The Not-So-Curious Case for a DH

I’ll start right off the bat and let everyone know that I like having a DH. When I go to ball games, I don’t want to see the pitcher hit; it’s usually painful, awkward, and a guaranteed out. Who wants to see that? Let’s be honest: the only pitcher who is a joy to watch hit is Bartolo Colon, and that’s because it’s always a funny at bat. Watching him swing a bat is something that always brightens my day.

This morning it was reveled that Cardinals’ ace Adam Wainwright will most likely be missing the entire season with an Achilles injury he sustained while getting out of the batter’s box. He was running to first on a pop fly and tweaked something, which ended up being worse than most had figured. He’s getting an MRI on Monday, but the conclusion seems foregone. Nationals’ ace Max Scherzer said this injury should get MLB talking about having a designated hitter in both leagues, something I agree with 100%.

Earlier this year, Arizona Diamondback rookie Archie Bradley got his first hit in his first big-league at bat. Pretty impressive, right? It was impressive until he got picked off at first for basically being a zombie on the bases, not paying attention to the pitcher. Cool, you got a hit, but you still got an out. These kind of things happen to pitchers all the time. They are slow on the base paths, don’t make aggressive slides, and are only good for bunting. It’s harsh, but true. I don’t want my starting pitcher to get hurt because he is far less replaceable than a position player. Injuries happen all the time in baseball, but having a DH can prevent a good many pitching injuries.

Now, there are plenty of pitchers who are actually pretty good hitters. Madison Bumgarner is a solid hitter, as is Zack Greinke. Lots of pitchers also enjoy hitting. Scherzer said he likes to take hacks and prepare for at bats, but understands that no one wants to see him hit. I think there are tons of good reasons to have a DH:

1) No more hurt pitchers. If they must get hurt, I’d rather they get hurt on the mound.

2) No more “easy outs”. Pitchers in the American League have to work a smidge harder because they don’t get guaranteed outs. You don’t get to look at the line up and smile because you only have to work to two position players in the next inning. You actually have to do what your team is paying you $15 million to do: get potentially difficult outs. You’re not getting paid more money than God to get easy outs. If you are making fat stacks, I want you to earn your worth, dammit!

3) No need to take pitchers out early. How often have you seen a pitcher in a groove, but pulled out of the game early because the manager wanted to use a pinch-hitter to try and get some offense going? How dumb is that? You shouldn’t have to pull your pitcher out of the game early to try and get some runs! With a DH, pitchers can go deeper into games and you don’t have to burn through your bullpen unless it’s one of those games where everyone is having a collective brain fart. It’s crazy how many bullpen pitchers a manager uses, just because his spot to bat is coming up. I think I’ve seen maybe one or two relief pitchers ever go up to the plate. In the NL, being a relief pitcher is a Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am kinda deal, isn’t it? Perhaps relief pitchers could go a little longer and you long-relief guy could go a more innings if they didn’t have to bat.

4) Use the DH to rotate players. Got a guy who has a hot bat but needs a day off? Put him as the DH! Take him out of the field for a day and just have him hit. Managers in the AL do this all the time when they need to rest some of their players. Just because you have a DH position does not mean you have to have the same person hitting there all the time. People like David Ortiz and Victor Martinez, who play there exclusively, are rare. Give your guys a partial day off and keep them more rested.

5) More offense!!!! It’s a pitcher’s paradise these days, with teams scoring fewer runs. We have fewer power hitters these days and offense is down all across baseball. It might not help much, but having a DH could potentially increase a team’s run supply. Unlike pitchers, a DH has the power to change the game with the swing of his bat. For real though, when it comes to hitting, you always hear me say “Aww crap, it’s Big Papi!” I don’t think I’ve ever said “Crap, Clayton Kershaw is batting!” Seeing a pitcher hit does not exactly draw fear in anyone…

If you ask me, I think it is inevitable that the DH will come to the NL. Pitchers are too valuable these days to risk getting injured swinging the bat. There are some injuries that you cannot prevent, but you can prevent injuries sustained while batting. Will Wainwright’s injury change the system? Probably not, but it sure is sparking a conversation.

