MLB Playoff Heat Check Sunday, October 11

heatIndexHere you’ll find information regarding the pitchers that light up the radar gun each and every night. I’ve listed for both starters and relievers the top average pitch velocity with a heading for type. It doesn’t equate to quality of an outing or take into consideration the end result of the pitch (sometimes really, really good fastballs go a long way), but it’s fun.

Starters Pitches by Average MPH:

Name Pitch Avg Count
Edinson Volquez Sinker 94.70 23
Edinson Volquez Fourseam 94.68 21
Martin Perez Fourseam 92.70 16
Martin Perez Two-seam 92.26 25
Dallas Keuchel Two-seam 89.12 50
Marco Estrada Fourseam 88.81 61
Dallas Keuchel Fourseam 88.74 19
Dallas Keuchel Cutter 86.17 3
Martin Perez Slider 86.15 19
Edinson Volquez Changeup 85.29 20

Relievers Pitches by Average MPH:

Name Pitch Avg Count
Aaron Sanchez Fourseam 97.10 2
Danny Duffy Two-seam 96.90 2
Aaron Sanchez Two-seam 96.72 8
Danny Duffy Fourseam 95.47 4
Roberto Osuna Fourseam 95.27 3
Luke Hochevar Fourseam 94.79 8
Roberto Osuna Two-seam 94.55 2
Mark Lowe Fourseam 94.25 2
Alex Gonzalez Two-seam 93.37 3
Ross Ohlendorf Fourseam 92.60 7


MLB Playoff Heat Check Saturday, October 10


You know it’s the playoff edition when you see names like Jaime Garcia and Lance Lynn make the list. Also, welcome back Adam Wainwright! When the average for Noah Syndergaard‘s changeups and sliders make our list, I don’t think of ways to update the script. I say go with it. It’s the playoffs! Here you’ll find information regarding the pitchers that light up the radar gun each and every night. I’ve listed for both starters and relievers the top average pitch velocity with a heading for type. It doesn’t equate to quality of an outing or take into consideration the end result of the pitch (sometimes really, really good fastballs go a long way), but it’s fun.

Starters Pitches by Average MPH:

Name Pitch Avg Count
Noah Syndergaard Sinker 98.62 37
Noah Syndergaard Fourseam 98.51 24
Zack Greinke Fourseam 92.92 36
Zack Greinke Two-seam 90.88 11
Jaime Garcia Fourseam 90.11 19
Jaime Garcia Two-seam 90.03 7
Jaime Garcia Cutter 89.60 1
Noah Syndergaard Changeup 89.25 22
Zack Greinke Changeup 88.71 25
Noah Syndergaard Slider 88.39 15

Relievers Pitches by Average MPH:

Name Pitch Avg Count
Hansel Robles Fourseam 98.37 6
Hector Rondon Two-seam 96.93 3
Hector Rondon Fourseam 96.90 7
Chris Hatcher Fourseam 96.48 6
Addison Reed Fourseam 94.23 7
Kenley Jansen Cutter 94.11 16
Lance Lynn Fourseam 93.87 17
Trevor Cahill Sinker 93.70 5
Adam Wainwright Fourseam 92.52 5
Lance Lynn Two-seam 92.30 7

Jacob deGrom: About NLDS Game One

Personally, yesterday was about as good as it gets for a baseball fan. I left work around noon, making it home in time for the start of the Texas/Toronto game; watched Texas take a 2-0 lead in their series after tying the game 4-4 in the eighth and letting their bullpen absolutely shut the Blue Jays down until winning it in the 14th; moved onto watching John Lackey pitch one heck of a game against the Cubs (thought I might see my second postseason no-hitter after watching Roy Halladay’s no-hitter against the Reds in 2010); and then capped my evening by watching the Mets play postseason baseball for the first time since 2006.

I now have new Mets postseason memories that are fresher than a stupid Yadier Molina homerun and an amazing Endy Chavez catch.


So, on the excitement scale, we had: a come from behind thriller that kept the Royals from starting their series down two games, a gem of a start from Lackey that ended up as a shutout, a 14-inning game that took an eighth inning run to tie it and now has the Rangers up 2-0, and a particularly thrilling pitching matchup that had a three-time Cy Young winner against last season’s Rookie of the Year who’s morphed into a staff ace.

A few notes on the other games before discussing the Mets/Dodgers game.

Does Josh Donaldson yell at everyone? I haven’t watched that many Blue Jays games this year admittedly, but two of the games I watched involved Donaldson cursing out the opposing team’s pitcher.  The first time was when Edinson Volquez hit Donaldson on the left arm, then later tried to plant one in his ear. Okay, I get that.  Getting hit in the arm really hurts, and sometimes you have to let a guy know about it. Yesterday, though, I’m curious what Keone Kela said to to Donaldson in the 13th that set the potential AL MVP to curse at Kela the way he did. I imagine Kela said something like, “Stop staring at your long foul ball, loser.” Maybe Donaldson was upset he didn’t have that magical walk-off moment.

Then, I have to admit I thoroughly enjoyed the Jose Bautista bat flip walk. Some might find the bat flip excessive, but not me. If you’re going to walk, do it in style.

I’m really glad to see Colby Rasmus doing well in the postseason so far. In the offseason, I wrote about hoping he found a place that allowed him the opportunity to start enjoying baseball again, and he’s a guy I’ve been pulling for.

Keep doing your thing Colby.

Seriously, Matt Carpenter has 28 home runs? WTH? Also, why is it the Fangraph’s site is constantly opening up the App Store on my iPhone and trying to make me download some stupid app? The site is basically unusable on my phone. Is that because of their ads? So annoying.

Of all the pitching matchups that we’ve been treated to since the start of the playoffs, I find it sort of amazing that Major League Baseball decided to bury the best one at 9:45 Eastern time. I know the game is in Los Angeles, but why in the heck would you start this game so late when more than a few people might be interested in it? How about an eight o’clock start? You have two of the largest media markets in the world directly involved in this series, and they couldn’t figure out a way to highlight a Jacob deGrom (1-0) vs Clayton Kershaw (0-1) start in a more East Cost friendly time slot?

