes after the Cubs had lost eight of twelve at one point in May. The Cubs are hitting especially well in their current stretch.

The home run ball has especially helped the Cubs. Anthony Rizzo hit one out to right field on the on June 4th and Kris Bryant has hit 400-foot home runs on consecutive days this past week. Dexter Fowler recently hit his 3rd leadoff home run.

Fowler has been especially good against opposing fastballs. According to an infographic posted on Inside Edge’s twitter account, Fowler has a .405 batting average when a fastball is thrown to him. Five of his home runs have also come off fastballs.

Looking for Relievers?

According an article published by ESPN’s MLB Rumor Central, the Cubs are possibly looking for a lefty reliever on the trade market. The news come in the wake of Clayton Richard’s struggles. Richard has an 8.00 ERA in sixteen appearances as of June 3rd.

The article specifically mentions Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller of the New York Yankees as trade targets for the Cubs. The Cubs have recently done business with the Yankees, trading Starlin Castro this past winter. The Cubs got Adam Warren in return, who has a 2.75 ERA as of June 5th.

Will the Yankees will be willing to trade one of their relievers? It is not guaranteed. The Yankees are currently six games back of the Boston Red Sox in the American League East, but could improve their standing as the summer goes on. It is too early in the year for the Yankees to give up hope on the postseason.

Chicago Cubs Pull Out of Recent Slump

 

The Chicago Cubs have won three straight games as of May 27th. The Cubs beat their NL Central rivals the St. Louis Cardinals in the last two games of that series and won the series opener of against the Philadelphia Phillies on the 27th.

In their series opening win against the Phillies, the Cubs rested Anthony Rizzo and put Kris Bryant in his spot at first base. It was an unusual sight, as Bryant usually plays third base. This is the first time all season that Anthony Rizzo has not played a game for the Cubs.

The Cubs were also beneficiaries of well-timed home runs. Jorge Soler hit a 461-foot bomb that bounced off the Cubs Video Board in left field during the 4th inning. David Ross also hit a home run in the fourth inning. The home run hit by Ross was his 100th career homer.

Also helping the Cubs in their last few games was the return of outfielder Jason Heyward. He was injured during the series against the San Francisco Giants. He was only out for a few days and managed to return in time to play the Cardinals, his former team.

Prior to their current win streak, the Cubs had lost eight of their last twelve games. In that stretch, the Cubs lost games to teams that rank in the bottom half of the league. The Cubs dropped two games to the San Diego Padres and two games to the Milwaukee Brewers.

Despite that rough patch, the Cubs are still listed first in the weekly ESPN power rankings. The Cubs also still have the best record in the MLB. Every team has its slumps and the Cubs seem to have pulled out of theirs.

Going Forward

After their series with the Phillies, the Cubs will start the month of June at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers are 25-24 as of May 27th. After that, the Cubs will host the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 3rd before traveling on Philadelphia to play the Phillies again on June 6th.

The Cubs a very favorable stretch of games coming up in the next week and a half. The Dodgers are their most difficult opponents and the Cubs will play at home until June 6th.  The Cubs should be able to take most of their games in that stretch.

Starting June 13th, however, the competition heats up. The Cubs travel to Washington D.C. to play the Nationals and then come home to play the Pittsburg Pirates on June 17th and the St. Louis Cardinals on June 20th.

The Cubs have a 4.5 game lead over the Pirates after their series opening win against the Phillies on May 27th. Prior to their slump, the Cubs had an even bigger lead in the NL Central. Depending on how the Cubs do over the next few series, the division could have a new leader by the time the Pirates and Cubs meet.

The Pirates are no joke and despite the recent dominance the Cubs have had over them, it is still early in the season. Anyone could come out on top of the division. No one expects the Cubs to tank, not with all the talent they have on their roster, but it is still possible.

 

 

 

Pirates vs. Cubs: What You Need to Know for the NL Wild Card

(Photo Courtesy of sports mockery.com) 

Two teams. One with 98 wins. One with 97. Yes, believe it or not, this is a Wild Card matchup. At the beginning of this long Major League Baseball season, it may have been a common prediction to see two teams out of the NL Central playing in the Wild Card game. But honestly, who would have thought that these teams would own the 2nd and 3rd best record in all of the majors? Thank the St. Louis Cardinals for that.