http://m.cardinals.mlb.com/news/article/120615844/st-louis-cardinals-brace-for-possible-season-ending-diagnosis-to-starter-adam-wainwright-after-achilles-injury

http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/writer/jon-heyman/25163988/in-wainwright-wake-scherzer-adivocates-for-the-dh-for-both-leagues

The Great Second-Half Collapses

If I told you in May that the Oakland Athletics would not have clinched the AL West title, that the Atlanta Braves were not going to make the post-season, or that the hot-hot-hot Brewers would be all but forgotten, would you believe me? The answer is no, you probably wouldn’t. Back in May, everyone was picking Oakland to make it to the World Series, myself included. I would’ve guessed that Atlanta would have gotten a Wild Card spot, along with the Brewers. But, alas, this is not going to happen. These three teams have had the most unprecedented collapses this year and everyone is surprised.

Let’s start with Oakland. This is the one team everyone was sure, at the very least, would clinch their division. The talent on this team was undeniable and it’s still there, but something is off. This is not the Oakland team we knew and loved. Yoenis Cespedes is gone, traded to Boston for the still-brilliant Jon Lester and the problems seem to be stemming from that. The offense has been substantially quieter since they traded away their Home Run Derby champ, which has been problematic. Every starting pitcher they have had or have brought in have been fantastic, but the offense can’t get things going. Yes, the A’s are still in the Wild Card hunt, but they need to finish this season on a VERY strong note. Not only that, but they are going to need to win the one-and-done wild-card deciding game. Then, if they make it that far, they will STILL have to play some pretty killer teams. With the Angels meteoric rise to clinch the AL West, the division I had pegged as “weak-ish” at the beginning of the year suddenly became stellar. If the A’s can make it to the ALDS, I think they will be fine. But, then again, I said that last year, too.

Besides the Cardinals, the Braves have been a post-season staple (ok, a NLDS staple since they can’t seem to actually get further than that) for the last number of years. Atlanta is a team that has always been good, and for the first half the year, that held true. But then, the Nationals hog the NL East spotlight. The Nats were the team I picked to win the division because they are the overall best team in baseball, but I could not have foreseen the Braves just crumbling. Their offense has been near last in just about every category you can think of since the All-Star break. This is a team who has so much super-star potential, yet there some serious disconnect happening. Today they fired their GM and more cuts are likely to happen. How crazy is that?

Lastly, the Brewers were a team that surprised us constantly this season. They surprised us early on by being so good and they are surprising us now by scrambling for a Wild Card position. They held the lead in the NL Central for most of the season and looked like the team to the beat in the post-season, but they are currently shadows of their former selves. Their “average” pitching has finally pooped out and they cannot seem to hold leads for very long. If I were them, I would harness the power of Hank the Ballpark Dog. Hell, let Hank pitch! He might do better than some of their current staff, and gosh he is ten-times cuter.

What does all this mean? Well, this gives us some optimism that the Brewers could be quite good next year if they get some pitching. It means the Atlanta is in a time of transition, which could take a few years to figure out. They will always be good, but as long as you have the Nats in your division, good luck. As for Oakland? Well, let’s hope they go far this post-season or people will be second-guessing Billy Beane more than they already are. Remember: the players Beane got are basically rentals. I can’t see Lester staying after this year (Lester! Hey, Lester! You should maybe consider coming to the Bronx. Pretty please? Maybe? Please?) and it is tough to figure out who else will stay. These teams have disappointed plenty during the second half of this season, but I have faith that Oakland will at least make it to the post-season. I hope they do. Oakland still has time to turn it around, but time is something they don’t have much of.

My Picks for the Post-Season!

I am of no authority to make my picks for who will win a division. No matter how many stats you look at or how many injuries you take into account, predicting the outcomes of the standings is far from an exact science. Too many factors are involved over the course of 162 games per team to make any kind of accurate prediction. But for now, I will look into my crystal ball and tell you how I think things might shape up…

National League:

NL EAST: Washington Nationals. Hands down, I think these guys are gonna take it. After the Braves went down with numerous injuries and so many players coming off bad years, I can’t see them winning the division. Washington has the offense, pitching, and leadership to take this team into the post-season.

