Before I get too far into this post, let me begin by saying that I am in no way comparing Zach Britton to Mariano Rivera as far as the caliber of pitching is concerned (not yet, at least). Rivera is in a class all his own as the best closer in baseball history, hands down, and will inevitably be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Britton is still a long way away from being anywhere close to the pitcher Rivera was. But even so, there are undeniably a lot of similarities to this point in both of their careers.
Like Rivera, Britton began his career as a starting pitcher. Coming up through the Orioles’ system, Britton posted a 3.38 ERA over the course of 137 games in the minor leagues. However, upon reaching the majors, Britton wasn’t able to stick, posting a 4.77 ERA over 46 starts ranging from 2011-2013.
Rivera faired much the same in his attempt to be a big league starter. In his only season starting for the Yankees, Rivera was horrible, positng a 5.51 ERA over 10 starts. The following season, Rivera was made a reliever, and the year after that at the age of 27 was made the full time closer, notching 43 saves his first season as the ninth-inning-guy.
The rest is history.
In the first season as a full-time closer for Britton in 2014, he recorded 37 saves and posted a 1.65 ERA — a huge turnaround from the three subpar seasons in which he attempted to make it as a starter. And he hasn’t looked back since. Over the past three seasons, the two-time All-Star has recorded a collective 1.44 ERA as well as 111 saves, including 38 alone so far this season. But Britton is still being overlooked in the minds of many.
This year, Britton is not only having a breakout season that’s leading to him being seen as a top-notch closer, but also as a candidate for Cy Young or even (less likely) American League Most Valuable Player.
Britton is certainly making a good case to be in the running. After all, it’s been nearly four months since Britton allowed an earned run, coming all the way back on April 30th.
Since then, Britton has gone 43 straight appearances without allowing an earned run. When you put it all together, Britton has recorded one of the best seasons ever for a reliever, tallying a 0.53 ERA to this point — on pace to be the lowest single-season ERA ever for a reliever with over 50 games pitched (Rivera’s lowest ever was 1.38 back in 2005).
If that isn’t remarkable, I don’t know what is.
So, maybe Britton won’t go on to be a Hall of Fame closer. Sitting well over 500 career saves back of Rivera, Britton certainly has a long way to go before he could even come close to being viewed in that light, and there have been a fair amount of relief pitchers to explode onto the scene only to fall apart within a few years. That’s not the point I’m trying to make at all. But regardless, the similarities between the two are hard to ignore.
Who knows? Maybe Zach Britton’s career will turn out much like that of Mariano Rivera.
Failed starter, turned All-Star closer, turned all-time great.
Back in 2013, the Pittsburgh Pirates were finally able to snap their 21-year postseason drought. Last season, the Toronto Blue Jays saw their 22-year postseason skid end. And now, the Seattle Mariners are in good positioning to get rid of their own 15-season departure from the playoffs.
Sitting just one game back of a Wild Card spot (6 back of the Rangers for the divisional lead), the Mariners are doing all they can to finally make it to the playoffs for the first time in quite a number of years.
At the beginning of the season, a lot of people predicted the Astros to run away with the division after the great season they had last year. But things haven’t gone exactly as planned for them, leaving the door open for the Mariners to make their climb up the division standings.
But it hasn’t been all luck for the Mariners.
Their big three of Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager have each been having fantastic years, and have been doing a great job of carrying the team even when their pitching hasn’t been that great. And their pitchers have been fairly subpar at times.
Felix Hernandez — their Ace of the staff, and normally a perennial Cy-Young candidate — has been a bit shaky throughout the season (though, he’s looked good in his starts since his DL stint). Likewise, the rest of Seattle’s rotation hasn’t been overly dominant, though they have done enough to get the job done for the most part. In the end, it’s the Mariners pitching that’s going to be the deciding factor for whether or not they make it to the playoffs.
No matter what, the Mariners have shown the world that they have the ability to be a very competitive squad. Whether or not they make the postseason is yet to be determined, but their place as a dangerous team for years to come has already been established.
It’s been said countless times, both on this blog and around the baseball world: If Giancarlo Stanton could stay healthy for a full season, he could hit 45+ home runs. The problem? Stanton has never been able to stay fully healthy for a whole year throughout the length of the majority of his entire career, proven once again recently by his latest injury that’s going to force him to sit out the rest of 2016.