In their third straight year in the postseason, the Pittsburgh Pirates are emerging as a regular contender amongst the league after a 20 season drought. This isn’t new to them anymore. Chicago, on the other hand, who regularly competed with Pittsburgh for the bottom spot in the NL Central standings, haven’t been to the dance since 2008, where they were swept in the NLDS by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Back in 2013, this was Pittsburgh. As they emerged into the postseason for the first time since Sid Bream was safe at the plate in the 1992 NLCS, they were the team with young talent ready to make some noise. Now in their third straight do-or-die Wild Card game, this is familiar territory. Now it’s Chicago who is rolling into the postseason on a hot streak with a plethora of young talent.

This game has generated an immaculate amount of anticipation. I know I can’t wait. Pirates Center Fielder Andrew McCutchen took to The Players’ Tribune to ignite energy into the entire city of Pittsburgh on Tuesday. In a heart-throbbing essay, McCutchen explains what it’s like to play in front of a sold out crowd in an MLB Playoff game. This included mention of Russell Martin’s 2013 homer off of Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto, after a consenual “CUUEETTTOO” chant that filled PNC Park. He also called upon his fans to fill up the park with energy come tonight:

“It feels like Christmas Eve already. I don’t want to be able to hear myself think, Pittsburgh.”

Talk about a pump up speech.

Meanwhile, Jake Arrieta also pulled something out of his sleeve to give his crowd a boast. He took to Twitter to respond to a Pirates’ parody account, who warned Arrieta of the environment he and the Chicago Cubs were about to enter, engaging in some friendly trash talk. What Arrieta said certainly should have got some Cubs fans excited, and is something he’s earned the right to say.

 

Yeah, he went there.

Currently in a 107 year World Series drought, it only seems fitting that the Chicago Cubs are ready to make a deep run.

What will it take?

What will it take for the Pittsburgh Pirates to avenge last year’s NL Wild Card loss to Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants, who just so happened to become World Series champions?

The Case for the Cubs

Well, we all know who is on the mount tonight. That’s right, Jake Arrieta. Posting 22 wins and hotter than any pitcher since the All-Star break, he is as good of a CY Young candidate as any. Arrieta will get the rock tonight, as he has posted a 0.75 ERA since the mid-summer classic and 1.77 ERA for the year. Those numbers haven’t changed a bit against the Buccos, as he has gone 3-1 with a 0.75 ERA against them this season. Did I mention the beard too? That thing is in tip top shape.

Alongside Arrieta’s dominance, Chicago has found much success out of its young talent. Kris Bryant, NL ROY candidate, has been nothing short of outstanding since his emergence into the league on Opening Day. Bryant has posted a solid .275 batting average, drove in 99 runs, and has homered 26 times on the season. A stat line like that on your rookie campaign doesn’t get too much better than that. He also has not treated Pittsburgh very kindly, posting a .400 batting average as well as driving in 15 runs and drawing 13 walks in 70 at bats.

Anthony Rizzo, a bit more experienced than Bryant, is also another young talent who has come up big this season. He has hit .278, sent 31 baseballs over the fence, and drove in 101 runs this season (3rd NL). Not too shabby. With this combination of balance and power, the meat of Chicago’s lineup is a force to be reckoned with. Starlin Castro has provided a consistent bat in the Cubs’ lineup, and the maturing rookie Addison Russell has provided stability in the field and at the plate.

As for veteran support, the Cubs don’t have all that much. At the plate, outfielder Dexter Fowler has provided some depth in the Chicago lineup, as he batted .250, hit 29 doubles, while even having stolen 20 bases in the process. On the mound, Jon Lester, who lost the ace role to the great Arrieta, gives veteran leadership to the pitching staff. He fanned 207 batters and posted a solid 3.34 ERA this season.

As most people predict this to be a low scoring game, I feel no differently. If Jake Arrieta is Jake Arrieta, and if Gerrit Cole is Gerrit Cole, this will be a defensive, nail-biting dog fight. For Chicago to take this game, they will need to get ahead and get ahead early, as they will be able to continue their reliance on Arrieta. If they can knock in 3 runs in the first 6 innings on Cole, this should triumph Chicago to victory.