They sort of dropped the ball on this one.

Who did not drop the ball in this game was deGrom. According to Ron Darling with the TBS crew, deGrom became the first person ever to strike out six batters in the first two innings of his postseason debut. Yeah, he did respectable work. It was funny, TBS flashed the pitching line for deGrom after four innings and it read something like four innings pitched, five hits, zero runs, one walk, and eight strikeouts. Seeing how the walk was an intentional walk to Joc Pederson to get to Kershaw and two of those hits were Michael Cuddyer misplays on a Justin Turner double in the second and a Cory Seager double in the third, you can see that deGrom was pretty impressive in this game.

Kershaw was pretty darn good too, except for this Daniel Murphy shot:

I’ve professed my love for both of these starters multiple times in this blog, so you can well imagine that this game held a certain appeal to me. It’s difficult to imagine that a matchup between Jake Arrieta and Gerrit Cole could take second billing over the first four days of the playoffs, but deGrom/Kershaw was about as good as it gets. If not for Kershaw walking the bases loaded in the seventh, we’re probably discussing how this game ended up in extra innings and who knows? A lot will be made about Kershaw’s postseason failings, and walking the bases loaded won’t help quell those voices. I would like to say that Ruben Tejada worked that count from 0-2, fighting off some good pitches, and it wasn’t entirely Kershaw falling apart. Ball four was nearly to the backstop, but still. I guess if you’re going to make a case for a guy who can’t quite get it done when it matters, you might wonder why Kershaw didn’t just go after Tejada. On top of that, Kershaw had Curtis Granderson 1-2, but Granderson didn’t bite on a mid-90s fastball up, and Granderson worked his walk. The 3-2 pitch was close, outside, but it was close enough that a lot of guys swing.

Then this happened:

deGrom had his tense moments as well. Turner’s double on the Cuddyer misplay in the second made it a runner on second with no outs, but deGrom struck out Andre Ethier on a check swing, struck out A.J. Ellis, and then after intentionally walking Pederson, struck out Kershaw. Kershaw as also the final out in the fourth when the Dodgers had runners on first and second and were threatening to score. In this at-bat, Kershaw drove the ball deep to center but right into Yoenis Cespedes’ glove. Sometimes it’s about who’s up when bad things happen as well as how capable a pitcher is of making his pitch.

How did deGrom work the Dodgers? He relied primarily on a fastball that was hitting 97 and 98 consistently early on. He mixed in his slider, particularly early in the game, and he would occasionally work in a curve. He worked up in the zone, striking out Carl Crawford twice on fastballs up and out of the zone. The Dodgers were pretty aggressive last night. They swung at 40% of deGrom’s pitches out of the zone. I didn’t remember too many changeups (10 were thrown apparently), but he struck out Pederson in the seventh on a changeup that had Bartolo Colon wiffle-ball movement. That was a nasty pitch. What seems even crueler is that two pitches prior he’d thrown Pederson a 97-mph fastball, then threw him a changeup that Pederson hit off the end of the bat. Back-to-back changeups? No. deGrom wouldn’t do that would he?  Yeah, he’ll do that. deGrom also struck out Chase Utley on a changeup to tie a Mets postseason record with 13 strikeouts.

Must be nice to have five usable, major league quality pitches.

Aggressive? How aggressive were the Mets in this game as both Granderson and David Wright attacked Kershaw’s first offering to each. Granderson flew out to deep right to start the game, and it was clear the Mets weren’t going to wait around, take pitches, and hope good things happened. I thought the Wright at-bat was big, though. He worked a 12-pitch walk in the first, giving his team some time to take a few breaths and remember it’s still just baseball. You wonder if a eight or nine pitch inning by Kershaw with a couple of strikeouts might have altered the tone of this game.

Just thoughts.

I also think that winning this game is important for Saturday’s game as well. Of course, it’s preferable to start a best of five series 1-0, but you have a young guy in Noah Syndergaard starting game two, and winning the first one takes a little pressure off of him. Instead of coming out and overthrowing, Syndergaard can hit 100-mph on the radar gun and not stress himself out.

Wondering why this Mets team is dangerous?

On the night, deGrom pitched seven shutout innings and struck out 13 while allowing five hits and one intentional walk. He also laid down one heck of a sacrifice bunt in the seventh, which gives me hope that the pitchers actually know how to bunt. In the regular season, I don’t remember too many of those.

Below I’ve listed the particulars for yesterday’s game.

Pitches by Type:

##  Pitch Type Count    %
##    Changeup    10 8.26
##   Curveball    11 9.09
##    Fourseam    45 37.2
##    Two-seam    31 25.6
##          IN     4 3.31
##      Slider    20 16.5

Pitch Type by Inning

##           1  2 3 4 5 6  7
## Changeup  0  1 3 2 0 0  4
## Curveball 1  3 1 2 1 2  1
## Fourseam  8 13 2 7 2 2 11
## Two-seam  9  0 6 6 3 5  2
## IN        0  4 0 0 0 0  0
## Slider    2  4 2 4 5 1  2

Pitches by Outcome:

##                 Changeup Curveball Fourseam Two-seam IN Slider
## Ball                   1         3       13       12  0      5
## Ball In Dirt           2         2        0        0  0      0
## Called Strike          1         2        7        2  0      5
## Foul                   1         2       12        4  0      6
## Foul Tip               0         0        1        1  0      0
## In play, no out        1         0        2        2  0      0
## In play, out(s)        0         1        5        2  0      0
## Intent Ball            0         0        0        0  4      0
## Swinging Strike        4         1        5        8  0      4

Events by Final Pitch of At-Bat

##             Changeup Curveball Fourseam Two-seam IN Slider
## Double             0         0        1        1  0      0
## Flyout             0         1        3        0  0      0
## Groundout          0         0        1        1  0      0
## Intent Walk        0         0        0        0  1      0
## Pop Out            0         0        1        1  0      0
## Single             1         0        1        1  0      0
## Strikeout          4         1        4        2  0      2

Pitches by Zone Location

##  Zone % Out of Zone % O-Swing % Z-Swing %
##   54.55         45.45     39.60     77.00

Note: Zone % is the number of pitches thrown that were considered in the strike zone; Out of Zone is the number of pitches thrown out of the strike zone; and O-Swing % and Z-Swing % relate to those pitches out of the zone and in the zone that were swung at by batters.