NL CENTRAL: St. Louis Cardinals. This one is a bit trickier because the Pirates are looking good so far this spring, but I just don’t think the Pirates can win the division. The Cardinals have done everything right during winter break and acquired good pieces to fill holes left vacant. Add a bomb farm system and you have yourself a great team.

NL WEST: Los Angeles Dodgers. I hate to say it, but they are so good. If they can keep their front-line starters healthy and keep Puig from making embarrassing gaffs, this team is a lock for the post-season. Yes, there are a million huge personalities to tame, Don Mattingly’s included, but if they don’t all kill each other first, they will be just fine. Oh, and I just saw that they are now baseball’s highest spenders this year, taking away the Yankees’ 15-year run, so they REALLY better not suck.

WILD CARD(S): Pittsburg Pirates, Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, or San Francisco Giants. All of these teams are good, but I doubt they are “win the division” good. Pittsburg has the momentum, the Braves always scrap their way in, the Reds have everything to prove, and the Giants have pitching for days. How these teams will preform if they do get into the post-season is not in their favor, but gosh darn it, they will try. Also, look for the Arizona Diamondbacks as a sleeper team. If the Goldschmidt/Prado/Trumbo sandwich works out, the offense could be insane.

American League:

AL EAST: Tampa Bay Rays. Talk about the hardest division in baseball! Good Lord, this is going to be a knock-out drag-down fight until the end, I can feel it! Honestly, any team could take it, but I would put money on the super awesome Joe Maddon and the Rays.

AL CENTRAL: Detroit Tigers. A perennial contender, the Tigers will be great this year. There have been some question marks with injuries and front office crap, but I think they can pull it out. But this one will be close because the Indians are really good, as are the Royals.

AL WEST: Oakland Athletics. This is the one division I was most unsure about. On paper, the Angels and Rangers look the best, but Oakland has a way to quietly dominate. Add the injuries to the Rangers and the uncertainty about the Angels, Oakland still looks the best. Seattle may have sold their soul to get Robinson Cano, but their offense is still weak and I doubt they will be contenders this year.

WILD CARDS: Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees, or Kansas City Royals. There is a reason there are 3 AL East teams. All of them could take over the division with no problem, so don’t be surprised if three or four of them hit the post-season. I view the Yankees as the dark horse team, a team that will be very dangerous offensively and off the mound. Boston still looks great so far and they have to motivation from winning the World Series, but back-to-backs Series wins are rare. The Royals have everything to prove here, so I expect them to work their butts off this year. I was tossing up between Baltimore and Texas, but just because of injuries, I have to go with Baltimore.

So, there you have it. I have the right to change my picks, not that I will because I don’t care. You can just read newer posts. Psh, this post will be on the elusive second page by the time I need to change my picks. Anyway, enjoy the picks I have made and let’s hope they don’t just suck baseballs by the time the season gets going…

 

 

Let Me Elbow in Here…

Unless you have been living under a rock this spring training, you should have noticed a deeply upsetting trend occurring among young pitchers. This issue is causing serious problems for ball clubs and players, and is disappointing fans everywhere. If you know the names Patrick Corbin (D-Backs), Kris Medlen (Braves), Jarrod Parker (Athletics), or Brandon Beachy (Braves), then you know what I am talking about:

The dreaded elbow injury.

These four guys are all facing the daunting idea of Tommy John surgery, and for Kris Medlen, it would be his second. It is something that no one wants to have to deal with, especially considering the recovery time is about 12 months. There is no denying it: these injuries are increasing and that is a problem.

Just think about some of the names of guys who have had to have this surgery: Steven Strausberg, Matt Harvey, etc. These guys were both in their early twenties. It’s kinda odd, right? That’s why I was so disheartened to hear about Patrick Corbin. He is just 24 and was slated to have another great year. Even if he doesn’t get surgery, he is probably going to be out for six to eight weeks, minimum.