The Case for the Pirates

Jake Arrieta this. Jake Arrieta that. That has all the Pittsburgh Pirates and their fans have been hearing this week. Well, yeah. He’s good. But you know who else is good? You guessed it, Gerrit Cole. Cole has been pitching in Arrieta’s shadow for most of the season, but has been nothing short of incredible, which would certainly be a CY Young contending season in any other year but this one. Cole has posted 19 wins (2nd NL), a 2.60 ERA (5th NL), and 202 strikeouts. With an outstanding fastball-slider combination, Cole has dominated hitters this year. Not to mention, throughout his career, the Pittsburgh Pirates have come out victorious in 8 of the 9 times Cole has started the game against the Cubs.

Ah, what’s next? That’s right, the man who is responsible for almost single handedly saving the Pittsburgh Pirates’ franchise. Andrew McCutchen. In what many saw as a down year for Cutch, he still produced solid numbers. A .292 batting average, 96 RBIs, and 23 home runs is nothing to mince about. This team fuels on McCutchen’s leadership and energy, and the whole city of Pittsburgh, including the teammates, are excited more than ever to play this game due to his article in The Players’ Tribune.

The Pirates have also gained moral support from newly acquired catcher Francisco Cervilli (.295 BA), the speedy Starling Marte, Neil Walker, and mid-season acquisition Aramis Ramirez, who began his career in Pittsburgh. Since the season-ending knee injury to Jung Ho Kang, the Pirates have missed him dearly. Thankfully for the Pirates, the depth in their batting lineup have picked up the slack.

What about the bullpen, you might ask? Well, I figured I’d save the best for last. With a Major League leading and franchise record 51 saves this year, Mark Melancon has led the charge in a Pirates’ bullpen that has been stout all year. In fact, they have posted a major league leading bullpen ERA at 2.67, which compares very favorably to Chicago’s 3.38 reliever ERA.

So yeah, low scoring game. What does that mean for Gerrit Cole? Well, I think it’s going to take 6+ innings with one run or less to get past Arieta, and to then dive into that outstanding bullpen. A lot to ask from your pitcher, isn’t it? Who better though, than Gerrit Cole? Cole thrives in these situations, and if he comes through, so will his team. It may be hard to string together multiple hits against Arrieta, but if Cole can keep his team in the game, the Pirates can get the Cubs’ ace out of the ball game and win it late.

So, Who Wins?

This really is a toss up. There are a lot of experts out there who predict the winner of this game to meet the AL champion in the World Series. A bold call, but certainly fair. I’m going to have to go about half-head, half-heart on this one. My favorite team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, will prevail. With 2 previous years under their belt, they know how and how not to win a wild card game. Expect PNC Park to be as rowdy as ever. Gerrit Cole will execute, but so will Arrieta. This comes down to who makes one more mistake, and I think the young, inexperienced Cubs will be that team on the big stage. I think this ball game ends 3-1 in favor of the home team in a game to remember.

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Finish Line

Dear Commissioner: Make The Wild Card Game A Series

Three of the possible ten playoff spots have been clinched. The Cardinals, Pirates and Royals have all punched their ticket to October baseball. The Wild Card race contains some dangerous teams this season. These teams, much like last year, have the potential to go all the way.

The Pirates and Cubs have all but locked up the National League Wild Card Game. Now the only thing to decide is whether the game will be played at Wrigley Field or PNC Park.

On the American League side of things, the Yankees and Astros currently occupy the two spots but it is far from a sure thing. The Angels and Twins lurk just outside at a game and a half. The Astros spent 139 days of this season in first place in the AL West. The Yankees were in first in the AL East for an even 100.

The Wild Card Game needs to be a series. These teams deserve a chance.

The Pirates are the second-best team in major league baseball. We are going to leave their fate to a play-in game after 162 games? The Cubs have the same record as the best team in the American League, but we are going to let their fantastic season come down to one game, quite possibly on the road?

Quite frankly, that would be injustice to what the baseball postseason is all about. Baseball is built around three-game series. All season long, teams play (mostly) three game series to decide who is the better team at that particular moment.

Why should the postseason be any different? This makes a lot of sense. Make the Wild Card Game a three-game series. You could even do it in two days. One day could be a double-header with the team that has home-field advantage.

There are plenty of ways to fix this. Major League Baseball would be selling themselves short if they do not make the play-in game a series.

The Pirates and Cubs are too good to lose after just one game. The Cubs could legitimately break their 107-year curse this year. They have the pitching and the offense to take down any team. They have been one of the most exciting teams to watch all year.