The most games Stanton has ever played in came back in 2011, when he took part in 150. Since then, Stanton has missed 249 possible games with the Marlins, leaving them without his immense power for an extended stretch.
In 2014, Stanton missed the final two weeks of the season after getting hit in the face by a pitch. Then, last season, Stanton lost out on an entire three months after breaking his hand. Given, Stanton can’t avoid freak injuries such as those, but it’s certainly not the amount of playing time the Marlins were looking for when they signed him to a 325 million dollar contract.
Stanton’s latest season-ending injury takes him from the Marlins just as they are in a race for the second Wild Card spot. Now, without Stanton and his team-leading 25 home runs and 70 RBI’s, many people are simply dashing any chance whatsoever of the Marlins making the postseason.
But I’m just not convinced.
Yes, the loss of Stanton is very impactful. Hitting anywhere from 24 to 37 home runs each of the past six seasons, and crushing the ball virtually every game, Stanton is a bat that you definitely want in your lineup. However, the time to panic for the Marlins and their fans is not now.
Although given just a 22 percent chance at making the postseason by MLB.com, the Marlins still have some big time contributors, including Christian Yelich, Martin Prado and Marcell Ozuna, among others. While their pitching, with the exception of Jose Fernandez, isn’t all that great, I feel they have enough to make the postseason without Stanton, or at least stay relevant right up until the end.
It’s been thirteen years since the Marlins made the postseason at all, winning the World Series back in 2003. If nothing else, the Marlins are giving the fans in Miami something to be optimistic about for a change, currently tied with the Cardinals for a Wild Card spot with less than fifty games remaining.
They survived 80 games without Dee Gordon.
Now they just need to make it 44 without Giancarlo Stanton.
This week hasn’t been the best for two of the game’s best power hitters.
On Sunday, it was announced that Alex Rodriguez will be ending his playing days on Friday, as he will be taking part in his final game after being released by the Yankees. Following that, on Tuesday, it was revealed that Prince Fielder’s playing career has also come to a close, for a much different reason.
Rodriguez is set to serve as an advisor for the Yankees following Friday’s game, as the Yankees letting him go as a player has left Rodriguez out of a job. With his departure goes 696 career homers, and two decades worth of incredible stats, including three 50+ home run seasons.
But Rodriguez’s departure doesn’t come without controversy that has seemingly followed him throughout his career. Serving multiple suspensions over his career, Rodriguez isn’t liked by a good amount of people around baseball, but his loss is still somewhat sad on a baseball level.
Fielder, on the other hand, left virtually no one with a dry eye when conducting his tear-filled retirement announcement earlier this week. Having undergone a second neck surgery this season — a surgery that appeared to threaten merely this season — Fielder has been forced to give up baseball for good.
He takes with him 319 career bombs, and will undoubtedly be missed around the baseball world. Hitting a career high 50 homers back in 2007, Fielder hasn’t nearly been that type of power hitter in quite some time, fighting injury after injury over the past several years. But no one expected his retirement to come so quickly, or unexpectedly.
At the end of the day, whether or not you were a fan of Alex Rodriguez or Prince Fielder, or couldn’t care less to see them go, this is still one of those weeks around baseball that will change its face. Power hitters like these two don’t come around all that often, and it will be interesting to see the corresponding moves both teams make to recoup for their losses.
1,015 home runs is a lot to replace.
It took him a bit longer than expected, sitting on 2,998 hits for seven straight games, but Ichiro Suzuki finally tallied his 2,999 hit on Saturday and promptly recorded knock number 3,000 on Sunday, making him the 30th player all-time to reach the incredible mark.
With the hit, Ichiro has all but locks himself in as a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Although Ichiro’s batting average for this season has taken a bit of a dive recently, due to his several hitless games in a row, he’s still batting .317 on the season and holds a .314 lifetime average.
It’s that type of consistency that has ultimately given Ichiro so much success over his career. Spending most of his “prime” years over in Japan before coming to the United States in 2001, Ichiro absolutely burst onto the scene, hitting .350 with 56 stolen bases his rookie year. That would turn out to be just the beginning of what would turn into ten straight 200-hit seasons and subsequently 3,000 hits.
Whether Ichiro retires in the next year or two, or decides to play until age fifty is yet to be seen. But one thing is for sure. As long as Ichiro continues to don a uniform, he’ll continue to do what he does best: Get hits — lots of them.
