The American League was a 6-3 winner over the National League in the All-Star Game.
Here are the lines for players from the NL Central:
Kris Bryant: 0-for-1, BB
Anthony Rizzo: 0-for-2
Aroldis Chapman: 1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 3 SO
Todd Frazier: 0-for-3
Ryan Braun: 1-for-1, 3B, R
Francisco Rodriguez: 1 IP, 2 ER, 1 H, 1 BB, 0 SO
Gerrit Cole: 1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 1 BB, 1 SO
Andrew McCutchen: 1-for-3, HR, R, RBI, SO
Mark Melancon: 1 IP, 1 ER, 1 H, 0 BB, 2 SO
St. Louis Cardinals
Yadier Molina: 1-for-1
Jhonny Peralta: 1-for-1, RBI, BB
Your highlights were McCutchen with a solo homer in the 6th inning and Chapman striking out the side in the 9th. The American League bench’s reaction to Chapman’s 103 mph fastball was pretty great.
Back to business on Thursday!
Go grab 10 quarters, a piece of paper and a pen.
Okay, now I want you to take the first quarter and flip it 100 times.
Write down how many times Coin #1 came up heads and how many times it came up tails.
Now, set that quarter aside and repeat the process for Coins #2 through 10.
There’s a good chance that one or more of those quarters had results that were not an even 50/50 split.
In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if one of those quarters had either heads or tails coming up 55 times. Heck, maybe even 60. Or more!
Now I want you to take that quarter that appears to be coming up heads or tails more often.
Hold it up in the air. Examine it. Look at it. Talk to it. Praise it.
I’m about to ask you to flip it another 100 times, because clearly this quarter is gifted and we’d like to see it showcased.
But before you do that, let me ask you this question – what are you expecting the quarter to do in the second half of this experiment?
Do you expect it to continue it’s run of a high frequency of heads (or tails)? Or do you expect it to be about an even 50/50 split because, hell, that’s how flipping coins works?
The reason I ask is because every year we get the same level of dumbness surrounding the Major League Baseball Home Run Derby.
People get up in arms about how participating in the Home Run Derby somehow ruins sluggers for the second half of the season.
It’s nonsense for the same reason as my quarter example above.
Batters who take part in the Home Run Derby are, naturally, going to be the guys who are among the league leaders in Home Runs headed into the All-Star Break.
What does it take to lead the league in Home Runs? Well, some combination of an actual innate ability to hit for power, yes. But also some degree of luck – a random element that gives you a higher rate of success in driving the ball out of the ballpark than you normally might.
That nudge is enough to get you among the league’s leaders and, most likely, nominated for the Home Run Derby.
What happens after the Home Run Derby isn’t that a batter’s swing is “ruined” from having participated in the contest.
What happens is that the batter was playing a bit above his actual abilities for the first 3 months of the season and, in the 2nd half, played closer to their actual abilities.
In the quarter example above, we may have had a quarter that came up heads 60% of the time in the 1st half of the experiment. In the 2nd half, it’s probably going to come up heads on 50% of our tosses. It’s not that the quarter was ruined by being selected to participate in anything before the 2nd half of the experiment. It’s just that, it’s a quarter, and it has a certain level of expectation for how often it will come up heads or tails. 50%.
Participants in the Home Run Derby are no different.
I went into Baseball Reference and grabbed some of the league’s top Home Run hitters in the first half of the season from 2012 through 2014.
For 2012, I grabbed the 21 players who had 17 or more HR. For 2013, the cut-off was 21 players who had 18 or more. And for 2014, it was 22 who had 17 or more. (I originally grabbed the Top 25, but then it turned out that because of tie-breakers I had to include either more or less and I sided with less because this sample size of 64 players is enough to prove a point.)
For each of those 64 players, I calculated their Home Run Rate for the First Half of the season. Home Run Rate was defined as Home Runs divided by At Bats. (I wanted to exclude walks, because what are the chances of driving a ball out of the park when the bat is on your shoulder?)
I did the same for the Second Half of their seasons.
My sample size was reduced because of players who just didn’t have many At Bats in the Second Half due to an injury and therefore would have made this experiment less worthwhile. Troy Tulowitzki’s sample size of 5 at bats in the Second Half of 2014, for example? Not very reliable.
I decided that 100 At Bats in the Second Half was a nice enough sample size and made that my final cut-off.
So the final tally was a sample of 58 players.
If what I’m saying is wrong, then you’d expect a player’s Home Run Rate to remain more or less constant. How they hit in the First Half should be completely consistent with their Second Half.
But if what I’m saying is right, and a player tends to lead the league in the First Half because of some element of “good luck” that leads to them playing above their true level, then you’d expect their Second Half rate to be lower. (By the way, I expected this to be true in well over half of my 64 player sample.)
If players who were among the First Half leaders in Home Runs tend to have higher Home Run Rates in the Second Half, then I’m just completely wrong about everything and I need to re-consider everything in my life.
So what happened to these guys?
Out of the 58 players examined, 76% saw their Home Run Rate decrease in the Second Half.