Calculations: I calculated the strike zone based upon the formula provided by Mike Fast in a post for Baseball Prospectus. O-Swing % = Swings at Pitches Out of the Zone / Total Pitches Out of the Zone, and Z-Swing % = Swings at Pitches In the Zone / Total Pitches In the Zone. Fangraphs has a great explanation regarding plate discipline, and I encourage you to read about it if you get a chance. After enjoying my site first, of course.

Pitch Types by Zone Location

##  Pitch Type In Zone Out of Zone O-Swing % Z-Swing %
##    Changeup       5           5     0.400     0.800
##   Curveball       5           6     0.167     0.600
##    Fourseam      25          20     0.400     0.640
##    Two-seam      20          11     0.273     0.650
##          IN       0           4      0.00       NaN
##      Slider      11           9     0.444     0.545

Strikeouts by Description

##                 Changeup Curveball Fourseam Two-seam Slider
## Foul Tip               0         0        0        1      0
## Swinging Strike        4         1        4        1      2

Standard Batting Lines Against Jacob DeGrom

##           Batter PA AB H 2B 3B HR K BB HBP SF    BA   OBP   SLG Pitches
##       A.J.  Ellis  3  3 1  0  0  0 1  0   0  0 0.333 0.333 0.333      16
##  Adrian  Gonzalez  3  3 0  0  0  0 3  0   0  0 0.000 0.000 0.000      20
##     Andre  Ethier  3  3 0  0  0  0 2  0   0  0 0.000 0.000 0.000      11
##    Carl  Crawford  3  3 0  0  0  0 2  0   0  0 0.000 0.000 0.000      14
##      Chase  Utley  1  1 0  0  0  0 1  0   0  0 0.000 0.000 0.000       5
##  Clayton  Kershaw  2  2 0  0  0  0 1  0   0  0 0.000 0.000 0.000      12
##     Corey  Seager  3  3 1  1  0  0 2  0   0  0 0.333 0.333 0.667       9
##  Howard Kendrick  3  3 1  0  0  0 0  0   0  0 0.333 0.333 0.333       9
##     Joc  Pederson  3  2 0  0  0  0 1  1   0  0 0.000 0.333 0.000      14
##    Justin  Turner  3  3 2  1  0  0 0  0   0  0 0.667 0.667 1.000      11

Pitches Velocities & Movement:

##  Pitch Type  Min Mean  Max Mean Hor Mean Vert CRT Mean Hor CRT Mean Vert
##    Changeup 84.6 86.1 87.1   -7.449   0.02200       -7.379        -1.308
##   Curveball 81.1 82.4 83.4    4.140    -3.803        4.567        -5.102
##    Fourseam 94.7 96.5 98.3   -4.075     7.609       -3.844         6.720
##    Two-seam 88.4 96.5 97.9   -7.549     5.500       -7.527         4.530
##          IN 71.9 74.4 76.3   -4.697     6.550       -5.833         6.309
##      Slider 87.4 90.0 92.9   0.8410     1.308        1.286        0.2337

Note: Horizontal movement denotes average distance, in inches, from point of release to home plate (+ moves away from a right-handed batter) while vertical movement is average distance, in inches, from release point to home plate. As measured from the corner of home plate, the x-axis (horizontal) runs to the catcher’s right, the y-axis points at the pitcher, and the z-axis (vertical) runs up and down.

Note 2: The corrected horizontal and vertical are based upon a paper by Alan M. Nathan from the University of Illinois and account for the elimination of both gravity and drag. The corrected averages more accurately reflect the true movement of the baseball.

Average (MPH) Velocity for Pitches by Starters Last Night:

2015-10-10_Jacob DeGrom_BoxPlotBelow are the pitch locations by both batter stance (left or right) and by pitch type.

Pitch Location by Stance:

2015-10-10_Jacob DeGrom_Stance

Pitch Location by Pitch Type:

2015-10-10_Jacob DeGrom_Pitches

Pitch Locations by Batter:

2015-10-10_Jacob DeGrom_Batters

MLB Playoff Heat Check Friday, October 9

heatIndexHere you’ll find information regarding the pitchers that light up the radar gun each and every night. I’ve listed for both starters and relievers the top average pitch velocity with a heading for type. It doesn’t equate to quality of an outing or take into consideration the end result of the pitch (sometimes really, really good fastballs go a long way), but it’s fun.

Starters Pitches by Average MPH:

Name Pitch Avg Count
Jacob deGrom Fourseam 96.51 45
Jacob deGrom Two-seam 96.49 31
Clayton Kershaw Fourseam 94.25 48
Marcus Stroman Fourseam 93.50 1
Cole Hamels Two-seam 93.28 42
John Lackey Fourseam 92.77 25
John Lackey Two-seam 92.66 46
Scott Kazmir Fourseam 92.65 12
Marcus Stroman Two-seam 92.41 48
Johnny Cueto Fourseam 92.28 40

Relievers Pitches by Average MPH:

Name Pitch Avg Count
Jeurys Familia Fourseam 98.80 1
Pedro Baez Fourseam 98.50 5
Trevor Rosenthal Fourseam 98.38 16
Pedro Baez Two-seam 98.17 3
Jake Diekman Two-seam 98.00 24
Kelvin Herrera Fourseam 97.96 11
Jeurys Familia Sinker 97.67 8
Liam Hendriks Two-seam 97.30 2
Aaron Sanchez Two-seam 97.08 24
Chris Hatcher Fourseam 97.08 5