It must be really scary, right? It’s kinda scary for me and I am just a fan! Watching these pitchers going down (these last four in the same week!) is really concerning. We try really hard to prevent these kind of injuries by limiting pitch counts, innings, etc, but it’s not enough. Pitching is unnatural and the arms are trying hard to tell us that.

Losing Medlen and Beachy forced the Braves to pick up free agent Santana. Aside from losing the power-hitting Paul Goldschmidt, losing Corbin is the most devastating thing that could happen to the Diamondbacks. A rotation that was shaky last year relied heavily on their young ace, who delivered and then some. He was an All-Star. He nearly broke the club record for most wins and no losses. For now, the D-Backs are going to have to figure out what to do until he is healthy again. My guess is that they are going to take a chance on Archie Bradley and put Randall Delgado in the bullpen for long relief, but I could be totally wrong. This is a mess, but fortunately, there will be plenty of time to figure it out on the flight to Australia. 

All of these players are outstanding guys who do not deserve to deal with this kind stuff. Injury in any sport is inevitable, but it is a bit alarming how many pitchers are coming out of the game due to elbow injuries.

 

This was a good article by Ken Rosenthal, if you want some more detailed info:

http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/rosenthal-pitching-injuries-piling-up-and-remedy-still-elusive-031514

 

Winning and Losing Starts Before the Season Does

With the off-season coming to a close and spring training starting this week (YAHOO!!!!!), it is that time when everyone is really analyzing the off-season moves made by all of the teams. I decided to look into who made the best moves and the worst moves. Here is a list of the teams who I think won the off-season and the teams who didn’t make much of a splash:

Winners:

New York Yankees: Dumping almost half a billion dollars during the off-season is a great place to start for a team who has money and really needed to make changes. They needed offense, so that’s what they got (okay, bought). They needed pitching, so that’s what they got. I think they made a lot of smart moves and put some much needed power in their lineup. I mean, spending that much money should be a good thing…right? Please?

Boston Red Sox: I’m including them because they covered their butts by getting AJ Pierzynski to catch for them once Saltalamacchia left. Clearly, the Sox have a pension for catchers with long last names. They just won the World Series and look poised for another post-season run. Besides, they have Mike Napoli’s beard to remind them of their success, and as a warning to never grow those nasty things ever again.

Tampa Bay Rays: They did not get rid of David Price. Forget all the good moves they made and extensions they signed. They are winners this off-season because they kept Price.

Texas Rangers: They picked up Prince Fielder (granted, he was not his best in 2013) and Shin-Soo Choo, so they are already looking better. With some post-season trips and near misses, they are poised to use that momentum to propel themselves forward. It would be fun to see them do that.

Honorable Mentions:

– Seattle Mariners: Giving Robinson Cano an arm, leg, and their soul was an interesting way to start the off-season, but hey, I guess they mean business.

– Kansas City Royals: Will they be Royal this year? Can I call them Queen Bee (get the Lorde reference? I think I tried too hard, but can you blame me??)? I sure hope so. 2013 was such a turn-a-round year for this club, it would be fun to see them really let loose.

– Los Angeles Dodgers: They didn’t really lose any key players and gave Clayton Kershaw a massive, yet deserving, extension. Now how funny would it be if they bombed like they did the first half of last year?

– Arizona Diamondbacks: Getting Mark Trumbo and Addison Reed was huge, but they had to surrender some prospects to get there. Hopefully, this will work out in their favor because I really want to see these Trumbombs everyone keeps talking about.

– Atlanta Braves: Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman. That’s all.

– Washington Nationals: A new manager (Matt Williams) and a new pitcher (Doug Fister) poise the Nats to give Atlanta a run for their money.

Losers:

Baltimore Orioles: In a division as hard as the AL East, you’d think Baltimore would have made some more moves. I was optimistic when they picked up Grant Balfour, mostly because I think he is awesome, but to see them drop him like a hot, Aussie potato was surprising. And they didn’t need that, either. Without any moves made, I can’t see how they can be contenders for 2014.