Well, that’s fine about my theory of strong First Halves not being something you should rely on to predict a strong Second Half. (Unless you’re prediction is just the rate should go down if it was exceptionally strong in the First Half, in which case, yes, I agree with you.)
But this still doesn’t tackle the whole “Home Run Derby Effect”, right?
Out of my sample of 58 players, 12 of them were participants in the Home Run Derby.
So was there any difference in the frequency of regression among that group of 12 Home Run Derby participants versus the 46 who were not participants?
Out of the 12 Home Run Derby participants, 83% saw their Home Run Rate decrease in the Second Half.
Is 83% significantly different than 76%? I’m inclined to say no. 12 is a small(ish) sample size. If only one of those 12 switched over, we’d be at 75% instead of 83%, so things can change pretty quickly there.
An interesting thing that perhaps illustrates the point. If we take this list 58 players and sort them by First Half Home Run Rate, the top 14 on the list had a downward trend in the Second Half 100% of the time. The bottom 14 on the list? They only had a downward trend 71% of the time.
Of the sample of 58, the average player had a Second Half Home Run Rate that was 79% of their First Half Home Run Rate. The average player included had a First Half Home Run Rate of 6.5% compared to 5.0% in the Second Half.
So if you are worried about your favorite player being included in the Home Run Derby and messing up his swing, check yourself.
From the NL Central, the Chicago Cubs‘ third baseman Kris Bryant and first baseman Anthony Rizzo as well as the Cincinnati Reds‘ third baseman Todd Frazier.
While it’s true that all three will probably see their Home Run Rates decrease in the Second Half of the season, it has nothing to do with the Home Run Derby and everything to do with the fact that, up to this point, they’ve been playing a little bit above their true abilities. And that’s part of why they were invited to participate in the first place.
Hard not to lead with the Chicago Cubs, who shutout the Cleveland Indians while scoring a pair of touchdowns and a field goal (17-0).
They received 7 shutout innings of work from starting pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada, who was pretty much on the cusp of losing his spot in the rotation.
Every member of the lineup had a hit, including multi-hit games for the kids: Kyle Schwarber (4 hits including a triple in his first Major League start), Anthony Rizzo (2 hits including his 12th homer, snapping an 0-for-20 stretch), Kris Bryant (2 hits with a grand slam off of outfielder-turned-emergency-pitcher David Murphy), and Addison Russell (2 hits including his 5th homer and a spectacular play in the field).
Chris Denorfia also homered and doubled, driving in 4 runs for the Cubs.
In the post-game press conference, Wada had this to say about his big day:
I am bad-ass.
It was the most runs the Cubs had scored in a game since a 19-0 win over the San Diego Padres by that ill-fated 1969 squad.
* * *
If not for a hugely lop-sided game and the ability to include a non-English speaker calling himself “bad-ass”, the lead story would surely be the Pittsburgh Pirates, who ran their winning streak up to 7 with a 3-2 win over the Chicago White Sox.
All 3 Pirate runs scored in the 1st inning – Andrew McCutchen had an RBI single and Jung Ho Kang popped a 2-run homer, his 4th of the season.
Jeff Locke wasn’t able to keep the shutout parade going, allowing 2 runs in 6 innings of work. He struck out 8 against 2 walks and 3 hits allowed.
Mark Melancon collected his 22nd save with a perfect 9th inning.
It wasn’t all sunshine for the Bucs, though, as Starling Marte had to leave the game in the 9th inning. Marte appeared to injure his left ankle while hitting the first base bag in the previous inning.
Jeff Sullivan wrote about Cutch’s post-April rebound over at Fangraphs. If you like looking at feet, you will probably enjoy it. Check it out over there.
* * *
The St. Louis Cardinals saw their 5-game winning streak end with a 3-1 loss visiting the Minnesota Twins.
Carlos Martinez threw effectively, allowing just 2 runs (1 earned) in 6.2 innings of work, while striking out 6.
The turning point came in the 4th inning when the Twins had men at the corners with one out, down 1-0. Martinez’s pickoff attempt at first went just wide of first baseman Mark Reynolds‘ grasp, glancing off his glove for an E-3 and allowing the tying run to score from 3rd and move the runner from 1st up to 3rd. That runner, Eduardo Nunez, then scored on a sacrifice fly to put Minnesota up 2-1.
But the offense hit 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position, not giving Martinez any kind of support.
Jason Heyward had the sole multi-hit day at the plate for the Birds, upping his average to .259 this season.
Closer Trevor Rosenthal, who hasn’t pitched since June 13th, says he’s ready to resume closing duties but that he’ll be keeping a close eye on some arm fatigue. Rosenthal has 21 saves in 29 appearances this season, posting a sterling 0.59 ERA to go with a 0.96 WHIP, striking out 9.8 men per 9 innings. He hasn’t allowed a run since May 3rd, boasting a perfect 0.00 ERA in his last 17 appearances.
* * *
The Todd Frazier Show continued, leading the Cincinnati Reds to an 8-4 win in 13 innings over the Detroit Tigers.
Fraizer’s walk-off grand slam in the 13th inning was his 2nd of the game and 22nd of the year.
Jay Bruce is hitting just .232 this season, but went 5-for-6 with a pair of doubles last night.