One of the best things ever done for Major League Baseball in recent history, in my opinion, was the implementation of the second Wild Card back in 2012. Since then, a number of teams have been given at least a shot at postseason glory that would have missed the cut completely in season’s past. This year is looking to be another great example of that.
With just over fifty games still to be played over the course of the 2016 season, there are eleven teams around baseball within five games of a Wild Card spot, giving them hope of a magical season. It’s the prospect that any team can now make he postseason that’s making things all that more exciting.
Two of the most surprising teams vying for a spot in the playoffs this season are the Marlins and the Rockies. The Marlins currently hold a Wild Card spot, with Colorado just four games back of their own. Neither team was really expected to do all that much when the season began, so for them to be in such a place this late in the season is remarkable.
However, there is still a lot of season left where anything can potentially happen. It will all come down to the wire, making for a terrific finish to the regular season over the next couple of months.
The days and weeks leading up to baseball’s annual trade deadline is always a hectic time around Major League Baseball. Virtually, no player is safe from the trade market if the right offer is presented, and there is guaranteed to always be some exciting moves. In the end, it’s the trades made now that can make or break any team’s season two months down the road.
Over the last week, or so, before Monday’s trade deadline, a number of big-time transactions (18 trades, involving 49 players, on Monday alone) took place. Although some where bigger than others, and will therefore have greater impacts, they all will have some impact on the landscape of Major League Baseball. Since it would be nearly impossible to discuss every single move, here’s a recap of some of the larger ones in my mind:
Arguably the biggest trade made of the entire week was the one that saw Aroldis Chapman heading to the Cubs for a quad of prospects, in Adam Warren, Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford. While giving up four future stars for a closer isn’t necessarily always a good move, it definitely is in this case. With Chapman possessing a fastball that can be cranked up to 105, Chapman is one of the most dominant at what he does and definitely makes the Cubs the World Series favorites again after they had fallen off a bit as of late.
Another move that made a team favorites once again was the one that saw Melvin Upton Jr. getting sent off to the Blue Jays for Hansel Rodriguez. Upton has truly been having a breakout season after a few down years, and he will be able to help make the Jays even better. Although he pales in comparison to Toronto’s power group of Troy Tulowitzki, Edwin Encarancion, Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson, Upton Jr. is still a big pickup for the Jays.
The only true blockbuster trade of the past week involved a total of seven players. Andrew Cashner, Colin Rea (later returned due to injury concerns) and Tayron Guerrero were sent to the Marlins for Jarred Cosart, Carter Capps, Luis Castillo (the prospect returned for Rea) and Josh Naylor. While Cashner hasn’t been having the greatest of seasons, he has shown signs in the past of being dominant at times. On the flip side, Cosart hasn’t really ever lived up to the hype and will be looking to breakout with San Diego.
Speaking of hype — while the Nationals have lived up to the preseason billings to this point in the season, their closer, Jonathan Papelbon, has not. For that reason, the Nats went out and secured what they view as the answer to the problem, getting Mark Melancon from the Pirates for Felipe Rivero and Taylor Hearn. I like the move a lot, as Melancon can truly be a big impact player towards the end of any given game and should give them added security to lock up close games.
One of the oddest trades of the lot occurred when Matt Kemp was sent to the Braves for Hector Olivera. While Kemp is going to be a Brave for the foreseeable future due to his large contract, Olivera, on the other hand, was immediately released upon his arrival to San Diego. Overall, Olivera has been more trouble than he’s worth, not playing the way he had been expected and getting involved in a lot of off-the-field issues. For that reason, the move works out great for the Padres, as they finally were able to free up Kemp’s contract, despite losing him to the Braves, who are looking to rebuild.
Another team who made it apparent they were in the rebuilding stage are the New York Yankees. After sending off Chapman earlier in the week, the Yankees parted ways with another piece of the Yankees’ “three-headed monster” in the form of Andrew Miller, leaving just Dellin Betances in what was once seen as the best bullpen in baseball. Even so, the Yankees were able to acquire Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen to reload their subpar farm system.
But the Yankees weren’t yet done with their team reshaping. On the day of the deadline, the Yankees sent Carlos Beltran to the Rangers for Dillon Tate, Nick Green and Erik Swanson. While the Yankees felt confident heading into this season that they could make the postseason, things haven’t gone their way, and the Yankees are obviously planning for next year and beyond by adding a ton of great prospects to their farm system.