Don’t we want to see at least two games of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, they uber-young dynamic duo? It would be a shame to lose them after one game. They might show up with some butterflies and not play as well in the first few innings of that Wild Card Game. Should we let them get eliminated by just playing one bad game after they have won [by the time the season ends] over 90 games?

The Pirates as well have so much to offer in October baseball. They have not played in the League Championship Series since 1992 and have not won the World Series since 1979. This may be one of the best, if not the best Pirates team in franchise history. Should we throw it all into one game?

Teams with worse records get to cruise into a division series just because they are in a different division or league. The National League Central has the three best teams in baseball in the same division.

The Astros have been the darlings of baseball this year. Just because they had a mediocre September and sunk to the Wild Card doesn’t mean we should throw them to the wolves on a one-game playoff against the Evil Empire. They deserve better. You deserve better, baseball fans.

There really is no place for a one-game, sudden-death playoff in baseball. If people crave that, there is plenty of it during football season. This ain’t football.

So…Mr. Commissioner, Rob Manfred, Rob, Robby old pal, what do you say? Baseball is America’s pastime and we would be doing it and the rest of America a disservice if we let the Cubs and Pirates’ seasons dangle on one measly game.

Fresh Diet

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.

http://SportsRants.com

TRADED: Troy Tulowitzki Heading To Toronto

Late Monday night all Tulo broke loose. Apologies to the Rockies scoring four times in the ninth inning only to lose to the Cubs Kris Bryant on his 2-run walk-off homer against John Axford.

Take it away Fox Sports Ken Rosenthal.

35 minutes later Kenny’s words had been retweeted over 6,400 times, then people started to go to bed as the times noted in his tweets are Pacific Time.

Thomas Harding of MLB.com also confirmed that 42-year-old reliever LaTroy Hawkins will head to Toronto, while right-handers Jeff Hoffman (9th pick of 2014 draft) and reliever Miguel Castro (4 SVs in 12.1 IP for Blue Jays) are two of the players going from Toronto to Colorado.

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that another Blue Jays Minor Leaguer will be added to the deal.

The Blue Jays are in need of pitching and the Rockies are rebuilding so why not trade shortstop for shortstop? 22-year-old infield prospect Trevor Story is drilling Triple-A pitching while playing 2B/3B/SS so it’s hard to believe Jose Reyes will be in the Rockies long term plans, although his contract runs through 2017 with a 2018 team option. Tulo’s contract has him making bank through 2020 with a 2021 team option.

Meanwhile, the addition of Tulo could make the Blue Jays league best offense almost R.A. Dickey/Drew Hutchison-proof. Tulowitzki is slashing .300/.348/.471 this season. A far cry from his .340/.432/.603 mark last season, but he’s still both a better hitter and defender than Reyes. Yes, both shortstops are always injuries just waiting to happen.

“If you ain’t first, you’re last.” — Ricky Bobby

Most importantly, Tulowitzki jumps from a last place team into a pennant race . The Blue Jays aren’t in first, at least not yet, but they do hold a 72-run lead over the second highest scoring team in the majors which is the New York Yankees. The Yankees lead the AL East standings, but the Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles are just 3-games behind.

The trade deadline is Friday. More exciting news will no doubt develop. Here’s some of what we’ve learned.

Last Thursday, Scott Kazmir was dealt from the Athletics to the Astros.

This past Sunday, Johnny Cueto was dealt from the Reds to the Royals to give them a much needed starting pitching upgrade.

After the Mets felt the need to trade for Braves infielders Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe and on Monday also grabbed closer Tyler Clippard from the Athletics.

Monday afternoon the Los Angeles Angels re-Joyced over their new left field situation when Car Fox Bill Stoneman traded in Josh Rutledge for some cash and a used automobile in the name of Shane Victorino. The Car Fax history report confirms the 2015 Red Sox model (.622 OPS) isn’t anywhere near as reliable as an actual Crown Vic or the 2013 Red Sox (.801 OPS) or 2011 Phillies edition (.847 OPS) of the Flyin’ Hawaiian. Victorino can still run and cover some ground on defense so it’s worth it to the Halos to see if he can help them maintain a 2-game lead on the Houstron Astros in the AL West. Matt Joyce (concussion) and Daniel Robertson (who?) were the most recent options in left.

Cole Hamels no hit the Cubs in his previous start and will probably still get dealt by the Phillies before the deadline, however the movement of Troy Tulowitzki to Canada after 10-years in Colorado is breathtaking and adds another layer of intrigue to the AL East division race.