And Twitter-abuser Brayan Pena went 4-for-6 (.302) with his 8th double of the year.
Devin Mesoraco sounds close to officially ending his season after an aborted attempt to convert from catcher to outfielder. The hip injury isn’t getting any better and it sounds like he’s finally ready to concede the season to surgery.
In other Reds injury news, outfielder Marlon Byrd could be returning soon. Eligible to come off the DL this Thursday, he’s expected to play a pair of rehab games at AA before returning to the big league club for this weekend’s games. Byrd had been an interesting stick for Cincy before his injury, hitting just .212 but also driving 10 of his 35 hits out of the park.
* * *
The Milwaukee Brewers were crushed again by the Kansas City Royals, this time by a 10-2 score that handed them their fifth straight loss.
Carlos Gomez was in the lineup at DH and had a pair of hits including a double. He’s been out of the lineup 5 of the Brewers’ last 7 games.
There is good news ahead for Milwaukee, however. There’s only 95 games left this season.
* * *
|St. Louis Cardinals||43||22||–||L1|
* * *
|43-22||CARDINALS||Garcia (2-3, 2.06)|
|35-30||Twins||Pelfrey (5-3, 3.18)|
|12:10 PM CT|
|35-28||CUBS||Hammel (5-2, 2.81)|
|30-34||Indians||Salazar (6-2, 3.54)|
|6:10 PM CT|
|34-32||Tigers||Verlander (0-0, 3.60)|
|30-35||REDS||Leake (3-4, 4.35)|
|6:10 PM CT|
|24-43||BREWERS||Nelson (3-7, 4.60)|
|37-25||Royals||Guthrie (4-4, 5.79)|
|7:10 PM CT|
|38-27||PIRATES||Cole (10-2, 1.71)|
|28-36||White Sox||Samardzija (4-4, 4.84)|
|7:10 PM CT|
* * *
NL Central Leaders
|Anthony Rizzo (CHC)||.422|
|Matt Holliday (STL)||.417|
|Kris Bryant (CHC)||.398|
|Joey Votto (CIN)||.398|
|Matt Carpenter (STL)||.379|
|Johnny Cueto (CIN)||0.949|
|Francisco Liriano (PIT)||0.956|
|Jason Hammel (CHC)||0.963|
|Michael Wacha (STL)||1.044|
|Gerrit Cole (PIT)||1.083|
Yesterday afternoon, it was revealed that the St. Louis Cardinals are under investigation by the F.B.I. for having hacked into the Houston Astros‘ network.
Last June, the Astros admitted that somebody had hacked into their internal systems, compromising their scouting database which went under the nickname “Ground Control”.
At the time, it was not revealed who had broken into their systems; only that somebody had done it and it was under investigation.
Yesterday, the criminals were identified as members of the Cardinals.
The story goes that employees of the Cardinals were able to access the Astros’ systems by using old passwords that belonged to then-Cardinals scout and now-Astros GM Jeff Luhnow. Luhnow left his role in the St. Louis scouting department after the 2011 season, taking over as Houston GM that December.
Since then, the Houston Astros have taken off as a team whose scouting department is considered top notch, right up there with the likes of the Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates and Minnesota Twins. True, Houston’s farm system currently ranks “only” 14th by Baseball America. Also true – they had three years in a row where they had the #1 pick overall in the draft, though 2014 top pick Brady Aiken didn’t end up signing with them.
But the fact remains that the Houston franchise is considered by many to be a paradigm for how to put an organization together. Last season, Sports Illustrated did a feature story on the ‘stros system, calling this out.
I offer those facts up as rebuttal to trolls who say “big deal, it’s just the Astros”. Well, not only does Houston’s major league team have the best record in the American League right now (38-28, .576), but the information from their scouting department is the kind of thing must teams would absolutely love to have access to.
Really, the larger point here is that this is corporate espionage and breaks laws set forth in the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Whether or not the information they received is useful or helped the Cardinals win games (either directly or indirectly), it’s still against the law to go into a rival’s computer system and nose around. Any argument that this was no big deal is a bad argument. It’s illegal. Plain and simple.
A lot of people reduced the seminal book “Moneyball” to being a game-changer for how it elevated On Base Percentage as an important statistic.
Moneyball = OBP.
For me, that’s really simplifying things. What I think you were meant to take away from that book was something else.
It was about how teams (like the Oakland Athletics) who don’t have deep pockets need to find some other way to get a step ahead on their opponent. Yes, in the case of that book, it was how they believed the other 29 franchises were overlooking OBP as an important yardstick to measure a player’s worth. They jumped on that and rode it to success for a few years there.
But in the post-Moneyball years, we’ve gotten more and more into advanced statistics and analytics, still coupling all of that with scouting.
What I’m really driving at here is that the team with the best data wins.
It’s not necessarily who has all the money. (Where are all those New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers World Series rings from the past decade?) It’s who has the best data.
And that’s why this story is important.
This is theoretical, yes, but it explains why this is important.
Let’s say the Cardinals had been scouting a player as a potential trade target, and their scouting department’s feelings on the guy were that he would be a great asset to the team.