Some Wild Predictions

Since I handed out end of the year awards already, let’s take a few minutes to discuss the wild card games.  Over the last few weeks, there has been a lot of discussion regarding the inherent unfairness of the play in game and how six months of baseball shouldn’t come down to one game.  Oddly enough there wasn’t a lot of boo-hooing over the AL game since the Astros being there somehow proves that the wild card format is fantastic for allowing upstarts a chance at postseason glory, and we’re all secretly hoping the Yankees lose.  Hey, super, the Yankees made it.  Too bad those pinstriped jerks lost to those spunky ‘Stros.
No.  Everyone is upset because the Pirates will now play their third straight wild card play in game, and with Jake Arrieta starting for the Cubs this might as well be three on a match for the Bucs.  Emotionally, I think people are still conflicted here because the Cubs are back in the playoffs and if there’s a chance to see more Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, and Anthony Rizzo we’ll take it.  The Cubbies are lovable.  They’re the guys in the old stadium that just can’t stop tripping over their own history and we love ’em for it.  Also I guess there’s that little matter of Arrieta owning a 0.75 ERA over the second half of the season while allowing 55 hits in 107.1 innings.  He’s been so good that of course it’s fait accompli the Pirates will miss out on the fun again.  Is this what we’re hoping for?  Not because we hate the Pirates (I think most people secretly love pirates in general, so it can’t be that) but because we want to point and show the system is broken.
This isn’t a post about the system.  I think it’s stupid that a team plays 162 games and has one game to prove their worth and all the random nonsense that goes into it.  Breaking end of season ties are different.  One game I’m okay with.  The three best records in the major leagues belong to the Cardinals, the Pirates, and the Cubs, and two of those teams play one game to play the third.  The wackiness of this isn’t necessarily unfair because dear Lord the Mets might have to see Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke three or four times while the Dodgers have to face the trio of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Matt Harvey.  That’s not unfair either.  That’s unfortunate.  Same goes with the Central Dilemma.  It’s unfortunate that it worked out this way.  It’s unfortunate that the Pirates have to face Arrieta and the Cubs have to face Gerrit Cole.  It’s unfortunate that one of these fan bases will be angry after Wednesday night because their team got one stupid game to prove that 162 games wasn’t a fluke.  Do you know what can happen in one game?
The wild card play in game proves absolutely nothing except maybe God loves one team more than the other.  It’s true.  Listen to the post game interviews.  But, I’m not here to justify the ways of God to man.  I’m here to discuss baseball and predictions.
American League
The Houston Astros take their feel good story to the Yankees who are suddenly answering questions about C.C. Sabathia that seemingly came out of nowhere. The winner of this game gets the pleasure of facing the Kansas City Royals, and that’s probably for the best since nobody wants to play the Blue Jays.  Let the Texas Rangers do their best to win three out of five.
If there’s one benefit to having Dallas Keuchel pitching against the Yankees, other than he’s one of the frontrunners to win the AL Cy Young award, is that the Yankees don’t hit lefties as hard as they do righties.  On the season, the Yankees have hit 147 home runs against righty starters but only 65 against lefties.  Oh, wait.  I’m wrong.  That’s only because the Yankees, like everyone else, haven’t faced as many lefties.  By plate appearance, the Yankees blast a home run once every 30.7 at-bats against lefties but hit one every 29 at-bats against righties.  So, basically even, and Keuchel has been notably worse on the road.  He’s allowed a .253/.297/.401 slash line on the road as opposed to.186/.232/.242 at home.  Against the Yankees he’s done particularly well.  In one start at Yankee Stadium this year he allowed a lowly three hits over seven shutout innings while striking out nine.
Masahiro Tanaka, however, has faced the Astros one time this season and allowed six earned runs in five innings.  That game was at Houston and Tanaka allowed three home runs.  Tanaka comes into this game allowing four earned runs to Boston in his last start, though in the three starts prior he’d allowed three earned in 21 innings against the O’s, the Jays, and the Mets.  Two of those teams won their respective divisions.  In my mind, the Astros have the advantage in this matchup, but Keuchel’s struggles on the road worry me a little.  Oh, who am I kidding?  Keuchel is my pick for the Cy Young.  He’s grown a fancy beard.
Interestingly enough, the Astros are a top 10 offensive ball club by Fangraphs, yet if you look at their home and road splits they don’t necessarily feast one way or the other.  They’ve hit about 26 more homers at home, but it’s not as though they’ve piled up big numbers in a hitter’s park.
In a game like this, where anything can happen, I’d say go with the best starting pitcher, which makes it the Astros.  Because this is the Yankees, however, I can’t get over the feeling that they’ll somehow figure out a way to eke out a 3-2 win or something.  I hate to say this, but I think the Yankees win this one, and we can spend the winter discussing how this one playoff failure will teach those Astros a lesson.  They’ll come back stronger.  Also, they need more starters.  Not for this game.  Keuchel is more than enough for the Yankees.
Oh, I’m so conflicted.  I want to go with the Astros here, but this feels like one of those games where Alex Rodriguez goes for 2-for-4 with a couple of doubles and some obnoxious hand clapping.  Also, Carlos Beltran will fight off all those Keuchel sliders and hit a few singles that lead to a big inning somewhere.  Even though he’s in the Bronx, I’m rooting for Beltran to summon his 2004 self and get a couple of big hits.  Okay.  I’ve gone back and forth enough here.  I’ll make a pick.
My pick:  Yankees, 6-2
National League
Like everyone else in the NL, the Pirates struggled against Jake Arrieta.  In five starts against the Pirates, Arrieta allowed three earned runs in 36 innings all on 18 hits.  The Pirates were the last team to actually score on Arrieta, which is great, except that was about three weeks ago when Arrieta was having something of a rough stretch of games where he allowed two earned runs in 16 innings.  Apparently, two games in the great state of Pennsylvania didn’t sit well with him.
Gerrit Cole has been equally impressive against the Cubs.  Well, not equally.  Not Arrieta unstoppable impressive, but impressive nonetheless.  In four starts against the Cubs, Cole has allowed six earned runs in 25.1 innings while striking out 32.  You would think that an ERA of 2.13 and a batting average against of .225 would make you something of an ace in this matchup, but such is the season that Arrieta is having.  In his last start against the Cubs, Cole was extremely impressive as he allowed one earned run in seven innings and earned the win against Jon Lester.  This will be the first time Cole pitches against Arrieta on the season, so if nothing else, we’re going to see a matchup between two of the best starters in the majors.
The Pirates aren’t going to hit a lot of home runs.  They’re near the bottom of the majors (24th) in that particular category, and 15 of those home runs are sitting on the disabled list after the Cubs Chris Coghlan went all Billy Zabka and swept Jung Ho Kang‘s leg in a takeout slide.  The slide was enough to make everyone question both Coghlan’s intent and whether hard slides into second are warranted in today’s game.  Of course, if there’s a rainout, everyone nowadays wants to argue whether every stadium should be a dome and have a retractable roof, so that’s not surprising.  So, the Cubs have a clear advantage in hitting home runs, but the Pirates are no slouches in terms of actually scoring runs (outscored the Cubs by a whopping eight runs this season) with their ability to hit for a decent average and get on base.  These two clubs are pretty even when it comes to the offensive side with the exception being the Cubs clear advantage in hitting balls a long way.
I don’t know if the normal rules apply here.  We’re discussing Arrieta who’s been on such an insane run over the last few months that discussing the Pirates ability to hit homers and string together hits seems like a waste.  I understand why people have already written the epitaph on the Pirates season.  This one feels over. Arrieta is in one of those Orel Hershiser in ’88 zones, and there doesn’t seem to be too much that the Bucs can do to counteract that.  Okay.  I get that.  That would make sense if this game wasn’t being played in Pittsburgh where the crowd is notoriously loud and unsettling.  If Cole pitches well it won’t take five runs to beat Arrieta.  It might only take one mistake to Pedro Alvarez or Andrew McCutchen to do the trick.  The Pirates are the best team in the major leagues, and they’re the one team that scares me if the Mets make it to the NLCS.  I think they win this game, and if it’s a 2-1 ballgame that still counts as a win.
My pick:  Pirates, 2-1