Final note…

Monday evening the Yankees Alex Rodriguez became the 6th player to homer on his 40th birthday. He has six career birthday homers and four long balls since last Saturday. He’ll need to keep producing because the Yankees neighbors to the north figure to continue slugging.

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2015 Home Run Derby Haves And Have Nots

He’s never won it, but Pujols enters the 2015 Home Run Derby Tournament as the top seed.

(Photo courtesy: Tony Gutierrez/AP)

Eight sluggers, five minute rounds and single elimination. Blast away as there is no more 10-out rule. It’s a new tournament style format for the 2015 Home Run Derby in Cincinnati next Monday. It’s good fun, but usually three hours of being yelled at by Chris Berman. Maybe we can use the Statcast graphics and the volume control to our advantage to offset the background noise.

More rules to follow, but here are the first round matchups on the left side of the bracket. All home run totals are through Wednesday’s ballgames.

#1 Albert Pujols (26 HR) vs #8 Kris Bryant (12 HR)

Pujols will be competing in the derby for the 4th time. He’s a three-time semifinalist, but has never won the event. Albert hit 8 home runs in his first 44 games this season, but 18 of his AL leading 26 home runs have come over the last 37 games.

The Cubs’ Kris Bryant was homerless in his first 20 games as a rookie, but has 12 dingers including two 2-homer games since then (55 games).

#4 Joc Pederson (20 HR) vs #5 Manny Machado (19 HR)

The Dodgers Pederson is hitting .231. The Orioles Machado is hitting .301. Both are just 23-years-old and might be anchoring a fantasy team I own.

On the right side of the bracket we have:

#3 Josh Donaldson (21 HR) vs #6 Anthony Rizzo (16 HR)

It took Donaldson 11 games to homer for the Blue Jays, but he finished May with 15 and has slowed down a bit. Just six homers since May 31st, but he’s still slashing .299/.348/.543.

Anthony Rizzo gives the Cubs two participants in the derby and the potential for an all-Cubs final. Nobody ever really has the Cubs getting to the finals of anything so it’s not going to happen. Rizzo would win any and all hit by pitch contests. He has an 18-12 lead over all star Alex Gordon who will miss Royals games for the next eight weeks with a groin injury. Brett Gardner fans are happy as the Gordon injury graduates #VoteGardy from the #FinalVote list.

#2 Todd Frazier (25 HR) vs #7 Prince Fielder (13 HR)

Home field advantage belongs to the Reds’ Todd Frazier. The ToddFather has 15 of his 25 home runs at home. Not to big of a split, but it’s worth noting he has a giant home/road disparity in OPS. 1.117 at GABP as opposed to .754 on the road. If Frazier doesn’t hit nonstop home runs he should still double off the wall a lot on Monday.

Prince Fielder has won the home run derby twice so the Rangers’ DH kind of gets grandfathered in as good entertainment. If he wins, he’ll tie Ken Griffey Jr.’s record of three-time home run derby champ.

You might be thinking, what the heck are Anthony Rizzo, Prince Fielder, and Kris Bryant doing in the Home Run Derby based on their power output? Don’t several other players have more home runs than these guys? Yes.

The major league home run leader is still Giancarlo Stanton (27 HR) but he’s on the DL with a broken hand. All Star Bryce Harper (25 HRs) won’t be participating because his dad is on the DL and wouldn’t be able to pitch to him. Then we reach the 24 HR level that consists of Mike Trout who celebrated the 4-yr anniversary of his debut on Wednesday with two home runs. He sounds like a guy who will participate at some point. Right now his focus is on the Angels who trail the Astros by just 1.5 games. The Halos are 9-1 of late and 5-0 since the Dipoto departure. Trout’s an all star, but like 24-HR all star counterparts J.D. Martinez and Nolan Arenado, he will not be in the HR derby. Other all stars not participating with 20+ dingers are:

Mark Teixiera (22 HR)

Nelson Cruz (21 HR)

Paul Goldschmidt (20 HR)

2013-2014 Home Run Derby champ #VoteYo only has 12 home runs this season. Cespedes is currently battling to make the all star team in the AL final vote.

It wouldn’t be baseball if there weren’t some confusing elements involved that introduce grey areas.