Now let’s say the Cardinals look into the Astros’ scouting department and find that they have spoken to somebody who knows that same player and identified that he has some sort of nagging injury that is getting progressively worse.
All of a sudden that trade target looks a whole lot less desirable.
More data = better informed decisions.
Conversely, let’s say the Cardinals were scouting a pitcher for the draft and ended up feeling just “meh” about him. He moves down on their list.
They then see the Astros’ internal system and find that they actually think that pitcher has plus stuff, great make-up, etc.
Well, geez. Maybe the Cardinals’ scouts caught him on a few bad days. Maybe something was just going on with him when they scouted him and he’s worth another look. After all, this other team’s opinion of him is totally different from theirs. They’d better get to the bottom of this.
Again, more data leads to better decision-making.
Exactly what information was gotten, who got it, what they did with it, and who knew about it… all of that is still up in the air at this point.
What punishments will be handed down – loss of draft picks, firings, financial penalties meted out by Major League Baseball… all of that is also still up in the air until the investigation concludes.
No, this isn’t life and death. It’s stealing secrets from other teams. Not well-protected secrets, mind you, particularly if Luhnow is using the same password as he used to. The Cardinals’ franchise has certainly committed other, larger sins in the recent past. They seem to have an alcohol-related incident every few years, with players endangering (and occasionally ending) the lives of others with blood alcohol content levels ranging from twice the legal limit (see Josh Hancock, Tony LaRussa) to FIVE times the legal limit (see Oscar Tavares and the spouse that he murdered as a result of bad decision-making).
Those things somehow keep getting swept away and people say “I can’t believe the Cardinals would do something like this! There’s such a wholesome franchise! They do things the right way – ‘The Cardinal Way'”.
Sorry to burst your bubble. That self-righteous thing plays well in the press if you’re a Cardinals’ fan. But the rest of the sporting world shouldn’t be fooled. Not anymore.
Sadly, much like the drunk-driving deaths that resulted in practical parades at Busch Stadium celebrating players who jeopardized the lives of other road travelers, Cardinals Nation will likely flip the script on this as well, and say things like “every team does this”, “the Cardinals are only being investigated because other teams are jealous of their success”, yada yada yada.
Jeff Gordon, at the Post-Dispatch, writes:
Industrial espionage would be conduct unbecoming America’s Model Baseball Franchise. If the FBI finds merit in these allegations, the Cardinals’ previously pristine image would be soiled.
Again, I ask, what “pristine image” are we talking about here? Sharing porn on your Twitter feed (see Carlos Martinez). Drunk driving. Murder. Those aren’t exactly “pristine”, are they?
Don’t buy and of that mid-American wholesomeness for a second.
More from Gordon:
There was nothing to gain by hacking the Astros… Any idiot can order wholesale tanking and conduct a perpetual fire sale. The much greater challenge is contending season after season after season — as the Cardinals have done…
Again, Gordon is missing a pretty large point here. The Cardinals have been riding a decade-plus stretch of success based largely on scouting that was done while Luhnow was with them as their scouting director. Of course they’d still love to see what he thinks of players!
From a separate Gordon article:
People are tired of the Cardinals winning all the time because people don’t enjoy seeing the same people succeed over and over again. Maybe it reminds them too much of their high school days when they never sat at the popular table.
See, this is what I knew would come out of the Post-Dispatch. No, it’s not that other teams are jealous and want to see you fail. It’s your franchise’s fake “aw shucks”, mock humility and self-righteousness that gets under people’s skin. Don’t deflect it as “y’all are just jealous of us”.
People from your organization have done bad things. In some cases, really bad things.
In another bit of delusional sports-writing, the usually steady Tim Brown from Yahoo! Sports:
Before Tuesday morning, about the worst one might have said about the Cardinals was they had figured out Clayton Kershaw – Were they filching signs? Had they picked up tendencies? Was he tipping pitches in a way only they could see? – and they were mostly lauded for it. That’s not cheating. That’s the game.
That was the worst? Really?
Again: A pattern of drunk driving in the organization, capped off with last year’s off-season murder of an innocent young woman.
Don’t be stupid. Or, at the very least, don’t be lazy. There are plenty of bad things you could have said about the Cardinals before this hacking story broke.
Rant aside, as a fan of baseball history, I find this all extremely interesting. It’s completely unprecedented, though not entirely surprising that it happened. My gut feeling is that this has happened before but the Astros were the first team to actually realize who they were being hacked by. Even if hadn’t happened before, it was bound to happen at some point.
What MLB does about it is what I’m most interested in.
* * *
The Pittsburgh Pirates won their sixth straight as they continue to play amazing baseball.
And they did it the way they’ve been doing it throughout this streak, behind amazing starting pitching.
This time it was Charlie Morton, who improved to 5-0 with a 1.62 ERA after firing 7 shutout innings in a 3-0 win for the Bucs. Since returning from a season-opening stint on the DL, Morton has 5 starts, all of them for wins.