End of Year Award Time!

Is Yoenis Cespedes a legitimate MVP candidate?

Is Yoenis Cespedes a legitimate MVP candidate?

We should probably discuss the end of year awards. I was lazy and didn’t write up my preseason predictions, which is fine because I would have been wrong for all of them. I was wrong for all of them last year. Who knew that Stephen Strasburg wasn’t ready to take the leap—every Nationals fan, apparently—or whomever I picked for MVP wasn’t really that good. Want to know how bad I am at forecasting seasons? If not for knee surgery, I thought Mat Latos was going to be a solid bet for Cy Young last season. I skipped out on the embarrassment this season. You should probably thank me.

So, yeah, I’m the guy you want in your fantasy league.

That’s in the past, however. We’re all about 2015 and how the year ended. This has been a particularly interesting year for most of the awards with legitimate arguments to be made for both Cy Young awards, the AL MVP, and the ROY in each league. About a month ago we could have had fun with the NL MVP award too, though I think the push for Cespedes was more for the great story that accompanied the Mets rise to first place than any credible threat to the year Bryce Harper had. Anyway, here’s how I would vote if anyone were dumb enough to allow me to vote. Maybe someday someone somewhere will give me that kind of power, but for right now I have this blog and a questionable grasp of grammar.

American League

Cy Young

Chris Sale broke a White Sox single-season strikeout record that had stood since 1908, finishing up with an absurd 11.82 K/9 that was nearly a full strikeout more than everyone not named Clayton Kershaw. David Price pitched pretty well for a Detroit Tigers team that found itself out of the playoff chase, then pitched great for Toronto as they comfortably won the East when everyone thought they were simply another underachieving Blue Jays team. Doesn’t it seem like only yesterday we were all laughing at those silly Blue Jays for trading for Troy Tulowitzki when what they really needed was pitching?

LOL. We’re so dumb.

In 11 starts with Toronto, Price had an ERA+ of 172, had a FIP of 2.22, and struck out 10.5 per nine. Oh, and in the games that mattered most, Price pitched against the Yankees four times and went 3-0 while allowing 22 hits in 26.1 innings with an ERA of 1.71.

My vote would go to Dallas Keuchel, however.   He led the American League in wins, hoorah!, which means nothing but winning 20 games is still pretty cool. It reminds me of being a kid and seeing 20 as some magical number representative of ace status. Even though we’re all too smart to believe that 20 means anything I bet the Astros are glad that number isn’t 18 instead. Much has been made about Keuchel’s stinker against Texas where he allowed nine earned runs in 4 2/3 innings, and considering the Astros finished two games back of the Rangers and now have to play the Yankees to earn an official pass to the LDS Keuchel deserves all the criticism we throw at him. He’s a bum. Choke artist. Umm, wait, though. Keuchel bounced back after that start against Texas and allowed four earned runs across his final three starts (pitching against Anaheim and Texas in two of those). He was amazing at home (batters hit a lowly .186 against him), and he was the best pitcher on a team that nobody saw coming. We’re we just discussing how awful it was that the Astros were tanking games to get high draft picks when their fans deserved so much better?

This one is about narrative as much as credentials. These three guys are so close statistically that it comes down to story, and I like that the Astros are the feel good story of the AL right now. If I had to pick one lefty out of this group, I’m going with Keuchel.



This is weird. We’re here discussing an MVP award with Mike Trout involved and we have a real debate on our hands. Trout leads Josh Donaldson in both bWAR and fWAR, so there’s no reason that selecting Trout is the wrong choice here. This decision basically comes down to those big fancy counting stats like RBI and the Blue Jays storming through the East after the trade deadline. That has nothing to do with Donaldson, which is to say he was destroying baseballs prior to the trade deadline, .295/.358/.550 with 25 home runs and 73 RBI, just as well as he did after the deadline: .301/.393/.602 with 16 homers and 50 RBI. Bringing in Price and Tulowitzki didn’t affect Donaldson’s performance one bit.