  1. Any home run hit within one minute remaining will stop the timer immediately when the ball lands in home run territory. The time will then not start again until the batter hits a ball that doesn’t land in home run territory or swings and misses at a pitch.
  1. Each batter gets one “time out” per round
  1. Players can earn up to 90-seconds of bonus time if they eclipse the 420 foot mark twice or the 475 feet plateau. Free autographed Pete Rose baseball goes to any hitter sending a ball into the Ohio River.
  1. Ties in any round will be broken by a 90-second swing-off. If the batters remain tied I think the number of Twitter followers you have determines the winner.

Enjoy the home run derby Vines, retweets and back, back, back, backs.

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The One Area the Chicago Cubs Need to Improve

(Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports)

Somehow, someway the Chicago Cubs have the third-best record in the National League. But if the team wants to hold on to the final playoff spot they will need to make improvements, especially with a four-game series against arch rival St. Louis starting Monday night.

Many experts say the team needs to add another solid arm to the pitching rotation. Experts also claim another bat is needed.

Both are more than likely true, but there is one glaring problem with the team — the lead-off spot.

Dexter Fowler was signed to a one year deal worth $9.5M in the off-season to be the catalyst of the offense. He was also signed for his defense from his center field position. The latter has been nearly flawless, while the former poses as the glaring problem.

Over the last 10 games, the Cubs lead-off man has just five base knocks in 35 at-bats. Simple math points to an atrocious .142 average. The decline in offensive production has dropped his season average to .228 for the season with an on-base percentage at .305. Neither of which are the type of numbers a team wants from its lead-off man, never mind a young team.

It’s no wonder the Cubs, as a team, have scored just 2.2 runs over their last 12 games with a collective average of .207 over that same stretch.

On the plus side, Fowler does have eight long balls on the season and has driven in 23 runs. His 51 runs scored are fifth best in the league. But most of those numbers were inflated earlier in the season.

It’s no secret a team’s offense can be boosted by an effective leadoff hitter. With power guys such as Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant following in the order, lots of good things could come with the leadoff hitter being on base.

I am sure the Cubs could live with Fowler’s average being less than stellar if he continued to take walks and had a respectable on base percentage. Neither has happened over the last month or so.

Sure others such as Rizzo and “cleanup” hitter Miguel Montero have recently struggled as well. But with a lead-off man who gets on base can ease the pressure from the RBI guys’ shoulders. Runners on base adds pressure to pitchers to make the perfect pitch to the guys in the lineup who can do damage. Trying to make the perfect pitch to guys like Rizzo and Bryant can lead to mistake pitches, which ultimately lead to more hard hit balls.

This current Cubs offense has more than just one weakness, at the moment, but a more effective Fowler could help solve some of those issues.

And if Fowler cannot right the ship soon, Cubs manager Joe Maddon needs to make a change at the top. Or perhaps the “bat” experts are calling for should be one who can also fill the void at the top of the order.

 

http://SportsRants.com

Franco or Bryant? Who is the better rookie third basemen?

(Photo courtesy of MLB.com)

Both rookies with 10 homeruns

Two rookie third basemen in the National League have been made their presence felt this season with great defensive play at the hot corner, and power hitting at the plate.  Kris Bryant and Maikel Franco both have ten homeruns so far this season, despite not being in the big leagues to participate in each of their team’s games so far in 2015.  Bryant has played in 66 of the Cubs 73 games on the season, while Franco has played in 38 of the Phillies 72 games played so far this season.  A recent power outburst by both of these rookie third basemen has them among the National League leaders for the third base position, while announcing their arrivals in the race for the 2015 National League homerun title.  Coming into the 2015 season, it was Kris Bryant who received more attention for his pedigree as one of baseball’s top prospects, but Maikel Franco has done a great job of putting the Phillies player development improvements on display.  With both of these young third basemen being similar in age, and both displaying great arm strength on the defensive side of their games, they each have a strong case for being the National League’s rookie of the year as the halfway point of the season approaches.  A further look at the offensive and defensive contributions from each player, will help to determine which of these third basemen has the edge as teams head into their fourth month of play in the 2015 MLB regular season.