In the last 6 games, the Pirates have fired 5 shutouts! In that stretch, here are the starting pitcher lines:
June 10th – Morton: 7.1 IP, 0 ER
June 12th – Jeff Locke: 6 IP, 0 ER
June 13th – Gerrit Cole: 6 IP, 1 ER
June 14th – A.J. Burnett: 9 IP, 0 ER
June 15th – Francisco Liriano: 8 IP, 0 ER
June 16th – Morton: 7 IP, 0 ER
That’s a total of 6 GS, 43.1 IP, 1 ER for a 0.21 ERA.
Mark Melancon picked up his 21st save with a perfect 9th inning.
* * *
The Cardinals shook off all the talk about this data hacking scandal with a 3-2 win over the Minnesota Twins.
Michael Wacha was the winner again, improving to 9-2 with a 2.48 ERA.
Wacha went 6.1 innings, allowing 2 runs on 3 hits and a walk while striking out 5. He was pulled after 86 pitches after a second rain delay kicked in. That works well anyhow as the Cardinals would prefer to balance using a guy who is pretty much pitching lights out right while avoiding overusing a young kid and running him into the ground before the post-season.
Kevin Siegrist stepped in once again to notch the save while usual closer Trevor Rosenthal sits out with some arm stiffness.
That’s five straight wins for the Cards.
Wondering what Adam Wainwright has been up to while he sits out the remainder of the season with that Achilles injury?
I’m gardening my face off. I’ve got cucumbers, zucchinis, pumpkins, five different kinds of tomatoes, all the herbs. I’ve got blueberries, apples, grapes. Once I can start moving around, I can start weeding stuff.
* * *
The battle between Sports Illustrated’s pick for the World Series and the Sporting News’ pick turned into a dud, as the Cleveland Indians (SI) pounded the Chicago Cubs (SN) 6-0.
By the way, I’m not sure either publication picked well there. Nor am I thinking that either magazine made those picks for any reason other than trying to appeal to championship-starved markets from the Midwest who will buy those magazines just because of those predictions.
Kyle Schwarber made his pro debut for the Cubs striking out looking on three pitches. Schwarber, rated the #19 prospect in baseball by Baseball America, was supposed to have the night off but got plugged in at catcher when Miguel Montero was ejected for arguing balls and strikes in the bottom of the 8th inning.
Owen Watson at Fangraphs.com took a look at Anthony Rizzo’s improved plate discipline thus far through the 2015 campaign. Check it out over there.
* * *
The Cincinnati Reds were 5-2 winners against the Detroit Tigers.
Todd Frazier hit a pair of homers, upping his season total to 20, good for 3rd best in the National League. And tops in the division – check out the Leaders below.
* * *
The Milwaukee Brewers fell 20 games back in the division on the night of June 16th, losing 7-2 to the Kansas City Royals.
They allowed 7 straight runs before putting a few runs on the board in garbage time.
* * *
NL Central Leaders
|Todd Frazier (CIN)||20|
|Joey Votto (CIN)||14|
|Ryan Braun (MIL)||13|
|Starling Marte (PIT)||12|
|Anthony Rizzo (CHC)||11|
|Francisco Liriano (PIT)||99|
|Gerrit Cole (PIT)||93|
|Jake Arrieta (CHC)||89|
|Johnny Cueto (CIN)||82|
* * *
|St. Louis Cardinals||43||21||–||W5|
* * *
|34-28||CUBS||Wada (0-1, 4.84)|
|30-33||Indians||Marcum (3-1, 4.09)|
|6:10 PM CT|
|34-31||Tigers||Price (6-2, 2.44)|
|29-35||REDS||Cueto (4-4, 2.85)|
|6:10 PM CT|
|24-42||BREWERS||Fiers (3-6, 4.04)|
|36-25||Royals||Blanton (0-0, 1.80)|
|7:10 PM CT|
|37-27||PIRATES||Locke (3-3, 4.90)|
|28-35||White Sox||Danks (3-6, 5.29)|
|7:10 PM CT|
|43-21||CARDINALS||Martinez (7-2, 2.93)|
|34-30||Twins||Milone (2-1, 4.15)|
|7:10 PM CT|
A day after losing 1-0 to the Milwaukee Brewers, the St. Louis Cardinals returned the favor and won by the same score.
Trevor Rosenthal allowed a pair of hits in the 9th, picking up his 16th save. The game ended when Aramis Ramirez, at bat with the tying run at 3rd base and one out, grounded into a 5-4-3 double play. It’s hard to not watch that clip and think “Just about anybody else at bat there and it’s a fielder’s choice with the game being tied up”, but Rammy’s can’t move like he used to. (And he never moved to begin with.) A nice pivot by 2B Kolten Wong on the throw over from Matt Carpenter.
Lance Lynn went 7.2 innings in the shutout, allowing 5 hits and a walk while striking out 5. Lynn lowered his ERA to 3.03 this season and improved to 4-4.
25 year old starting pitcher Tyler Cravy made his MLB debut for the Brew Crew, going 7 innings and allowing 1 run on 4 hits and a pair of walks. He struck out 6.
Matt Holliday saw his run of consecutive games reaching base to start a season ended last night with the 5th best mark in MLB history. 45 games, if you lost count. The streak ended when “Country” Joe West gave Holliday the hook in the 7th inning after arguing a called third strike. The pitch looks pretty good to me. You decide for yourself, but Holliday told West “You’re strike zone’s been huge the whole night” and then kept going. And going. And going. West finally had enough and tossed him. No final chance to extend the streak.
