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Bitter Mike’s Baseball Bites – Week Four

Greetings everyone!  We’re more than a third of the way through the season (if you’re not FLA, STL or CIN) and yet most teams are still within shouting distance of making the expanded Playoffs, so LET’S DO THIS!

  • The Cardinals were able to shake off the RONA, only to see their NL Central rival Cincinnati Reds have their weekend series against the Pirates postponed after one of their players tested positive.  That player’s name wasn’t revealed but considering Pittsburg’s record, I’m sure they’d like to send him a case of wine for the break!
  • The other team in Ohio, the Cleveland Indians, had their own internal issues with COVID-19, but it had nothing to do with a Positive test.  It seems two of their young starting pitchers, Tony Clevinger and Zach Plesac (nephew of former major leaguer and current analyst on MLB Network Dan Plesac) were caught violating Protocol and curfew when they went out to dinner with friends a week ago Saturday; Plesac’s indiscretion was found out soon after, but Clevinger didn’t admit to his wrongdoing until after accompanying the team on its charter out of Chicago the next evening.  Rather than take his medicine, Plesac unwisely went on Instagram and posted a six-minute rant accusing the media of making too big of a deal about it all.  Never mind the fact that one of their fellow starting pitchers, Carlos Carrasco, is a CANCER SURVIVOR and is about as high risk as they come.  To the rest of the team’s credit, they called a team meeting and undressed Clevinger and Plesac for their foolish and selfish behavior.  There were reports that a few players threatened to opt out if either offender was re-instated.  The Indians maintained their reputation as one of the most diligent disciples of the COVID-19 protocols by optioning both Plesac and Clevinger to their alternate site.  Their short-sighted decision to spend the night on the town may cost them financially as well: if both spend significant time off the big club, Clevinger could see his free agent date pushed back a year and Plesac could lose his chance at “Super Two” status next year. 
  • Good news for the Astros: DH Yordan Alvarez was finally activated Friday against the Marines and wasted no time making an impact, hitting a home run and driving in four runs.  BAD news for the Astros: Yordan couldn’t answer the bell on Sunday as his knees continue to give him issues.  He underwent an MRI Monday and for now the hope is he’ll be able to pinch hit while they heal.  WORSE news for the Astros: OF Michael Brantley, one of the few hitters not in a slump, was placed on the IL Saturday because of a right quad injury he suffered when he stepped on LAD RP Joe Kelly’s foot when running out a ground ball.  And it’s been nearly a month since SP Justin Verlander was put on the IL with stiffness in his throwing arm, two weeks after the Astros were hoping he would start throwing again.  The COVID KARMA STRIKES AGAIN!  The clock continues to tick…
  • More injury news: the upstart SD Padres received a double whammy when it was revealed that Closer Kirby Yates had an MRI on his pitching elbow and it revealed bone chips, requiring surgery.  He’s currently seeking a second opinion, but if that diagnosis is confirmed then he would be lost for the season.  Emilio Pagan, a former closer for the Rays, would slide in, but this does leave a hole in what is considered a strength of their pitching staff.  No less critical was the news that OF Tommy Pham broke a hamate bone in his hand when fouling a pitch off during Sunday night’s game.  Pham felt the hand go numb when he fouled the pitch off, a sure sign of the break.  The timing couldn’t have been worse for the slumping Padres, losers of five in a row entering Monday’s play.
  • The Yankees’ depth will be tested: in the last 72 hours they’ve lost DH Giancarlo Stanton (hamstring), RF Aaron Judge (calf strain) and IF DJ LaMahieu (thumb sprain); Judge on Monday declared himself “100%, ready to go” and looks to be activated when eligible on Saturday.  But Stanton is at least another two weeks away and LaMahieu has no timetable for his return.  In response, the Bronx Bombers recalled IFs Clint Frazier and Miguel Andujar.  Both could start on any other team, were major contributors last year and were caught in a numbers game this year, starting the season at the Alternate site.  And as if the Yankees didn’t have enough options, they got a huge piece of their bullpen back too: Aroldis Chapman (COVID) was activated in advance of Monday’s game against the Red Sox.  Not that they need any of these guys: They’ve beaten the team from Beantown ten games in a row and 21 out of their last 25 meetings.  Not much of a rivalry…