He was great before, and he was great after. He’s also been great defensively, as he always is, finishing tied for third with Evan Longoria in Fangraphs defense rating for third basemen. The part of me that hates Billy Beane trading Donaldson this offseason wants him to win. I remember that morning and thinking the trade was stupid. I still do. Donaldson for MVP!

This award feels like Trout’s, however. Maybe it’s voter fatigue that makes me want to go with Donaldson, or maybe it’s because the Angels came up just shy of playing their way into the playoffs. Both of those are stupid reasons for going against Trout. That’s no fault of Trout’s. He’s the best player in the major leagues, and the MVP by all rights should be his award. Here is Trout’s season by AL rankings: first in bWAR, fWAR, slugging, OPS, OPS+, and runs created; second in on-base percentage, extra base hits, and total bases (Donaldson leads both extra base hits and total bases); third in runs scored (Donaldson leads with 122 to Trout’s 104), home runs (41 to Donaldson’s 44), walks; and ninth in batting average. It’s not so obvious that Trout runs away with it, and Donaldson makes a strong case.

I’m going with Trout.


Rookie of the Year

According to Fangraphs Francisco Lindor was worth 4.6 wins in 2/3 of a season. That’s crazy for a 21-year old. He hit .313/.353/.482 with 12 home runs and stellar defense. Credible cases can be made for Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers, and Miguel Sano. Everyone knew (or strongly suspected) that Lindor was going to be good, but I don’t know if anyone thought he’d be this good. I could spend a lot of time on this one, but I think Lindor is the smartest choice I’ve made so far.


Manager of the Year

I’m going with Ned Yost. Sure we could argue for the Rangers’ Jeff Banister, the Yankees’ Joe Girardi, or the Astros’ A.J. Hinch. I’m going with Yost because in a year where everyone expected the Royals to take a huge step back from their amazing 2014 World Series run (there was a lot of chatter, if I recall, about the Royals slipping below .500 again before the season started), the Royals won 95 games to lead the AL. I didn’t watch a ton of Royals games to know if Yost is a master at in-game strategy, but whatever he did worked and the Royals ran away with the Central. Of course, in the NL Central, the Royals would be a fourth place team, and we’d be bemoaning the Alex Gordon injury and wonder if Jonny Cueto was imported from the NL with specific instructions from the rival Cardinals to sabotage another playoff run.

Okay, so Cueto played for Cincinnati. If the Royals are suddenly in the NL then maybe Cincinnati and KC swap places. Ever think about that, smart guy?


National League

Cy Young

If you calculate WAR using FIP, as Fangraphs does, then Clayton Kershaw has been worth more than a win more than Jake Arrieta and almost three wins more than Zack Greinke. What? That seems pretty silly to me. By Baseball-reference’s standards, which uses ERA rather than FIP, Greinke was worth less than a win more than Arrieta and nearly two wins more than Kershaw. This also seems silly to me. By conventional stats, Greinke led all three in ERA with a 1.66 ERA, the lowest in the major leagues since Greg Maddux posted an ERA of 1.63 in 1995. Arrieta was only slightly behind that total with an ERA of 1.77 while Kershaw came in at 2.13. They are one-two-three in ERA, WHIP, and H/9 (Greinke/Arrieta/Kershaw, ditto, and Arrieta/Greinke/Kershaw), one-two-four in innings pitched (Kershaw/Arrieta/Greinke), and one-two-six in wins (Arrieta/Greinke/Kershaw). Kershaw blew the other two away with his 301 strikeouts.

Arrieta has allowed two earned runs over his last nine starts, and since the beginning of August has allowed 41 hits in 88.1 innings with an ERA of 0.41. Batters are hitting .136/.182/.172 against him in that span. By sports writer’s outrage/panic level, Arrieta should win this award because everyone is already calling shenanigans on the entire MLB playoff system based on the wild card play-in game because the Pirates have to face Arrieta. Outside of NYC, no one seems to really care about Kershaw and Greinke in the playoffs. Does anyone feel a sense of outrage/despair for the Yankees facing Keuchel?

What I find amazing about Greinke’s season is that out of 32 games started, he had two starts where he allowed more than three earned runs and only four starts where he allowed precisely three runs. So, out of 32 starts, 25 were two or fewer earned runs allowed with 12 of those where he shut the other team out for his time on the mound. You know, wow. He also only had three starts where he allowed more hits than innings pitched. That’s a little crazy, right? I mean, who does that in a season?

I’m so conflicted.

Since neither Fangraphs nor Baseball-Reference can give a clear advanced metric answer/guidance to this award, we’ll have to go with my own personal feelings. As much as I believe in Arrieta, and no matter how good Greinke was this season, I’m going with Kershaw. He’s the best pitcher on the planet and should win this award until someone decisively beats him. Arrieta tried, and so did Greinke, but Kershaw is better and scares me more than the other two. Kershaw tied Sale for the most games with 10+ strikeouts (13), and if not for Max Scherzer striking out 17 Mets and throwing his second no-hitter on the season is the talk of baseball for 300 strikeouts.

Plus, seriously, the guy freezes right-handers with his curveball. I’ve never seen anyone like this guy.



We had fun with this didn’t we? Yoenis Cespedes was an absolute force for the Mets after coming over via trade with the Tigers. His presence helped energize the club, helped turn the Mets into one of the best offensive clubs in the NL, provided attitude to a team desperately seeking some bravado, and showed off an absolute cannon for an arm. He also throws the ball in from the outfield underhand like a softball pitcher. I love this. Combined with the much underappreciated defense of Michael Conforto (not to mention his offensive skills as well) he helped make the Mets outfield defense a relative strength. Juan Lagares wasn’t getting it done this season; Curtis Granderson is good but doesn’t really inspire fear with his sidearm throws; and Michael Cuddyer once threw a ball ten feet straight into the ground. With the Mets, Cespedes hit .287/.337/.604 with 17 home runs and drove in 44 runs. He was great. He’s directly responsible for breaking Drew Storen, forcing the one-time closer to injure his thumb on purpose to quit the Nationals (purely speculation) and the mess the team had become. Cespedes was a force of nature that captured all of our hearts.