Kris Bryant

As a player who was regarded as a top five prospect in the game coming into the 2015 season, Kris Bryant has lived up to the hype while helping to solidify the hot corner and cleanup spot in the Cubs’ batting lineup.  Even though Kris Bryant has registered a significant strikeout rate in his rookie season at over 29 percent, when he puts the ball in play it leaves his bat with well above average velocity .  Bryant has made up for his strikeout rate with a significant walk rate, that allows him to use his solid base running skills to help contribute to the Cubs’ run scoring efforts on a regular basis.  Bryant’s 13.4 percent walk rate has him ranked among the best walk percentages in the National League this season .  On the defensive side, Bryant has 8 errors in 63 games so far on the 2015 season, which puts his fielding percentage at a .949 rate as a National League rookie.  Neither of these numbers are great for Bryant, as it puts him below the league average at third base in both categories.  Even though these numbers are not great for Bryant, his defensive game includes plenty of range and smooth glove work that bodes well for him in the future.  With 24 extra base hits in 66 games, Bryant’s offensive game has lived up to the hype so far for this highly touted rookie, with 12 doubles, two triples and 10 homeruns through 241 at bats .  Bryant’s offensive game makes him one of the best rookies in a fantastic rookie class, but fellow third basemen Maikel Franco is giving him a run for his money.

Maikel Franco

Before the Phillies drafted J.P. Crawford in 2014, Maikel Franco was the organization’s top prospect, even though he was never ranked very high in the top 100 lists from national publications.  Signed as a Dominican amateur free agent with strong potential at the third base position, the Phillies are now seeing the benefits of the work done by their scouting department in the Dominican Republic.  Having ten homeruns in just 40 games played this season, has Franco on a fantastic offensive pace in his rookie season.  With 20 extra base hits in just 156 at bats, Franco is showing off the type of power that the Phillies scouting department was hoping for when they signed him as a teenagerWith only 9 walks in 40 games played so far, Franco does not have the walk rate to put him among the league’s elite in that category, as it stands at 5.5 percent .  Franco has been putting the ball in play at a very high rate however, and this has led to much of his success with a batting average around .300 in the early going of his rookie season.  By striking out in just 14.7 percent of his plate appearances, Maikel Franco has been able to produce nine doubles, one triple and 10 homeruns already in his rookie seasonFranco’s six errors and .929 fielding percentage, suggest that like Bryant, his defense is a work in progress .  Both of these third basemen have already flashed some star power in their rookie seasons, with the potential to become elite defenders despite some early struggles in that area of their games.

Who has the edge in the National League Rookie of the Year competition?

Maikel Franco has announced his arrival at the MLB level with a barrage of homeruns, to establish his at bats as must see events throughout the games on the Phillies 2015 schedule.  It is Kris Bryant with an elite walk rate, and a higher wins above replacement number that currently has the edge in the race for National League Rookie of the Year.  Both Bryant and Franco may develop into the next two big stars at the third base position in baseball, but right now Bryant’s walk rate has him in position to sustain the great performance he is putting together in his rookie season.  The defense for both of these players is likely to develop into an area of strength, as they gain experience that allows them to have a better understanding of what plays can and can’t be made.  Strong throwing arms for both of these third basemen, allow them to have a very bright future at third base defensively as they look to become fixtures in the everyday lineup for the Phillies and Cubs.  Baseball fans will have some entertaining battles to watch, as these two rookie stars look to continue their production throughout the second half of the 2015 MLB regular season.

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Joey Gallo Jumps The Shark In His Debut

There will be another episode of Joey Gallo Texas Ranger on Wednesday. It will be hard to live up to Tuesday night’s pilot when he jumped all over Jeff Samardzija’s offerings.

(Photo Courtesy: USATSI)

Tuesday night another top prospect in Major League Baseball made his much anticipated debut. Like Kris Bryant before him it was a player making his debut at the hot corner.

Rangers’ rookie third baseman Joey Gallo is getting an opportunity after a sprained left thumb sent four time all star third baseman Adrian Beltre to the disabled list on Tuesday. Gallo’s initial cup of coffee in the big leagues is allegedly only supposed to last until Beltre is healthy in 2 or 3 weeks at which point he be assigned to Triple-A Round Rock. Gallo was called up to the bigs for his debut in front of the home folks in Arlington from Double-A Frisco.

Gallo actually got a late start to his minor league season after requiring surgery to his left heel. In 34 games at Frisco he had nine home runs and was slashing .314/.425/.636. This comes after a 2014 season where he blasted 42 home runs. It was an evenly split 21 at both Advanced-A and Double-A. Yes, he has 80 power on that 20-80 scouting scale. It comes with one of those mid to upper 30s K% that sets off alarms to those who obsess about strikeouts.