Holliday’s post-game interview in the locker room seemed to indicate that he feels veteran players have a God-given right to continually question an umpire and show them up. West is, y’know, not anybody’s favorite. But Holliday really could’ve let up a little sooner there. One comment would have been enough and then you could have walked off. But his little tirade went on for some time.
* * *
The Pittsburgh Pirates game against the San Francisco Giants had a similar feel to their meeting on Monday. The Giants jumped ahead early, the two teams went back and forth, then the Bucs jumped ahead for good in the middle innings. This time they came out 7-4 winners.
Andrew McCutchen continues to put that miserable April behind him. Last night he went 4-for-5 with a triple and a double, driving in a pair of runs. After the games of May 6th, his slash line was .189/.279/.292 with a .571 OPS and his team had just lost their 5th straight game. Since then, he has put up a line of .404/.481/.719 for an unworldly 1.201 OPS across 25 games in which the Pirates went 16-9.
Also removing himself from early-season awfulness is Josh Harrison, who had another multi-hit game last night and is now hitting .263 for the season. Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez and Jordy Mercer also had two hits a piece last night.
* * *
Marcell Ozuna‘s base-clearing double in the bottom of the 5th inning led the Miami Marlins to a 5-2 win over the Chicago Cubs.
Kris Bryant – playing left field – went 0-for-4, grounding into a double play and striking out.
The Cubs recalled Matt Szczur for another go-round at the MLB level. On a related note, RF Jorge Soler (twisted ankle) is expected to head to the DL. An official announcement should be coming sometime today.
Javier Baez (.325-7-26 at AAA) hit a pair of homers, going 4-for-5 last night for Iowa. He’s going 11-for-22 with 4 HR in his last 5 games.
* * *
Despite Johnny Cueto‘s comeback, the Cincinnati Reds‘ three-game winning streak came to an end as they fell 5-4 at home against the Philadelphia Phillies.
The big right-hander went 6 innings, allowing 2 runs (1 earned) on 5 hits and no walks.
Todd Frazier had a rough night, going 0-for-5 at the plate and committing a pair of errors in the field, one of which led to an unearned run charged against Cueto.
Marlon Byrd, among the division’s top home run hitters (see below), was hit by a pitch in the 6th inning and is out with a fractured wrist. He had nearly homered earlier in the game, but settled for a double off the top of the wall.
* * *
The wonderful Dave Cameron at Fangraphs.com took time to dissect one of baseball’s most exciting pitchers, Pirates starter and former #1 draft pick, Gerrit Cole. Cameron’s article is on Cole’s ascendancy to true “ace” status, focusing on his improved numbers against lefties this year, and more particularly on his increased use of the slider – a pitch that is a beautiful thing to watch.
* * *
NL Central Leaders
|Todd Frazier (CIN)||16|
|Ryan Braun (MIL)||12|
|Marlon Byrd (CIN)||10|
|Starling Marte (PIT)||10|
|Gerrit Cole (PIT)||79|
|Francisco Liriano (PIT)||75|
|Lance Lynn (STL)||72|
|Mike Fiers (MIL)||69|
|Jason Hammel (CHC)||69|
* * *
|St. Louis Cardinals||34||18||–||W1|
* * *
|18-35||BREWERS||Nelson (2-5, 3.90)|
|34-18||CARDINALS||Lackey (3-3, 2.83)|
|12:45 PM CT|
|28-24||PIRATES||Liriano, F (2-4, 3.47)|
|30-24||Giants||Hudson, T (3-4, 4.62)|
|2:45 PM CT|
|22-28||REDS||Leake (2-4, 4.66)|
|20-33||Phillies||Hamels (5-4, 2.91)|
|6:05 PM CT|
|27-23||CUBS||Lester (4-3, 3.30)|
|21-32||Marlins||Haren (5-2, 3.03)|
|6:10 PM CT|
The Jon Lester / Max Scherzer showdown ended with a 3-0 win for the Washington Nationals, taking the rubber game against the Chicago Cubs.
It was yet another high-strikeout game for the Cubs, who fanned 13 times in Scherzer’s 7 shutout innings of work.
For his part, Lester did well, going 7 innings and allowing 2 runs (1 earned), striking out 10.
At the plate, Lester made history by going 0-for-2. Lester sett n MLB record for most consecutive at bats to start a career without a hit (59), breaking former San Diego Padre Joey Hamilton‘s record. He’s now tied with Hamilton for most consecutive plate appearances to start a career without a hit (66).
Starlin Castro had a multi-hit game, but also had a multi-error day in the field. That gives him five errors in his last nine games.
That’s back-to-back series losses for the Cubs now and things don’t get any easier – the Kansas City Royals are up next.
* * *
The Miami Marlins couldn’t hold down the lead, surrendering a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the 7th as they lost 5-2 to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Bucs sent 10 men to the plate, doing it in strange fashion as they started the inning with consecutive outs and nobody on base. Four singles, two walks, and another single followed and they suddenly found themselves with a 3-run lead that held up. Neil Walker had the unfortunate discussion of hitting into both the first and last outs of the inning.