However, the Giants are seemingly planning for now, going out and picking up Matt Moore from the Rays for Matt Duffy, Lucius Fox and Michael Santos. This move gives the Giants yet another key piece to their rotation to attempt another run at the World Series. Whether or not they get there is yet to be seen, but Moore will assuredly give them good outings that improves their chances greatly.
But while the Giants are on top in the National League West, the Dodgers made a move to attempt to chase them down. On Monday, the Dodgers acquired Rich Hill and Josh Reddick from the Athletics for Frankie Montas, Grant Holmes ad Jharel Cotton. Although those three are some big time pieces to give up, the Dodgers received back a nice piece in Josh Reddick and a pitcher who (once healthy again) should help them make up a few innings with Kershaw on the DL.
One of the moves that I liked the most is the pickup of Jay Bruce by the Mets for Dilson Herrera and Max Wotell. Anticipated to be slotted behind Yoenis Cespedes in the Mets’ lineup, the addition of Bruce makes the Mets a very formidable bunch. If the Mets didn’t have a any sort of chance before at chasing down the first place Nationals, they certainly have a decent shot now.
But while the Mets are looking to chase down the Nationals, the Rangers are looking to extend their lead in the American League Central. After Jonathan Lucroy was reportedly traded away to the Indians for a few prospects, that deal turned out to fall through, as Lucroy vetoed the trade. In the end, however, Lucroy found himself heading to the Rangers, in addition to Jeremy Jeffress, in exchange for Lewis Brinson and Luis Ortiz. Although I really liked those two prospects, Lucroy and Jeffress should help the Rangers in their push towards the postseason, especially with Beltran being added as well.
Finally, the Blue Jays made another splash just before the deadline arrived, getting Francisco Liriano, Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez from the Pirates for Drew Hutchinson. With the Jays’ rotation needing a bit of a boost, I feel that Liriano will give them just that. It remains to be seen how much of an impact he will have, but Liriano could be a major difference maker for Toronto in the weeks to come.
While not all of these trades will wind up paying off, it will certainly be interesting to follow them all as the season progresses. Sometimes it’s the simplest of moves that can cause a team to take off. You never can tell from one year to the next what will be the key to taking teams to the ultimate high of a World Series title.
With the first four months of the 2016 MLB season in the books, I thought I’d take the first day of the new month to recap the season thus far. It’s been exciting as well as disappointing, depending on how you look at it and who you’re rooting for.
But instead of talking about the events that have taken place so far this year, I decided to make a list of different categories and beside them name the player(s) that leads that particular category. I’ve done lists like these for the past several years, and they have been well received, so I decided to do it again.
The following lists are categorized into hitting and pitching, but not AL or NL:
MLB LEADERS (AL and NL) – HITTING
Most Games Played – Odubel Herrera (106)
Most At-Bats – Mookie Betts
Most Hits – Jose Altuve (145)
Highest Average – Jose Altuve (.356)
Highest OBP – Jose Altuve and Mike Trout (.425)
Highest SLG – David Ortiz (.643)
Most Runs – Josh Donaldson (87)
Most Doubles – David Ortiz (35)
Most Triples – Jake Lamb (8)
Most Home Runs – Mark Trumbo (30)
Most RBI’s – Edwin Encarnacion (89)
Most Base On Balls – Bryce Harper (80)
Most Strikeouts – Chris Davis (144)
Most Stolen Bases – Jonathan Villar (38)
Most Caught Stealing – Jonathan Villar (12)
Most Intentional Base On Balls – Bryce Harper (16)
Most Hit By Pitch – Brandon Guyer (23)
Most Sacrifice Flies – Francisco Lindor (11)
Most Total Bases – Mookie Betts (235)
Most Extra Base Hits – David Ortiz (61)
Most Grounded Into Double Plays – Yunel Escobar (19)
Most Ground Outs – Alcides Escobar (169)
Most Number Of Pitches Faced – Mike Trout (1,984)
Most Plate Appearances – Mookie Betts and George Springer (469)
MLB LEADERS (AL and NL) – PITCHING
Most Wins – Five players tied for most (14).