The rookie isn’t going to take Beltre’s job unless Adrian’s hand falls off, but following Gallo’s impressive 3-hit debut that featured his first career homer I think it’s safe to say that any assumptions about his immediate future are not yet facts in his case.

Here’s the Gallo breakdown with no apologies for White Sox starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija who was simply dreadful on Tuesday night. So much for The Shark’s 14-inning scoreless streak. He got bit early and often.

Bottom 1st
Following two out singles by Prince, Mitch, and Elvis, it was time for Joey Gallo to be the rock star with the bases loaded in his first career plate appearance. On a 1-1 count he drives the ball past White Sox first baseman Adam LaRoche. What looked like a potential error was actually a ball LaRoche wasn’t quick enough to spear so it went down as a two-run single for Gallo.

Bottom 3rd
Gallo, who was slotted in the 6-hole behind The King, swats Samardzija’s initial offering into the second deck in right center field scoring Andrus. Statcast tells us that Gallo’s first career home run had an Exit Velocity of 108.5 mph with a Hitting Distance of 444.6 feet. It should be noted, Samardzija also had Exist Velocity issues with Shin Soo Choo in the 4th when he homered.

Bottom 5th
Gallo doubles on a 2-2 pitch, but is stranded. The Shark clearly had no answer for the rookie and left game after five innings after allowing twelve hits, a walk, and 9 earned runs.

Bottom 7th
Dan Jennings, the White Sox reliever, not the Marlins manager records the strikeout of Gallo when he flails at a 1-2 off speed pitch in the dirt. It’s our first sign that Gallo was born on this planet. Seeing his mom and dad in the stands also provides visual evidence to confirm this fact.

Bottom 8th
Gallo draws a walk in the fifth and final at bat of the night and scores on Carlos Corporan’s two-run homer against run creator Hector Noesi. Rangers 15, White Sox 2.

Now for the comparison and superlatives.
Kris Bryant’s Cubs’ debut, which I noted here, was an 0-4, three strikeout effort. It took Bryant 21 games to hit his first career home run. Gallo took care of most his firsts in his debut. OK, he didn’t get the triple to complete the cycle, but he became the first Ranger player to have 4 RBIs in his MLB debut. Dating back to 1920, Gallo is the first player since Ben Grieve on 9/3/97 to reach base four times and drive in four runs in his MLB debut. Grieve was 3-4, BB, 5 RBI. Gallo was 3-4, HR, BB, 4 RBI.

Back to Bryant. The pride of Bonanza High School in Las Vegas is now up to seven home runs with an OPS of .876 through 42 games. Bryant has the potential to be a franchise third baseman, which is one way to avoid the word savior. Like most players his glove will decide his ultimate destination on the ball field. Bryant has dabbled in the outfield for 12 innings, but only when called upon in a time of need.

Gallo is the Rangers’ top prospect so the expectations are quite similar. He has appeared in six games at Double-A as a left fielder, but realistically even if he homers every other day for the next couple weeks the pride of Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas still has Beltre blocking his path.

The Rangers would have to get creative on the trade market or with how they align 1B/DH/LF if they remotely had second thoughts about wanting to keep Gallo around.

Gallo has no experience playing first and a 21-year old isn’t going to DH, but the Rangers have other moving parts. Maybe too many at the moment. Prince Fielder is the DH most days with occasional first base duty. Mitch Moreland is the first baseman as long as a lefty isn’t on the mound. The Rangers outfield on Tuesday was Delino DeShields, Leonys Martin, and Shin-Soo Choo from left to right. That doesn’t even account for Josh Hamilton who has made a huge impact in his first seven games with the club as the mostly left fielder who can slide over to right field. It’s a logjam for playing time even if you want to dismiss Martin and Choo as underperformers and think Hamilton (DTD-left hamstring tightness) will eventually get hurt.

Remember the Cubs? They desperately needed Bryant’s bat and still sent him to Triple-A to hang out for a few weeks before his April 17th debut.

We’ll probably just have to enjoy Gallo’s current stay in the majors as Beltre mends and then look for him again during September call up after he fills the box scores in Triple-A Round Rock. By that time we might also get to also drool over another top third base prospect, the Twins Miguel Sano.

Las Vegas prep stars Bryant and Gallo also have a friend in Bryce Harper. Harper went to Las Vegas High School and played on the same little league team with Joey Gallo. All three of these guys are pretty good bets right now.

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