Gerrit Cole improved to 7-2 on the year, allowing a pair of runs in 7 innings of work while also fanning 7.
Andrew McCutchen (.262) and Sean Rodriguez (.281) each had a pair of hits for the Pirates, who won their 6th straight.
Before this comeback win, Pittsburgh was 0-15 when trailing after 6 innings.
* * *
The St. Louis Cardinals came from behind to sweep the Arizona Diamondbacks with a 4-3 win Wednesday night.
Trailing 3-2, Jason Heyward led off the bottom of the 9th with a solo homer to tie it up.
With one out and the bases loaded, Jhonny Peralta grounded into what looked to be a potential 5-2-3 double play, sending the game into extra innings. Third baseman Yasmany Tomas made a clean grab of the grounder, coming home to force Peter Bourjos out at the plate. But catcher Jordan Pacheco‘s throw down to 1st base sailed well over the head of first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, into right field for an error that allowed Matt Carpenter to score. Game over.
Matt Holliday made history in the game, reaching base for the 43rd straight game. Doing so in every game of the 2015 season thus far broke Albert Pujols’ National League record, set in 2008. There are five names ahead of him, but all did it in the American League. Next up? 44 – Harry Heilmann (1923 Tigers), 47 – Alvis Davis (1984 Mariners), 48 – Mark McGwire (1996 Athletics), 52 – Frank Thomas (1996 White Sox), 53 – Derek Jeter (1999 Yankees).
Holliday has a .433 on-base percentage this season, second only to the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo in the division.
On the injury front, Matt Adams‘ torn right quad could mean the end of his season. The expected recovery time is 3-4 months. In his place, Mark Reynolds will become the full-time first baseman. There’s some talk of calling up Xavier Scruggs to replace him, with Bernie Miklasz of the Post-Dispatch pointing out Scruggs’ power numbers and good batting average against lefties. Here’s the problem – 21 HR at AAA is nice, but what does that translate to over a full season in the MLB? 15? Maybe? And hitting lefties is something Reynolds already can do for you. You need a first baseman who can hit righties, the handedness of pitcher you will face 60% of the time. So now we’ll keep an eye on what deal the Cards can pull off both to bolster their rotation and first base.
CF Jon Jay could be returning for this weekend’s series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
* * *
The Cincinnati Reds couldn’t get a winning streak going one day after breaking a 9-game losing run, falling 6-4 at home to the Colorado Rockies.
Starting pitcher Mike Leake (L 2-4) was atrocious, allowing 6 runs in 5 innings of work and putting the team in a 5-1 hole after 2 innings.
Todd Frazier connected for his 14th home run of the year and Billy Hamilton stole his 18th base.
Reds manager Bryan Price held a closed-door meeting with the team following the loss. Things are bad in the Queen City.
The Reds are considering Johnny Cueto as Sunday’s starting pitcher.
* * *
The Milwaukee Brewers lost 3-1 to the San Francisco Giants.
Khris Davis had a pair of triples for Milwaukee.
Mike Fiers fell to 1-5, allowing 2 runs on 8 hits across 5 innings of work, starting on short rest.
Adam Lind, who had a monster April, is now mired in a 2-for-24 stretch. His 6th inning single broke up a run of 16 straight ABs without a hit.
That’s five straight losses now for the Brew Crew, who fell 15.5 games back. And we still have a few days left in May.
* * *
NL Central Leaders
|Anthony Rizzo (CHC)||.439|
|Matt Holliday (STL)||.433|
|Kris Bryant (CHC)||.393|
|Matt Carpenter (STL)||.389|
|Jason Hammel (CHC)||0.912|
|Johnny Cueto (CIN)||0.964|
|Michael Wacha (STL)||1.040|
|Jake Arrieta (CHC)||1.086|
|Gerrit Cole (PIT)||1.094|
* * *
|St. Louis Cardinals||31||16||–||W4|
* * *
|24-22||PIRATES||Burnett (4-1, 1.37)|
|23-25||Padres||Kennedy (2-4, 6.11)|
|9:10 PM CT|
I finished 2014 with a large surplus of vacation days accrued and, since I’m allowed to roll over only a certain number, I figured I’d plan a few “staycation” days ahead of time. Yesterday’s planned day off was supposed to include some bike riding to various local restaurants and museums. Instead it turned into a day that was about 25 degrees cooler than it should normally be and my wife and I had great coffee and watched snowflakes falling outside the store. Things didn’t go exactly as planned, but it was still a great day.
Back to baseball.
* * *
Looking around the division and seeing some story-lines that seem to be developing for each team.
The St. Louis Cardinals are as good as we expected. Their pitching staff has been nothing short of phenomenal, but the lineup has left something to be desired. It will be interesting to see if the hitters step their game up and if the pitching is for real.
The Chicago Cubs have started to parade out their young talent and have been a really fun team to watch. The lineup has been surprisingly effective, but Jon Lester has struggled in three starts as the high-priced ace.
The Pittsburgh Pirates, championed by many to win the division, are off to a really rough start. Like the Cards, bad hitting and amazing pitching, but they haven’t been able to get above .500 yet.
The Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers are as bad as expected, but for the Brew Crew it’s just one bit of awful after another. They lost star CF Carlos Gomez to a hamstring injury, C Jonathan Lucroy‘s fractured left toe will keep him out 4-to-6 weeks, and 2B Scooter Gennett just required stitches on after slicing open his hand while reaching for body wash. When it rains, it pours.
As for the Reds, manager Bryan Price (who has already made some really questionable decisions with his bullpen) went all Lee Elia on the media. And it was delightful.
* * *
Last night, the Cubs and Pirates went back and forth in a crazy game with numerous lead changes, ultimately ending with another bad outing by Pirates closer Mark Melancon (8.53 ERA) that led to an 9-8 win for Chicago.
Both teams got horrible work from their bullpens – each team allowed 5 ER in 4 IP of work from their relievers.
The Bucs took an 8-6 lead into the top of the 9th, but Melancon couldn’t hold it down. Anthony Rizzo singled, Jorge Soler doubled over Andrew McCutchen in center, Kris Bryant walked to load the bases, Starlin Castro tied it with a 2-RBI single and Bryant scored on Wellington Castillo‘s slow roller to second, putting Chicago ahead.
Three up, three down for Hector Rondon, who notched his 3rd save.
Castro also homered earlier in the game – it was his 2nd of the game.
New stud prospect Addison Russell went 0-for-5 with 3 K in his Cubs’ debut. Russell was the #2 ranked prospect in baseball per Baseball Prospectus, #3 by both Baseball America and Fangraphs and #5 by MLB.com.
Though he is a slick-fielding shortstop by nature, Russell will fill in at second base where the Cubs have been woeful. (He spent the last week playing 2B exclusively for AAA Iowa.) The Cubs would be clearly better served by swapping Castro and Russell at the middle infield positions, but for whatever reason will keep things as they are for the time being.
Castro has yet to play a game at second base in his MLB career, nor have I seen any news stories saying this is something they’re considering doing.
Javier Baez has not played a game in the minors in well over a week now, having taken bereavement leave following the death of his sister earlier this month.
Regardless of which position Castro plays, any talk involving a trade of him should be tabled. Since a bad 2013 season where the Cubs tried to turn him into a more selective hitter, he has been solid. He’s a 3-time All-Star, he’s only 25, he’s cost controlled, and he consistently puts up OPS+ numbers above 100. Those types of players don’t go on trees and, as Baez is an example of, there’s no such thing as can’t-miss prospects. Castro has proven himself to be a solid Major Leaguer and deserves to keep a spot in the lineup. Worst case is that he slides over to play second base next season.
* * *
In Washington, the Cardinals lost 2-1 in 10 innings.
Matt Carpenter had only one hit, but it did lead to a game-tying run in the 9th inning.
The Nats had a prime opportunity to win in the bottom of the 9th, loading the bases with 1 out, but Jordan Walden struck out Ian Desmond and got Jayson Werth on a fly out to Jon Jay in center.
Yunel Escobar ended the game with a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th, ending the Cards’ 5 game winning streak.
Lance Lynn had another nice start done in by a lack of offense, as he went 6.1 innings, allowing 1 run with 7 strikeouts. He did have some control issues, however, walking 4 Nationals.
The Redbirds currently have three starting pitchers with sub-2.00 ERA and all five are under 3. John Lackey is the “worst” of the bunch with a 2.77 ERA, Carlos Martinez just outside the sub-2.00 group with a 2.08, while Michael Wacha (1.35), Lynn (1.56) and Adam Wainwright (1.71) are all making opponents look silly.
* * *
And finally, in Milwaukee, the Brewers’ pitchers allowed 13 hits, walked 6, and the fielding committed a pair of errors that led to 5 unearned runs.
Of course, when you allow 11 earned runs, what’s another 5?
The Reds were 16-10 winners in Milwaukee, as things continued to go downhill for the Brewers who have now lost 7 straight.
Since April 30th of last year – remember, this is four full months before they fell out of 1st place, but people seem to mis-remember that 2014 Milwaukee club has a good one – Milwaukee is 64-84 for a .432 winning percentage. They went 62-72 from April 30th onward last season.
Zack Cozart had a pair of homers for Cincinnati in the win that brought them back up to .500. Todd Frazier also went yard, hitting a grand slam. It was the 4th homer of the year for both Reds.
Elian Herrera homered, doubled and had 5 RBI for Milwaukee. Nice day for a kid that was drafted in 2003 and didn’t make it to the Bigs until 2012.
* * *
|8-5||CHICAGO||Hammel (1-0, 5.11)|
|6-8||PITTSBURGH||Worley (1-1, 5.84)|
|6:05 PM CT|
|8-4||ST. LOUIS||Lackey (1-0, 2.77)|
|7-7||Washington||Fister (1-0, 0.69)|
|6:05 PM CT|
|7-7||CINCINNATI||Cueto (0-2, 2.14)|
|2-12||MILWAUKEE||Nelson (1-1, 1.50)|
|7:10 PM CT|
* * *
|St. Louis Cardinals||8||4||–||L1|