Still. Bryce Harper will win this award. We can discuss Andrew McCutchen, Anthony Rizzo, and Paul Goldschmidt. We can make this into a team recognition award and give it to someone else, but years from now, after the emotions have cooled, shouldn’t we look back and be proud of the winner? To me, there’s really no debate here. Harper was ridiculous this season.

He led the NL in OBP, slugging, OPS, and OPS+, was tied for the lead in runs and home runs, was second in batting average, and handled a move to right field by making base runners afraid to run on him. The raw numbers alone are ridiculous: .330/.460/.649 with 42 homers and 99 RBI. He walked 124 times. He did all this at the age of 22, or being about 11 months older than Cleveland’s Lindor.

Harper almost single-handedly carried this team to the playoffs. Think about that. The Nationals were a wasteland of old, brittle veterans that wanted to act like backstabbing teens. There were more tears shed by these babies than at a One Direction concert. Jayson Werth can survive the psychological toll of spending five nights in jail but the unforgivable sin of not being told of a day off sends him over the edge? Yeah, maybe Matt Williams has his faults, but sometimes grown men need to act like grown men.  Maybe a guy who’s been in the league 11 years and makes 21 million dollars per could maybe be a clubhouse leader and tell his teammates to man up. No, no, no. It’s Williams fault this team underachieved because he left the starters in a little too long or the bullpen lost Craig Stammen. Forget Williams failings as a manager. Mike Rizzo should fire the training staff for not implementing a yoga or Pilates program to get this team flexible and stop breaking down so much. It’s weird that for a team that advertises Yoga in the Outfield their outfielders are probably the most likely to tear a muscle stretching.


I’ll make my point anecdotally. When Cespedes was hit on the hand in the Philadelphia series, I panicked. I worried about this for hours, even on vacation. I constantly checked Twitter for updates and felt sick that he might be out for the playoffs. I was in Disney World, the happiest place I can think of, and just spent an awesome day at Hollywood Studios, and I couldn’t stop worrying over a guy I’ve never personally met and who’s been with the team for two months. Mets fans were in an uproar. If Cespedes was injured, I’m almost 100% certain the city of Philadelphia would have been razed to the ground. Still. Outside of Mets fans, no one really cared. The team would just chug along. If that was Harper and the Nats were in first, it would have been all over ESPN. The Nats were doomed! What happens now to this snake-bitten team? Did Papelbon secretly pay for Harper to be beaned on the hand to teach the loaf a lesson?

Harper is the winner.



I really thought Noah Syndergaard had a chance with this award. There was a time when Joc Pederson and Kris Bryant both were struggling that Syndergaard was starting to get some buzz for this award. That’s not true. I was the only one that was making a case for him. You have to admit, though, that if you replace that stretch of baseball I like to call August with a more reasonable stat line he’s getting more recognition here. Maybe he’s not winning the award, but a giant of man who throws 98-mph regularly is difficult to ignore. Not convinced? I don’t blame you. You have eyes only for Bryant.

Bryant destroyed the NL field in fWAR, and finished tied for fifth in the NL with 99 RBI and tied for 11th with 26 home runs. His not starting out the season nearly brought sports writers to tears, and his absence made rich men of dentists across the country for all the gnashing of teeth. It also helped Scott Boras to channel his rage for the late-season Matt Harvey/Mets innings-limit circus. I don’t think anything could supplant the bizarre press conference Harvey gave in Miami for season lowlights (but thank you Bartolo Colon for winning that game with a little behind the back magic), but everyone angrily discussing service time and arbitration years like we were contract experts came close. The Cubs are in the playoffs, and Bryant was a huge reason for that. He led all NL third basemen in fWAR, was third in the majors, and with all respect to Matt Duffy who killed the Nationals and helped the Mets in the process, this award is going to Bryant.

The hype was real.


Manager of the Year

Terry Collins feels like an obvious choice for this award. The Mets arrived a season early, defying all expectations to claim the NL East. I thought Sandy Alderson was crazy for saying this team would win 90 games, but here they are, heading to Los Angeles for the NLDS. Collins handled innings limits, non-trades, injuries, an offense that was less potent than the traveling team David Wright played on in high school, and the constant distractions with six-man rotations, Jenrry Mejia steroid use, and a horrid defense. At one point, the only good thing the Mets had going was their starting pitching and even that was a constant source of frustration with Dillon Gee and Jon Niese both hating their respective roles, Raphael Montero getting hurt, Harvey innings limits, and a bullpen that had to rely on Alex Torres to get lefties out. Once Jerry Blevins went down, this team was scrambling for a lefty-specialist, which still plagues them now.

I still can’t help but think that Collins shouldn’t win this award because of the San Diego rain delay debacle. Up 7-1 to the Padres, the Mets lost a game they should have won and Collins contributed to that by leaving Jeurys Familia in to pitch after a 40-minute rain delay.


This still baffles me. I don’t really care what kind of reasoning you offer, that kind of move is silly. Still. I’ve done pants on head type silly things before and have learned from them. Collins was sort of the anti-Williams for the Mets. In the three game sweep of the Nats by the Mets, one in which the Mets came from behind to win all three games, every move Collins made seemed to be pure genius. From pinch-hitting Kirk Nieuwenhuis or swapping out Kelly Johnson for Wilmer Flores against Stephen Strasburg, it was like this guy was minting gold coins out of lead ingots. I’m sure you’ll have an opinion on Clint Hurdle or Mike Matheny. Maybe Joe Maddon is your guy. I watched enough Terry Collins to know that this Mets season could have spiraled out of control—it was threatening to prior to the trade deadline—and the team won the East.

I didn’t expect that. You didn’t expect that. Find one non-homer who actually thought this team had a chance. Collins is my pick.

photo credit: Yoenis Cespedes via photopin (license)

One Wrong Turn For Goofy

Goofy and me, or the two Goofies.

Goofy and me, or the two Goofies.