Most Losses – Chris Archer (14)
Best ERA – Clayton Kershaw (1.79)
Most Games Started – Chris Tillman (23)
Most Games Pitched – Travis Wood (54)
Most Saves – Jeurys Familia (37)
Most Innings Pitched – Madison Bumgarner (150.2)
Most Hits Allowed – Mike Pelfrey (152)
Most Runs Allowed – Patrick Corbin (90)
Most Earned Runs Allowed – Dallas Keuchel (75)
Most Home Runs Allowed – R.A. Dickey, Ian Kennedy and Chris Young (26).
Most Strikeouts – Max Scherzer (187)
Most Walks – Francisco Liriano (69)
Most Complete Games – Johnny Cueto (4)
Most Shutouts – Clayton Kershaw (3)
Best Opponent Avg. – Marco Estrada (.181)
Most Games Finished – Jeurys Familia (48)
Most Double Plays Achieved – Martin Perez (28)
Most Wild Pitches – Sonny Gray (15)
Most Balks – Matt Andriese (4)
Most Stolen Bases Allowed – Noah Syndergaard (30)
Most Pickoffs – Five players tied for most (4).
Most Batters Faced – David Price (602)
Most Pitches Thrown – Justin Verlander (2,354)
He’s not in the top 100 prospects. He’s not a well known name around the baseball world. But Francisco Mejia is a name that every baseball fan needs to become familiar with.
To this point in the season, as part of the Indians’ farm system, Mejia is hitting .345 with 9 homers and 67 RBI’s combined between two different levels. While those stats are impressive in themselves, it’s his current 40-game hitting streak that is beginning to cause people to pay attention.
Although not as publicized as Major League Baseball’s all-time hit streak record of 56 games, set by Joe DiMaggio back in 1941, the minor league all-time hit streak is even more impressive in terms of the overall number. While the hits usually don’t come against major league level talent, making it not quite the feat of the big league milestone, the record of 69 straight games with a hit notched by Joe Wilhoit back in 1919 is still something very historic as a part of baseball history as a whole.
The last time Mejia didn’t record a hit in a game was over two months ago, back on May 25th. Since then, he’s been on a tear, and is making his name more known around the baseball world, becoming just the 16th player to record a hitting streak of 40 or more in minor league history. The most recent run at the record was in 2009, when James McOwen reached 45 games, but no one has come close to challenging the top mark in a very long time.
At just twenty years old, Mejia is still developing as a player, which is exciting when you think about it. While he may not go on to break the all-time hit streak record in the minors, Francisco Mejia is definitely on his way to become a very special player for the Indians.
Over the past couple of weeks, as the August 1st trade deadline continues to get closer and closer, there have been a number of rumors with a number of teams regarding Joey Gallo (along with another prospect or two) getting dealt to another squad in exchange for an ace starting pitcher. However, in my mind, that’s not what would help the Rangers the most in the long run.
Yes, the Rangers could use an All-Star caliber pitcher added to their staff (which team couldn’t?), but they’re still holding their own (first place in the American League Central) despite being near the bottom in team ERA in all of baseball. They could go out and trade for a middle-of-the-rotation starting pitcher for a much lower price tag, enabling them to keep Gallo and improve their team at the same time.
When Gallo first came up to the big leagues last season, he absolutely tore the cover off the ball, and was a big impact bat in the lineup night after night. Although he cooled off drastically and subsequently began 2016 in the minors, he is now back up with the Rangers, where he needs to remain.
In his first full game of at-bats this season on Tuesday night (he got one at-bat back in May), Gallo went one for four with a homer, in a Rangers’ unfortunate loss. Even so, Gallo showed off his immense power once again, which is exactly what I feel Texas needs. Although Gallo struck out nearly twice a game last season in the bigs, Gallo’s 19 homers in 70 minor league games this year is hard to ignore, especially with him being just 22 year old.
With Prince Fielder being out for the remainder of the season once again, the Rangers could have a power shortage on their hands if they aren’t careful. While they have a good lineup, a player with Gallo’s power doesn’t come along all that often. There is no way they need to get rid of him in my mind. He can single-handedly change the course of any given game he plays in.
The Rangers definitely could benefit by doing something before the trade deadline in order to be able to hold their ground in the American League Central as the postseason comes closer. However, they don’t necessarily need an ace pitcher to do so, and they certainly shouldn’t give up Joey Gallo to get one.
He’s simply too valuable.