  • The Detroit Tigers have played some pretty horrible Baseball the last three years, but their early season success this year (coupled with some injuries to their pitching staff) has prompted them to say “What the Hell”, calling up three of their top five prospects: SPs Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal and IF Isaac Paredes. Yes, they’ve lost five in a row and now sit in fourth place in the AL Central, but their only 3.5 games from a playoff spot, so they’re going for it.  Drafted in the 9th round in 2018, Skubal is set to start Tuesday evening; Mize, the #1 overall pick in that same draft, will take the mound Wednesday.  The 21-year old Paredes will take the place of CJ Cron (knee surgery) who is out for the rest of the year, sliding 3B Jamier Candelario across the diamond to play 1B, opening the hot corner for Paredes.  I applaud this move on several levels.  Tiger fans are loyal and have seen enough of the losing put out by over the hill players (Cabrera, Martinez); they need some youth on the team to be excited about and what better time than this year?
  • Proud Papa (and Mama) moment: for the first time, the Seager brothers faced each other Monday as Corey’s Dodgers hosted Kyle’s Mariners in LA Monday.  Older brother Kyle (32)had the upper hand (4AB, 3H, 2R, 2RBI, 1HR) over Corey (4AB, 2H, 3RBI, 1HR), but in the stat that counts the Corey’s Dodgers beat Big Brother’s Mariners 11-9.
  • Deja Vu all over again: the defending champ Washington Nationals are slow out of the gate.  They currently sit last in their division at 8-12.  2B Starlin Castro was enjoying a bounce back year but is now on the IL with a broken wrist suffered during Friday’s game.  SP Steven Strassburg was also put on the IL with a recurring nerve issue in his hand after making only one start this year.  Worse, regulars Adam Eaton and Eric Thames are struggling at the plate.  As mentioned in our Preview, a fast start this year is not necessarily imperative, but a slow start could bury a team’s chances to play in October.
  • Bitter Mike’s “Giant Rants”: oh where do I begin? The Giants came home last weekend from the worst part of their schedule, a ten game three-city trip in which they blew three late leads to finish 3-7.  They were home for a quick series against their Bay area rival Oakland A’s before heading back on the road against the Angels.  Now, let’s be clear – the A’s are hands down a much better team, more talent throughout their roster with many position players at their peak.  But, hey, it’s a rivalry so anything can happen.  So it was only a mild surprise to find the Giants with a comfortable lead going into ninth inning of Friday night’s opener and with their Closer, Trevor Gott, in to get some much needed work. (He hadn’t pitched for three days) Until then, he had converted all four of his Save opportunities with a stingy 1.50 ERA/1.00 WHIP.  But lurking behind those numbers was an ominous statistic: his GO/AO ratio was a disturbing 0.25, meaning for every ground ball out he threw, he recorded FOUR outs via the fly ball.  And fly balls have a chance to carry and go over the fence.  His luck ran out Friday, serving up two home runs in 1/3 of an inning.  To be fair, he had no help from his defense when Wilmer Flores misplayed a sure double play at 1B and when SS Brandon Crawford failed to keep his foot on second during a force out.  The Giants turned a 7-2 lead in the night into an 8-7 loss in ten innings thanks to Gott’s implosion.  Saturday?  Same story.  Gott came in the ninth again, this time with a three run lead, only to again serve up two more dingers, giving up four runs total in 2/3 of inning.  Again, his defense let him down when RF Hunter Pence broke in on a Tony Kemp fly ball only to let it go over his head for a double.  Wanting to change things up a bit, the Giants settled the issue early in Sunday’s finale, when Wandy Peralta and Dereck Rodriguez (son of Pudge and, lately, pitching like Pudge), in relief of Logan Webb, allowed 10ER, 11H and 3 HRs working the fifth and sixth innings.  Friday’s debacle was the first time in franchise history since 1929 in blowing a five-run lead in the ninth, but the entire weekend was one Giants fans would like to forget.  (Last night, Monday, was no better, when Gott blew another lead when Tommy LaStella sent the home cardboard cutouts happy with a walk-off two run home run in the bottom of the ninth, beating SF 7-6.  There are some things to be encouraged by the Giants: 1B Brandon Belt has seemed to found his stroke, smacking home runs in back to back games and making solid contact for a change. Donovan Solano continues to hit.  But their bullpen is a mess.  Worse, Manager Gabe Kapler is unfortunately proving Phillie fans right in their opinions of how he manages a pitching staff.  The accusations of him pulling his starters too early and sticking with relievers too often is playing itself out in the results: 8-16 overall, losers of eight of their last ten and five in a row.  They’ve given up 41 HRs, second only to Arizona in all of Baseball, and rank near the bottom in ERA and WHIP.  Defensively, they rank dead last in Defensive Efficiency, Fielding percentage and total Errors.  I attribute this to Kapler’s penchant for playing guys out of position (Pence in LF, Dubon and Flores anywhere he can).  Giants’ fans are already calling for Kapler and President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi to be fired, but in a shortened season like this, that is unlikely.  All signs pointed to this team struggling so this shouldn’t be a surprise.  After all, Losing is never pretty!

Let me know what you think!

babotmichael@gmail.com

@thebittermike

About Fred D.

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