Disney World can be a confusing place. For the three parks we visited (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios), trying to find specific attractions can be difficult if you haven’t spent much time there. Even by the final day of our trip—our second day at Magic Kingdom—our familiarity with the park layout made it easier to move around but by no means easy to find specific attractions. Our daughter loved the Haunted Mansion, so we quickly learned how to find that specific ride no matter where we were, but that was the exception rather than the rule. Getting lost is easy is what I’m saying.

Epcot is easier to navigate than the others. It’s a park that essentially goes in a big circle as you walk your way through the various lands of the world. I know because we walked it. A lot. We also spent an hour or so in the rain, fighting both our growing despair that the day would be nothing but rain and a three-year old that didn’t want to wear a poncho (very useful those ponchos when actually worn) and grew increasingly wacky as the hours passed and her no sleep goofiness set in. After the rains passed, we sort of wished for them back as the day became something like an Orlando sauna. This isn’t me complaining. The rain was miserable. Humidity I can deal with.

After a long day, we were all fairly exhausted as the hour neared for dinner. As we walked our way back to the various lands to find a place to eat, we passed under a sign that pointed us toward the Test Track. The description for the Test Track sounded promising: you get to design your own car and drive it. Well, that sounds rather anti-climactic, so let me rewrite that so it sounds more enticing: you get to design your own car and take it for a thrilling “high-octane” ride like you were testing with General Motors. The waiting time for this ride had hovered around 60 minutes all day long. The posted time as we passed sat at 20 minutes. It was my chance to enjoy a thrilling adventure. My wife wasn’t interested in the ride, but she agreed that she could wait 20 minutes while I went through the line.  Time for dad to have some fun.

Yeah, well, about that confusing part.

I quickly found my way into a not so intimidating line. Everyone was being ushered into another room. This made sense to me. There were televisions showing old Mickey Mouse cartoons with little blurbs about when they were created. Hey, that’s neat, I thought. Those folks at Disney really wanted to keep the kids happy while the dads came in an lived dreams of being a race car driver. Weird, though, that it was all cartoons. Why not videos of cars? Well, no matter. Disney has its way.

There were kids in line. I wasn’t paying attention at this point. I was reading Grantland on my iPhone. The Japanese couple in front of me were really excited to show the kid working the line their Mickey Mouse shirts. Whatever. People really love Mickey Mouse, I guess. After about 10 minutes in line, I soon found myself in another room with excited kids holding autograph books and parents snapping photos with their phones.

Where was I?

I soon learned that I wasn’t anywhere near the Test Track. I was in a room with Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy snapping pictures and signing autographs. I was in the one place we wanted to take our daughter in Epcot but we could never find a wait time that actually made sense. You can check these wait times on the Disney app, so we were monitoring it from time to time. I texted my wife. She texted back. I panicked. My God, I’m a grown man without my wife or daughter about ready to meet iconic Disney characters.

Note: If you’ve ever been to Epcot, it’s impossible to actually confuse the Character Spot with Test Track. I’m an idiot.

Mickey and MeOne thing you’ll find out if you go to Disney World is that my situation isn’t all that weird. Adults lose their minds when they visit Disney World, and all sense of decorum and self-respect is sort of thrown out the window. When we’d spent time in line for our daughter to get pictures with Cinderella and Rapunzel, there was a man in his 40s flying solo to get an autograph. No one batted an eye. Not even Rapunzel. Me being there didn’t seem odd at all. I wanted to leave. Could I escape?

I stayed in line. My reasoning was thus: if I’d spent 20 minutes waiting in line already, wouldn’t it be weirder to just leave? I was sort of shamed into staying in line because the greater embarrassment would be to admit I’d made a mistake by going in there. Oh no. I was there to stay.

I got my pictures with Mickey and Goofy. I skipped out on Minnie. Both Mickey and Goofy were excited about my choice of apparel: a Moon Pie t-shirt. Goofy was particularly impressed. Unfortunately I didn’t have my daughter’s autograph book to get their signatures for her. Of course, that might have been even odder to see a 39-year old man asking for a cartoon character’s signature.

Maybe not. It’s Disney World after all.

Sunshine and Smiles in Hollywood

My daughter's first lightsaber and dad's R2D2 ears.

My daughter’s first lightsaber and dad’s R2D2 ears.

After Tuesday’s rains, a sunny, cloudless Orlando day was a welcome sight for touring Hollywood Studios. It would be perfect. It would be all rainbows and kittens from this moment on.
How did our day start? My daughter let it be known she didn’t want to go to Hollywood Studios and wanted to be home instead.
Well, after meeting Minnie Mouse, a lunch with Sofia and Doc McStuffins, and an afternoon singing “Let It Go” with a thousand other excited children, it turned into her best day yet.
For dad? I started out my day with The Tower of Terror; loved Star Tours and watched my daughter build her first lightsaber; and finished the day with the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. Oh, and we haven’t blown the budget.
Mom is excited for Thursday and dressing up like Marry Poppins for the Halloween parade.

Oh, and everything is okay with Yoenis Cespedes’ fingers (just bruised), Steven Matz’s back (spasms), and Wilmer Flores’ cold/strep/flu (lower back pain). So, yesterday ended on a positive.

Epcot Came to Bring the Rain

A father and daughter late-night snack.

A father and daughter late-night snack.

Let’s just say my 3-year old daughter really didn’t want to wear her poncho yesterday. That’s cool, I guess, if it we weren’t walking around in the rain for an hour at Epcot. She found every puddle to jump in. I found new and unique ways to cheerfully express my displeasure. My wife found new ways to pretend we were strangers. Disney World, yeah!

The rains eventually cleared, and we had a great day. Later I’ll tell the story of how a grown man spent picture time with Mickey and Goofy without his daughter around. I’ll even show pictures.

As for my daughter? We came back to the hotel, and I introduced her to Trix cereal. She loved it. Day 2 was a huge success.

Celebrating the Mets Division Win

Living the dream at Disney World.

Living the dream at Disney World.

How do I celebrate the Mets first division championship since 2006? By going to Disney World of course! This is me totally geeking out in the Magic Kingdom.