Toronto Blue Jays: Again, the AL East is a nasty place to be. Last off-season, Toronto made some rocking moves, but it never happened for them last year. I want to be optimistic, but I really doubt they will make magic. Really, the only cool thing about the Jays are the knuckle balls that will supposedly come out during Spring Training.

Cincinnati Reds: They lost Shoo, Dusty Baker, and will probably lose Bronson Arroyo. Bum deal, huh?

Pittsburg Pirates: I include them because they didn’t really do much this year. They lost some good players and might lose AJ Burnett, but they have a great farm system. Will it be enough to propel them into the post-season? Eh…it’s a little up in the air.

All remaining free agents: Geez, it must really suck to be a free agent and not be signed by now! I thought that once Masahiro Tanaka signed, the other pitchers would be prime real estate. As it turns out, no one wants to surrender a first-round pick for these guys and I don’t really blame them. It’s kinda of messed up that a solid pitcher is punished because a team won’t give up a draft pick, but that’s how it works.

Not-so-Honorable Mentions:

– Atlanta Braves: Yes, they are in both categories because while they gave extensions to the players who needed it, they lost good players. They better hope BJ Upton gets hot again and Dan Uggla can bounce back.

– Houston Astros: LOL.

– Miami Marlins: see Houston Astros.

A Nationals Enquirer

Here’s the deal: I think the Washington Nationals may very well be the best team in the NL East and probably one of the best teams in the entire National League. The Nats have made some great off-season moves and I gotta say, I am quite impressed.

First of all, hiring Matt Williams as the manager was a great move. I grew up in Arizona, so I watched him as a ballplayer and third base coach for over ten years. The man clearly knows baseball, and not only that, but he knows how to play the game the right way. He always played with class and made sure the players he coached did the same. He’s probably going to be aggressive, but I think that will be a good thing. And let’s not forget that he has one of the best pitching staffs in the majors. I think Williams will do a great job as manager.

Second of all, they have a dope rotation. Trading for Doug Fister was a very smart move and I can safely say I would not want to face anyone on their pitching staff. They have a few guys on reserve for the fifth spot, but in all honesty, I would not worry too much about that right now.

The Nats don’t have a whole lot of holes to fill, with the exception of an everyday second baseman and probably a solid back-up catcher. Of the two men battling for second base, Anthony Rendon and Danny Espinosa, I would bet on Rendon, if only because Espinosa had a dreadful year last year. The back-up catcher is so up in the air at this point that it is probably not going to get cleared up until later in the offseason, at least in my opinion.

In order to be successful, the Nats also need Bryce Harper to stay healthy. He will go into Spring Training around 99.99% healthy and I sure hope he can stay that way! He plays hard and really goes after it, which is one of the reasons he is such a bright, young star, but he really needs to be careful! Bryce, if you’re reading this (probably not), PLEASE pay attention to where the warning track is. It’s there for a reason.

I had the chance to see the Nationals play last year and it was a fun game to watch. Well, sad for me because my team lost, but boy do those Nationals play some good baseball. I was impressed with how hard they tried and how they took advantage of every opportunity. Last season, they were the preseason favorite to win the NL East and it was kind of disappointing to see them not live up to the hype. They are a solid team with talent to spare. I would be very surprised if they did not win the NL East.

Of course, we will have to see how the other teams fare, but I would put some money on the Nats. Not a lot of money, but that’s only because I am in college. The Nats will be bomb, so long as Bryce Harper stops running into walls and they don’t get plagued with injuries.

So, you know, try really hard to not run into walls.  And take your vitamins. Drink your milk. Do whatever to stay healthy.

Here’s an article about the Nats and a brief look at some of their postseason moves:

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article/mlb/washington-nationals-enter-2014-with-new-skipper-matt-williams?content_id=66204572&partnerId=as_mlb_20131227_16331454&vkey=news_mlb&ymd=20131226